It has been a week since pop culture icon and legendary comic book creator Stan Lee passed away at the age of 95. While the world remains in mourning for a man that has touched so many lives, it would be remiss for the contributors here at Convention.Life to bare witness to this watershed moment without sharing in the celebration of his life and work.
I just wanted to take this opportunity share a memory. That’s all. My personal tribute to Stan.
When I was younger, I was your typical latchkey kid. My parents both worked during the day, one as a nurse and one in the military, and for a majority of my youth, that would mean that when I got home from school, I was to adhere to the strict rules of my parents: “Don’t open the door for anyone. Don’t use the stove. Just do your homework until we get home from work.” That was fine with me. I was a responsible kid. “Helicopter Parents” didn’t exist yet. I was completely happy being home alone for a short time.
Sometimes, though, I would forget to put my house key in my backpack, which meant that I couldn’t get into the house for a couple hours until my parents came home. When this would happen, unfortunately ever so frequently, I would open the door to my garage and stay in there.
We kept an old leather couch in one corner of the garage. It was next to the garage door, so ambient light from outside could leak in while I laid down on the couch. After the first couple times this happened, I ended up hiding a few comic books under the couch cushions, so I could lose myself in stories of Spider-Man, The Avengers, the Hulk, The Fantastic Four and The X-Men. There wasn’t enough light in the garage to do homework, but there was enough to flip through my stash of comics.
Those characters, those comic books, reaffirmed important lessons that my parents tried to teach me. They taught me to be a good person above all else. They taught me the importance of family. They taught me we aren’t all the same, and that we are all flawed, but that being different is okay. They taught me that teamwork makes the dream work. They taught me that “With great power, comes great responsibility. They taught me that the ideas of a single person, when put out into the universe, can effect change for generations to come.
They also taught me different languages. They taught me new words. They taught me alliteration. They taught me onomatopoeia. They taught me about the subtleties of dialogue. They taught me negative space and forced perspective. I learned how to draw human figures in motion.
There are an innumerable amount of lessons that I have learned, both directly and indirectly, from comic books.
As I grew older, my interests naturally expanded into other things, but I still had a passion for comic books in one way or another.
Many things have happened since my days on the garage couch. I inherited my Uncle Noel’s collection of comic books that reached back into the early 1970's. I’ve attended San Diego Comic-Con almost every year since 1993. I’ve worked as a photographer, covering conventions throughout Southern California. I’ve traveled to different countries, meeting some amazing people along the way - celebrities, authors, illustrators, Hollywood studio executives, cosplayers and comic book fans alike. I’ve even had several opportunities to speak to Stan, The Man, himself.
Regardless of where my life has taken me to this point, I can trace a lot of it back to an old leather couch in my garage. I can trace a lot if it back to the comic books stashed under the couch cushions. I can trace a lot of it back to a single guy, and the characters he created.
Thank you, Stan Lee. Thank you for speaking your ideas out into the universe, and planting seeds of imagination. It is an invaluable legacy you leave behind.