CCI, Day 2: Spider-Man, Then & Now

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If Thursday's "Civil War" panel was popular, Room 6A was absoluetely packed to capacity -- again -- at a Marvel Comics panel on Friday.

Stan "The Man" Lee entered the room to a roaring applause from the capacity crowd, and "The Man" warmly greeted his creative comrades.

"This is in case I get amnesia," laughed Lee as he looked at his name card, then asked the crowd, "Don't you all have anything better to do?"

In attendance were Kevin Feige (Marvel Studios), J. Michael Straczynski, John Romita Jr. , John Romita Sr., Lee and Marvel Marketing official Jim McCaan.

Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada said he was opening the floor to questions, because Stan had very little time and Lee laughed that it was an age joke. The first reader question went to JMS about the Gwen Stacy story last year in "Amazing Spider-Man" and JMS said, "It was all Joe's idea." "Sure, blame it on the dog after you fart," laughed Quesada.

A reader took Quesada to task for publishing a Spider-Man comic where the hero is brutally beaten for the entire issue, and that it wasn't new reader friendly, but the editor said if he had read the issue when he was a kid, he would have been hooked. Quesada asked Stan what he felt about the issue, and Stan said he hadn't read it, saying "I'm a big authority on comics until the year 1970 or so."

"As it should be," joked Lee when a fan told him that he and John Romita Sr. were his heroes.

"You can't go by old farts. Old farts don't like change," said Romita Sr. when asked about the infamous "Clone Saga."

width="230" height="173" alt="" border="0"> width="230" height="173" alt="" border="0">John Romits Jr (left) greets his father, John Romita Sr, with Stan Lee present.Lee, Romita Sr & Romita Jr

Stan said he originally imagined Peter Parker marrying Gwen Stacy, but after a time found that he couldn't make Gwen as interesting as MJ. He cited Peter avoiding MJ in the comics as one of his favorite parts of the love story and the "Face it tiger, you hit the jackpot," panel as one of his favorite in comics. He wished it had been used in the films.

Romita Sr. joked that it was hard to make Gwen sexier because she was the responsible good girl and MJ was "an airhead." He also said they once considered killing Aunt May, but figured Spider-Man wouldn't have a reason to keep his identity secret if they did, so they decided to kill the most important person to Peter: Gwen.

"They killed her when I went to Europe. You may wonder why I've never gone again," said Lee of Gwen's death.

As to the unmasking of Spider-Man, Quesada said they thought of two questions: "What would Stan do?" and "Where does it take us?" "I wish I had thought of 'Civil War,'" said Lee, who loved the ideas in the series and the unmasking of Spider-Man.

The classic "Spider-Man No More!" cover, with Spider-Man's costume in the garbage can and Parker walking away was not originally intended as a cover: it was to be page 8, admitted Romita Sr.

Lee praised Feige for the Spider-Man films for being the closest to the source material of any comic book films. He also loved the X-Men films. He said his "Spider-Man 3" cameo is "the best I've ever done."

"Something went through me like electricity," said Romita Sr. when he saw Wolverine pop his claws in the X-Men films.

"I think you're sensational," said Lee of JMS, who loves the younger scribe's work. Lee said that being the editor of his own books ("I happened to be my biggest fan, so whatever I wrote, I loved!") helped him write so many books back in the day.

To avoid getting a potbelly from sitting around, Lee used to stack two tables out on his terrace so he could type standing up. "A man on his feet is worth two off his feet," Romita Sr said of Lee.

When he used to write dialogue, Lee would sometimes act out scenes by jumping around and pretend fighting, revealed Romita Jr. Lee used to also speak his dialogue aloud in the voices of the characters (which he did for the audience today) and said he came up with Doctor Strange's dialogue because he didn't want to use corny normal magician language. He made up the dialogue from random words, but later scholars told him he had borrowed from ancient Druid languages and other language. Stan had no idea what they were talking about, so he politely told them, "I commend you on your diligence."

JMS was asked to act out his dialogue and pretended to be Invisible Girl by disappearing, which he did by falling back off his chair. The room erupted into laughter.

Lee wants to work with Romita Jr., but says the artist always has excuses like, "I need another earring in my ear." "If there is a better comic book artist than John Romtia Jr, I don't know who he is," said Lee.

Would Ben Reilly be back as the Scarlet Spider? "Keep reading," teased Quesada.

How did Stan create his heroes? "With great difficulty mostly. I'm not one of those guys who walks down the street and gets inspiration," admitted Stan. He admitted to procrastinating when creating heroes and feels it's something he just figures out by looking for interesting powers and a character who'd be interesting without the powers, comparing the formula to a mathematical equation.

"That doesn't explain Dardevil," said Romita Sr. "He's the best." His son agreed.

Asked about how much Lee packed into every issue, the writer said, "I always felt we were giving the reader too much and didn't deserve it."

To direct the story and guide it in the right direction, Lee would consider if he was bored with the story and would change course if need be to spice things up.

Quesada announced that he and Lee will do a UCLA presentation called "Marvel: Then & Now" in November, but the date isn't quite set, as there may be a double-booking in the reserved area.

width="230" height="173" alt="" border="0"> width="230" height="173" alt="" border="0">Joe Quesada, left, with Lee and Jim McCaan in background.John Romita Sr, John Romita Jr and Straczynski.

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