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12 Stan Lee Quotes That Are Downright Heroic

Stan Lee, the former head of Marvel Comics and co-creator of iconic characters like Spider-Man, the Hulk, and the Fantastic Four, passed away on November 12, 2018. Here are some of Lee's most inspirational words about life, his work, and the meaning of true heroism.

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Stan Lee
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On why we love superheroes:

“My theory about why people like superheroes is that when we were kids, we all loved to read fairy tales. Fairy tales are all about things bigger than life: Giants, witches, trolls, dinosaurs and dragons and all sorts of imaginative things. Then you get a little bit older and you stop reading fairy tales, but you don’t ever outgrow your love of them.” Stan Lee made cameo appearances in more than 40 movies, TV shows, and video games based on Marvel comics. Here are some more surprising movie trivia facts you won’t believe are true.

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Stan Lee
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On the importance of storytelling:

“I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic-book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: Entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it, they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain people, you’re doing a good thing.”

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Stan Lee

On liking what you like:

“Most people say, “I can’t wait to retire so I can play golf,” or go yachting or whatever they do. Well, if I was playing golf, I would want that to finish so I could go and dream up a new TV show.”

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Stan Lee
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On creating flawed heroes:

“Just because you have superpowers, that doesn’t mean your love life would be perfect. I don’t think superpowers automatically means there won’t be any personality problems, family problems or even money problems. I just tried to write characters who are human beings who also have superpowers.” According to Entertainment Weekly, Lee’s characters were so different from the god-like, irreproachable characters coming out of DC Comics that he’s said to have started a “Marvel revolution.” Here are some more pop culture facts to have ready for your next trivia night.

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Stan Lee
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On appreciating the fans:

“If there are people who like the work you’ve done, [and] because of that, they like you and want your autograph and to take a photo, that’s really gratifying. You have to be appreciative.” These Stan Lee quotes highlight the importance of gratitude, even for a celebrity like him. Read some more quotes that inspire you to be grateful every day.

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Stan Lee

On real-life bad guys:

“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.”

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Stan Lee
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On the value of reading:

“The more you read, the better you’re going to become as a storyteller.”

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Stan Lee
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On bringing imagination to life:

“Some people will say, ‘Why read a comic book? It stifles the imagination. If you read a novel you imagine what people are like. If you read a comic, it’s showing you.’ The only answer I can give is, ‘You can read a Shakespeare play, but does that mean you wouldn’t want to see it on the stage?’” Just as inspiring as these Stan Lee quotes are the lines he wrote for his most memorable superheroes.

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Stan Lee

On our differences making us stronger:

“America is made of different races and different religions, but we’re all co-travelers on the spaceship Earth and must respect and help each other along the way.”

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Stan Lee

On being young at heart:

“I don’t really see a need to retire as long as I am having fun.” Lee said this in 2006, when he was in his 80s. These Stan Lee quotes show how strongly he believed that age is just a number! Check out some more quotes that’ll make you feel better about getting older.

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Stan Lee
Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock

On what makes a real superhero:

“A… definition of a hero is someone who is concerned about other people’s well-being, and will go out of his or her way to help them—even if there is no chance of a reward. That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero.”

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Stan Lee

On his personal mantra:

“You know, my motto is ‘Excelsior.’ That’s an old word that means ‘upward and onward to greater glory.’ It’s on the seal of the state of New York. Keep moving forward, and if it’s time to go, it’s time. Nothing lasts forever.” Read on for some fun facts you never knew about your favorite superheroes.

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a word nerd who has been writing for RD.com since 2017. You can find her byline on pieces about grammar, fun facts, the meanings of various head-scratching words and phrases, and more. Meghan graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2017; her creative nonfiction piece “Anticipation” was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Angles literary magazine.