Superheroes and their foes have always been a reflection of real life, and the world of Marvel Comics is certainly no exception. In the wake of recent tragedies, we could all could use a little word of wisdom from the man who invented some of the world's greatest superheroes — but some of us are wishing the company would take their former editor-in-chief's advice.
Taking some time out from cameoing in every Marvel movie under the sun, the 94-year-old comic book legend made a short video for Marvel's YouTube channel, advocating for the need for heroism and the destruction of intolerance and hatred.
Check out Stan Lee's empowering speech below:
The short but rousing video encourages Marvel fans to look beyond race, gender, religion or skin color and rise up to be everyday heroes. Lee also managed to inject a little humor along the way, in true Stan the Man style:
"I just want you to know that Marvel has always been and always will be a reflection of the world right outside your window. That world may change and evolve but the one thing that will never change is the way we tell our stories of heroism. Those stories have room for everyone, regardless of their race, gender, religion or color of their skin.
The only things we don’t have room for are hatred, intolerance and bigotry. That man next to you — he’s your brother. That woman over there — she’s your sister. And that kid walking by — hey, who knows, he may have the proportionate strength of a spider! We’re all part of one big family — the human family — and we all come together in the body of Marvel.
And you! You're part of that family. You're part of the Marvel Universe, that moves ever upwards and onwards to greater glory! In other words, excelsior!"
While video was clearly in response to the tragic Las Vegas shooting, and the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, and its intentions are good, it would be great if Marvel took its own advice and became the beacon of diversity and tolerance that #StanLee believes it is.
Marvel's On-Going Diversity Drama
When it comes to Marvel, it does seem fairly ironic we can have immortal Gods, talking trees and time-traveling super soldiers, yet a black Peter Parker or female Iron Man sends the internet into meltdown. While that is not necessarily Marvel's fault, it has taken them years to finally add the diverse cast of #BlackPanther to their roster of chiseled, white, male #MCU heroes. And even longer to get their first female-led superhero movie — Captain Marvel — into production, despite fans literally begging for Black Widow solo film since day one.
Earlier this year, Marvel's executive producer Nate Moore told Complex that the company was holding back when it came to diversity, wanting to take baby steps to make sure it was done right:
"We want to tell the best stories with the strongest developed characters and scripts that we can. Our biggest concern is that, in trying to get more characters out there, we rush something that’s not ready and we deliver something that’s not up to our standards. So it’s less about us rushing a character that’s diverse to get it out quickly and more about figuring out how to do it right."
While this is all well and good, it does seem slightly ridiculous that it's taken until Phase 4 to get a single MCU movie without a white, male lead. Furthermore, drama on the comic book side of things exploded when Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing David Gabriel seemingly complained that diversity was driving down sales:
"What we heard was that people didn't want any more diversity. [...] We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against. That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked."
In response to Gabriel and all the articles written about Marvel's so-called failing "diversity initiative," G. Willow Wilson, the creator of Kamala Khan (a.k.a. Ms Marvel, a Pakistani-American hero from Jersey City who has shapeshifting abilities) spoke out about her problem's with the comments:
"Diversity as a form of performative guilt doesn’t work. Let’s scrap the word diversity entirely and replace it with authenticity and realism. This is not a new world. This is *the world.*"
And this leads me back to Stan Lee's recent, inspiring video where he explained that superheroes are "a reflection of the world right outside your window," but it's important to remember that that world isn't full of silver surfers and crime-fighting billionaires, but normal people who are being directly affected by the terror and hatred seen in Las Vegas and Charlottesville. This is why it's important to represent all kinds of heroes, and Stan Lee gets that, so let's hope Marvel fans can too.
Which is your favorite Stan Lee cameo? Let us know in the comments!