Bill Maher’s comments following the death of legendary comic book creator Stan Lee have drawn quite a bit of backlash in the last week. Lee’s fans, in particular, have vocally criticized Maher for his statement that comic books are for children and that adults should move on to “big-boy books without the pictures.”
Now, Maher’s statement has faced pushback from a different corner: Stan Lee’s production company POW! Entertainment. The company wrote an open letter to Maher, signed it “Team Stan,” and posted it to the POW! website, which is located at TheRealStanLee.com.
“Comic books, like all literature, are storytelling devices,” the letter reads. “When written well by great creators such as Stan Lee, they make us feel, make us think and teach us lessons that hopefully make us better human beings. One lesson Stan taught so many of us was tolerance and respect, and thanks to that message, we are grateful that we can say you have a right to your opinion that comics are childish and unsophisticated. Many said the same about Dickens, Steinbeck, Melville and even Shakespeare.”
The letter goes on to list the many characters Lee had a hand in creating, the great meaning his creations had for readers, and how Lee’s work inspired people to read and learn. It ends with a quote often associated with Spider-man: “With great power there must also come — great responsibility!”
Maher, in addition to dismissing comic books as childish, had stretched further in that blog post by suggesting that “I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to suggest that Donald Trump could only get elected in a country that thinks comic books are important.” It’s a piece of Maher’s standard practice of saying and writing outlandish, offensive things and then painting his detractors as censorious killjoys out to deprive him of his freedom of speech.
POW! Entertainment is a production entity founded by Lee along with Gill Champion and Arthur Lieberman, in 2001. It was the company that produced many of Lee’s non-Marvel projects in the later years of his life, including the cartoon Stripperella and the reality series Who Wants to Be a Superhero? The company made the news immediately following Lee’s death when it announced that in accordance with Lee’s wishes, there would not be any major public memorial service. The company has said they will continue to work to develop Lee’s intellectual property following his death.