Last week, in the 616th consecutive adventure of an RPG game the wife and I call “The Unleashing,” I introduced more than 15 new characters. About half of these new creations had taken over a small town on the distant former prison planet that my wife’s character had come to rule as queen. She and her cohorts came to the rescue of Ultich, the abducted town, and engaged these villains only to find they were a part of a much larger roving outlaw gang called “The Exiles.” Essence, who is Mrs C’s character, had encountered forces from this conglomeration of outlaws before but never like this. This particular contingent had seized this particular town to get her attention. They wanted to defect. They wanted to be good guys and wanted to serve the benevolent queen of resurgent Vekna. The conflict occurred when a bevy of their fellow gang members arrived to teach them that “Once an Exile, Always an Exile.” Essence, her comrades, and the refugees seeking asylum battled the arriving ne’er-do-wells and won.

The battle itself consumed about 10% of our total gaming time. As always, the character development part of our storyline took up most of our interaction. I love designing characters and introducing their various personalities and perspectives. Mrs C loves interacting with them. That is the gist of our gaming life, for more than two dozen years.

And all of that would be impossible without Stan Lee.

I think I’ve told the story before of how I became a geek. A Friend Of Ol’ Marvel. A True Believer. But it bears repeating, if you’ll indulge me.

I was maybe 5 years old. My middle brother David, about 10 years older than me, had shown me this stack of really cool, colorful magazines he had in his room and I saw where he’d put them away when we were done. He left the house. I stole them. I spent all day absorbing those books, with the intention of putting them back where I found them before he came home (I assume, at this point, from school). I never did. He walked in and saw them strewn about me on the couch. I figured I was dead.

“Are those my comics?” he said to me.

“Yes,” I confessed.

“Don’t go getting into my stuff, Tommy,” he said. And then he said something that would change my life.

“But you can have them.”

If memory serves there were about a dozen books in that stack. They were all Marvel Comics. One of them was The Incredible Hulk battling weird giants on a desert island. Another had Daredevil, “The Man Without Fear,” carrying a fella from a swamp with the Man-Thing chasing him. Another one featured the Hulk again along with some guys called “The Defenders” and they were fighting more colorful figures with a blurb that read “The Squadron Sinister Strikes Again!” I remember wondering why that read “Squadron Sinister” instead of “Sinister Squadron.” It seemed like bad grammar. My favorites, though, were the Avengers comics. But each and every one of these wondrous four-color comics said the same thing at the top of the first page:

“Stan Lee Presents:”

I remember thinking that this Stan guy was (1) very busy, and (2) really cool.

It turned out I was right.

Stan Lee started writing comics in 1941, when Marvel was still called Timely. Before that, for a couple of years, he was the staff gopher. A couple of weeks after his writing debut he was named the editor-in-chief of Timely Comics. He remained in that role until 1972. Along the way he helped create, and wrote all the early issues of, The Fantastic Four, The Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, The X-Men, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, and Spider-Man. He founded the Avengers and brought Captain America and the Sub-Mariner back from Timely limbo. And, folks, these are just a few of the things he did.

I’m not here to tell you the history of Stan Lee. You’ve either already known that, learned about it this week, will learn about it soon, or you don’t really care to hear it. That’s okay. I didn’t open this page to tell you about the life of Stan Lee, I opened it to tell you what Stan Lee meant to me.

Everything, my friends. Stan Lee meant everything to me.

Last week there would not be a 616th adventure of my wife’s favorite game without Stan Lee. I would not walk into the warehouse at work and fire spider webs or repulsor beams at imaginary enemies without Stan Lee. The characters I create and personalities I imbue into them would not be as rich without Stan Lee. I probably would not care as much about the world as I do without Stan Lee. My brain would not have formed this way. I would have been someone else without Stan Lee.

He didn’t raise me. I had good parents, and six great brothers and sisters, to watch over me. But Stan Lee’s characters enriched me, guided me, taught me to strive for more and hope for better. They taught me that, each day, we will face a new adversity and, each day, we must overcome. The world depends on it. If not the whole world, then the world within the pages of our own book, of our own lives. I owe all of that to Stan Lee.

