There are many reasons to celebrate Stan Lee and his work. After all, he is one of the men responsible for bring the Marvel universe into our lives and giving the world so many heroes to look up to and villains we have a love/hate relationship with.
Lee is set to make an appearance at this year’s Awesome Con but before the convention kicks off next weekend, he was able to take the time to chat with 4YE and talk about his life and love for what he does.
When it comes to writing, Lee had many influences growing up and looked up to several authors who helped shape his imagination. “I loved reading Edgar Allan Poe; I read Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne. I read every everything I could lay my hands on. Even read Shakespeare,” shares Lee. “I love to read. George Bernard Shaw. I read him. Charles Dickens, H.G. Wells. I read anything that I thought was worth reading.”
While he is known for his Marvel work, Lee was presented with the opportunity to work with rivals DC back in 2001, an experience he never thought would happen. Lee was presented with the opportunity to work on a 13 book series called Just Imagine. “As a matter of fact, it came about by somebody from DC asking me if I could do that. At first, I thought they were joking but they really meant it,” says Lee.
While though he was slightly involved with DC for that series, Lee openly admits he doesn’t know much about the DC comics universe nor does he have a favorite. “To tell you the truth, I didn’t read much of the DC books,” Lee says with a laugh. “I can’t think of a favorite. The only two I can remember are Batman and Superman, and of course there’s Wonder Woman. I wasn’t a big DC fan.”
As far as what it feels like watching the comics industry grow from newsstand days to a 41 multibillion dollar industry with fans all around the world, Lee is almost speechless about the whole growth. “It’s indescribable. When I got in, my name was Stanley Martin Lieber; that was my birth name and I intended some day to write hopefully a good book,” shares Lee. “When I got into comics, people hated comics so much; most parents didn’t want their kids to read them. I couldn’t understand that. I thought comics were a good way to tell a story but I will admit a lot of the stories were badly written in those days.”
The fear of being stigmatized and ostracized by the writing community drove Lee to hiding who he really was with his writing. “At any rate, people disliked comics so much that I changed my name. I wrote under the name Stan Lee because I didn’t want to embarrass my real name in case I ever wrote something meaningful. I didn’t want to be plagued by being known as a comic book writer,” Lee reveals.
Luckily that all has changed, especially these days, which is something Lee is thrilled about. “I’m very proud to be known as a comic book writer and the public, their perception of comics has changed completely,” Lee says.
The comicbook writing legend doesn’t entirely fault the people of the past for thinking poorly about comics though. “Actually most teachers and parents were right years ago in condemning a lot of comics because all the comics were stories of people punching each other and fighting each other. I remember when I first came to work for this company , the publisher said ‘Don’t bother with characterization and involved plots. Just give me a lot of action I want a lot of fight scenes’,” shares Lee.
With regards to how far the comicbook world has expanded with series, books, and films, Lee is surprised by it all. “I never in a million years would have thought turned out the way it did,” he says.
That being said, Lee does have a lesson for everyone to learn: the correct way the word comicbook should be written.“There’s one thing I’m going to mention, parenthetically the word ‘comicbook’ should never be written as two words because if it is written in two words it means a funny book, a comic book. It should be one word: comicbook; that makes it unique type of literature,” says Lee. “And don’t ever let me catch you writing it as two words,” he warns with a laugh.
As far as offering advice to newbie writers, Lee has this to say: “I never tried to write for any particular age group or social group; I always try to write stories that I myself might enjoy reading because I feel I’m that unique and it is a story I like. There must be millions of other people with similar taste and they’d like it too so I never ever wrote for other people. I always wrote for myself, wanting to please me; I was my toughest critic. If I like this story, I felt it has to be good because I’m a normal guy. I like it so it’s probably good and then I think if you try to write for other people or other type of people, it’s a lot more difficult to do. Just writing something that you yourself enjoy.”
Lee, as mentioned before, is set to appear at Awesome Con, a trip he is looking forward to. “I don’t know whether Trump will have time for me,” he teases about his visit to D.C., but that’s not high on his list of events as he looks most forward to engaging with his fans and fellow comicbook writers.
Speaking of things he’s excited about, Lee did share which Marvel character he feels is underrated. “I think the Silver Surfer has been underrated. I think he’s a great character and the thing I like about him is that I was always able to get a lot of bits of philosophy that he would utter. They don’t use them as much as I wish they would,” shares Lee.
Of the late and great Jack Kirby, the legend only had the kindest and humblest things to share about him. “Working with Jack was one of the great experiences of my life. He would’ve been one of the world’s greatest film directors. He was a fantastic storyteller,” Lee shares.
The legendary writer knows that people love his cameos in the Marvel films, and while he has had many cameos, he does have a favorite. “All time favorite would have to been where I’m with Thor in a bar, and he’s drinking a Norse drink, and I asked if I could try it. He doesn’t think I can handle it, I say that I can and the next thing we know, I’m being carried out,” Lee reveals. As far as why that one is his favorite, it’s due to the fact that the cameo feels more like role as it has two parts.
Never change, Stan Lee, and keep on bringing us all the Marvel fun we love.
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