Stan Lee Used His Career Tribute to Condemn Bigotry

Stan Lee: Extaordinary Stan Lee - Getty - H 2017
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The most touching moment from the geek-studded event came when RZA read the comic book legend's powerful 1968 message against hate.

Stan Lee got a legend's tribute Tuesday night in Hollywood.

Filmmakers, artists, actors, and writers joined forces for Extraordinary: Stan Lee, a two-hour tribute, hosted by Chris Hardwick, and featuring funny stories about the creator — and also a few technical difficulties.

The microphones attached to the guests’ clothing went in and out, causing several aides to scramble onto the stage in a fruitless attempt to fix the glitch. The packed audience roared with laughter as Lee and Hardwick mimed frustration. A functioning backstage microphone picked up several whispering voices while the guest of honor and host remained muted.

Lee handled the situation with grace and humor, showcasing his winning personality while Hardwick introduced guest after guest with the same microphone problem. At one point, Lee asked Hardwick to be a good sport and go get some regular microphones for everyone. Hardwick disappeared to find the microphones while Lee’s former editor shared a story that only the first three rows could comprehend.

At one point, Lee noticed that his shoe was untied. He began to tie it when Hardwick jumped in and said, “You want me to get that? It would be an honor to tie your shoe.” Lee accepted his offer and quipped, “If I fall, it’ll be expensive, because I’ll sue everyone here.”

Lee was quite candid about his career and life in his 90s. The star, who lost his wife of nearly 70 years Joan Lee last month, discussed his hearing loss and leaned closer to Hardwick several times to have him interpret questions and video footage.

Hearing issues aside, Lee was as energetic and sharp as anyone in attendance. The legendary writer spent the hour before the show speaking with fans and three Make-A-Wish attendees.

Michael Uslan, who has produced every Batman film from Tim Burton’s gothic classics to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, opened the night with a touching tribute.

"Stan, I became a Marvelite with Fantastic Four and Hulk No. 1's. By the themes you incorporated in your superhero works, I grew up confident not only that good will ultimately triumph over evil, but also that if I lived by the ethics and morals modeled by your superheroes, I could be as good and upright a person as Spider-Man or Thor.”

Actor-musician RZA read a powerful excerpt from a 1968 edition of "Stan’s Soapbox," his regular column in Marvel Comics, in which he denounced hatred. Lee had tweeted out a copy of the column earlier this month after white nationalists demonstrated in Charlottesville, Va. Read aloud Tuesday night, Lee’s powerful stance against bigotry and hatred rang as true today as it did during the Civil Rights movement. RZA and Lee shared an emotional exchange afterward that struck a chord with the audience.

Former Amazing Spider-Man artist Todd McFarlane flew in from Arizona to share his earliest experience with Lee. “When I was a kid, we traveled from Canada to Florida for a baseball tournament. I remember seeing a sign in the hotel lobby that read, ‘Comic Convention.’

I went down the hall and found Stan signing at a booth. I asked if I could talk to him about his work and Stan pulled up a chair for me. I spent the next two days sitting beside him and learning about the business.”

Later in his career, McFarlane — who went on to create Spawn and co-found Image Comics, relied on Lee’s support for his creative choices.

“When I got Spider-man, I didn’t want to replicate past stories or art. I took the early Lee/[Steve] Ditko images and tried to give the costume and webbing a hip 1990s look. The fans responded to it, which was great, but the executives had a heart attack when I first presented it. Luckily, Stan was in my corner," he said.

Incredible Hulk star Lou Ferrigno gave Lee a big hug and flexed for the audience in his Hulk persona. “I loved sharing the cameo with Stan [in Ang Lee’s Hulk], the audience really blew up when they saw us together. Seeing Stan appreciated by so many people is what I’m looking forward to the most tonight," the star said.

Guardians of the Galaxy's Michael Rooker cited Lee as a big help in adjusting to the jarring move from Alabama to Chicago. The future Yondu found an escape in Lee’s comics. “Chicago was kind of a concrete prison for me…the comics were my escape, but reading wasn’t my fine point. The combination of visuals and words helped keep me interested and I became a better reader because of comics.”

The night ended (how else?) with a vibrant “Excelsior!” from Lee and his audience.