So Stan Lee has passed away at age 95.
1. He was a secular Jew from NYC. An agnostic. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a “true believer”.
2. Of course, Stan Lee was the co-creator of Marvel Comics. He was the main writer while his friends Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby did the artwork. They collaborated on many comics.
3. Golden Age. Before Marvel Comics came on the scene, the main comic book company was Detective Comics (DC). DC spawned the likes of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. DC superheroes were like titans or gods walking the Earth. DC primarily targeted kids. Larger than life heroes that kids could look up to. Like kids who think mom and dad are the be-all and end-all to everything. DC began and persisted in the Golden Age of comics.
4. Silver and Bronze Ages. By contrast, Marvel Comics’ superheroes (e.g. the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Wolverine, Spider-Man, Daredevil, the Hulk) were superheroes, to be sure, but they were more “human”. More down to earth. More given over to self-doubts, questioning their place in the world, trying to find a job, a spouse, make ends meet, puttering through life. A perfect example is Peter Parker (Spidey) who was a nerdy kid who would crack jokes, fail at romance, get into fights he would lose, be behind on the bills, etc. Comics which primarily targeted adolescents. Stan Lee had his heyday in the Silver and Bronze Ages of comics.
However, in our day, Lee was something of a relic. His comics were filled with bright colors, silly and ridiculous costumes, fun daring-do adventures. Along the lines of the Batman tv show of the 1960s starring Adam West. Sometimes Lee used his comics to talk about larger social issues like saying no to drugs, environmentalism, and inner city poverty and racism in simplistic but earnest ways.
5. Modern Age. In the mid 1980s, comics began to shift in tone and content to darker, grittier, grimmer matters. Largely thanks to both Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. These comics were more “real”. More adult. Often pervaded with nihilism. Comics for the post-modern era. This ushered in the Modern Age of comics aka the Dark Ages.
6. In the end, it seems to me Stan Lee was like a teenager his whole life. He never really grew up. For instance, in addition to his more famous comics (e.g. Spider-Man), don’t forget Lee likewise created Stripperella.
7. Many might find it wonderful for Stan Lee to have remained like Peter Pan his entire life. But I suppose that’s mainly because we live in a youth-oriented if not youth-adulating culture. We tend to prize youth, not age. Everyone wants to look and act like they’re still in their 20s.
In fact, we often forget the elderly, leave them in nursing homes, push away talk about death, and so on. That’s in stark contrast to most cultures in most of human history as well as most non-Western cultures today.
Indeed, it seems the only times we praise the elderly are when they talk and act like they’re much younger, not when they talk and act like they’re elderly! Yet the elderly have tons of wisdom to offer on a host of issues and many life experiences and stories to share with us if we will but listen, to say the least.
8. At some point in our lives, we have to put away childish things and become mature adults. I don’t mean there isn’t something special about seeing the world through the eyes of child. I don’t mean that it’s not good to be “young at heart”.
However, we live in an imperfect world. We live in a world where there’s pain, suffering, and death. It’d be nice to be ignorantly blissful of these things, but the truth is almost everyone will face them at some point. So we have to deal with them.
As such, we can’t or shouldn’t avoid such issues forever. That would leave us stunted in our intellectual and emotional development. Adults face more challenges and responsibilities, but there are also more rewards to be gained in overcoming certain challenges and responsibilities.
Yet there are many full grown men and women who have somehow avoided adulthood. I guess that’s in large part thanks to living in prosperous and civilized Western societies which have insulated and buffered the majority of their citizens from the horrors of the rest of the world.
In any case, we shouldn’t say (as Stan Lee did) that he didn’t know if God existed, but likewise never seem to have cared whether it was worth finding out whether God existed. For if God exists, then everything changes, and if he doesn’t exist, then everything changes. There’s no middle ground, no adolescence as it were, we all have to grow up and face reality at some point, whatever it may be. That involves, among other things, tackling issues about God headfirst rather than glibly waving them away with statements like: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Again, whether or not God exists changes everything.