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NOCC: Stan the Man at Wizard World - Part II

Company: Wizard World
Product: New Orleans Comic Con 2014

Q: Why did you make Peter Parker very intelligent, but his alter-ego, Spider-Man be a smart-alec?
Stan Lee: Well, you can be an intelligent smart-alec - look at me.

I wanted to make him an interesting character and I thought when he becomes Spider-Man and suddenly he has that power and he can do almost anything, he'd act differently and behave differently. He... for instance, if I didn't have this incredible power over you people in the audience, I'd probably be speaking much more shyly and hesitantly and timidly, but I'm aware of my great powers of...

Oh, by the way, did I tell you how Spider-Man got to be a Marvel character in the first place? Well, if you've heard this story, you know, read a book for a few minutes; I'm telling this story for the people who haven't heard it.

We had already done the Fantastic Four and maybe the X-Men, I forget the order, but our books were doing well, so my publisher came to me and he said, "Stan, I want you to dream up another superhero." I wanted to keep my job, so I said, "Okay."

So, I'm sitting around trying to think, "What the hell can I come up with?" and I see a fly crawling on the wall and I said, "Wow - it would be kind of cool" - no... I'm lying to you. I don't think we had the word cool in those days. I think I probably thought it would be kinda groovy if I could find a character who could crawl on walls, so the next thing I needed was a name, so I figured: "Fly-Man"- eh. "Insect-Man" - eh. "Insect-Man"... "Mosquito-Man"... and then I hit on "Spider-Man" - it just sounded dramatic, you know. And I figured I'd make him a teenager and give him a lot of personal problems so that the reader could relate to him. So I went busting into my publisher's office and said, "I got it! I got it! I got a character called Spider-Man! He's a teenager with a lot of personal problems." And I waited - I waited for the slap on the back and the bonus check, but my publisher said to me, "Stan, that is the worst idea I've ever heard. First of all, people hate spiders, so you can't make a hero named Spider-Man. You want him to be a teenager? Teenagers can only be sidekicks. And you want him to have personal problems? Don't you know what a superhero is? They don't have personal problems! They're superheroes!"

So, I did not feel very triumphant as I walked out of his office, but I was determined to do this. We had a book we were gonna kill called "Amazing Fantasy." When you kill a book, nobody cares what you put in the last issue, cause you're killing it anyway. So, just for fun, I got Ditko to draw this thing and we put Spider-Man on the cover and it sold like crazy. So, after the sales figures were in, my publisher came to see me and said, "You remember that character, Spider-Man, that you were doing that we both liked so much," he said, "Let's make a series." That's how Spider-Man was born.

Q: When was the moment that you stepped back and said, "I have made it. I am Stan Lee. I am the greatest comic book icon."
Stan Lee: I'm really not that great. I just love to kid about it. I mean, I can't believe half the things that are happening, you know, I mean you fans are the greatest people in the world. I go home after a convention, walk in after I've been acclaimed and I've been cheered and people have been so great, I walk into my house and my wife says, "Stan, take out the garbage."

Danny Fingeroth: In your own auto-biography, I believe you mentioned something you wrote on the ceiling at DeWitt Clinton High School?

Stan Lee: Well, I was stupid. I went to DeWitt Clinton High School and, um, I don't know why I did this. I was a High School kid... they had a tower, it was shaped like that on the top of the school and the painters had been painting the inside of the tower, they left their ladder and I was the editor of the school magazine or something and I was up in the office and I see the ladder and the paint and I figured, "I ought to paint something there and when they take the ladder away, cause the painters were finished, that will be there forever. Nobody will ever see it, except for who's up there, and for some stupid reason, I climbed the ladder and I wrote, "Stan Lee is God." I don't remember why... Why did I tell that story? Oh, when I first knew... I didn't know I was great. It was a joke to me. No, I've been very lucky. I've worked with a lot of artists who made my stories probably look much better than they really were. Because these guys: Jack Kirby, Ditko and Romita, Buscema, Gil Kane, Gene Colan... they took the stories and they made it so that you had to read 'em, they looked so great! So, I mean, a lot of people have to share the credit for whatever it is I may have done, it's just that, um, I talk more than they do, I don't know.

Q: What is your favorite cameo?

Stan Lee: I don't know. I'm such a big fan of mine that I like 'em all. Maybe the one - I was in a Spider-Man movie, I think I was a librarian. I was listening to music and behind me Spider-Man and the Lizard are having a life and death fight and I didn't know about it. I thought that was funny.

(Same Person from Audience): I liked the one in Thor 2 where you asked for you shoe back.

Stan Lee: I didn't like that. In Thor 2, you remember the one where I say, "Can I have my shoe back?" I had about a whole paragraph of things to say and they cut all the stuff out and they just left it, "Can I have my shoe back?" You know, I don't mind for myself, but you, the public... didn't get to hear the rest of it. It was funny.

Q: Are you a fan of Big Bang Theory and how did you like the show?

Stan Lee: Oh! I loved the show and I never had a better time than being on it. I think it was one my greatest performances. I've very annoyed that they never asked me back to do another one. So, when you have nothing to do and you feel like writing a fan letter, the name of the show is The Big Bang Theory.

Q: Of all the heroes or villains you've created, which do you identify with most on a personal level?

Stan Lee: I guess I would have to say Iron Man, because he's so intelligent and glamorous and romantic and everybody loves him and the women who... yeah, yeah. I don't know, I don't really truly identify with any of them. This may come as a shock to you, but I really don't have a super power. And, um, I wish I were any of them, I mean, they're all great. I'd even like to be Batman or Superman - Oh! Did you know I wrote Batman and Superman stories for DC? Someone just said to me they put them all together in a big, thick book - it's hard to even carry, but there it is. Just imagine, Stan Lee creating Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, all of 'em. I enjoyed it.

