News Column

Comic book king Stan Lee headlines pop culture extravaganza

May 16, 2013


May 16--Stan Lee gave a geeky kid superhuman strength and the ability to shoot sticky spider webs out of his wrists, and a team of societal outcasts a bevy of mutant talents. When the iconic comic book king Lee, 90, touches down in Detroit and heads to Novi for this weekend's 24th annual Motor City Comic Con, he's not looking for any special powers. He just wants a little more time.

"If there are people who like the work you've done, because of that, they like you and want your autograph and to take a photo," says Lee. "That's really gratifying. You have to be appreciative."

Comic book fans in metro Detroit have been buzzing for months about this rare local appearance by Lee, the former president and chairman of Marvel Comics who helped create the comic-book universe that's spawned so many of today's most-anticipated movies -- from "The Avengers" to the trifecta of "Iron Man" films, on all of which he's credited as executive producer. In the midst of promotional rounds for mega-hit "Iron Man 3," he'll visit Comic Con for signing sessions on Saturday, May 18.

Organizers say that advance autograph and VIP packages are already sold out. So if you want to get his autograph, you'll need to wait in line -- best to arrive early. He's scheduled to be there from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, with signatures costing $60.

There are a limited number of $155 meet-and-greet packages that grant access to the "A Toast with Stan Lee" event that begins at 8 p.m. Friday, May 17, at Novi's Crowne Plaza Hotel.

"I'd like to stay for the whole convention because the fans are so great," he says. "I just love the fans and I try to do whatever I can for them."

QUESTION: More than 20 different movies based on characters you helped create have been produced for the big screen, including current box office champ "Iron Man 3." What's your favorite film adaptation so far?

ANSWER: I loved the first "Iron Man." I loved the first "Spider-Man" (the 2002 movie starring Tobey Maguire that was directed by Michigan native Sam Raimi). I loved the first "X-Men." I guess I love all the first movies. I like all the ones that follow, too, but the ones that impress me the most are the first ones.

Q: Do you like the first films in the series the best because that's when you get to see the characters in a different medium?

A: Oh yes. I think it's wonderful; I get a real thrill out of it. For me, I'm just working with ideas in my head and with these drawings that the artists did. And suddenly to see these things come to life -- it's just wonderful.

Q: Do you have a favorite performance?

A: I've gotten friendly with Robert Downey Jr. who, as far I'm concerned, was born to play Tony Stark and "Iron Man." I couldn't think of anybody who could do it better or even as well.


When you launched your career as assistant at Timely Comics in 1939, did you ever imagine you'd create source material that would fuel so much of pop culture?

A: (Laughs) No! Not only did I not imagine it, all I thought about when I wrote those stories was, "I hope that these comic books would sell so I can keep my job and continue to pay the rent." Never in a million years could I have imagined that it would turn into what it has evolved into today. Never.

Q: The Marvel blockbusters wow audiences with dazzling special effects, but they maintain your storytelling technique of giving the superheroes everyday problems.

A: Well, I'll admit it. That's the one thing I wanted to emphasize. In other books, whenever I used to read about other superheroes, I never knew who they were. Except for their power, which was used for fighting villains. I never knew who these characters were. I wanted to know where they lived. I wanted to know about their own personal hangups.

I thought it would be great to do superheroes that have the same kind of life problems that any reader -- that anybody -- could have. ... Just because you have superpowers, that doesn't mean your love life would be perfect. I don't think superpowers automatically means there won't be any personality problems, family problems or even money problems. I just tried to write characters who are human beings who also have superpowers.

Q: Is there any one specific character you really want to see get the movie treatment?

A: Believe it or not, they're all going to become movies. They're working on "Doctor Strange." (Created in the psychedelic era of the 1960s, Stephen Vincent Strange is a former neurosurgeon who is also a powerful and contemplative sorcerer.) And, they're even working on an "Ant-Man." (Ant-Man, a founding member of the Avengers, is the superhero identity of Dr. Henry Pym, a scientist who discovered a chemical substance that could make him shrink down to the size of an insect.

Marvel and Disney Company knows how valuable these franchises are and how much people truly love these characters. They're in the business of entertainment so they'll keep bringing more characters to the screen and do the ones that already exist as long as they can.


(c)2013 the Detroit Free Press

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