Stan Lee is losing the money he spent a lifetime earning. He’s lost his health, he is legally blind, his hearing is impaired, he has a pacemaker. Gossip claims his judgment is impaired. Now he risks the loss of his reputation.
“Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.”
William Shakespeare, Othello, Act III, Scene 3.
On the British TV show Blake’s Seven, there is a proverb from the planet Auron, that “those who trust can never be betrayed, only mistaken.” If true, Stan the Man has been gravely mistaken.
Stan Lee recently complained to the Daily Beast that “Those I trusted betrayed me,” His long time friend and manager Keya Morgan was dismissed for allegations of elder abuse and had a restraining order filed against him.
He’s been attacked by scandal and rumor, with allegations he harassed and insulted the nurses taking care of him. (These allegations were printed in The Daily Mail, a British periodical generally not considered a reliable news source. Stan denied the allegations and complained it was an attempt at extortion. Rumors and allegations are difficult to fight.)
The cloud of information surrounding Lee is made all the more complex by the fact that multiple voices speak for him, often with conflicting messages.
Stan’s adored and adoring wife predeceased him July 6, 2017. They had been married 69 years, Stan and Joan had two daughters, J.C., (the tabloids have been claiming that she is running through her inheritance like water, while Lee himself says that she’s been given it through a living trust and it’s hers to use as she sees fit), and Jan, who died mere days after birth.
Stan and J.C. are both protected from Keya Morgan by the restraining order against Morgan.
The response from fandom has has been mainly one of compassion for his plight, and confabulation as to how possibly to help. In April, Kevin Smith posted an offer of help in his Twitter feed.
Lee is the co-creator of Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, Dr, Strange, the Uncanny X-Men, Black Panther, and the Fantastic Four. He is also the author one of the most famous quotations in American pop culture: Uncle Ben’s advice to Spider-Man, “with great power comes great responsibility.”
A generation of Americans learned to read with Dick and Jane, then practiced reading with Stan’s characters. He has been teacher, moral guide, and storyteller. We, as a civilization, owe him a debt that is impossible to repay. Through the actions of Peter Parker, Reed Richards, T’Challa and the pantheon of Marvel heroes, he has taught us the evil of bigotry and the importance of education, responsibility, teamwork, and honor.
Stan was responsible for popularizing the notion that “might makes right is not enough for superheroes, if you’re a mutant, alien, or the survivor of a freak accident, just because you can destroy a total stranger’s house, doesn’t mean you should. Those with superpowers have a moral obligation to make the world a better place.” The moral implications of that one famous line may yet Stan the Man’s greatest legacy.