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INTERVIEW: STAN LEE
The Man himself. Stan Lee talks to Interviews Editor Jon Ellis.

Ever answer the phone and hear the words 'Hi. This is Stan Lee'? Guaranteed (!) to put a smile on your face. Stan revolutionized the biz, created the characters we love and turned the world's attention to our medium, Stan is, undoubtedly, 'The Man'. I was lucky enough to have a few words with Stan, so... at the risk of being predictable... 'Pull up a seat True Believer for a Fantastic tale full of all Sorts, of surprises!'

Before we continue, I would like to recommend the following music to accompany this interview: Click Here. RealPlayer is needed to view this file. The music file comes courtesy of Launch.com.

Inspired by Greats like Edgar Allan Poe, O. Henry, H.G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Shakespeare and Mark Twain, Stan had originally began his writing career by writing for obituaries and advertisements until he later started working at Timely comics under Jack Kirby and Joe Simon. Of course Stan originally wanted to be an actor, he even joined the WPA Federal Theater and recently he got the chance to live out that dream in the film MALLRATS. He even had a chance to be in BLADE, unfortunately schedules conflicted as they do, the same reason he's not acting now with all his time being taken up by his new company Stan Lee Media.

Stan is known for a lot of things, and a lot of his creations, he's also known for bringing diversity to the characters of the comic book universe. Before Stan almost all the characters were white, even most of the aliens: "All kinds of people live in the world today so all kinds of people should live in the world of comic books too". When Stan wrote superheroes he had two levels of conflict, the conflict between the hero and the villain and the conflicts in the heroes personal lives, which you explored through...? "The personal conflicts I explored were simply the every day problems that we all have, they just happened to be super heroes too."

Now before we move on to the new business, Stan Lee Media, Stan does DC, and even the Backstreet Boys, there are just some questions you gotta ask when you have an opportunity like this.

Stan, what do you think of the cancellation of copyright transfer suits by the Seigel estate vs. DC and the Simon suit vs. Marvel. Having worked on both ends of the industry, who do you think should maintain control?

This is a complicated matter, and too difficult to answer. However, whoever is most qualified should maintain control.

Would you do a Marvel Knights miniseries if you were approached for it and what one character would you choose?

Yes, I'd love to do the DAREDEVIL or the INHUMANS.

Thoughts on the comics code? Should it be retired?

The comics code has been around for a long time. It's not likely to end until the comics reading audience wants it to end.

Back when you were getting started comics weren't seen as the artform it is today, what steps did you take to try to make your characters more mature and appeal to a larger audience?

I tired writing them more intelligently so that anyone could pick up a comic book, read it and enjoy it.

At Marvel you've been a writer, an editor, publisher and president. If you could have any job in the Marvel offices, what would it be?

I love to be the "head writer", but that position never existed.

You always promoted the artists as well as the characters, sort of putting the artists in the spotlight and giving them the credit they deserved. How did this begin?

I just thought it was the right thing to do!

Are there any heroes in current society? Certainly the firemen and policemen aren't the most famous people, and we're always looking for and finding flaws in the people who mainstream popular media, like actors and politicians.

I think those parents who bring their kids up right are real heroes too!

This last year saw the launch of Stan Lee Media, Stan's own web based company to do the projects he wants to do: In Stan's own words SLM Inc. is... "the culmination of my career as a writer and character creator. I look forward to collaborating with the brightest creative and technical talent from around the world -- and using the Internet as a launching pad for new characters I'll be introducing to bring a modern brand of Super Hero excitement into the next millennium!

Starting with the Internet, our goal is to direct the destiny of my new creations in all media. We intend to build a production and merchandising company of globally-branded content, which will pioneer the convergence of media to benefit our shareholders, co-creators, fans, and hey, why not? -- the world at large!

Aided by the award-winning team now in place at Stan Lee Media, our uniquely successful style of story-telling and character creation will be advanced well into the next millennium, continuing to attract young generations of fans to the comicbook Super Hero genre I love so well."

The launch of SLM began with SCUZZLE: Searching Cyberspace for Unknown Zoological Zygomorphic Living Entities. An interactive 'club' where visitors to the site can act as agents of SCUZZLE. SLM is a very interactive site, with webisodes, games, and other applications. Stan even sends out video messages to his fans every once in a while. I asked Stan, why SCUZZLE?

One of the appeals of your characters was that you'd always try to make them human, so the reader would find them more believable. You repeated this theory by taking a real life instance in the case of SCUZZLE. Why did you choose that specifically to initiate your reign back into the biz?

