My interview with Stan Lee
Stan Lee, one of my lifelong heroes, is getting lots of publicity these days (as usual), this time for his new series on SciFi, "Who Wants to Be a Superhero?" Well, I dug up an old interview I did by email with Stan a few years ago for the comic art club I was part of. Hope you enjoy it.
Stan Lee has long been one of my heroes. I really believe that he had a major factor in helping to shape my belief system and maybe even my personality. Stan’s influence is one of the reasons I became a writer and went into ministry work. A few years ago, I emailed him with my appreciation for all he’d meant to me over the years—and thanked him for the Spider-Man comic strip which I read just about every day online. Unexpectedly, he sent me an original strip drawn by his brother Larry Leiber, which I framed and keep on the wall of my home.
I almost had an opportunity to finally meet Stan in person last January. I had a business meeting in L.A. and wrote to see if there was any way I could stop by and meet him. He couldn’t have been more inviting. He was just setting up his new offices on the MGM lot (his entertainment company is called POW! Entertainment—which stands for Purveyors of Wonder). Unfortunately, the day before I was going to fly out there, I got frantic phone calls from his assistant and emails from him, asking to reschedule because he’d been beckoned by Sony to see a rough cut of the new Spider-Man movie. Alas, the only times he was available I was not… so, we’ll have to wait for another time.
At any rate, I thought perhaps I’d ask Stan if he’d consent to a quick email interview on comic art. He emailed back:
I'm so glad to learn that you're doing so well. Couldn't happen to a nicer, more deserving guy.
As for me, you're right, I really am busy as all get-out, but how can I say "no" to you? So e-mail your questions and I'll do the best I can. I'll just make one important request--
Please write the kind of questions that can be answered briefly. I simply haven't time for long, philosophical musings because I've been doing an average of a dozen phone, e-mail and personal interviews daily, what with the Spider-Man movie about to open, my bio going on sale at the same time and a DVD I did with Kevin Smith also going on sale at the same time! --And I still have my own writing projects to complete!
I'll wait for your questions, but remember, my friend-- be merciful!
So, of course, I did… and within a day or two Stan answered:
Okay, Peter— for better or worse, here’s my stab at answering your questions…
1. When you were writing comics regularly at Marvel, did you ever get tired of seeing the penciled pages of Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko or John Romita when they came to you for scripting? What was it like to see that great raw art?
Absolutely not! I never got tired of seeing those raw pages of art! They were the basis, the foundation on which I attempted to build the finished product. I loved looking at all the brilliant artwork those guys produced. It was totally thrilling.
2. Were you a fan of comic strips when you were growing up? If so, which artists or strips did you particularly enjoy following?
I liked comics when I was a kid, but they were a different type then. They were just reprints of newspaper strips like The Katzenjammer Kids, Dick Tracy, Krazy Kat, etc.
3. Do you collect any comic book art? Have you any special pieces you've saved over the years? Any comic art hanging in your home or office?
Some. I have a few pieces of art that illustrators autographed and gave me, but really not very much.
4. What interest do you have in art in the broader sense-- do you have favorite fine artists or famous illustrators, even pulp artists whose work you've admired?
I’m a great admirer of good artists, whether they’re “fine” artists, comicbook artists, advertising artists or cartoonists. But I’m not really a collector, or a “patron of the arts” or any such-- I’m usually too busy doing my own things.
5. What do you think of today's comic book art in general? How do contemporary styles compare to the classic Marvel art, in your opinion? Are there any current comic book artists whose work you particularly enjoy?
Today’s comicbook art is, for want of a better word, fancier and more illustrative than in the past. I think that so-called “classic Marvel art” concentrated more on story and today’s art concentrates more on the artwork itself. That’s not true of all strips, of course, but it seems applicable to many. As for the artists themselves, I enjoy all their work—perhaps the most interesting, to me, is Alex Ross.
6. So who are your favorite comics artists of all time? Whose work just knocks you over? What was it about those artists' work that made such an impact on you?
No matter whose names I mention, there will be many more I should also mention, because I’ve worked with so many great ones. But those who come to mind immediately are: Kirby, Ditko, Romita, Buscema and Kane. They made a tremendous impact because they were not only great artists but great visual story-tellers as well.
7. I've heard rumors that you can't even draw stick figures-- true or false? Got any Stan Lee drawings you'd like to share with our comic art connoisseurs?
Untrue! I can draw stick figures with the best of ‘em! Don’t really have any drawings to show—but even if I did I wouldn’t know how to e-mail ‘em!