Let me start by prefacing this review: saying that there are always problems you encounter when doing a live, or live streamed, show like this is an understatement. That said, let’s get into my experience with the “Extraordinary Stan Lee Tribute”.
I was given the esteemed honor of being able to co-emcee the pre-show event with local radio DJ Edmundo. We chatted a bit about comics, comic movies, and the upcoming movies. We did some Marvel comics trivia with attendees (each got some cool Spider-Man swag), had some really cool cosplays for the costume contest (which was where I mainly did my portion of the emceeing for the evening) with contestants winning free movie passes to Allen Theaters (where the event was held), and Las Cruces Comic Con tickets (The winner got a three-day pass, which is pretty sweet!). And then it was time…
We collectively took our seats, and after a few technical delays, the show began. There was Nerdist’s Chris Hardwick, and the man himself Stan Lee. They talked a bit, Stan offering his usual sense of humor, quipping with the best of them. They had interstitial animations throughout the event detailing some of the history, and personal events of Mr. Lee’s life. Occasionally followed by video well-wishes from celebrities like Karen Gillan, Mark Ruffalo, and Kaley Cuoco. Also, countless celebrities joined on stage to tell their favorite stories of meeting, or working with Stan Lee. Everyone from Marv Wolfman (former editor at Marvel Comics, and colleague), Lou Ferrigno (from the Incredible Hulk TV series), Alan Tudyk (K2SO in Star Wars Rogue One), and Todd McFarlane (creator of Spawn) were on hand to wish well the man who is responsible for every single Marvel character that you remember from your childhood. Some of the attendees on had shared anecdotes of what is was like to meet or work with the god of modern comics, others just wanted their chance to get to meet the creator of so many childhood heroes.
Some, incredibly emotional conversations of note, Todd McFarlane who had known Stan for 30 years, wished him well, shared the tale of his first meeting Stan at a small comic convention in Florida when McFarlane was only 16 years old. And Stan, being the class act that he was pulled up a chair for this young fan, and answered every question he had. Little did he know Todd would go on to be the artist and writer to revolutionize Spidey in the 80s and 90s. Todd bid his fairwell giving Lee a warm embrace, thanking him for the decades of friendship, and saying “…the only thing that would’ve made tonight more perfect, would be if Joanie could be here to see it.” in reference to Lee’s late wife, who passed away in July of this year due to complications of a stroke.
Another worthy visit came in the form of an emotionally heart wrenching speech from Wu Tang Clan’s RZA. Speaking out against ignorance, intolerance, hate, bigotry, discrimination, and how a world made just a little bit better than you found it by every person would change the world, and we could all have peace. I was moved to tears by the end of this incredible presentation, only to discover that these words were not RZA’s, but were written in 1968 by Stan Lee himself. It was inexplicably touching to see Stan speak with this man (whom he had never met), and treat him like he was the single most important person on the stage. The two exchanged a touching chorus of (paraphrasing) “Mr. Lee, you don’t know me, but I know you, and I used to read your books, scraping the few nickels I had together to read your stories about a kid like me, and how he could change the world by being just a little bit better. I’ve made it my goal to end such hate and bigotry in the world.” Lee responded, “Wouldn’t that be a great world to live in, if we woke up tomorrow and everyone loved each other? That’s a world I want to live in.” “That’s the world you’ve helped create” remarked RZA. Honestly, as I write this amazing exchange, between two total strangers, from different races, backgrounds, eras, ages, upbringings, bond over the ideas that Stan Lee instilled in his characters, I find myself still choked up recalling the conversation.
After two (or so) hours the event ended, and the audience and myself left that theater, hopefully, happier, prouder, and a little better for being a part of this once in a lifetime experience.
That said, there were (more than) a few technical glitches during the event. Chiefest of which being the consistent audio issues. Whether microphones falling off of guests, including Stan Lee. Only getting one handheld mic to pass around for about 65% of the show, or only 1 in 4 clip-on mics actually working. Most heinous of all, a mic in the sound booth that was left on and feeding into the broadcast, at one point drowning out the guest of honor himself while speaking! All complaints aside, as I said in the beginning of this article, every live event, and live streamed event, is going to encounter problems during the production. As a film-maker, no one knows this better than myself.
The single most important aspect of the entire event, and my experience as a whole, is that I got to see my single greatest childhood hero live. One night only, one last time. If you were not able to be a part of this once in a lifetime experience, then you seriously missed one of the most incredible nights of laughter, and love for Stan Lee. Everyone hopes that their heroes will live to be as immortal as their creations. But at time of writing, Mr. Lee is pushing 95 years old (the same age as his beloved wife Joan when she passed) and the undeniable undertone of this event, was the fact that Stan, no matter how young at heart, is not so in body, anymore. While some guests came to say hello, for even more it almost felt like goodbye.
And to Stan “The Man” Lee, if you are reading this article, just know that you are the single greatest creator, visionary, and revolutionary that the world has ever known. And the world will be a little bit darker the day you leave it (hopefully not for a little while longer). Thank you for your wonderful years of service, for single-handedly being the reason I am in the field I am, working my dream job, with friends and loved ones filling each day with happiness, and for the innumerable years of fantasies of being my favorite heroes, pretending to be Spider-Man, Wolverine, even the Hulk. You’ve changed countless lives, made the world a better place to live in, changed minds and hearts the world over. You have been so many people’s superhero (myself included). From the bottom of my heart, and those of every geek, nerd, outcast, freak, and weirdo who picked up one of your stories and decided to be somebody’s superhero…
Thank You Sir, and Excelsior!
-Trevor L. Cooper