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Awesome-Con 2017: Interview with Stan Lee

Awesome-Con is kicking off this Friday but until we get there we still have more interviews to share with you from guests of the event.

Last week I sat in on a conference with Marvel’s own Stan Lee. This interview was a little different than previous weeks, as it was not a one-on-one conversation like I would have liked but it’s still awesome nonetheless. A group of journalists, including me, submitted questions that were consolidated into the ones you see below for Stan to answer.

So read the interview below and be sure to keep coming back to n3rdabl3.com for more interviews and all kinds of coverage from Awesome-Con this weekend.

Moderator: What authors did you read as a child? who’s work and what stories launched your imagination?

Stan: I loved reading Edgar Allen Poe. But I read Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, I read everything I could lay my hands on. I even read Shakespeare. I loved everything that I read, I love to read. George Bernard Shaw, I read him. Charles Dickens, H. G. Wells, I could go on and on. I read anything that I thought was worth reading.

Moderator: Wow. That’s Great. Second question, back in 2001 you worked with DC Comics on a 13 comic series called Just Imagine. How did this come about and who are some of your favorite DC Characters?

Stan: Well, as a matter of fact, it came about by someone at DC asking me if I could do that. At first, I thought they were joking but they really meant it. So I tried writing the series of books.

And to tell you the truth I didn’t really read much of the DC books. I can’t think of a favorite. The only two I can remember are Batman and Superman. Oh, and of course there’s Wonder Woman. But I wasn’t a big DC fan.

Moderator: Gotcha. So what’s it been like watching the comics industry grow from the news stand days of the 40’s to a multi-billion dollar industry with tens of millions of fans all around the world?

Stan: It’s indescribable. I never thought it would happen. When I got in my name was Stanley Martin Lieber, that was my birth name and I intended someday to write, hopefully, a good book. 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. I will admit, a lot of those stories were badly written in those days. 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 comicbook writer. But, of course, that’s changed tremendously. Now, I’ve proud to be known as a comicbook writer. And the public, their perception of comics has changed completely.

Actually, most teachers and parents were right, years ago in condemning a lot of comics because all that comics were, 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 a lot of characterization and involved plots. Just give me a lot of action. I want a lot of fight scenes.” So that’s what it was, years ago, when I got into the business.

Moderator: So is it a huge surprise to you that it’s become such an incredible media world with all the movies and everything else. Did you ever see that as being possible?

Stan: No. I never, in a million years, thought it would ever turn out the way it did. I use to lecture, I use to go around the world. I went to Italy, to Germany, to all over and I’d speak at colleges and places and telling them that comics were a really good way to tell a story. You’re seeing the action and you’re reading the dialogue. Not much different than going to the theater and seeing a Shakespeare play. You hear the words and you’re seeing the action. Well, the difference is in comics, the characters don’t move. But it’s the same thing, you’re hearing the words and seeing the action. So there’s nothing wrong with the comic form. Actually, it’s a great form, it’s just how well you do it.

One thing that I’m going to mention, parenthetically, the word comicbook should never be written as two words. Because if it’s written as two words it means a funny book a comic book. It should be one word. COMICBOOK. That makes it a unique type of literature. And please, don’t ever let me catch you writing it as two words.

Moderator: What’re you most looking forward to about coming to Awesome-Con and Washington DC? What’s top on your list?

Stan: Well, I don’t know whether [Donald] Trump will have time for me or not. We have to work that out [laughing]. No, my list is just to meet with the fans as I always do. Meet with my fellow artists and writers. And just have a good time.

Moderator: Is there any one piece of advice that you received in your career that stuck with you?

Stan: Well, no, not really. But there’s a piece of advice that I try to give people because a lot of people ask what they should write, they want to be writers. “How should they write” and “what they should write.” And I always tell them, so many people always try to write for other people. By that I mean, something like, “I think this story would be good for people from [age] 25 to 30” or “this would be good for someone from [age] 18 to 22” or whatever it is. I never tried to write for any particular age group or social group. I always tried to write stories that, I myself, might enjoy reading. Because I feel that I’m not that unique. If there’s a story that 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. I wanted to please me. I was my toughest critic. If I liked a story, I felt, “well it has to be good because I’m a normal guy and if I like it, it’s probably good.” And I think that if you try to write for other people, for other types of people, it’s a lot more difficult to do than just writing something that you yourself would enjoy.

