No one can diminish the importance, influence and timeless relevance that Stan Lee has contributed, not only in the industry of comic books, but also on pop culture as a whole. In his almost one-hundred years of experience, he created some of the most iconic characters in the history of Western civilization and contributed beyond the pages of the comics to multiple forms of media, finally reaching its particular zenith with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
And if we focus on a personal level, Stan Lee was a man of extreme charm and a very unique personality, which is something that was very appealing to a lot of people. I think all of us that have been familiar with Stan on different levels (whether it was personal or through his work), his personality was something that everybody could relate to and I think that was a huge part of his success.
But one thing that a lot of people have asked themselves throughout the years was something very simple but yet interesting: Why did Stan Lee say “Excelsior”? We have seen that on social media, interviews, letters in the 60s, 70s and 80s and many other things, which resulted in a signature phrase of his.
The reason behind this phrase was actually very simple: back when Stan Lee was improving the Marvel Comics brand, they were having a lot of success with the likes of the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, among others. In that time he would use many different phrases on his letters and his competition took many of the phrases, which prompted Stan to decide on a phrase that they weren’t able to copy.
As the man himself once said about it: “I used to have a lot of expressions that I would end my comic book columns with: Hang Loose, Face Front, ‘Nuff Said, and I found that the competition was always imitating them and using them. So, I said I’m going to get one expression that they’re not going to know what it means, and they won’t know how to spell it. And that’s where excelsior came from, and they never did take up on it, thank goodness.”
That is how that phrase became synonymous with Stan and something that has endured throughout the years–we hear or read the word “Excelsior” and the first thing we think about is Stan Lee. And for those that might be curious about it, “Excelsior” is Latin for “Upward and onward to greater glory!” which we now understand is something very uplifting and fitting to what Stan was striving for with his characters of Marvel Comics.
Months after his death, we still feel the pain and hurt of the loss of one of the most important artists in Western civilization, who, along with creative titans equally talented and imaginative as Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby, helped to establish Marvel Comics as one of the most prolific comic book industries of all time.