Spiderman began slinging his webs through Clayton Hinojosa’s imagination when Hinojosa discovered comic books as a 10-year-old.
There was something about Spidey that captured him and millions of other kids. Hinojosa said the character legendary comic book writer Stan Lee co-created seemed larger than life while also being relatable because when Spiderman wasn’t being Spiderman, he was an average high school kid.
Like many fans of comic books here in San Antonio and around the world, Hinojosa was saddened to hear of Lee’s death this week. Lee, who served as editor-in-chief, publisher, and chairman of Marvel Comics, died at Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Monday. He was 95.
“They could change your mood in almost an instant,” Hinojosa said of the joy he found in comic books and Lee’s stories as a kid.
It’s been 16 years since that first encounter, and Hinojosa now spends his days working behind the counters of Heroes and Fantasies on the Northwest Side, which bills itself as the largest comic book store in Texas by square feet. He watches over treasures such as an Avengers No. 1 for sale for $2,000. He also aspires to write comic books.
Lee visited San Antonio multiple times over the years, including Alamo City Comic Con conventions in 2014 and 2015, but Hinojosa never got to meet him. He did, however, get run over by Lee.
Hinojosa volunteered at the 2015 Comic Con and was distracted for a moment by his phone as he wandered through the hall. He suddenly felt his toe being crushed and looked up in time to be pushed out of the way by a security guard as Lee drove by on his scooter, clipping Hinojosa’s toes.
“Before I could even put it all together I was like, ‘I just got run over by Stan Lee,” Hinojosa said.
San Antonio musician and filmmaker Nick Mery worked as host of the Alamo City Comic Con’s live Youtube channel in 2014 and in that role met and interviewed Lee. Mery’s time with Lee lasted only a few minutes but it made a big impression.
“He had so much life in him,” Mery said. “That was the thing you really took away from being in his presence.”
Lee has a long history of advocating for equality and social causes as well as philanthropy through his foundation. Mery said he was struck by Lee’s embrace of the internet in his later years and how it helped bring his work to an even wider audience.
“He clearly said, ‘I love the internet,’” Mery said. “There are people who are much younger than him who are so far back in regard to facing the future or progress. Clearly, we’re in a time right now where it seems like a lot of people are regressing in regard to some social and political issues. But he understood and he embraced the need to constantly grow.”
A year later at Alamo City Comic Con 2015, Heroes and Fantasies owner Rich Conley and his son, Adam, were lucky enough to have their picture taken with Lee, who stopped by the store’s booth to chat.
Store manager Andrew Casares has been with the store for five years and was there in 2015 when Lee stopped by to chat with the group.
“It was just a real honor,” he said. “That was something that I don’t think we’ll forget ever.
“…You can’t be in this line of work and not know Stan Lee. He was one of the cornerstones of the business for sure. He and [fellow comic writer] Jack Kirby did so much for the comic book business in general. It’s tough to not idolize him.”
Casares said Lee’s passing has been on the minds of customers visiting the store and posting on the store’s Facebook page since he died.
Casares said he also loved Spiderman as a kid before his taste changed and he began to explore many other comics and characters. He also is a big fan of movies and has been happy to see Marvel movies over the past 10 years do well at the box office.
Lee helped build Marvel into a powerhouse that Disney purchased in 2009 for $4 billion. Beginning with the release of the first Iron Man movie in 2008, Marvel has put together a series of blockbuster films that have included The Avengers, Thor, Captain America, Black Panther, and Ant Man.
Lee made cameo appearances in some of those movies. He retained a sharp mind and quick wit as he aged, making him an entertaining speaker and a top draw at the conventions he decided to attend.
Lee teamed with Kirby earlier in their careers to create comic book legends such as the Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Hulk.
Jesus Cosme works at Gotham Newsstand at Wonderland of the Americas Mall on Fredericksburg Road. He read comic books in the late 1980s and early 1990s when he was in elementary school and middle school. He stopped reading them for some time before coming back to them recently.
Now 37, he’s been working at the store for a year and realizing he has missed a lot over the years.
“Back then, it was kind of like, ‘You read comics?’ Cosme said. “[People] would kind of make fun of you for it. Now it’s in. People are like, ‘Yeah, I read comics.’”
Cosme said he has great appreciation for Lee and the characters he created or co-created, the stories he told, and the imaginations he inspired. But he also believes Lee probably gets a little too much credit and other writers who contributed to the Marvel brand get overlooked.
“He definitely leaves a legacy behind being co-creator with a lot of these characters that he did for Marvel,” Cosme said. ‘The strides they’ve made since the ’90s … Marvel is dominating the superhero movies right now. He’s going to be missed for sure.”
During his 2015 appearance at the Alamo City Comic Con, a female fan asked Lee during an interview what he hoped to see from the Marvel movies in the future.
“I would like to see them stay as good as they are,” Lee said. ‘The one thing that you worry about when you get to be on the top, and Marvel certainly is now, you want to hope that you don’t get lazy or you begin to take it for granted or you get complacent.
“I want them to work as hard now as they’ve ever worked – harder in fact. They’ve got to stay where they are, and there are so many fans waiting for the new wonderful stuff to come out and we mustn’t disappoint them.”