Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee has been honored as a Disney Legend at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California. Lee, of course, is one of the primary architects of the Marvel comic-book-turned-movie universe, co-creating such iconic characters as The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk.
Lee’s stamp is so heavy on the iconic pop culture characters, in fact, that it’s customary that he appear in cameo roles in nearly every Marvel film adventure produced, including his laugh-out-loud funny turn most recently as a cranky old man who calls Spider-Man (Tom Holland) a “punk” in the blockbuster hit Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Earlier this month, Lee’s biggest inspiration – his wife of 69 years, Joan Lee – passed away on July 6. In his first reported public appearance since his wife’s passing, Lee attended Walt Disney Studios’ biennial D23 Expo, where he was honored as a Disney Legend, along with his late frequent collaborator Jack Kirby. According to USA Today, Lee was greeted with applause and a standing ovation after a retrospective video about his career (which included interview footage featuring Joan Lee). After an introduction by Disney CEO Robert Iger, an emotional Lee recalled how he was inspired as a child by Walt Disney’s work.
“One day in a bookstore, (I) saw a book that was an expensive book … It was called The Art of Walt Disney. I was that boy and I couldn’t afford the book and it drove me crazy, (so) I saved my pennies … To think that today, I’m standing here in the house that Disney built and we paid tribute to (late comic legend Jack Kirby), it is so thrilling. I can’t tell you.”
Lee ended his speech noting, “Of course I can’t leave without saying, ‘Excelsior!'”
Clearly Disney’s acquisition of Marvel in 2009 has elevated the presence of Lee’s co-creations to a place they have never been before, so it’s only appropriate that the 94-year-old comic book luminary be given the studio’s highest honor as the clock ticks down to the studio’s biggest project to date with the May 2018 release of Avengers: Infinity War. Last week, Lee visited the New York set of the film to chat with cast members including Robert Downey Jr., Tom Holland, and Benedict Cumberbatch.
It was definitely a nice touch by Disney, too, to include footage of Joan Lee, who encouraged her husband to go for broke as he became discouraged with the comic book business prior to the co-creation of the characters made Stan Lee not only a pop culture legend, but a legend named after a man named Disney who inspired him.
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