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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!



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