In the wake of his death on 12 November 2018, fans of Marvel Comics patriarch Stan Lee shared a pointed message from him condemning bigotry of all stripes published almost exactly 50 years earlier.
Lee, who co-created superheroes like the X-Men and Black Panther during his tenure as the company’s editor-in-chief, took on prejudice directly in a 1968 edition of his “Stan’s Soapbox” column that ran in Marvel titles between 1967 and 1980.
Let’s lay it right on the line. Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today. But, unlike a team of costumed super-villains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot, or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them is to expose them—to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are. The bigot is an unreasoning hater—one who hates blindly, fanatically, indiscriminately. If his hang-up is black men, he hates ALL black men. If a redhead once offended him, he hates ALL redheads. If some foreigner beat him to a job, he’s down on ALL foreigners. He hates people he’s never seen—people he’s never known—with equal intensity—with equal venom.
Now, we’re not trying to say it’s unreasonable for one human being to bug another. But, although anyone has the right to dislike another individual, it’s totally irrational, patently insane to condemn an entire race—to despise an entire nation—to vilify an entire religion. Sooner or later, we must learn to judge each other on our own merits. Sooner or later, if man is ever to be worthy of his destiny, we must fill out hearts with tolerance. For then, and only then, will we be truly worthy of the concept that man was created in the image of God–a God who calls us ALL—His children.
Instead of using his customary phrase, “Excelsior,” Lee signed the column “Pax et Justitia” — Latin for “Peace and Justice.”
Lee’s verified Twitter account posted the column in its entirety in August 2017, shortly after the killing of Heather Heyer by a white nationalist as she took part in an anti-fascism demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia. The post was deleted after Lee himself took control of the account in May 2018.
In October 2017, Lee also posted a video reiterating his view that Marvel’s array of characters would always reflect “the world right outside our window.”
“Those stories have room for everyone, regardless of their race, gender or color of their skin,” he said. “The only things we don’t have room for are hatred, intolerance and bigotry.”
Cavna, Michael. “Stan Lee Created Superheroes Who Fight Hate. Here’s What He Has To Say After Charlottesville.”
The Washington Post. 16 August 2017.
“A Message From Stan Lee.” YouTube, uploaded by Marvel Entertainment.
5 October 2017. https://youtu.be/sjobevGAYHQ