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Stan Lee's Iconic Catchphrase Actually Started to Spite Other Writers – Screen Rant

Though Stan Lee’s catchphrase, Excelsior, is absolutely iconic, it originally started out as a way to confuse and annoy other comic writers.
It’s difficult to imagine Stan Lee without his iconic catchphrase, “Excelsior!” Referenced in countless movies, T.V. shows, and comic books, the Latin phrase has become synonymous with Stan Lee and Marvel comics in general, symbolizing the need to always move forward. Though Lee’s upbeat attitude has imbued the phrase with positive energy, Lee’s use of the phrase actually originated out of frustration with other writers.
A Latin word, excelsior can be translated as “ever higher.” Long before Lee repopularized it, excelsior was used in a variety of poems and literature and has even been New York’s state motto since 1778. Lee first used the phrase as a send-off for his “Stan’s Soapbox” portion of 1968’s Fantastic Four #71. From there, Lee would use that phrase at the end of the letters section of almost every single comic he wrote. Still, the phrase wasn’t exactly in common usage when Lee first adopted it, naturally begging the question of why he started using it in the first place.
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In a 2007 interview Lee did with Io9, Lee revealed the origin of the phrase which he helped usher back into the popular consciousness:
“I used to have a lot of expressions that I would end my comic book columns with: Hang Loose, Face Front, ‘Nuff Said, and I found that the competition was always imitating them and using them. So, I said I’m going to get one expression that they’re not going to know what it means, and they won’t know how to spell it. And that’s where excelsior came from, and they never did take up on it, thank goodness.”
That response is emblematic of Lee’s attitude during the vital early stages of Marvel Comics. With characters like Spider-Man, the Hulk, and of course the Fantastic Four, Marvel was a pop-culture juggernaut. With their focus on relatable, realistic characters, Marvel books were attracting teenage and young-adult audiences just as much as they were attracting kids. Given this success, it wasn’t uncommon for other comic companies to try and copy Marvel’s ideas or tone to capture a portion of their audience. It might seem funny that other writers would copy something as innocuous as Stan’s sign-offs, but Stan’s fame within the industry was rising, and other writers were hungry to replicate Lee’s success.
None of this would be the first or last instance of Lee turning his nose up at the competition though. Lee was famous for trolling DC and other comic companies. As with most things though, Lee would have the last laugh. Excelsior has gone on to become inextricably linked to Stan Lee and his brand. “Ever higher” almost could have been read as a mission statement for Lee and Marvel Comics at the time. For all his faults, Lee is undoubtedly responsible for making Marvel’s many heroes some of the most iconic characters in human history. Ever higher indeed.
Next: DC Admits Stan Lee Was Right About Kid Sidekicks
Source: Io9
Evan D. Mullicane is an editor, critic, and author based out of California’s Bay Area. He received his bachelor’s degree in creative writing from San Francisco State University in 2016. In his free time, he enjoys reading graphic novels and writing fantasy.


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