SDCC: Stan Lee Remains "The Man" at Comic-Con

At Comic-Con International in San Diego, Stan "The Man" Lee held court during his spotlight panel, with a packed room of fans of all ages eager to hear some words of wisdom from the co-creator of the Marvel Universe. Lee regaled the Comic-Con faithful with tales from yesteryear, his creative process as well as providing a look into the future of his company, POW! Entertainment. Joining Lee on stage was moderator Jimmy Palmiotti and president and director of POW! Entertainment Gill Champion.

Lee was a bit late to the panel, so Palmiotti shared the story of when they first met. It was during the writer/inker's early days at Marvel, and the two ran into each other at the publisher's offices. Lee walked past Palmiotti and called out, "Hey, Jimmy Palmiotti, how you doing?" Palmiotti asked how Lee knew who he was. Lee responded by, as Palmiotti remembered, "removing a picture cut out of 'Wizard' magazine" out of his pocket and replying, "That's how I knew who you were." Palmiotti thought, "How many photos does he have in his top pocket?"

As the crowd roared with laughter, Lee took the stage to a standing ovation, quipping, "I'm such a great living legend I couldn't find how to get to the panel."

Lee introduced the crowd to POW! Entertainment and called Palmiotti a great a guy to lead the panel" because "he does all the work and I take the credit."

"I still have the photo," Lee added. "I carry it in my wallet."

Lee made a brief apology and told fans he couldn't hear as well as he used to. "If I can't hear a question, Jimmy will translate it. If he can't hear a question, Gill will translate. If Gill can't hear, the hell with it, I'm leaving."

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Before they took fan questions, Champion introduced some upcoming projects from POW! Entertainment. The first slide shown was of "Chakra the Invincible," a new young hero from India that will be launched exclusively via Humble Bundle. Champion told the crowd that Chakra "will be turned into three new animated films for Cartoon Network India." There is also talk with India studios to turn "Chakra" into Lee's first Bollywood movie. "You're going to see 'Chakra' in theaters across the world, and you saw it here first!"

Next, they discussed "The Zodiac Legacy," an illustrated novel from Disney Publishing. The book is the first of a trilogy that deals with the Chinese Zodiac and is co-written by Stuart Moore. Champion proudly announced that the first novel made Amazon's top twenty best seller list, to which Lee said, "I don't do anything that doesn't make a best seller list."

The next slide was for "Amazing Fantastic Incredible," Lee's new graphic novel biography from Simon & Schuster, co-written by Peter David with art by Colleen Doran. The book goes on sale November 3 according to Champion. "So save your money," Lee warned. "Don't go wasting it all over the convention."

Champion told the crowd that Lee "has frequently said that if he could chose any power, it would be luck." "We sold a new series to Sky One in the UK," Lee added. "A new series called 'Stan Lee Presents: Lucky Man.'" Champion described it as a "ten-part drama we sold to the makers of 'Downton Abbey.' It will premiere Spring 2016."

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The first fan question asked, if Lee were creating the Marvel Universe today, would he still base his heroes all in New York. "Actually, if I were writing super heroes, no, I would have them living in Los Angeles or -- where the hell are we? -- San Diego. It's so much easier to write about characters if they live where you live. When I did the Fantastic Four, I had them on New York's East Side, and I had Spider-Man live in Forest Hills. Everything seemed realistic, or as realistic as you can have a guy who crawled on walls and shoot webs."

Lee gave credit to some often unsung heroes of the early days of Marvel when a young fan asked how he chose the colors of his super heroes' costumes. "I have something I hate having to tell you, because you will think less of me. I did not pick the colors of the super heroes. We had two colorists at the company, Marie Severin and Stan Goldberg. When either [Jack] Kirby or [Steve] Ditko or [John] Romita would make up a character, I would give the drawing to one of them. They were great, and did a better job than I would have done."

A fan brought up the 9/11 issue of "Amazing Spider-Man" that featured heroes and villains working together to clear up the rubble of the World Trade Center, asking if we will see any more of that type of social commentary at Marvel. Lee answered that he is not currently guiding Marvel's books. "It really is in the hands of two people -- the writer and editor. We did that years ago. I came up with the character of the Black Panther, who I was very fond of. Comics are really something for entertainment and amusement, but if you can get a good message in the story, that's a great thing to do."

The next fan wanted to know when Lee realized that his characters would be around much longer than other characters from the same era. "I knew when he started selling so well and I got this great fan mail." Lee half jokingly said fan letters after "Fantastic Four" #1 were written in crayon, then in pencil, and then in pen. But he really knew he made it when he started to get fan mail from colleges.

The next question dealt with why super heroes became the most popular genre in comics. "I think people like stories of very powerful villains being beaten by very powerful heroes," Lee said. Champion added that the idea Lee brought up resonates around the world, to which Lee replied, "Yeah, the whole world owes me a debt of gratitude."

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The next fan asked about Lee's cameo in "Mallrats." Lee corrected the fan by joking, "Excuse me, in 'Mallrats,' I was a full co-star."

The next fan asked which of Lee's many cameos was his favorite. Lee answered that it was the one upcoming in "X-Men: Apocalypse." "This cameo was different than any cameo I have done, and if that doesn't make you go see 'X-Men,' I'm wasting my time."

The next fan asked if super heroes can still be role models. "All super heroes are role models," Lee replied. "They have to be. There are no bad super heroes, it's a contradiction of terms." But Lee did find one exception to his rule. "I don't know what the hell Deadpool is."

A very youthful fan asked Lee what Marvel character would he like to be. Without hesitation, Lee replied, "Tony Stark! He's rich, handsome, women love him, men like him, he can fly, and a bullet can't hurt him!"

Asked what is his favorite Marvel character he didn't create, Lee answered, "I haven't been keeping up, but I know Deadpool is a popular character."

In response to a question about choosing artists, Lee said, "I had the best men and women in the business. If I had a new adventure character, right away, I would give it to Jack Kirby. Jack was just great. He would make the greatest movie director, because he knew just the right angle for every panel. Steve Ditko was fabulous. Then there was John Romita. After Ditko left 'Spider-Man,' Romita took it over. He could draw anything. Then there was Marie Severin, who was a colorist and tops in the field. There was Herb Trimpe, who we lost recently. There was Gene Colan; he loved movies, he drew every comic like it was storyboard, like it was a motion picture. John Buscema, he was also a weight lifter. He scared the hell out of me!"

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