Poster for A MARVEL-OUS EVENING WITH STAN LEE AT CARNEGIE HALL (1972).

A giant died today. In Holland, where I’m from, Marvel wasn’t called Marvel, but Junior Press—but Stan Lee Presents was Stan Lee Presents, and his name on a comic simply meant a good time. All through my childhood, I didn’t know what he looked like. His name, that faux hand-written scribble above every title, was a mystery. Disney and Hergé had faces, but Stan Lee? I imagined this moody mastermind on a throne, a king of comics, a prince of pulp, a sultan of superhero stories. Or maybe a group of ghostwriters, who just called themselves “Stan Lee”.

Much later I got to know him a little better. I always thought he was part sleazy salesman and part genuine genius. You’d look at him or hear him talk his talk and you’d wonder if he really invented all those characters or maybe scammed some poor soul out of them. But he was an old school New York publishing guy of course: selling was just another one his talents.

He started out very young and lived to be very old, so we shouldn’t be sad. As long as people read comics, dress up as superheroes, or get blasted by cosmic rays—as long as there is a pop culture, his name will live on.

Neal Adams cover art for MAN-GODS FROM BEYOND THE STARS (1975), a comic exploring the theories of Erich Von Däniken, whose CHARIOTS OF THE GODS? (1968) had become such a cultural phenomenon.

Its Dutch title was WERE THE GODS COSMONAUTS? My mother owned a copy—and my mother has to be the person least likely to buy anything sci-fi, UFO or crackpot-related. That’s how popular it was.