‘Excelsior’ (Latin word meaning ‘ever upward’) was the favorite catch phrase of the visionary behind Marvel Comics, Stanley Martin Lieber or popularly known Stan Lee (At that time, adults didn’t approve of comics but he thought this would be a good stepping stone for him to become a writer. He split his first name into two and hid his identity under this name- Stan Lee). He first heard of the word being the motto of the State of New York, where he was born (December 28, 1922) to Jewish immigrants, and made his own too. He would end his columns with it and later on, his tweets.
Finally, what does “Excelsior” mean? “Upward and onward to greater glory!” That’s what I wish you whenever I finish tweeting! Excelsior!@TheRealStanLee Nov 10, 2010
Clearly this great man had mastered the habit of excellence. He clearly understood that life-strides are often difficult and winding but always about moving towards a certain direction, a better destination or a higher ground. No doubt he was (and still is) the leader of this art.
You know, I guess one person can make a difference. Nuff said…
In his youth, Stan was a voracious reader. If he didn’t have any book to read he would read a ketchup bottle label. He got a metal book stand as a Christmas present so he could read while eating. He also loved writing, even won 1st prize for straight three weeks on an essay competition during high school at the Bronx, which was sponsored by New York Herald Tribune. He was actually urged to let others win and not join anymore.
To him, this probably changed his life…
During depression, Stan Lee’s father (a tailor) was mostly out of work so he had to help working part time in the theatre as an actor amongst many other jobs. His income wasn’t enough for him, his brother and his parents, so he continued to seek for jobs that would not only provide for the family but a job that would fuel his passion.
Luckily, he landed a job at Timely Publication as an office assistant. This company later on became Marvel Comics.
Martin Goodman who owned Timely Publication used to work for DC that introduced Superman (1938), The Flash & Batman in 1939. He formed his own team- writer/artist Joe Simon as editor and drawing editor Jack Kirby. They had published Human Torch, Captain Marvel, etc.
I have not been working in comics, I have been playing in comics.
This is his secret sauce to greatness. His job didn’t feel like he was working at all but playing. He had fun. If our working environment is free from unnecessary stress, threats and prejudices our brain can function really well and creativity just flows in. His advice was always to do what you love to do and not waste time doing what you don’t want to do, just because you gotta do it to earn a living. If you don’t like what you are doing, reassess priorities, decide, take risks and pursue.
Stan would make coffee for Martin and his team, clean the office space, make sure that there was enough ink in the ink glass, erase pencil outline and later was invited to work with the team as text fillers for Captain America. Later on Joe Simon and Jack Kirby left the company, Martin asked the 17- year old Stan to temporarily take the editor role and eventually started to write his own comic stories.
Fantastic Four was his first comic book released then followed by Spider-man, Hulk, Thor, X-men and Captain Marvel. Even he was paid less, he made the job more interesting as he could. He and his team had just hope that their books would sell so they could pay the rent and had not imagined that it would grow as big!
All heroes, whether male of female must serve as a role model for the readers, above and beyond the adventure, in the sense that they always try to help people and always do the right thing.Stan Lee (Interview by CNN)
Here’s someone who certainly understood his purpose. Whatever we do as a job (like leading people), we must stick to our purpose. Comics was a taboo but he was able to use it to teach great life lessons in his most creative and effective way.
Stan Lee wrote stories to satisfy himself. He wrote the type of stories that he would want to read about. He didn’t want to think about what others want, he thought that he is no different from other people anyway.
Use your imaginations, don’t be afraid to come up with the wildest thought. Just give enough facts and details so readers would be able to understand, relate and enjoy.
He wanted his characters to be relatable. Share what they worry about and what makes them happy. These relatable, flawed, helpless, unpopular, splinter group of the society superheroes who are ready to help the oppressed, were products of his imagination and I suppose his unacted will to help the oppressed in his neighborhood, at the Bronx.
He particularly created the character of Captain Marvel as a woman. He noticed that women didn’t have voice in the society but he believed that they are the most powerful being in the world. This thought easily draws us to why the powers of Captain Marvel, Jean Grey and Scarlet Witch are that strong.
There were a lot of people behind building the characters.
He always attributed the success of his stories in his comics with the great artists (primarily, Jack Kirby) who livened up the characters vivid for the readers. He didn’t think that he owned the characters. He’d always say that he just came up with the basic ideas, worked with artists, directors, actors who added so much and helped him form the characters.
As leaders, we definitely can’t say that we can did it all. We can’t say that the leader is the reason of the team’s success. It is actually more because of the great self-leadership that the team members manifested. They chose to listen, believe and follow through.
Take the peaceful and intelligent route. Get the feeling that we should also be good to one another. Behind everything there should be a moral tone.
He always tried to put that in and he hoped that Marvel Comics will put that in forever…
Stan Lee died on November 12, 2018 at 95. Lived his purpose, warmed our hearts and touched our lives. Thank you, Stan!
Attributes: Passionate, Habit of Excellence, Optimism