Stan Lee: Leaving a Legacy
Stan Lee: Leaving a Legacy
I’ve known the name of Stan Lee for as long as I can
remember. From being a kid hanging out in my local comic
book shop to seeing his name on comics, cartoons, and in
every aspect of nerd culture in general, he’s been present in
my life. Quite frankly, he was everywhere in my nerdy bubble.
I grew up in the 80’s, and it was still not cool to be a geek or a
nerd. You could still get picked on for watching cartoons or
reading comic books. So much of that has changed, and I
honestly believe Stan Lee is a major reason why. Stan had been
the constant face and association with comic books for
generations. This is a guy who went from a job filling the
inkwells of comic artists to becoming a household name and
entertainment mogul. He started his work in that industry in
1939 and was active in it until the time of his death.
People knew him for a variety of different reasons. My oldest
daughter Rosa knew him as his character on Marvel’s Super
Hero Squad. My middle daughter Bella knew him as the guy
who was in all the Marvel movies. My high school best friend
knew him as the guy from Mallrats. My muggle friends knew
him as the guy from the picture on my wall. They were familiar
with him but didn’t realize how deep and vast his contribution
to pop culture was. He not only created and nurtured some of
the greatest comic book characters of all time, but he was the
figurehead of nerd culture becoming cool. He was there at the
beginning and saw it at its pinnacle. He became part of our
While he wasn’t a perfect person, he also wasn’t a wildly
controversial person. He managed to work in a public industry
for more than 60 years and still exited with a good reputation.
He was beloved. You know how hard that is to accomplish?
I’ve watched actors, musicians, and ministers I’d admired
crumble and fall away because their integrity and reputation
were shattered. Some poor decision, or a series of poor
decisions leave their names tarnished beyond belief. Actors
removed from prominent tv shows over their past actions,
voice actors severed from their community over allegations,
and so many other terrible things can happen to a person that
could ruin their name.
In the geek world, Stan Lee went out as the gold standard of
names. Even in the Bible, it’s hard to find a leader without a
tarnished name. David was an adulterer, Moses a murderer,
Jonah a selfish crybaby, Peter a betrayer, etc. Even in the face
of all they accomplished, their names are tarnished by their
shortcomings. God was still able to use these people, but our
goal should be our stories ending with a good name.
Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is more desirable than
great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or
At the time of his passing, Stan Lee’s net worth was
somewhere between 50-80 million dollars. Even in all of that
money, I can tell you this: his reputation and legacy will long
outlast every one of those dollars.
My friend Chrispy and I talked about Stan’s passing on our Pull
List Podcast. One of the things that came up is the idea of who
would be the next Stan Lee and seriously carry that torch.
Growing up for me, Joe Montana was considered the greatest
Quarter Back of all time. Now, Tom Brady has taken the mantle
as the next greatest. Michael Jordan was the greatest of his
generation, and while many still consider Mike the greatest
period, Lebron James is easily the next greatest of his time
(sorry for using sports analogies in a nerd book). For us sitting
here today, it’s hard to imagine who the next “Stan Lee” could
be. Maybe Jim Lee, or Jeph Loeb, or Kevin Smith. I don’t know
who it will be, or when, but one day someone will get that
label. Somewhere in print, someone will be addressed as the
new “Stan Lee.” When that happens, it will be meant as a
blessing and compliment. It will be a weighty mantle of
responsibility and privilege.
Proverbs 10:7 The name of the righteous is used in
blessings, but the name of the wicked will rot.
You ever actually heard someone’s name be used as a curse?
Judas, Benedict Arnold, Hitler, Nickleback? There are just some
names you associate with being negative or toxic. How is your
name spoken right now? Is it encouraging or infamous? Most
of us don’t necessarily care how people use our name, but
bottom line, our names are attached to God’s name. If our
name is negative, it speaks negatively of God. That’s not where
we want to be.
I remember getting the news of Stan’s death. I was sitting in a
staff meeting at Church and my wife texted me to tell me. Her
high school BFF had texted her to make sure she knew so that
she could tell me. Literally someone hours away contacted my
wife immediately so that she could be the one to deliver the
news. I sat there in my meeting. It was somber. I couldn’t
exactly interrupt a meeting of ministry professionals because I
was emotional Stan Lee had died.
Eventually though, when I finally spoke up about it, people
were sad. But then I started oddly getting the phrase, “I’m
sorry for your loss.” People were calling me, texting me, etc.
