Dec 6, 2018

Spider-Rama Prologue: Into the Spider-Verse

BEN: Into the Spider-Verse will hit theaters next week, featuring a group of spider-powered heroes from alternate realities. We here at the Cube could give you yet another list of who these characters are like many other websites, but that would be boring. Duy and I have been marinating in all things Spider-Man for months now, thanks to the PlayStation game, and as we prepare for Spider-Rama, our weekly discussion of the first 200 issues of Amazing Spider-Man. Consider this your primer for the movie, and for Spider-Rama.

DUY: Spider-Verse has quietly become my second most anticipated movie of the year. I'd looked forward to Infinity War and Black Panther for a number of years, but I didn't really have much of an anticipation for Spider-Verse. But the closer the date comes, the more I realize it's #2 on the list of movies this year that I absolutely do not want to miss in theaters.

BEN: So we’re going to start off with Peter Parker, the original Spider-Man that most of us know and love. With great power must also come great responsibility. He’s voiced by Nick Miller in this movie, which is definitely going to be a distraction for me.

DUY: Nick Miller is such a strong presence in New Girl, which we apparently both watched, and he's using the same delivery here that is just going to keep making me thing of Nick Miller. There's also talk that this Spider-Man will be heavily referencing the Tobey Maguire movies, which I both understand and hate, because those movies were really groundbreaking for their time but are just so objectively bad now.

BEN: Anyone that still ranks those high on their personal list, I’m convinced hasn’t actually watched them in 10 years, or is blinded by nostalgia for them. Which is fine, I’m not insulting, because I still watch Transformers cartoons from 1984.

Some things are bigger than nostalgia. Some things are bigger than the status quo. Representation is one of them. -Duy

DUY: It seems like the main character of the movie is actually going to be Miles Morales, notable for being the first biracial (black/Hispanic) Spider-Man. Created in the separate Ultimate Universe after the Ultimate Peter Parker died, he was eventually brought into the regular Marvel Universe (which is called the 616, as in the 616th Earth, based on an Alan Moore story from way way back) and in many ways is the modern-day version of the original Peter Parker. He's young, in high school, he's smart, he goes through problems. It's probably even more appropriate that that type of character right now is a person of color in New York City.

BEN: I remember when they decided they were really going to try new stuff with the Ultimate line, and though most of it didn’t work, Miles was the success story. Brian Michael Bendis really shines when he works on characters he created, and you can tell he put the time and thought into the character that made him much more than a gimmick or a regular alternate universe version of an established hero. He resonated, and in a way he was the death of the Ultimate line, because he needed to “count” by being in the main universe. Without Miles, there was no more reason to have that separate brand.

DUY: So quick story here, when they first announced Miles Morales, I was initially skeptical and thought that it was just a cheap cash grab, until a fan online, a black kid who was I think maybe 10 years younger than me at the time, told me that Miles Morales was the single most relatable character he'd ever read and that he really resonates with him. It got me to thinking that hey, as a Filipino, I would like to see more Filipino characters (or any Filipino characters that aren't the Triumph Division), but man, it'd be really cool if there were a Filipino Spider-Man. I think that one conversation kinda solidified me over on the pro-diversity side (it's weird that I was ever on the fence). Every time a diverse chocie happens and people complain about it, that's the conversation I think of. Some things are bigger than nostalgia. Some things are bigger than the status quo. Representation is one of them. Miles is also in the PS4 game, and I hope he's playable in the next game.
Miles Morales resonated, and in a way he was the death of the Ultimate line, because he needed to “count” by being in the main universe. -Ben

DUY: It looks like the oldest character here who isn't Peter Parker is Spider-Ham, who debuted in the 80s as part of Marvel's Star Comics line. A spider who got bitten by an irradiated anthropomorphic pig named May Porker, Peter Porker is the Spider-Man parody.

BEN: I had a few of these comics as a kid and I remember thinking they were funny. As an adult, they’re basically just puns. Look, it’s an eagle as Captain America.

DUY: Yeah, to be honest, the comedy is tame at best. We'll see how he works with these others.

