I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Stan Lee just the other day. Lee was a great man who did more for the medium of comics then most of us realize, and he'll be missed.
Unfortunately, I'm also seeing a lot of people bickering about the guy; folks coming out with "UM he actually didn't create (insert character)" and "He was just an editor, he didn't really write a lot!" I just want to address these complaints real quick.
First of all, Stan Lee wasn't just an editor, he was one of the most important editors in comic history, and vital in creating the Marvel we know today. He helped write amazing characters, mostly by adding essential elements of humanity and relatability. He held the artists to high standards and reigned in some of their more ludicrous ideas to keep things accessible (MAD respect for King Kirby, but some of his actual story ideas could be pretty out there). Not to mention his work on "How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way", one of the ESSENTIAL books on narrative art.
But even getting hung up on his tenure as an editor is to undermine his true importance. Stan was the first person to truly champion comics as both art and literature at the level he did. What his critics like to deride as "self-promotion" was just as much crusading on behalf of comics.
It's important to remember that back then, comics were seen as disposable fluff for kids, to be consumed and discarded like candy wrappers. Stan used his natural gift for self-promotion, personable demeanor and unique eloquence to tell the world that they were so much more than that. Just watch the man in interviews as he speaks about the latest issue of Iron Man or Captain America with all the breathless enthusiasm and childish glee as if it were a great film or novel.
More so than anyone before or since, Stan Lee was a champion of comics as art to be admired as one would admire a great painting; literature to be read as one would read a fine book; a medium created by real artists and writers that deserves to be taken seriously.
In this age of web comics, creator-owned publishers and cinematic universes, the stigma of comics has thankfully passed. And now, sadly, so too has the man who did more than any other to fight that stigma. As a narrative artist myself, I say: Thank you Mr. Lee. Thank you for moving the medium forward, thank you for helping the world appreciate us and our art, and thank you for believing in us.