Moderator: Which Marvel character that you created or worked on, do you think is underrated or under appreciated and is due for a revival? Either in comics or in film.

Stan: I think the Silver Surfer has been underrated. I think he’s a great character and the thing I like about him, I was always able to get a lot of bits of philosophy that he would utter. They don’t use him as much as I wish they would. He’s one of my favorite characters.

Moderator: Sort of on the same vein, in regards to all the comic characters you’ve created over the years. Has there been anything you regretted in the creation of any of them? Would you change their sex, age, ethnicity, anything like that?

Stan: You know, I’ve never thought of that before. Now that you mention it and I’m thinking about it, no. No. I must be very easy to please. But no, I think they’re all just about the way I wanted them. I think they’re about the way they should be.

Moderator: So you’ve been involved in the industry since 1939 and you’ve been involved with so many amazing achievements. Is there a proudest moment of your career?

Stan: Yea, I think doing this interview with all you great correspondents. [laughing] No, I don’t think about that much. I just go on trying to live day to day. Each day is exciting. Each day there’s something new that comes along. I can’t think of a proudest moment, really. There have been so many proud moments.

Moderator: One of my favorite parts of Silver-Age Marvel was your constant credit jokes at the expense of letterers Artie Simek and Sam Rosen. Do you remember how that tradition started?

Stan: Oh yeah, sure. I always wanted to put the credits down. I felt that it would be good to treat comics like movies. In the movie, you would get the name of the director, the screenwriter, and all the other people too. And I thought, “wouldn’t it be fun, no one ever gives the letterer credit. I’ll have the letterers, I’ll have the production people, I’ll have the editor. Any name I could think of, I’ll put in the credits.” But then it occurred to me, “why not keep it friendly and funny and easy for the kids to remember? I’ll give them all nicknames.” So I tried to put little nicknames in for each guy. And I don’t remember all the nicknames now but it was enjoyable to me and the fans seemed to like it and that made me happy.

And the letterers, editors and proofreaders, they liked it too. Because they were finally getting some recognition.

Moderator: So, Jack Kirby, you obviously had an opportunity to work with Jack in your career. Is there a favorite story about working with Jack that you could share with us?

Stan: I can’t think of any, I’m not good with favorite stories. My life has been so many stories. But working with Jack was one of the great experiences of my life. Jack would have been one of the world’s greatest film directors. He knew how to picture a scene and how to get the most drama out of an incident of any artist that I knew. The thing about Jack, whatever he tried to draw, if it was a man running or hitting another man or somebody looking surprised or frightened or whatever it was. Once he drew it, you couldn’t picture it any better, no matter what. It was as though he always drew things as well as they could possibly be drawn. Nobody could improve on them. He extracted the same amount of drama and excitement in every panel. He could just have two people talking to each other and there was something interesting about the way he did it. He was a fantastic storyteller.

Moderator: Last question. One of my favorites and I know thousands of millions of other fans agree, your cameos in the Marvel films. Is there a favorite cameo so far?

Stan: Well, a lot of them. The one in the new Guardians movie I got a kick out of. But my all time favorite was the one where I was with Thor in a bar and Thor was drinking a Norse drink. And I said, “Hey, let me have some!” and he said, “You couldn’t drink it. It’s too strong for human beings.” and I said, “nonsense! I can handle it!” Anyway, he gave me a sip of his drink and in the next scene they were carrying me out. But the thing I loved about that cameo is, if you think about it, that is the only cameo I’ve done that has two scenes. It was more than a cameo it was almost like a role in the movie. So now I’m shooting the cameos that have three scenes, four scenes, eventually, I hope to be the co-star.

~

Stan Lee didn’t offer up any projects or upcoming workings he wants us to check out. But if you’re a reader of this site or into Marvel and comics in general, I’m sure you have a good idea of what Stan Lee has going on. He would probably tell you to check out the Marvel movies and keep being your awesome self.

You can follow Stan Lee on Twitter for all of his personal updates and other events he’ll be at.

Stan Lee will be a featured guest at this year’s Awesome-Con which is happening this weekend, June 16-18 in Washington D.C. N3rdabl3 will be on site at the event to cover the weekend long nerdy extravaganza. For more things Awesome-Con related and cool stuff in general, make sure to keep checking back to n3rdabl3.com.