I managed to live 34 years without ever seeing Stan Lee in person, and now, suddenly, I see the guy every month! Of course, I’m talking about seeing the legendary co-creator of Spider-Man at Boston Comic Con 2017 in August, and then again at Hasbro’s September event, HASCON.
For the record, I have no plans to see Lee anywhere in October, but I’m not ruling out bumping into him at the grocery store.
Now, I’m in no way complaining–so many people only get to see Stan “The Man” Lee in his latest Marvel Studios film cameo. So how was the father of Marvel Comics’ September 8 panel at the first-ever HASCON? I’d say it was about on par with what I saw at Boston Comic Con–maybe a little more grating at times due to some awkward fan questions (but that’s really on those fans, not Lee).Part of the problem with a creator like Lee is he’s been talking about himself in the public eye–and conventions–for so long, that these panels tend to become rather formulaic. By now, die-hard comic book fans know Lee’s greatest hits, such as how he came up with his many famous creations, or how Doctor Doom really isn’t that bad of a guy.
If you don’t know these stories, just Google them.
So, as a fan and journalist, I’m always more interested in learning something new. Alas, we really didn’t get that at this panel, which didn’t really shock me, considering this was an event for fans young and old–not the original members of the Merry Marvel Marching Society.
Well, there was one fun story regarding a conversation between Lee and his neighbor Leonardo DiCaprio (who knew?), which you can read about in AiPT!’s news section.
I’ll start my recap with the best aspects of this panel, which was hosted by Jesse Falcon, the director of merchandising at Marvel Entertainment. Falcon covered a good range of topics, such as the creation of the “Marvel Method,” before turning control of the conversation over to the audience. Thanks to Falcon, we were treated to Lee’s thoughts on some characters that don’t always get attention at these kinds of things, such as Hollywood’s favorite new superhero, the Black Panther.
“I thought that black people weren’t represented enough in the books, so I wanted a superhero who was black but not the way you’d expect,” Lee said. “Somebody who’s really a hero, just like we’d do with a white character.”Then, there was talk of the Inhumans… though they’re unlikely to have their profile elevated to Black Panther levels in light of all the negative buzz around their new series.
Lee explained that he loves groups of characters, like the Avengers, Fantastic Four and X-Men.
“I wanted a group that was really different, so I figured the X-Men were just born that way,” Lee said. “What if there’s another group somewhere in Europe or somewhere who were born different from other people? That was the Inhumans, and I gave them ridiculous powers.”
Of course, there was also talk about how the Hulk came to be (a monster who was really a good guy) as well as Spider-Man. After Lee finished his first Spider-Man script, he naturally wanted Marvel’s best artist, Jack Kirby, to draw the hero. But Kirby turned around a design that looked more heroic than what Lee had pictured–just an ordinary guy.
“I wanted to find an artist who could just draw things that were more ordinary, and there was Steve Ditko, Mr. Ordinary,” Lee said. “So I gave the script to Steve and he did it and Peter Parker looked more the way I wanted him to look. A real schnook.”The panel also had a few takeaways aspiring creators may find interesting. First, Lee is a big believer in writing what you know, and also, writing for yourself. If Lee has an idea that doesn’t grab him, he sets it aside.
“I’m not that different from other people,” Lee said. “If I like it, there must be people with the same tastes.”
Then, there are his kind words for artists–in a time, it seems, when artists don’t always get the credit they deserve on monthly comic series.
“An artist in comics is very much like the director of motion pictures,” Lee said. “The artist has a scene to draw … there’s a billion ways to draw any scene and it’s up to artist to draw it in the most dramatic way.”
But, there were also those fan questions that made me cringe. First, two disclaimers so you know where I’m coming from:
- One of my biggest convention pet peeves is fans who ask questions at Q&As that die-hard fans already know the answers to, or can be found online. You just wasted an entire question!
- The questions that annoyed me came from children who don’t know any better. So really, I’m just being a cranky old comic fan.
“Why’d you write about Wolverine”? and “Where did you get the idea for Apocalypse”? were the questions that irked me. Of course, Lee didn’t create either of those X-characters, but he handled his answers with grace.
For instance, one fun fact that latter question yielded–apparently, Apocalypse is Mike Tyson’s favorite character.Despite the occasional awkward question, Lee kept his spirits high throughout the brief panel. His public persona seems to have transitioned into an amalgam of Marvel hype man/grumpy old man. (When he came out he said, “All these people with nothing better to do”?)
Ultimately, for Hasbro, landing Lee at its first convention was a pretty big achievement. And a great opportunity for young children who love Lee’s characters, but may not yet fully appreciate the man’s contributions to pop culture. I’m sure a lot of them will grow up loving comics… and then one day regret asking about Apocalypse instead of a character Lee actually had a hand in creating.