Northern Ireland fans of legendary American comic book writer, editor and publisher Stan Lee have been paying tribute to the man who created some of the world’s best-loved mythic figures.
The former Marvel Comics supremo, who gave the world superheroes such as Spider-Man, the Hulk and Black Panther, passed away on Monday at the age of 95.
Expressing his sadness at Mr Lee’s death, Mal Coney, manager of Belfast’s Forbidden Planet International comic book and collectibles store, said his many millions of fans have been left “devastated”.
“It wasn’t entirely unexpected as he was 95, his health hadn’t been good for the last year or so and his wife died last year which must have been quite a seismic event for him. But somebody as iconic as Stan Lee, it’s like David Bowie, you just never imagine a world that they’re not going to be somewhere in it,” he said.
The 54-year-old Belfast man, who fell in love with Stan Lee’s work when he was exposed to The Mighty World of Marvel as an eight-year-old boy in the early 1970s, has worked in comic book stores his whole life.
Recalling how he met Stan Lee at a comic book convention in San Diego when he was in his late 20s, Mal said: “I stumbled, I mumbled and I spluttered and he nodded and smiled and knew exactly where I was coming from!”
Describing Mr Lee as “an inspirational figure”, he continued: “Stan Lee has permeated pop culture in a way that very, very few figures ever have. I have met people from all walks of life over the years and all of them know the work that Stan Lee created.”
Mal said the store’s customers have been left “very saddened” by Mr Lee’s passing, adding: “It is no exaggeration to say that he was such an iconic part of their lives, but not in some kind of remote way. Stan was genuinely loved.”
Mal’s colleague John O’Neill, 41, who describes himself as “a massive fan of Stan’s work”, commented: “It’s sad that Stan’s no longer with us, but he lived a good life.
“The internet was alight last night with people messaging each other, putting up pictures and paying their respects to him, and I think that could go on for a while.”
The life-size Spider-Man figure on the shop’s staircase has been given a black armband in memory of the character’s co-creator, and Mal says he’s planning to organise a suitable tribute in the Ann Street store to celebrate Stan Lee’s incredible life and career.
“People like him only come along once, not even once in a generation,” he added.