Stan Lee was many things, and many things besides one of the titans of Marvel Comics. In the wake of his death at 95-years-old Monday came not only an overwhelming outpouring of grief, from MCU stars and fans alike, but also nuggets of arcane or forgotten trivia. One of our favorites: A 1968 column he wrote in which he passionately spoke out against bigotry and racism.
Entertainment journalist Jen Yamato was one of the more prominent figures who posted the letter on Twitter in the wake of the tragic news. The column was part of “Stan’s Soapbox,” a regular column he would tack onto the backs of comics. (You can even buy a collection of his missives.) And what do you know? His words still, crushingly, resonate today.
“Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today,” Lee wrote at the time. “But, unlike, a team of costumed super-villains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot, or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them is to expose them — to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are.”
Lee penned these words at the height of the Civil Rights era, an era that is definitely different from our own, except when it isn’t. Lee’s comics and his characters have always given solace to society’s outsiders — think of the X-Men: mutants who were born that way — but in this column especially he was careful to show that it’s a fantasy, if the kind that intends to inspire readers to make the world better.
Lee wrote about this issue from time to time; he did co-created Spider-Man, the Hulk, Black Panther, so he could pretty much do whatever he liked. Another column found him taking umbrage with readers taking umbrage with the occasional preachiness of his stories, or the idea that they were merely escapist in the first place.
“It seems to me that a story without a message, however subliminal, is like a man without a soul,” Lee wrote. “None of us lives in a vacuum — none of us is untouched by the everyday events about us — events which shape our stories just as they shape our lives. Sure our tales can be called escapist — but just because something’s for fun doesn’t mean we have to blanket our brains while we read it! Excelsior!”