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Goble reflects on Stan Lee's influence

Barry McNamara
11/13/2018
MONMOUTH, Ill. – Marvel Comics visionary Stan Lee died Monday at the age of 95, but his influence will live for decades, says Monmouth College communications studies professor and comic book enthusiast Chris Goble.

“The characters he created are going to outlast him,” said Goble, who touches on Lee’s work in his Integrated Studies class, “Great Power, Great Responsibility.”

“His influence was gigantic, and we’ll remember him years from now,” said Goble. “Who could ask for more than that?”

In fact, the name of Goble’s class has Lee’s thumbprint all over it. It comes from perhaps Lee’s most recognizable superhero, Spiderman. Lee wrote one of the most famous lines for the Spiderman series, which is attributed to Peter Parker’s uncle, Ben, who tells his nephew, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Spiderman was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the characters Lee created. Goble said he first hit it big with the Fantastic Four, a series that wouldn’t have happened without sage advice from his late wife, Joan, who died last year after she and Lee had been married 69 years.

“She was the catalyst,” said Goble. “He was at Atlas Comics, doing work that he found boring. He was ready to quit and try something else, but his wife told him, ‘Before you quit, write what you want to write. Write the kind of thing you would want to read.’

“He did, and what he wrote was the Fantastic Four. The Spiderman, the Hulk, Thor and all the others came after that.”

Those others include Ironman, Black Panther and The Avengers.

Although Lee’s influence in the industry was not as strong in his later years, Goble said he’s still the unquestioned leader when it comes to comics.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find any people in comics that most everyone would at least recognize,” said Goble. “That makes him ‘The Man’ or ‘The King’ of this world. He’s going to have the longest-lasting influence in the world of comic book superheroes.”

Goble noted that Lee offered substance to go with style.

“He tried to have an influence on society,” said Goble. “One way he did that was looking at racism in America through the X-Men.”

Lee was familiar with the concept from his own childhood.

“Stan Lee was not his real name,” said Goble. “It was Stan Lieber. He was Jewish, and he saw World War II. ... In the 1960s and ’70s, he used to write these mini-opinion pieces called ‘Stan’s Soap Box.’ He wrote about racism, and some of what he wrote resurfaced on social media after the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville last year.”

Included in that now 50-year-old piece is the following:

“Although anyone has the right to dislike another individual, it’s totally irrational, patently insane to condemn an entire race – to despise an entire nation – to vilify an entire religion. Sooner or later, we must learn to judge each other on our own merits. Sooner or later, if man is ever to be worthy of his destiny, we must fill our hearts with tolerance.”