Celebrity admirers including Kevin Smith and Mark Hammill have joined fans in Hollywood to pay their final respects to Marvel Comics mastermind Stan Lee.
An army bugler played a mournful tune and military bagpipers sent a solemn Amazing Grace into the air to remember the man who helped bring the world Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk.
Standing respectfully around them was another group in its own impeccable uniforms: Lee fans dressed as Black Panther, Wolverine and other members of the X-Men and Avengers.
It might have been a ridiculous scene at the TCL Chinese Theatre had it not been a perfect encapsulation of the life of Lee, a Second World War veteran who wanted to become a serious writer and instead grudgingly took a job in comic books, becoming the mastermind behind Marvel Comics and co-creator of many of the best known and most lucrative characters of the last century.
“This was a guy who spent his life dreaming of writing the great American novel, and he didn’t realise he was doing it, over and over and over again,” said the night’s host, film-maker Kevin Smith, a friend and superfan of Lee.
“The world didn’t need another In Cold Blood. It needed Spider-Man.”
On a night that had more cheers than tears, hundreds of Marvel fans stood and paid tribute along with Lee’s colleagues, co-creators and friends outside the Hollywood Boulevard theatre where he had put his hand and footprints in cement in a similar ceremony 18 months earlier.
Lee died in December at the age of 95.
Tom DeSanto, who as producer of The X-Men was among the first to find big-screen success with Lee’s characters, said he was astonished by his global reach.
“I’ve seen kids dressed up as Spider-Man in Beijing, Boston and Barcelona,” DeSanto said.
Across the street was a billboard announcing that a movie whose characters started with Lee, Black Panther, had been nominated for six Academy Awards.
“That’s a triumph,” Smith said. “It’s a cherry on the top of an amazing, productive life.”
Smith called Lee “one of the best humans to ever walk the earth”, setting the tone for a night when no one would hold back in their superhero-worship.
Speakers and panellists compared Lee to the Pope, Jesus and the shining light of the sun.
Mark Hammill, a friend of Lee who often worked alongside him doing voices on Marvel animation projects, was among the few to admit Lee had flaws.
“He wasn’t always nice,” Hammill said in a panel discussion. “He’d give you shots. He could be acerbic.”
Chris Miller and Phil Lord, producers of Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, which is also nominated for an Oscar, talked about meeting Lee when he was very old but still bursting with energy and ideas.
“There were thousands of them,” Lord said. “He was a compulsive creator.”
Actor Laurence Fishburne, who appeared in Marvel’s Ant-Man And The Wasp last year, described the thrill of spending 12 cents to buy a Lee comic book when he was a child in Brooklyn, New York.
“It opened my eyes to the possibility that you could be more than your surroundings say you can be,” Fishburne said.
Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti gave Lee a posthumous key to the city, with Lee’s catchphrase, Excelsior!, engraved on it.
The night included praise for Lee’s wife and partner in everything, Joan, who died in 2017.
Lee’s only child and heir, daughter JC Lee, made a rare public appearance, walking quickly along the red carpet and shouting thanks to fans and reporters.
On the screen inside the theatre, video tributes came from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and William Shatner.