Where does one begin with recounting the impact a single artist had on their inconsequential life? I mean, I can easily narrate a thesis for each, separate era of my existence if I really wanted to. However, boring you to the grave is not my intention; merely sharing some memories will be the ultimate goal of today’s little scribbling session.
For as far back as I can remember, comic books have been an integral part of my day-to-day; particularly any story involving Spider-Man (my favorite of the Marvel heroes). Now, there will be a lot of you who never had the experience of being a kid, on a planet, in a universe, where something such as, oooh, I don’t know, the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” never existed.
*Audible gasps of terror can be heard, far and wide*
Yes, yes, I know….the horror of it, right?
Growing up in the late 70s through the 80s, humans my age had very little to latch their itty-bitty imaginations onto. We had comics, yes, but live-action anything was in short supply; and by “short supply” I mean that we could very easily count the number of cartoons and television shows available to us on both hands (the ones worth counting, anyway). Movies were an even larger void. It wasn’t until 2002’s Spider-Man, that we would finally be given a proper live-action Marvel film. But, without Stan Lee, none of what was to inevitably see fruition could have been possible. He, quite simply, set the stage. His words, married to the art of industry legends of the time, brought to life some of the most memorable characters ever to see the light of day; characters which provided my childhood with so many fond memories. Memories that I’m sure you all shared in one form or another of your own, unique making.
I finally had the honor of meeting the hero of my youth while I was working for KTLA. His name had popped up on the segment-roster for the morning news that week, which was something I had finagled my way onto the daily email distribution list for, some time before (I was TMZ before TMZ existed). After a brief moment of exhilaration, and then anxiety (had to plan my “chance meeting” without interference from the crew), I got to work on sorting out that forthcoming day.
The morning of, I trotted on down to the news set and hung around outside, doing my best to look like I was merely passing through (“Nope, nothing to see here, folks.”) because some of the crew could be real pricks when it came to non-production staff hanging around the green room, not to mention agents and publicists if they caught wind of “unapproved” employees waiting to meet their clients. After Stan had finished his interview segment with Sam Rubin (the station’s entertainment reporter), he jovially jaunted (repeat that ten times fast) out to the waiting area where, much to his delight, he met one Mister Eric Shawn Montoya, his biggest and most ardent fan. Kidding. But I was waiting for him as he exited the stage.
It was one of those rare instances in which the idea of a person perfectly mirrored reality, and turns out to be everything you could’ve hoped for when your paths finally converge. I didn’t even know what to say to him (in typical, Eric fashion). How does one convey a lifetime of gratitude within a few seconds? Well, your guess is as good as mine, because all this fanboy was able to compose was an unyielding smile, an extended hand, and a meekly pronounced, “It’s an honor to meet you, sir,” before snapping a quick picture with the comic book icon, and allowing the man to be on his way. And you know what the incredible thing is? The whole time I felt like he was a fan of me, not the other way around. Therein lies the summation of why he was a class act.
It can’t be overstated how much this man gave to children around the globe, and it is because of his iconic creations and pervading legacy that forthcoming generations will, too, enjoy books and movies and cartoons based upon the characters which sprung from his unfettered imagination. Now, one could make the argument that these characters, which Stan thought up, have weathered the longevity of the medium because other, better writers and artists have left their creative-DNA stamped upon them; and that person would have a sound argument. However, without the foundation and “House of Ideas” that Stan built, there would be no sandbox to play in for these other artists. Comprende, muchachitos y muchachitas?
Additionally, on a more personal note, he helped mold my life into the finely-tuned geekosphere that it is today, as I presume he did for every last one of you reading this now. That’s the genius of the man. Whether he knew it or not (and I’d like to think that he did), he helped to engineer Geekdom as it exists today. That’s an extraordinary legacy to leave behind.
Thank you, sir. Thank you for all that you gave me.
Categories: Comic Books