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NOCC: Stan Lee in the Creator Spotlight

Company: Wizard World
Product: New Orleans Comic Con 2013* Coverage

Stan "the man" Lee turns 90 this December, but you'd never know it by listening to him. He's still spry, witty and sharp as a tack. At his Creator Spotlight panel at Wizard World in New Orleans, he shared some anecdotes from his interesting life as an innovator in the comics industry. His wit shined through from his very first remark, "Now that I'm here, what am I going to do?"

Upon his arrival, he was presented with a Spider-Man themed birthday cake by the host of the panel, Jarrett Crippin (The Defuser from Who Wants to be a Superhero?) , to which he responded, "Oh, golly! Is it real? How am I gonna get it home?" When Jarrett Crippin led the audience in singing Happy Birthday to Stan Lee, Stan quipped, "He'll do anything to kill a few minutes."

Jarrett: So, what do you want to talk about?
Stan: About how soon I can get out of here and get home. That's my usual subject. No, whatever you want to talk about. How much time do we have?
Jarrett: All you want, we've got probably...
Stan: All I want? I'm out.
Jarrett: ...35 minutes.
Stan: Okay, so talk fast. I'll try - usually my answers take about 30 minutes, but I'll try to keep them short.

I had one achievement that was kind of funny; I got a medal from President Bush a few years ago, when he was in office. I forget what it's called even... Freedom, eh... either way, some funny name. And there was a ceremony at the White House - it wasn't (just) me - there was a number of people. And, who is the girl that always played opposite Errol Flynn in the movies (Olivia de Havilland) Olivia de Havilland! Yeah. She was there, she got a medal before me, so she walked up and he put the thing around her neck and he gave her a little kiss on the cheek. Then, I came up, it was my turn, so he put the thing around my neck and I said to him, "I'm not going to have to kiss you, am I?" And he started laughing and I started laughing and somebody took a photo and if you looked at that photo of the two of us standing near each other laughing, you'd figure these are two best friends. That was the end of it and I don't know why I bored you with that.
- Stan Lee, on a noteworthy achievement from his career
Question: Of all of the characters that your competitors came up with, who do you wish you had created?
Stan: What's the name of the guy at... Lobo! DC. I like Lobo, 'cause he's miserable.

Question: I know you're a veteran of WWII. Have you gone by and seen the WWII Museum (in New Orleans)?
Stan: No, I haven't. I'll tell you what happens. When I go to a convention or when I go to a college to speak, I get off the plane, I drive to where I'm going, I make my speech, I get back in the car, drive to the plane and go home. I have been everywhere and I have seen nothing. ...except for convention centers and auditoriums.

I started out in the Signal Corp, but my job ended up, I wrote instructional books for the troops, cause it took too long to train them with the normal books and I had to put 'em in simplified form and make 'em funnies, so the troops would like 'em and I drew posters and things like that. And my favorite thing - they were having trouble with venereal disease - the soldiers overseas were very careless. I had to do a poster that would let 'em know that after they had carnal knowledge of some female, they should go to what was called a prophylaxis center and they would be treated or something, I don't know... So I drew this cartoon and showed this soldier walking into the center and he's going, "VD? Not me!" We made a million of 'em! I think that poster won the war singlehandedly.
- Stan Lee, on his favorite WWII anecdote

One fan asked if he could have a piece of Stan's birthday cake. Stan Lee said, "Yeah, cause I'm not going to be able to eat it, we oughta divide it up among everyone..." (Jarrett winced at the suggestion) "...or maybe there's some great charity nearby. But, I love it. Hope somebody took a picture of it for me." Later, someone from the wings came to the front to give Jarrett a knife with which to cut the cake. The cake didn't get cut during the panel and I don't know the eventual fate of the cake, but upon reviewing the picture I took, I see it was a Gambino's cake and those are delicious, so I hope somebody actually ate it.

Long story. How much time we got? I was single at the time, and, um, this was just after I came out of the army and a guy arranged a blind date for me with a girl that worked as a hat model in a place. Well, that didn't sound bad to me, so I went up there - hat models have to be pretty and, um, I knocked on the door and this gorgeous creature opened the door... now, I gotta go back - Most guys, if they draw, and I used to draw, when they're young, they draw pretty girls and they always - at least, I always - tried to draw my dream girl. I drew the kind of face - boy, if I could ever meet a girl that looked like this - and figure, too - and, um, there opening the door of this agency was this girl I had been drawing all my life - all my young life - and, not only that, I'm an Anglophile, I really love things British, I love Shakespeare and Sherlock Holmes and everything. And she had a British accent! And she says, "Hello, may I help you?" And she wasn't the girl I was supposed to meet. I mumbled something silly, like, "I love you!" Anyway, we got married a few weeks later and that's how it happened.
- Stan Lee, on how he met his wife

Question: Do you see any correlation between the success of your comics and kids locking themselves into closets with gamma radiation?
Stan: Well, I haven't been aware of any kids who lock themselves in closets and, if they do, don't blame it on me - those are nutty kids! No, I don't think there's any correlation, to whatever the hell it is you asked.

