In the Media
ICv2: THE BUSINESS OF GEEK CULTURE Covers Stan Lee Biography
ICv2 ran a piece about Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel. The trade book will be published in Sept. 2017. Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel is founded in multi-archival research, literary/cultural analysis, and historical methodology.
Providence Journal: Batchelor Explains Marvel Comics' Stan Lee as Revolutionary Storyteller
Marvel Comics' Stan Lee to appear at R.I. Comic Con
By Andy Smith Journal Arts Writer
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — It's a superhero's world. Characters with tight costumes and strange powers are all over pop culture — summer blockbuster movies, TV and (of course) comics. There are funny superheroes, sexy superheroes, grim superheroes, conflicted superheroes, parody superheroes.
The godfather of it all is 93-year-old Stan Lee, former writer, editor and publisher at Marvel Comics. In collaboration with Marvel artists such as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, Lee created such iconic figures as Spider-Man, the Hulk, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and lots more.
Lee is coming to Rhode Island Comic Con, to be held next weekend at the Dunkin' Donuts Center and the Rhode Island Convention Center, in what is being billed as his last New England convention appearance.
"Every time I have to take a long flight, I say this is the last time I'm going," Lee said in a phone interview from California, where he lives. "But then I get another offer. . . " (Steve Perry, president of Altered Reality Entertainment, which produces Rhode Island Comic Con, said language in Lee's contract prohibits him from appearing at other New England conventions in the future.)
He is scheduled to appear at Rhode Island Comic Con on all three days, Nov. 11-13. Lee, who had to cut the interview short to attend a press junket for Marvel's latest movie, "Doctor Strange," said he still enjoys going to conventions.
"I love doing this. I have to do something," Lee said. "I can just sit in a chair and stare into space, or I can do something that's fun. Why would I want to stop?"
In the early '60s, the superheroes from Marvel's chief rival, DC Comics, such as Batman and Superman, tended to be upright and bland. Lee helped give Marvel's characters flaws, humor and humanity. Marvel's superheroes could be funny, brooding, jealous, insecure, egotistical or angry, and that has had a far-reaching cultural impact.
"Stan Lee is one of the creative icons of the 20th century," said Bob Batchelor, who teaches media, journalism and film at Miami University in Ohio. "He revolutionized storytelling by introducing superheroes with human frailties. We see this influence in contemporary film, literature and television. ... you can trace his influence in today's brooding, dark antiheroes, ranging from Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark to 'Mad Men's' Don Draper."
In 2014, George R. R. Martin, the fantasy novelist behind "Game of Thrones," came to Brown University to receive an award. During his Q&A with the audience, he talked about Marvel and Lee:
"I grew up as a comic book fan; they were a huge influence on me when I was 10, 11, 12," he said. "DC Comics were very static; nothing ever really changed. Stan Lee at Marvel threw all that out. What a revelation Fantastic Four was in 1961. One of the members of the team was a monster. And he didn't like being a monster ... I've always been attracted to the power of conflict."
Lee said the appeal of the superhero goes back to fairy tales.
"The theory is that everyone likes to read fairy tales when they're a kid," he said. "You get to be a little older, and you can't read fairy tales anymore. Superheroes are like fairy tales for grown-ups. They're colorful, they're unique, they're people with special powers."
Lee said superheroes simultaneously reflect the world around us and provide an escape.
"If they don't reflect the world around us they don't make much sense," Lee said. "Everything has to start with the world, and then take it from there."
Marvel is an entertainment conglomerate (Marvel Entertainment LLC) owned by an even bigger conglomerate, The Walt Disney Co. These days Marvel seems more like a movie studio than a comic book publisher.
"It practically is a movie studio, because everything they do turns into a billion dollars," Lee said. "But it's the comics that gives them the original material. Without the comics, they wouldn't have anything to write about."
With DC also churning out superhero movies, is there a glut of costumed characters on the big screen?
"The audience will decide that," Lee said. "The public doesn't seem to be able to get enough. Years ago it was all Westerns [at the movies] and people were saying there were too many Westerns."
Showing his corporate loyalty, Lee said that if anyone's going to make big superhero movies, it might as well be Marvel. "No one does it better than Marvel!" he said, raising his voice a bit.
Oddly, one of Lee (and Kirby's) most influential creations, "The Fantastic Four," has not succeeded very well on the big screen, although Marvel has certainly tried. "They didn't do Dr. Doom right. That disappointed me," Lee said. "The villain has to be right in order to hold the whole thing together."
For years, it's been a Marvel tradition for Lee to have a cameo part in the company's movies. So far, he's played a hot dog vendor, security guard, mail carrier, World War II general, chess player, bartender, beauty pageant judge, and even himself.
Lee has also had a small role in Rhode Island law enforcement, thanks to former Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch. When he was attorney general, Lynch had a plaque installed on the outside of his office building with a quote from "Spider-Man," attributed to Stan Lee: "With great power comes great responsibility."
Lynch said his son Graham, a huge Spider-Man fan, suggested the idea. Lynch called Marvel in California in 2004 for permission to use the quote, wading through layers of bureaucracy until he finally got Lee's OK. Later, Lynch said, he was able to meet Lee in California, and he hopes to see him again when Lee is in Rhode Island this week.
"My man, Stan," Lynch said.
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Provided American popular culture perspective for the folllowing news organizations: Today.com, Orlando Sentinel, Columbus Dispatch, msnbc.com, Miami Herald, Sydney Morning Herald, Dallas Morning News, Taiwan News, Associated Press, The Guardian, Washington Post, Orange County (CA) Register, WTAM 1100 Newsradio Cleveland, Los Angeles Times, Akron Beacon Journal, MSNBC, and Fox News.
Quoted in Mark Shenton, “Mainstream Theatre has a Long Way to go on Race and Gender,” The Stage (London), February 16, 2016. Over 300,000 visits to the website per month, UK’s highest performing arts news portal, also appeared on 23 additional sites.
Quoted in Randee Dawn, “Host with the Most: Why Neil Patrick Harris Owns an Awards Stage,” Today.com, September 22, 2013, also appeared on 14,500 additional sites, including msnbc.com.