BEN: He works better when he’s the extremely absurd variation amongst more “normal” characters.

DUY: It's very, very possible he's going to easily steal this movie.

BEN: Marvel had a run of film noir inspired mini-series back in 2009, and Spider-Man again seems to be the most enduring character from that initiative. I have not read any of them, to be honest

DUY: Neither have I. But I think Spider-Man Noir works well contrasting with the other regular Spider-Men because he's so dark in nature, and can really highlight their less vicious side.

DUY: The movie seems to be based on two specific sets of comics: Miles Morales' origin story, and a 2015 event called Spider-Verse, in which Spider-people all around the multiverse are gathered to fight the Inheritors, a group of, for lack of a better term, Spider-craving vampires. This was a huge event that led to spinoffs, miniseries, and new characters being created. One such character was Peni Parker, who controlled the robotic suit known as Sp//dr. This seems to me to be partially inspired by the 1970s Japanese Spider-Man show, where he had a super sentai and is apparently one of the first super sentai characters. It's kind of weird to think that Spider-Man's reach extended as far back as having a giant super robot back then.

DUY: Peni hasn't actually shown up much since, but she is currently in the Spider-Geddon series.

BEN: Spider-Verse is one of the greatest concepts for a big event comic ever conceived (and only Spider-Man, Batman, or maybe Superman have had enough alternate interpretations to even support it) but unfortunately the execution of it (and its sequel Spider-Geddon so far) didn’t quite live up to its potential.

DUY: Superman has already done it in Final Crisis: Superman Beyond, but even there, it was limited to two issues, and was probably the way to go.

BEN: It’s brightest moments were in the ancillary comics, with the aforementioned Peni (not to mention the character we’ll be discussing last) or in fun comics where the Spider-Man of the 1966 cartoon makes an appearance. But I think that’s where the problem comes in. The writers get too enamored with the Spider characters talking to each other, that the story takes a back seat.

DUY: I'm such a multiverse mark and was really enjoying it until the resolution, which just felt like Dan Slott ran out of pages to wrap things up.

BEN: That’s what I said!

DUY: To be fair, that's kind of a microcosm of how I feel about his run as a whole. It's still the third-best Spider-Man run ever though.

BEN: Last but not least, the breakout character of Spider-Verse is Spider-Gwen. Gwen Stacy was Peter Parker’s first love in the 616 universe, before meeting a tragic end. In this alternate universe, Gwen is the one that gets spider powers, but it’s her amazing costume design that really captured the attention of the fans.

DUY: Gwen was created just for a one-shot in Spider-Verse, but her origin, the fact that she was a college student who played drums for a band, and her costume like you said, propelled her into having her own series. It was kind of amazing. The costume's very Ditko-like too, with the hidden spider, but I think the whole thing about her can be encapsulated in her first appearance in the main Spider-Verse event, where she's described as "Your new favorite."

BEN: The history of superhero comics is littered with failed attempts to make new teenage characters seem modern and fresh (see Danny Ketch, Nova, Superboy, or Darkhawk) but Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez were able to make Gwen seem like a real teenage girl.

BEN: Gwen became so popular that Marvel did an entire month of Gwen themed variant covers across their entire publishing line, and fans loved the Deadpool variant cover (and costume) so much, that Gwenpool ended up getting her own comic too.

DUY: She's going by Ghost Spider now, I assume to differentiate her from Jessica Drew, Spider-Woman.

Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez were able to make Gwen seem like a real teenage girl. -Ben

DUY: We've discussed all the characters in the picture, so is there anyone else you'd like to see in the movie? Personally I'd love a shoutout to Ben Reilly, the Scarlet Spider, Spider-Man's clone who has long hair and rides a motorcycle.

BEN: He’s a clone, not an alternate reality version, dummy!

DUY: In Spider-Verse there is a Scarlet Spider who became the main Spider-Man of his Earth. He counts.

BEN: Another minor success from the comic was Spider-Punk, a punk rock rendition of Spider-Man, so I’ll say him.

DUY: Oh yeah, Spider-Punk is Hobie Brown, who in the 616 is Spidey's friend, the Prowler.

