Tributes for comic book writer, editor and publisher Stan Lee flooded social media following news of his passing earlier this month. Lee was responsible, according to the The Economist, for turning “a low-rent pulp art form into a pop-culture powerhouse.” Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Hulk, the Avengers, Iron Man, Black Panther, Thor and others inspired intense loyalty, but the loyalty was also for the values their creator stood for. Here are remembrances from among members of the FIT community that touch on Lee’s influence, values and artistry:
Ray Lago’s Spidey Pin-up for Marvel
Illustration Professor Ray Lago says he felt “privileged” to illustrate many of Stan Lee’s characters for Marvel:
“In the 1960s there was a freshness, even magic, to what Stan Lee along with artists Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and his many other collaborators were doing at Marvel Comics.
“With brand-new characters, bold new art styles and a more interactive relationship with their readers, it’s not overstating the case to say that Stan Lee and company were redefining the genre. Like the contemporary music of the day, ‘The Marvel Age of Comics’ had a new ‘sound’ and it just bowled us comic book readers over!
Says Lago “We found ourselves addicted and living for these once-a-month doses of adventures, waiting impatiently for, as ‘Stan the Man’ would put it, ‘Next Ish!’
“Great comic book art will always be an inspiration for me. It was by copying the art in classic Marvel comics–onto oaktag, or cheap rough drawing paper bought at Woolworth’s — or even lined yellow writing paper—that I learned to draw. Those who collaborated with and worked for Stan Lee were my first instructors. It was a dream-come-true many years later to actually work for Marvel and contribute to Stan Lee‘s universe.
“Yet as important as his comics were to my development, Stan Lee‘s characters and stories resonated with me deeply and left a lasting impact on how I viewed the world. Heroism, nobility, decency, humility, compassion… it’s all there in his colorful characters and their adventurous tales, along with explorations of our human failings. His writing was equal parts cornball and modernity, reflecting our American traditions and our social upheavals.
“Always remember, Stan Lee was the first to inject diversity into the superhero genre with the introduction of the Black Panther!”
Illustration Professor Edward Murr, who worked for Marvel:
“On some level, I felt I knew him well and he knew me. He ‘spoke’ to me all the time, whether reading Stan’s Soapbox or an issue of Spider-Man, Fantastic Four or the Hulk. When did Stan Lee really hit my life like a bombshell? I know the exact date, time of day and remember the feeling I had when it happened. It was about eight a.m. on the morning of my eighth birthday in 1974. I was in love with comics and read them from cover to cover. My first word as a baby was ‘Batman’; I cannot remember a time when they didn’t matter to me.
“In the fall of 1974 I was walking in Jamaica, Queens with my grandmother. In the window of the local bookstore was the ‘Origins of Marvel Comics,’ a book by Stan Lee with an amazing cover that showed the Incredible Characters flying off of a typewriter. On the morning of my birthday I opened a present from my grandmother and it was the ‘Origins of Marvel Comics!’
“I read it cover to cover, over and over, studying the art, reading the stories and enjoying the history of these incredible characters and their worlds, the exciting stories, the dynamic art. It expanded my imagination. I took in every story and image, running like a movie in my own head. By three years old I said I was going to be a cartoonist, by eight there was no other option. Now, I teach Comic Book Art, Illustration and Art. My friends and I have built careers out of our time in the Marvel bullpen.
“In a world that is not always kind, Marvel Comics offered another place, another option, where you were welcome, and wanted, an escape to incredible adventures with characters that affected me as much as real people. It was Stan Lee and friends who took me there. This is how Stan Lee affected me. I know I’m not the only one.”
Dr. Ron Milan, Chief Diversity Officer, a life-long comic book fan, says “Stan Lee was always my hero. I read his comics as a way to escape growing up in Buffalo. He showed me that anyone can be a superhero.”
Professor Ramon Gil who teaches in the Computer Animation and Interactive Media department recently oversaw the Diversity Comic Con event at FIT. His professional start in comics started pretty early. He received his first cartooning credit at the age of 10, he says.
“Stan Lee provided me an escape as a young immigrant boy who felt awkward and out-of-place. But pretty soon comic books became more than just a sanctuary, it became fuel to pursue art as a career. I owe all that to Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and all the creators who came before and after them. Stan brought out in countless, creators, the desire to tell stories.”
Says Prof. Lago “There is so much more I could say, so much. I was moved by Stan Lee‘s stories and characters as a child and I am moved today. His is the passing of a legend.”