Hollywood’s biggest names from the stage, screen and television, along with luminaries from the world of comics and thousands of adoring fans, gathered Wednesday evening at the iconic TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood to celebrate the life and career of legendary storyteller, Stan Lee. “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible & Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” was a fitting tribute to the man many simply referred to as “Stan,” but who was revered as a hero like the many unforgettable ones he created.
The historic, star-studded event was attended by dozens of Stan’s closest industry friends, as well as many creators and entertainers who paid respects and shared fond memories of the man who influenced their lives, many since childhood. Kevin Smith, Mark Hamill, Laurence Fishburne, Seth Green, RZA, Black Eyed Peas apl.de.ap and Taboo, Clark Gregg, Felicia Day, Wesley Snipes, Phil Lord, Amy Pascal, Bill Duke, Wesley Snipes, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, cast members from Marvel’s “The Runaways,” cast members from FX’s “Legion,” and Fox’s “The Gifted,” were among many who shared personal stories, read Stan’s favorite poetry or performed during the historic tribute.
Smith said during the tribute,“I knew Stan for 23 years, and one of the most ironic things I thought about today was that he didn’t understand his own genius in this lifetime. This was a man who spent most of his life dreaming of writing the great American novel, and never realized he had done it so many times, over and over again.”
The tribute commenced at the TCL Chinese Theatre forecourt, where fans left flowers, candles and other keepsakes around a memorial centered around Stan’s cement imprint, and signed a book of condolences. Fans were immersed in a world of Stan through art, including iconic photos, artwork, Stan’s classic comic books and memorabilia also on display, along with a special preview of pop-culture artist Rob Prior’s upcoming gallery showThe Legacy Collection of Stan Lee. Prior completed a live painting in the forecourt and artist Jennifer Contini featured her series “This Love Lives On” featuring images of Stan Lee. Attendees also indulged in one of Stan’s favorite snacks, White Castle, as the White Castle Crave Mobile served sliders in the forecourt.
Producers of the event, fan-owned Legion M’s Terri Lubaroff and David Baxter, Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment’s Bob Sabouni and Agents of Mayhem’s Darren Passarello, greeted fans and introduced several public speakers before Kevin Smith arrived and assembled an honor guard of world class cosplayers representing many of Stan’s co-creations, including Avengers, Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, and more who paid their respects and led the crowd in a final salute to this legendary pop culture icon accompanied by a police band of pipes and drums playing “Amazing Grace.”
Veterans from Veterans in Media & Entertainment and The American Legion of Hollywood Post 43 honored Stan for his service during World War II, and Chief Paul Cell, President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, recognized Stan’s contributions for his work supporting law enforcement and creating safer communities.
Family from the other co-creators of the Marvel Universe attended to pay their respects and joined in the celebration, including Tracy and Jeremy Kirby, grandchildren of Jack Kirby, Mark and Stephen Ditko, nephews of Steve Ditko, and Jenna Parker, daughter of Sol Brodsky, all of whom were part of the original Marvel Bullpen.
After red-carpet arrivals, the tribute continued in the TCL Chinese IMAX Theatre where Kevin Smith moderated conversations with celebrity speakers from the entertainment industry including Seth Green, Michael Uslan (Executive Producer, “The Dark Knight”), Tom DeSanto (Executive Producer, “X-Men”), as well as a heartfelt message from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Actor Laurence Fishburne said,“I was a New York City boy, and Stan was writing about what was outside my window. That was so important because it was about the place where I was from, and that just opened my eyes to the possibility that you could be so much more.”
Nikki Frakes, director “With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story” remembered a conversation she had with Stan,“I asked him, like he had been asked so many times, what would your superpower be? And normally he says ‘love’, but that night he said ‘immortality’. Looking out and seeing everyone here tonight I think we all know that he has achieved that immortality in each of us.”
Members of the creative team behind the Academy Award®-nominated “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” including writer/producer Phil Lord and producers Chris Miller, Avi Arad and Amy Pascal were also on stage to honor Stan. Producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Derek Hoffman rounded off the evening’s panels as they spoke to and celebrated the modern impact of Stan’s characters through two decades of X-Men in film and television.
Former Marvel Studios CEO Avi Arad said,“Marvel was always the standout in storytelling. It was about humanity. People being friendly, people being frail, people being afraid, and showing us that anyone can be a hero.”
The evening also included discussions with stars from the comics world and Stan’s personal friends, including Marv Wolfman (Blade creator), Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada and Executive VP, Head of Television Jeph Loeb, artist Bill Sienkiewicz (Elektra: Assassin), and Stan’s business partner at Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment, Gill Champion, its president.
The celebration also featured video tributes from stars who are unable to attend, including Dwayne Johnson, William Shatner, George Takei, and David Tennant, as well as live celebrity performances of Stan’s favorite music and poetry.
The tribute event was produced by Fan-Owned entertainment company Legion M, multi-media company Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment, and production and consulting company Agents of Mayhem. Legion M organized Stan Lee’s hand and foot imprint ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theatre in 2017. Darren Passarello, Agents of Mayhem founder, worked for Stan for several years. Both companies worked closely with Bob Sabouni, Chief Marketing Officer of Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment. Under the leadership of Scott D. Williams, CEO, and Gill Champion, president, the company has been and will continue to ensure Stan Lee’s legacy continues on for generations to come.
Many incredible sponsors made Stan’s tribute a reality and the event’s producers would like to thank 1540, Los Angeles Comic Con, the San Francisco Giants, Lyft, Heritage Auctions, Sony PlayStation, Good Greek Grill, TCL Chinese Theatre, TCL Corporate, White Castle, Audible, Constellation Spirits, Wine and Beer, Dave & Busters, Deluxe, Elevated Chefs, Floor 84, Foundry Literary + Media, GBK, Golden Apple Comics, Veterans in Media & Entertainment, The American Legion of Hollywood Post 43, Entertainment Earth, Audible, Lootcrate.
All net proceeds from the event will go to the non-profit organization The Hero Initiative, a charity supporting comic book creators, artists and writers in need. Producers of the tribute event will continue to share memories from the event via social media feeds. Feel free to follow the social channels for Kevin Smith, Legion M, Agents of Mayhem, and Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment. (@TheRealStanLee, @ThatKevinSmith, @LegionMOfficial, @AgentsofMayhem).