MONOLOGUE WRITTEN BY CLYDE LEWIS
In my history as a talk show host, I have interviewed scores of individuals who are authors in the sphere of science fiction. I have related my views on the idea that many people see science fiction as a great way to escape but I have also noticed how science fiction, especially what we see in comics, have inspired great people to do great things. They have taken that which is imaginary and have manifested into reality.
It harkens to all of this talk about consciousness and quantum entanglement – it gives everyone scientific permission to think outside the box and bring forward what is created spiritually into what can be seen in the material world.
I also feel that a science fiction story from Star Wars, to even The Avengers can shape our spiritual views as well.
I am not saying it is good or bad but comic book philosophy has gotten me through a lot of problems even the problems of a bad marriage, being out of work and digging deep within my soul to blow the dust off of the values that I was taught to have when I was a boy.
A lot of that came from my religious upbringing but I owe a great deal of my out of the box thinking to comic books and learning that people who see themselves as flawed can somehow rise up and do something that can make a difference in the lives of people.
When the movie “Superman Returns” was released in 2006, it flat out asked the question “Does the World Still need messiahs, saviors, and supermen?” Lex Luther and Lois Lane both had determined that the idea of a personal savior destroys your independence.
That to reject the idea of being saved is worthy of considering because you become self-reliant and you don’t have to be spiritually let down when you find out the Superman you seek is gone. Superman tells Lois Lane that while she believes that the world no longer needs a savior he hears the cries of people that need something to believe in. These themes have weighed heavy in science fiction these days.
Gone are the days of geopolitical metaphor of aliens being the enemy. They are now being used to reshape our religious views. In reality, they are being embraced by religions like Catholicism. A belief in aliens changes faith entirely.
The church has no longer put up a barrier between you and the unknown.
Superman like Jesus was not of this world – he was also the son of a God too and I am sure the metaphor is not lost on those who see this story as means to have peace that someone out there has love and concern for our success and our happiness.
If you recall, Thor also has the same values and attributes of an external savior that believes in humanity, probably more than we believe in it.
Think of it, all of these films and stories I am speaking of are creating a shared world spirituality that was similarly accomplished with the bible. This screams in the face of scientists who say that religious beliefs should be backed up by factual data. It most certainly does not. They forget that our stories no matter how remarkable mold and shape the way we see the world. If all things were left to sterile scientists imagination would suffer and all things would have to be logical and joyless.
Good and evil are safely acted out in the darkness of a theater or in the panels of a comic book and absorbed in the unconscious mind. Hyper-reality can now be seen as the new Holy Spirit and the predictive programming the stories create is the new oracle to be used to define and measure the credibility of the method of revelation.
People don’t care if their myths are not real. They don’t care if their stories go against everything that is logical; it is their legends are what keep them alive.
Legendary heroes both real and made up are supposed to teach us valuable lessons in who we are – or what we should all agree to attain in our lives.
Yesterday, I heard from a colleague that Stan Lee had passed away at the age of 95. I am sure many of us were saddened at the loss of the man who is responsible for most of the comic book heroes that we read about and have now seen come to life on the movie screen.
He created an entire universe full of characters that were able to take their human flaws and used them in order to be heroic and stronger.
I know that some adults may see themselves as too sophisticated to reflect back to their childhood heroes but I would like to think that when we speak of Stan Lee we make an exception.
As we grow from children to adults, we need role models to look up to. I think the first heroes in our lives are our parents and teachers because they are in our immediate environment.
Sometimes those people are good role models, other times they are not.
As we grow we start to see others in the real world who we wish to emulate and of course, Stan Lee gave us flashy gods in spandex that we read about and dreamed about flying with or climbing buildings with.
We can recall when we were teenagers and how we developed into young adults. Stan Lee gave us superheroes that were appealing because of their moral fiber. These characters had to work on bettering themselves even in the face of being bitten by a radioactive spider or have to have an arc reactor in the middle of your chest to keep your heart from being damaged.
I remember when Stan had to get a pacemaker, he said it reminded him of how Tony Stark needed an arc reactor to keep shrapnel from entering his heart.
Superheroes had to go through their moral development and we grew with them and I think Stan knew that giving heroes a bit of humanity made them relatable. I never really paid attention to Captain America until he appeared in the movies. I learned from what I saw in the character. He had some of the better qualities that a human could aspire to.
He not only was a war veteran like Stan was but he also shows humanity – courage, strength, resilience, compassion, hope, and empathy.
I know that Superman did that but I often thought that he did it out of pity because he was an alien that somehow cared about humans. Captain America was a human being who managed to be kept alive long enough to see the values of generations change but he kept by his values especially when it came to his country and the values of what it means to be an American.
Stan also provided us with a number of anti-heroes that I think today’s world has a hard time understanding but still can relate too. Of course, I am talking about Wolverine and another character that by accident wound up in a Marvel comic and that is The Toxic Avenger.
I remember that when Lloyd Kaufmann called me up to do the voice of the Toxic Avenger for the fourth sequel of his series, I was more than happy to do it. Lloyd told me that the other sequels really didn’t measure up and that this was the real sequel.
