Stan Lee had a habit of creating superheroes in the characters you’d least expect. Although the comics legend died this past November at 95, his legacy lives on through the generations of teens he’s inspired with his vast imagination.
And now his alma mater, DeWitt Clinton High School, is paying homage to Lee though a medium he would probably most appreciate — a mural created by Delania Alma extending over three walls that features not only Lee, but many of his creations like Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk and more. Lee graduated from Clinton in 1939, and for those students now attending, to learn Lee once walked their halls is enough to make anyone feel super.
“At first I didn’t know that he had went to the school,” said junior Nyla White. “It just opened my eyes up. People that went to this school went on to do great things.”
In fact, the list of notable Clinton alums is long. Just last September, the school named its gymnasium floor after basketball legend Nate Archibald, an NBA Hall of Famer who won a world championship alongside Boston Celtics great Larry Bird. For White, she hopes to achieve great things as well, working in finance. She practices by wearing her own super suit to school every now and then.
“I feel like I dress the part,” White said. “On a daily basis I come to school with a button-down and slacks so I can get myself into the feel for it.”
White also has an appreciation for Iron Man’s suit and the Marvel superhero’s ability to take scraps and transform them into something powerful.
For Victor Miezah, he sees a lot of himself in local heroes like Spider-Man.
“He’s from the city so we can kind of relate,” the senior said. “We’re teens in high school, and he basically became a hero on a whim. And with that incident (where a radioactive spider bit Peter Parker), it gave him his powers and he used it to his advantage and basically became a righteous teen with a mature mentality.”
Maxwell Wood finds inspiration in X-Men’s anti-hero Wolverine. The adamantium-clawed loner doesn’t live by a straight path of moral goodness, and tends to be more ruthless than his other Marvel counterparts. It’s his unconventional behavior that helps makes him relatable and different, the junior said.
Wolverine may not be in Clinton’s fresco, but the Marvel mural is still action-packed — much like its universe.
It took Alma six days to complete the artwork using spray paint and acrylic. She was invited by Clinton principal Pierre Orbe, who learned to speak English through Lee’s comics. For Alma, the mural is meant to inspire the heroic character in each student so that they may one day pick up their own cape — whether that be in the form of a police badge, a fire hose, or even a degree in education.
Whether it’s Peter Parker defending New York City, or Thor protecting his fictional home of Asgard, Stan Lee showed anyone can make a difference in their community, or on their planet. Kendra Obeng, for example — a senior at Clinton — plans to save lives by becoming a nurse or a midwife. Miezah, on the other hand, intends to rescue people from cavities by becoming a dentist.
Clinton hasn’t had the best reputation in recent years, but the school has been getting better, Miezah said, and confidence can only build by reminding everyone who walks the halls the kind of students Clinton has produced in its century-plus of existence. If superheroes couldn’t move past the troubles in their own lives, they wouldn’t be super.
“With the mural, it shows students that if Stan Lee was able to make such a big impact on the world, that they can also do something like that in the future,” Obeng said. “They shouldn’t give up just because you may not come from something so good. You can always make the best out of it.”
CORRECTION: The gymnasium floor at DeWitt Clinton High School was named after basketball great Nate Archibald while the gymnasium itself was named for another basketball great (and alum) Dolph Schayes. A story in the Jan. 3 edition did not make that distinction clear.