Head Writer Rachael Cheeseman with Contributions from Chad Echakowitz, Grae Westgate, and Jon-Michael Lindsey
We here at Forge & Flint were frankly devestated to hear the news that Stan Lee, the inspiration, the legend, had passed away. Perhaps it shouldn't come as a shock, he was 95 years old after all, but Stan Lee has been such an iconic figure in our lives, he has given us so much that it's hard to imagine a world without him in it. For many of us, myself included, Stan Lee's creations were so much more than stories. They were epic adventures and inspirations and cautionary tales and pure blissful escapism. So, as homage to this indescribable man and all he did for us, we have decided to put forward our favourite marvel characters and how and why they came to be such.
Colossus - Rachael Cheeseman
For me, no Marvel character will ever rival Colossus (AKA Piotr Rasputin) Since his first appearance in X-Men in 1975 his character has been a moral, just, selfless hero. But he is not without depth, he has faults and flaws which he overcomes again and again to show that we can always choose to be good, we can always choose to be better than the crap life throws at us. Born in Russia, Piotr was raised on a farm where his exceptional size and strength were extremely useful. Having lost his older brother he became a devoted and protective sibling to his little sister Illyana. It was in protecting her from danger that his mutant powers emerged. He was able to transform his flesh into an extremely strong and powerful metallic substance that granted him extreme strength and endurance. He was contacted by Professor X and thus Colossus was born. As a member of the X-Men, Colossus was quiet, respectful and perhaps for many this pushed him into the background. Not for me, I thought his contemplative nature was truly something to aspire to. Here was a man, of extreme strength who practised gentleness, kindness. Reluctant to use his powers if ever he saw the possibility for peaceful resolution. A lesson many powerful people could do with learning. If ever faced with having to kill another person Colossus battled with his guilt, with his sense of duty and responsibility. Eventually, after sustaining injury attempting to protect his fellow X-Men, Colossus becomes trapped in his metallic form but never loses his human nature. Eventually Colossus is killed after he sacrifices himself in battle. Selfless to the end. In many ways Colossus reminded me of my own big brother. Thoughtful, considerate, selfless and (to me at least) a hero. He was a character I could look up to, one I felt genuine care and concern for and who taught us all that heroism comes in many forms and that sometimes the strongest stance you can take is one of refrain and restraint.
Spider-man - Chad Echakowitz
It is incredible how an idea, turned into a comic through ink, can have such an extensive impact on the whole world. The simplicity of thought that generates such a force as to change the entire entertainment industry through strategic lines and colours arranged on a page is truly baffling. And yet, this is what Stan Lee did over and over again. And that’s the message I take away from the life of Mr. Lee: even the smallest things can have the biggest impact.
No superhero epitomises this – for me at least – more than your friendly neighbourhood Spider-man. A young man, growing up in the cruel streets of Manhattan loses his uncle to crime, gets bitten by a spider and well… you know the rest; there’s been a whole host of movies about it. Spider-man is a fantastic coming of age story, and has helped many a youth (including myself) come to terms with change. It’s awkward, it’s messy, and it can be quite violent. And Spider-man embodies that change, showing us that even a lonely loser who is going through some major changes can still be a hero.
Stan Lee had a fantastic way of making his superheroes relatable because, at their core, they are all human. They are flawed, they make mistakes, and they sometimes even do things that are less than savoury. It makes the reader think, “well, if they’re like me, I can be like them.”
We are all heroes. We just need to hold ourselves up to that moniker. After all, with great power, comes great responsibility.
Nico Minoru – Grae Westgate
Stan Lee’s legacy has trickled throughout the comic book universe since the day the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters first opened its doors over five decades ago. Lee’s first generation of X-men paved the way for teenagers for years to embrace their weirdness in the face of adversity, giving the losers, the introverts, a voice amongst the jocks and the cool kids. We all wanted to be a hero, and knowing that even the weirdos that adorned the pages of the Marvel World could stand up against the adversity of everyday life gave us a belief that we could all be a hero in our own way.
