Comedian Bill Maher has made a career courting controversy with his politically-tinged comedy. That’s an arena I have never stepped foot in with this column, and don’t worry, I won’t today.
But he drew fire for a different reason last week, when he posted a blog entry about the passing of Stan Lee, the legendary Marvel mind behind such iconic comic book characters as Iron Man, Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four and many others firmly entrenched in our culture.
Maher made fun of fans who were expressing sadness for Lee’s passing, calling it “Deep, deep mourning for a man who inspired millions to, I don’t know, watch a movie, I guess.”
Um, yes, actually, 20 to date. I saw them with my kids, who were coming of movie age just as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was coming alive on the big screen. As Iron Man ushered in a new era of superhero movies, I saw my children stare at a movie with the same wild-eyed amazement that I did as a kid watching Superman soar across the screen.
As my kids started to get into the MCU, they started looking forward to each new film.
When new trailers would come out for upcoming movie, whichever one of us saw it first had to be the first to tell the others. And try as we might wait to watch it together, usually the first to find out about a new trailer would do a quick sneak-peek, just so when we were watching it together you could go, “Ooooh – watch this part!” Most trailers would be watched at least a few times in a row, to see what we might have missed. Then we have long discussions about what direction we thought the movie would go or what a certain thing in the trailer meant.
When the movies came out, we would always try to go opening weekend. It was there they learned the pro’s guide to movie maximization. Never sit middle. Sucker bet. View is just as good on the aisle. Also, free refills on the large popcorn. If you power though that bucket during the trailers, boom – get that bad boy filled up before the feature starts.
We love to stay for the stingers, those surprise scenes in the end credits. (There are always stingers in the MCU). We would wait through the credits, killing time before the scenes by seeing if we could find our names in the credits. Bonus point for an exact match.
When The Avengers first hit the big screen in 2012, they could not wait to see all the superheroes on screen at once. I remember my daughter seeing Agent Natasha Romonoff, aka Black Widow, kick the everlasting stuffing out of two bad guys while she was still tied to a chair, and watching my daughter stand up and pump her first in the air and scream, “YEAHHHH!!!!”
I remember watching my son as he saw The Incredible Hulk get his marching orders from Captain America: “Hulk – smash.” That was my son’s catchphrase for at least the rest of the day, every so often just randomly laughing loudly and hollering, “Hulk – smash.”
When we went and saw the latest Avengers movie, we sat in silence at the end. Some people may have gotten a tear or two in their eye. It doesn’t matter who.
Although my daughter is off at college now, my guess is that, when the final chapter of The Avengers comes out in 2019, I will do my level best to make sure we all see it together.
The day that Stan Lee died, I got two texts from my kids within three minutes. One read, “DAD! STAN LEE DIED. IT’S SO SAD!!!” The other: “Stan Lee died” followed by three crying emojis.
Stan Lee was 95 years old and had been reported to have been in declining health for a while, so his passing can hardly be called a shock. But it’s still OK to be sad. Stan Lee’s creations that eventually turned in the MCU that has brought joy to so many people. For my kids and me, Stan Lee gave us a part of their upbringing I wouldn’t trade for all the Infinity Gems in the universe. Thank you, Stan Lee. And, Bill Maher, yes, it’s because he did inspire millions to watch a movie. A lot of them. Together.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Mt. Pleasant. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike or at www.mikeslife.us.