I’d moved to recover. I was at the lowest point of my life for reasons that those who know me are aware of but otherwise won’t be discussed here. There was an otherwise unmemorable Sunday afternoon and I was scrambling to get to my soccer game. New York City can somehow be simple and impossible to navigate simultaneously and my afternoon’s journey was a great example of this phenomenon. I thought I had plenty of time to get where I was going but somehow didn’t seem to be able to get there.
And then the unexpected happened. A car stopped in front me at a busy intersection, nothing more than a momentary impediment… until Stan Lee stepped out of the back and time stopped entirely. This was maybe 16 years ago, and if he wasn’t already 80 he was closing it on it quickly. He also seemed to be a giant.
He spun a web and swung down Ninth Avenue… no, not quite, but he did look directly at me and smile broadly. The moment passed quickly but time also remained completely still.
I gave up reading comic books decades ago but still recall almost every purchase from my childhood as a series of unfolding events. Marvel Comics seemed incredibly personal. It might just be a trick of age, but Stan Lee’s name always seemed to be prominently featured on the splash page of every issue. He always seemed to be welcoming the reader into this magical world that he and his friends created.
Batman was a billionaire from Gotham City. Superman was in metropolis. Spider-Man? He was from New York… some place I knew. He was a bullied high school student. Something about that also seemed to resonate.
My life takes off. There are many wonderful highs and the only real low sets me on a path to my lovely red headed wife and our snowflakes. I have zero real complaints.
And still, the chance encounters on random street corners stand out like the magical moments they are.
Years pass. Snowflake #1 and I begin to hit the ComicCon circuit. We’re nowhere near the professionals that my brother and niece are when it comes to carving up these venues, but we usually find someone we’re happy to talk to: Batman, Chewbacca, and various Star Trek people. We dream of selling my books in huge quantities, but that remains an entirely different fantasy.
Two years ago, at AwesomeCon, we had a quest that was both simple and ambitious. It was Father’s Day and we were about to spend a moment of it with Spider-Man’s dad. It was beyond thrilling. Once again Stan Lee stared directly at me. His universe unfolded and time again stood completely still.
Moments after the encounter it occurred to me that the book I’d brought with me remained in my brother’s car. The encounter was perfect nonetheless.
I started writing this post a few days ago and never finished. Somehow that fact seems fitting. Just like Stan Lee there always seemed to be more to say and other stories to tell. The world is worse off for his departure but so much better for his having been here for 95 years.
95 years? The best ones somehow seem to leave too early.
With Stan Lee’s great power came great responsibility. He wielded his mantle perfectly… at least for me, and the child I was, and the children my daughters are.