If you’ve ever heard of Spider-Man, Iron Man or more recently, Black Panther, you have the late comic book legend Stan Lee to thank. The renowned writer and film producer died on Nov. 12, 2018, in Los Angeles.
Lee leaves behind an impressive legacy and is in part responsible for transforming Marvel Comics into ultimately what would become a multimedia giant.
Many University of Georgia students were devastated to hear the news and spoke on their shock and sadness at losing such a icon.
Lauren White, a senior early childhood education major from Kennesaw, said her sister texted her while she was eating lunch at Tate with some friends.
“All of us just froze and stared at the table,” White said. “We’re all just huge nerds and we were all just silent. He was doing remarkably well.”
Some students, like Micah Dammann, a junior advertising major from Atlanta, heard of Lee’s death via the Internet.
“I literally woke up from my nap an hour ago and went on Twitter and saw Stan Lee was trending,” Dammann said.
Mary McGill, a junior advertising major from Gainesville, also read about his passing online.
“I saw it on Twitter and I was so sad,” McGill said.
Other fans, like Michael Ethridge, a junior marketing and advertising major from Greensboro, heard of Lee’s death from social media sites like Facebook.
“I actually heard about it on the Facebook page known as ‘Overheard at UGA,’” Ethridge said.
Lee was active and interacted with his fanbase at conventions and more recently, on Twitter. Dammann was one of those who met Lee at Dragon Con, a multigenre convention held annually in Atlanta. Dammann said meeting Lee was emotional.
“I’ve paid to meet him three separate times — it was life-changing,” Dammann said. “Even though he was so old, he loved meeting his fans. I cried. I just saw him in person and I was like, ‘Whoa,’ [and] I started bawling.”
Ashi Patel, a sophomore journalism and film studies double major from Columbus, also had the opportunity to meet Lee. Patel entered a competition called the Ant-Man Micro-Tech Challenge and was one of the five winners selected.
“What they were looking for was for people to use a piece of microtechnology … to make a piece of technology,” Patel said. “I made a machine that could draw out on paper whatever I was drawing on the computer.”
The device Patel created led her to travel to California and, ultimately, meet Lee.
“We got to meet the executive producers of Marvel and we were on the red carpet for ‘Ant-Man,’” Patel said. “I got to meet Stan Lee there, on the red carpet. I got to tell him [that] he is the reason I write and the reason I ever wanted to write stories. That’s one of the highlights of my life.”
It’s these stories Lee created and told that inspired many across the globe.
For Dammann, whose uncle “raised [her]” on Marvel comics, Lee was a “huge proponent” in her childhood.
“[Lee] leaves this huge legacy because the … superhero industry is booming,” Dammann said. “He just set this huge standard.”
Ethridge said he was introduced to Lee’s works by his grandfather.
“My grandfather gave me ‘Fantastic Four Vol. 1’ written by Lee with art by Jack Kirby,” Ethridge said. “I can honestly say that without Lee’s influence in my life, I would be a very different person than I am today, because through his characters, I learned so many lessons about life and how to proceed through the rough patches of it.”
McGill, who remembers Lee’s influence on her as early as seventh grade when she was 13 years old, said one of the reasons Lee will leave behind such a legacy is because he brought his “characters to life.”
“‘Infinity War’ made the most money in movies ever made opening weekend because of how beloved these characters are,” McGill said. “DC doesn’t even compare — their films don’t compare. [The Marvel comics] are so well-written because he’s doing it to make these characters relatable.”
McGill cited one of her favorite superheroes, Spider-Man, as a prime example of a powerful but relatable character.
“Peter Parker is such a dork,” McGill said. “He’s such a loser and he literally built things from the trash because he’s poor and he becomes this superhero. But he keeps it to himself because he wants people to still understand he’s human.”
McGill said even heroes like Thor, the God of Thunder, have human qualities to them that make them relatable to the average person.
“You see everything he deals with in the film that make him human, like losing his brother,” she said. “So [by] making these superheroes human, we find ways to connect with them.”
White said superheroes like Doctor Strange give others a voice and help provide diversity within cinema and comics.
“For me personally … [Doctor Strange] is a character that overcame a disability and still became this powerful character despite that,” White said. “As someone who struggles with [a] disability myself… he had such an impact on me. I think [Lee] gave voices not only to people who feel different every day and reminded people how extraordinary they are, but he also gave voices to people of all walks of life.”
In a similar way, Patel emphasized the effect Lee and his works will continue to have on the global community.
“He’s already made such an impact on people,” Patel said. “I know so many people in the comic and design industry who’ve been inspired by … his art as well. He wrote characters … who seemed so human even though they had powers. Making the little man feel like they could be like that one day [is] one of the impacts he’s had on other storytellers.”
Correction: In a previous version of this Stan Lee was incorrectly identified as an artist in the headline. This has since been corrected and the Red & Black regrets this error.