“He put, heretofore, unexplored humanity into his characters."
CLARENVILLE, N.L. — Even if you've never read a comic book before, you probably recognize Stan Lee.
Lee, the prolific comic book writer who created such Marvel characters as Spider-Man, the Hulk, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Iron Man, Thor, and more, passed away Nov. 12, at the age of 95.
It has caused comic book collectors and Marvel fans across the world to reflect on his life and legacy.
“He put his characters into situations where their humanity could shine through. And that was something that up to that point a lot of comic companies hadn’t done,” explained Clarenville comic book collector Bob Mercer. “He put, heretofore, unexplored humanity into his characters. Suddenly readers could relate on a whole new level. This was a watershed moment.”
Mercer cited Lee’s Spider-Man as the perfect example as the "relatable superhero"; a superhero who has to save the day, but who also has to attend class, do his homework, and take out the trash.
Mercer’s comic book collection today numbers between 3,000-4,000.
He has been collecting since his childhood days in the early '70s, a time when with a couple of quarters you could buy out-of-this-world, larger-than-life adventures you could hardly dream up.
“It didn’t turn into collecting so much as I just didn’t want to throw them out,” he jokes.
His first comics were Marvel’s Spider-Man; possibly, one of Lee’s most popular creations.
“We see ourselves as not having a lot of power in the world,” explained Mercer. “And here are these superheroes facing an issue or a problem or concern, on their own. The superheroes take on things, and become a literary stand-in for ourselves, and what we would like to do.
“It’s a bit of a projection for what we would like to see ourselves as. A superhero would be the best example (of) who we would like to be.”
Mercer, who is also a United Church minister, says superheroes are not just for kids, and that there are lessons we could all learn from comic books. He has even gone so far as to host a Superhero Sunday at Clarenville’s Memorial United Church and hold Superhero Bible studies.
And what are some of those lessons?
“How to treat other people. How to treat our world. How to look beyond ourselves and look at a bigger picture. A bigger way of being,” he said. “I think comics not only entertain, but can educate.”
He says that a quote, often attributed to Lee, best sums it up.
“‘With great power, comes great responsibility.’ – that is true for all humanity at any given point in time.”