Not all heroes wear capes!
- 1 A person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
‘a war hero’
‘The world is full of stories and from time to time they permit themselves to be told!’
When I was a boy, I had extreme difficulty with words, both written and spoken. I had a very bad stammer till I was in my early teens and learned to control it (though when I get very upset it tends to get the better of me) and I couldn’t write much more than my name until I was seven years old!
My aunt suggest to my parents that they get me something I was interested in to hopefully spark my mind to learn to read. So endless books on dinosaurs and space came flooding my way, but not until after I had discovered a strange thing in the local newsagents, a comic book from America. I was seven years old in 1970 and my first introduction to comics was Spider-Man, I couldn’t read the words but the amazing pictures helped a lot and with the help of my other hero in life, my grandfather Richard Henry Shepherd, I slowly began to learn the words on the pages of the funny books and before long I had learned to read.
It wasn’t until I left school and went to became a nurse (my life long goal as a child and still is), that I discovered that I am, like so many others who have been neglected by the school system in the seventies; dyslexic.
It was reading the comic books written by Stan Lee that taught me to read more than anything else, that and the sheer determination of my grandfather who showed me the ultimate in patience has he help me when I was struggling so much to learn what most people take for granted. Sure I wasn’t going to win any awards for my writing as my handwritten work was and still is almost illegible, but my reading went stratospheric by the time I was eight years old and soon I was reading at an adult age, far past many of my class mates.
Years went by and I learned to write, though slowly but surely and one of my first things I remember writing was a letter to Stan Lee at the Marvel Bullpen when I was around nine years old. The letter was simply to thank Stan for giving me the moment to learn to read and write, and my mum posted it to America for me and that was the last I heard of it.
Then almost two years later while my mother was pregnant with my brother, I received an air mail letter (that I think is still at my parents home) from desk of Stan Lee! I remember carefully opening the letter and there on Marvel Comics headed paper was a letter, type written saying thank you for my correspondence and what I assumed to be a standard stock letter sent out to anyone who wrote to the comic. However at the bottom of the letter was a hand written missive that I remember as clearly now as I am writing this. ‘Glad I could help, Excelsior, Stan Lee!’
Years go by and I am now an adult with children of my own, and grandchildren, yet the writing of Stan Lee helped to shape me into the person standing before you today. I used comics as my moral compass and tried to do that right thing, I stood up to bullies, even though I was bullied myself for many years, and I always tried and didn’t just give up.
My dyslexia became a stepping stone and with the advent of computers I learned more than to type, I learned to really explore that wonderful world that had been opened to me so many years earlier by Stan Lee, and later on Marv Wolfman, John Wagner, Pat Mills and Alan Grant! These where my heroes, the real people I admired and revered with an almost saint like reverence, but of all these wonderful writers (later as I grew older joined by Stephen King and Herbert George Wells) it was Stan Lee who had the biggest effect on my life.
Stan was more than just a writer, he was a man who much like Walt Disney changed popular culture as we know it. Responsible for creating hundreds of characters, writing thousands and thousands of stories and giving the world some of the greatest icons of popular culture, Stan was a legend!
His characters are known by millions world wide and with the recent success of the MCU movies (Marvel Cinematic Universe) known to even more people than ever before. A man who was not without his flaws and there are those who tell tales of Stan Lee standing on the shoulders of giants such as legendary comic artist Jack Kirby, but all that aside he was my hero in a time in my life when I really needed one.
Sadly 2018 had not been a good year for Stan Lee, he lost his loving wife Joan, of sixty nine years in 2017 and his health had begun to decline. This combined with unfounded allegations against his good nature, people trying to embezzle money from the comics giant and being surround by the wrong people did nothing to improve the situation.
So tonight at just before 7pm I learned that my childhood hero had passed away at the age of 95! It is a moment I have been dreading in all honesty since my own grandfather died in 1987, and for some reason I don’t know if it is because its not hit home yet, or that I was expecting it, I feel a sense of calm and peace.
So to Mr Stan Lee thank you for making me the man I am today, for giving me hope when none could be found, and for years of always being there. I never got to meet you in person, though in 2104 thanks to my wonderful daughter Katriana I did manage to be in the same room as you in your last ever UK appearance and I will remember that hour always! The words you wrote to me still affect me to this day, and it’s amazing how a simple sentence can give someone so much! My childhood is now over, my heroes are all gone, but somewhere in my heart there will always be a young boy, scared and frightened, but growing in confidence thanks to you!
Stanley Martin Leiber 1922-2018
Please take a moment to read the moving tribute to Stan from the folks over at Marvel and Disney!