By now there's probably about a million stories out there about how Stan Lee's death affected people who grew up reading his comic books. I didn't know Stan Lee through his comics. I had no idea why this old, always seemingly horny, quip making, guy in glasses appeared in every movie from a comic book pumped out of Hollywood. However, without the source material of his X-Men comic books, I would never have been able to grow up on X-Men, the Animated Series. I want to pay homage to his passing by remembering the things I loved from the product of his origin stories, and what they showed me about the world.
See, I only know the X-Men through the cartoon show. The series ran from 1992 to 1997 on Fox Kids Network. From what I found out years after it was off the air, it stayed faithful to the comic books, so I feel like I have a pretty grounded following in the Mutant universe.
The theme song to the show was catchy and addictive for an intro with no lyrics. I remember seriously envying the powers of Professor X, Storm, Rogue, and Colossus. I found the storylines of the series as deep, involved, emotional, and dark as any from DC comics-based shows like Batman the Animated Series. The love stories of Jean Grey and Cyclops, Rogue and Gambit, and the love triangle of Wolverine, Jean, and Cyclops always kept my teenage heart fluttering.
The mutant and human villains the show introduced always kept me on the edge of my seat if the X-Men could continue to keep each other and the school safe. The numerous space expeditions the team went on brought more stories I was glued to, like The Phoenix Saga. Wolverine calling enemies ridiculous names making me laugh out loud. The constant wondering if Professor X and Magneto would finally put their deep friendship and respect for each other first instead of their missions. The video game based off the show kept me busy for hours on end in the game room at Thistledown Race Track.
I found the humans' reactions to the mutants sad, yet understandable. Even relatable — though back then I didn't know why.
My best friend and avid reader of the X-Men comic books confirmed and explained why we related to humans' reactions to mutants when we were growing up. The being hated and feared and discriminated against to the point of dealing with job security, health care, housing, social isolation, family rejection, romantic rejection, laws being passed against, and physical violence against mutants in the X-Men universe are things that are mirrored in every LGBTQIA+ individual.
I saw pieces of myself in each character I loved on that show.
I saw the naive and rebellious streaks of me in Jubilee. I saw the constantly unrequited love lorn side of me in Wolverine. I saw the torn and scared and self preservation sides of me in Jean Grey. I saw the headstrong and secret wish fulfullment of laser eyes side of me in Cyclops. I saw my race, the wish fullfillment to control the weather, and seeing the weather's affect on moods of myself in Storm. I saw the couple I couldn't stand to love because of their cuteness and their in sync with Rogue and Gambit. I saw my love of reading and intellectual pursuits in Beast. And I saw the willingness to help others though it puts one in danger as well of myself in Professor X.
Without Stan Lee creating the X-Men comic books, X-Men the Animated Series would not have been part of my life. I thank him for creating that. I thank him for staying with and supporting all the evolutions his characters made to the silver screen millions of times — even if he didn't want to — so those like me who only grew up knowing the show would know who he was. I thank him for sharing his creativity, sense of humor, and his knowledge with the world at large. I thank him for creating all the characters I love in the MCU.
May his legacy be everlasting. Rest In Peace, Stan Lee.