Grief over the death of Stan Lee has taken the Internet by storm in China, with the local hashtag “Stan Lee has passed” trending No. 1 on social media and viewed more than a staggering 1.21 billion times by Wednesday evening – equivalent to nearly once per person in the world’s most populous country.
Fans mourned the legendary comic book creator by posting remembrances on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, and by flocking to cinemas to watch “Venom” in tribute to Marvel and to Lee himself, who makes a cameo appearance in the film. Many posted pictures of their tickets alongside condolences over the man some had affectionately dubbed “grandpa.”
“I cried while watching ‘Venom’, and am still applauding for grandpa – the biggest superhero of all has left us,” one Internet user wrote. “Thank you Stan Lee for the heroic dreams you’ve gifted us,” another posted beneath a photo of her pair of movie tickets.
Lee’s studio revealed last month that his next character would be a Chinese superhero named Jewel, based on the Hong Kong-based pop singer Gloria Tang Tsz-kei, or G.E.M., who is sometimes referred to as China’s Taylor Swift.
“I never thought that one day I’d have the chance to become a superhero! Super, invincibly excited!” Tang wrote in announcing the news on both Instagram and Weibo, posting photos of herself with a cardboard cutout of Lee and holding a poster of the red-haired character, who sports a pointy-shouldered suit and a light saber-like weapon in each hand.
Chinese company Camsing International, which bought Lee’s POW! Entertainment last year, said it would press on with developing Lee’s new creations.
Jackie Chan’s online tribute to Lee mentioned his desire to create a China-inspired project. “Many years ago I met him in the US with the feeling of a fan meeting his idol,” Chan wrote on Weibo. “At the time he said he hoped that he could work with me to make a Chinese superhero movie. All these years, we always hoped to make that wish a reality… Goodbye, superhero.”
Lee had made forays to China in his latter years, with a photo of him at the Great Wall in Beijing from last year circulating widely online. The day after his death, G.E.M. posted a photo of the two of them on Instagram and wrote: “So shocked, so sad….It’s my honour to have met you and share meetings on your creative and thought process.”
Huge numbers of Chinese fans made the connection between Lee’s death at 95 and that of iconic martial arts writer Louis Cha Leung Yung, known by his pen name Jin Yong, who died two weeks ago at 94. His funeral was held the same day as Lee’s death.
“If comics hadn’t had Stan Lee, it’d be like if martial arts had never had Jin Yong. Let’s pay tribute to two great legends of the east and west,” wrote one fan.
“Venom” opened last week in China and crushed the competition over the weekend, raking in $102 million before Lee’s death Monday. It was the fifth-largest opening of any film this year in China and the second-largest opening ever for a superhero film.