As the son of working poor African American parents, I entered elementary school in the 1960s reading far beyond my grade level (much to the surprise of guidance counselors who had low expectations of “children like me”) and with a keen interest in astrophysics.
I knew the meaning of such words as “invulnerable,” “uncanny” or “inimitable” and couldn’t wait to learn more about cosmic rays, asteroids, dark stars and space travel.
How and why was that?
I had been unpacking the exploits of comic book heroes and heroines created by the imaginative Stan Lee.
Fascinated, I needed to understand what was going on in the narratives.
Lee’s unfamiliar words sent me scrambling to the dictionary. His phantasmagorical space science had me staring at the night sky and eager to find out when the meteor shower would occur.
I was a Marvel Comics fan from the moment I spotted Fantastic Four #1 in a corner convenience store, bought it and took it home to read.
Stan Lee was “inclusive” decades before academics and self-righteous social engineers started bandying the concept about.
The empathetic characters he created included a sightless superhero, Daredevil aka lawyer Matthew Murdock; an African prince-turned-king, Black Panther; women: Susan Storm of the Fantastic Four and Jean Grey of the X-Men; and a nerdy smart kid who was ostracized by his popular high school classmates: Peter Parker aka Spiderman.
My childhood was made richer by Stan Lee.
He was like a witty, cool uncle from New York City who spun yarns especially for me and the half-dozen or so black kids in my neighborhood who were Marvel fans. Of course, we found each other in school and pondered the profundities of Lee’s plot lines.
We couldn’t wait for the next issue of Fantastic Four, X-Men, Spiderman, Incredible Hulk , Avengers, Thor, Daredevil, Iron Man to hit the newsstands. Lucky for us comic books were inexpensive back in the day.
Excelsior in Eternity, Stan!
Dr. Jack Marchbanks co-hosts WCBE's Jazz Sunday , one of the longest running jazz shows on public radio. Listeners are invited to tune in every Sunday from 3pm-6pm on 90.5 FM in Columbus, or online at wcbe.org