While covering the Detroit FanFare comic book convention at the end of October, I had the opportunity to sit down with Stan Lee, the comic industry giant, for an exclusive interview. As a life-long comic book collector, I was nervous, honored and amazed to sit down with the man that essentially shaped a major part of my life. The transcript of this interview starts out after we had already made our introductions and broke the ice.
LVP: I have been a big fan of Stan Lee’s Superhumans. Is that project still a go?
Stan Lee: It’s a good show. It’s doing really well. It is starting for a new season, so that’s good.
LVP: Would you say that you have a favorite person so far that has been featured on that show?
Stan Lee: Oh, actually, I like Daniel, who is the guy conducting the whole thing. He’s doing a great job. I mean, he was born to be a show host. They are all good.
The one that sticks in my mind is that guy that dove off a 30-foot tower into what looks like a kid’s wading pool, and I just don’t understand how he did it. But they’re all incredible.
LVP: I have read that you are a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. How much of an inspiration was Sherlock Holmes in the work that you did?
Stan Lee: Well I don’t know. I don’t know how anything that I have ever read, or ever seen has directly affected me. I know what I loved about Conan Doyle’s work was he made his characters so real. I mean not only me, but the people that read Sherlock Holmes felt that they knew him.
You’ve probably heard about people going to London and going to Baker’s Street and looking for the Sherlock Holmes house. I mean you felt like this man existed because he (Doyle) wrote such a wonderful picture of Sherlock Holmes, and I admired the way that he was able to do that.
I also admired the way that Conan Doyle came up with his plots, and how he gave examples of how Sherlock Holmes deduced various things. I felt that it was some of the best adventure writing that I had ever read. When I say adventure, I know that Sherlock Holmes is not thought of as an adventure story, with the way that comic book stories are today, but to me, to me it was one of the greatest adventure stories.
LVP: One of the greatest disappointments that I have had as a fan of your work over the years is that there are very few that have recognized you as a writer who presses for civil rights and equality. Over the years, the best example that I could think of would be the X-Men. When you started out on the X-Men, was this a subject line that was made a goal of yours to tackle, or what it just something that rolled out over time?
Stan Lee: That’s a good question! I don’t think that I did it intentionally as I was always looking to write a story that people enjoyed reading. In telling stories, if you can get an underlying message, it’s not a bad idea to do it if you are able to.
With the X-Men, it was so obvious that the theme was that people could be different and you still shouldn’t shun them or dislike them. There’s room for everybody in this big planet of ours for all types. So yes, I think that came through more in the X-men then anything else.
There was one other book that I wrote called, “Sergeant Fury and His Howling Commandos,” and there I intentionally did it. You see with the X-Men, it just kind of happened. With Sergeant Fury, I intentionally gave him a mixed platoon. There was a black fella, an Italian fella, a Jewish one, and every other type that I could think of was in that platoon. I had them all be incredibly friendly, get along with each other, and fight for each other and because of that, I always loved that book. All in all it wasn’t a theme that I tried to push down the reader’s throats, but if I could make mention of it now and again, I though it was a good idea.
LVP: The next question came from my friend J.D. Stockman who won a contest that I ran for friends who wanted to ask you a question. Do you think the acquisition of Marvel Comics by Disney has influenced or changed the creative properties of the characters?
Stan Lee: None that I have noticed so far. You see, Disney is one of the smartest companies in the world, and it is run by some of the smartest people. They bought Marvel because they know how successful Marvel is. The people at Marvel pretty much know what they are doing, and there is no way that Disney is going to attempt to change that. They all just want to be a part of it. They want to make Marvel part of the Disney family.
I know that when it was first announced that Disney was buying Marvel, I would get calls and mail from readers saying, “Ya, I guess that Spider-Man is now going to have Mickey Mouse ears!” But that is not going to be the case at all. The people at Marvel are left to run Marvel the way that they run Marvel.
LVP: The comic book industry has almost crashed three times now. The last near crash of the industry was caused partially by the Marvel junk bond issue, and the over-collect-ability of comics. Would you say that the corporate side of the industry, or the fan side of the industry has more checks and balances put into place to make sure that a near crash does not happen again.
Stan Lee (after a very long pause): I am sure that the corporate side of the industry does all that it can to make sure that this (near crash) does not happen again. I really do not think that the fans have any control over it. Fans are fans, and they love what they love. They love to get together to talk about their favorites, and come to conventions. The fans themselves don’t have much to do with regulating the industry, so to speak.
Fandom is very constant, and it doesn’t change much if comic books are selling well, or not selling well. It doesn’t matter if the industry is up or down. The industry fluctuates, but fandom stays about the same.
LVP: Thank you very much for the opportunity to interview you.
Stan Lee: Thank you very much for taking the time to interview me. I look forward to reading it. I look forward to reading anything about me.
The interview ended with laughter, a handshake, a picture, and a fan who had just experienced the opportunity of a lifetime.