Stan Lee is synonymous with comic books. This Marvel mainstay has given the world iconic characters ranging from the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man to the high flying playboy Iron Man. His exclamation of “Excelsior!” has become a calling card, delighting fans around the globe. There’s no two ways about it: comics just wouldn’t be what they are today without Stan Lee.
But while Stan Lee has made an indelible mark on the world of comics, that doesn’t mean everything the writer has touched has turned out gold. For every iconic character, Lee’s made a stinker. For every brilliant business decision, Lee’s made some real missteps. With a career as storied as his, it only makes sense that The Man would have done, said, or written some head scratching, mind boggling, truly WTF things. Face facts, true believers: Lee has done plenty of weird things over his decades in the public spotlight. Whether it’s creating a pro wrestler Batman or popping up in the last Disney movie you would expect, Lee has done it all. Here are the 15 most WTF things Stan Lee has ever done, said, or written.
15. THAT PRINCESS DIARIES 2 CAMEO
Stan Lee has become a veritable “Where’s Waldo” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, popping up in every MCU movie, even making his way to space in the recently released Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2. But The Man doesn’t just rub shoulders with the likes of Chris Pratt and Robert Downey Jr.; no, his cinematic appearances even let him put the moves on Julie Andrews.
Making a “blink and you’ll miss it” cameo in the largely forgotten 2004 Disney flick The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, Lee plays “Wedding Guest,” sharing a scene with the iconic Julie Andrews. Never one to miss an opportunity to yuk it up for the camera, Lee hits on Andrews by doing his best impression of the Three Stooges “whoop whoop whoop” noises. Sure, it’s a swing and a miss. but even in his golden years, Stan knows the true way to a woman’s heart is via Zoidberg noises.
14. HIS COMPANY EMBEZZLED FUNDS (BEHIND HIS BACK)
The Man may have invented the likes of Spider-Man and Iron Man, but Stan Lee still puts his chest-high slacks on one leg at a time. His is only human, after all, and as a human, he makes mistakes. Turns out, he made one very big mistake: Lending his name to a company that embezzled millions from investors.
After Lee parted ways with Marvel in the late ’90s, he would go on to team with entrepreneur Peter Paul, with the duo founding Stan Lee Media. Lee saw the company as a way to release whatever he wanted without fear of editorial oversight, but Paul saw the venture as a way to make that sweet, sweet fraud money. Paul embezzled investments, exaggerated profits to investors, and straight up manipulated stocks. Paul was eventually nabbed by the SEC and went to prison, and Lee was found to be totally clear of wrongdoing. Wanting to distance himself from the debacle, Lee would bounce back by looking for better, less highly illegal business opportunities.
13. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: SUPERHERO
With a long career in big budget action movies, Arnold Schwarzenegger often seems larger than life. With his bugling muscles and proficiency for one liners, he’s the closest thing to a real life superhero the world has. Leave it to Stan Lee to take that concept and run with it, turning the Austrian Oak into a bonafide crime fighter.
When Schwarzenegger became the governor of California, he was given the tongue-in-cheek nickname “The Governator,” which ended up sticking. But if the failed cartoon cooked up by Arnie and Lee is to be believed, The Governator isn’t just a silly nickname; it’s Schwarzenegger’s super heroic alter-ego. In the one-off pilot produced to drum up interest, Schwarzenegger leaves the office of California and utilizes a high tech super suit to fight the insidious organization of Gangsters, Imposters, Racketeers, Liars, Irredeemables, & Ex-Cons, or (sigh) G.I.R.L.I.E. Men. Arnie’s sex scandal put the kibosh on the show, leading to Stan saying “Hasta La Vista” to the idea.
12. THE PLAYBOY FANTASY SEX COMIC
Stan Lee is responsible for giving the world some of comicdom’s most iconic characters: Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Black Panther; the list goes on and on. But during his rise to stardom in the ’70s, Lee almost pursued a less family-friendly line of characters.
According to legendary comic book artist John Romita, the artist was approached by Lee about a potential opportunity drawing a comic for Hugh Heffner’s Playboy. Lee was apparently keen to bring his talents to the nudie mag, pitching the magazine on a Lee-penned ongoing sex-themed fantasy comic. Characters would have groan-inducing names like “Lord Peckerton,” and Lee promised a tasteful balance between epic story and occasional boning. Romita gave the project a hard pass, and the idea fell through, leading to Lee sticking with mighty Marvel. Perhaps Stan Lee will one day revisit the world of “High Priestess Clitanna” (yes, really), but the world isn’t holding its breath for Lee-led smut.
