Stan Lee was the most influential, motivational and awe-inspiring person I never met.

How many people are taking the time today to comment about the impact that Stan Lee's creations had on their lives? Millions? Billions? That's the power of Stan Lee's imagination, the reach of his storytelling. All of us can sing the praises of the worlds that Lee delivered to us, and it still wouldn't be enough.

This, then, is my own personal thank you to Stan Lee. It may end up sounding familiar to yours.

Stan Lee taught me responsibility, and how those with abilities had to use it, even when -- especially when -- it was most difficult. Stan Lee taught me sacrifice, and heroism. He taught me about humor, and swashbuckling adventure. He taught me about the sheer power of storytelling, in the unexpected weekly medium of the colorful comic books he helped create.

The laundry list is ridiculous. Spider-Man. The Fantastic Four. The Hulk. Doctor Strange. Iron Man. Thor. The X-Men. Their roots all trace back to the majestic tree of life that was Stan Lee.

Like most bookish kids, I found these heroes on weekly trips to a local comic book shop. It has thrilled me to no end to watch creator Rob Liefeld play THE SPINNER RACK on his Twitter feed, because it's exactly how so many of us spent long afternoons, lost in the promise of valor and mystery that was teased on these brilliant comic book covers:

But how long before we actually started to think about the man responsible for all of this? Personally, Marvel Comics were the only thing I read cover to absolute cover. This included the damn Mail Bag section, where Stan "The Man" Lee responded to letters sent in by fans.

It was here, in the early-day interactive marketplace, that Stan's catchphrases of "Nuff said" and "Excelsior!" caught on.

What I never realized, back then, that this obsession with Marvel Comics, the house that Stan Lee helped to build, would be a foundation for a career and a lifestyle that I'm blessed to live today. I love Marvel. In recent years, my passion has transitioned from the comics -- which I still peruse but don't collect, board and bag like I did in my youth -- to the movies and television shows inspired by Stan's creations.

This year alone, I crossed items off of my bucket list that wouldn't even be possible without Stan Lee's contributions to our culture and society, which include visiting the set of a movie inspired by my all-time favorite comic book character, then later playing a mind-blowing video game based around the same character that told one of the best stories in the character's history. Or course, Stan Lee had to have his own cameo in said game.

It's with the heaviest heart that we say goodbye to Stan Lee, the creator of so many characters that we have grown to cherish over the years. As all who have been affected by Lee continue to weigh in, we open up the comments section for you to share your best memory of something that you wouldn't have in your life if not for Stan Lee.

Excelsior, dear Stan Lee. Thank you, for everything.

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