Spectator Staff talk Stan Lee, importance of comics to their lives

Category:  Opinions
Wednesday, November 28th, 2018 at 6:21 PM
Spectator Staff talk Stan Lee, importance of comics to their lives by Shayma Musa, Erica Burkholder, Nathan Brennan
Graphic: Claire Smiley

What was your first experience with comics/superheroes?

Shayma Musa: When my aunt died my dad was tasked with cleaning out her house and sorting through her stuff to determine what we would keep and what we would donate. It was during that time that we came across three limited edition Spider-Man comic books in her basement. After my parents made sure they were not worth anything, they gave them to myself and my siblings and we were hooked. The costumes, the drama, the supervillains and storylines fascinated me. Peter Parker was my introduction to a world where your everyday civilian could ascend beyond established power structures and through the power of a good heart and quick wit could save the day. I’ve explored and come to love other comics but the “Amazing Spider-Man” will always have a special place in my heart. 

Nathan Brennan: My first experience with superheroes did not originate with the comics, but with the movies. For instance, I grew up watching the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies, which I was so enthralled with when I was younger. Upon reflection, they weren’t the best movies, but I look upon them with nostalgia and the firm belief that they introduced me to a whole new world of characters to love. From there, I watched some DC comics movies, like the most recent Batman trilogy, but my interest was mostly in Marvel, such as the X-Men movies and my favorite, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). I’ve even recently purchased some comics myself as a result.

Erica Burkholder: I know that I had to have experienced superheroes before this, but it was a visit to my dad’s years ago. He had a bunch of the cartoons about the X-Men. It was the first time I really appreciated heroes. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the episode featuring Nightcrawler figuring out why mutants weren’t making it to Magneto’s Island. 

Favorite Marvel Superhero/Supervillain?

SM: I’m going to say that a superhero team counts for this one. My all-time favorite heroes are the X-Men. I grew up watching the animated TV series and reading the comics and, in a time when I was struggling with my identity, I related so much to the odd ball team of seemingly mismatched heroes. I loved, and continue to love, the themes that the X-Men grappled with: racism, mental health, and political ideology chief among them. The X-Men are a testament to Stan Lee’s commitment to diversifying what can sometimes be a very whitewashed form of entertainment. 

NB: My absolute favorite superhero has to be the star-spangled man with a plan, Captain America. When his solo movie came out in 2011, I was instantly hooked. In a way, he served as a role model for how to live a life: believe in yourself, your friends and a righteous cause, no matter what. This principle is exemplified in Chris Evans’ portrayal of the captain in the movies, but also in this quote from the comics: 

“This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world — ‘No, you move.’”

It’s an ideal I strive for and just one of the reasons why Captain America is my favorite superhero.

EB: Captain America, I’ve always loved him. When I was younger I wasn’t sure why, but now I know it’s because he stands up for what’s right even when it looks like he doesn’t have a chance against the enemy, and that’s what I want to do in life. I want to stand up for what I think is right, no matter the odds. 

Why do comics matter? 

SM: Comics matter because they allow for public discourse about issues that can be “touchy” or too “political.” They act as a vehicle of reference for people by presenting real world issues through the lens of fiction; by superimposing fantasy over reality, comics make hard-to-talk-about things easier to talk about. I’m a huge advocate for the normalization of people through their presentation in popular culture, and comics were and continue to be, one of the first forms of popular entertainment that embraces those who are different in some way.  

NB: Comics matter because they give readers an escape from reality, while helping provide ideals and beliefs to work toward. With pure imagination and creativity, they not only show the adventures of the characters they create and the worlds they build, but also make them relatable (ex. Showing them having real-world problems in addition to fighting villains) in an effort to provide a sanctuary for those who may be considered outcasts. When comics depict powerful heroes that are representative of their audience, they make the reader feel like a superhero too.

EB: Comics matter because they show you what you can be. I found myself adoring Captain America and so many other heroes, and I strive to be like them because they’re good people who want to help others. The diversity in heroes and stories is also really important. I find myself buying my younger brother any Black Panther or Cyborg comics I find at conventions because I need him to see heroes that look like him. Comics are this amazing bridge to another, better world, but at the same time they are political and inspire change. 

What was Stan Lee’s impact/influence on your life? 

SM: Lee’s influence on my life was largely though his creation of characters and stories that resonated with my experience as a first-generation American. Like the dramatic kid I was, I sometimes felt like the X-Men, marginalized by society and not really fitting in anywhere; curling up with a comic or to watch an animated superhero show made me feel not so odd. And for that I have the legendary comic book creator and king of cameos to thank.  

NB:  Stan Lee has had a huge impact on my life; without the characters and worlds he helped create, I firmly believe I would be a different person. When I’m watching a movie or reading a comic, I can forget my problems and just go on an adventure for a little while, and that’s something I’ll never forget.

EB: I don’t think I’ll ever fully know the impact Stan Lee has had on my life. I’ve made friends because of his characters; I’ve been challenged to be a better person because of his characters; and I know his characters have shaped me. Stan Lee made something truly amazing, something that has changed the lives of millions, and I don’t know what I would be without him. But I know without him life would be more bland, and I wouldn’t have the role models that I do. 

Shayma Musa, Nathan Brennen and Erica Burkholder can be reached at voices.spectator@gmail.com.

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