Recalling a hang on Las Vegas Strip with humble hero Stan Lee

Meeting Stan Lee was a lot like meeting Mr. Rogers, or those who lived on Sesame Street. If felt as if he were not a real person, but a mythic figure — a superhero out of costume. Tony Stark on his day off.

And I hoped he would be a nice person. I worried that the guy behind so many heroic images could have gained a massive ego. He was an old individual by any measure, 94 years. Sitting to talk to yet another journalist wouldn’t alter his career by a single atom.

We were introduced one morning in November 2016 at Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. (Scientific Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network) on the Strip. He had this wonderful, wide smile, and was still mentally sharp. His fast welcome was, “You cover Vegas? That’s a great gig!”

Lee had a purpose for this appearance, as he accepted a proclamation from Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown for Stan Lee Day in the county.

Before that ceremony, as we chatted, Lee handed me a little pin. Two hands clasping. One black, one white, above the word RESPECT.

This is what he wanted to talk about, a simple lapel pin that his daughter, J.C., had conceived after the shootings of police officers in Dallas that previous July, which left five officers dead. Of course, there would be other shootings to follow, but that event in particular inspired Lee’s efforts

“We designed this to show a moment of solidarity,” he said. ““All cultures and colors need to live together, and I want to remind people of how important it is to respect each other.”

Lee was also excited about the upcoming film, “Black Panther,” starring Chadwick Boseman, which fit his pattern of using common personalities from all cultures for his heroes. “ “I’d like to think all of my work, all of my characters are inclusive. They were meant to be. We never make any mention of color in the stories I’ve written. But we do have a black character, Black Panther, in a movie we’re working on that will be out next year.”

Lee’s work in Las Vegas is also reflected at the Marvel Super Heroes 4D Zones he helped design at Madame Tussauds at the Venetian. His popular characters live on in that museum, and through Sunday, guests can enter that space, free of charge.

And, Lee’s RESPECT pins are still available at www.handsofrespect.com. As he said, “It’s $10 for two. Keep one, and give away the other.” I’ll wear mine, with a final call of “Excelsior!” to a truly heroic man.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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