BEN: Speaking of the Prowler, he’s in this movie too.

DUY: He is?!?

BEN: He’s in the preview!

"What I like about the costume is that anybody reading Spider-Man in any part of the world can imagine that they themselves are under the costume. And that’s a good thing." - Stan Lee

DUY: As we will cover in Spider-Rama, beginning January 2, 2019, Spider-Man is really the original everyman superhero. His powers make his life worse, not better. And that's been the template for so many characters since 1962. Part of it is the costume and how he's fully covered, and that's an aspect of every redesign of every spider person. They're all fully covered. Stan Lee once said that "What I like about the costume is that anybody reading Spider-Man in any part of the world can imagine that they themselves are under the costume. And that’s a good thing." That's just part of his iconography. Spider-Verse shows the power of thaticonography. Yeah, it's great to have minority superheroes and female superheroes, but it's like totally awesome when they're a Spider-Man.

BEN: The concept of Spider-Man is so strong that it still works across multiple cultures and regardless of race, gender, or nationality.

DUY: That's it for Spider-Rama today. Be sure to join us in a couple of weeks for our Comics Cube Roundtable about the movie, and back again on January 2nd for the first installment of Spider-Rama, where Ben and I will cover Amazing Fantasy #15, the first appearance of the greatest superhero of all time. Then we'll cover all the Amazing Spider-Man issues up to 200 every Wednesday after that. See you guys then!

Dec 3, 2018

Jurassic Park is a Comic

Jurassic Park is a comic. I don’t mean there is a comic based on the novel or the concept. There have been.

Jurassic Park is a Comic
Integral Visual Communication and Document Semblance
Travis Hedge Coke

The Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (and divers illustrating hands) is a comic. Especially, prior to the movie adaptation’s visual confirmation of the dinosaurs’ veracity, the visual elements of the novel are so requisite to a reading, to an understanding, that yes, it is a prose novel, but it is also, more honestly, a comic.

There are over a dozen illustrations in the original/standard Jurassic Park, ranging from the fractal iterations that frame the progress of the book, hazard signs, and the semblance of formulae. Semblance is significant here, because it is neither reality nor genuine formulae, which would be a text-based communication, versus a visual representation; visual communicator.

When a string of GTCA letters appear in Jurassic Park, it is not a fragment of DNA, it is the semblance of DNA information. It is a visual cue to a faith that this genetic information exists, not a genuinely decipherable communique.

Which is, perhaps, the foremost reason we do not think of the novel as also being a comic. These visual cues are necessary to believing in the world and happenings of Jurassic Park. They buy veracity that words, alone, could especially before the movies, never have done.

Michael Crichton says his test readers disliked the book on multiple drafts, because it was aimed too young, and loved it when it was rewritten for adults. I do not doubt that the illustrations were a big part of that. They are not children’s book illustrations, because they are not representative of shape and shade of physical objects and animals. They are abstract illustrations of concepts, or symbolist works evoking a cache of seriousness and reality. At one point in the novel, there is, instead of a warning notice in text, an insert of a warning sign. The sign has strength that words cannot similarly carry. A biohazard symbol has resonance and reality sturdier than text.

And, if we have to distinguish comics from illustrated prose, is the artwork carrying weight that the prose cannot, not a great way to divide the camps? You cannot delete the visual elements of Jurassic Park without losing a ton, and you cannot swap them out for other, particularly more physically-representative artwork, without fundamentally changing the book and the read.

Are illustrations of abstract/symbolist caches more sophisticated? Or, simply more uncommon?

Alex Ross and Kurt Busiek’s Marvels gets so much props for being “realistic” and “showing how it would really look,” when the actual comic, when you dig down and read it, is full of evocations, of symbolic representations, even if the first few pages. Because we think of illustration as representative forms; most comics is outline art, or blocked out visual shapes of physical objects.

The artwork in Jurassic Park, instead of communicating a physical shape, primarily communicate confidence, knowledge, realness. The use of symbols like GTCA or the biohazard shield imbue the narrative with a sense of knowingness and immediacy, especially in a 1980s text, when dinosaurs cloned from bugs in amber was way the hell out there stuff. But, it remains illustration, it remains artwork.