They were asking if I was ok. I legit think more people called
me when Stan Lee died than when my mother or father died.
It’s not that I was close to him; it’s just that they knew I cared.
It also helps that I’m the poster boy for the geek world to most
of my muggle friends, so I’m the one person they think to
check on. We all knew this was coming eventually though.
I had been around Stan Lee for three different occasions, and
in the early years of Faith & Fandom, I just couldn’t afford the
cost of meeting celebrities. Eventually it hit me — I’m
desperately running out of opportunities to meet him. So
finally, I went to meet him. He was sitting in a chair and a
handler gave warnings about not squeezing him too hard. My
heart melted. He was my sweet old comics grandpa. I walked
up to him and he looked at me and said “You’re doing a great
job.” I have no idea why those were his words. I wish I could
say that low key Stan knew who I was. I’d love to believe the
fantasy that he had checked my books out while perusing
Artist’s Alley after hours. I don’t believe any of that’s true. I
believe he just knew it would be something nice for me to
He was right.
I heard Stan Lee tell me I was doing a great job face to face. I
will take that to my grave as a happy memory. I saw him
several times after that, but we knew it was coming. Once his
wife passed away, we knew for sure it was coming soon. I’ve
rarely seen elderly couples that loved each other survive for
very long after their partner had passed. I wasn’t surprised
when it wasn’t long after. Sitting there at my church office
hearing the news and all the days that followed, people
showed they cared. It wasn't because they knew Stan, but
because they knew he was important to me and millions of
others. The day he died was sad, but it was also a beautiful day
watching everyone unite and share their memories and
Ecclesiastes 7:1, “A good name is better than fine
perfume, and the day of death better than the day of
Whenever I see scriptures mentioning the day of death being
good, or death being a positive thing in general, I always have
this natural pushback on it. I was thinking on this scripture in
preparing for this, and it really hit me how true it is. The day of
your birth, you literally have nothing. You have potential and
hope, but beyond that you have nothing to show for your life.
The day you die, you will have completed your story on this
earth. All your victories and defeats will have happened. Your
successes and failures will all have been noted, and you will
have impacted an entire lifetime of people and will live on in
the memories, actions and legacies of all the people you’ve
In that way, the day Stan Lee died was a better day. Very few
people celebrated when Stanley Martin Lieber entered the
world in 1922, but the whole world noted, celebrated, and will
now remember when Stan Lee exited this world in 2018. If we
live our lives so ineffectively that there is no more impact on
the world on the day we die than on the day we are born, we
have effectively wasted all the days and years God has given
“100 years from now, if somebody should bring up my
name, if...haha..., if it would still be around...It would be
nice if people would say, “Jeez. I thought he was a good
writer. His stories gave me a lot of pleasure.” That’s
what people tell me now, and it’s the best thing any
writer can ever hear.” - Stan Lee.
I know Stan created and nurtured so much. His writing literally
has shaped generations of entertainment, and I think he will
get his request that people will celebrate his stories. People
quote his cameos as much as his comics, but I think the line
that will forever go down as his biggest quote was the epic
defining moment in the Spider-Man mythos.
“With great power comes great responsibility.”
I think we all felt that in our souls when we heard it. While it is
basically a paraphrase of Jesus in Luke, the way Stan set up the
story and its delivery are iconic beyond belief.
Luke 12:48, “But someone who does not know, and then
does something wrong, will be punished only lightly.
When someone has been given much, much will be
required in return; and when someone has been
entrusted with much, even more will be required.”
Jesus tells us that we are responsible to use what we have
been given fully and effectively. What we have wasn’t given
lightly, and we will be held accountable for it. That is the great
power and great responsibility of being people who live by
faith. Being the people who love God and follow Jesus must
represent him well. We have been given much because He has
entrusted us with much. When you remember Stan Lee, I hope
you can be challenged to think of what your legacy will look
like. I hope you can be challenged to live your life with
Will you live your life in a way that your name is good when
your story is told?
Will you live your life in such a way that your name is a
Will the day of your death be a day of celebration?
What will you do with what you have been given?
If you look up definitions of Stan’s catchphrase word of
“Excelsior,” the general concept is that it “indicates superior
quality.” Stan himself told the world in 2010, “What does
“Excelsior” mean? “Upward and onward to greater glory!”
Here is to living lives worthy of Excelsior!