When I did the voice over work in a little studio in Hell’s Kitchen, I heard a familiar voice in another studio. It was Stan Lee giving an introduction to the new film. When I heard him say “This is the Real Sequel” I felt it gave it more credibility – the Master at Marvel gave it his ringing endorsement and I was part of it.
I also received some official Marvel comics of Toxie and a cell from the Toxic Crusaders to remind me of how I gave a voice to a green and slimy super hero that somewhere deep inside is nothing more than a nerdish guy named Melvin who was often bullied until he fell into a barrel of toxic waste.
Sometimes I think that being the voice of Toxie is kind of typecasting but still, I am always growing and learning and I think that is what Stan Lee taught us about his heroes. Every one of them had a piece of him in them.
Stan in my presence was a very positive man, he was a bit self-deprecating but he always makes you feel like you were the star, that you were his hero in a way.
He always had a way to make you feel warm inside.
I spoke with him once in New York and had a moment to talk with him a few years ago at a comic convention – he was hard of hearing but he told me that he could definitely hear my booming voice and that he could not forget the voice of Toxie.
He also told me about how he would write ideas for the comics and certainly, he did mention that Jack Kirby was definitely the talent behind a lot of what Marvel brought into our universe.
Many comic enthusiasts know that there was a lot of bad blood at Marvel – a lot of ill feelings.
Stan Lee sometimes offered general ideas for characters, allowing the artists to run with them. Kirby plotted stories, fleshing out characters that he had dreamed up or that he had fashioned from Stan’s sometimes vague ideas. Stan Lee shaped the stories and supplied his some of the snappy wisecracking dialogue. In the end, both men could honestly think of themselves as “creators.”
However, as the courts can fight over who was what and who created what, we have to understand that the creators of these heroes were always trying to tell us that even those that see themselves as misfits can make a huge contribution in the real world.
We’ve had some form of hero story around as long as we have been on this planet, in one form or another. I was introduced to Joseph Campbell who illustrates the hero’s journey and why we often find ourselves being attracted to the mono-mythical hero and why we often create external savior that we hope can save the planet and give us inspiration.
Superheroes are here to inspire us and raise us up metaphorically. They are not here to replace us, or do the hard work of living for us. Each of us must find our own hero within our own values, mission and purpose in life if we wish to live a truly satisfying life.
Superheroes in their purest form are mythic archetypes; they are pure ideas of inspiration and a reminder of the great potential of humanity. Their strength lies in their home dimension of imagination. Trying to make them “realistic” is kind of missing the point of their very existence.
While comic book superheroes are a modern invention, every culture in every age has had its hero/heroine stories – and those that didn’t just went ahead and invented new heroes. Superheroes don’t come from “out there” in the exterior world, they come from “inside of all of us”, from the depths of our unconscious and the archetypes we identify with.
There is even that bit of the quantum realm that is always bridged when we see the sling rings of Doctor Strange.
In fact, it was Doctor Strange that had me wondering about quantum entanglement the concept that two people or perhaps more can become connected, even across a great distance, like the distance between the quantum realm and our dimension.
In the Thor movies, we were introduced to the wormhole that looked very similar to a whirlwind vortex and in Dr. Strange the quantum tunnel was introduced, There’s “the wasteland beyond,” and “the quantum void,” and I can bet you that the Quantum Realm is going to play a huge part in Avengers 4 – after all we all need our heroes back and having them all disappear in ash was depressing; at least you can use the whole quantum entanglement to bring back the Avengers but Stan Lee, of course, can never be replaced or duplicated.
Comic book characters have grown beyond pages and inks and have exploded on the movie screen, becoming a worldwide phenomenon. I think it is amazing how Stan Lee was able to live long enough to be able to see characters like Spider Man sling webs and bounce from building to building using the magic of special effects.
And we love them too – Marvel’s The Avengers, is the sixth highest grossing movie of all time. Black Panther is the 9th, Ironman 3 is 17th, Captain America: Civil war is 19th, and there are many like Spiderman and X-men that are in the top 100.
These films are all part of Stan Lee’s legacy, superheroes that have leaped from the comic book to the screen.
With all of the political stories and stories about murder and mayhem dominating our world, I know that there may be a few people that will say – “Why do comic books matter?” Why are you fawning over someone like Stan Lee?
Well, it is simple – Stan Lee along with people like Jack Kirby gave us not only entertainment (who doesn’t want to read about people with superpowers?) but inspiration. Comics give us a hero we can see in ourselves, one that we can aspire to be. Even though these heroes battle their inner demons and fight off hordes of monstrous villainy, they continue to push forth, becoming modern-day legend. Yes, comic books are for their face-value entertainment and escapism purposes, but they can if you let them form a deeper meaning, and in turn, a connection within all of us.
So from a young boy who put on an old Buck Rogers helmet, wore a towel for a cape and used an old baby stroller as a spaceship and later became the Toxic Avenger — I say – I love you Stan Lee – Excelsior.