Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A fan letter to Stan Lee

Mr. Lee,

The days of finding a "fan mail" address for favorite stars seems to have disappeared. But I wanted to use some form of correspondence to make known how much you have been for me.

I wanted to express this to you in person. I was at Dallas Fan Expo in early June. I was looking forward to getting an autograph or photograph just so I could have the 30 seconds to express my admiration. Unfortunately, the cost was beyond my budget. I was disappointed that a financial barrier such as $100 would keep me from meeting you. But I was able to sit in on the spotlight panel in the arena. That was the highlight of the weekend for me.

I appreciate the time and energy you devote to your fans. It is understandable that you would retire from making as many appearances at conventions. I don't know how extensive your retirement will be, but if I don't ever get the opportunity again, I treasure the little time that you shared with your fans. I have to admit to a streak of envy as Todd McFarlane recounted the hours that he got to spend with you as a young man. On the list of people I would like to sit down with, you are among the tops of my list.

My fan appreciation goes back to the late 1970's. I started reading comics around that time. My comics of choice were Marvel titles. It isn't that I thought DC titles were bad or less interesting. I thought that the Marvel characters and stories were more engaging. I still have parts of a Daredevil comic (guest starring Nova!) and Defenders comic (co-starring the original Guardians of the Galaxy!). They are in rough shape, but I treasure them.

One of my favorite features was always Stan's Soapbox. I thought your comments were funny, as a kid. Today I realize that you were giving us a regular glimpse into the charisma and charm you still exhibit.

As I got older, one of your creations - your most famous - became something of a personal hero. Spider-Man was my favorite costumed hero for many years. But Peter Parker represented even more. I was becoming an introverted and nerdy youth. I felt like an outsider. I wasn't bullied or mistreated by schoolmates, but I didn't feel like I belonged. My interests took me away from the more popular pastimes of athletics. I was interested in science. I loved reading. And I found in Peter Parker a kindred spirit.

But his mantra about responsibility has left the most lasting impression. Today I consider duty and responsibility as important. I didn't understand it as deeply when I was young. Perhaps it is a facet of being young that we don't responsibility. Perhaps it was just a matter of learning as I grew. But I have discovered that the power I do possess (influence, skills, talents) does bring with it a set of responsibilities and duties. And those responsibilities and duties are a sacred trust between myself and others. If I don't fulfill those, the power is meaningless.

I realize that you didn't write the stories that I read as a youth. I think you may have even moved on to other pursuits. But your legacy, your influence, was in every page, every word bubble, I read. You are one of the great legends that I look to because you have made such a lasting impression on the things you have done. I count you with Walt Disney as one of the great persons of our nation. You both have gone beyond just being a comic book writer and editor. You and Walt seem to share the same depth of charisma and energy. You both are unstoppable creative forces. You both have not let critics or nay-sayers stop you from pursuing your vision.

I respect and admire Walt Disney for these qualities. But I also believe you exhibit many of the same qualities that I would love to have in my life. I could never reach the levels that you possess of these traits. I feel that I am too restrained or driven to those ends. But I learn from the example you have set. Maybe I can some day be a fraction of the visionary and influence that you have been to me and many others.

Thank you Stan Lee for being an amazing influence in my life. It would be remarkable if this came to your attention. But even if it doesn't, I need to express that you have been an important part of shaping who I am.

Sincerely, a life-long fan.