While local volunteers were gathered at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre Friday night to celebrate the people in this community who jump in when there is work to be done, I was in Calgary standing in line to spend a brief moment with two of my childhood heroes: Adam West and Stan Lee. The former, the actor who played my generation’s Batman; the latter, the man who created so many of the comic characters we’ve seen in recent movies, including Thor, Iron Man, Spider Man and this weekend’s Avengers.
Heading into the weekend I was certain the highlight of my trip would be meeting the man who, with BIFF, BAM and POW, kept me glued to the TV screen when I was a boy. But when the brief moment was over I began to realize I had really just spent a few seconds standing beside an actor. While Mr. West was polite, there was no real connection and certainly no sense that this was the Batman role model I’d looked up to as a boy.
A short time later I found myself in the next line to meet Stan Lee, the man behind all those Marvel Comics characters of my childhood and beyond. As we rounded the corner to the area where Lee was posing with his fans, my friend and I realized we had encountered the real deal. Here was a man nearing 90 smiling, hugging and making every single person he came in contact with feel special. When it was our turn, we were greeted with a huge smile and outthrust arms as he looked our way and said, “Hello, men!” And in seconds we were embraced by a man who is every comic geek’s grandpa.
Hearing Stan Lee speak to a crowd of roughly 4,000 fans Sunday afternoon I realized Stan Lee is an incredible man who at 89 has a love of life that we could all do well to emulate because that kind of enthusiasm and joie de vivre is contagious.
Sometimes it takes a half a century to realize that the real heroes around us have never worn capes and tights. Sometimes they are famous folks like Stan Lee who love people and take a little time for them, and sometimes they are just regular folks who do exactly the same. Look around you. I’m sure you’ll spot them ducking in and out of phone booths here and there.