Superhero Stan Lee’s Words of Wisdom
Stan Lee was a man of words who revolutionized a visual medium. Growing up in New York City, fresh off the Great Depression, a young Stanley Martin Lieber would turn a love of pulp magazine and early cinematic characters into an entire universe of heroes and villains which have become modern-day mythical gods.
The hero’s journey of Odysseus is told today through the eyes of a teenage boy from Queens named Peter Parker. The epic nature that makes up a character is relative to the audience. Stan Lee knew this and created a stable of legends that are relatable to the issues we all face in society.
Far more than just tights, flights, kicks and punches, the superheroes conceived by Lee and his creative partner Jack Kirby told stories that resonated profoundly in their origin in the 1960s, and still today can be looked upon as a source of inspiration and strength.
As we celebrate the life of “The Man”, let’s look back on just a few of the quotes he gave to our favorite heroes to remind all the “true believers” that genuine strength comes from within.
Spider-Man (Peter Parker)
“No matter how unbearable the burden may be… No matter how great my personal sacrifice… I can never permit one innocent being to come to harm because Spider-Man failed to act… And I swear that I never will.”
Of course, everyone is familiar with the Spider-Man great power/great responsibility line, which is brilliant and gets down to the bare bones of what heroic means. But this line, written by Lee in Amazing Spider-Man #50, gives you an extended remix of this timeless concept, told at a time when Peter Parker had attempted to give up wall-crawling and live a “normal life” like everyone else.
He soon learned that there is no escaping his duty as the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man and found a renewed sense of purpose revisiting that lesson Stan Lee first laid out for him way back in Amazing Fantasy #15. It stands as a reminder that there is never a wrong time to do the right thing.
The Thing (Ben Grimm)
“I know how it feels to be a misfit to haveta depend on yer strength because ya ain’t got anythin’ else to offer anyone!” –The Thing
Everyone is told from an early age that no one should be judged by their appearance, but rather the substance of their character. Ben Grimm of the Fantastic Four was not only Stan Lee’s literal depiction of this basic moral concept, but he also gained an incredible amount of strength in this perceived affliction.
When the former astronaut and best friend of Reed Richards was exposed to cosmic radiation, it turned the all-American boy into a ten-foot orange rock monstrosity. Yet as The Thing, Ben has been able to save the first family of Marvel from threats on multiple world’s—in multiple dimensions and timelines. This quote shows us that if even the most physically imposing rock monster you’ve ever seen has his moments of vulnerability, then clearly it doesn’t mean we are weak when we have these moments ourselves.
The Hulk (Bruce Banner)
“Let em fear me! Let em all fear me! Maybe they got good reason to. ‘Cause they’re only humans, but I’m the Hulk!” –Bruce Banner
Anyone who has ever been infuriated can instantly relate to this sentiment. Anger does have a way of making us feel empowered, but Stan Lee put these words into the mouth of a very human Bruce Banner, who would come to realize that anger is something that needs to be corralled and properly directed as opposed to letting it free from the leash like an attack dog capable of leveling a city.
Like many of us, Bruce Banner always felt like he got the short end of the stick. This growing resentment is what helps fuel the Big Green Monster that frequently has all the strongest heroes in the Marvel Universe shaking in there brightly colored boots.
As the story of The Thing shows a perceived negative with a positive byproduct, The Incredible Hulk is the other side of that coin. All the strength in the universe, completely invulnerable to all but the most advanced traditional weapons, able to jump a mile in a single leap—yet at one point the character was kicked off the planet (literally), because his anger made him such a liability.
At its elements, the character is a retelling of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but Stan Lee made sure the Hyde serum is the same anger we all feel every day. The Hulk is within us all. It is up to us to choose to use him for good.
Professor X (Charles Xavier)
“Just because someone stumbles and loses their path, doesn’t mean they can’t be saved.” –Professor Charles Xavier
The leader of the X-Men was never short on life lessons, and this is truly one for the ages. Lee was a big believer that true change in the world comes from changing oneself, and those who inspire change should never get so disheartened or callus they quit calling for others to make the same changes.
As a book, the X-Men allowed Lee to speak on the civil rights movement of the time. Charles Xavier knew of the cultural oppression of his mutant people first-hand, and never hesitated to make an ally of a former enemy in the name of societal progress. People will sometimes disappoint you, but you can never count them out. This only preserves the problem instead of traveling a better path. There is good in each and every one of us. Stan Lee wanted us to hear from the most respected telepath on the planet that we should always look to find it.
I’ll leave you now with a bonus quote from Professor X that beautifully captures the magic of not only Stan Lee, but everybody who chooses to view personal super-heroics as an attainable thing.
“The greatest power on Earth is the magnificent power we all of us possess… The power of the human brain.”
We don’t need super strength, unbreakable skin, a spider sense or iron armor to be a hero. All we need is imagination and anything is possible. As Stan Lee showed us, you can be born to a poor family during the worst financial crisis in U.S. history and still grow up to raise an empire capable of bringing joy to countless future generations.