To celebrate Stan Lee's 65th anniversary with the company, Marvel Comics knew they had to do something special. So, not only did they get Stan to pen a new mini-series, "Stan Lee Meets," where the legendary creator comes face to face with his most famous creations, but they also recruited an all-star line up of creators to pay tribute to "The Man" with back-up stories that will run in each issue of "Stan Lee Meets." CBR News spoke with writers Joss Whedon, Brian Michael Bendis, Roy Thomas, Jeph Loeb and Paul Jenkins about their back up stories for the mini-series.
Marvel was able to recruit this amazing all-star line up of talent for the back-up stories because the creators involved were all inspired by Stan Lee's stories at various points and wanted to thank "The Man" for the effect his work had on their personal and professional lives. "Stan Lee is the father of us all," Joss Whedon told CBR News. Whedon's story features art by Michael Gaydos and appears in "Stan Lee Meets Spider-Man," which is in stores today. "Which is why he's not running that fertility clinic any more - he's lucky he's not in jail. Honestly, he (and a few others, notably the King) created the template from which every one of us works. The Greeks had a wooden horse and a wicked long sea voyage - we have a radioactive spider and a much shorter space voyage (stupid cosmic rays). It's a real pleasure to be able to thank Stan for all we have, and to finally hit him up for those child support payments."
Jeph Loeb's chance to tip his hat to Stan Lee began with a phone call. "I got a call in the middle of the night from Tom Brevoort," Loeb said. "Evidently, he was on the ledge at the Chrysler Building and was taking hostages. He promised I could have all the gold in the basement of the Marvel Building if I'd do a ten page story. Evidently, Joss Whedon had fallen for this same routine - but dammit, I wasn't going to let Whedon have all that gold! He already has all the women!"
Loeb jumped at the chance to pen a story that paid tribute to Lee. "It was just too insane to pass up," Loeb stated. "Part 'Not Brand Echh' (my personal fave!) and part love letter to the Father of Marvel Comics. Stan has written some, if not all of my favorite superhero stories. A chance to tip the hat to him was too good to ignore! Oh, and Brevoort said I could have all that gold."
It was a classic tale of Marvel Comics' first family that inspired Loeb's back up story (which appears in "Stan Lee Meets Dr. Doom"). "My story was literally birthed out of one of my all time must read Stan Lee Comics - 'Fantastic Four' #40 - 'The Battle of the Baxter Building!'" Loeb explained. "It has Doc Doom battling the Thing and the Fantastic Four are about to be obliterated. My story picks up just after that story, following Doom in the aftermath of his most humiliating defeat. And somehow, I took the Stan Lee meets Doc Doom title very seriously - and that's all I can say."
An old friend and frequent collaborator will be bringing to life Loeb's tale of Dr. Doom. "This is my first collaboration with Ed McGuiness since we both left the Distinguished Competition," Loeb said. "His energy on the page is so - fantastic - to pick a word. And when people see the way he draws The Thing - I think we've done Jack Kirby proud and that's like climbing the Mt. Everest of Comics! Okay, Tom, can I have my gold now?!"
When Tom Brevoort's office called Paul Jenkins to recruit him to pen another back up story, the writer was also happy to pick up the assignment. "They knew that I always had a high opinion of what Stan means to the industry," Jenkins said. "So they called me up and basically said, 'We're doing this series of sort of tributes to Stan, where he's doing a portion of it.' And they asked if I would be willing to do a story for one and I said that I'd gladly do one."
Less than a minute after being asked, Jenkins knew the exact story he wanted to tell. "It's actually a story that I had in mind for many years and never got to do it in 'Spider-Man,'" Jenkins explained. "But there is a reason I never got to it in 'Spider-Man.' If you know anything about my 'Spider-Man' writing, you know it's somewhat semi-autobiographical. I tended to write about myself and put lots of vignettes in it. We also did real well with single issue stories. In this particular case I had a story, but it didn't necessarily revolve around Spider-Man as much as all kinds of comic characters. So, I already had it in mind to do this story and low and behold they called me up. I said, 'Boy! Do I have a story for you!' It's something I thought about for years."
For his story (which appears in "Stan Lee Meets the Silver Surfer" and features art by Pasqual Ferry) Jenkins reflected back on his youth. "As a little kid I lived in the country," Jenkins stated. "I grew up on a farm. It's kind of interesting that I got to where I am in America and my career because I was seriously like a redneck. I grew up on a farm and for some period of time my mum could only afford to have my brother and I live in a caravan and we lived in a farmer's cottage as well. She cleaned the farm house.
"Back in those days we used to live for this tube of comics that my grandmother would send from London," Jenkins continued. "Because we didn't have anything. We didn't have any toys, any clothes, any money; we didn't have anything. So, my grandmother would send us this tube of comics and we just loved them. I totally and utterly fell in love with the characters of Spider-Man and Daredevil when I was a kid. I thought they were brilliant. The story itself kind of revolves around me being a little kid wondering about life, how it was kind of difficult and trying to work out what it was going to be for me. There in the middle of it was this character of Spider-Man that I could really relate to because he had difficulties. It had tremendous personal meaning to me. I actually learned to read off comics"
While Spider-Man and other Marvel characters do play a role in Jenkins's story, they are not the central focus. "The story is not necessarily about Spider-Man as it is about Stan," Jenkins explained. "It's actually a story about me and Stan."
In addition to providing him with a number of great moments in his childhood, Stan Lee also provided Jenkins with one of the highlights of his professional career. "A couple of years into my work at Marvel, Joe Quesada called me up and said, 'Paul I just want to tell you something and I think you'll find this cool.' I had been working with Stan on 'The Sentry.' Stan really helped us out with that. Joe said, 'I just wanted to let you know that Stan called me up and he told me to tell you that he really likes your writing. He thinks you're a genius.'
