Local comic shop workers remember Lee Local News


The list of iconic characters he had a hand in creating runs long, and reads like a list of Hollywood blockbusters: Spider-Man, X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Black Panther, Daredevil, Doctor Strange and Ant-Man, among dozens of others. He inspired and entertained millions around the globe, spanning generations as he oversaw comic book culture rise into the mainstream.

Lee's death Monday closed the book on perhaps the greatest contributor to comics that the world will ever see.

"Stan Lee did for comics what Bill Gates and Steve Jobs did for computers," said Brent Thurston, the manager of Paducah's Crash Comics, which has been a fixture of the city since it opened downtown in 1987. "They all took something that was relatively obscure at the time, fine-tuned it and honed it for several years until it was something that pretty much everybody has or knows about.

"Stan was responsible for almost an entire universe. It's a huge universe and, just like the real one, it's been expanding for almost 70 years now," said Thurston. "You'd be hard pressed to find somebody nowadays that does not have at least one thing in their home that Stan had a hand in creating."

Lee's creations have given Thurston much more than the joy created by his comics.

"Stan's kept me from having to get a real job all these years," said "He enabled me to do something I love everyday. I've made so many friends over the years just from people coming to talk to me about comics."

Lee played a monumental role in the shaping the life of Thurston's fellow Crash worker Jeffrey Bazzell.

"He shaped my entire existence, in a sense," said Bazzell. "Since I was a kid I've always loved comics and comic characters, I grew up watching Spider-Man and X-Men, and I'm not really sure where I'd be without them."

Lee's real super power, especially in the later years of his life, was his charisma, Thurston added.

"He just had this overflowing charisma at all times," Thurston said. "I've never heard a single bad story of someone meeting him. He wanted to talk to everyone all the time."

The old saying about not meeting your heroes was never true of Lee, confirmed Bazzell, who met Lee at a comic convention in 2016.

Lee helped pioneer a kind of "superheroes in the real world" approach to comics that helped ground these otherworldly characters in a way that readers of all ages could identify with. He made heroes out of outcasts and misfits, people with both problems and powers.

He imbued colored dots on pulp paper with humanity in a way that had never been done before.

"There are millions of people that have been helped by these comics. They're great stories, but there's just so many people out there that connect with these characters and it helps them through life," Thurston said. "They really care because these characters were there for them in their toughest times."

Lee's death comes just five months after the death of longtime collaborator Steve Ditko, with whom he created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. Lee's foremost other collaborator, Jack Kirby, with whom he co-created the Fantastic Four, the Hulk and the X-Men, passed away in 1994.

"Marvel may still be around if Steve Ditko had not been involved or if Jack Kirby had not been involved, but Marvel would not exist if Stan Lee had not been a part of it," Thurston said.

"Stan was the face of the comic book industry for over half a century. Comics would not be where they are today without him," Bazzell said. "Stan's played a huge part in crafting an entire new mythology of modern day heroes."

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