Yesterday, Stan Lee died at 95 years of age. While his contributions to modern day pop culture have been nothing short of legendary, the ways that his legacy has influenced our uniformed servicemen should be highlighted as well.
Because of my pedigree as a comic book illustrator and previous work with the Air Force, today is particularly relevant to both professionals in the comics industry, and professionals in the military. During my time working at Hurlburt Field as a civilian contractor, I learned something about our uniformed servicemen. A surprising number of them love comics—particularly Marvel comics.
I have met quite a few military men down through the years who were captivated by the honor and integrity of Captain America, the relatable nature of Spider-man, and the allure of Iron Man’s military tech. And, it has certainly had an impact on their military lives. If they had to attribute all of that influence to one man they would undoubtedly name Mr. Lee.
Many of them even joined the Military to serve because they wanted to make that noble sacrifice to serve like little Steve Rogers did. The influential message of Stan Lee held that you did not have to be a super man to make a difference—you just need to believe that one person with very human frailties can make a difference. One man or woman with weaknesses can indeed become a Hero.
Of course the super powers help get the job done, but the strength of Marvel’s heroes has always been in the character traits of it’s characters. Many times they had to dig down deep to find the strongest of wills to get them through the darkest of times. Yet, all the while maintaining that capacity to act with nobility, and integrity. To save the person that wrongs you the most, or even to forgive the most egregious of offenses are undoubtedly very difficult things for people to accomplish. Yet, they are good and just characteristics we should all strive to attain. While Stan Lee certainly didn’t shy away form shining a light on the darkest immoralities of humanity, he regularly infused his heroes with the most admirable of qualities.
When our American warriors step out to do battle down range to secure our freedoms, they are exhibiting these very characteristics of heroism. Perhaps that is why there is such a strong connection between our servicemen and the legacy of Mr. Lee. After all, I can’t think of much else that is as synonymous with American tradition and our armed services than Captain America, and by proxy Mr. Marvel himself, Stan Lee.