Remembering Stan Lee (from 2015: He’s Still the Man!)

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Stan Lee is gone, but he left us with a tremendous, history-making volume of enduring work. We’ll miss him greatly. We’ll never forget him. With sadness we reprint this article from 2015, which we penned as an installment of our Diet for Dreamers series.

He’s Still the Man!

Stanley Martin Leiber

Even seemingly “impossible” dreams can come true! Such was the case of a writer and creator named Stanley Martin Lieber, whose aspiration was to pen the Great American Novel. But the road to fulfilling one’s destiny can be long and meandering. It might even hold a surprising detour or two. Stanley never wrote anything quite as revered as Melville’s Moby Dick or Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, but he did manage to … well, we’re getting ahead of ourselves again. First things first.

The oldest of two sons, Stanley was born to Romanian Jewish immigrants, in Manhattan, New York on December 28, 1922. During his teens, Stanley’s family weathered the Great Depression, eventually downsizing to a one-bedroom apartment in the Bronx, where he shared the bedroom with his brother, Larry. The boys’ parents slept on a foldout couch.

After attending high school in the Bronx, Lee began his journey to becoming a Great American Author … by delivering sandwiches for a local pharmacy to offices in Rockefeller Center, by ushering at the Rivoli Theater on Broadway, and by selling subscriptions to the New York Herald Tribune. Oh, and he also worked as an office boy for a company that made men’s pants. Lee did, however, get occasional writing jobs: mostly composing obituaries for a news service.

In 1939, with a little help from an uncle, Stanley found a position as an “assistant” at the newly-formed Timely Comics. The publisher of Timely, Martin Goodman, was the husband of Stanley’s cousin Jean — so no one could quite label this as an act of nepotism. Initially, Stanley filled inkwells and fetched lunches for the staff, which included Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, two Jewish guys who’d just created Captain America! Later, the young writer graduated to proofreading and even got to pen a one-page Captain America filler. When he wrote this first comic book material, he did so under a pseudonym. Stanley was saving his real name for literary fame.

Stanley soon found himself writing full-length comics stories, and when Simon and Kirby abruptly left in 1941, following a dispute with the publisher, Goodman promoted the 19-year-old “assistant” to interim editor. But Stanley demonstrated such a talent for the business that Goodman  eventually made him editor-in-chief, a position Stanley held until 1972, when he actually succeeded Goodman as publisher.

Along the way, as he traveled further and farther down the road to his destiny, Stanley watched his dream of writing that novel fade in the distance. He was kept too busy writing the tales of “superheroes” for four-color comic books, a not very respectable “toss-away” medium. Whenever friends asked him exactly what he wrote, Stanley would hesitantly tell them he wrote “children’s literature.” But he kept his chin up and made the most of his opportunities. For instance, when the popularity of superheroes waned during the 1950s, Stanley created and wrote a string of wildly popular horror comics, along with romance and western features — whatever was selling at the time.

By the 1960s, there was a resurgence of interest in superheroes. Over at DC Comics, home of Superman and Batman, many of the company’s previously-mothballed characters were being rebooted. And Goodman took particular notice that DC was enjoying great success by teaming up several of its heroes in a single comics magazine. So he asked Stanley to create a team-up comic for his own “MCG” line of comics. Well, by now Stanley was feeling trapped in a fast lane leading him far away from that Great American Novel he longed to write. Partly as an escape, partly because his wife encouraged him to take creative liberties, Stanley wrote a story about a somewhat dysfunctional team of reluctant heroes for a comic book that would be years ahead of its time: he created The Fantastic Four.

Stan Lee keeps things tidy in Iron Man III.
Stan Lee keeps things tidy in Iron Man III.

Stanley Martin Leiber, the kid who wrote under the name of Stan Lee because he didn’t want to be associated with comic books, never did write that novel. But Stan “the Man” Lee did go on to create or co-create dozens more characters, including Iron Man, the Hulk, and Thor, and he also successfully rebooted Captain America — “literary” characters that became household names and spawned a multi-billion dollar industry; intellectual properties that continue to provide the inspiration for Hollywood’s biggest box-office hits.

U.S. President George W. Bush honors Stan Lee with the American National Medal of the Arts.

