Marvel, Please Don’t Digitally Resurrect Stan Lee

In September 2017, 14 months in advance of he died, it became general public expertise that Stan Lee experienced pre-taped cameo appearances for no fewer than 5 forthcoming Marvel Studios videos when Lee’s own manager spilled the beans in the course of a convention visual appearance. At the time, the information prompted problems that Lee—94 decades aged at the time—was getting exploited by these about him, with people today treating him additional as a brand or fictional character than an genuine, residing human becoming.

Perhaps every person should really have taken that as a signal of points to appear.

Previous week, news broke that Marvel has signed a 20-calendar year offer with Stan Lee Amusement, which controls the title and visual appearance of the comics writer, who died in 2018, to use his title, voice, likeness, and legendary signature throughout a wide variety of applications—including, but not constrained to, movies and television shows, topic parks, items, and undefined “experiences.” Andy Heyward, CEO of Genius Brands—one of two businesses guiding Stan Lee Entertainment—said that the offer “really ensures that Stan, by digital technologies and archival footage and other sorts, will reside in the most critical venue, the Marvel flicks, and Disney topic parks.”

Let’s be apparent about this: During his lifetime, Stan Lee was totally complicit in transforming himself from a human being into a brand. It goes back again to the earliest days of Marvel, extensive just before he was invited to cameo in seemingly every movie even linked to superhero comics, when he’d portray himself and other Marvel freelancers and staff as wisecracking caricatures in editorials and comedian strips alike when he stepped absent from right writing or enhancing the comics in the mid-1970s, a enterprise-broad edict was place in location so that each individual problem would begin with a symbol showcasing a edition of his signature examining “Stan Lee Provides.” Following a profession that involved cocreating Spider-Gentleman, Iron Man, the Hulk, the Avengers, the X-Males, and even Willie Lumpkin and Hedy Wolfe, Stan Lee’s greatest perform was, virtually surely, “Stan Lee.”

There is, nevertheless, anything astonishingly ghoulish about the notion that Lee will be trapped in an afterlife marketing Marvel solutions for at least the following two a long time, even with the evident jokes to be manufactured about it getting how he expended his time on Earth. The resurrection of Lee differs from the electronic recreations of actors like Peter Cushing or Carrie Fisher in Disney’s Star Wars motion pictures, or posthumous holograms of dead rappers displaying up at Coachella. Just about every of individuals instances, as creepy and needless as they may possibly be, were being celebrations and recreations of their subjects’ work, utilizing literal parts of said get the job done to make the digital performances.

This, by contrast, is just an extension of the yearslong transformation of Lee into minor much more than a company puppet, buying and selling on lover nostalgia and past goodwill to reassure audiences that what they’re watching onscreen has the seal of acceptance of the unique technology of the self-explained Residence of Ideas—except, now, with even fewer agency or input than Lee was capable to give when he was alive.

Lee’s dying in late 2018 was unfortunate, yes, specifically for individuals who really knew the comics maestro personally—but it did deliver an close to a hard, tragic period of time of his daily life. In his closing several years, accusations of Lee struggling elder abuse commenced circulating even as his public profile grew arguably even bigger than it had ever been just before. The many Marvel stans—pun intended—who were being genuinely thrilled to see him on the large display in every single successive MCU installment did not figure out the real Stan Lee, but as an alternative noticed a character as fictional as any other citizen of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The Stan Lee that will “live on” in the Marvel films and Disney theme parks was in no way truly alive in the 1st position. The serious Stan Lee justifies improved than being remembered as a programmable mascot, ready to advertise regardless of what the model demands.