Stan Lee, who died in November at age 95, was a larger-than-life comics legend. The co-creator of superheroes such as Spider-Man, Black Panther, Iron Man, the X-Men and the Hulk, Lee grew Marvel Comics from a small publishing company into an international media giant. On January 30, a special tribute, “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible & Uncanny Life of Stan Lee,” honored the fabled cultural icon’s many contributions.
Among those walking the gala’s red carpet at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California, was Montclair State University Police Chief and International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) President Paul Cell. Representing the IACP, he spoke on the red carpet about his firsthand knowledge of Lee’s dedicated support of law enforcement.
“I worked as a law enforcement liaison for Stan’s Hands of Respect initiative, which he created to bring community members and law enforcement together to help create safe communities and promote a nationwide culture of respect,” says Cell. Together with Lee, he helped to promote the initiative at Comic Cons and on a number of nationally broadcast appearances. Cell is no stranger to red carpets, having attended the red-carpet premiere of Spider-Man with Lee and served as a talent escort for Grammy Award and daytime Emmy Award ceremonies.
“I was honored to be able to pay my respects to Stan Lee one more time, present a posthumous award and acknowledge all the contributions he had made to society,” says Cell. “Through his comics, he always delivered a message of hope that right will always prevail, as long as you do the right thing. It doesn’t matter who you are – anyone can help people and be a hero.”
Cell, who admits that Captain America is his favorite superhero, helped coordinate the tribute, which was produced by Legion M. Agents of Mayhem and Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment and presented by filmmaker Kevin Smith & Friends. In addition to the red carpet walk and presentations attended by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, public theater forecourt activities included an exhibit of Lee memorabilia, art by artist Rob Prior, a musical performance and more.
The evening’s private tribute continued in the TCL Chinese IMAX Theatre, where Smith moderated conversations about Lee’s life, work and legacy. Celebrity speakers included actors Mark Hamill and Vincent D’Onofrio, as well as The Dark Knight producer Michael Uslan and X-Men producer Tom DeSanto.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Hero Initiative, a federally chartered not-for-profit dedicated to providing a financial safety net for comic book creators in need.
For Cell, Lee will be remembered as someone who really cared about people. “He had a true concern for people and the safety of our communities,” Cell says. “His message was clear: any person could be a hero, no cape or costume needed.”