Wow, that was one of the most well-done pieces I've ever read regarding Stan Lee. I never knew the AARP to be such an informative and journalistic magazine!
I have a few thoughts on this, aside from saying just how sad the whole thing is. My thoughts are tied into two points I don't really agree with as reported. First, this idea that Stan had to turn to the convention circuit in the eighties and nineties to "make ends meet." Yes, this would be true for pretty much any other older comics creator, but this isn't any other creator. It's Stan Lee. He didn't step down from Marvel with no way to support himself. Even the article said he was still receiving a salary from Marvel when he died. He continued to do comics freelance work for Marvel (as well as DC), plus he always had his hands in other business ventures. His net worth of $50 Million when he died didn't come from signing autographs. This ties in with my second problem with the article, which is that he was named executive producer on all the Marvel movies as a goodwill gesture by the studios to appease the fans. Sorry, studios don't name someone exec producer just to make fans happy. Yes, even Stan admitted that he really didn't have anything to do with the making of these movies, but I would wager there was still a paycheck involved. Not paying him could open the studio to a lawsuit down the road ("hey, I was named producer on this movie and was never paid").
My point in mentioning these two things is because they paint a different picture of Stan than the article does. The article tries to paint Stan as being hard up for money, that he had to do these conventions and signings to make ends meet, and that people then took advantage of this situation. The fact is, and let's face it--Stan liked money. The article even said he grew up poor, and probably had some fears of not having it anymore. It's only natural that he wanted to amass more of it. I remember when he skipped the chance to film his cameo for one of the later X-Men movies. He said the schedule conflicted with one of his convention appearances, and that he would rather spend the weekend with his fans. Sorry, I think what he meant to say is that he could make more money at the convention than at the movie shoot.
This has always been one of my problems with Stan. For a guy who always purported to love the fans, to always advocate children and childhood reading, he always positioned himself to make sure that most families and children would never get a chance to meet him, because he priced himself out of their reach. He already had millions. How about making an appearance at a library, or a local comic store? How about waving those fees so he could meet those kids? Nope, never happened.
Absolutely in his later years he was taken advantage of, and it was elder abuse. He didn't deserve that. Stan's love of money, though, attracted the type of people who had that same love. They worked together for that singular goal. Later, as Stan's health failed, those people were in a position to take advantage of Stan for their own personal wealth. This kind of thing didn't happen to Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, or any of the other more prominent figures in comics. This only happened because of the people Stan chose to surround himself with.
I know I'll get a lot of crap for writing this. It usually happens. Stan Lee is second only to Jesus in terms of famous figures that never get criticized. No one ever says anything bad about Stan. Even though he did a lot of good in his life, I've always thought there was some gray area to him nobody wants to discuss.
I, like most people idolized Stan growing up.
Face it, he was and is the face of Marvel.
The ultimate hype man and Marvel would not be what it is without Stan's contribution ( Stan's Soap Box, managerial style, No - Pirizes etc.)
But over the years I Think we all attributed much more to him than he actually accomplished.
No doubt he built the comics medium up into the stratosphere in a business sense, but I have to come to realize that the actual writes and artists as Ditko, Kirby and all the greats that followed actually created what we love.
Stan just did a great job at promoting it.
No I think is more important to comics than Kirby, he just was an verbose, pitch man like Stan.
I appreciate Stan's contribution, but when you are selling stuff as intriguing and enticing as Kirby's work, the selling comes easy.