Stan Lee was an important part of Miya Crummell's childhood. As a young black girl and self-propelled pop culture, she saw that Lee was before her time.
"At that time, he wrote" Black Panther "when segregation was still heavy," said 27-year-old New Yorker who credits Lee with influencing her to become a graphic designer and cartoon artist. "It was kind of incredible to have a black lead character, no less a title character and not just a secondary sidekick kind of thing."
Lee, the master and creator behind Marvel's greatest superheroes, died at the age of 95 on Monday. As fans celebrate their contributions to the pop culture canon, some have also examined how the Marvel wizard thought that with great comics it was a great responsibility. When black people risked their lives in the 1960s to protest against discrimination where they lived and worked, Lee realized integration with the first mainstream black superhero. Black Panther, along with X-Men and Luke Cage, are screen heroes today. But then, the soldiers in Lee were opposed to real enemies of racism and xenophobia.
During Lee, Marvel Comics led a generation of comic book readers to the African prince who ruled a mythical and technologically advanced kingdom, the black ex-con whose brown skin rejects bullets and X-Men and a group of heroes whose superpowers were as diverse as their cultural background.
The works and ideas of Lee and the artists behind T & # 39; Challa, Black Panther; Luke Cage, hero for rent; and Professor Xavier's band of happy mutants – pioneering in the 1960s and 1970s – has become a cultural force that breaks down barriers to integration.
Lee had his fingers in everything that Marvel produced, but some of the characters and lines "came from the artists inspired by what happened in the 1960s," said freelance writer Alex Simmons.
Nevertheless, there were some driving forces from white series that came to black heroes and characters. Some bundles of Marvel Comics were sent back because some distributors were not prepared for Black Panther and King Wakanda developed by the artist and co-author Jack Kirby.
"Stan must take these risks," said Simmons. "There was a liberation movement, and I think Marvel became the voice of the people, bound to the rebellious energy and ride with it."
Lee also spoke directly to readers about the irrational characteristics of hatred. In 1968, Lee wrote one of his most so-called "Soapbox" columns, calling bigotry and racism "the deadliest social diseases that plague the world today".
"But, unlike a team of costumed super-bad guys, they can not be stopped with a snoot or a zap from a headlight," Lee wrote.
Marvel characters were always at the forefront of dealing with racial and other forms of discrimination, according to Mikhail Lyubansky, who teaches race and ethnicity at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. With the X-Men, many readers saw the mutants, ostracized for their powers, as a comment about how Americans treated black and all looked like "the other."
"The original X Men were less about race and more about cultural differences," Lyubansky said. "Black Panther and some of the (Marvel) films took the mantle and ran out of rage in ways that I think Stan did not intend to do, but they were a good vehicle for that."
Some of the efforts to break out minority people have not grown well. Marvelous characters such as the Fu Manchu-esque badge Mandarin and the Indian hero Wyatt Wingfoot were regarded as groundbreaking in the 60's and 70's, but may appear dated and stereotype when viewed through a 21st lens.
"It's interesting. Stan Lee, who takes on credit and debt, depends on the character," said William Foster III, who helped establish the Australian Black Age of Comics Convention and is an English professor at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury , Connecticut.
Foster, who began to read Marvel Comics in the 1960s, also said doing something less so that coloring in the background was monumental.
"Stan Lee had the attitude" We are in New York City. How may we not have black people in New York City? "" Foster said.
Black began to take the role of heroes and villains. Foster said that some signs may have been seen as "tokenism" but sometimes there must be progress.
For 10 years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe films have just exceeded $ 17.6 billion worldwide. The "Black Panther" film drew more than $ 200 million in its debut weekend earlier this year. Next year, actress Brie Larson will fly as "Captain Marvel." An animated movie centered on Miles Morales, a half black and half Puerto Rico teenager inherited in the Spider-Man costume, will release next month. And there continues to be interest around Kamala Khan a.k.a. Ms. Marvel, the first Muslim super hero.
"I had many white friends who grew up," said freelance writer Simmons, who is black. "We saw" Batman "and we also watched" The Mod Squad. "My personal conviction is that if you put the material in front of people and they join it, they will connect to it."
To many fans and consumers it is about the product, not the skin's color or sexual orientation, he added.
Crummell, a serialist artist, said she felt that minority and female representation in comic books was being improved.
"I think now they see everyone reading series. It's not a specific group now," said Crummell. "It's not just African American people – it's women, it's Asian, Latin American characters now. I'd pay Stan Lee to break the barrier for it."