Saturday, November 17, 2018

Stan Lee, The Immortal!

“Just because you have superpowers, that doesn’t mean your love life would be perfect. I don’t think, superpowers’ automatically means there won’t be any personality problems, family problems or even money problems. I just tried to write characters who are human beings who also have superpowers.”… Stan Lee.

“If you’re writing about a character, if he’s a powerful character, unless you give him vulnerability I don’t think he’ll be as interesting to the reader.”… Stan Lee.

“Stan Lee died”, just three words I could read when I opened news paper on Children’s Day i.e. on 14t Nov 18; what a way to start Children’s Day, I thought to myself! Well, last few days we have been reading how great he was & quotes as well obituaries from celebrities to his millions of fans from every class of society & age group; indeed some names get more publicity when they have left us than they deserved when they were very much alive! Indeed Stan do got publicity rather fame, name & everything yet his characters were more known than him & I think he too liked the life that way, that’s his greatness! For those who are ignorant about Stan Lee, he was creator of Marvel World (comics isn’t term you can define Marvel is what I feel). Well even if there are few who are ignorant about Marvel (I really pity such souls, but then in country where there are still people who thinks Hon Indira Gandhi is Prime Minister of our country, anything is possible), for them Marvel started with comic books whit characters of Super Heroes & later entered in movies by name Marvel Studios & has produced some of biggest hits of the century & all the characters were written (read created) by none other than Stan Lee! By the way biggest hit means speaking of Rs 100 crore leagues for the Bollywood fans, well Black Panther released in April 2018 made $68,80,09,489.00, now multiply it by Rs 74 & keep counting, I tried but failed! And such nearly twenty movies are there under the belt of Marvel Studios & all of them based on characters created by Stan Lee, now you must have had some idea about him!

But then I won’t ever dare (read make mistake) of measuring greatness of Stan by the box office figures, indeed they are important but more important is what he has given to world than mere  entertainment  along with financial success & on that scale he is the best competitor for Walt Disney. Our world take any field always loves competition & when it’s between geniuses then no better fun to watch rather experience it & for that USA has been a biggest & best stage for the competition. May it be in between Chris Evert & Martina Navratilova on the tennis or between Muhammad Ali & Joe Frazier in boxing arena or between Steve Jobs & Bill Gates in computers or between Wall Mart & Amazon in satisfying customers shopping needs But one biggest & most neglected such competition USA or the world has witnessed is in entertainment & it’s by me is in between Disney & Marvel means Walt Disney & Stan Lee! Best part is by all these competitions apart from money it has generated the outcome which I feel is it benefitted entire world to become a better place, it not only entertained masses but made their life easier. Look at computers & smart phones today or online shopping ease as well deals the malls are offering & comfort & any game’s high standard of performance making the spectators spell bound by the players performance & on the top of all come movies i.e. entertainment industry of which comics was the base! This last aspect of entertainment is very much important as this is the medium which makes you forget you problems, worries, and tensions whatever you tag your life, for three hours & takes you in a different world. A world where anything is possible, here you fly in sky without wings, you jump from hundredth floor of the building without getting a scratch, you can change your shape as well face, you can pass through concrete walls, you can move mountains just by looking at them, in simple words you are a Super Hero for those three hours!

And for decades Walt Disney ruled this entertainment competition by Disney’s fairy tales where all stories ends with “and they lived happily ever after”, with love in heart! Yes, Disney fairy tales are still enjoyed by millions (me too) but as you grow up somewhere that innocence you lock within when you realize the harsh realities (read cruelties) of grown up life is a fact. And here is where Stan scored over Disney off late & then as the civilization entered in 2000 century where technology started replacing sentiments like affection & love & kindness, so does changed the needs of the entertainment. People still loved fairy tales but with more human touch more realistic Super Heroes & Super Heroines, which are in a way representing modern days Prince & Princes! And in this today’s world fairy tales rarely has happy endings but even the Prince & Princes has to survive emotional break downs caused by survival issues & strained relations! Greatness of Stan was, he perfectly changed gears as just look at his above two quotes about his characters & you will realize his Super Heroes are very much humans with every draw back a normal human mind (read character) has & Stan likes these characters that way only. He says, “Unless you give vulnerability to the character they won’t become interesting”, sound familiar, isn’t it? What is Hindu or any religion’s mythology (read philosophy) after all; unless there is end to one life how there can be a new life & yet his villains craves for immortality while his Super Hero’s thrives to stop the bad guys becoming immortal!

