As the outpouring of online tributes to the late Stan Lee continue, this period of collective mourning has inevitably seen its share of conflict, much of it stemming from a controversial blog post written by Real Time host Bill Maher.
In this well-circulated piece, the comedian and political commentator used the renowned writer’s recent passing as a jumping-off point for a blanket criticism of comic book culture in general, arguing that comics represent an unimportant and juvenile art form that doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously.
Naturally, the fan backlash came hard and fast, and among these condemnations was a tweet from Neil Gaiman, a writer perhaps best known for his comic book series The Sandman. The author’s short message dismisses the controversial piece as a cry for attention before observing how Lee’s legacy and popularity overshadow Maher’s.
“Maher’s just trolling, and lots of people are rising to the troll. (Julie Burchill did it better 30 years ago with her ‘There aren’t any adult comics because adults don’t read comics’ line. ) More people cared about Stan Lee’s death than care about Bill Maher alive.”
Regardless of whether you care for comics or think Maher made any worthwhile points, the incendiary timing of this piece makes it hard to see it as anything other than a case of a frequent provocateur taking an all-too-easy opportunity to stir up a response – and as Gaiman mentioned, the troll certainly seems to be doing its job.
Of course, Maher’s post hasn’t been the only subject of widespread condemnation in the wake of Lee’s passing, with actor Armie Hammer also drawing some backlash after he criticized his fellow celebrities for commemorating the writer’s death by sharing photos of themselves with Lee. Since then, however, the Call Me by Your Name star has apologized for his comments, saying that he planned to work on his “Twitter impulse control.”
The internet being how it is, it was surely to be expected that a dispute or two would break out around the news of Stan Lee’s passing. But as the tributes continue to flood social media, it’s clear that most of the fans would rather remember the life and work of the man in their own way than let a few online spats hijack the conversation.