Once upon a time a young man jumped on his beat up BMX and rode it to a place called the Antique Paper Shop. In that store there were many comics. Some of them were made by Marvel. A lot of them started with the words "Stan Lee Presents..." Those comics, and others like them, made the young man very happy. So happy, in fact, that he never minded the five mile round trip on his bike or the money he spent there. So happy that he never even minded the ass chewings he got from his mother for "wasting all of your money on those damn comic books." He totally thought it was worth it.
Well, if you've been paying attention, you already know that that young man was Yours Truly, the blogger extraordinaire (wink), moi. It didn't get a lot better in those days than breaking away from my parents to go get something that I wanted with my money. And, for a kid who was not yet old enough to get his drivers license, there were no finer stories.
Seriously, for young geeks like myself, and my buddy Jayson that I usually rode up there with, the comic shop was heaven. In an era before the internet was really a thing, I could find people there who shared my interests. I could bask in the glory of rows upon rows of interesting looking books (and let me tell you, I read a lot of stuff in school but I wouldn't consider much of it "interesting.") that I wanted to read. Unfortunately, I had a limited budget and I couldn't buy one of everything in the store, even after I got my first job at fourteen years of age. If you asked my mother though, she'd probably say I tried.
It's sad to say that The Antique Paper Shop no longer exists. The building that it occupied has long since been demolished and the site rebuilt on. You can get some pretty good "New York Style Chinese Food" there now. I'll never know what happened to all those boxes of back issues, but I didn't get to buy them all, not even the Iron Man and Green Lantern ones. Life is rough sometimes.
The creator of a lot of my heroes was a guy named Stan Lee. The first time I had ever held a comic in my hands it was an old copy of The Fantastic Four, which would never have existed without him. Remember the old TV show Spider Man? That never would have existed without him either. And let's face it, without Stan Lee I never would have wanted to be Tony Stark. It's not possible to be a geek guy my age and never have had the desire to be a man who could fly through the air in a suit of steel and then woo the ladies later. How could you not want to be the guy with a tower named after him? Oh, and if you have at any point in your life not fit into society (possibly because, I dunno... Maybe you were a nerd?) and not been able to identify with the X-Men you don't have any emotions. I could go on.
Yes, Stan Lee was a guy who made life a lot more enjoyable. I don't know how many smiles he put on my face, or how many times I scowled at a bad guy because of him. I couldn't tell you how many times I cheered my heroes in those books or later on the big screen. I'm not even sure how much time I've spent trying to find him in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. Stan's name echoes throughout the Multiverse. You know what? Multiverse be damned. If it weren't for Stan Lee, the Nerdiverse would be a much poorer place.
Well, if you've managed to avoid the news so far somehow, we lost Stan Lee today. I read somewhere that he was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and died there. This one hit me hard. I literally almost broke out into tears in the middle of a Pizza Hut when I pulled up the article on my phone. I almost started crying again when I opened up my Google app to confirm it. I'm one unhappy Jimbo at the moment. I don't usually get this involved with celebrities. I watched Jerry Lewis give his telethon every Labor Day for years. I wasn't happy to see him go, but I barely noticed. With Stan Lee it's different.
Stan was one of us. I never had the good fortune to meet him at a con, but I know many people who have. It is amazing how much of his time he was willing to give to fans. I've never heard anyone say a bad word about the man. "Never meet your heroes" is an old saying, but it doesn't seem to be one that applies here. I'm really sad that I'll never get to meet Stan Lee because, according to everything I've heard or read, he really does seem to have been everything I wanted him to be.
It's not just how friendly he was that makes him one of us though. We, as geeks, have all looked up at one point and said, "Wouldn't it be awesome if you could..." The superpower that came next was always different (unless it was your one friend who came up with the same idea eighty-seven times a day) but we had an idea about someone who could do something that we wanted to read about or watch. Stan Lee was just better at it than the rest of us. He could come with the person and the power and make a story about it that millions of people would read and watch.
And now he's gone. I'll never get my chance to say hi to him and shake his hand. We won't be seeing him on the silver screen anymore. I'd bet my ass that it won't be long before we'll be seeing a Stan Lee memorial comic, or maybe a series of them. Someone is sure to complain about crass commercialism, but commercialism is how Stan made his living. The world is worse for his passing. I'll say a prayer for his family and all of his fans, but...
I don't know but what -just- but.
We'll miss you Mr. Lee. You will live on through your creations and in our hearts. Years after the rest of us are gone, someone will be reading about a young kid who got bit by a spider and has great power and the responsibility that comes with it...
You know, one of my friends posted on Facebook today. His post read "The King is Dead. Long Live the King." He was wrong though. The king is dead, but there is no one to fill his shoes. We cannot replace the great Stan Lee. There is no one who can step up now. I mean, sure, there will be more comics. There will be more movies. There will be more people who love them. But we will never replace the man himself. His genius is gone from the world.
And now, I'm just stalling and not wanting to wrap this up, because once it's over I've admitted that he's actually gone. Don't worry. I'll get over myself. I guess there's just one last thing to say. One final word to wrap it all up.