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Stan Lee has...well, I don't need to say more than the name Stan Lee to conjure up in everyone's head images of the man who made the comics industry what it is today, what it's been for forty years now. The man who, along with collaborators like Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby and others, created everyone who's anyone in the Marvel Universe.
In later years, Stan relocated to California to oversee Marvel's forays into television and movies. He's written the Spider-man newspaper strip for over twenty years. He formed his own multi-media venture with Stan Lee Media. And, yes, he sold hot dogs in a standout performance in last summer's X-Men movie.
So what now? What does a 77-year old Stan now do for fun? Why, the same thing he always has-write, create and entertain. Only, this time he'll be doing it for DC, with the July launch of Just Imagine..., a series of 12 one-shots with Stan's reinvention of established DC characters. A week or so ago, I spoke with Stan about this DC work, and whatever else was on his mind.
So, Stan, pleasure speaking with you again. How are you?
Well, that depends on how you're going to treat me.
Only with the utmost decency, of course. And I'll do you one better and keep this short and easy for ya.
Let's jump right into Marvel's 40th Anniversary. I've seen that you're doing some stuff on the Home Shopping Network coming up.
Yeah, I've been autographing, in fact, I'm still autographing, some posters and I'll be there selling them. It's funny, the girl from Home Shopping Network called yesterday to brief me and said to be sure to get a manicure since my hands will show. I've never had a manicure in my life!
I bet you haven't had too many cameras concentrate on your hands before...
That's very funny, I can't wait to see how that turns out.
And you're also doing a short Daredevil story with Gene Colan in what would be Daredevil 400.
Yeah, and I've finished it. And man did I do a great job! (Laughs) And I want to tell ya, I don't know why Gene Colan isn't working steadily today. His artwork is just gorgeous. He told that story so beautifully in pictures that it was so easy for me to write it that it almost told itself.
Yeah, it's a shame talented veterans like Gene and Herb Trimpe aren't getting more work.
I don't know what's the matter with them, why they're not using these guys more.
Why do you think that is? Have fan tastes changed so much? Some veterans like Jim Starlin and John Buscema always get a positive reception when they do new work, so why isn't there more of that, do you think? Is ageism really a big problem?
Well, I don't know anything about that. All I know is that these guys are still good. Maybe people's tastes have changed, I wouldn't be the one to say. You'd have to ask an editor that.
Will you have any other involvement with the 40th anniversary?
No, I don't think so. You know I don't say no to anything (laughs) but I haven't heard from anyone. The one thing I am doing, I have a walk-on in the new Spider-Man movie, but of course that has nothing to do with the 40th anniversary.
We're going to get to that-I'm curious if you're going to reprise your award-winning role of hot dog vendor or something new?
No, I have a different job, but I have to tell you, I'm a little nervous about it, because the scene I'm in, it could very easily be cut out without hurting anything. So I hope it doesn't run too long.
No, no...they have to know they can't cut a scene with The Man out!
Well, if Marveldom Assembled rises up in righteous indignation and demands to see it...
So are you still spending 10% of your work day doing work for Marvel? Is that basically the newspaper strip?
Mostly, yeah, I just do the newspaper strip and whatever fan stuff, interviews like this, so that's about it. And whenever they ask me to write a script, like the one I did with Gene Colan. And I wrote an introduction for some book coming up, I think it was Daredevil or some book, I don't remember.
Now, do you have time to keep up with the current comics scene? We talked before about this, but do you read the Ultimate titles?
Well, I don't have time to keep up, but I have looked at the Ultimates. I think they look great.
Retelling your stories for a new generation...
Yeah, I've looked through them, they really are great.
Character-wise, who was the toughest character you've ever written? The hardest to get inside the head of?
Well, they're all easy, but the toughest one was one you wouldn't expect. It was a villain named Diablo.
I've heard you mention problems with Diablo, even on Larry King's show.
Here's the thing, I came up with a name and I couldn't figure out what to do with him!
He did have a good look anyway, and he's still being used right now, so...
Well good, someone finally figured out what to do with him.
So, back to the Spider-Man movie, can you tell us anything about your role in the movie?
Well, I don't want to give anything away, but I can tell you, I say something to Peter Parker. I don't want to give any more than that away.
But there is one funny thing I'll tell you. There was a second when there was this little girl standing there next to me and an explosion goes off and I'm supposed to lift her up and run to safety with her. You know, a little girl, six years old. I started to lift her, and you know, she was too heavy. I could hardly get her up, so Sam Raimi calls me and says "Hey, Stan you better forget about trying to lift her up. If you keep trying to lift her, this movie will be a mini-series!", which I thought was a very funny line.
