Many of us are all very sorry to hear about for the loss of Stan Lee, who passed on earlier today at the age of 95. I was never a fan of Western style comics in general, but after doing some reading on his life, I have a lot of admiration and respect for the man, as well as a tinge of sadness over his final days.
I will not bore you guys on the details, but Lee and Jack Kirby played a big role with turning the struggling Marvel Comics (then called Timely Comics) around. You have to remember that this was around the late 50s and early 60s, where comics became heavily scrutinized due to the effects of post-World War 2 as well as the allegations that comics had an influence in an increase of juvenile violence. A lot of comic book publishers were unable to survive due to such a negative clout. It should also come as a surprise that Lee initially was not at all serious about writing for comics, setting his aspirations to be a serious writer. Yet at the same time, if Timely / Marvel needed someone to help right their ship, Stan Lee was their man.
Lee was someone who was not afraid to take a different approach, and it shows with his writing and works during the 60s and 70s. Perhaps the biggest influence Lee had on the superhero genre was the introduction of flawed heroes. Anyone familiar with Marvel superheroes will know exactly what I mean there, since Lee was involved in virtually every character that came out during his tenure. Lee (alongside Kirby) was also one of those who broke the barrier between the fans and the publisher, through the introduction of the credit panel, naming everyone involved and written in a more friendly manner, so these people will be seen as friends rather than colleagues or superiors. In addition, Lee was not afraid to make commentary of taboo topics in his comics, which can be seen as treading on a minefield, since the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement happened around the same time.
This really highlighted how Lee worked, making big changes through subtle means. Lee is often credited with making the Comics Code defunct, but in all honestly, Lee was the one who hammered the final nail in the coffin after he published his story on drugs without the seal of approval. In context, the Comics Code was already on its last legs, and its original purpose of putting out "acceptable" comics was lost by that point. Even so, I will give credit to Lee for broadening the perception of comics, which had been hurt by the "wholesome" image projected by the Comics Code, and if it was still active today, comics would still be seen as something associated with children.
Lee slowed down his involvement with Marvel in the 70s due to this age, but still remained the public face of the company. Unfortunately, this is where the troubles in his life began, and Lee made several mistakes with the people he associated with. Although never implicated in the mess involving (ironically named) Stan Lee Media, it can still be pretty depressing to have an entity with your namesake drop the legal hammer on you. There is also the mess involving his personal life, which troubled him in the final year of his life, but this is just too much of a mess to untangle, so I will not mention it here.
Lee spent the remaining of his post-editor days to entice Hollywood into taking up Marvel projects, and again, his subtle moves were responsible for making huge waves. His moves only bore fruit in the late 90s with cartoon projects, with Lee himself taking up small roles, either as a narrator or cameo roles. These later paid dividends for him, especially with the resounding success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, to the point that some fans will just watch for the Stan Lee cameo despite not liking the film's story or characters. It helps that Lee is not afraid to make fun of himself, and his fan-friendly approach still resonates with a new generation of Marvel fans whose only exposure to the franchise is through the movies and not the comics.
Lee's death does pose a few problems, as Marvel Comics is currently going through a decline, both on a creative and financial standpoint. Even if he no longer worked for them per se, Lee was still an influential figure in Marvel, and I am fairly certain his successors will listen to him if he spoke. In addition, the legal mess in his personal life just got a lot more messier, now that Lee will no longer be able to defend himself or name the inheritor of his fortune, said to be in the millions at the time of his death. Although the MCU will be alright in the short term, Lee's presence always made for good marketing bait, but without him, they may lost one of their selling points, which may affect them in the long term. Granted, Lee was already in his 90s, but it's just ... I find it hard to piece the words to describe what I want to say.
This is my long commentary piece on Lee's life, and it really proves that one person can make a difference. Stan Lee personalized that though his approach with both comics and in other media: subtle changes with lasting effects. There may never be another person like Stan Lee, and the comics world mourn the loss of a figure who had certainly brought meaningful changes. May God rest your soul, Stan Lee, and thanks for the contributions you made. Rest in peace.