Stan Lee has transcended our earthly plain, and the legacy he leaves behind will surely last for centuries or more. For this reason I’d like to take some time to observe his works over the years, first off starting with possibly the most influential book in my life and perhaps many others, Amazing Fantasy #15.
Seriously, this is a great read, and great for reasons beyond what most would assume. When I heard the news that Stan had passed I hopped onto Marvel Unlimited to revisit the tale that started the legacy of Spider-Man, but what’s truly amazing is that on MU they include the entirety of the book, so this was the first time I got to read the other stories featured in this issue. Whenever I’ve read this book, be it trade or digital collection, it’s only ever had the Spider-Man story (understandably so), so getting to read these “lost tales” was a treat; therefore, I’d like to start off by detailing those stories before getting to Spider-Man.
First up: The Bell-Ringer
This is a three-page story that tells of Pedros, a bell-ringer on a small island in the Mediterranean. It’s short and sweet: Pedros is committed to his work and loved by the community, and when a volcanic eruption threatens to destroy the small town he elects to stay behind to continue ringing the bell, believing in his cause and certain that someone will hear. As the villagers escape the island they see Pedros raised from the church in a stream of light, and marvel at the likely fact that someone did in fact hear the bell.
I liked it. For a three page story it accomplishes a simple task. It shows the importance of being true to one’s self and the good karma in faith. Does part of me like to think that Pedros was actually picked up by aliens and that he should make a comeback in the Marvel canon? … Naaaah… maybe. Either way, a cute read.
Next: Man in the Mummy Case!
This next one is neat, too, and by this point if you’re not getting the impression that Stan sometimes just writes for shock value without any true explanation, well… get it, because he clearly does.
This relates the story of a criminal named Rocko trying to evade police capture, and when he hides away in a museum he meets a living mummy! Actually, he’s a pretty well-spoken mummy, too, despite, you know, being a mummy – bandages and all. The mummy offers Rocko sanctuary in his sarcophagus. When the police search the museum and open the sarcophagus they find it empty, and so take off. It turns out that when Rocko entered the sarcophagus he was miraculously teleported to ancient Egypt where he now resides as a slave, much to the Mummy’s sinister desire.
Seriously. Zero explanation. One can only assume magic or voodoo was involved in Rocko’s transportation, which I’m fine with. I mean come on! It’s a story with action, horror, and intrigue – how can it go wrong? I guess it is a little bizarre and thrown together for the sake of filling pages, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
Lastly: There Are Martians Among Us!As the last story in this mag I’d say it’s the strongest (though the Bell-Ringer is still a great one). A UFO crash lands near a city and so a man-hunt for Martians is commenced. Days pass to no avail. Meanwhile, a Man stresses that his wife stay indoors when he leaves home on the night of another man-hunt. The wife agrees and he is gone; however, while the hubby is away she determines to step out briefly to fetch some coffee for when her man comes home. While she is out she is suddenly abducted out of sight. The man returns home and finds his wife missing, where he goes into a panic and calls for help, frantically waving his FOUR ARMS, concerned that the EARTHLINGS know that they are Martians.
It’s a nice twist. I didn’t see it coming, to be honest, but it was cool. It reminded me of Freaky Stories. It was also a little stomach-turning to see the image of the man with four arms… oddly.
And that’s it for the back-up stories! Not like the feature story at all, but gems nonetheless that help invigorate this legendary book.
Main event time: SPIDER-MAN
I mean… what can be said about this story that hasn’t already been said? We all know how it goes: Peter Parker is bitten by a spider, indulges in it, screws up and loses his Uncle Ben. It’s so damn poetic, but more than ever I found when I re-read it it stands out as Stan’s literary masterpiece.
Stan’s origin stories each capture their respective characters beautifully and instruct readers on moral values and the promise of more to come, but there’s something more here. This story teaches a very impacting lesson, the tried and true: With great power comes great responsibility. This story could exist on its own and still be one of legend. If this had been the only Spider-Man story that would’ve been okay. We see the full arc of Peter Parker’s beginning, middle and end. That we got the 75+ years of Spider-Man and other heroes is a blessing, but all we need to learn from Spidey, and Stan the Man himself, is right here in these handful of pages.
TL;DR Score: If you make time in your life for one, and only one, of Stan’s books, look no further – if you look hard enough you might just see him behind the pages, and if you believe, you’ll feel him in your soul.