Jurassic Park remains a comic.

Nov 28, 2018

Daughters of the Dragon: A Review

On November 14th, in the year 2018, Marvel released Daughters of the Dragon as a digital-only new release comic book.  It was written by Jed Mackay and penciled by Travel Foreman.  I had many thoughts about the comic.

Daughters of the Dragon: A Review
Ben Smith

The writing and the art were superb, but the real appeal of the comic is the inclusion of Colleen Wing.  Yes, it’s obvious that a Daughters of the Dragon comic would feature Colleen, I’m merely stating what longtime Cube readers already know, which is that my love for Colleen runs deep.  So deep that my therapist has suggested that my obsession with her is “unhealthy,” whatever that means. 

What’s wrong with finding the idea of a woman with a sword appealing?  Just because I find the idea of a woman as a samurai martial-arts master that could definitely give me a savage beating with her bare hands, doesn’t mean it’s some sort of weird sexually deviant fixation, no matter what my wife might tell you.  You coerce her into dressing up in a white jump suit and force a sword into her hand one time, and all of a sudden I need professional help.

All jokes aside, Colleen is a wonderful character, and she’s arguably never had more potential than at the end of the second season of Netflix’s Iron Fist television series, where she earned the power of the Iron Fist.  The show added a fantastic aspect to the character, by suggesting she’s the descendent of Wu Ao-Shi, the Iron Fist of 1545, colloquially known as The Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay.  Sadly, we’ll never get to see Colleen use her newly earned superpower, as the show has since been cancelled.

I think we’ve covered all the stories possible from the perspective of the straight white male.  At this point in my life, I find the glimpses of fandom I get from my real life friends of a different gender, or of a different racial background, much more interesting than yet another opinion from a person with the same general life experience as myself.  That goes double for fictional entertainment, where different perspectives have never been as exciting and interesting as they are right now.  So the idea of a super powered Colleen as the co-star of a third season was extremely appealing.  Alas, as of this writing, it is not to be. 

However, a new Daughters of the Dragon comic is a worthy substitute, and hopefully we’ll get to see more stories about Colleen from this creative team, because I really enjoyed this story. 

Oh, and it has Misty Knight too.  She’s pretty great also.

But Colleen.  Colleen may not be the hero we deserve, but she’s the hero we need.  Like I said before, hopefully we get more.

Nov 19, 2018

I Don’t Know Where The Wild Storm is Going

We are eighteen issues out of twenty-four into Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt’s The Wild Storm, the first of three spin-offs closing out at twelve issues, to be reintegrated into the main title’s narrative. We’re revisiting an old established comics universe, the WildStorm universe, much of the trademarked properties of which have been absorbed into the DC Universe, many of which comics remain in print or cycle in and out often enough. So, there is a lot familiar, and a strict timeline, and it is an extraordinarily controlled comic made up of clear, articulated systems. And, I have no real idea where it is going.

I Don’t Know Where The Wild Storm is Going
Travis Hedge Coke

Eighteen issues in, that is, honestly, a glory.

You know that saw from Kurt Vonnegut about the reader should be able to guess that last pages of a book if they happened to be somehow torn out of their copy? Vonnegut wrote audience-congratulatory advertisement fiction. It is good at what it does, for who it intends to do it for, but it is for an audience who would like to not be surprised. By anything.

A lot of commercial fiction follows suit. Some of it is good. This is a decent model.

The current X-Men Black line, every single one of these, you know the end by the first three pages and probably the cover. There are about seven writers, and a small army of visual artists and, even though the Mystique-focused comic is pretty good, in the sense that there’s some wit to her committing mass murder in front of someone and lying to them about it so they won’t worry, it is beyond predictable. God, calling your villains-centric storyline, “X-Men Black.”

