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We Want our Superheroes to Identify with Us

Since 1939, Stan Lee created or co-created some of the world’s most popular superheroes. His super-human imagination gave birth to Black Panther, Spider-Man, the X-Men, Thor, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Daredevil, and Ant-Man, just to name a few.

Of course, the world has no shortage of storytellers, but Lee was something of a mutant in the field. The Avengers series alone has generated more than $10 billion in ticket sales at the box office since 2008. So, what set his stories apart from the rest? Lee was able to tap into deeply rooted human instincts.

He explains his secret in a 1984 interview with ET:

The whole formula … was to say: Let’s assume that somebody really could walk on walls like Spider-Man, or turn green and become a monster like The Hulk. That’s a given; we’ll accept that. But, accepting that, what would that person be like in the real world if he really existed? Wouldn’t he still have to worry about making a living? Or having acne and dandruff? Or his girlfriend jilting him? What are the real problems people would have? I think that’s what made the books popular.

We all know we need a superhero to rescue us from our enemies and from calamities. But we simultaneously want this hero to be someone with whom we can identify. There are two instincts woven into our fallen nature: the knowledge that we need someone to save us and the deep desire for another to understand our struggles. Lee was also well-known for his cameo appearances inside the stories he had written. Each film since X-Men in 2000 has featured a brief incarnation of the author.

Possible Preaching Angle:

Stan Lee wasn’t the first to write himself into his storyline. Jesus did not simply rescue us from afar. He wrote himself into our story. He became a man and subjected himself to all the tyrannies of a fallen world.

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