“The only advice anybody can give is, if you wanna be a writer, keep writing. And read all you can, read everything.” Stan Lee
Stanley Martin Lieber wanted to be a serious writer. So when he started writing comic books, he chose a new name, Stan Lee. Only the die-hard fans are likely to recognize Stanley Martin Lieber. But millions can tell you who Stan Lee was. With the influx of superhero movies Marvel has put out in recent years, I’d be willing to bet most people could even recognize Stan Lee even if they couldn’t tell you his name. He’d be “that old guy who shows up in every Marvel movie”, but they’d still recognize him.
Stan Lee created some of the most loved comic book characters of all time. You might scoff at considering comics in a discussion about writing. That attitude is part of the reason Stanley became Stan Lee. It’s also part of the reason Stan Lee wanted to make his comic book stories different. He wanted to give the characters and story lines depth. He wanted the heroes to have flaws and internal issues to overcome. He wanted the plots to appeal to more than just children.
Stan Lee accomplished that in his life. Some would even argue that comics have evolved to a point where they aren’t for children at all any more. I don’t think that’s true. As with any media, whether book, movie, television, music, or video game, comics have to be taken on a case by case basis. There are some that I don’t believe should be read by either children or adults due to the content. But that doesn’t mean comics as a whole are bad.
There are some very well-written comics with complex characters and stories. They rival the complexity of traditional books. I think Stan Lee did what he set out to do. He wrote and he kept writing. In the end, I think his work succeeded in elevating comics beyond what they’d previously been. Stan Lee’s writing has influenced and inspired many, and I believe it will for years to come.
Stan Lee may have worried about the need to become a “serious” writer, but there are millions who are happy he wrote what he enjoyed writing about and in the way he chose to do it. And so my own lesson from Stan Lee doesn’t come from one of his comics but from his life. As a writer, I don’t need to worry about whether I’m a serious enough writer. I don’t need to worry about what the world will think of my stories. I need to write what I’m inspired to write. As a Christian I need to write what I feel God would have me write and in a way that brings Him honor. There are people who may not think what I offer is worth a lot, but it doesn’t matter. I’m a writer and whatever that looks like, be it comic books, movie scripts, or novels, I simply need to “keep writing”.