Stan Lee has spent a lifetime in the comics world, helping to create some of the medium’s most popular, most recognizable, and most profitable characters, including Spider-Man, The X-Men, Iron Man, and many others that have made the transition to cinema. From his humble beginnings as a teenager writing filler for his uncle’s publishing company to president of industry giant Marvel Comics, Lee has maintained a reputation for innovation and a knack for expanding the form. Tomorrow (July 23rd), Lee will continue that trend, as his new motion comic Time Jumper — an ambitious, multimedia joint venture with Disney — becomes available on iTunes.
We were fortunate enough to catch up with him on the floor at San Diego’s Comic-Con International 2009 and sit down for a friendly chat. Enthusiastic but with a dry sense of humor, Lee offered us some of his favorite films, though in his own words, “My problem is, I don’t have favorites.” He also continued on to tell us a little bit about Time Jumper, his busy life, and what it’s like to see the characters he helped create in the hands of up-and-coming writers and artists.
See, my problem is, I don’t have favorites. I’ll tell you movies I like, and after I’ve told you and I read the list, I’ll say to myself, “Gee, you should’ve mentioned these five, or these five.” There are so many that I like, but I’ll mention some.
This is the last thing you expect me to say. This is gonna knock you out of your shoes. My Fair Lady. That’s probably my favorite movie of all time. I think it is a perfect story, perfectly produced, perfectly acted, perfectly filmed. The dialogue is impeccable, the acting is sensational, the music — you can’t forget it. The settings, the scenes… It was comedic, it told a great story. I mean, I could watch that thing over and over and over again.
When I was young, anything Errol Flynn was in. Captain Blood. We can start with Captain Blood. And [The Adventures of] Robin Hood.
Now, would you say that Errol Flynn’s movies may have influenced some of your work?
Absolutely. Errol Flynn was my god. I wanted to be Errol Flynn. I mean, most people want to be George W. Bush. [laughs] I wanted to be Errol Flynn, and I used to — I mention this to people — I used to… I was about ten years old, I don’t know. I’d walk out of the theater after an Errol Flynn movie; I’d have a crooked little smile on my face, the way I thought he smiled, and an imaginary sword at my side, and I’d be hoping that I could find some bully picking on a little girl so I could come to her rescue, you know?
Next, Lee tells us about his film cameos, what it’s like to see his creations in the hands of others, and what it’s like to work on something like Time Jumper with Disney.
RT: You’re a busy man! You’ve got all these movies that you’re working on that you’re making appearances in, and then you’re cranking out Time Jumper.
Stan Lee: See, my appearances… When they do a movie, the first thing they do is say, “What appearance can we give Stan?” When they have that worked out, they say, “Okay, who’ll star in the movie? What’ll the theme be?” But the first thing, of course, is “What can we give Stan?”
RT: You’re the first one cast.
SL: Of course. [chuckles]
RT: Of course. So, it’s intriguing that you’re working on something like Time Jumper, which seems to be making the most of modern technology. Are you a web-savvy person?
SL: No, I’m the worst. But luckily I can work with web-savvy people, and [in an evil voice] exploit them and pick their brains and take the credit for what they do! [laughs] But see, what happened with Time Jumper, I just proposed it to Disney. I thought it would be a good idea for something, and the wonderful thing about Disney: they do everything. It could be a television show, it could be a movie, it could be a digital thing, it could be anything. And they got this idea of doing it this way, and I loved the idea. I loved being involved with something that’s new. It’s so different! So here I am out of left field; I’m a trailblazer. [chuckles]
RT: So do you feel there’s a pressure to meet the level of success of some of your past characters, some of your past creations?
SL: Yeah I guess so. I guess deep down, every guy wants what he does to be as good or better than what he had done before. So, sure. But I don’t think of it that much. I’m not saying, “I hope it’ll be as good as that.” Each thing I do, I just hope it’ll be good.
RT: If you’re too busy to watch movies, are you reading any other comics? Are you following any trends in the industry?
SL: No, I don’t have enough time to read comics, except when Marvel… Sometimes they’ll ask me to do a little ten-page comic strip in one of their special issues for some reason, so they send me those books. And of course I immediately turn to what I’ve written, read it, and think, “Man, that’s good!” But, no, I don’t, and rather than casually look at something for no reason, I just haven’t been reading comic books, I haven’t gone to movies. I don’t know what I’m doing in this business! [laughs] But I try to keep up with what’s going on, but it’s a funny feeling. I get all the Marvel books; I like to look at the covers to get an idea what they’re doing. And I see names on the covers, “written by,” “drawn by”… I don’t know any of the names! Years ago, I knew everybody in the business. Now, I don’t know one name! And they look so good. I look at the artwork, and it’s magnificent, you know?
RT: Well, it must feel a bit like letting your children go to let somebody else take these characters over.
SL: No, I don’t think of it that way. I think of how lucky I am that these really brilliant writers are coming up with things I never thought of, and they’re making the scripts even more popular than ever. The same with the movies. Those movies are making me seem like a better writer, because the movies are so great. “That Stan must have been pretty clever to come up with this.” I seem to spend my time living on things that other people do, and I get the credit for it. I’m not complaining. [laughs]
Look for Time Jumper tomorrow on iTunes, and for more Five Favorite Films, check our archive.
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