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-by Ken Plume

stanlee-03.jpgIf you’re a child of comic books and Saturday morning TV (like myself), then Stan Lee is instantly recognizable as the creator (with legendary artists such as Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby) of Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, X-Men, and many, many more.

If that list reads like a recent issue of a Hollywood trade magazine, it’s because all of those properties have either gotten - or are about to get - the big screen treatment.

And Stan, in his 80’s (!), is still a creative powerhouse and one of the hardest working men in showbiz, forming POW Entertainment as his new shingle.

In addition to the Sci-Fi Channel’s recent hit Who Wants To Be A Superhero?, Stan has also got a pair of films hitting DVD based on his new creations - Lightspeed and Mosaic.

This isn’t the first chat I’ve had with Stan, and hopefully won’t be the last, as it’s always a hoot.

Without further ado, my delightful discourse with the dandily dignified (and definitely dear) Stan Lee…

stanlee-01.jpg

STAN LEE: Hello?

PUBLICIST: Hi Stan… I have Ken Plume on the line.

LEE: THE Ken Plume?

KEN PLUME: The Ken Plume…

LEE: Son of a gun. How are you Ken?

KP: It’s good to speak with you again…

LEE: Good to be spoken with. What are we doing this time?

KP: Last time we spoke I was still working for my old gig, but now I’m running Kevin Smith’s entertainment site…

LEE: Oh, you finally hit the big time…

KP: Yeah, I get paid now…

LEE: That’s great!

KP: And again, it’s a pleasure to be speaking with you… again…

LEE: I’m delighted!

KP: Launching in, my first question would be, when you look at new characters like Mosaic, what is the initial germ of an idea that comes to you? How would you characterize that moment when an idea presents itself?

stanlee-05.jpgLEE: Well, what I really wanted… I was trying to think of, “What kind of a heroine can I do that hasn’t been done before?” And forgetting the super power for a moment, I thought I’d like to get a girl who’s just out of her teens, and who wants to be an actress, and that’s the big thing. I thought that a lot of girls could relate to that. Most girls at some age want to be actresses or rock stars. And then I figured, “Okay, what super power will I give her?” And it occurred to me that if a girl wanted to be an actress, probably the best super power - the thing she’d most want - would be the ability to take over other people’s personas. To be able to act like other people and look like other people. So I gave her this chameleon-like quality.

KP: So, for you, the creation of a character is a layering process…

LEE: That sums it up beautifully.

KP: How long would you say that the gestation of an idea like that takes?

LEE: Couple of minutes. (laughing) No, I mean, it doesn’t take as long as it took me to explain it to you. You know, how long does a thought take, really? You get an idea and you say, “Oh yeah, that sounds good,” and then you start writing it.

KP: How often would you say that you go down blind alleys that don’t lead anywhere?

LEE: Um… well, I never counted the times. You know, that happens. When you try to think of something, very often you have one two or it could be a hundred thoughts and none of them are right, and you keep thinking and suddenly… now, I don’t know how many things I thought of before I thought of the girl who wanted to be the actress. But all I remember was at one point I said, “She wants to be an actress,” and then everything sort of came together for me.

KP: Can you remember any point in your career that you’ve had this amazing idea that you’ve developed in your head, only to present it to someone and they went, “But Stan, you already created that.”

LEE: (laughing) I don’t remember it happening with anybody telling me that, but I remember I myself would get an idea and write it down, and as I’m writing it, I’ll say, “Gee, that sounds kinda familiar!” And then I’ll start looking up some old stories and I’ll say, “Damn, I did this before!” In fact, I’ll tell you how bad my memory is for these things - you know I still write the Spider-Man newspaper script…

KP: Right. And your brother still does the art for that, right?

LEE: That’s right. Well, about two years ago, I realized it was time to write another two weeks. So I looked at the last thing I had done, to see where I’d left off, and I spent a couple hours writing the next two weeks. I sent them to my brother, and he said, “Stan, I’ve already drawn these.” What happened was I forgot where I had left off, and instead of going to where I really left off, I went back two weeks earlier, and I wrote the two following weeks, which I had already written. And of course the ones I wrote were different than the ones I had written, ’cause I forgot what I had written so I wrote them differently. Which drove my brother crazy.

KP: So, in other words, your mind was looking for a shortcut…

LEE: I guess, I don’t know. What was left of my mind was looking for a shortcut! (laughing)

KP: When you look at all the characters you’ve created over the years, there’s obviously a large chunk of teenagers, and a large chunk of adults, but there aren’t very many children superheroes…

LEE: Well, I don’t know. I couldn’t see taking a child - let’s say somebody 9 years old - and having him or her risk his or her life fighting villains. It just didn’t seem right… so no, I don’t really write about little children.

KP: Is there any character or any idea that has come close to touching on that?