Bare plot bones, The Wild Storm concerns the multi-front war between the two true global powers, one handling everything on Earth, the other, everything that happens just off the planet, from their city-sized satellite, and the corporations, pop stars, innovators and aliens who keep that complicated. It’s about innovation and drinks and acceptable casualties and the new wave of a designer phone released in stores tomorrow. The Wild Storm boils the very 1990s skin and fat from a skeleton of perennially cool spy thriller alien invasion secret history rebellion, retaining the ground floor diversity that set WildStorm, the publisher, apart from pretty much all of its big shared universe competition.

I don’t expect The Wild Storm - or its spinoff titles like Michael Cray - to change my life, or blow open my mind. I will be able to read and reread it, and it is likely to show me new things each time, for a long time ahead of us. The character work is subtle, layered, and new information, as we get it, alters how earlier characterization plays. The comic stays in play within itself.

Even the structure of The Wild Storm, deceptively simple, is expanding in ways we could not have tracked from the start. There is a ticker running across the top of each cover, counting us up from 1 to 24, and we know from press releases and could reasonably have assumed regardless, that when it hits 24, that’s all she wrote for the comic. But, the comic’s formulaic grids start to give way as the comic breaks its social, socioeconomic, and cosmogonic forms. The issues contain far more of the old WildStorm universe than anyone was anticipating, to the point that you can go back through the regular reviews or birdwatching posts like the one comparing the two universes, and as soon as someone says, “I doubt we’ll be seeing…” we find out we have been seeing them, or they were hinted at and we missed the cues.

The Wild Storm’s thirteenth issue surprised most of us by “suddenly” becoming about Gen¹³, about “the kids today.” It’s the thirteenth issue. There’s a famous thirteen associated with the universe. Of course they would! But, we did not see it coming and it played completely natural from the start.

Around issue six, we understood that this is a twenty-four issue story framed in four six-part sections, but with six, we also splintered off a divergent track with the Michael Cray solo title. Cray is deceptive, as a character, a riff, and a comic. The character used to be called Deathblow. Jim Lee, his co-creator, did some cool things with him. Azzarello and Bermejo’s After the Fire, is probably one of my favorite pieces from either of them. But, Deathblow is past his sell-by. Michael Cray, which was always his name, is a great name for a hard ass doing his thing. Michael Cray can kick open doors and put two slugs in an asshole any decade, any year you pick.

The comic, Michael Cray, ran parallel, monthly, to the main title, for twelve issues, and the first six were two-issue stories where he took out a variation of a famous DC superhero. Monster-Aquaman. Murdery-Flash. Then, when we are introduced to this world’s riff on Wonder Woman and John Constantine simultaneously, the rhythm shifts to an extended jam and we’re not listening to a standard cover of Little Wing, we’re in Maggot Brain country. The fourth arc runs, not for two, but six issues, folding in and out of rhythms and pitches, growing over itself and getting weird.

We are deep enough in, now, I can tell you that the world we are seeing of The Wild Storm, the one that will soon be expanded by two more branched off titles, is probably artificial. This is Planetary (old WildStorm comic; same writer) from another angle. Planetary was a comic that looked at genre fiction and the interplay between how they’ve shaped a century, how the century shaped stories and story tropes. The universe as a stack of pages, the multiverse as a bunch of books thrown across a coffee table.

This universe, is described by its real-world architect, curator, and head-writer, Ellis, as an “alternate reality story on a parallel Earth.” A number of DC-owned properties of the B and C-level sort, are seen as television programs, pop albums, beers and confections. The “big guns,” like Batman or Wonder Woman are farcical, broke things, letting us see jutting, open angles like a dissected dog. A dissected dog is not a dog the way that George, the lab cuddling by your side at seven pm on Saturday, trying to lick the foam off your beer is a dog. It just lets us see some of the cold structure that, added to other things, could make that dog run.

I don’t think this story is an “alternate reality story on a parallel.” I think this world is an alternate reality story.

There are extradimensional aliens harvesting, correcting, trimming up this universe. Where we start, in issue one, is comparable to a CCTV camera on a street corner, and indeed, some of our first visuals are from just that set up. We move from there to cell videos, cellular calls, and from there to the internet as a global perspective. And, extra-global, as it floats around us and shoots through us simultaneously. Increasingly, when people look in the mirror, in this story, they see something no one can see looking at them. When they talk to themselves it is not always with their own voice. Or, is it, and their own voices only scare them too much?

