Stan Lee talks comic conventions, fans and the 'age of the superhero'
Iconic writer hints this year may not be his last on the comic convention circuit
Stan Lee is a superstar of the superhero comic book world.
He co-created a number of memorable characters for Marvel Comics, including Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men.
Although Lee is 93-years-old, he's still a regular on the comic book convention circuit and will be in Calgary at the end of the month for the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo.
He spoke to the Homestretch's Doug Dirks on Tuesday.
Doug Dirks: What made you decide this would be your last year on the Canadian convention circuit?
Stan Lee: I figured, how long can you keep doing it? But I love it so much I don't want to stop, so I figured I'll give it one last year and then I'll probably make next year the next last year if I'm still around. I like doing it so much.
DD: Superheroes have dominated the box office for years now, and they often feature characters that you helped create more than 50 years ago. Why do we keep returning to these characters, and these kinds of stories?
SL: I have a theory about that. Just about everybody has loved fairy tales when they were kids. Now you get a little older and you can't keep reading fairy tales, but you get a little older and I don't think you outgrow your love for people that are bigger and stranger than real life — witches and giants and demons. Suddenly along comes superhero stories for older readers. They're really the fairy tales we enjoyed as kids brought up to date.
DD: How does the industry today compare to what it was like 50 years ago?
SL: Years ago, when the comics started, parents didn't even want their kids to read them. They felt they were badly written and they felt that the kids should read authors' descriptions in stories and not actually see the picture in front of them which to me was always silly. It's like saying, 'Don't go to see a Shakespeare play, just read it, because if you go to see it on the stage you're not using your imagination.'
DD: What do you think of the current state of the industry?
SL: The state of the industry now is just incredible and it's like one of the biggest things. Everybody loves these superheroes, they love the graphic novels, they love the comics, they love the movies that are based on the comics, they love the television shows ... literarily, this is like the age of the superhero.
DD: Spider-Man, the Hulk, Ironman … these are iconic characters who have survived the test of time. Are there any current superheroes you think will catch on?
SL: I think the new ones will catch on. I think Deadpool will be with us for a long time. I think Wolverine will be with us for a long time. I think the Guardians of the Galaxy we'll be seeing more of. As long as Marvel does things the right way, and that's the only way Marvel does things, I think they have the same potential and the same lasting power as the others.
DD: Do you think in some way you helped contribute to literacy for younger readers?
SL: I have heard that from so many teachers and educators over the years and from people who have told me, 'If not for comics, I wouldn't be a good reader today. I didn't like to read but then when I found comics I loved them and the only way I could understand the story was by reading it. So it made a reader out of me.' I've heard that countless times.
DD: Do people get tongue tied when they meet you at conventions because they've looked forward to seeing you for so long?
SL: I'm thinking of changing my name to 'Oh my God.' Because I'll see people, they walk by and they say, 'Oh my God, that's Stan Lee!' It sounds so cute I may start calling myself that. It's so nice when these people recognize me and they always do it in a friendly way. I love it.
DD: What will you miss most about the Canadian convention circuit?
SS: I'd miss the enthusiasm of the fans, I'd miss meeting them, talking to them, kidding around with them,… and I think I'll probably keep doing this forever. If cowboys die with their boots on, I'll die with my computer on.