Stan Lee, co-creator and writer of many of the most popular Marvel Comics, died Monday at age 95. By his own admission, Lee was not a Christian. In a recent article in Wired magazine, Jim McLauchlin wrote about his many interviews with Stan Lee. Lee believed in an imperfect God and didn’t comprehend the seriousness of human sinfulness. He believed that he would receive some type of reward for his good works. He said, “I don’t think you sit on a cloud and play a harp. But I believe if you live a good life, there’s something for you.” But his work is profound— precisely because he was a nonbeliever. Spiderman and many of his other characters resonated deeply with millions of people. It reveals several insights into the human heart.
First, we are hardwired for eternity. People are intrigued by superheroes because they long for something beyond the here and now. The Scriptures say that God has “set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NIV84)) We long for immortality.
Second, we recognize that things are not as they should be. Superheroes are necessary because of the brokenness and evil in the world. And Lee recognized the flaws in the heroes themselves. Spiderman was a bullied teenager. The Hulk was a physically weak, socially withdrawn physicist. Ironman developed his strong outer armor because of a serious injury and threat to his heart. Lee depicted troubled outcasts and victims of prejudice who rose above their plight. We are attracted to such heroes because we are well aware of our own dysfunction.
Third, we are looking for a deliverer. These superheroes rise up to bring order and justice to the universe. They are partly human but partly superhuman. And they do what the mass of humanity cannot do. We long for someone to set things right.
Stan Lee was a creative genius. But his heroes were merely an echo of the greatest hero of all. Jesus the God/man stepped forward into the arena to fight on behalf of the human race. He restored order to a universe that had become enslaved by evil forces. That is something to marvel at.
Photo credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stan_Lee_(5774464408).jpg