Perspective is a hard thing to be sure of, even when something is on camera, or on the internet.

I watched footage, the other night, of cops beating the hell out of someone; they’re on the ground, I think handcuffed, and the police are going right for the kidney punches. What I did not immediately suss is that the victim is only fourteen. You go online or bring that up at the grocery store, somebody will tell you in no seconds at all, that she must have done something. “Must have done something” isn’t information we pick up in a moment, in a scene or a photograph or an internet video. That is a perspective we carry with us into a photograph, into a scene or an event. Perspective comes before sight, before interpretation.

I have a perspective on The Wild Storm. I do not, as yet, have a fully-formed or even partly-baked interpretation. I hope my perspective is serving me better than looking at a kid throttled by the cops and seeing “she must have done something” before I see someone beating up a kid. But, I’ve been wrong before, and the beauty of stories is that your perspective can be wrong without injury to anyone, your interpretation can be flawed, wrong, or mixed up without injury to anybody.

Issue twenty may show us the previous has all been a dream. Issue twenty-one could prove that dream had relevance. The world is wide open, because this story is not a scrambled mess, or a free for all, but it is growing in the open. A wild flower is still subject to sky and earth and passing animals. A wild storm, however chaotic or driving it may seem in a moment, as a whole, has structure and evokes interpretation of its dynamics and flow. Hard to know a storm’s path when you’re seeing it coming or up in the eye. Within the eye, you might not even know what the storm is.

And, we have more than half a year to go.

Nov 15, 2018

Review: Rainbow Brite #2

So, I’m halfway through this year’s NaNoWriMo and I’m behind a few thousand words. I’m not even sure if I’m attached to the synopsis I wrote up before the month began. But Duy proverbially waved the second issue of Rainbow Brite in my face and I jumped on it like a Black Friday sale at Michael’s. And really, I wasn’t let down.

Review: Rainbow Brite #2
by Samantha Anne

This new run of Rainbow Brite continues to hit me right in the feels when it comes to my love of nostalgia and escapism in general. Jeremy Whitley keeps the charm consistent with this simple and classic story, while Brittney Williams triggers both delight and whimsy with her artwork. I’m giving full props to Team Rainbow Brite here, make no mistake – the comic itself reads smoothly and flows well from page to page. I’m running out to the comic store this weekend though, because this whole digital comic experience is kind of weird for me as a person who will never stop loving the smell of a book.

I don’t like spoilers, so I’m doing my best to avoid that, but we get to see a few new things here as the story progresses forward. Readers are introduced to the Shadow Hound, which I’m sure could be introduced to kids as a scary part of what it means to lose all the color in the world. I, on the other hand, saw a big grey puppy and, aside from wanting to snuggle it back to the good side, am now beyond wildly interested in knowing exactly what a “common canine of Rainbow Land” looks like and when I can get the goddamn stuffie in stores.

Next – Murky and Lurky! I wanted to see these guys, because they were so goofy in their moody dismay when I was a kid that they were never actually a team of Big Bads as much as they were dummies who didn’t like happy things. Brittany’s artistic take on the pair is obviously different, but kind of up the ante in terms of what Rainbow’s nemesis looks like. Lurky’s still a dummy, thankfully, and Murky? I’ve definitely seen this guy in Brooklyn before and Brittney nailed it – the guy’s a jerk and wants to suck the colorful life out of the world to benefit his own jerk agenda. Basically, Murky’s a bad guy you’ll nod your head over; again, no disappointment here.

The last four pages are bright, exciting, and extremely satisfying as kid’s comics go, and I won’t tell you why, because I want you to pick this issue up and lock yourself in a closet with a flashlight to read it and let out a tiny little "yay" when you see it. The wrap up of this issue just confirms for me that this run is shaping up to be a charming and fun ride. I was starting to hope for a new cartoon series on the strength of the storyline unfolding, then I found out that I completely missed a reboot in 2014 that wasn’t exactly well-received. So – okay, then! With any luck, this will revive hope for the cartoon that launched a thousand lunchboxes (and stuffies, and sheet sets, and records).

