AUDIENCE QUESTION: What is your ordinary writing process like and how do you go about it when you’re creating a project?
STAN LEE: That’s hard to answer. For instance, with The Annihilator, I needed a new superhero, so I sat down and I thought, “What hasn’t been done?” Everything has been done, so I think, “What new superpower can I come up with?” Luckily, I thought of a new superpower — which I can’t tell you yet because I want to make sure that you all go to the movie — and once I had the superpower, I said, “Okay, the next thing to figure out is how the hero or heroine got their superpower.” The origin’s always important. You remember the Fantastic Four got hit with cosmic rays and the Hulk got clobbered with gamma rays and a radioactive spider for Spidey — in fact that’s why I took the cowardly way out with the X-Men. I’m not going to take all these characters and figure out why each of them got his power, I’ll just say that they were mutants; they were born that way. I couldn’t think of anymore — I didn’t know anymore rays besides cosmic and gamma!
AQ: How did you feel about creating the 1992 X-MEN animated series?
SL: I felt pretty good. (Laughs) I don’t even remember the damn series! We have had so many cartoon series… it must’ve been good. They’re all good, but of course I’m prejudice.
AQ: Which is your wife’s favorite and least-favorite character that you’ve created?
SL: She loves Spider-Man and she doesn’t have a least-favorite. If I had a book that didn’t sell and didn’t make any money, I guarantee that would be it.
At that moment, Stan cut off audience questions to ask a question of his own:
SL: Now I have a question to ask you; it’s very important. Is anybody taking a picture of this audience from here (the stage)?
TEDDY WILSON: Oh, that’s a great question.
SL: I would love it if somebody can take a picture. My wife, I think, expects that I just take a few days off. (The audience bursts into laughter) I would love her to see the amount of people in this room. If I could get a photograph — I am SO impressed with you people being here, that I can’t tell you, and I would love to show her. (A photographer comes on to the stage to take some photos) Great! Alright, in the meantime, keep talking.
A young girl — maybe 5 or 6 years old — comes up to the mic:
AQ: Hi, Stan Lee. I’ve always been waiting to meet you.
SL: Well, here I am! And thank you.
AQ (cont’d): What is your favorite character out of all of them that you have created?
SL: I must be honest, I really love them all, but if I have to pick a favorite, I will usually say Spider-Man. (The crowd cheers) He’s the best known throughout the world — he’s like Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse, so I guess Spider-Man… but I really love all of them. I love Iron Man! I love Doctor Strange! I love the Black Panther! I love the Fantastic Four! I could keep going… I am my biggest fan!
TW: I’m sure you’re asked this question a lot, but is there a piece of advice that you give people who are just starting off and want to make it in comics?
SL: That’s the toughest question. If you’re an artist, the best thing that you could do is draw some art samples — take your favorite character or the character that you most want to draw and do some pages and do them twice the size that they appear in the book. Do a page or two or three or four — or make up a whole story — of the character that you’re doing… make up your own situation or who he or she would be talking to or who they would be running around fighting… to give the art director an idea that you can tell a story in pictures. But you must remember, your artwork has to be at least as good as what they already have in the books otherwise why would they use you? They’d just use the artist that they have. They’re always looking for artists with a new style that might be even a little better, so if you can come up with a way to draw a script that will catch the readers’ eye and tell a story beautifully and have its own identity, that’s good. If you’re a writer, it’s even harder. It’s very hard for an editor — if you write a story, the editor doesn’t really have time to read it. He’s busy 20 hours a day, so the best thing to do is have stories published elsewhere. If you can get a story published in a good magazine or if you could write a book or if you’ve written a television series or something and THEN you go to editor and say, “I’d like to do Spider-Man,” or I’d like to write this or that — but I’ve done this — the editor will be impressed. “Here’s a professional writer, I’ll give him a try.” But if you just knock on the door and say, “I think I could write a story as good or as better than that, here’s what I’ve written,” — the editor probably won’t even have time to read what you show him. It is very difficult. And another good way to get into the business is have a relative who owns the company.
AQ: If you could pick an actor or actress to play any one of your characters, who would you choose and why?
SL: Well, my favorite actor used to be Errol Flynn, but he’s not around anymore. I don’t know enough of the new actors today. Immediately I think of Robert Downey, Jr. I think he is just the greatest. What he has done for Iron Man — you can’t picture anyone else being Iron Man. I don’t really know any young actors that well where I can say, “Yeah, him or him.” In fact, while I’m sitting here, I can’t even think of any names. Myself, if I were younger of course. That goes without saying.
TW: Do you like Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk?
SL: Oh, he’s great! Yes, yes, yes… he’s the new Hulk. He’s the new one doing it. They’ve finally found the right guy. (Huge audience applause) I’m terrible with names. In fact, the reason I gave most of my characters the same first letter on their first name and their last name is because my memory is so bad. So, if I did Daredevil, I would remember that his first name was Bruce and his last name was Banner. Was Bruce Banner Daredevil?
TW: That’s the Hulk.
SL: My memory! So it was Bruce Banner — BB. Reed Richards… if I could remember Reed, I knew that the last name began with ‘R’, so that gave me a hint. So that’s why a lot of my characters have the same first letter and now you know a secret that the rest of the world is not privy to.
TW: Well, we’re going to wrap it up. Stan, why do you like coming to conventions like this?
SL: Because I don’t have to take out the garbage! (The audience laughs) It’s wonderful to meet the fans. It’s great to see your enthusiasm and to talk to you and — I don’t know how much you’re enjoying this, but I’m enjoying it twice as much.
With that, Stan Lee’s hour-long panel came to a close as the crowd cheered on. Lee stood up and waved to the audience, his fans cheering even louder as he exited the stage.