Photo: Chris Pizzello, Chris Pizzello / Invision / AP
Stan Lee is an important part of Miya Crummell's childhood. As a young, black girl and self-professed geek pop culture, she saw Lee ahead of her time.
"At that time, he wrote & # 39; Black Panther & # 39; when separation was still heavy," said the 27-year-old New Yorker who is a graphic designer and independent comic book artist. "It's never sounded to have a black main character, let alone a title character and not just secondary sidekick things."
Crummell spent most of the 90s engrossed with Marvel Comics. And he felt very indebted to Lee so he lined up to meet him at the 2012 convention.
"I had the opportunity to tell him he was my hero," he said. "He affected my entire career path and I have to thank him for that."
Lee, the master and creator behind Marvel superhero, died at the age of 95 on Monday.
As fans celebrated their contribution to the pop culture canon, some people also reviewed how Lee felt that his comic books were a big responsibility. Marvel wizards use their askers to conquer real world enemies such as racism and xenophobia. Since the 1960s, Lee has advocated tolerance through the only platform he has: a comic book page. On the page he wrote the column "Stan Soap Box" which preached against bigotry and that he introduced color characters. While Marvel's representation of minorities in comics is not without stereotypical hiccups, Lee cannot be denied expanding the image of classic superheroes.
Under Lee's leadership, Marvel Comics introduced a generation of comic book readers to an African prince who ruled a mystical and technologically advanced kingdom, a former black fraudster who refused bullets and X-Men, a group of heroes whose superpowers were like different cultural backgrounds they.
Lee's work and ideas and the artists behind T & # 39; Challa, Black Panther; Luke Cage, Hero to be employed; and the happy mutants from Professor Xavier – breakthroughs during the 1960s and 1970s – have become cultural forces that undermine barriers to inclusion.
Lee has his fingers on everything Marvel has produced, but some of the characters and storylines "come from artists inspired by what happened in the 60s," said freelance writer Alex Simmons.
However, there have been several rejections by white comic distributors when it comes to heroes and black characters. Several Marvel Comics bundles were sent back because some distributors were not prepared for the phenomenal Black Panther and super Wakanda African kingdom developed by artists and co-creator Jack Kirby.
"Stan must take that risk," Simmons said. "There is a liberation movement, and I think Marvel is the voice of the people, bound to the energy of rebellion and riding with it."
In 1968, a tumultuous year in the country that witnessed the murder of Martin Luther King Jr., Lee wrote one of the most vocal "Soap Box" essays that called bigotry and racism "the deadliest social disease that hit the world today."
"But, unlike a team of super criminals in costume, they can't be stopped with a punch in the snoot, or zap from a light gun," Lee wrote. "The only way to destroy them is to expose them – to reveal them because of crimes that endanger them actually."
Marvel's character is always at the forefront of how to deal with racial discrimination and other forms, according to Mikhail Lyubansky, who teaches racial and ethnic psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
"The original X-Men were less about race and more about cultural differences," Lyubansky said. "Black Panther and several films (Marvel) took a coat and ran with racial issues in a way that I thought Stan didn't intend. But they were great vehicles for that."
Some attempts to break minority characters are not old enough. Marvel characters such as Fu Manchu-esque villains The Mandarin and Wyatt Wingfoot Indian athletic heroes are considered innovative in the 60s and 70s, but may seem old-fashioned and too stereotyped when viewed through a 21st century lens.
"This is interesting. Stan Lee kind of accepts credit and blame, depending on character," said William Foster III, who helped found the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention and is a professor of English at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury, Connecticut.
Foster, who began reading Marvel Comics in the 1960s, said one reason why they begged him was because they began to include people of color in the background.
"Stan Lee has an attitude & # 39; We are in New York City. How can we not have black people in New York City?", Said Foster.
Black people began to take on the role of heroes and villains. Foster said some characters might have been seen as "tokenism" but sometimes where progress must begin.
In 10 years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe film has scored more than $ 17.6 billion in grosses throughout the world. The film "Black Panther" attracted more than $ 200 million in its weekend debut earlier this year.
"I have many white friends who grow up," said freelance writer Simmons, who is black. "We watched & # 39; Batman & # 39; and we also watched & # 39; The Mod Squad. & # 39; My personal belief is that if you put material in front of people and they are connected to it, they will be connected to it "
For many fans and consumers, it's about the product not the color of the skin or the character's sexual orientation, he added.
Crummell, a comic book artist, said he thinks representation for minorities and women in comic books is getting better.
"I think now, they see everyone reading comics. This is not a special group now," said Crummell. "It's not just African-Americans – it's women, Asians, Hispanic characters now. I would praise Stan Lee with some kind of barrier to that."