'I thank you with all my heart ... and of course, Excelsior!'
Stan Lee has cemented his legacy as a Hollywood legend — the 94-year-old mastermind behind Marvel’s most iconic properties now has his hands and footprints alongside the likes of Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, and Marilyn Monroe.
Lee was honored Tuesday in a ceremony at Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre as part of a celebration hosted by Legion M, a fan-owned media company.
On hand to fete the comic book creator from the Marvel Cinematic Universe were studio president and movie producer Kevin Feige, as well as Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Clark Gregg. Guardians of the Galaxy writer-director James Gunn was also there to celebrate, as was director Kevin Smith.
On Twitter, Gunn shared photo from his car en-route to the ceremony, wearing a Stan Lee pin.
Lee was visibly moved in the brief speech he gave prior to placing his hands and feet in wet cement. “If I had known I was so good, I’d have asked for a raise,” he joked. “I can’t tell you what this means to me. I’m thrilled, I’m overwhelmed.” He went on to speak about how lucky he was to have such great friends in his life and how much he wished his wife was there to witness this moment. (Lee’s wife Joan died July 6.)
“All I can say is I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I’ve always wondered about that expression – why is the bottom of your heart more important than the top of your heart? So I thank you with all of my heart, how’s that?” he said, concluding with a phrase he often used to wrap up his comic book columns. “I wish you all best and of course, Excelsior!” After Lee placed his hands and feet in cement to complete the imprint ceremony, he mugged for the cameras and struck the iconic web-blasting pose of Spider-Man, arguably his most popular character creation.
Smith emcee’d the event, noting that Tuesday’s ceremony was “that rare opportunity where you get to see justice served outside of a comic book.”
“Stan Lee is a deep part of my DNA and genetics and it’s an honor to be here,” Smith said. “I’m from New Jersey and when we stick people in cement, it’s way different.” Smith went on to note Lee’s impact on his own life and childhood, saying, “He didn’t teach me to read, but he taught me to enjoy reading. He didn’t teach me to dream, but he gave me so many things to dream about.” Recounting his time working with Lee on Mallrats, Smith joked it’s Lee’s “lowest grossing movie of all time.”
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Feige celebrated Lee’s legacy, saying, “These movies wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for you Stan.” He also admitted that he once saved a voicemail from Lee for 12 years because he loved it so much.
In his speech, Gregg joked that he owed the “top half of his IMDb page” to Feige and Lee, thanking the honoree for making him feel like a part of his family. “Playing in your world, Stan, means we get to wrestle with timeless themes of good and evil in a magnificent universe made up of enhanced beings, aliens, alternate dimensions, and sentient LMDs, which means for me every day is bring your inner child to work day. In other words, Excelsior!” said Gregg.
Boseman called Lee a “maverick” and a “visionary,” noting his social and cultural foresight to create the character of Black Panther in 1966 in the midst of the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, and the beginnings of the black power movement.
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“Those stories have helped us get through cancer; they have helped us when we were bullied at school; they have taken the pressure off us when the daily weight of life is just too much; and in aspiring to be better, the characters have shown us what it means to have extraordinary power,” said Boseman. “For sometimes, we also have power. The difference between an enemy and a superhero is that responsibility, how we that use that moment – this has never been exhibited better than when Stan Lee created Black Panther.”
See video of the entire hand and footprint ceremony, above.