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Odum: Stan Lee

Stan Lee sits to sign autographs at Boston Comic Con in August 2017.
Michael Dwyer
Associated Press
Stan Lee pictured during an autograph signing at Boston Comic Con on Aug. 11, 2017. Lee died in November, at the age of 95.

2018 sure had its ups and downs, and I’m tempted to say mainly downs. But one particular “down” that stands out for me was the passing of comic book and pop culture icon Stan Lee.

I’m a contributor to the genre and industry insider website Bleeding Cool, so I’m immersed in the culture that Stan was a legendary part of long before the greater culture noticed him.

Stan’s created superheroes. Maligned as they are, superheroes break the rules – like the one that says you can’t hold up a collapsing building and allow everyone inside to escape; or the one that insists you can’t fly to the other side of the planet to help someone in need.

And I believe that the rush of hope and inspiration that comes from sharing that experience with these fictional heroes can’t be understated.

I’ll never be ashamed to acknowledge the profound effect he had on my own moral development. Through the characters he created and developed with so many talented collaborators, Stan taught me about being a good person. The X-Men persisted as heroes despite the bigotry directed against them. Dr. Strange and Daredevil rose above physical trauma and limitation. Captain America was a warrior who rejected killing. The Hulk’s terrible rage could be channeled to protect instead of destroy. And the list goes on.

Most of all, though, Stan gave me Spider-Man’s singularly powerful axiom, “with great power comes great responsibility.” To my mind, only the Golden Rule itself packs as much moral punch into one line. And that one line did much to shape the good parts of me – the parts that can so easily be lost sight of in moments of weakness.

To my regret, I never had the chance to meet Stan. So rather than follow the usual rules of a Stan Lee eulogy and end with one of his trademark Stanisms like “excelsior,” I’ll instead simply say thanks for showing me that the rules that hold us back can be broken – especially when it’s a matter of good versus evil. It’s a gift I can’t possibly repay, so I’ll just do my best to pass it on.

John Odum lives with his family in Montpelier, where he serves as the city clerk. Prior to becoming clerk, John worked in electoral politics and Information Technology for campaigns and nonprofits in Vermont. John is also a columnist and reporter whose work has appeared in the Huffington Post, and the websites of The Guardian and Governing. He is also the former publisher of the Vermont political website Green Mountain Daily.
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