Well SCUZZLE is really tongue and cheek, it's supposed to be a humourous term. It's a club, so that every body who visits can be a part of SCUZZLE, an agent for SCUZZLE. So that they can join in the search for aliens.

Stan Lee Media's first foray into the limelight was the launch of their webcomic 'THE 7th PORTAL'. Released on Shockwave.com on February 29th, the amount of attention it garnered overwhelmed the server. THE 7TH PORTAL is a tale of a group of gamers from around the world who get hurled into another dimension are given superheroes and have to battle an evil villain. Also currently up is THE ACCUSER, a mysterious tale of a dying man with a dubious past and a powerful second chance. I asked Stan about his web-based creations.

The launch of your 7th Portal web animation episodes overwhelmed the net, how many episodes are there in planning?

Well I'm hoping we can continue for as long as possible, I mean if you had asked me how long I though Spider-man would continue when it first came out I wouldn't have said very long, but we know how that turned out.

You've written the first few episodes of the 7th Portal, with new writers to take over after you. Can you name some of this writers or is that another secret?

Well I've already written a few of them and now there are other writers and I just edit them, or do a re-write when necessary. Let me see, there was Bryce Zabel, Andy Baker, Damon Ransil, and Will Meugnilk. See I don't want this to be a one man operation, I am hiring the best writers that I can find.

Will you ever be making the leap to television or movies perhaps?

Oh I'm sure, we already have a number of producers who have contacted us who want to do animated versions and live action television series and a motion picture for the 7th Portal. The motion picture deal, believe it or not, looks like it will be brought to a decision within a month. A major producer has already contacted us about that.

Who is 'The Drifter'?

There are many superheroes within the world of the 7th Portal, and so on. The drifter is another one of our creations. We have many others coming up, one of which is also called Percy Gentle which is a name you normally wouldn't expect for a superhero. And we got lots more coming up.

Since your projects are web based, and the net is an international forum, will your projects be presented in different languages?

We're talking about that right now, I've gotta figure out how to do it. It's a complicated thing, at the moment everything we're doing is in English, luckily English is the language that is most spoken throughout the World. But I'm aware that we're going to have to translate a lot of our things, we're looking into that right now.

Stan has gathered the best talent and business men he could find to make SLM the best website there is, and soon to be the best entertainment company he could make. I asked Stan about the four new franchises soon to be joining SLM, of course that's another example of a 'tightly held secret'. So Stan couldn't say much about that, but what I did learn, which really impressed me, was the announcement of a Stan Lee Mighty Mouse. That's right, Stan is bringing him back, soon to be animated and sprawling across your computer screen. Also recently, Stan Lee Media hired actor George Hamilton as president of global branded entertainment. Hamilton will head up a new division responsible for signing globally recognized entertainment talent to take part in original programming on the Internet, starting with voice-over and development projects.

Now Stan, hopes are, that eventually SLM will become so big that you'll be able to buy Marvel, so lets take an optimistic look into the future and see the day this actually happens. What moves do you make as new owner? How will it affect the business? The creative control? etc.

Oh golly, I have no idea, I mean that's so far from the reality of the moment, but people have been talking about it, I don't know whether that's going to happen or not. At this moment I don't have the slightest idea what I would do. Of course I would try to go over the comic books and put a little more of my own style in the stories. Beyond that I don't even know whether it will happen or not. It's like a pipe dream. If it happens that would be something.

Another one of the upcoming projects from Stan is the 'Stan Lee Superhero University'. So of course I had to ask Stan about it.

Well that's just something that's in the works now, we're just allowing our own users to create their own superheroes. It will be an interactive feature.

Now believe it or not, there is a Backstreet Boys comic, done by SLM. Based on concepts by 'the boys', this comic is now available through a site dedicated to the joint venture of these two media groups: Back Street Project.com. So I had to ask the Man, just what was going on: One of your upcoming projects involves a Backstreet Boys comic. The obvious question, why? I mean really. Do you have some little lovesick relative you're doing this for, or is it strictly an easy way at cash, or what?

Well I've always loved a challenge, and turning this group which are loved by little girls into superheroes that appeal to everyone is a great challenge. And one of the band members, Nick Carter, a long time comics fan phoned me up and the deal was set.