11. STAN LEE IMAGINES DC
Stan Lee has written some of the most iconic stories to ever grace the comic page. He has also written Stan Lee Imagines DC! When Lee left the House of Ideas, fanboys imaginations ran wild at the possibilities. Could this Marvel stalwart make his way to DC? In 2001, Lee did just that, teaming with the “Distinguished Competition” to create Stan Lee Imagines DC, allowing Lee to run wild with the concept of recreating iconic DC characters.
While the results could have flipped the comic world on its head, what we got was a mishmash of silly costumes, ridiculous origin stories (in this iteration of Batman, the Caped Crusader is a pro wrestler dressed like a giant anthropomorphic bat that had his parents killed by a thug named Handz), and plain old bad writing. Sales were tepid for the line, and the universe (designated Earth-6) has remained mostly forgotten. When it comes to comics, Lee might be wise to just say “make mine Marvel.”
10. FOUGHT STEVE DITKO OVER SPIDER-MAN
Comics are a collaborative effort. It takes a writer to craft the story, but the artist brings the whole thing to life. So, when a new character is created, who should get credit? Should it be the writer for thinking up the idea? Should it be the artist for creating what the character looks like? Should it be both? In a surprisingly candid 2007 interview, Lee definitely didn’t think it was the latter.
Speaking with Jonathan Ross, Lee stated that he believed it was he, not artist Steve Ditko, that created Spider-Man. With the camera rolling, Lee said “I really think the guy who dreams the thing up created it!” Ross countered with “If it had been drawn differently, it might not have been successful,” to which Lee quipped, “Then I would have created something that didn’t succeed.” Lee claims he and Ditko have since mended their rocky relationship, but the notoriously elusive Ditko has not confirmed Lee’s claim.
9. THOSE NHL HEROES
Creating one memorable superhero is hard enough. Creating 30 memorable superheroes is a monumental undertaking. But that didn’t stop a Stan Lee-led coalition of writers from tackling this task by creating 30 superheroes, one for every team in the NHL. And while the group definitely made some memorable characters, they definitely aren’t memorable in the way they were probably hoping.
In Lee-narrated videos, hockey fans were introduced to The Guardian Project, a super team made up by the likes of The Wild (a wind controlling werewolf in sunglasses), The Duck (a surfing, spear wielding man in a duck mask), and The Panther (legit just Black Panther in a cape). Lee reported that a movie starring the characters was in the works, with the hockey-branded heroes clashing with the devilish Devin Dark, but plans stalled and the project eventually dropped from the face of the Earth.
8. MUSK OF THE MAN
Stan The Man is idolized by millions of comic book fans. The man has lived a full life of creating iconic characters and working with some of the biggest names in the industry. While many likely wish they could be like the beloved Lee, it’s doubtful there are too many that want to smell like him.
With a bottle adorned with Lee’s signature aviators and bushy mustache, the Stan Lee Signature Cologne offers fans the opportunity to smell like a 91 year-old man. While you might think the scent would feature hints of longboxes filled with musty comics or perhaps even a touch of leather-bound graphic novels, the cologne claims to feature “bergamot, ginger, white pepper, basil, violet, cedar, vetiver, and musk.” Lee touted that the cologne would allow fans to smell like their favorite superhero, but this odd tie-in didn’t exactly leave fans shouting “Ex-smell-sior!”
7. HIS COURT-BOUND SCREAM (ALLEGEDLY)
We all have bad days. On these terrible, horrible, no good, vey bad days, it can often feel like one wrong comment could push you into a mouth-foaming, expletive-slinging tirade against who or whatever wronged you. Turns out, Stan Lee feels that way sometimes, too. But his tirades lead to multimillion dollar lawsuits.
In 2015, a former assistant of Lee’s slammed the comic creator with a lawsuit, alleging that Lee and his family regularly verbally abused him. In the suit, the assistant claimed that a failed meeting with boxer Manny Pacquiao drew Lee’s ire, with the assistant alleging that Lee called him a “f*cking idiot,” and took it a step further by claiming that everyone thought the assistant was a “f*cking assh*le.” Sure, disappointment can make people lash out, but in this instance, Lee might have been wise to realize that sometimes silence is golden. ‘Nuff said.
6. BACKSTREET’S BACK, IN TIGHTS
The Backstreet Boys are many things: world famous pop stars, Grammy Award nominees… but definitely not superheroes. Stan Lee apparently did not get this memo, as he opted to team with the beloved boy band to turn Nick Carter and the gang into globetrotting guardians.
In The Backstreet Project, the Backstreet Boys are tasked with protecting five ancient mystical amulets. Unfortunately, a beautiful falsetto and chiseled good looks aren’t enough to protect these highly sought-after relics, so the Boys are all given super powers. Nick becomes Ninja Man, Kevin becomes Power Lord, and the rest of the group are assigned equally eye-rolling codenames and powers. Forming the super group known as the Cyber Crusaders, they travel exclusively via motorcycle. The short-lived flash cartoon was mercifully forgotten, as fans didn’t didn’t want it that way.
