Colin Vanden Berg
Head Copy Editor
Every once and a while you come across a piece of news so personally unsettling, you need to find some outlet to express your emotions. I experience such an occurrence late last week when reports surfaced about the alleged abuse of comic book legend Stan Lee.
Before I discuss the situation as outlined by several Hollywood Reporter features, I want to stress that I certainly do not speak for Stan Lee, nor do I truly know what’s happening behind the scenes of the famed comic book author’s life. However, I think the fact that I feel personally saddened by reading the stories of the people taking advantage of him gives me at least some right to comment on the sad story.
The story begins with the Hollywood Reporter article titled “Stan Lee Needs a Hero,” published April 10. According to the report, a trio of men—Jerardo “Jerry” Olivarez, Keya Morgan, and J.C.’s attorney, Kirk Schenck—established influence of Lee’s 67-year-old daughter, J.C.; preying on her financial instability and using her to extort money from Lee following the death of Lee’s wife and financial caretaker, Joan Lee. The article, using a legal document from February, alleges all kinds of under-handed, predatory acts by Lee’s aids, including selling a vile of his blood for thousands of dollars.
Lee published a video shortly after the Hollywood Reporter story dropped, denying these claims; and saying that his relationship with his daughter has never been better and that Morgan, who taped and uploaded the video, is one of his best friends. It was the suspect nature of that video—in which Lee clearly appears distracted and upset, and Morgan can clearly be heard giving him instructions—that prompted me to write this editorial. Here was tangible proof that Stan Lee is under duress, and that powerful men are taking advantage of him.
Obviously, all these reports and ‘he said, she said’ is a lot to take in for a Stan Lee fan. As for his daughter, I personally am more likely to believe that she is being equally taken advantage of, as opposed to making judgments about someone I hadn’t even heard of before this story first surfaced. It angers me that such a legend is apparently subject to so much nonsense about his personal life and finances.
I’ve heard speculation from entertainment pundits that industry professionals at Marvel Comics and Marvel Studios should lend some financial support to Lee in his time of trouble. While I think it behooves somebody with the resources to lend a hand, it seems to me the problem is less with Lees actual finances than with the people in charge of said finances. It’s legal help Stan needs most; and as powerful as Marvel Studios is, I don’t think it’s fair to ask them to fight his battles for him. The last I heard, Lee has entered a legal dispute with Jeraldo Olivarez for the aforementioned blood theft as well as defrauding Lee of thousands of dollars in donations to a fake charity. While this is a good step, I’m wary considering that as far as I know, Morgan and Shenk are still involved in Lee’s affairs.
On April 14, news broke that Lee is being sued for sexually harassing a massage therapist who previously worked for him. If the disturbing allegations are to be believed, that puts me in a precarious position for defending Lee. My only response is that his alleged actions—while plausible (not justifiable) considering his age—still do not make him deserving of his alleged mistreatment at the hands of powerful men.
I can’t say I’ve read a Stan Lee comic (their expensive) but I have been impacted by his work. I wanted to write this article to bring attention to the injustice which Lee faces, not only because he’s Stan Lee, but because elder abuse, in general, is far too prevalent and utterly inexcusable.