The list is unending, starting from Spider Man who is a average orphan boy next door, always worried for his day to day survival in the real world as well bad love life & battling bad guys on other side. The Iron Man is millionaire in normal world i.e. Tony Stark, a flamboyant character, yet very much human with bitterness about the surrounding flowing through his nasty tongue due to the frustration about disparity in the world!  The might Hulk who is Dr Banner, the Physicist in normal is trying hard to get rid of the green beast in him, The Wolverine, immortal mutant also want to dies & perish like normal man when other envy him for his super powers which heals any wound on his body but what about the wounds Logan (When not Voulvarine) is carrying on his mind & has sleepless nights because of the damaged memories of past & living on, while every his dear one dies due to mortality! The list of all the characters is endless & not even the Demy God, Thor has escaped by the human touch of Stan as while fighting the wars across the galaxies Thor has to carry the burden of family loss & a brother who has turned evil & face frustration in love as he loves a mortal human being! Stan created fifty plus characters, each one with some unique gift & curse too; gift of super power in some form which makes them different from common man & gift of curse which in most characters runs from their childhood, either loss of parents or love or memory itself! In nut shale every Super Hero Stan created is very much unhappy, depressed a times & fights his or her own battle within, very vulnerable just like you & me does, yet a Super Hero!

This is where Stan scored on every his competitor as people find his Super Heroes’ more human, more real, more familiar as they too have to face similar problems like common man! Remember why in 70’s the great Amitabh Bachhan could rise to Super Stardom as it was time of unrest & a very common, average looking tall guy (due respect to Bachhan for his great acting skills) who is angry with world around can beat the bad goons just by his   bare hands & kicks, was so so much appealing to the masses that they crowded the theaters again & again to watch him on screen! Well the real success behind this was of writers Salim Javed actually who created this angry young man out of masses! These too are times of unrest as indeed now most of us don’t have to worry about food or clothing or survival, rather many of us carries tag of success in the form our fat salary package, posh car, gadgets, dinners at happening joints, a perfect family to post its snap on Insta/ FB yet how many of us are truly happy & at peace with what life has offered us? And Stan perfectly understood the mind set of this post 2000 genre which is frustrated but doesn’t know with whom & why they are frustrated & he keeps on flooding the characters’ through his comics, which became larger than life on screen with digital revolution in the  cine industry!

I personally got introduced to Stan Lee much late i.e. in late 80’s via Spider Man series on Door Darshan i.e. DD, Sunday 11 am! But then in small town like Khamgaon, Marvel was unheard of so only when I moved to Pune for my engg, I became familiar with Captain America, X –Men & Stan’s characters. Yet I wasn’t grown up to understand that philosophy (read frustration or unrest) these characters displayed, it’s actually Stan’s which I eventually learnt. And then I with every new movie from Marvel the respect & affection for Stan grew up which I am sure will go on. As one of the comment in media about Stan’s departure was, “along with Stan some part of my childhood died”! Well, with due respect for the love of said fan; he hasn’t understood the Stan as how can Stan will let it happen! Stan’s creations, troubled however they may be within, one thing was very common among them all & that is, understanding of the responsibility they carry towards the world & their belief on goodness; and these two things will never die! Speaking for me, Stan Lee gave me the best gift I would have ever received, which is actually just one sentence, “with great powers comes along great responsibilities”!  And a realization that we all have some power in some form which most of us fails to understand resulting in failure of our understanding of the responsibility it brings! Thanks a ton “Stanley Martin Lieber”, for portraying the best & real Super Hero under the name “Stan Lee” & creating Super Heroes & giving them courage to accept & respect the common man within! And yes nothing died in me while you departed but a feeling of gratefulness relived for your gift of hope to me as well to the entire world that anybody can be Super Hero!

Sanjay Deshpande 
Sanjeevani Dev.

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