Wednesday, November 14, 2018


The man lived to 95. His passing was going to come sooner rather than later.

And when it finally did come, it was not a complete surprise, especially after he lost his beloved wife of nearly 70 years, Joan, last year. I wish his last few years had been easier on him, what with a slew of legal hassles, health problems, and bizarre, disturbing, unproven, headline-making stories about elder abuse—and even sexual harassment. But there’s no denying that it was a full, impressive, remarkable life, full of thrilling accomplishments. 

He was a great, skilled, highly imaginative and engaging writer, and, as far as I’m concerned, the best damn editor the comic-book industry ever had—and ever will have. Without a doubt, Stan Lee has left a legacy of creativity and wonder that will be around for many, many generations to come.

On the evening of his passing, November 12, 2018, I sat down for an hour-long conversation with my friend Zaki Hasan, who hosts the thoroughly entertaining and enlightening podcast, Nostalgia Theater, in which I discussed my personal and professional interactions with Stan before and during my years at Marvel Comics. Pretty much anything that I would have mentioned here on my blog was covered at length during my conversation with Zaki, so I strongly encourage you to check it out. Here it is—you can listen to it now, or you can download it and listen to it at your convenience: 

Zaki and I discussed my first interaction with Stan, which occurred in 1991 when I was a senior at Stony Brook University and the Comics Coordinator of the annual I-C0n science-fiction convention. Stan was my Comics Guest of Honor, and I worked with him extensively on the programming that involved him. I already wrote about that interaction—and the key role that Harlan Ellison played in making it happen—earlier this year, in my tribute to Harlan when he passed away.

Zaki and I also discussed at length the pivotal role that Stan played in kicking off what may be the most acclaimed comic-book project I’ve ever worked on: The Incredible Hulk Vs. Superman, a crossover project between Marvel and DC Comics that featured the stunning artwork of Steve Rude. It was during the early stages of this project that I really got to spend some quality—and creative—time with Stan, and I cherish those memories.

During the podcast, I briefly touched upon the fact that Stan would occasionally come back to New York to visit the Marvel offices. But I do have to add here just how accessible he was on those visits. He would also attend our annual holiday parties occasionally, and he even showed up for at least one of the company’s summer picnics. He never tired of posing for pictures with the staff, as you can see here in this photo from the Marvel picnic in 1994, where he indulged this eager young editorial lad. 

At that same picnic, Stan even participated in a softball game, in which, as I recall, he tore a gaping hole in one of his pant legs as he slid into either first base or home plate. He was even bleeding, but just brushed it off as no big deal. The man was around 71 years old at the time.

I couldn’t get enough photos of me with Stan—as you can see here, we had a nice little reunion a year or so later, at the Marvel holiday party.

Another thing we didn’t cover in the podcast: my path crossed Stan’s a few more times after I left Marvel. I interviewed him for Scholastic News in 2012, when the first Avengers movie was coming out, and again in 2014, for TIME For Kids, at the opening of Marvel’s Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. at Discovery Times Square attraction, in New York City. What made that interview particularly special was that my daughter, Maddie, then 11 years old, joined me on the assignment and got to ask Stan most of the questions. She still remembers that day very fondly, as do I. Stan didn’t remember me—I wouldn’t have expected him to—but it was a thrill for me to watch him engage with my daughter.  

I think it’s safe to say that without Stan, and the universe that he co-created with such brilliant collaborators as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, my life would be very different. I certainly would not have enjoyed nearly seven years at Marvel, living out a childhood dream by producing comic books for real—and actually getting paid for it! Not to mention making some of the best, dearest friends I’ll ever have—with whom I remain very close to this day.

I certainly would not have met my wife, to whom I was introduced by one of those aforementioned friends I made at Marvel.

I never got the chance to say all that to Stan, but I did get the chance to tell him how much he and his work meant to me.

Early on in my Marvel tenure, Stan visited the New York offices and I went up to him and reintroduced myself. It was the first time I’d seen him since the I-Con convention in 1991.

“I just want to say, working with you on that convention was one of the biggest thrills of my life,” I told him as I shook his hand.

“Well, thank you, that’s very nice of you to say,” Stan replied. “And I’m sorry that you’ve had such an uneventful life!”

Thanks, Stan. For everything.      

© All text copyright Glenn Greenberg, 2018.

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