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Stan Lee…goddamit!!!!

What can I say????

If you read comic books as kid it was hard not to recognize his name. He was one of the greatest storytellers from my childhood, and it was hard not to notice his name. There’d be a splash page at the front, then a credits page with something along the lines of “written by Steve Ditko or Jack Kirby and Stan Lee” and occasionally you’d see pictures of Stan Lee in the comics. He’d write editorials and little introductions from time to time, so I was always in awe of him, because Stan Lee came up with these incredible characters that reverberated through mine and many other lives.

I was lucky as I met Stan Lee a few times, but with someone of that age who’s met so many people, you just savor the moment and wonder what is going through his mind. He was always very very gracious, and by the third time he remembered me! Which I thought was very cool. Especially for the kid who was crazy about Marvel comic books, Bronze Age, Silver Age, Gold Age. I still have a lot of  those early Spiderman, Fantastic Fours and Iron Mans hold a lot in my memory and heart because I read them so much as a kid. I’d stand in the comic book store at 23rd & Mission when I was a grade schooler, in my friend and proprietor Gary Arlington’s place, and I’d read three or four at a time. It was encouraged by Gary, he understood their power only too well, especially as back then I was  still learning to read!

Another great thing about reading those comics back in the ‘70s is that it wasn’t just a bunch of mindless fighting. They had a very humanistic feel; the storylines, the plots, the subplot, it was all always very human. A good example is Spiderman, where Peter Parker was always very insecure, a nerd in High School, an outcast, yet when he put that outfit on he became Spiderman! Then there was The Hulk. All that anger and power yet he could not communicate! It was all about his plight in that regard, which was like a lot of teenagers across America in that time. He was totally empathizing with the plight of teenagers, the most obvious example being the X-Men. The Whole X-Men concept was a statement on a pluralistic society, a bunch of different people coming together as a society. Even the name the X Men. Look at at literally! Mutants who when they put on their outfits weren’t men anymore, they were literally “ex-men” and there’s a lot of those sorts of messages in Stan Lee stories.

It really felt like this whole form of communication – this medium- was a calling for him. He dished out 30 stories per month!! That’s a lot of stuff!! And of course the likes of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko came up with a lot of the storylines and art, but it was Stan Lee editing it, roping it all in, gave it consistency and roped it all into the Marvel universe. DC Comics didn’t have this. They didn’t have a figurehead. Their most popular characters were Superman, Batman, the Justice League, Aquaman, but they jus didn’t feel quite the same as Marvel. My friends and me were always talking about Marvel, and when you picked up a DC Comic, it just felt a little more cold. DC started in the ‘30s and was a continuous venture, whereas Marvel started in the ‘50s with figureheads and people who you knew were responsible for that stuff. DC only had the artists, like Neil Adams who helped turn comic books around in the ‘70s with his art.

As far as Marvel and the big (even the small!) screen goes, when those Spiderman-Sam Raimi movies started coming out, with all the cool CGI, that is when you really started to see things happening like they were in the comic book. Sam Raimi really studied those early Steve Ditko comics, because Ditko had a very unique way of seeing Spiderman when he drew him, a unique form, and those movies capture that form perfectly. Then the Iron Man movies came out which were even more accurate to the comics. He started with a lead suit, and then had this gold colored suit and eventually ended up in a yellow and red suit like the comic books. Funnily, even though you might think I’d like the Bill Bixby Hulk TV series, I strangely found them a bit cheesy. I had already started listening to heavy metal and hard rock, I had different hormones running though my system, my worldview was different and so I’d watch an episode here or there but it never held my attention.

The one Marvel character I wanted to be? Spiderman. And it wasn’t even as much about the powers more than just being able to shoot that webbing! It was super-sticky and strong enough to be able to swing through cities, and I admit, there were times I tried to make my own web-shooter but those attempts ended miserably!

So thank you so much Stan Lee, and may your memory live long.

I’m sure it will.

Kirk Hammett Signature

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