LEE: Probably, but I can’t remember. I can’t think of any at the moment. Oh, wait a minute, wait a minute… in the Fantastic Four, I had Mister Fantastic and Sue, the Invisible Girl - they had a baby, little Franklin, and I think I always intended to give him some sort of a superpower and have a super-powered kid in the strip. But then I stopped writing the strip, so I never had a chance to do that. Then other writers took over and did whatever it is they do…

KP: But that was the original intention all along, was to make Franklin super-powered…

LEE: Yeah… I thought it would be fun to have a superhero family with a kid who had a super power, although I hadn’t decided at the time what super power I would give him.

KP: And now, fast-forward, you’ve got Mosaic coming out, Lightspeed is coming out…

LEE: And The Condor is coming out.

stanlee-04.jpgKP: Which is the collaboration with Ringo Starr?

LEE: That’s the fourth one. It’s called Ringo at the moment. We may add another word or two to the title, but at the moment I think of it as Ringo. Because when I met him I said, “You know, I’d like to do something to make you famous…”

KP: It’s gonna be hard.

LEE: He was so appreciative.

KP: It’s really a hard task you’ve set for yourself.

LEE: (laughing) But I’m doing the best I can.

KP: You’re such a giver.

LEE: I’m glad you’re aware of that! (laughing)

KP: So that’s, what, slated for release towards the end of this year?

LEE: Oh, hell, I never know!

KP: I think it will be later this year.

LEE: Yeah, I think it’ll be later this year.

KP: Obviously, with creation being a job, what do you do for recreation?

LEE: I do my job.

KP: I know it’s one of the clich├ęs over the years, that you’ve said numerous times that working really is the end-all be-all for you…

LEE: Well, it isn’t work. If you think about it, what could be more fun than trying to dream up ideas for stories? I really enjoy doing it. Now, I don’t… it’s funny, I’ve said for years that I don’t enjoy writing. But I think that’s not true. What I don’t enjoy is having to sit down and write. When I have something to write, I will do anything in the world to put it off. I’ll decide, “Gee, I ought to rearrange my bookcase,” or “I think I’ll shine all my shoes,” or “Maybe I ought to brush my teeth.” I’ll do anything not to have to sit down and write. But when I actually start writing, when I finally get myself to sit down and start the writing, I love it. I’m in another world. It’s the greatest thing there is. I hate when there are any interruptions. I mean, it’s just fun, because you’re like a god. You’re killing people, you’re bringing them back to life. You’re deciding, “I think I’ll make this guy fat, I’ll make this one skinny. I’ll make him old. No, he’s too old. I’ll cut 20 years off his age.” I mean, you can do anything!

KP: So, it’s the whole “god thing”…

LEE: Maybe that’s what it is. I’m power mad! (laughing)

KP: Well, you’ve certainly exercised that awesome power with tremendous responsibility.

LEE: (laughing)

stanlee-07.jpgKP: You’ve also participated in Kevin’s poetry readings in the past…

LEE: Yeah, that is the funniest thing. Of all people to have a poetry reading once a year, the last guy you’d expect is my friend Kevin Smith. But his house has many mansions! (laughing) I love that guy, you know? He is really great.

KP: Have you already prepared your piece for this year?

LEE: Well, I haven’t been invited yet.

KP: I would assume you’re automatically on the list…

LEE: Well, I’d better be! No, I haven’t prepared anything yet. I’ve been threatening for a long time that I might read the entirety of The Raven - the whole thing, from beginning to end. I think that may be what I’ll do.

KP: Why would that be a threat?

LEE: Because it’s long! But if that doesn’t drive them all away and make them decide never to do this again, I don’t know what will !

KP: I would pay money to actually hear that. You should put that up as a podcast…

LEE: Well, alright then, then I’ve definitely decided that’s what I’ll do. And if you speak to Kevin you can give him fair warning. And also let him start charging for it, and I want half of what you pay!

KP: Done and done. And I already set aside my cash. I guess something I have to ask about in the last few minutes before we go, just as trivia…

LEE: Where are we going?

KP: Well, we only have so much time. You have so many other people to speak with…

LEE: Yeah, but you’re the one who’s promoting me. To hell with the others. If I’m nice to you, we’ll sell a few DVDs. The others aren’t gonna do me any good!

KP: Well, you already made me happy saying my name again at the beginning, so anything I can do for you is a fair trade. Recently on the internet, a clip has surfaced of your 1970 appearance on To Tell the Truth

LEE: That is the funniest thing! Where did that come from?