5. WHO WANTS TO BE A SUPERHERO?
Everything is a reality show these days — pawn stores, the Amish, little people — they have all gotten the reality show treatment. And thanks to Stan Lee, superheroes were able to jump on the reality show bandwagon.
With Who Wants To Be A Superhero?, regular shlubs slipped into spandex bodysuits and pretended to be superheroes, competing in themed challenges lorded over by Lee. While the contestants clearly went all out with their original heroes, Spider-Man these guys ain’t! Contestants included Cell Phone Girl and Fat Mama, with the electricity absorbing Feedback eventually being declared the winner. Feedback popped up in his own Dark Horse comic, and the show touted that the winner would star in an original Syfy Channel movie. Unfortunately for Feedback, the starring role never materialized. Rather, Feedback ultimately made a bit cameo in the creature feature Mega Snake. A second season soon followed, but Lee quickly realized with mediocre television comes middling ratings, and the show was ended.
4. KILLED HIMSELF VIA MANGA
Stan Lee has never shied away from breaking the fourth wall. Lee has popped up in the Marvel Comics universe multiple times, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Dr. Strange and the Fantastic Four. But in these appearances, Lee definitely didn’t disembowel himself in ritualistic samurai suicide. The same cannot be said of Lee’s appearance in the manga Ultimo.
A co-creation between Lee and Shaman King creator Hiroyuki Takei, Ultimo follows a brilliant scientist (who looks exactly like Stan Lee, naturally) who creates robots based on pure good and pure evil, and sends them back in time to feudal Japan to duke it out with other robots based on various sins and virtues. Realizing he has probably doomed the planet to a never-ending robo-war, anime Stan Lee opts to commit honorable suicide via seppuku. Not many comic creators can claim to have killed themselves in one of their creations, but Lee can join this illustrious (and probably very small) club.
3. DR. DROOM
No, that isn’t a typo. We aren’t talking about Dr. Doom here! No, we’re here to discuss what just might be the most racist superhero of all time, Dr. Droom. And he was created by the one and only Stan Lee.
First appearing in Amazing Adventures #1, Dr. Droom’s origin follows an American doctor that travels to the Orient to care for a dying Buddhist Lama. Upon arriving and passing several tests, the Lama reveals that the doctor has been selected to combat the evil mystical forces of the world. While this means gaining sweet magical powers, it also, inexplicably, means turning the doctor Asian. Dr. Droom transforms into an ugly Chinese stereotype, delivering a monologue about his eyes becoming slanted and the sprouting of a Fu Manchu, while his skin becomes banana yellow. The story laid the ground work for the psychedelic Dr. Strange, but this racist caricature is best left forgotten.
The idea of a singer who also happens to fight crime is nothing new in comics. Hell, Dazzler has been running with the X-Men since the 70’s. But the concept of a pop star turned crime fighter has never been done as head-scratchingly poorly as the Stan Lee concocted Nightcat.
Based on real life singer Jacqueline Tavarez, Nightcat was pitched by Lee as a street smart, tough-as-nails hero with a golden voice. With her cat-like agility and honed martial arts skills, Nightcat split her time between battling ninjas and recording smash hit singles. Also, she drives a car dubbed the “Cat-illac,” obviously. To promote the comic, Marvel had Tavarez record a song as Nightcat, packaging the single with the first issue of the series. The song, “#1 House Rule,” flopped, and Marvel realized they had a stinker on their hands. Tavarez was fired, Nightcat was all but forgotten, and Lee would move on to a new hero that happened to dress like a stripper…
1. HIS SUPERHERO STRIPPER
If there is one thing Stan Lee knows, it is creating classic superheroes. So when Spike TV announced that Lee would be bringing his hero creating skills to its late night animation block in the early 00’s, fans’ minds ran wild at the possibilities. Whatever these fans imagined, Strippella probably wasn’t it.
Following the exploits of the titular superhero, the alter ego of the Pamela Anderson-voiced stripper Erotica Jones (ugh), Stripperella featured derring-do and pole dancing in equal measure. To make this whole regrettable endeavor worse, Lee would later be taken to court by a stripper named “Jazz,” who claimed Lee stole the idea for the show from Jazz, who discussed the concept with Lee while he received a lap dance. So, not only did fans have to endure this terrible show, but now they have to deal with the mental image of Lee getting a lap dance. Thanks a lot, Stripperella.
What are some of your favorite infamous Stan Lee stories? Let us know in the comments!