I come over, and I usually wear a pair of jeans and sneakers and, um, the say go to wardrobe, so I go to the wardrobe, eh, wagon and there's some girl who says, "Okay, this is what we want you to wear" and she takes out a pair of jeans exactly like the ones I'm wearing, takes out a pair of sneakers just like the ones... and so, everything like I'm wearing, so I say, "You don't have to bother, I'm already wearing that." "No, no, you've gotta wear our clothes." So I have to take all my stuff off and put on theirs that was the same as mine, but I say at least it's giving employment to some people. But, I know nothing about the um, the movie itself. The director tells me what to do in the cameo and, of course, I do it superbly and when I finish, I go home and I haven't seen the movie or anything and that's it and they throw my name on it, you know, Executive Producer with a few other names and I think that's just to keep me quiet so I don't bother them.
- Stan Lee, on costuming for his cameos

Question: What do you think about Batman?
Stan: I like him.(Offhandedly) ...The guy who created Batman, Bob Kane, was a good friend of mine and as you know, the Batman movie came out before the Marvel movies and it was incredibly successful and Bob used to rib me all the time, "Hey, you see Batman out there on the screen and you with your Marvel characters." I mean he was a lovely guy and, um, he died a few years ago, just before our movies really made it. I just hope he's up there watching. You see, Bob?

Back when I was in the army, Marvel used to send me outlines - not outlines - requests for stories they needed, like I'd get a note, "We need a new Black Rider story" or something. And, um, I would write it in my spare time. And I got a letter saying, "We're going to send you an outline for another story we need tomorrow. Well, tomorrow came and there wasn't - I didn't get it at mail call and I wondered why wasn't it given to me cause Marvel never missed. I walked by the mail room and all the cubicles were alphabetical I could look through the window at the "L" cubicle. There was my letter from Marvel and the mail clerk had forgotten to give it to me. So, I did the logical thing; I broke the lock and I entered the room and I took my letter. The, uh, the Captain in charge at the time found out about it and said, "You're going to Leavenworth. You robbed the mail." And he wanted to bring me up on charges. But, luckily, I had gotten a lot of free comic books to the Colonel of the post for his kids. It was the smartest thing I ever did, cause the Colonel said to the Captain, "You mention that mail incident any longer and you'll be captaining in Alaska." I was okay. I'd have been in Leavenworth today if it hadn't been for that Colonel.
- Stan Lee, on the closest he came to being arrested

Question: Of all the characters you've worked with, whether they appeared in a comic book or not, which would you like to see made into a movie?
Stan: Oh, I'd like to see Dr. Strange. I'd like to see the Black Panther. I'd like to see the Inhumans - and they're all being talked about and developed right now. And so is Antman, believe it or not. And probably some - I think they're probably talking about Deadpool. Anything good that Marvel has, believe me, the editors are sitting, saying, "How can we make a movie out of it?"

Draw. As good as you can. Now, that's a tough thing to say, and artists... the only way to become a good artist is to draw, draw, draw. And you also have to have - you have to be gifted with a good eye. By that, I mean, you have to be able to tell, yourself, is the drawing good or isn't it. Years ago, when I went to conventions and I used to look at artwork, which I don't anymore, cause it's too heartbreaking, but occasionally, somebody would show me a sample of artwork, "What do you think, Mr. Lee, can I work for Marvel?" And it was terrible. And it was obviously terrible. And I felt so bad because this guy wasn't able to see that it was terrible, so he shouldn't be an artist. You have to know when you're drawing something that's really good and when you're not. And I don't know how to teach that to somebody. You either have that ability or you don't. But, if you want to be, let's say, a comic book artist, you have to keep practicing until the drawings you do are at least as good as a good professional comic book artist whose work you see in the books. Cause if it isn't that good, they don't need you, they've got hundreds of people applying for the work who are great professional artists. So, you've gotta be as good or better than they are and, as I say, you gotta be able to recognize, yourself, whether a drawing is good or bad and I don't know how to teach that ability; it's something that you just have to have or not. And, I'm sorry I was so serious, but it's a serious subject.
- Stan Lee on advice to upcoming artists
Question: Which is your favorite: Gwen Stacy or Mary Jane?
Stan: Well, when we started the script, I came up with Gwen Stacy, and I thought she would be the one Spider-Man ended up marrying. And then we introduced Mary Jane and it was very funny, it was as if they had lives of their own, because no matter what I could do in writing it, I couldn't make Gwen as interesting or as peppy or as fascinating as Mary Jane. It was like Mary Jane had all the personality and I'd go home and I'd say, "Stan, you're writing this. Change it. Give Gwen more personality." I couldn't figure out how. Mary Jane kinda kept alive, stayed alive and then of course, we did, I did the story where Captain Stacy was killed. And I stopped writing the series shortly after that and I went to Europe for some business reason. When I came back I found out that Jerry Conway had killed Gwen, also, and I said, "It's like we have a vendetta against the Stacy family. What'd you kill her for?" So, now, Mary Jane has to be our favorite, cause there is no more Gwen, except in the recent movie, there was Gwen, so it'll be interesting to see how they follow through on that. I don't know... maybe they won't kill her, maybe they'll decide to change the whole thing. I'll sue!

It was great to be able to spend some time with Stan Lee and to hear some anecdotes from his past. Some lucky VIP attendees also got to attend a more intimate Meet and Greet with Stan Lee, which must have been great. Happy Birthday, Stan Lee... and... Excelsior!

*Yes, I know it's not quite 2013, but there was already one Wizard World in early 2012 and the next one in New Orleans is scheduled for 2014, so this is the 2013 one - just a little early. Presumably, this was done so that fans could spend their money on collectibles even if the Aztecs were right and the world ends later this year.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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