It has long been a tradition at San Diego Comic-Con to remember and celebrate the great Jack Kirby, especially at a reverent panel scheduled for every Sunday morning of the convention. It is seriously almost like attending church for comic book faithful in attendance.
This year’s Con is the first to mark the passing of Kirby’s longtime collaborator, the ever-amazing Stan Lee, who sadly slipped the surly bonds of this world last November (2018.)
There have been a handful of panels at this Con, celebrating the memory of Smilin’ Stan; and we made it to today’s event with some of the greats of the comic book community, including: Paul Levitz, Marv Wolfman, Michael Uslan, Denis Kitchen, Maggie Thompson, Danny Fingeroth, John Semper, Jr. and Todd McFarlane.
The all-star panel told stories about being friends with Lee, with the unanimous consensus being that he was always a positive influence and someone who loved what he was doing.
There’s no doubt that Lee would have loved the words these professionals used to describe the iconic editor/creator: idol, mentor, instigator, positive, magic, patient, warm, friendly, graceful, kind, a gentleman, like a father, wonderful and joyful.
Every story the panelists shared was as special and fun as the man himself. But it was McFarlane’s account of spending time with Lee as a teenager and then appearing on stage with him near the end of his public appearances that was most touching and tear inducing.
McFarlane assured the crowded room that Stan got as much joy out of his fans as they got out of him. And on that note, I thought I’d share my own little Stan Lee story with you.
It’s San Diego Comic-Con’s 50th anniversary this year and I can remember wanting to attend ever since I first saw it advertised in what I’m sure was a comic Stan Lee had something to do with.
In the Navy, stationed in San Diego many years, I always intended to come, but for one reason or another my squidly duties always prevented it.
I finally made it to Comic-Con in 2006, just a couple of years before it exploded into the pop culture juggernaut that it is today, and I think I’ve only missed a couple of years since.
The first year I attended, I boldly told my wife I was going to get Stan Lee’s autograph and I bought his Visionaries book in advance and marked the page I wanted him to sign; the cover page of Amazing Fantasy #15, the first appearance of Spider-Man.
Having never attended before, I still managed to figure out what line I needed to be in for a Thursday morning panel featuring Lee; in fact, I think I was the third person in line.
I got a front-row seat at the panel and was in awe and totally star-struck to be an arm’s length away from this man I knew as Uncle Stan and who had such an incredible influence on my life.
I wanted to tell him how much he and his works had meant to me growing up; but in the end, as if puny Peter Parker himself had come to life, I was only able to eek out a bumbling request for him to sign my book at the close of the panel, which he gladly took a moment to do. I walked away with one of the most treasured possessions of my life.
Right now, as I write this, there are thousands of people sitting outside of the convention on a hot sidewalk, waiting for an opportunity to get into the infamous Hall H tomorrow, to be the first to learn what is coming next from the characters Stan Lee helped to create. I can’t think of any rock star, movie star or politician who garners that kind of respect.
When I remember Stan Lee, I’m going to remember a fun and wise man who changed the world for the better and who will truly live forever. Thank you, Uncle Stan!