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Volume 3, Number 12
December, 1998

Stan Lee, Savior of Youth

by Wil Forbis

I love comic books. As a kid growing up in Hawaii, I made an important discovery about comic books: Relationships with comic book characters were far superior to relationships with actual people. Peter Parker (Spiderman) was always a far more amiable chap than the large Samoans at my school. The Hulk, even with his destructive tendencies, seemed much easier to sympathize with than my neighborhood cohorts. I even went so far as to develop a crush on a female comic book character. Illyana Rasputin was her name. Illyana had been kidnapped by demons at a young age and raised in an alternate dimension by a giant purple monster who smoked cigars. Other than that we were pretty similar. Both filled with teenage insecurities. However, Illyana eventually fell in love with one of the NEW MUTANTS. I believe it was the one who flew around and smashed things. This greatly agitated me. So I didn't have super powers, I still had a great personality.

In those days, all Marvel comics had a masthead that proclaimed: STAN LEE PRESENTS. Anyone who knew comics knew Stan's contribution. As a writer/editor he'd help pull comics out of their rut in the sixties with grandiose stories and realistic heroes. He basically came up with the idea of "nerd" superheroes. Nerd superheroes were costumed vigilantes that were really inept clods in day to day life. This worked out well, since most comic book readers were inept clods.

Recently, I saw Stan on Conan O'Brian's wonderful show. While perusing one of Stan's rare public appearances, several things became clear. One being: Stan is looking old! He looked kind of like one of those frail bums you see outside 7-11, clutching a bottle of Nightrain. But what a bum he would make. You could sit with him and inebriatedly discuss the Fantastic Four or the effects of Gamma radiation. If I met Stan Lee as a bum I'd invite him back to my place and let him crash on the couch. Of course, then I'd have no place to sleep but that's the kind of guy I am. A "give up the couch to Stan Lee" kind of guy.

Another thing made clear from Stan's visit to Conan's show was his impressive popularity. I would have assumed that when Conan announced that "Stan Lee" was going to be on the show, the response would been bewildered looks and occasional drooling. Quite the opposite. Stan's applause far outweighed Conan's other guests (that dreary Jeff Daniels and some forgettable dame.) I was surprised about it at first, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. Comics have been used to placate kids for centuries. If the little snot starts to whine, throw a funnybook his way. Comic books (next to the great god, television) were the babysitter of a generation. And Stan was our favorite uncle, always there with a web spinnin', earth shattering, spine tingling good time.

I understand the new thing in the comic world these days are "underground" comic books. Giant sized planet eaters and scantily clad super women have been replaced with fornicating funny animals and gregarious lesbians. Cosmic battles are being eroded by trite, oh-so-cynical fables. Well, I don't mind. All these underground "artistes" would be nowhere without Stan and they know it. That's why I feel the day of Stan's eventual demise should be crowned national Stan Lee day. This would only be fitting for a man of Stan's magnitude. Of course, for that to happen, Stan will have to take his leave of this earth. So, c'mon Stan. Hurry up and die!
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