One shouldn’t be surprised when one hears that a 95-year-old man has passed away, but there are certain bigger-than-life persons whose death will always surprise you. I was surprised to hear about the death of Stan Lee, one of the founders of Marvel comics and its leading light through the years. (Stan Lee died at the age of 95 on November 12, 2018). Apart from the X-Files, Marvel comics was the other element of popular culture most interwoven into my life.
I read my first Marvel comic when I was eight. They were among a pile of old comics at my barber shop. I would pick up the comics to read while waiting for my haircut/during the haircut. Most of the comics had missing covers and pages so I usually started a comic on page 3. I read both Marvel and D.C. comics, but I slowly became a loyal Marvel comic fan. The superheroes in the Marvel universe were more real, more like ordinary folk. Many of them became superheroes by accident — you get accidentally splashed with radioactive waste (Daredevil), you get exposed to gamma rays (Hulk), you get bitten by a radioactive spider (Spider-Man), or you were born a mutant — you didn’t ask to be one (X-Men).
Most would agree that it is the Spider-Man character (real name Peter Parker) that is the most iconic of Marvel comics. Arthur Holmes reminded us that all truth is God’s truth and I learnt a number of key life lessons from Spider-Man. First, all of us are capable of making horrible mistakes. Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s refusal to use his power to stop a robber, for selfish reasons, resulted in his Uncle Ben being shot and killed by that same robber. This was a heart-wrenching tragedy as Peter Parker’s parents were dead and his Uncle Ben and Aunt May were sacrificially raising him as their own. (Read about Spiderman here)
But the Spider-Man story taught me another lesson — that though we may not be spared from making serious mistakes and/or going through major crises in our lives, such painful episodes could act as defining moments that help clarify our life purpose, as well as teach us major lessons. Out of the tragedy of Uncle Ben’s death, Peter Parker embraces his destiny as Spider-Man and finally learns the lesson that his uncle had been trying to teach him, that “with great power there must also come great responsibility”. I ditto all these lessons in my life, lessons found in a comic book story.
The recently concluded LittWorld Christian publishing conference had a session on designing comics and graphic novels that generated a lot of attention. May it lead to the production of great comics, not necessarily ones with overtly Christian content (though works like the Manga Bible are excellent), but good comics that illustrate biblical truth. We need to do this because comics are the world’s most popular form of literature, and we all know that “with great power there must come great responsibility”, and that sounds way more cool than “be a good steward of your talents”.