Stan Lee, co-creator of a huge chunk of the Marvel Comics Universe... and Douglas Rain, the iconic voice of HAL 9000 (the onboard computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey), have died.
This was already a tough day for me.
When it comes to being absolutely terrified by a movie, there is no film that compares to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Not for me, anyway. And it all comes down to that one riveting exchange where HAL refuses to let Dave back on the ship. Until I saw this scene while watching the movie on VHS videotape back in the early 80's, I had always thought of computers and robots as fantastical, wonderful inventions here to make our lives better. Then here comes HAL 9000, whose psychopathic method of self-preservation dictates that he straight-up murder the crew.
This could have been a comical situation. Especially given the dialogue HAL is speaking. But the way Douglas Rain delivered HAL's lines in such a cold, detached manor was horrifying...
"Without your space helmet, Dave, you're going to find that rather difficult." — I mean, holy shit!
In the sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, we find out that it wasn't HAL's fault that he went crazy. Humans were ultimately responsible... but that movie came out three years later, so it wasn't much consolation to me watching in 1981!
For years I had HAL as the ringtone on my iPhone. One of the many benefits to being named "Dave." I doubt that would have ever happened if not for the vocal talents of Douglas Rain.
And then there's Stan Lee...
Amazing Art by J. Scott Campbell
When I first started reading comics, I was mostly a DC Comics guy. That's where Batman was, and he was hands-down my favorite comic book character. But eventually (as my allowance increased) I was expanding into Marvel Comics more and more. My "gateway drug," as it were, was Doctor Strange. His surreal adventures were unlike anything happening at DC, and it was a quick hop from there to my reading other Marvel titles like The Avengers, The X-Men, The Fantastic Four, and whatever other team books I could afford (team books, you see, had more heroes in them, so it felt like more bang for my buck than solo titles).
Stan Lee co-created all of them.
And many, many more.
But his prolific comic writing output was almost incidental compared to his being the "face" of Marvel Comics. His rampant enthusiasm for their books in letter columns and his Stan's Soapbox column were the stuff of legend. He made you want to read comics.
As if that wasn't enough? He was also a wonderful man. Here's one of his most famous Stan's Soapbox columns...
Even if you're not a comic book fan, odds are you've seen Stan in one of his many Marvel Studios Movie cameos...
Or on one of his many, many television appearances...
The guy was legendary, and will be missed by a great many people. Thank you, Stan Lee.
Excelsior, True Believer!