Today marks the 100th birthday of Stan Lee.
It's hard to measure the impact of Stan, but it's sure looking like Stan, Jack and the Merry Marvel Bullpen may be among the most important and influential writers and artists of the past century.
Among comics fans, Stan's legacy and life are hotly debated, but there are a lot of versions of the truth. I understand the various viewpoints, but life is complicated and if anyone understood that and related it in a medium often caricatured for its simplistic morality plays, it was Stan.
When I think of Stan, I think of a guy who wanted to push a medium reeling from years of being a political pinata, that had become a punchline and a disgrace for many in America, and tell stories that were both wondrous and relatable. That's not nothing. Making gods feel like people you could talk to is no mean feat. And, of course, the Mighty Marvel Manner of storytelling he pioneered with his colleagues has come to define how we tell serialized stories, inter-connected stories, and allowed for flawed and multi-dimensional characters.
In the end, this meant Stan helped push the medium to become something of interest to older readers, college kids and created the life-long comics reader and fan and make the fantastic something that climbed out of the kiddie-lit gutter and into the mainstream - even if it meant getting off the newstand and into theaters, like he'd worked towards for decades.
Like all lives, Stan's was complicated. The amazing, explosive success of the Marvel Universe of characters didn't come until Stan was on the edge of retirement - after decades of trying. It took a generation of kids raised on Stan's characters in television, cartoons, comics, t-shirts and toys to become adults and start making the movies we always knew were possible - because those characters truly did inspire us and make us want to be better people.