In the 1970s, Stan (Lee) was on the old “Mike Douglas Show” talking about the phenomenon known as Marvel Comics. Mike asked him at one point: “I was reading one of your comics the other day and I gotta tell ‘ya — some of the vocabulary had me scratching my head!” To which Stan replied, “I write my books on the college level. If a kid doesn’t know a word and has to look it up in the dictionary, what’s wrong with that?”
I know I had my dictionary handy when I was reading Marvel comics. And it came in handy. In 6th grade, I won a spelling bee by spelling the word “grotesque” correctly. I remembered it in an issue of The Incredible Hulk where the green giant battled “The Grotesque Glob.” Cool, huh?
. . . By reading Stan Lee as a kid, I became enamored with words and storytelling. I became an excellent speller. It also sparked my interest in reading things other than comicbooks, and as a result I now have shelves in my home teeming with books, with everything from science fiction to education to politics and history.
My parents wouldn’t let us read comicbooks when I was a kid. I think they thought comics were too violent. So we went to the drug store and read them in the store, feeling like hardened criminals. I never liked Superman. He had too many powers. And I had to identify with poor, perpetually duped Lois Lane.
By the way, I highly recommend Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which is about comicbook designers and their heroes.