Picture the scene transition—the spin, the blur, and the fade-away—as we segue from footage of the Hitler Youth to a fleet of newspaper delivery trucks outside Grand Central Station in New York City, where the roll-up doors open and drivers hurl stacks of comic books—of the same comic book—bundled together with twine, as the camera zooms in on the debut cover of “Captain America” in which the titular hero punches Hitler in the face, while the Gestapo point their rifles and machine guns—and a Nazi officer opens fire—only to see the bullet ricochet off an indestructible shield of red, white, and blue. Picture Hitler falling backward onto a map of the United States.
Picture the transition from black-and-white images of mass madness—of teenage boys delivering the Nazi salute at a rally in the Lustgarten in Berlin—while, across the Atlantic, Timely Comics sells nearly one million copies of its Mercury dime edition of its star-spangled story. Picture the blond-haired, blue-eyed soldier beneath the mask: the orphaned son of Irish immigrants, a Gaelic Gollum, by way of the four-color system of printing of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK).
Picture Stan Lee in this world crafted by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.
Picture a Vesuvian-like atmosphere of cigarette and cigar smoke, of gaseous salesmen and combustible personalities, of tin cans—with their ripples and seams—containing pens, pencils, erasers, rulers, and sharpeners. Picture styrofoam cups and coffee-ring stains, as if the latter were a notarized sign of inclusion among the misfits, the rebels, and the troublemakers: the caffeinated ink that fueled the rise of Marvel Comics and propelled the life of Stan Lee.
That I got to play a part—on film—in this world amazes me. That I got to enter the world of Stan Lee’s creation is a marvel unto itself.
His passing marks the loss of a good man and a great American.
I will miss him, always.