Imagine my surprise last week when I received an email asking if I would like to take part in submitting questions for legendary creator Stan Lee! On June 16-18th in Washington DC, Awesome Con will be featuring Stan Lee as a guest; select members of the media were given the opportunity to join a call-in press conference this past June 5th as arranged by Left Field Media. I was thrilled to listen in as Stan Lee addressed some of the questions that had been submitted. It was surreal and humbling to hear his voice live through my phone.
Here are some of the questions presented to Stan Lee by Left Field Media President Greg Topalian…
Greg Topalian: Stan, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us this morning.
Stan Lee: Yeah, it’s pretty damn nice of me but, you’re welcome. (laughs)
Greg Topalian: What authors did you read as a child and whose work and what stories launched your imagination?
Stan Lee: I loved reading Edgar Allan Poe, I read Mark Twain, I read Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, I read everything I could lay my hands on. I even read Shakespeare and I loved everything that I read. I loved to read. George Bernard Shaw, Charles Dickens, HG Wells… I could go on and on. I read anything that I thought was worth reading.
Greg Topalian: What was it like watching the comics industry grow from newsstand days of the 40’s into a multi billion dollar industry with tens of millions of fans around the world?
Stan Lee: It’s indescribable. I never thought it would happen. When I got into comics, people hated comics so much. Most parents didn’t want their kids to read ’em, 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. 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 [Lieber] in case I ever wrote something meaningful. I didn’t wanna be played by being known as a comic book writer. But of course that’s changed tremendously. Now, I’m very proud to be known as a comic book 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 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.” So that’s what it was years ago when I got into the business.
Greg Topalian: So, is it a huge surprise to you that it has become such an incredible media world with the movies and everything else. Did you ever see that as even possible?
Stan Lee: No, I never in a million years thought it would turn out the way it did. I used to lecture, I used to go around the world and I’d speak at colleges telling them that comics were really a 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. The comic form is a great form, it’s just how well you do it. One thing that I’m gonna 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. Don’t ever let me catch you writing it as two words. (laughs)
Greg Topalian: What is top on your list when visiting [Washington] DC?
Stan Lee: Meet with my fans as I always do. Meet with my fellow artists and writers and just have a good time.
Greg Topalian: Is there any one piece of advice you received during your career that stuck with you?
Stan Lee: No, not really. But there’s a piece of advice I try to give people… So many people try to write for other people, I always try to write stories that I myself might enjoy reading because I feel I’m not that unique. If there’s a story I like, there must be millions of other people with similar taste and they’d like it too. I never ever wrote for other people, I always wrote for myself. I wanted to please me. I was my toughest critic, I felt if I liked the story, it has to be good.
Greg Topalian: Which Marvel character that you created or worked on do you think is underrated or underappreciated?
Stan Lee: I think the Silver Surfer. I think he’s a great character, the thing I like about him I was always able to get a lot of bits of philosophy that he would utter and they don’t use him as much as I wish they would. He’s one of my favorite characters.
Greg Topalian: Is there anything you would change about any of your characters?
Stan Lee: I’ve never really thought about it, But now that I am. No. I must be very easy to please. I think they’re all just about the way I wanted them. I think they’re about the way they should be.
Greg Topalian: Is there a proudest moment of your career?
Stan Lee: Yeah, I think probably doing this interview with all you great correspondants. (laughs) I just go on trying to live from day to day. Each day is exciting. Each day something new comes along.
Greg Topalian: Final question. Is there a favorite cameo in Marvel films so far?
Stan Lee: The Guardians of the Galaxy I got a kick out of. 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 I couldn’t drink it, it’s too strong for a human being and I said “Nonsense, I can handle it!” and anyway he gave me a sip of his drink and then the next scene they’re carrying me out. The thing I love about that cameo is, if you think about it, that is the only cameo I’ve done that had 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. (laughs)
Greg Toalian: That’s great! Thank you so much for taking the time and for our friends in the press hopefully that was fun and useful.
Stan Lee: Thank you so much, I really enjoyed it. They were really good questions.
I would like to thank Awesome Con PR for allowing me to be included in this unique experience. To hear this press conference in it’s entirety, click here: Stan Lee Press Conference. I look forward to hopefully sharing more from Stan Lee in a couple weeks, right here on Fan Fest News!
Full-time fangirl and part-time manager. A comic-con junkie with a passion for writing and great artwork. Catch me… if you can!