A couple of years ago my mom found a box with all my elementary school papers. In addition to some embarrassing pictures — I rocked a bowl cut for far longer than the style would allow — I came across one of those questionnaires that teachers have their kids fill out when it’s Friday and the clock is counting down toward the weekend. It asked about my parents, my pets, and my brother. And then there was the one question that still stands out to me today:
“What do you think you want to be when you grow up?”
My reply, in shaky block letters: “A writer like Stan Lee.”
I was six or seven when I wrote that. I barely knew what a writer did, but I knew that Stan Lee got to make up stories about Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four and a bunch of other super-heroes. That sounded pretty good to me.
When I was 39, my first novel was (finally) published and I was invited to speak on a panel at Comic-Con. That would have been a dream come true by itself. But as I was checking into the hotel, I realized I was standing in line right in front of Stan the Man himself.
I told him something he’d probably heard a lot before: “I became a writer because of you.”
He gave me the famous smile, shook my hand, and then that voice that I’d heard narrating Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends said, “Bless your heart. Thank you.”
Today he’s ninety years old and still Smilin’ Stan. You could do a lot worse for role models.
Thank you, Stan. Happy Birthday.