Comicpalooza takes place in Houston, TX. This year, Hush Comics was given the honor of going as press, our first time for doing so. Read all of the accounts of what happened on our site!
In what seemed like a covert operation straight from the pages of Marvel, myself and Hush contributor Taylor Lowe were whisked out of the line we were standing in to see the legendary Stan Lee. A woman approached us in the line and grabbed our press badges, examined them closely, asked who we were with, and quietly said, “Come with me.” What else were we to do? Along the way, we were told to look for others like us. As we briskly walked past fans waiting in line, we were hoping to find other recruits who looked like us, or rather had the same badge we did. We were excited, but also a bit worried we had stepped out of line for nothing. As it turns out, we were led to the front row adjacent to the main stage, after passing security with a gruff “We’re press.” As we took our seats, our very own Nick Fury introduced herself as Rosario. Rosario Pena is the media relations director for Comicpalooza, and was able to set us up with a lot of cool opportunities over the weekend. So this whole story was really a way to say “Thanks Rosario, from Hush Comics!”
Stan Lee truly is “The Man.” He is 91 years old and still going strong. He is very good at not skipping a beat when asked questions many people ask. He is also a bit of a comedian. Lee started off by saying Houston, Texas has the greatest people in the world for bringing him here, but obviously everyone wants him.
Before his question and answer session, moderated by Fox 26’s Dave Morales, began, Lee joked, “Ask easy questions!… No, ask me whatever the hell you wanna ask me! It’s been a long trip; a man gets tired.” When asked about his origin story, he went into great detail. No, he did not expect his characters to become what they are today and have been for decades. Why did he get into comics? “I just wanted to keep my job and pay the rent.” He told the audience about hearing about a job at a Magazine Management. He ended up in the comic magazine department as the assistant of the other two employees, Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, legends in themselves. Lee’s job was to fill ink pots and edit. Over time he was given stories. Then suddenly Kirby and Simon were fired, leaving Stan the only person on his department at 17 years old. The magazine owner said, according to Stan, “Hey, kid. Can you run things until I hire a grown up?” Stan continued that as time passed the manager forgot about him, so he became the writer, the editor, the art director, the everything. He wasn’t necessarily proud of his work, though. In that time, “nobody had respect” for his genre and he was ashamed to tell people that he worked on them. He wanted a real job in the magazine. When asked what he did for a living, “I’d say, ‘I’m a writer’ and walk away. They would ask ‘Of?’ ‘Magazines’ and walk away. ‘What magazines?’ ‘Comics.’ And then HE would walk away.” Of course, he isn’t ashamed now and got over his humiliation once he started going to conventions and seeing the variety of fans who loved his work. Awww!
Stan spoke about being a child and what inspired him. Since comics weren’t exactly mainstream when he was a child, it was interesting to hear what did inspire him. He talked about reading a lot. He enjoyed Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Edgar Allan Poe. He also told the audience he can recite “The Raven”, the infamous Poe poem, by heart. If anyone has a video of Stan Lee reciting that poem, send it our way ASAP. Lee said that his goal in life, like all writers, was to write the great American novel. “I never got around to that.” I have to disagree. Lee has written canon for the most read characters and staples of American pop culture of all time. Stan also talked about his time in the military during the war. His job was to write training manuals that the troops could easily read. He also made training videos because their were so many troops, they couldn’t be trained fast enough. He also confirmed that it was during this time he got to work with Dr. Seuss and Frank Capra. He said he was the only one doing work because they were too busy talking about how great they were. Oh, Stan.
Lee touched several times on his acting dreams. He said many times that we may see his roles in the current Marvel movies as “cameos”, but he sees them as supporting roles. He joked that he is an enormous acting talent now. He also said that if he had to pick a career other than comics, he would be an actor. He idolized Errol Flynn. When asked what he would have done as an actor, he quipped, “I would have won an Oscar.” He also teased his next “supporting role” in Guardians of the Galaxy, cracking that his role has nothing to do with the movie and he thinks the director was drugged wen he decided to put Lee in that role.
Stan talked briefly about his beloved superheros, too. He talked about three in particular. Of course, one of them was Iron Man. He talked about how popular he is of late and credited Robert Downey Jr. with much of it. He spoke of the origins of Iron Man as a character. Lee took the chance of making him during the time of Woodstock. It was a challenge to make a man who was about money and weapons–everything hippie kids were against, and make them like him. The only thing about Iron Man he didn’t like was how his armor was drawn, but that was because nobody could take that much time on it. He, however, does like how it looks in the movies. Lee also admitted that if he were to cosplay, he would dress up as Iron Man, but mostly so he was protected. Otherwise, he would be Dr. Strange.
Another character on deck was Captain America. While Lee did not create the ‘Cap, he did bring him back. First, he changed the shape of his shield from a triangle to a circle. That was all Lee. Then he gave him a problem, something Stan is fond of doing to his characters. “I wanted to make him distinctive in some way, so I thought if he was brought back from having been frozen in the ice years ago, and 20 or 30 years of history had gone by that he was unaware of, and when I started writing him, it was when there were hippies and people hated the military, industrial complex, and all of that. And he didn’t understand that sort of thing because he grew up in a time when everybody was just patriotic and nobody rebelled or protested. So, I tried to make him seem like he was an anachronism; he felt he didn’t belong in the age he was living in.”
While Stan talked briefly about many of his heroes, he expounded upon Spider-Man, not only the character, but the inception of the book idea itself. He admitted that Spider-Man is his favorite creation. It was also the one he wrote where he could maybe say “I am Stan the Man,” as asked by an audience member. He then told an amazing origin story for how Spider-Man came into existence which you can hear here. He also said the hardest character to write was Green Goblin. It took a lot to “dream him up” but once he did, the writing was easy. Oh, and another tidbit? Stan Lee didn’t know Mary Jane, or MJ, was a nickname for pot. But because of the coincidence, everyone thought he was “so cool.”
Other amazing things that happened during Stan the Man’s panel included a fan saying “You’re my hero,” and Stan responding, “I would expect that.” His best advice for aspiring creators is that there are no tips. The only way to create it to “dream it up.” He also talked about how hard it is to name a character. He talked about wanting to name a character “The Destroyer.” When he looked up if that character existed, he got mad and wanted to know who did. Turned out, it was him, but he had forgotten. A little girl asked “Who is your favorite girl character?” Stan said She-Hulk, no doubt because of the recent controversy surrounding her. He also said he really liked Mary Jane. Stan is surprised any superhero is still around, but now is confident they will be around forever, crediting the movies for that. When asked about bad guys and their perpetual baldness, he was surprised. He wondered aloud why the good guys are always good looking and the bad guys are sinister. He said they should make the villain Brad Pitt and the good guy Boris Karloff. He then rejected Brad Pitt and put himself as the handsome one. Finally, would Stan change anything. “No, I can’t think of anything.”
As far as Stan and his future plans go, he has a lot more work than the average 91 year old. Being the chairman of Marvel, he is working on Guardians of the Galaxy, Antman, Black Panther, and Dr. Strange. They will make more Iron Man movies and more Captain America movies. He is also working on a Latino superhero. There is a script written and there will be an actor cast soon. With his other company, POW! Entertainment, Stan is working on a Chinese American hero called The Annihilator. He also has a character out in India called Shakra the Invincible, and we will be coming to the U.S.A. soon. How does Stan wrap it all up? With a giant “EXCELSIOR!”