The legacies of Stan Lee and Stephen Hillenburg

By Henry Greenthal

This month, the world lost two of its most influential creators. They were influential not just in the entertainment they brought, but in the way they shaped the childhoods of so many. There is probably not a person on campus whose humor hasn’t been impacted by the characters of Stephen Hillenburg or had their imaginations flourished by the stories and characters of Stan Lee.

Stan Lee was a writer in the comic book industry who felt writers were restricted in how they told stories. This led to the creation of the Fantastic Four, a comic book that allowed Stan Lee to write his stories and characters the way he wanted to and in doing so, gave birth to the Marvel Universe. Stan Lee believed in making characters that were human, whose flaws came not from external forces, but from the struggles the characters faced within themselves. This paved way to the creation of Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Silver Surfer, Doctor Doom, Ant-Man, Wasp, Professor X, Iceman, Beast, Angel, Cyclops, Jean Grey, and perhaps the most beloved of all, Spider-Man. Stan Lee was ninety-five when he died of cardiac arrest and respiratory failure. Stan Lee created characters that could teach readers lessons about themselves and others, help them learn not to discriminate against those who seemed different, not to let your weaknesses control you, and to remember that with great power comes great responsibility.

Stephen Hillenburg started as a teacher for marine biology due to a childhood love of ocean life. A gifted artist, he would use his talents to educate his students about the life in the sea. In 1999, the characters he had used to educate premiered on Nickelodeon as Spongebob Squarepants, which is currently the fifth longest running American animated show. This is a show that has practically raised a generation, passing on its irreverent humor. Hillenburg was fifty-seven years old when ALS claimed his life. Hillenburg was a perfectionist, a hard worker, and above all, an Ocean Man, who spent every day taking us by the hand and leading us to a land we’d grow to understand.

These two might be gone, but the impact they’ve left, the smiles they’ve brought, will last forever. May they rest in peace. They have earned it.

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Jo Ann Kirby