So, go pick up a copy – support comics and support Rainbow Brite. Because guys, the world is dark as f**k and Stan Lee is no longer on this plane of existence. A rainbow and a smile will do us all good.

Nov 13, 2018

In Pace Requiescat: Stan "The Man" Lee

Stan Lee (December 28, 1922–November 12, 2018) has passed away. Known for many things, including being the co-creator of the entire Marvel Universe, Stan needs absolutely no introduction. He's made cameos in almost all of the Marvel movies, and has, since at least 1961, been the face and the voice of Marvel Comics.

In Pace Requiescat: Stan "The Man" Lee
Comics Cube Roundtable

MIGS: Stan Lee taught us that heroes are normal people too. They are flawed. They make mistakes. They have problems. That's what makes them relatable. Stan Lee humanized superheroes. I became a comic book fan because of his creations. Without a doubt, The Face of Marvel.

BRIAN: Comics wouldn't be comics without what Stan brought to 'em.

KATHERINE: I love this quote that’s on Marvel’s homepage right now:

MATTHEW: When I was a kid, I wrote him a letter with a couple drawings inside. He wrote me back. It was one of my prized possessions. I'm going to lose it in the theater when I see the inevitable "In loving memory..."

TRAVIS: My nephew just asked how many days they get off school because Stan Lee died.

BEN: I’ve always found the argument about how much credit Stan should get for his creations to be yet another bit of annoying “see how much I know” fan bullshit. Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby should be lauded and remembered for their enormous contributions to creating Marvel as we know it, but that doesn’t mean we need to tear down Stan Lee to do it. He was the voice of the comics, and the voice of the company loudly proclaiming to the fans and readers, "See how great these comics are!" Not to mention, he edited every single book, which doesn’t mean he just corrected typos. He requested art changes, storytelling changes, reworking entire pages for clarity and impact if needed. Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko together revolutionized comics, and changed fictional storytelling as a whole. It’s only unfortunate that he has to die for some of us to appreciate him. I will forever be grateful for his contribution to comics that have impacted my life. Not to mention, he created an all new collaborative style for comics “the Marvel method,” which is still used to this day by superstar writers like Dan Slott and Grant Morrison.

MATTHEW: I honestly think that without his work alongside Kirby and Ditko, ushering in The Marvel Age, comics may very well have become a dead art. At least, comics as we know them.

LIZZY: Absolutely. The world of comics wouldn’t be at all what it is today without Stan Lee. Love him or hate him (and I loved ol’ crusty Uncle Sam, despite his less than savory attributes), he changed the world.

JD: Stan Lee is my personal Walt Disney.

MATTHEW: In the world of comics, there is a Before Stan Lee, and an After Stan Lee... and I don't think anybody else has ever even come close to his impact. Yes, his many wonderfully talented collaborators played heavily into it, and he couldn't have done it without them, but "Stan Lee Presents..." was something that was printed in every book for a reason.

NOAH: Stan going out to speak at college campuses about comic books elevated the art, not just in terms of recognizing comics could be for adults, but by intellectualizing the entire comic book process and making the discussion accessible. We’ll never know what comics would have been without Stan, and I’m glad for that.

MATT: He did make the state motto of New York world famous. The indelible nature and perseverance of “with great power comes great responsibility” will easily stand the test of time. If nothing else, that is the true motto of the Marvel hero.

DUY: There's going to be much debate in the next several days about Stan's merits and flaws, but there are a couple of the latter that I want to address in particular. First, the idea that Stan is "less" for being a hands-off writer, in letting Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko do much of the writing work, like pacing, blocking, and whatnot. As anyone who's ever worked on a group project knows, when you're working with someone who's really good, you stay the hell out of their way. Scottie Pippen's not taking the last shot from Michael Jordan. I will point out that Alan Moore, who writes super-detailed scripts, also leaves leeway for his artists, acknowledging that artists have a better visual sense. And Stan had two of the greatest of all time. And the script, the dialogue, all that stuff's important too. Do I wish he'd been more liberal with the credit? Sure. But let's not take away the credit he does deserve. Without Stan to tie together everything in the Bullpens, in the copies on the covers, in the splash pages; without his distinctive voice; without his narration and dialogue, nothing would have been the same.