KP: That’s the beauty of the internet. It can come from some guy having a tape and deciding to throw it up…

LEE: Isn’t that… yeah, I just looked at it this morning. I was wonderful! My wife looked at me, and she said, “Gee, you looked so good,” and then she looked at me and said, “What happened to you?” I mean, I’m sorry that they ever showed that! (laughing)

KP: Well, I have to say you had one of the worst poker faces when they introduced you…

LEE: Well, I was supposed to give no evidence of who I am and display no personality, just stand there. Which is tough for me, because as you know, I’m a clown and a ham.

stanlee-08.jpgKP: To anyone actually watching your visual signals, you tipped it off just with that broad grin when they introduced you…

LEE: You think so?

KP: When they introduced you and were talking about how Spider-Man was one of the most popular characters in the country, and what a tremendous creative force you are, you had just the biggest, poor Poker-faced grin on your face…

LEE: (laughing) Oh wow, I didn’t notice. I’ll have to look at it again.

KP: Was that one of your first appearances on national television?

LEE: No, I’ve done so many… I’ve done so many interviews on television and radio, frankly I don’t know which the first was…

KP: Was it a buzz at that point, to get that kind of national recognition?

LEE: Still is! I love it.

KP: I can think of no other person who is truly the face of comic books to the average person…

LEE: That’s really funny. Some people are the face of music, the face of the arts, the face of literature. I’m the face of comic books. I mean, Jesus, it’s the story of my life! (laughing)

KP: But people dream of that. And look, now you’re working with the face of music - a Beatle. Who haven’t you worked with at this point?

LEE: I think that Paul McCartney is going to be very angry with me that I’m doing this with Ringo, but hey, I’ll get to him…

KP: Well, eventually Ringo will cross over with your Paul McCartney comic book, Wings.

LEE: That’s right! (laughing) Who told you?

KP: I knew it had to be on the agenda somewhere!

LEE: The next time we do an interview, remind me to tell you how I met McCartney.

KP: You definitely have to tell me.

LEE: It’s quite a story, but I’ll save it for next time… I’ll be sure that you call me again. Are we talking enough Mosaic? Did I advertise that enough?

stanlee-06.jpgKP: Well, you just did again. And Lightspeed.

LEE: They’ll get angry at me if I don’t say it. When is it going on sale? I think it’s on sale now.

KP: It’s on sale now…

LEE: It’s a hell of a bargain. And everybody ought to go to see it so they’ll have something to criticize.

KP: And better yet, the best reason of all is to support you continuing to create…

LEE: That’s right, and continuing to be able to go to Kevin’s house to recite poetry.

KP: You promised The Raven

LEE: (laughing) And maybe next year I’ll do the entire script of Mosaic! (laughing) I’ll put it in verse!

KP: You can put it on a double bill with Wreck of the Hesperus

LEE: Oh, that’s great!

KP: Well, as always, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you…

LEE: Hey, likewise! I’m sorry you gotta go so soon, but I guess you’re busy. You got a lot of other interviews to do…

KP: Ah, see, now it’s like daggers through my heart…

LEE: I know how it is.

KP: I will talk to you…

LEE: They’ll probably give me hell for not having mentioned Mosaic more often.

KP: Hey, what about Mosaic?

LEE: (laughing) It’s on sale now, and it has the greatest cover. You know, the package looks so dramatic. Whoever designed it, oh man!

KP: And that’s the package for Mosaic, right?

LEE: For Mosaic, yes - the DVD. (laughing), which we just produced at POW! Entertainment. You know, of course, know what POW stands for…

KP: Of course…

LEE: Well, wouldn’t you like to prove it to me?

KP: I think I would love to hear you say it..

stanlee-02.jpgLEE: Yes, I thought you would! It stands, of course - and I’m sure our readers will already have guessed it - but it stands for “Purveyors Of Wonder.” POW! And the reason we had to give it that definition is I didn’t want people to think it stood for Prisoner Of War. So, for that reason, I put an exclamation point after it. You see the things you learn when you do these kind of interviews?

KP: Every time I speak with you, I learn something new…

LEE: I like to increase your fund of knowledge…

KP: At one point I think I’ll earn enough brownie points that you’ll say, “Ken Plume: True Believer!”…

LEE: (laughing) And when you watch the Mosaic DVD, which is on sale now, you learn a lot of new words, like the civilization that’s threatening the human race right now. There’s a special name for it. I’m not gonna tell you that, ’cause I want you to be able to watch it. But all of the people within the sound of my voice can increase their vocabulary tremendously by watching Mosaic, which is now on sale.

KP: It’s better than buying a dictionary…

LEE: (laughing) And tell Kevin not to be angry at me!

KP: (laughing) In fact, I’m going to tell him, A) you’re going to read The Raven, and B) to go buy Mosaic today.

LEE: Oh, you’re a great human being! We’ve got to do this more often…

KP: Excellent! I will talk to you soon, Stan.

LEE: Alright! Thanks a million…

KP: Thank you, sir…

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