He's a man who needs no introduction, but that doesn't mean you know all there is to know about Stan Lee. On stage at C2E2, Stan Lee discussed his career of more than 75 years in comics and answering fan questions in a far-ranging spotlight panel. Clare Kramer is on hand to moderate the discussion.
Lee got a standing ovation while ascending to the stage, cheering wildly for several moments before sitting.
"I've been doing cameos for a while now," Lee said of his roles in Marvel's films. "I've started calling them 'supporting roles' ... I want a starring role. I think I should be an Avenger."
Which Avenger would he be? "Stan Lee."
Lee mentioned the rumor that he was the Watcher, but did not confirm or deny.
On his famous "True Believers" catchphrase, Lee joked, "I've never said, and I was never told, just what the hell True Believers believe!"
The floor was then opened to fan questions.
Lee said that if he doesn't get another cameo on "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," "they'll be in trouble!" He said he expected a cameo on the forthcoming "Mockingbird" show.
Asked by a fan whether he'd rather be Cyclops or Magneto, Lee said, "Cyclops is definitely a good guy, but I'd rather have Magneto's powers."
A fan asked what Lee hoped society would take from comics. "Well, they're a means for the publishers to make a lot of money," he joked. "The comics, and the comic book movies, are for entertainment. We are entertainers -- we try to entertain. We don't always succeed. ... If we can make an audience happy, make them laugh, thrill them, we've succeeded. So far, Marvel's been pretty successful."
Lee confessed, "I think I have a way of answering your question without answering it. It's because I talk so much, by the time I've finished talking I forgot what the question was."
Asked if he'd like a bigger role on any series, "the problem is time," Lee said. "I've been asked to do bigger roles, but that would mean I'd have to be on set." Lee cited his commitments to his own company, POW Entertainment.
A fan asked, "Is there any part of being famous you don't like?" "I don't know how famous I am. When I go home at night, my wife tells me to take out the garbage," Lee said. "But if I am famous, I enjoy all of it," he added, citing interactions with fans.
"I'm going to tell you a secret. I'm going to tell you why the cameos are more important than people think and how they help Marvel make all that money," Lee said. He painted a scene in which a couple on a date go to see a movie, "And the movie ends, and one of them says -- 'I didn't see the cameo! I must have been bending down to get popcorn!' So what do you do? You've got to go right back and watch the movie again!"
Asked if Lee would appear in a DC movie, he only said that he had a bigger role in Kevin Smith's next movie. But for a Superman cameo? "I'll do it, but I'll do it badly!"
Talking about creating Spider-Man, Lee said his publisher had asked him to come up with a new superhero. "The first thing you think about is, what power does he have?" Lee said. "Then I saw a fly crawling on the wall. And I thought, oh man, if I could have a character that could crawl on the wall like a fly. I didn't like Fly-Man, Mosquito-Man... But then I thought of Spider-Man." He added that he wanted the character to be a teenager and have a lot of personal problems. "My publisher looked at me and said, 'that's the stupidest idea I've ever heard,'" objecting to each point -- people hate spiders, teens are sidekicks, and heroes are supposed to be above personal problems. But Lee put Spider-Man in the about-to-be-cancelled "Amazing Fantasy."
"About a month later when the sales figures came in, my publisher called me into his office and said, 'Hey Stan, you know that character Spider-Man we both liked so much? Why don't you do a series?"
During a pause in the action, Lee noticed his appearance on the giant monitor. "I've been up here all the time! And I haven't been looking!"
A fan asked Lee if he had a favorite DC character. "Yeah, I have one," he said. "But dammit I can't think of his name." He said it was one word, so fans shouted character name. Many suggested Lobo, but Lee seemed unsure.
Lee said he was never pleased with Iron Man armor until the movie.
Lee said he's never had writer's block. "The easiest thing in the world to do is come up with ideas; everybody does it," he said. "As far as writer's block goes, once you get the idea, you've got to worry about how do you tell the story," he said. "And that can lead to writer's block if you think too much about it."
His advice to aspiring writers: "If there is something you like, other people will like it too."
Asked about creating Daredevil, Lee said that once again he was trying to think of something new, "the sense of smell and touch and sound -- if those were magnified. I don't know how I came out the idea that he was blind." Lee said he was concerned about the reaction from the blind community and charities -- "that they would think, oh, he may be blind but he can do all these other things" -- but once the comics came out he received many letters of support.
Lee said his celebrity doesn't stop him from being searched at the airport, adding, after a pause. "You want to talk about stupid things? At the airport, if you're over 72 years old, you don't have to take off your shoes. I'm older than 72, so I'm lucky. But does that mean if you're 73 you can no longer be a terrorist? After that arbitrary age? I don't trust a 73-year-old getting on a plane without taking off his shoes."
More on task, Lee talked about revitalizing Captain America. "He was from an era when people loved America and loved the army, but now he feels like an anachronism," Lee said, citing the unpopular Korean War and other cultural shifts.
Lee said his favorite villain he created is Doctor Doom. "All he wants to do is rule the world," Lee said. "You can walk up to any cop in the world and say, excuse me officer, I want to rule the world. And there's not a thing he can do about it. It's not illegal to want to rule the world."
Asked how he knew he wanted to write comics, Lee said, "I didn't know I wanted to write comics when I was young -- I read them, I liked tham. I wanted to be a writer." He spoke about being an usher at a theater and writing obituaries. "I don't know if you know this, but every celebrity has an obituary written before they die," Lee said, which he said was depressing. When he heard of a job opening at Timely, which would later become Marvel, he did not know they published comics.
"I just sort of fell into it," he said, when as an assistant he would be given writing assignments. "Then they were all fired. I have no idea why. I was the only guy left in the comic book department. I was about 17 years old." He was given the job "until [they] could hire a grown-up," but Lee was eventually writing and hiring artists full time.
"I've still never written that novel, so we'd better cut this panel short."