When you think of Marvel Comics, heck, all of the comic book industry, there are few names more strongly associated with success than Stan Lee. As one of the architects of the Marvel Universe, Stan "The Man" Lee defined the attitude that continues to drive the company to this day. Marvel Comics will be celebrating the 65th year of Stan Lee's tenure at Marvel Comics with a "Stan Lee Meets" limited series. CBR News caught up with series editor Tom Brevoort to learn more about the project.
"We get to see Stan write comics so infrequently these days that it seemed sort of cool to have him contribute to the project, to be the backbone of it, and give him the opportunity to work with some of our top-flight talent (and give them an opportunity to work with him)," Brevoort explained when he spoke with CBR News Wednesday afternoon. "Doesn't it make sense to celebrate and honor Stan while he's still among us - and not simply as an 'old timer,' but as a vital creative force who can still spin a fun yarn."
When you think of Stan Lee returning to Marvel Comics, there's a plethora of ideas for ways he could contribute to the company's dominant superhero brand, but instead of going with the predictable route, Lee, Brevoort & Co went in quite an unexpected direction. "This project is about Stan, plain and simple," asserts Brevoort. "Each of the one-shots contains three stories. In the first, Stan interacts with one of the characters he co-created. These stories are all written by Stan, and are very tongue-in-cheek, as you might expect from the description. The second story in each special is produced by a contemporary creative team, in some way paying homage to Stan's career and achievements. These aren't largely super hero tales, but run the gamut depending on the particular interests of the writers in question. So Joss Whedon's story is a character comedy set in an interdimensional comic book convention, involving a meeting between three counterparts of the same comic book fan. Roy Thomas, on the other hand, went for pseudo-biography, and concerns Stan's time in the military during World War Two, and an assignment to get some of the super heroes he was known for working with to contribute to a benefit. Brian Bendis is doing two stories, one a romp with the Impossible Man seeking Stan out because he's very disturbed by the modern day Marvel Universe, and a second autobiographical story also drawn by Brian in his 'Fortune & Glory' style, involving a meeting between himself and Stan. And so on. The third story in each special will be a classic stand-alone Stan-scripted reprint featuring the character Stan interacts with in the lead story."
From the description of the series, it's obvious that this humorous project will be a bit wacky and not quite what every fan might expect from a series entitled "Stan Lee Meets." With such a unique tone, some fans may wondered if the Marvel readership will "get" this project, but Brevoort dismisses such concerns because of his respect for Marvel readers. "We like to think that Marvel readers are intelligent and well-read, and have a sense of humor, so hopefully people will enjoy them. These aren't meant to be earth-shattering cataclysms - they're instead old school fun, with a lot of heart."
So far, Marvel has announced the following creators to be involved with the projects:
- "Spider-Man": Stan Lee & Olivier Coipel / Joss Whedon & Michael Gaydos
- "Doctor Strange": Stan Lee & Alan Davis / Brian Bendis & Mark Bagley
- "The Thing": Stan Lee & Lee Weeks / Roy Thomas & Scott Kolins
- "Doctor Doom": Stan Lee & Salvador Larroca / Jeph Loeb & Unknown artist
- "Silver Surfer": Stan Lee & Mike Wieringo / Paul Jenkins & Unknown artist
With a project of this nature, it's not crazy to think that creators from all over the spectrum wanted to be involved, but Brevoort says that the selection process was simple. "We basically started at the top of our list and went down the line, filling in the slots. Most of the folks involved are really no-brainers, as they're part of the Marvel family."
Don't expect the love for "The Man" to stop with "Stan Lee Meets." "There are one or two other Stan-related projects in the pipeline - the long-in-the-works Last Fantastic Four story with John Romita Jr., for example - but these are less about honoring Stan than being worthwhile projects upon their own merits," explained Brevoort. "Plus we continue to carry on Stan's legacy and reprint his work in 'Marvel Masterworks' and in the 'Essentials' program, as well as in individual trade paperbacks as applicable."
If "Stan Lee Meets" does well, Brevoort is open to the idea of a sequel series, saying, "Hey, anything's possible. But that'd be up to Stan, and his availability."
While both Lee and his creative partner (and industry pioneer) Jack Kirby will be honored this year, don't take that as a sign that we'll see a deluge of tribute projects for other creators in the near future. "I don't think there are any specific plans - nobody else quite looms on the Marvel landscape the way Stan does," Brevoort admits. "But you never know."