Today, at age 92, Stan Lee is still happily working with comic book characters, and after 67 years of wedded bliss, his wife, actress Joan B Lee, proudly proclaims that Stan is still the Man. He continues to guide the characters he created, as an executive producer for each new movie in Disney’s tremendously successful “Marvel Cinematic Universe”; and in every one of these movies, he can be seen in a brief cameo role, hamming it up, having a blast, embracing his destiny — and enjoying his status as one of the greatest, most famous writers of fiction the world has known.

‘Nuff said, True Believers!

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delights in his way.” (Psalm 37:23 AKJV)

Rest In Peace, Stan Lee (December 28, 1922 – November 12, 2018)

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Diet for Dreamers: No Encouragers in the Camp?

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Everyone needs a little encouragement in life: a “You can do it!” cheer, or a “Way to go!” pat on the back. Dreamers, in particular, need to surround themselves with people who are willing to encourage them to pursue their dreams and achieve their goals. But not everyone is an exhorter, and for a variety of reasons, there will be people in your life who will find it difficult to be in your corner when you’re struggling to accomplish something great, or to share in your victories once you do.

Give us a cheer. No, no, not a raspberry!

A general lack of encouragement can make the road to success lonely and harder to travel, but one of the hardest things to bear is the lack of support among your closest friends and even family members! If you have that support then you are indeed blessed. Unfortunately many who dare to dream big may find there are no encouragers in their camp!

We’ve been greatly blessed to have friends and family who believe in us and what we’re trying to accomplish. In fact, our closest loved ones are also our biggest fans; and it’s hard to imagine tackling our goals without their support and encouragement. But not everyone is as fortunate. In fact, the people closest to you are often the last to believe in you and your abilities, to rally behind you, or to praise your achievements. And believe it or not, even Jesus Christ experienced some of this familial disbelief and disinterest when He walked the earth.

Once, while Jesus was working hard to fulfill His great dream of reconciling our lost and wayward world back to God the Heavenly Father, “…The crowds began to gather again. Soon He and His disciples couldn’t even find time to eat. When His family heard what was happening, they tried to take Him away. ‘He’s out of his mind,’ they said.” (Mark 3:20-21 NLT) It’s easy to imagine that if Christ had allowed it, His family would have hurried Him home and done their best to convince Him to “give up this foolish dream!” Thank God — literally! — Jesus stayed the course all the way to the Cross and beyond.

When it concerns our friends and family members, it’s vitally important we understand the thoughts and motivations behind a general lack of encouragement, because…well…these are our loved ones, and their attitudes stem, innocently enough, from the most common traits of human nature. Yes, even your blood relations can harbor resentment from fear and jealousy: everyone has dreams, and it’s hard to watch someone else — sometimes even a family member — move forward when you seem to be stuck in neutral. No one wants to feel left behind.

But more often, friends and family lack conviction about our greatest goals and most daring dreams simply because they have trouble viewing us as the type of person able to accomplish great and daring things! No, they’re not necessarily diminishing our talents and abilities; but most people share a common misconception that extraordinary things can only be accomplished by extraordinary people, and few of us recognize our friends and family as being extraordinary!

Humph!

The people we’ve known the longest are the ones with which we’re most familiar: our dearest friends and family. And the “familiar” is never extra-ordinary — it’s what we’re used to; it’s ORDINARY. Jesus Christ was familiar to His family and the townspeople He grew up with. Hence, Jesus was viewed as commonplace, not the sort of  individual who writes history!

[When Jesus] returned to Nazareth, his hometown… He taught there in the synagogue, [and] everyone was amazed and said, “Where does He get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, His mother, and His brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. All His sisters live right here among us. Where did He learn all these things?” And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in Him. (Matthew 13:54-57 NLT)

The people closest to us are often the ones who see us as commonplace: we’re the familiar, the ordinary; but it’s often the most ordinary people who accomplish the most extraordinary things. For instance, as a young man, Thomas Edison was viewed by his instructors as VERY ordinary. They told his parents he’d never amount to much, but as an adult, Edison invented and patented hundreds of items, including the first viable lightbulb!

Feeling ordinary? Jesus said, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.” (Mark 6:4 NLT) Just remember, you’re friends and family may not share in your dreams, but they still love you; and they usually don’t intend to rain on your parade. So pursue your dreams with confidence. Encourage yourself in theLord, as King David did, (1 Samuel 30:6) and accomplish EXTRAordinary things!

On the flip side, do you have a dreamer in the camp? Be an encouragement to that close friend or family member. They need your support!

 

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