I grew up in an exurb where it took nearly an hour to walk to the nearest shop, to the nearest place to eat, to the library.  And the steep hills made it an exhausting walk.  That meant that until I turned sixteen, when school was not in session I was stuck at home.  This was often not a good place to be stuck.

Stan Lee gave me a place to hang out.

His critics would say that for me to thank Stan Lee for creating the Marvel Universe shows that I’ve fallen for his self‐promotion—​that it was Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko and his other collaborators who supplied the dynamic, expressive artwork and the epic storylines that made the Marvel Universe so compelling.  “All Stan did was fill in the speech bubbles!”  But I didn’t read superhero comics for the fights or the costumes or the trips to Asgard and Attilan.  I read them for fantasy that read like reality, for the interplay of wildly different personalities—​and for the wisecracks.  Stan had long since moved from scripter to publisher by the time I started plucking issues of Iron Man and The Avengers off the spinner racks, but he had set the template for how a Marvel comic should read.  The Marvel Universe that served as my refuge wasn’t really the world depicted in all those colorful panels.  It was the world Stan Lee built out of those speech bubbles.

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