A universe of flawed heroes: Stan Lee was ahead of his time

Stan Lee, who died Monday, could easily be dismissed as thewisecracking grandpa of the American comic book, a past-his-prime gimmick who cameoed alongside Earth’s angstiest superheroes in the high-grossing Marvel blockbusters of the past decade.

But he was far more than that.

It’s no stretch to say that Lee helped redraw the world of American fiction. And he certainly made sure everyone knew it.

From the ashes of pulp magazines and the radioactive raw material of postwar uncertainty about science and power, he summoned — not singlehandedly, but certainly without parallel or peer — a textured, self-sustaining universe of imperfect heroes.

The father of Marvel presented comic-book America with a pantheon of deeply flawed protagonists.

They are schmoes who inadvertently, or negligently, wandered into the traffic of destiny.

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