Stan Lee died on Monday, November 12th, 2018. He was 95 years old. When he was 52 he changed the trajectory of my entire life. Thank you for that, Stan Lee. Thank you for a life well-lived in the service of our imaginations. Rest forever. Your legacy will last an eternity.


*First posted in November 2018

24 thoughts on “Excelsior

  1. Excelsior: ever upward — had to look that one up. Although, I’d thought I’d heard it mainly in that xmas song, “Angels we have heard on high” it’s not quoted exactly, but I think its intent is intended. It’s a great word.
    Two decades of custom gaming? Well then, we should be expecting some narrative fiction on the tete-a-tete game-play, yes?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ever upward! Yes, I had to look that up, too, when I first posted this, just after the man’s death. I always thought it was a made-up word before. 🙂

      If I ever get my fictional head out of my fictional ass then, yes, that’s what I’m be spinning about. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great tribute. I grew up honing my reading skills on comic books. My older brothers bought the superhero ones, so I became familiar with the Hulk, Spiderman, Superman, Thor, Iron Man…so many Stan Lee characters. I favored Archie comics, but read anything I could find, including the superhero comics and Mad Magazine 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I loved Mad! When I was a kid in the 70s I bought every issue. Sometimes I was disappointed when I watched a movie and the humor I read in the magazine wasn’t in the movie being spoofed. 🤣

      Thank you!


  3. I never knew a lot about Stan Lee until he started making those awesome cameos. I loved comic books when I was a kid too, but they were mostly those scary story type ones. I did order Sea Monkeys once–what a disappointment! This is a wonderful tribute to Stan:-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Suzanne! I always intended to order the Charles Atlas program, but then I didn’t REALLY want my muscles to feel like dynamite. That sounded painful. I did write a couple of letters to the editor but they were mostly banal so never saw print. Still, Stan did send me a thank you letter each time, signed with his own rubber stamp. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As sad as I am Mr. Lee is no longer with us I’m so glad for the legacy he left—as well as for giving us Spider-Man who’ll always be my favorite superhero—a flawed and human one who nevertheless understood that with great power comes great responsibility, something we should all keep in mind.
    Stan Lee lived by that same principle. He had great power and used it responsibly.
    I had friends with whom I played D&D regularly, and although I didn’t collect comics some of them did, and introduced me to The X-Men. We also had our own superhero characters in a Marvel RPG.
    Our characters were also outsiders, weirdos, but we had each other, and used our powers for good. I don’t think I made the connection before, but it says a lot about why Stan Lee’s legacy continues to keep going up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Stan Lee made heroes “human,” and that changed the entire industry. Without it, I have no doubt we would not be as inclined to make our own RPG characters so noble, if we made them at all. I was thinking the other day how the Avengers movies are, for me, like Lord of the Rings must be to the fantasy fan and Star Wars must be to the sci-fi aficionados. The ultimate culmination, the pay-off so to speak, of a lifetime of geekdom. When Ant-Man became GiAnt-Man in Civil War there was an audible yip from me. No question. Same when Thanos first turned and showed his face at the end of the Avengers credits. Worth every moment and penny. Thanks for reading and responding, Chris!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. On November 12th, 2018 I woke up with the strangest urge to watch Avengers Infinity War again, even though I had seen it twice already. I settled in and watched the whole movie. When it was done and I exited my Amazon Prime back to regular TV, there was the news that Stan Lee had died. It was kind of a surreal moment.

    BTW, my online moniker, Arionis, was the name of one of my characters in a D&D campaign from many moons ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Man, that’s a great story! Somehow you were tuned into his fate. That’s awesome!

      My first D&D character, from way back in the 7th grade, rose to ascension after getting to 25th-level as a Ranger. Along the way it was revealed that he was the son of the goddess of love and a mortal man. As an adult I brought him back into my games as a “superhero” (liken it to Thor) and he appeared in multiple campaigns, ultimately being revealed as the “eternal champion” of the multiverse. In this Unleashing Campaign I made for my wife back in 1993 (now in its 26th year), Mrs C is married to that eternal champion, and they have kids together.

      His name?


      Liked by 1 person

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