Stan Lee is a social theorist

300px-X-Men_Vol_2_11 Jungleaction23

Stan Lee is considered a legend in the comic book field. He is the creator of most of Marvel Comics iconic characters, and was the main story writer from the company’s inception in 1961 until the early 1990’s. Although he claims to not have any legitimate knowledge of science, He created stories about genetic mutation and gamma radiation which were at least plausible. However, his greatest achievement was humanizing his superhuman characters. Tony Stark aka Iron Man was an alcoholic, Bruce Banner was tortured by the things his alter ego The Hulk did. He is an observer of human behavior, and his stories are depictions of society. This is why I consider him to be a social theorist.
He depicted a chiefdom in a fictional jungle of Africa of Wakanda. The chief of this society is the Black Panther. Of course this society is not typical of other chiefdoms because they control the only mountain in the world that has the elemental metal Vibranium. This is the metal Captain America’s shield is made from. However, their social structure is similar to the kingdoms of Africa. T’challa, the chief of the panther tribe is the eldest male of the most prominent patriline. This gives him responsibility to protect his people, and the rare metal vibranium.
The X-Men are a team of people who have special abilities. Their abilities as well as the abilities of others in their society are because of genetic mutations at a couple of alleles on human DNA strands. These mutations give the humans who have them different abilities. Logan also known as The Wolverine has the ability to regenerate tissue quickly. This ability allowed him to be the recipient of adamantium infused bones and claws. People in the population receive different abilities from the mutation. Through the stories of the X-Men Lee examines the idea of biological determinism, and racism.
Stan lee’s social theory is based on the idea’s industrial nation states use to promote hegemony. Honor selfless sacrifice, heroism, and fairness are idea attributes people aspire to have. However he also tries to explain persistent negative ideologies like racism. He explores ideas like psychic unity and social facts from Durkheim; however, he takes some of Franz Boaz’s approach to racism. He explores the aspects of humanity many social theorists have, and he uses what he learns to write brilliant stories. Most people know Stan Lee from his multitude of cameo appearances in Marvel Comic Movies; However as a Marvel geek I believe he is one of the most influential theorists of modern times.

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2 thoughts on “Stan Lee is a social theorist

  1. I also find, like many social theorists, that Stan Lee’s comics also have a historical aspect to them, where the things X-Men say, or how they say things, reflects what is going on in American society at the time. Although I have not read too many X-Men comics (given the time to do so, I totally would) I do remember an earlier issue talking about the problems with Japan and the Nazi’s (also seen in Captain America) as well as prejudices among Americans at the time with their reactions to mutants and their acceptance to allow Sentinels to hunt down their fellow Americans (though mutants) just because they are different than the normal person.But, given the latter negatives, Stan Lee is also trying to create acceptance for the American population, like with the introduction of Storm’s background who is an African queen (if I remember correctly) living in the United States, or with the introduction of Northstar who is openly homosexual throughout the comics.So I would agree with you that Stan Lee is perhaps unknowingly being a social theorist when he is bringing up this hegemony in the United States as well as being reflective on the reactions to those who are not part of the social norm.

  2. Maybe Lee is not so unconscious in his application of social theory. Perhaps because he knowingly inserts instances of racism and other interpersonal challenges he is purposefully applying theory to demonstrate different cultural and social interactions, here among mutants and humans, fostering and rewarding what we consider positive human relationships…

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