Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Stan Lee Passes On & Spider-Man Takes Off: A mural & more coming soon!

 By Michael Perlman

Stan Lee at the Phoenix Comicon, Photo by Gage Skidmore

Spider-Man lands at Forest Hills High School
America is paying tribute to an icon, Stan Lee, who left his mark on the comics industry as a writer, publisher, and editor. He actively shaped Americana from 1939 until his passing on November 12 at age 95, and will continue in spirit. 

Born Stanley Martin Lieber in 1922 in Manhattan, he was the son of a Romanian Jewish immigrant father. He was raised in Washington Heights and was an early graduate of DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx. At 19, he launched his career, and today is remembered as the creative tour de force behind Marvel Comics’ Silver Age as a co-creator of everything from Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four (Manhattan headquarters) to Hulk, the X-Men, Thor, and Daredevil (Hell’s Kitchen residence), which continue to influence young and older generations alike. His accolades include being inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame, Jack Kirby Hall of Fame, and being an NEA National Medal of Arts recipient.

The humble photojournalist Peter Parker is the alter ego of Spider-Man who was raised at 20 Ingram Street in the Forest Hills Gardens, as featured in the June and July 1989 issues of Marvel Enterprises’ “The Amazing Spider-Man.” Parker even attended Forest Hills High School from 1962 to 1965. How coincidental that the home’s true residents were noted as Andrew and Suzanne Parker, along with their two daughters. In 1989, the family began to receive fan mail addressed to Peter Parker. 

Peter Parker's House from Amazing Spider-Man Annual, Volume 1
Forest Hills culture continues with “Spider-Man” (2002) and “Spider-Man 2” (2004) starring Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, which were filmed at Camille Iorio Finamore’s childhood home on 69th Road between Metropolitan Avenue and Sybilla Street. She recalled, “It was filmed outside of the house and in the yard. It was very exciting, and still is a great conversation starter.” 

Locally, much dialogue is underway by residents who are deciding on how to commemorate Stan Lee and particularly Spider-Man. Within days after his passing, Forest Hills resident Jonathan Vick began conducting outreach to Marvel’s PR agency. He said, “I poked them to show some interest in honoring Stan Lee in Forest Hills. He was a great storyteller, and I worry about how many are left in a world of sound-bites and tweets. He clearly had fun at what he did.”

Coming from Queens, he identified with Peter Parker. “It may have influenced my studying journalism, and to this day I can't help but think I am walking among superheroes somehow. Their superpower is putting up with the subway every day and not snapping.” He continued, “I think because of Stan Lee, Spider-Man/Peter Parker and Forest Hills will always be connected, and that is gift beyond measure. Forest Hills is associated with American folklore for many reasons, but Spider-Man is a special part.” He recommended a mural at minimum and a street co-naming, and then said, “Maybe Forest Hills will have a ‘Spider-Man Day,’ which would be a hoot, and Stan might find that a hoot too.”

“Stan Lee, the ‘Father of Modern Comics’ showed the world that comics could make a difference, and he created a universe filled with superheroes , super villains and countless wonders,” said Kevin Manheim of Rego Park. “Our heroes had the same problems as us regular people such as falling in love, illnesses, and homework, etc. Our heroes were vulnerable yet they saved the universe time and again.” Looking ahead, he said, “Every time I pick up a comic, I will be reminded that no matter what comic it is, it was inspired by Stan Lee.” Manheim likes the ring of “Peter Parker Place.”

“Spider-Man is the most human superhero ever created and it's awesome,” said Kew Gardens Hills resident Phil Landsberg. “He was just a kid with kid problems, and as an adult they're just adult-sized. Even his relationships don't go perfect.” As for his vision, he explained, “A mural would be amazing and a street sign equally so. If a statue is commissioned, it should be ‘The Ditko Spidey’ as a way to honor all three of the major ‘men in his life’ and both of Lee's main collaborators.”

“Stan Lee left an incredible mark, just as Charles Schulz and ‘Dr. Seuss’ has,” said Jackeline Canedo of Kew Gardens, who will always be grateful. She reminisced, “When I came to the U.S. in 1971 at age six, I knew very little English and learned by watching not only Sesame Street, but the Spider-Man cartoons. I would get home from school and finish my work as soon as I could. I loved Spider-Man and imagined being in the adventures with him.” Among her favorite Spider-Man quotes is “Whatever comes our way, whatever battle we have raging inside of us, we always have a choice. It is our choices that makes us who we are, and we always have a choice to do what's right ~ Let love and forgiveness reign.” Canedo’s shared her first choice for a tribute. “A statue of Stan Lee and his wonderful characters would stand out just as his talent and love of life, where he gave so much joy and adventure for the world to enjoy.”

Numerous residents’ prayers may soon be answered. “I am planning a local mural with Spider-Man on it, and it is expected to be painted in the near future,” said Forest Hills resident Carlos Pesantes, a familiar face in community affairs, particularly as founder of The Compost Collective. He will always remember Stan Lee as a “creative genius.” “His messages were classic Americana, that even if you were considered funny, odd, or a nerd, you too mattered, and maybe even more so than the rest because there is beauty and strength in that difference. That belief that we all contribute is the glue that binds us together, even through dark times of anti-Semitic and xenophobic sentiment. Good ol’ Stan was all for punching Nazis.”

Pesantes often reflects upon the classic Spider-Man phrase “With great power comes great responsibility.” “It has always reminded me to stay humble and serve others. When I was deployed by the city last year to Puerto Rico after the storms and their devastation, I channeled my inner Spider-Man who I loved as a kid, and tried my very best because that is all we can do in the face of adversity.” He continued, “Spidery is a Queens kid, as some of us are; a Forest Hills boy who is far from perfect but who loves his family, his neighborhood, his country and who is all about inclusiveness. Now I always remember my dad with his comics and passing that love for comics on to me.”

A similar version of this feature appears in Michael Perlman's Forest Hills Times column:

No comments:

Post a Comment