Baylee "Excelsior" Alger
Imagine for a moment, if you will, a blind freshman in high school. He doesn't know what he's doing with his life. He just knows he likes his movies and his music. He's blind, so naturally, his life isn't easy. He deals with pity and condescension every day. But when he returns home for the day and sits down in his room, he can escape to the worlds of Marvel Comics. Where Captain America throws his mighty shield, the Mighty Thor conquers enemies by the score, and the Amazing Spider-Man slings his webs with ease.
That person, dear reader, is me. Stan Lee passed away today. I was eating lunch at the cafeteria at my college, a burger, pizza, and fries, and got a notification on my phone. The notification was a News post from The Hollywood Reporter telling me my hero was dead.
I was shocked. I paused for a moment, subconsciously finished my food, and left there in a daze. I trundled through my last two classes, donning my Spider-Man suit in tribute to this great man. And as I walked back with my friend from my final class, I could only think: Stan Lee is the reason I am who I am. Let's go back.
I've always been a nerdy sort. Lord Of The Rings, Star Wars and Transformers always held my attention. But both were relatively small, at least in the mediums I had access to. I was about 13 or 14 at the time and thought that comics are a distant thing, never to be read by me, a blind boy.
So I moved on. I tried to staunch that thirst for the worlds of comics. To root myself in the ground and not fly among the stars with Ms. Marvel and Adam Warlock. But then, I found GraphicAudio, an audiobook company that fully dramatizes their audiobooks. I was roped into the world of the Ultimates, an alternate reality version of the Avengers. Oh by now, I'd watched the movies of the MCU, but again, I didn't delve deeper than casually watching simply because I thought if I did, my sadness at not being able to read comics would get all the more demoralizing. But GraphicAudio opened the door. I read anything they had that I had access to Secret Wars, Civil War, Kraven's Last Hunt, and their most recent, Avengers VS X-Men. I finally had a place to escape! To explore! And that's when I started roleplay.
I began seeing Roleplayers popping up on Twitter. So I thought, "Hey. I should try that." After a few failed attempts at certain characters, I settled on Captain America, and I met a plethora of people, most of whom I still talk to to this day. At this point, I started really getting into it. I saw the Age Of Ultron as soon as I could. I started action figure collecting around this time, almost exclusively Marvel. I found Comicstorian on Youtube. I found Comic Vine for summaries of comic issues I'd never be able to look at in print. And as my action figure collection and my knowledge grew, I started to branch out to meet fellow aficionados.
That's when I found the group Action Figure Junkies. And they have supported me in all my Marvel collecting endeavors.
So, in a few short words: Stan Lee shaped my life forever. He helped me make new friends, find love, and find a group of people I can fit in with. And perhaps the most profound thing he ever did for me was he gave me a name to truly commemorate him. Not long ago, at my college, I joined a social group entitled BIG. They knew from the start I was a massive Marvel fan. So, upon induction into the ranks of BIG, I was given the name Excelsior. That friends is my last living tribute to Stan Lee. He lives on through me and all the comics he's written and the people who love them.
Thank you, Mr. Lee. May you and Jack Kirby write the best comics in Heaven. #Excelsior!