Stan Lee was the comic book industry grandfather, a mythological figure who seemed too amazing, fantastic and incredible to be real, someone you thought would live forever – and will in his way – but whose passing still stabbed the heart, no matter how pragmatic that heart was.
Stan’s ninety-five-year residency on this planet didn’t seem nearly long enough to those who loved him.
Like many kids, I grew up reading comic books with Stan’s name and voice all over them, and I never dreamed that I would end up working with him a decade later.
When I first came to Marvel, I saw him at a desk in the New York office. “You want to meet Stan?” Bullpenners offered. I smiled shyly and waved but Stan looked busy and I beat feet out of there.
Still, some of my earliest work at Marvel was with Stan Lee in the Special Projects Department. Stan had moved out to California by then. I’ll never forget the day Stan wanted to go over some things on the job with me and casually gave me his phone number.
Stan Lee told me to call anytime.
I kept my rolodex for a decade after everyone else had ditched theirs just because Stan’s number was hand-written in it.
I will never forget how Stan treated me. There weren’t many young girl cartoonists around back then, and sometimes we weren’t very well regarded. But Stan treated me with absolute professionalism.
We were both there to do a job, and he did not care that I was a girl, he cared that I was doing a job and doing it well. He offered solid critiques, honest and straightforward, and every suggestion was spot on.
I adored that man ever after.
Validation from Stan Lee gave me a boost at a time when I really needed it. If I was good enough for Stan, I was good enough for anybody.
Many years later when Peter David called me up to ask me if I might be available to draw Stan Lee’s life story, after I picked myself up off the floor and burbled “Hell, yeah!” (even though I wasn’t entirely sure my schedule could handle it), I felt like I’d reached peak geek. Stan approved me with a “She’s terrific!” and then I was all-in, drawing the life of the man who had thrown me a lifeline when my career really needed it.
I’m tearing up as I type this.
Stan’s warmth and positivity struck me in the heart. Every time I was around Stan, I felt energized. I didn’t call Stan nearly as often as I should have, not even when he asked me to sometimes, because I always felt like I was taking up his important time. I didn’t want to be a drain on him. I didn’t want to be greedy.
I wish I had been greedy just a little bit. Every memory I have of Stan is a treasure, and I wish I had chests full of them.
Stan loved talking comics and loved talking to people who appreciated him. I think he got energy from us, too.
And Stan was a lot more grounded and modest than some people think. I will never forget being in the offices at POW! after the publication of his autobiography. Talking to Stan about his writing again, he said he didn’t think he was a great writer, that all the young creators were doing so many new and exciting things in comics. They’d gone far beyond anything he could have done.
I said, “Stan, but you helped invent comics! We got to build on the foundation you created! You invented the wheel. We just tweaked the machine!”
“I like this kid!” Stan laughed.
And I love you, Stan.
Thank you for everything.
– Colleen Doran, Cartoonist