Q: What was it that first got you to start writing comics?
Stan Lee: It's a funny thing. I had a cousin who had a husband who had a little publishing - not little - he had a publishing company and I heard they needed an assistant at his company and I always thought I'd like to be a writer. And they published men's books and movie books and sport books and they had a little line of comic books that I hadn't hardly known anything about. I went up to the office and found out that there was an opening in the comic book department. Some department. The whole department was Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. So I became their assistant and, again, some assistant - my job was to run down and bring them sandwiches for lunch, to fill the inkwells - they actually used ink in those days - and to run errands. And also to write a little bit of copy if they needed some, cause they figured nobody ever read this stuff, anyway. Nobody had any feeling, any respect for the readers of comics in those days. Everybody felt only... very young children or stupid grown-ups read comics in those days. So, there I was, wasting time, but it was a job, and for some reason, Joe and Jack got fired at some point after I had been there for eight or nine months. And the publisher said, "Hey Stan, do you think you could take care of things till I hire a grown-up?" - you know, and I was about seventeen or eighteen and when you're that age, what do you know? I said, "Sure, I can handle things." And he must have forgotten about me, I stayed there ever since and pretended to be in comics. I didn't know that much about comics, I still don't know that much about comics. Anyway, that was the answer to that question, I thought I did that magnificently.

Q: We have time for two more questions.

Stan Lee: Well, wait a minute! How can you be sure? One of the questions may be so long that we don't have time for the second. Or, they may be so short that we have time for a third one. You can't say so authoritatively we have time for two questions.

Danny Fingeroth: They've done a demographic study and they know exactly how much time we need.

Q: What inspired you to make Iron Man?

Stan Lee: It was really a challenge. In those days, people hated the military-industrial complex, as they called it. They hated anybody who had anything to do with armaments and war and, here, I wanted to have a character who made munitions and supported the army and so forth. It was a challenge; I said, "I bet I can write him so that people will like him anyway," so I came up with Tony Stark. And the funny thing about him is, we got more mail, more fan mail, from females for writing him than any other book, because, again, he was handsome and glamorous, he had a bad heart and every romantic female must have gone, "Oh, I could take care of him."

Q: Why did you choose the powers that Fantastic Four have, rather than making them have different ones?

Stan Lee: I just sat and thought about it until I could figure something out. I remembered that Marvel once had a character called the Human Torch. They had him when I first came to work there, by Carl Bergos and I always though he was a great character, so I thought I'd bring him back and I made him the younger brother, I think, of the Invisible Girl. And then I thought it would be fun to have a female super heroine and I had to find a power for her, so I thought of invisibility, but that isn't really a power, that's just... so I thought she'd also have force fields that she could use to protect people. And then I wanted to have a character that could provide a little human interest and humor and, for some reason, I dreamed up the Thing. I love the Thing. And then, for the hero, I thought I'll make a real good hero. He's a scientist, he's a genius, but just for fun, I thought I'd make him dull. He's a little like me, he talks too much, he uses big words, the Thing keeps wishing he would shut up. I don't know, I dreamed 'em up, I thought I could have some fun with them. You're wondering what I'm doing (as he talks, Stan Lee has been fervently doing something on the table in front of him.)

Danny Fingeroth: What are you doing?
Stan Lee: Once, somebody asked me at an autograph session would I do a doodle of Spider-Man. I don't draw Spider-Man, but just for fun, I did a stupid little sketch of a cartoon character Spider-Man and ever since then, my associates, who I could kill because of this, he says, would I do a little Spider-Man doodle that he can auction off or something, so that's what I'm... and it's so terrible... I don't wanna...

Danny Fingeroth: We're giving it away.

Stan Lee: What's that?

Danny Fingeroth: We're giving it away.

Stan Lee: Oh, you're giving it away?

Danny Fingeroth: Yeah.

Stan Lee: Well, maybe I could get it. And I mean, I'm embarrased by it, cause it's really so horrible I don't know why anyone would want it. You can't do it with a Sharpie, anyway, can't get the fine lines in it. I hate it. This is really awful.

Danny Fingeroth: The way we're going to give it away, is, uh, it's hard to do a question, so I'm just gonna randomly choose a question that I know that you guys should have the answer, if you're true believers...

What movie did Stan star in that was a cameo role that he was not a superhero, but he was a guest in the movie and who was the co-star in the movie with him?

Stan Lee: I don't even understand the question.

Several guesses were made. The Hulk? No, it's not a superhero film. Mallrats? No. Jay and Silent Bob? No. Star Wars? No. Castaway? Twilight? Hellboy? It's a very famous actress and he was introduced to her in the movie. Was it the Princess Diaries with Anne Hathaway? You're halfway there. The Princess Diaries 2 with Julie Andrews. There you go, right there. It was Princess Diaries 2 with Julie Andrews. He played a cameo, where he played...

Stan Lee: What cameo?! I was her co-star!

You want me to sign it? I wouldn't admit that I did it! It's horrible.

(The winner comes up to get it)

How did you get it?

...and then a quick thank you to the audience, and the precious moment had passed, leaving us all waiting for the next chance to chat with our hero, the super-humanly lucky, timeless comic book icon, Stan "The Man" Lee, as he left us with a warm goodbye, a bright smile, a huge wave and a mighty, "Excelsior!"

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Related Links:

Windows This Just In... A World Of Your Own Generic NOCC: Stan the Man at Wizard World - Part I

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