"I'm not being funny, that actually made me a little teary-eyed," Jenkins continued. "I thought, 'My God! I have so much respect for the guy having accomplished what he accomplished.' So, for him to acknowledge that he liked my work had a lot of meaning for me and I feel like I am able to say that in this books."
When Tom Brevoort's office called Roy Thomas and asked him to write a back up story for "Stan Lee Meets" he thought it was a great idea "I like to keep my hand in writing comics and of course the project has to do with Stan and since I know him better than most of them do and worked with him longer it just seemed like a natural thing to do," Thomas said. "So while I could have done something set in the 60s, I thought it would be fun to do something set during World War II, which nobody was likely to be doing. So that was kind of fun."
Thomas's WWII story (which appears in "Stan Lee Meets the Thing") involves Lee's stint with the armed services during the war. "Basically I fused it with when Stan was writing training films," Thomas explained. "He gets involved with the Red Skull and three heroes. He thinks the three heroes that are being sent to be in his training film would of course be the Human Torch, Captain America and the Submariner. Instead they're the three that Stan wrote first: Father Time, The Destroyer and Jack Frost. So they end up being these minor characters. After this happens, he goes and makes a film with Stan Lee as the hero in costume. It's kind of a light hearted story."
Artist, Scott Kolins brought Thomas's light hearted story to life. "He did a nice job on it," Thomas stated. "We made one little change that was kind of funny because he did this beautiful end drawing of all the characters that Stan helped co-create later on. The only one I suggested be taken off, and they decided I was right, was the Silver Surfer. Stan did write the character and could certainly claim to have co-created him, but since he's always said it was Jack's [Jack Kirby] idea we thought it might be better not to show him; because Stan worked on so many other character that were initially his idea as opposed to one that was initially thought up by Jack. But it worked out quite nicely and I look forward to seeing it."
Like all the other creators he enlisted, Tom Brevoort didn't have to work too hard to get Brian Michael Bendis to do a back up story for "Stan Lee Meets." "I said yes because I wish Stan would adopt me and be my legal father because he's so awesome and nice," Bendis stated. "In this life I've met quite a few people who I've admired and some have been shockingly disappointing. Stan is the opposite. He is tremendous. Our interview we did for 'Wizard' recently was a phenomenal experience for me and he's been unbelievably generous to me both privately and publicly with the things that he said. Doing a story like this doesn't even begin to express the honor I feel for him."
To make sure Stan "The Man" felt appropriately honored by his story, Bendis ran it by him. "I pitched him the idea, which he was kind of surprised by, because it's not an homage if he doesn't like it," Bendis said. "I sent him the script and said if there's anything you don't like let me know. He wrote back an unbelievably nice note that I can show to my kids one day."
Letting kids and future generations know about the contributions of Stan Lee and his collaborators is another reason why Bendis agreed to do the back up story. "It surprises me sometimes that people don't even know who Stan is; so I'm happy to do anything we can do to point at him and his collaborators and say, 'Hey! Look what they did!' Also it's his 65th year with the company! Not alive! With the Company! Even that was amazing to me. And it gave me the excuse to use The Impossible Man finally."
The Impossible Man is the star of Bendis's story (which appears in "Stan Lee Meets Dr. Strange"). "The story is the Impossible Man shows up in the modern Marvel Universe to wreak his fun havoc and he's disgusted with what the Marvel Universe has turned into Post-'Civil War,' Post -'House of M,' Post-'Secret War,' Post-'New Avengers.' He runs around the Marvel Universe looking for some semblance of the Marvel Universe he once found. He is so annoyed that he goes to Marvel Comics to complain to Stan and find out what's wrong with him, only to find out that Stan isn't there and hasn't been there for a long time. Then he goes looking for Stan. We poke a lot of fun at ourselves with what's been going on in the Marvel Universe."
Readers can expect to see a lot of familiar faces in Bendis's story. "There's plenty of guest stars, both Marvel characters and real people," Bendis said. "I love, love, love comics that take place in the Marvel bullpen. I always loved them. I did one, once years ago in 'Marvel Team Up' but it's a new bullpen so it was worth doing again. Plus we get some fun with Stan's new ventures as Hollywood Stan."
Bendis' story also afforded him to have a little fun with himself and the staff of the Marvel bullpen. "I'm making fun of myself just as much if not more than everybody else," He said. "And it's a lot of fun to poke fun at Joe Quesada. Tom Brevoort doesn't get enough spanking, so I got him in there as well. Everyone liked it"
As many might have guessed, the Impossible Man's feelings in the story are similar to those of many readers who voice their feelings of discontent online. "You definitely see that thought expressed online, usually with my name somewhere in the header [Laughs]," Bendis said. "I love Impossible Man stories and I thought, 'If Impossible Man showed up now he'd be sickened.' So there's a lot of fun to had and the online audience especially will see stuff they recognize from posts about Marvel in recent years.
"There was a letter that came my way that said, 'If Stan knew what you were up to he would be sickened.' But he does know and Joe [Joe Quesada] has said that if you really look at what Stan did while he was Editor In Chief, if he was still Editor In Chief you wouldn't even recognize the Marvel Universe. He changed stuff so much and so often. In our craziest day, he was more much more 'tear it up and knock it down' than any of us."
The artist on Bendis's tale will be no stranger to fans of the writer's work. "You want the most quintessential Marvel artist and the most quintessential Marvel artist I work with is Mark Bagley," Bendis explained. "When Stan came out and endorsed 'Ultimate Spider-Man,' I know we both felt very emotional about that. I know that he would probably want to share this with me and he said yes."