That aside, here's something you can actually get excited about: Now for those of you who haven't heard, Stan Lee has joined with DC to produce a series where Stan will reinvent the classic DC characters. The venture will begin with a 12 issue Prestige Format limited series titled "Just Imagine Stan Lee with John Buscema Creating Superman." Other characters slated for reworking include Wonder Woman, Batman, the Sandman and the Justice League of America. Stan will be writing the projects with artists Dave Gibbons, Joe Kubert, Jim Lee, Bruce Timm and Jerry Ordway (Jerry has been announced as the artist for JLA, but the others have yet to be confirmed with which project they'll be working on). I asked Stan how the whole thing came about.

Stan, Your recent announcement of reinventing the DC universe has been discussed all over the net, featured in Entertainment Weekly and even mentioned on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. What sparked this event and what are your plans for the characters?

A producer friend of mine, Michael Uslan, who was executive producer on one of the Batman movies asked me if I wanted to reinvent Batman and write a few novels. I said 'what are you nuts? They'll never let me do that'. So he did and now we got a series going. As for what we have coming up, I can't really say, it must be the closest held secret since the atom bomb.

All business aside there was a few last Q's I just had to ask with this opportunity. Stan, how important is comics journalism?

The opinion of the comics fan is very important, in fact when I used to be running things over at Marvel Comics, I actually read every fan letter that came in. in some cases there were hundreds a day, that's why I wear my glasses today. But I consider the fans opinion to be important as anyone's because they're you're customers. If they're nice enough to write you or phone you or e-mail you and tell you what they like and don't like. You'd be crazy not to pay attention to them.

What are your comments on the recent joint venture of Marvel with Artisan Entertainment and will you be involved with any of the projects?

Well I think it's a very good thing for Marvel, and a very good thing for Artisan. At the moment I'm not involved with any of the projects, but I never know when I may get involved.

You've often discussed how your characters were reflections of yourself back when creating the Marvel age of characters, does that stay true today?

All characters I think are in someway reflective of the writer because if there isn't part of you that can relate to that character then you probably wouldn't have created they character in the first place. I know when I used to write our superheroes my wife would come in and say 'who are you talking to?' and I was all alone but I'd be saying all the dialogue out loud when I was writing it. I was living each character whether it was the hero or villain. You know, how can you write anything or any character if it doesn't come out of YOU? So it has to be some sort of reflectionary.

Finish these sentences;
Right now in the industry we need more
... well, we need more places were comics and magazines can be sold. We don't have enough places to sell the comics for the people who want to buy them very often can't 'cause they don't know where to get them. We only have a few hundred comic stores scattered around the country. And I think we need more stories that appeal to readers of all ages. Today it seems that most of the comics are aimed towards older readers.
And less... comic book stories where the artist is concentrating so much on showing off that he or she forgets he or she is supposed to be telling a story. I mean some the artwork in comics is absolutely gorgeous and the artists are great but every so often you get the feeling that the artist is paying more attention to doing fantastic illustrations then he or she is telling a compelling story.

And of course, I can never interview someone without giving them the chance to plug as much as they can and everything they can.

Well the only thing I can plug is our website which I am working on that night and day. I've hired a few more great artists and writers, editors, producers, and we are really hoping that we'll have the best website in the world, more then just websites. In a little while we're going to start concentrating on music. I have a number of projects coming up, other then the Backstreet Boys which involves very big name musicians and recording stars and I can't tell you more about it because we're trying to keep them surprises. We're also going to be some major actors and actresses for voice recordings. And we don't just want to be a superhero website, although that's really our specialty but we want to be the top entertainment site on the web we'll be having interactive games and all sorts of surprises and contests. The only thing we're limited by is there are so many hours in the day and we're learning as we're going along. When the 7th Portal first came out it overwhelmed the net, but when I look back on those early episodes now I wish I could do them over. We have learned so much since then and the material that is going to start appearing on our website in the next few weeks and the next few months is going to be so superior to what we've already done because of the fact that I have learned so much and I have hired so many brilliant genius type people here working with me, I cannot tell you how exited I am. The beautiful thing is every week what we're doing is better than what we did the week before. And we're concentrating a lot on humour, and we have so many things coming up, some news strips, and some stuff more in the vein of the 'Simpsons' and 'South Park' then superheroes. What we're really trying to do is bring variety to the audience. We really want to be the best in entertainment. But I can't really say anymore 'cause like I've said, one thing we really want to concentrate on is surprises.

All characters, titles, images mentioned or shown are copyright and trademark their respective creators.


PopImage would like to thank Mr. Lee for participating in this interview. Jon Ellis is the Interviews Editor at PopImage.


http://www.stanlee.net - Stan Lee's cool online work.
http://www.stanleemedia.com - Stan Lee's online media company.
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