Shigeru Miyamoto is Walt Disney: Stan Lee
(Hey, Schmamers! Welcome back to a new entry in our Shigeru Miyamoto is Walt Disney series. In this series we present a historical figure, find their counterpart in the gaming world, and explain why. Enjoy!)
Stan Lee didn’t invent comic books.
But he may very well have invented comics.
Casual comic fans most likely know Stan “The Man” Lee by name. Creator of, just to name a very few, Spider-Man, The X-Men, (my personal favorite) Daredevil, and so many other weird and wonderful creatures and characters that cement the foundations of the self-proclaimed “House of Ideas”: Marvel Comics.
Even if you’re completely unaware who Stan is, you’ve seen him subliminally multiple times over now with his many appearances in the Marvel Comics movies. Every single ding-danged one of them, kids. Well, maybe not the Punisher movies, but enough, still.
If this was a religious website, there is no closer proxy to Mr. Lee than Mr. Christ. At the time of Marvel’s rise to prominence, comics were in serious Hulk shit. The shenanigans of Dr. Frederic Wertham decimated the industry, causing countless publishers to go out of business, and reducing the market to a few key superhero titles. Former fans turned their backs to funny books, and the industry nearly vanished.
When a young, ambitious, and totally headstrong writer and artist team released a new team book alliteratively titled the Fantastic Four, comics took a serious clobberin’ time, but in the best way possible. Instead of the cheery, happy, always-smiling adventures of Superman and Batman over at the Distinguished Competition (copyright Stan Lee), the FF argued, whined, and, generally, didn’t get along. There was pathos, discourse, and so many more never-before-seen-in-comics character traits. It was explosively revolutionary.
And that was only the beginning.
Soon we had Spider-Man…who was a fucking loser. The Hulk: a rageholic in purple pants. The X-Men: a group of innocents hated for simply being different. Book after book shunned the sunshine lollipops of your typical superhero schlock and presented something else: humanity.
Only, you know, humanity that could fly and shoot lasers and stuff. Oh, and mutants. You know, they’re the own thing.
You get what I mean.
While arguments have been made as to who was really responsible for all of it, there was only one name that ever filled the writer spot: Stan “The Man” Lee.
And trust me, true believers, they were ALL a massive success.
The comics industry wasn’t just rejuvenated, it was completely reborn. Sales reached levels they hadn’t seen in years if not decades. Soon, trends followed and DC also tried to use the Leeisms of depth in superheroes and all that Marvelous stuff, and while some hit, nothing matched Stan.
But Stan was so much more than a writer.
While every other comic creator was just a faceless name to gloss over to get to the good stuff, Stan made you notice the names, in the beginning and throughout.
He’d start on the title page. Stan Lee? No, it was Stan “The Man” Lee. Jack Kirby? Jack “The King” Kirby. Everyone had their own nickname, and some Marvel comics today continue this tradition.
Throughout the comic you’d be reading, characters would make references to exploits that took place in issues gone by. What if you wanted to read that adventure for yourself? Well, heck, Stan had you covered! A small editor’s box would appear at the bottom of the panel telling you where exactly it happened, and usually had a wry comment or two, and all of them always signatured by Stan. 100% inimitable.
Surely, though, that should have been enough. But that was never Stan’s philosophy. He made sure every page, every drop of ink of every comic mattered. So following every issue of every Marvel comic, there was a letters section where fans could write in, ask questions, or just generally praise (or trash! They were fearless!) the book. Well, who better to answer these letters than the figurehead of the company himself Mr. Lee. And answer he did.
But, of course, he had to take it a step further. If you wrote in because you found a continuity error or a mistake of some sort, Stan would award you with The Marvel No-Prize Award. These awards were given to any fan who performed any sort of “meritorious service to the cause of Marveldom.” Eventually the No-Prize evolved into an empty envelope sent to the reader. Which was awesome.
And all because of Stan.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of Stan’s achievements. Dude’s pushing ninety and still putting out work, but it’s his Marvel work on which I’m focusing. The man was a powerhouse, both behind the panels and out in the real world. You knew Stan, you loved Stan.
Stan was Marvel, and Marvel represented so much for comic fans. The future, hope, realism, fun, and, rarest of all things to find at the time: inclusion. We were all Stan’s friends, and we all hung out in the pages of comics. Not comic books. Comics.
Innovator, spokesman, brilliant businessman, adored by the fans. Who could it be?
Gabe Newell created the game development company Valve in 1996. Their first big hit was the unforgettable, (pardon the pun) game-changing FPS Half-Life. Built from the Quake engine, Half-Life was a complete 180 from what an FPS had been so far. From the opening alone, with the long, eerie, somewhat wistful, entirely esoteric, and deliciously foreboding train ride, Half-Life was a phase shift from not only what an FPS could be, not only what narrative in gaming could be, but how we could perceive gaming as art.
Half-Life dripped with personal flourish, innovation, and broad vision. This wasn’t just another Doom. This game slowed you down and made you think. It gave itself room to breathe. But would then viciously choke all the air out of the room in seconds. It unnerved you, not just jumped out and scared you. It showed without telling. It wasn’t a game, it was an experience.
And since it’s still played, still justifiably praised, and still just as engrossing and enthralling as before, it’s proven that it has a long and healthy half-life ahead of it.
And the universe that Half-Life has spawned is truly remarkable. The story of Dr. Freeman and friends is astoundingly well-rounded. Now that it’s more or less confirmed that the wacky happening of Aperture Sciene also coincides with the Half-Life universe only makes it that much more impressive and deep. And while Left 4 Dead is seemingly it’s own little band, their universe is also expanding.
Oh, and Team Fortress! Who the fuck doesn’t love Team Fortress?!
So many worlds. So many souls. All thanks to Half-Life. Many thanks to Newell.
Half-Life cemented Valve as a publisher to respect, and skyrocketed Newell as a leading figure in game development. But while Newell could have just stayed behind the scenes as so many other publishers did, he decided to set down the control and stand in the sun.
From the start, Newell was a public figure, alternately complimenting and complaining about every aspect of the industry, including troubles within Valve and abroad. He never shied away from criticism, never stayed silent, and was always active. Through good times and bad, Newell was there.
And everyone loved him. And still mostly do.
Valve has moved beyond being a mere game developer and is now a corporation of significant merit. There’s plenty of reasons as to why this happened, but it’s undeniable that all the strongest pushes to skyrocket the company came from Newell.
But let’s not forget, he’s a gamer, too. Through and through, Gabe is one of us.
Who else but a gamer would approve of a game where developers could add their own commentary tracks? Who else but a gamer would reach out to indie developers to help craft the newest gaming sensation together. Who else but a gamer would wait as fucking long as this FUCKING ASSHOLE has waited to make sure the next entry in Half-Life is as perfectly polished as the first two were?
Gabe listens to us and responds. Gabe laughs with us. Gabe knows we’re dying for any news. He knows, and we know that he knows, because he tells us.
There’s a reason every gamer knows Gabe Newell’s name.
When you start throwing around numbers in the millions…billions…and so on, it’s hard to keep ears open. Obviously companies believe they know what they’re doing because, hey, they’re the ones who got there.
But it’s the smart companies who know to always be listening. Because you don’t get anywhere without a helping hand, and every comic we buy and every purchase off Steam we approve is just another step for these conglomerates.
But it’s our favorite companies who tear down the walls and talk to us. They’re not just the companies we like, they’re the ones we love.