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It’s like we ran his obituary . . .

Opinion Piece

It was a silly mistake, no doubt about that. We saw the banner item had misnamed Stan Lee as Spike Lee soon after Tuesday’s paper was printed, cringed, discussed the need to ensure the banner is always checked properly, and got on with the afternoon.

It’s not like we published the American film director, producer, writer and actor’s obituary prematurely — that’s an A Grade clanger, and surprisingly common. Most famously one was published on inventor, businessman and chemist Alfred Nobel that condemned him as a “merchant of death”, which might have prompted him to create the Nobel Prize. Black nationalist Marcus Garvey suffered two strokes and died after reading a mistaken, and negative, obituary of himself in 1940 at the age of 52.

The media enquiries started at 5.05am on Wednesday with a Huffington Post reporter seeking comment on our “flub”, and came regularly through the day as news websites from FoxNews.Com and the UK’s Mirror to Hollywood Reporter did matching stories. Our national media websites, always responsive to something from little old New Zealand going viral, chimed in with calls and stories too. National Radio had a request in with Mr Lee for an interview this morning . . . thankfully he passed on the opportunity, as yours truly would have had to join the discussion and a bit of nationwide mockery (maybe he would have taken up an invitation to the Wairoa Maori Film Festival, though).

The winner of two Emmy Awards, an honorary Bafta and two Academy Award nominations clearly saw, and certainly added to, the humour with this Facebook post: “God bless Stan Lee. Me? Not yet. And dat’s Da ‘I’m Still A Live, and Strivin’ Truth, Ruth. YA-DIG? SHO-NUFF.”

We posted on his page: “Our apologies for this Spike. God bless Stan Lee and all the best to you.”

Humans make mistakes, the trick is to learn from them and also to put them behind you. “Fish and chip wrappers, mate” as a New Zealand Herald editor emailed yesterday.

Ironically, human frailties were part and parcel of Stan Lee’s superheroes. Every mistake hurts, though, and as a colleague described it, “this one was a Mike Tyson uppercut”.