Which Legendary Playwright Did Stan Lee Try to Recruit for Marvel?

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Stan Lee tried to woo Tom Stoppard to write for a special line of adult-themed Marvel comic books.



1972 was a very chaotic year for Stan Lee. After the sale of Marvel Comics to Cadence Industries in 1968, Marvel's former owner, Martin Goodman, remained in his role as the Publisher of the company for the next four years as a transition. Lee would be set to take on the role of Publisher in 1972, with Roy Thomas becoming the new Editor-in-Chief of the company. However, Stan was surprised by giving a DOUBLE promotion. He was not only the new Publisher of Marvel Comics, but he was also the President. He had more control than he ever had in the past.

Some of the freedom was quickly realized in Marvel's new black and white magazine program, something Lee had been wanting to do since Warren had had so much success in the mid-1960s with Creepy and Eerie.

However, Stan was also a lot more aggressive than just that. He felt that this should mark a huge change in the history of Marvel. He bragged in the Bullpen Bulletins about a "Phase Two" that the company was headed for.

One of the ways that he wanted to go forward was by bringing in some of the top creative talent in not just comics but OUT of comics. He tried (and mostly failed) to get a lot of the top independent comic book creators to work for him, but he also made a big push to do a new line of adult comic books that would be written by some of the top literary talent of the era.

In the past, I did a Comic Book Legend where I debunked a legend about Kurt Vonnegut pitching Marvel on a Silver Surfer series. However, sure enough, Vonnegut was one of the people that Stan Lee approached about this new line of adult-themed comic books. The others included A Clockwork Orange author Anthony Burgess and Czech playwright (and future President of Czechoslovakia) Václav Havel.

Lee also tried to woo Tom Stoppard, who had just won his first Tony Award in 1968 for Rosencrantz and Guilderstern Are Dead. Stoppard, of course, would later go on to win three more Tony Awards and also work extensively in film (winning an Academy Award for Shakespeare in Love), so it is not out of the realm of possibility that Stoppard would work with Lee (after all, popular culture has long played a major role in Stoppard's work. Like his somewhat recent hit play, Rock and Roll).

Like most of Lee's bold ideas from this time period, the project fell apart, but it is great to know that Lee was bold enough to even TRY it!

Thanks to Sean Howe for confirming this story in his great book, Marvel Comics: The Untold Story.

Check out my latest TV Legends Revealed - Did Stan Lee almost HOST the 1990's X-Men Animated Series?

OK, that's it for this week!

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Rest in peace, Stan!

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