Stan Lee Will Always Be a Superhero

by Brian Moniz

I will never forget where I was this past Monday, Nov 12th, sitting at work and looking up at a television to see the breaking news story in all caps: “STAN LEE, CREATOR OF MARVEL COMICS, DEAD AT 95”. It is hard to find a single person you know who has not seen at least one of the many blockbuster Marvel superhero movies or watched a Marvel television show growing up. Lee’s legacy has spanned over five decades, and yet it’s not so much what he created that inspires myself and many others, but how he created it.

Lee helped normalize being different.

Open any Marvel comic book from The Fantastic Four in 1961 all the way to today and you will see heroes, villains and mutants all walking among “normal” society wearing skin-tight bright costumes from every color of the rainbow, showing off their powers, their hairstyles and their personalities. Lee understood that not everyone that looks or behaves like you is something to be feared, and that being who you were born to be is the most courageous part of life. Living as you are is the gift you give yourself, and others will hate you for it because they are too afraid to give themselves that same freedom.

Throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s, the X-Men comics and cartoons in particular were places where ostracized kids could go to feel normal. If you felt like a freak, a comic book about mutants with superpowers conquering evil and living as a family isn’t going to make you feel worse, it will empower you.

Even the X-Men films from the 2000’s mirror exactly what many young gay and lesbian men and women go through — growing up unaccepted and hated by mainstream society. In an important scene from X2: X-Men United, Nightcrawler approaches the shape-shifting Mystique and asks her, “They say you can imitate anybody, even their voice? Then why not stay in disguise all the time…you know…look like everyone else?” To which Mystique replies, “Because we shouldn’t have to.” When Bobby “Iceman” Drake comes home from school to come out to his family that he is a mutant, his delusional parents ask him, “Have you ever tried…not being a mutant?” A question everyone who has ever come out of the closet to their parents can understand.

In X-Men: The Last Stand, scientists invent what they call “the cure”, in hopes of eradicating mutant genes in people for good. In the end of the film we see Magneto, who had been injected with the cure himself, still able to move metal chess pieces without touching them. Many people saw this as a direct commentary to gay-conversion therapy — a man-made solution to turn homosexuals straight which is not only physically and mentally dangerous, but also doesn’t work.

Another fact that makes Lee’s legacy so inspirational is that he didn’t even begin his life until he was 40-years old. So many of us panic during our twenties and thirties that if we haven’t become successful by then, then we never will. We often compare ourselves to our parents and see where they were at our age. Lee, like many other famous people in America, is an example of how your life can truly take off at any age, and there is no rule book that says you must start a successful life early on.

Even if you were never a big fan of the Marvel comic books, movies or cartoons, we all owe a little bit of thanks to Stan Lee for helping us fit into a society that doesn’t always accept or embrace us. Lee used comics to show the world how creative and wonderful people of all stripes can be no matter what we look like or who we are. The next time you are dyeing your hair a bright color, trying on a flashy outfit or expressing yourselves creatively without a care in the world of what other people think, reflect for a moment and thank Stan Lee for helping us all feel a little less like a mutation, and more like a superhero.

About the Author:

Brian Moniz is a 30-year-old man from San Jose, Calif. He studied filmmaking and writing at San Jose State University from 2010–2013 and got his bachelor’s degree in Radio-TV-Film. Throughout his high school and college years, he worked as a music and movie journalist and critic. Having only recently come out of the closet himself in 2014, Brian enjoys writing about LGBTQ issues. His only regret when it comes to his sexuality is that he didn’t come out sooner. Read more by Brian here.