Two Days Before Stan Lee Passed Away, The Marvel Legend Had Some Emotional Words For His Protégé

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The world of comic books suffered a terrible blow in November 2018. Stan Lee, the man behind Marvel and many of the most iconic superheroes ever conceived of, passed away at 95 years of age. Amongst the outpouring of sadness, one bit of news stood out. Roy Thomas, the man who took over as chief editor of Marvel in 1972, visited him two days before he died. And at that meeting, Lee shared some touching words with him.

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Stan Lee, born Stanley Lieber, led a fascinating life. In 1939 he began work at Timely Comics, which would later become known as Marvel, and rose up the ranks there. In 1942 he joined the army, and was assigned to a special job, working on scripts for training films. His military classification was apparently “playwright,” – a title only ever given to a select few.

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After the war, Lee considered changing careers, but decided to stick it out in comics. He was assigned to create some superheroes at Marvel to compete with DC’s growing roster – and the rest is history. Together with Jack Kirby, Lee co-created The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, the Hulk, and many more.

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In the early 1960s came one of Lee’s most popular and beloved superheroes. Co-created with Steve Ditko, Spider-Man was groundbreaking at the time. Not only was he a teenager, but Spiderman had regular teenage problems to contend with, as well as his supervillains. He quickly became Marvel’s flagship character.

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Also groundbreaking was Lee’s focus on diversity at Marvel. Along with Kirby and Gene Colan, he helped create Black Panther and the Falcon – conventional comics’ first African and African-American superheroes. And in 1971 he went against the Comics Code Authority and did a Spider-Man story about the dangers of drug use.

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As time went on, movies began to be made of Lee’s most famous creations. Indeed, Lee’s own cameos in Marvel movies became a big part of his legacy. His favorite one, according to the man himself, was as a World War II veteran in the 2015 film Avengers: Age of Ultron.

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By the time of Age of Ultron, however, Lee was in his 90s. And though he was still active, it was clear old age was catching up with him. On July 2017 his wife Joan passed away at the age of 95. After that, unpleasant stories began circulating about the comic book legend’s health and wellbeing.

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In April 2018 the Hollywood Reporter claimed that Lee was a victim of elder abuse. Allegations were made against his daughter, J.C., and rumor spread that multiple people were angling for his Marvel fortune. In the end, one of the people involved, memorabilia collector Keya Morgan, received a restraining order which prevented him from going near Lee.

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Lee’s lawyer, Jonathan Freud, spoke to Reuters in August 2018. Lee’s health was improving after a stressful time, he said, and he was even “[developing] new characters and stories.” But sadly, after falling gravely ill, he passed away on November 12, 2018.

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Tributes poured in for Lee once the news hit, many of them coming from actors who had played his characters. “I owe it all to you. Rest in Peace Stan,” wrote Robert Downey Jr, who played Iron Man. “How many millions of us are indebted to this guy, none more so than me,” said Tom Holland, the most recent actor to play Spider-Man.

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But one of the most emotional statements came from Roy Thomas, a man who knew Lee well. They had met in the ‘60s, after aspiring writer Thomas had sent Lee a fan letter. Thomas became almost an apprentice to Lee, writing alongside him and eventually becoming Marvel’s editor-in-chief, after Lee gave up the post.

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Thomas spoke to Bleeding Cool about his last meeting with Lee, just two days before he passed on. “I’m sadder than I can say that Stan has died… even though I know, from my recent phone conversations with him, that he was more than ready to leave this Earth,” Thomas said. “I’m so grateful that… I got to spend a half hour or so with him this past Saturday.”

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Thomas’ manager, John Cimino, was also present at the meeting. He spoke to TMZ about what happened. Apparently, the discussion was all about superheroes and comics – though that’s not surprising. But the most touching thing about the encounter was Lee’s last words to Thomas. As the younger man was leaving, Lee said to him, “God bless. Take care of my boy, Roy.”

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This could well have been a reference to Spider-Man, as that was one of the main things Lee and Thomas discussed. “He asked about the Spider-Man comic book strip that I’ve been ghostwriting for 18, 19 years. Until a couple of years ago, he was working on it with me,” Thomas told the Hollywood Reporter.

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Thomas also mentioned that Lee shared with him the struggles of getting Spider-Man made in the first place. “The last few decades of his life,” Thomas explained, “he would go into a shorthand version of how ‘Martin [Goodman, Marvel publisher and relative of Lee] thought people wouldn’t like spiders,’ and [that] ‘a kid can’t be a hero.’”

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Obviously, the naysayers were wrong. Spider-Man has now been the star of no less than six big-budget blockbusters, as well as having appeared in other superhero films. Video games, books and countless other media have also made use of the character. And he regularly comes in near the top of lists counting off the world’s greatest superheroes.

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Spider-Man alone would be an incredible legacy for any writer. But Lee’s goes beyond even that. His famous movie cameos were so well loved, in fact, that they may actually continue, even after he’s gone. Lee apparently filmed some before he passed away, so fans can still see him appear in the next Infinity War movie and in Captain Marvel.

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“I think he was ready to go. But he was still talking about doing more cameos,” Thomas told the Hollywood Reporter. “As long as he had the energy for it and didn’t have to travel, Stan was always up to do some more cameos. He got a kick out of those more than anything else.”

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Lee reportedly had another wish before he died, and that one didn’t actually have anything to do with his superheroes. Todd McFarlane, another Marvel legend and the co-creator of Venom, relayed to Huffington Post what he’d heard Lee say during a visit. “A couple times he would say, ‘Todd, I just want to go see Joanie,’” McFarlane said, referring to Lee’s deceased wife.

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Stan Lee’s death is a very sad occasion, both for fans and for the people who knew him personally. “I consider myself so very lucky to have known and worked with him for so many years… one of the most important mythmakers of the 20th century,” Thomas told Bleeding Cool. At least Lee’s creations will be in safe hands, even though he’s no longer there to oversee them.

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