The Thing about Stan

Stan’s Soapbox was the original blog. Forty years later we’ve all jumped on his bandwagon. The multi-talented writer of this good natured little monthly column was Stan (the Man) Lee. Stan was a jack of all trades with more strings to his bow than the non-harp playing Leonardo Da Vinci. Writer, editor, producer, publisher, chairman, soapbox philosopher, probable tea or more probably, coffee maker at Marvel Comics Group –and now moonlighting as an actor in costumed caper films- Stan was behind some of the greatest heroes and villains ever created.

One of his favourite ploys was the use of alliteration in naming his bombastic, balloon speaking band of bright coloured baddies and baddie bashers. Stan said the similar sounding consonants embellished his characters and made them easier to remember. Who can forget: Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Otto Octavius, Matt Murdoch, Reed Richards, Stephen Strange or Taneleer Tivan? The last one is for anoraks only. As a collector of Marvels in my youth my appetite for the world saving exploits of theses iconic figures has waned…slightly. Nonetheless the charm and humour of Stan Lee left a huge impression on me.

Compared to the realistic scribbling of the literati luminaries of late like Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman to name two, Stan’s stories sound stilted. There are a lot of coincidences and far-fetchedness (not to mention dodgy science) going on in there and candidly I must say a few plot holes in the Lee oeuvre needed Macadam. In Stan’s defence they were scripted in a different age and at the time were as electrifying as Electro or Elektra. The first coming of Galactus (originally in Fantastic Four vol.1 # 48-50*) remains in my top one hundred stories ever printed. Amazingly and incredibly, Time magazine choose to overlook this masterpiece of literature in its list of 100 best books; this key event would have been eyed by The Watcher with an ironic smile.
*(Easily accessible as it is re-printed in a multitude of collections)

Stan’s autobiography was published a few years ago and is a first-class read; his charm shines through on
every page. Akin to his soapbox messages, his friendly style of writing is sprinkled with wit throughout. His gentle mocking of colleagues never offends and his forte is self-deprecation, even when he boasts about his creations his tongue is firmly planted in his cheek. As well as inventing Earth’s mightiest heroes Stan coined a brand new compilation of phrases that could fill a phone book. Avengers Assemble, Face Front True Believers, It’s Clobberin’ Time, Make mine Marvel, Hulk Smash, “Nuff said.

The following is an excerpt from the introduction to Excelsior!
My passionately persuasive literary agent, Susan Crawford, assured me that the entire reading public was panting for me to write my autobiography. (Yeah right!) I told her I couldn’t do it for two reasons. One, I’d never have the time for all the necessary research or to fine tune a document chronicling seven long decades of memories, mirth and misadventures . Two, I’d feel diffident about personally enumerating all my wonderful and endearing qualities. I suggested some one else write it so the plaudits and accolades would not go to my unassuming self. But Susan, belying her cherubic features, said the publishers wanted it to have my flavour of writing; masochists that they were.

My sons choose not to share my experience of the Marvel cannon, preferring video games and films, leaving my comics to gather dust in various lofts. I refuse, even after much pleading by my spectacular, startling, stupendous spouse (flattery and digital posterity goes a long way in my book) to part with my catalogued, shrink-wrapped, mint(ish) anthology of Marvel masterworks. They might yet be delved into because you never know what is around the corner, maybe one day my unborn grandchildren will pick up a copy of one of the magazines and…want Spider-Man pyjamas.

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3 Comments on “The Thing about Stan”

  1. paulvex Says:

    Totally agree, Stan Lee is an icon. He has done so much for popular culture and literacy. His creations will stand the test of time. Also, the movies have opened up a brand new fanbase for all of Lee’s characters! Thank you Stan Lee, and thank you for the post!

  2. theroyalist Says:

    Hello paulvex

    Glad you liked my little tribute to Stan the Man. It was incredible the quantity of stories he wrote in the early days of Marvel. Not just the superheroes, he also scipted war and western tales and throughout it all the quality never fell. Of course some of the artwork was stunning but it was the humour and imagination in Stan’s writing that thrilled me the most.

    Some of the films are good and I wait with bated breath for Iron Man II, however, I’m sure you are a traditionalist like me and prefer the comics. Sometimes the movies stray too far from the original stories. The magazines are Aunt Petunia’s favourite nephew; the ever-lovin blue eyed REAL Thing.

    • paulvex Says:

      Yeah generally the books are always better! That being said they’ve done some really good movies, and some that I shouldn’t even mention. I look forward to IM2, and the appearance of War Machine.


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