From my Instagram post:
I got this book signed years ago when Stan Lee made an appearance at a Dallas show I was tabling at. I knew there wouldn't be another chance so I shelled out the 80 bones after I frantically searched the con for this very issue.
Obviously he's a big inspiration for the legacy of story telling he's founded and coasted along with thru the years. But another thing that I find inspiring is how none of this cool stuff didn't start jumping off for him until the second half of his life. It's a reminder that even tho the years seem to go by faster each cycle as long as you work hard and take chances you never know what will pop off and when. That even as we grow older and fret that our best years may be behind us, something bigger than we ever imagined just might be over the horizon.
Thanks for showing us its possible, Stan.
. . .
We knew this was coming sooner or later as Stan was getting up there in age. Just glad he held out as long as he did. My uncle used to collect comics when he was a kid, and so when I was a kid I'd go to his old room at my grandma's, now a guest room, sprawl out on the bed and dig into the box of leftover single issues to read. He sorted out the valuables and stashed them away in a metal suitcase in the closet. Fully understanding how comics could be valuable I knew to stay away and just left them alone. But, all the rest of those books in tall cardboard box in the corner were fair game. And there I was every summer or every weekend, whenever I was there I could be found in the guest room sifting though these silver age classics. As I'd flip through the dusty yellowing newsprint pages I'd gawk at the ads for all the cool mail-order gadgets you could get for a dime. But, I'd always skip Stan's soapbox cuz all these teeny tiny words and paragraphs were boring. I'd always read the "Hi Heroes!" opening but soon my mind would drift away to the next page.
But I'm not gonna lie, I do remember taking note of that opening line, the fact that this one man, who just so happened to have a conveniently easy to remember/spell/say name represented the output of this company. It always stood out to me. And it was in every Marvel comic I'd pick up in that box I'd always skip over Stan's Soapbox. But it was there and even though I didn't partake it still gave me this sense of a human at the other end of the story, where the magic manifested originally. Digging through the DC comics in the stack I didn't really get that human connection. The was no iconic man behind DC, and to tell you the truth I'm not sure if that had anything to do with me favoring Marvel over DC (and I ain't dissin DC or hate them or anything so don't come at me).
I was tabling at a comic convention in Dallas and we heard Stan Lee would be making an appearance, signing autographs and doing photo-ops and what not. Having been such a fixture in the comic scene it was easy to brush off a Stan Lee appearance. Not because I didn't care or anything, but because the price was always expensive, for the ticket AND the waiting in line. It was always easy to dismiss it and say "Oh, I'll catch him on the next go'round." But that day something clicked in my head: maybe I won't catch him on the next go'round. It sounds like a morbid thought, true, but I did realize he was getting older. There were already a few stories of him canceling appearances to do health reasons and such. So, I resolved to get an autograph.
The thing was I decided this after they announced it over the loud speaker that the line would be forming soon. At a frantic pace I figured out I wanted him to sign a comic, but which one? At the time I was reading the Romita Sr. run on The Amazing Spider-man and I remembered there was a specific cover I liked: number 59, the first appearance of a Mary Jane on a cover. I immediately ran to the dealer's room and one by one scoured each purveyor-of-long-boxes until I found what I was looking for. Sure it wasn't in mint condition or anything, but the price was right. Besides, this was about the principle; I wanted Stan Lee's autograph on a favorite Stan Lee book. For me, not be resold. The condition didn't matter. Soon after, I purchased a ticket for an autograph and set about to get in the line.
And boy did that line fill up. People came through asking if they were in the right place clutching their resin Thor statues and Captain America shields looking to get them scribbled upon. The con workers were extra vigilant in containing the line, checking if you indeed had an autograph ticket and making sure everyone stood against the wall. We would joke, "Up against the fucking wall!" for weeks after. Once the signing started the line moved fairly quickly. I was talking to my friend, fantasizing that he would scrawl Excelsior! along with his handle and how we would talk to him for a second. But surprisingly (not surprisingly) the way the autographs worked was you handed your item to a worker who handed it to another worker who handed it to Stan to sign, and it was handed off to you after you passed a draped partition to the other end of the line. In other words, we didn't get to talk to Stan, let alone breathe the same air. I did manage to wave to him from the end of the line and tell him thanks. He acknowledged me with a grin and a smile before the worker brought him the next item to be signed.
The disappointment about how that all went down soon faded as we realized he's a busy guy, he's old, and everybody wants an autograph. After that we were just stoked that jumped on it and got one ourselves. Indeed, I was correct, I would never again attend an event that Stan Lee would be signing at. And so here we are.
It's an understatement to say that Stan Lee revolutionized comics and fandom in general. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention his controversial creator status working with other iconic, yet way more private, creators such as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. He was definitely a pioneer in a an industry that nobody could foresee what would come, how churning out work-for-hire kids fodder would transform into the billion dollar industry it is today, and there were no protections yet in place for the birthers of these brainchildren. Including Stan. He just found other avenues to keep his face and personality in the game.
It's the end of an era. And as the art of sequential story telling marches on into the future and as we mimic Stan Lee to try and create our own successful universes, let us remember that he had nobody to mimic, no steps to follow. He blazed the trail into the unknown. Cuz that's how you do what he Stan Lee did, you do what hasn't been done before.