Oct. 21--Getting through Stan Lee's handler-gatekeeper to interview the legendary comic-book writer/myth creator isn't easy. But after more than a dozen calls and several aborted interview attempts, perseverance and patience was rewarded: a cell phone was handed to Lee as he waited at an airport for about 20 minutes before he would jet off to yet another cross-country convention appearance to speak to fanboys and fangirls, pose for photos, and, perhaps, sign comics and merchandise.
The man turns 90 in December and is arguably more popular now than at any point in his decades-long career, thanks to the surging box-office influence and might of comic-book heroes such as Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Thor, and Iron Man.
As the cocreator of these mythical figures -- mostly with his former partner at Marvel, the late Jack Kirby -- Lee has become a major driving force of popular culture, though he long-ago moved beyond these heroes and their home at Marvel Comics. These days the former Marvel Comics editor and publisher stays insanely busy as founder-chairman-chief creative officer of POW! (Purveyors of Wonder) Entertainment, event appearances, and filming cameos for the superhero films that are often cheered by fans as loudly as the appearance of the heroes themselves. Lee was scheduled to speak at a soldout Authors! Authors! program in late September at the Stranahan Theater and make an appearance at the Ohio Comic Con in Columbus, but canceled both "due to last-minute scheduling conflicts and personal matters."
Max Anderson, Lee's event coordinator, told The Blade that rumors Lee is "sick or dying are totally a lie. He's as healthy as a horse." But recently, Lee released a statement acknowledging that "I have had an electronic pacemaker placed near my heart." To promote his Authors! Authors! appearance, Lee spoke with The Blade in late August.
Q: What is your official role with Marvel? Ambassador?
A: I'm not sure. I'm still under salary with Marvel. I have my own company also, but I'm obligated to spend 15 percent of my time working for Marvel. Of course, I spend more than that because I love Marvel and I do whatever I can, and I do voice recording for a lot of their book projects, especially for little kids, and I do whatever promotion I can. I mean, I'll always be with Marvel.
Q: Do you like the direction of Marvel, especially with the increasing emphasis on its films?
A: How can you not like it? It's the movies really that have given Marvel the biggest boost, I believe. They've made those characters so famous worldwide. It's just incredible how great those movies have been and how much they have done for the company.
Q: Do you feel like at this point the success with Marvel's films is overshadowing its comics?
A: It doesn't matter. Whether it's the movie or the comic or the things that they are doing online or on television or in books, it's all Marvel. If part of it does better than the other part, so what? The point is that the characters are more popular than they've ever been and Marvel is sitting on top of one of the most popular companies in the world.
Q: Do you have much input into the films now? Do the filmmakers or studios come to you for advice?
A: Not really. Sometimes I'll have a lunch with whoever is going to direct a new movie if he hasn't directed one of ours before. I remember once I had lunch with Robert Downey, Jr. He just wanted to get my take on what Iron Man was like. That's a very funny story, by the way. I went to this restaurant with Robert Downey, and when the waiter saw who it was, you can imagine how I get treated when I go to that restaurant from now on, like a big celebrity. "My God, he had lunch with Robert Downey, Jr. He must be somebody important." (Laughs) It's really funny.
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