For comic book fans, Stan Lee’s death was the end of an era — while a few creators who worked for Marvel in its 1960s heyday still survive, Lee was the last of a group of creators whose work invented and defined characters that have come to define pop culture over the past decade, following the death of Steve Ditko just months earlier and the 1994 death of Jack Kirby.
By the time of his death, Lee had become one of those defining icons himself, with his cameos in superhero movies — and not just Marvel’s, as anyone who’s seen Teen Titans Go to the Movies can attest — making him an instantly recognizable figure across the world.
It was a logical, fitting end point for a career that had seen him become the face (and voice, thanks to narration duties on cartoons like Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends or any number of video game appearances) of Marvel as a brand for the last five decades. If there’s any comfort to be found in Lee’s death, it could be that it happened at a time when he could see how beloved his characters become and how much his work touched people’s lives. He died, at the age of 95, knowing that he had, in his way, changed the world.