MARSHALL RAMSEY had already submitted his Mississippi Clarion-Ledger print cartoon for the day when the news broke: Stan Lee, the longtime Marvel mastermind, had died. “I knew he was in bad health and, of course, that he was 95. But for some reason, it hit me harder than I thought,” Ramsey told The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs. “So I drew a quick cartoon and posted it.”
In the cartoon, Lee — who died Monday in Los Angeles — is told at the pearly gates that he’s pretty adept at creating universes, too. Once online, Ramsey’s sentiment quickly struck a chord, and the art was soon shared thousands of times on social media. “These days, we need all the positive impact we can get,” the two-time Pulitzer finalist said. “It’s always gratifying to see your work go viral. When Angie Thomas (‘The Hate U Give’) retweets your work, it’s a good day.”
Recently, Ramsey saw his Barbara Bush memorial cartoon go viral, too. “It’s gratifying,” he said, “when a piece of art takes on a life of its own in a positive way.” Ramsey’s favorite Marvel character growing up was Spider-Man — “I liked the comics, the animated TV series and even the version on ‘The Electric Company,’ ” he said — and he likes Tom Holland’s current stint in the big-screen Spidey suit.
“I could relate with Peter Parker. I wasn’t a genius, but I was a smart kid,” Ramsey said. “And the thought that a smart kid could be tough and fight crime appealed to me. Unfortunately, all the insect bites I got didn’t give me any superpowers, just a rash. My only quasi-superpower was that I could draw Marvel characters.”
Another Lee tribute cartoon that was widely shared is the work of Ed Hall. In Hall’s art, Spider-Man looks upon a Lee caricature wove into artful webbing. Hall noted that he was always more of a DC Comics fan, and he particularly likes Joe Kubert’s “Sgt. Rock” comics. Yet he says he was a big fan of the stable of artists and creators that Lee built at Marvel during his 1960s and ‘70s heyday. Both cartoonists see a larger value, too, in celebrating Lee’s impact on pop culture.
“We all should strive to live our lives like that — that if we die at 95, people think our life was cut short,” Ramsey said. “It’s just a reminder that creative people can make a positive impact on the world.”
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