My first real real foray into the comic book world, though not a Stan Lee creation in itself, was Brian K Vaughan’s Runaways. Telling the tale of a group of super-powered teenagers who discover that their parents are in fact members of the villainous Pride, Runaways takes a clear inspiration from its mutant based predecessors. Leading the group is the awkward Nico Minoru, a sexually confused teen, gifted with the Staff of One, a magical totem that grants her all the power in the universe, but only when a blood sacrifice is made. A clear allegory for womanhood, Nico encapsulates the darkness and confusion that comes hand-in-hand with pubescence. And to top that, she’s a badass Asian goth chick that any horny young teenage boy can root for. Runaways has been my comfort since its inception back in 2003. It was my first Issue One, and I have stuck with it ever since. I have followed the adventures of Nico and her intrepid band through the Pride years, through Joss Whedon’s exceptional time travelling arc, even to the Arena-based death and beyond. In the ever-increasing backlog of comic books that now lives happily atop my mantelpiece, Runaways is always the first to be devoured. And it’s Lee’s influence that rings true. A beacon of hope for teenagers lost in a world that hates them. A morality tale giving them strength, hope, and the will to find their place amidst the madness. Thank you, Stan, for laying the foundations that will support every young heart that your legacy has found its way into, and for giving lost teenagers throughout the world somewhere to run to.
Daredevil - Jon-Michael Lindsey
It is true that my childhood was infused with Stan Lee & Marvel creations. Spider-man toys and Annuals for Christmas, Captain America videos at one of my birthday parties. In my teen years I meandered between Marvel, DC & Vertigo, but it was Daredevil that caught my imagination. Matt Murdoch first appeared in April 1964. He was a young boy who, after saving an elderly stranger from being hit by a truck, loses his sight to the truck’s radioactive cargo. This also heightens his other senses to an almost super-human level, with a “radar sense”.
Guided by his boxer father, “Battling” Jack Murdock, he learns to deal with his disability. He’s also taught the very important lesson that violence won’t solve anything and is made to promise that he won’t resort to it in order to solve any problem. Sadly, time is cut short when Jack is murdered by gangsters for not throwing a fight. Matt, who has now graduated as a lawyer, creates the alter-ego of Daredevil in order for him to keep his promise, then takes revenge against those responsible for his father’s death, bringing his own brand of justice to the criminals of Hell’s Kitchen.
Stan himself cites one of his Daredevil stories as among his all-time favourites, when Matt defends a blind Vietnam veteran in court from being framed for bribery. (Brother, Take My Hand – issue 47)
There are many things that appeal to me about Matt Murdock/Daredevil. He is one of the first disabled superheroes, giving those readers with disabilities a view of hope. Not only does he learn to cope without his sight, but he goes on to lead a successful life as a lawyer. Being a lawyer, he also takes on certain cases that no-one else wants, always sticking up for the little guy. The other resonating quality is that one of the names associated with Daredevil is The Man without Fear (which went on to be a Frank Miller comic series in 1993). How many of us, disabled or not, would wish to have that quality in our lives? To be able to do what we dream of, what we aspire to – without the crippling sense of fear to hold us back? That is why the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen will be a hero to me, just as the man who created it is worthy of the same title.
Stan Lee brought so many beautifully flawed, complex, relatable characters into our lives. Characters who we could look up to, who could be role models and who imparted genuine wisdom that many of us still carry around with us today. This is but a brief sample of the joy he brought. My solace comes from knowing his work will always live on, like the greatest art does. I see it in my three year old son who is already hooked on the legends of Thor and fascinated by the bravery of Captain America and awed by the intellect of Tony Stark and is genuinely moved by the kindness of Spider-Man. My little boy who found pure childlike wonder in Dr Strange's magic and believes Black Widow and Gamora are the strongest of the avengers and sees no reason why he can't look up to them and aspire to be just like them. That joy he feels, the desire to do good and be strong and brave and stand up for something. That is Stan Lee's legacy and, I don't know about you but, I think it's a hell of a good one.