How many of you readers have read a comic book? Played a video game, bought an action figure, watched a movie or television series?
If you consider yourself remotely connected to the world of pop-culture, the name Stan Lee rings a bell or two. If you’re a kid who grew up with interests that check off all of the boxes above, then the man is held in almost a god-like reverence. Stan, the creator.
Popularized through his always comedic cameos in a dozen-plus Marvel movies in the last decade, Stan Lee was famed long before cracking-wise next to the likes of Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Hemsworth.
‘A Creative Genius’
Consider this, friends. Without Stan Lee, there would likely be no X-Men, no Hulk, Thor, Fantastic Four. There would even be no Spider-Man.
That might mean little to those of you who don’t take great stock out of binging super-hero fiction, diving deep into movie-marathons or re-watching 90s animated cartoons. And sure, folks like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko (to name a few) deserve more than a little credit for those sparks of brilliance that leapt off the page and into our hearts, but Stan was the face – the capital ‘M’ in the Marvel brand that today is a billion dollar business.
Naturally, in the wake of his passing, stars from all walks of life flooded the web with tributes.
Downey Jr, who revived his career starring as Marvel’s Iron Man, said “I owe it all to you,” while Wolverine himself Hugh Jackman called Lee “a creative genius.” Hell, even rival comic company DC lent a touching quote, sharing that “his infectious enthusiasm reminded us why we all fell in love with these stories in the first place.”
And there were more, of course. From athletes to musicians, politicians and legions of fans. Everyone had something good to say about Stan. And the bulk of them tossed in a word Lee himself popularized some decades ago. That word? That most appropriate coined phrase that could only be and should only be used in reference to Stan Lee? Excelsior! A curious word to the uninitiated, to be sure, but one that rings long and true in nerd-culture.
To get to the bottom of that word, we take a trip back in time to a prophetic remark from Stan the man himself.
In November of 2010, eight years and change before he would pass away at the well-spent age of 95, Stan Lee tweeted the meaning to the word he lived his life by. The word that defined him.
“What does “Excelsior” mean?,” he wrote. “Upward and onward to greater glory!” That’s what I wish you whenever I finish tweeting! Excelsior!”
Upward and onward, Stan, whose creativity and spark inspired generations of dreamers. Not all superheroes wear capes.
Dillon Collins, The Herald’s Staff Writer, can be reached by emailing [email protected]