Tag Archives: Inspiration

Stan Lee

Excelsior

Yesterday, we learned that Stan Lee—creator of many of the Marvel characters we all know and love—passed away at 95. Few have profoundly shaped pop culture like him, and fewer still have instilled their values into the zeitgeist. He was incomparable, and the comics world is a lesser place without him.

My own connection with Stan Lee is tenuous. I read every comic I could get my hands on as a kid, but it was never as many as I wanted. What I did read (’80s G.I. Joe, Star Trek) wasn’t usually centered around superheroes, so I don’t have the same relationship to his creations as some of my friends. But as an adult—beyond respecting the man as a creator, storyteller, and visionary—there is also something in Stan Lee’s personal history that I’ve come to admire.

Today our culture is obsessed with the idea of young success. It’s readily apparent in the tech culture where listicles of ‘Youngest Billionaires’ and profiles of the ‘Top 30-under-30’ are standard. But that worship of young success goes well beyond the technology sector. We see it in private lives, we see it in political ones, its apparent in education, religion, and entertainment. This drive for success is heaped upon the shoulders of the next generation, they’re pushed to succeed earlier and faster than their peers. That intense pressure can be both overwhelming and debilitating.


“You know, my motto is ‘Excelsior.’ That’s an old word that means ‘upward and onward to greater glory.’ It’s on the seal of the state of New York. Keep moving forward, and if it’s time to go, it’s time. Nothing lasts forever.”

—Stan Lee


Stan Lee’s own career is an antithesis of our culture’s obsession with young success. Here’s a man who started working at Timely Comics in 1939 when he was 17. But even with mild accomplishments during The Golden Age of Comics, his career languished. It wasn’t until several decades later, after having served in WW2 and after decades of toiling away in the comic’s industry that he launched the Fantastic Four with Jack Kirby. That series transformed comics, they made superheroes people, and the Fantastic Four took off. From there his career only blossomed. Spiderman. Hulk. Thor. Black Panther. Iron Man. The X-Men. Daredevil. The Avengers. Dr. Strange. The list of his creations is nearly endless.

That is what I love about Stan Lee. He was not an overnight success. His debuts weren’t a best-seller hit. But he kept doing what he loved. He fought through those his negative emotions and experiences, and he eventually made a profound impact. But it wasn’t until his forties that he became the success we know today: a man who’s creations reshaped the entertainment world as we know it. It’s important to remember that.

I admire that grit and that tenacity. I admire the willingness to stick with one’s passions—even in the darkest of days. It’s a lesson we should take to heart. Maybe with our own creative careers, we can all strive to be a little more like Stan Lee.

Rest easy, Stan. Thank you for everything. Excelsior, indeed.

Sebastien Ecosse

Visual Inspiration: Sebastien Ecosse

Recently, as I’ve been ramping up my research for Book IV of the Bell Forging Cycle, I came across the work of illustrator Sebastien Ecosse. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of genre and concept art, longtime readers will immediately understand why Ecosse’s work stands out for me.

I was first drawn in by his landscapes, his cityscapes in particular. They’re layered, rich, and beautifully textured. Places of light and shadows. You can almost feel the humid air against your skin, smell the mix of bizarre aromas, and hear the tapestry of sounds echoing throughout. In many ways, they could be cousins to the megalopolis of Lovat from my novels. With his other work, Ecosse manages to capture a sense of foreboding and dread that lends itself well to horror—in particular, his Lovecraftian work. I’ve posted some of my favorites below, as always you can click to view them larger.

Ecosse has prints available for purchase, and you can see much more of his work over on his website: sebastienecosse.com. You can also find him on ArtStation and Deviant Art. Be sure to check him out on Facebook or over follow him over on Twitter. Perhaps, like me, you’ll find yourself inspired.

💀 🎨 💀


If you like Sebastien Ecosse’s work be sure to check out some other illustrators and concept artists I’ve shared in the past:


Mark Twain - Samuel Langhorne Clemens

Two Most Important Days

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

Mark Twain


This quote resurfaced in an article from 2014 that was shared by my friend and fellow author Michael Ripplinger. The article itself, The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna is an excellent read, and worth spending some time with before the start of a new year—especially if you sit on the cusp of following a dream and you find yourself terrified.

❄️ 💀 ❄️

Toni Morrison

You Must Be the One

“If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.”

Toni Morrison


As I’m wont to do, I’ve been talking with friends about writing. Lately, a lot of our talk has been around the whole work vs. passion and how it plays into success and failure. Writing what we think we should be writing versus writing what we want to write. Today I stumbled across this Toni Morrison quote which hits at the center of it all.

Write your story. The only way to fail in writing is to not write.