MATTHEW: It's impossible to have any type of lengthy discussion about Stan without some of his flaws coming up. That's inevitable. It's important to remember that he never even pretended to be perfect, and he infused a lot of his imperfections and flaws into his characters. Those imperfections and flaws were the foundation for The Marvel Age. He crafted a great big, imperfect world, full of wild, imperfect characters that made mistakes, lost, got knocked down... and the heroes always got back up. He put the flawed hero at the forefront of the genre. Previous to that, a superhero was perfect, always knew what to do, and were the absolute best at what they did.

JEFF:  I enjoyed how he engaged readers, he spoke to us and made us feel like we were part of a special club for reading Marvel.

DUY: That's the best part.

JEFF: No, the enthusiasm he brought was the best. It was such a part of him, no one could fake the excitement he always seemed to have when he talked about what he was doing or promoting. It was like a neverending supply.

LAMAR: In scholarly circles you'll hear the phrase "man created God, so God could create man" thrown around often, and with a bright insistence. When I think about what that means, across ages, Stan Lee is one of the people that comes to mind first.

He didn't just create one God, he gave these Gods all the traits of mankind in a prominent manner not seen often in fiction until he did it.

Comic books are our modern day mythology and folklore, and Stan Lee is undoubtedly the singular scribe responsible for the spreading of these gospels to every corner of Earth. Another caretaker of gods, Julius Schwartz, said that if you take what you love and infuse passion into it, you will have more of what you love for both yourself and everyone else. To do so for 60 years, and never lose an ounce of this passion and fortitude through success as well as failure, is a task us mere mortals were fortunate to have eaten the labor fruits of.

RACHEL: He created things that made me feel. I was afraid of me and it was largely because of the way other people responded to me. I was a mutant and after, after his stories told me my own story, it made sense.

MAX:  I feel like anything I have to say about the man has been said better by others...but what an amazing life and talent.

TRAVIS: Stan Lee is Stan Lee's greatest creation, because no arguing or arbitration will take Stan's Stanness and credit it to anyone else. Stan Lee's hair. You can cartoon Stan Lee just from the hair on his head and face and it's Stan Lee. Did he grow it, did someone else make it? Doesn't matter: It's Stan Lee. And, he did invent this image. Stan Lee played a public role to the hilt for over sixty years of his life, a role so solidly conceived, so individual, that he is imprinted on all our minds.

DUY:  I also want to take this time to talk about Stan's social consciousness, in particular, Joe "Robbie" Robertson, one of the first African-American characters to be treated seriously, and Amazing Spider-Man #96-98, the drug issues that Stan decided to publish even without the Comics Code Authority's seal of approval. But that social consciousness is most evident in the Bullpen Bulletins that he wrote, which were as much a part of the Marvel manifesto as anything else. He wrote three Bullpen Bulletins that are now being reposted today all over social media, about how comics should say something, how they should stand against hatred and bigotry. 

That's as much a part of his legacy as any line of dialogue he's ever written and any character he ever created. And I'd like to close this off with four of the greatest lines in comics, and all of fiction:
"With great power must come great responsibility." -Amazing Fantasy #15 
"Only truth is constant. Only faith endures. And only love can save them. But where shall love be found?" -Silver Surfer, The Ultimate Cosmic Experience
"'Tis not by dropping out -- but by plunging in -- into the maelstrom of life itself -- that thou shall find thy wisdom! There be causes to espouse!! There be battles to be won! There be glory and grandeur all about thee-- if thou wilt but see!" -Thor #154  
"In a sleazy hotel room, in a shabby hotel, some sneaky sinners are startled by the sight of a sparkling spider signal!" -Amazing Spider-Man #22

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