A 70 year writing career, an estimated net worth of over $50 million, 35 Marvel movie cameos, 121 total acting credits, 69 years of marriage to his wife Joan, and a #1 sense of humor are just some of the statistics that show how impressive Stan Lee was. While remarkable, though, I knew about other achievements long before I ever discovered those numbers, and Lee’s comics and cameos are why his death has me looking up details about his life.
Although I have seen most of the Marvel movies from recent years, I cannot claim to be a truly dedicated Stan Lee fan, having (to my knowledge) only read one comic book he coauthored. Nor can I rival the lengthy, well-researched bios that dot the Internet in the wake of his death, but I did want to give him a brief tribute. And that is this: his cameos always made me smile, and the narrative voice I did encounter in the one comic I read had a tongue-in-cheek humor that was charming and timeless.
Entertaining audiences is a special gift, and Lee’s ability to do so makes me think of Donald O’Connor performing “Make ‘Em Laugh,” which claims that everyone wants to laugh and that a comedian who makes an audience laugh is greater than a critically-acclaimed Shakespeare. Not to disparage Shakespeare, of course, but I do understand the sentiment and enjoy a good laugh like the next person. In his work, Lee seems to understand that his audiences wanted to have fun and also to be inspired to become superheroes, whether in great or small ways or simply in their imaginations. I expect Stan Lee will always hold a special place in the hearts of comic book enthusiasts and superhero-smitten audiences, just as he holds a place in every Marvel movie with his quirky personality and signature sunglasses.