Tuesday, November 13, 2018

THE ORIGINAL 'NUFF SAID' GUY

R.I.P. STAN LEE -

BSC, CA – I've often wondered how my life might have been different if I have taken the offer to keep Amazing Fantasy #15 on the day I read the comic book in Red's Barber Shop. Red was Mr. Harrington and he cut my hair before I could count to 100. Mr. Red taught me about fake news which I learned from the school's fake history. The barber knew it was false because he had lived or knew the true story. At first, being a kid, I doubted him but later when I knew he was right about life, I inquired more knowledge from him. Mr. Red also introduced me to comics in that he used to let me take comics home with me after I read them at his shop. He went to a comic book store [Readmore in Louisville downtown] so he needed the turnover. I could not believe my good fortune.

It was at Mr. Red's that I first read the origin of The Amazing Spiderman. I liked it and he asked me twice if I wanted to take the comic with me. I said 'no' both times and left the shop. As soon as the first Spiderman comic title hit the stands, I knew I had made a mistake or was it. That little voice told me to take it but my ego, for some reason, overruled it. I didn't make that mistake again. I never got the chance.


I had grown up reading comics with DC's straight forward establishment mindset, the girl friend trying to find the alter ego, as the go-to theme found in every superhero story. In those days you didn't know anything about the story process beyond the 10 cents cover price for 52 pages. Stan Lee changed all of that. There will be plenty of homage paid to Stan the Man, who died yesterday in LA, by people you recognize. This report is what Stan Lee did in my eyes as a comic book lover and reader.

The name Marvel meant something special to me since my favorite superheroes were The Marvel Family, whose final story was titled 'And Then There Were None'. In the mid-50s they were gone and it would be a long time before this kid found out why. Comic book lovers were nerds so you kept your love of them quiet, like a secret identity. Your family knew and kid friends who also read and collected them but otherwise, it was your secret. Stan Lee changed all that too.

If fact, Stan Lee made it alright to love and read comics. He let you into the world behind the pages by listing the editor, artists, letterer, and inker. Through Lee you found out what each person did in that process and how they did it. You learned the way of putting out a comic story through the bullpen. Decades later the story of the actual people behind the stories [Kirby, Ditko, Romita, etc] came forward to fill in the blanks, but the art magic never left. In fact, the art and story level of comics was exposed to the world by Stan the Man. If anyone showed what was behind the curtain of comics, it was Stan Lee.

Because of Stan Lee I came to know about other comic art pro secrets, like Carl Barks, one of the good Disney artists [Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck], Curt Swan [DC] and C.C. Beck [Fawcett, DC] drawer/creator Capt. Marvel, the kid who says Shazam and changes into an adult superhero. I give all credit to the man who made 'Nuff said' a famous slogan.

Many people will praise Stan for his awards, characters, and of course Marvel, but Stan Lee made super heroes human heroes, with worries more than about identity problems. You saw real character development beyond the cardboard cutouts everyone else was. Stan Lee made comics and the industry more accessible to fans. Working on the East Coast most of his life, I never thought I would see Stan face to face, you might say, but that all changed during Occupy LA.

Marvel had moved to Los Angeles and though there was a comicon in San Diego, Stan Lee's enterprises decided to put one of their own on in LA during that time. Though I didn't buy an autograph [I wasn't on vacation but covering a long story on my own dime], I did get to see 'The Man' and buy a tee shirt from the event. Stan got to get on the list of the original Temptations [backstage], MLK, Jr. [organization meeting], Leonard Nimoy [speaking tour]; people I knew of before I saw or met them in person.

The one other reason that I at least wanted to see Stan the Man in person was because of a curious fact. Peter [Pete] had a girlfriend who was named Mary Jane, lol. Though he was never part of the marijuana crowd or puffed any grass, I gained a personal inside joke from his inspiration for the girlfriend of Spiderman who never died in the comic series like Gwen Stacy, an end story that gave the middle finger to the Comics Code.

Rest In Peace, Stan Lee. I hope you and Joan get a grand wake parade in Paradise. You are The Man. You get a 21 Thompson MG salute, a tattered with no sleeves Nick Fury shirt and the original Captain America shield, like the one Obama put on the back of the new penny. Excelsior!!

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