Couldn't they help you out and put her on a wire like they're doing with Spider-Man?
Ha, no, no, I ended up taking her by the hand and running to safety. But I gotta tell you, that Sam Raimi is one great director. Oh, he is super, and I think the movie's going to be a knockout.
What about Ang Lee, have you met with him about a role in the Hulk movie, too?
Well, I was supposed to meet him for lunch but something came up, so we're going to meet soon. But I'll tell you, the fact that he's doing the Hulk is so exciting!
And his Oscar should bring even more attention to this movie.
Right. I would imagine this movie will be poetry in motion.
And include a role for you, too, of course?
Well, I hope so...actually, the producer, Gale Anne Hurd, came up to me and said there would absolutely be a role for me. Maybe they'll need someone to sell hot dogs.
...or beans. Hulk like beans, you know.
So moving to DC, your first DC work will be out soon. In fact, they've recently been showing your Batman with Joe Kubert.
Oh? What'd you think about it?
I thought it looked just great.
I'll tell you, I think that Batman book is going to knock everyone's socks off. I'm really excited about it. And working with Joe Kubert has been wonderful. I have some great people working with me, I have Jim Lee on Wonder Woman, Dave Gibbons on Green Lantern, and I have to tell you, I've been a fan of his for so many years. And Jim Lee did a fabulous job.
How's it been writing these so far? Easy to get into the flow of writing these books?
It's great doing them. But, well, my only problem is getting the time to do them. I want to keep doing them but I have to work like 20 hours a day to get everything done. I've got about half of them done. I'm working on Shazam right now.
Now, is this the first time you've worked with Joe Kubert in all the years you've both been at this?
I think it is! And it's about time!
Did you have say over the creative teams assembled with you? Did you hand-pick people like Kubert, like John Buscema?
Well, I recommended Buscema, and I recommended Kubert and Buscema, and Gibbons. Most of the others, they were assembled by Mike Carlin at DC. But they're all wonderful. I like all of these guys. You know, there are so many talented artists out there.
Yeah, that's why it's a treat to see some of the wily veterans back out there.
I would've wanted one or two more Marvel artists, but they're under contract with Marvel. And I guess Marvel wouldn't have wanted them to do it.
So how's Marvel been about this project? Pretty supportive? I have to think that just as fans, they'd be into it.
I don't know! No one at marvel has spoken to me about it. I have to think they would be supportive of it. I'm hoping this will just bring renewed interest into comics in general. It could only be good for everyone.
Unless I do a lousy job, and then single-handedly destroy the comic book industry...
You built it, so I guess tearing it down would be your right too...
It'd be like Samson, pulling down the temple...for God's sake, if you quote any of this, make sure you say that with a wink! Sometimes these things come out and make you look like an idiot!
No, no, this is nothing but reverential, don't you worry.
So...if you have any spare time, I think we'd all like to know, what do you do with your spare time? Do you like to fish, or...
Well, you know, I don't know. I really haven't had any spare time in 50 years. But I really enjoy what I do. You know, I don't take vacations. People ask me why I don't take vacations, and, what would I do? Or people say why don't you retire, but when you retire, you say "Boy, now I'm going to do all the things I really like to do."
But you know, I'm doing all the things I like to do. I really like working with writers. I'm doing a lot of work on TV and movies, I'm working on animation, I love that. I don't play golf, I have no interest in that and I'm getting a little...I don't have enough energy for an exciting game of tennis so...well, I have the energy but I don't think my legs would hold up.
I like writing and I like working with creative people, and that's what I'm doing all the time, and so...I'm really just so blessed.
Stan, that's about all I'll burden you with today. Except...well, maybe one last request. I'd love a nickname...
Hmm...Chris Ryall...how about Capricious Chris Ryall. Or you could be Charismatic Chris. Or you can be Copacetic Chris. I'll give you the free choice.
That works right there! Stan, I'll close with some fawning, and say that I pretty much owe my vocabulary, my love of reading, and my appreciation of the art form of comics all to you.
Great, send me money! No, I want to tell you, Capricious Chris, it's been a pleasure talking to you. Now, this will be seen by a lot of people at this Comic Book Galaxy, you say?
Definitely! As far as Web sites go, how's things with your company right now? Still in a holding pattern for now?
Well, we're reforming, and I'm not quite sure how it's going to turn out, I'm not sure which way it's going to go. We have a lot of different ways to go, but we will have some sort of a company going again in the next three months, I just need to figure out what kind of company it'll be.
Thanks for your time, Stan, and for everything.
Thanks a million, it's been great talking to you. Best of luck to you!