There’s been video and stories going around the internet all week about Stan Lee not looking so good, being a bit out of it, and herded along at a Comic-con.
FIRST the video, then my slightly rosier take on it
Okay…I’m not saying this is good. And the man is very old. However…we don’t know how many autographs into the day he is here. He signs A SH*T TON over the course of a day. Non-stop, one after the next. I…being in no way shape or form as popular as Lee, can tell you that even I get a little loopy towards the end of a show. Not so bad I need to be reminded what my name is ( not like anyone could help me spell Paszkiewicz if I did). But he’s very old.
We also don’t know what shape he was in that morning. He could have been sharp as a tack and really excited to go, then took a bad turn quickly, as the elderly often do. Elderly people are inconstant and fluctuate quickly when it comes to how sharp they are. And if you’re his assistant/helper..what do you do then? Probably you’ve seen him get foggy before and instantly bounce back. I’ve seen this myself in the elderly. I come from a large Italian family, when an elderly person starts to fade it is scary, and upsetting, and what to do is never as cut and dried as you think.
For most people once they get to the point where they are unable to take care of themselves, that means the remainder of their life will be in a little room, with not much to do, with sporadic visitors and even more sporadic ventures into the world.
I’ve seen very elderly comic book pros propped up and dropped off at a table at a con, and was pissed off about it. But I’ve also talked to them, and gotten the genuine impression that they liked being there (in as much as they were there). They could be there, or they could be staring out a window, or staring at a tv, or just alone. They could be alone or in a home, or at a con around people who appreciate them. And even if they are fading, or not as alert as they used to be in any way…that afternoon is a hell of a thing. A hell of a thing for someone who is in their twilight years. Someone doesn’t have many years left, and doesn’t have much on the calendar to fill up those years. On the surface it seems sad, maybe undignified, maybe even underhanded. But what does it seem like to a very old person who is unable to do much that is fun? We’re talking about them, right? PERHAPS, this debacle had more to do with trying to raise Stan’s spirits than money, or the convention, or even the fans.
I could be about greed, I won’t rule that out. But it easily could be about other things too.
Everybody likes Stan, perhaps…his assistants do too. Let’s consider that. Consider they have a little old man sitting alone, bored. Consider that they see the spark light up in his eye when he meets fans, we’ve all seen that. Consider that and ask yourself what you’d do? If you cared about the man? Do you cancel? That could come with a lawsuit, and a very unhappy crowd tweeting Lord knows what about his health. And if you’ve seen him bounce back, you’re probably hoping in your heart that he does again. Do you even have the authority to whisk him away in the middle of a packed convention? He signed the contract, anyone else with say so could be in another time zone. Or maybe they know him a little better than the rest of us. Maybe they don’t just see him as Stan “the Man” Lee. Maybe they’ve watched him get old, and see his wife die, and know that he goes to bed alone every night and isn’t nearly as active as he used to be, and they know he loves his fans and gets a big kick out of seeing them. If I were that person…I’d take him there…for whatever joy he’s able to be aware of. I’d say “Stan! big day today buddy! You’ve got a convention to go to, let’s get you in your best dockers and head out into the world” And I’d tell him “these people are all here to see you Stan! Isn’t this wonderful?!”
We’ve all done things with good intentions that turned out to be the wrong play.
And so there you are, and Stan isn’t doing well…you are probably scared, unsure how to handle it, embarrassed, frustrated, there is a line of thousands there looking at him and you, maybe you’d start to get angry at the crowd and at yourself and just want the whole event to be over as quickly as possible. At that point there is no good option. He seems out of it but not physically unwell or tired. Signing doesn’t involve much interaction when you are talking about a line of people the size Stan gets, it probably seemed just as pragmatic to help him push through as to cart him away. Because what gets said about him if you do that? Nothing good. Nothing he’d want said or reported.
We ,allegedly, are all talking about the man’s dignity…which option harms his dignity more? Seems to me, recording him seeming to be out of it and putting it up on youtube does a fair amount of harm. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. To be fair, I don’t know what anyone should have done. Keeping him there SEEMS sh*tty but I can understand why you’d do it in hopes that it would work out okay. Taking him back to the hotel SEEMS wiser, but I could see where that would harm his dignity a lot. Putting it up on Youtube SEEMS sh*tty, but I understand it was out of concern for Stan.
I don’t really see any villains here, just a lot of people who wish Stan Lee would remain the same Stan “the man” Lee they knew and loved, forever.
I do too.
When his nurse tried to sue him for harassment, my biggest fear for Stan was that he’d have to shy away from public appearances because of the bad press. And those precious moments of joy and being lavished with adoration in his declining years would be forfeit. I have that same fear now. He had one bad weekend, let’s not dwell on it. He’s earned sitting at any show he can make it to in whatever capacity he’s able to be there in. And if the day comes when all he can do is sit there with a twinkle in his eye and wave, and be happy…then let’s let him f*cking do that and maybe let’s not put his picture up all over the internet with headlines about how he’s fading away.
Or maybe I’m wrong, but you could see how that’s an opinion formed out of love.
On a side note, at least when they spelled out his name for him, none of them said ” J..A..C..K K..I..R..B..Y”
When Douglas is not complaining, he and his work can be found here