It was a packed room early Saturday morning when the founding father of Marvel comics entered the hall. The panel began late, but new arrivals were still jostling for space as Stan "The Man" Lee took the stage to cheers and camera flashes. The CEO of Virgin Comics Sharad Devarajan welcomed Stan and made the major announcement of the panel right off the bat: Stan Lee would be creating a new line of super-hero comics for Virgin's imprint. This new line of comics will function as a cohesive universe, just like Marvel which Stan architected during the 1960s, and each of the heroes has been planned "for some time now" according to Devarajan."This is one of the most exciting things that's ever happened to me," Stan said. "To get a chance to do what we did a million years ago, with people just as excited and just as dedicated as they were then." Of course, Stan admitted that working at Virgin wouldn't be the same as working for Marvel during the sixties. For one thing, there are advantages Stan didn't have in his day. "When we started Marvel, we had no money," he reminded the audience. "Now all of a sudden, we have Virgin Comics behind us! Virgin! They have nothing but money!" Stan said this meant his new line can hire the best writers and artists and can pay them well, unlike Marvel at its inception. "And I can take all the credit!" Stan joked.This lead to much joking about the financial largess of Virgin between Stan and the imprint's CEO, Sharad Devarajan. Stan joked that part of his deal was that he would get his own private airplane from the billionaire airline company. "I wouldn't normally do this but this is the chance to do our negotiations right here in the room," Stan said. Devarajan also mentioned that he'd love to see Stan's characters on the side of a Virgin airplane some day.Little else was revealed about the new universe, but spirits between Lee and Devarajan were high. "This is the chance to do it all over again," Stan said with enthusiasm. Some discussion took place about whether the comics would be written in the Marvel method. "I'll let you in on a secret: I haven't actually written any of the comics yet. I have tons of ideas though," Stan said. At this point, Stan took questions from an eager audience.One of the first questions was obligatory. "Have you been reading Brand New Day?" the fan asked, "and do you feel as betrayed as the rest of us?" After some clarification, Stan realized that this question was about Spider-Man and his now metaphysically dissolved marriage to Mary Jane. "I don't have as much time to read the comics as I used to, but I do know what they're doing with Spider-Man," Stan said. He explained that Joe Quesada was an "extremely talented, thoughtful guy" and that he had good reasons for his decision."If for some reason the sales slump, then they'll bring her back," he explained. "When you're an editor of a comics company, you're like God. You can kill people, you can bring them back. People wonder why I have such an ego. That's why!" Another fan asked if Stan has a cameo in the upcoming Incredible Hulk movie. "I've already shot my cameo," Stan said. He also commented on the possibility of future cameos. "I'm not going to limit myself to Marvel. If they wanted me to do a cameo for Superman or Batman, I'll do it. I'd love to do it!" Stan also gave his thoughts on the Marvel movies in general. "If some of them didn't live up to my expectations, that's fine. They were mostly good. Some of them experimented and didn't quite work out like the first Incredible Hulk movie, but the next one will be better."After one fan's question, Stan commented on the difference between writing for DC and Marvel. "I'm a scientist," Stan said. "Have you ever noticed that Superman flies without any visible means of locomotion?" He asked, garnering a laugh from fans. He explained that the reason he had Thor throw his hammer to fly was to avoid this problem.A fan asked about Civil War, which Stan said he loved. "Comics have changed. This wasn't the case ten years ago but now we have novel and movie writers working in comics. Fantastically talented people. Guys like Jim Lee and Alex Ross... people used to look down their noses [at comics] years ago, they don't do that so much anymore." Devarajan said he'd love to see Stan Lee work with Jim Lee. "You know he calls himself my illegitimate son," Stan said.Stan continued to explain his thoughts on comics as a medium throughout other questions. "Suppose Shakespeare and Michelangelo were alive today and Michalangelo said: 'Hey Bill! Let's do a comic!'... the point being, the Comic book is just as viable a form of literature as anything else."One fan asked about the possibility of a cross-over between Stan's new Virgin Universe and the Marvel Universe. Stan admitted it was certainly a possibility. "I'd love that!" he said, enthusiastically. "And knowing Quesada, I bet he'd love it too." The room reached possibly its highest point of jubilation when one fan asked if he could hear Stan's famous catch-phrase. Stan asked for a moment of total silence. "EXCELSIOR!" he boomed finally, the room exploding in applause.
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