The 'Riffs Interview: Stan Lee Sizes Up the Disney-Marvel Deal
The phone rang at about 6 a.m., West Coast time. It's not every morning that the chairman of Walt Disney Studios calls you so close to dawn, even if you're Stan Lee.
The executive, Richard Cook, yesterday wanted Lee -- the Marvel Comics mastermind -- to hear the news direct from Disney: The Mouse House was buying Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. "He told me at the same time that it was officially announced," Lee tells Comic Riffs. "I was very happy to hear it. I was flattered to hear it."
That says it all. Lee, the man who helped birth Spider-Man and Iron Man and Thor and X-Men and so many of Marvel's thousands of characters, was "happy to hear it." Papa was proud. Sure, two honchos (Disney's Robert Iger and Marvel's Ike Perlmutter) had talked out the deal and their respective company boards have approved the deal. But that courtesy call says it all: It still means something that Lee was pleased by the deal.
Comic Riffs caught up with Lee -- now chairman emeritus at Marvel and head of POW! Entertainment -- to hear him size up the financial adoption of so many of his Marvel-born "children" (including his cinematic lowdown regarding Ant-Man [!] and Doctor Strange).
MICHAEL CAVNA: So what was your initial reaction to the news, Stan?
STAN LEE: It was exciting. I think it's the best thing for the two companies. The synchronicity is perfect. Disney makes great movies, but you need a subject to make the movies out of. Marvel has a library of [more than 5,000] characters. Certainly half of them would make great movies. These are colorful characters that are unique and have different backgrounds and you now have them available in your library. Disney now has access to all of that.
MC: As head of POW! Entertainment, do you also have an arrangement with Disney?
SL: POW! Entertainment has a first-look deal with Disney. ... So I benefit from the new deal by osmosis.
MC: So have you long been an admirer of Disney's, then?
SL: Being associated with Disney is the dream of a lifetime. The things Disney did just knocked me out [when I was young] -- Mickey Mouse to Bambi and Pinocchio and Snow White. And then there were the nature movies and now movies like 'Pirates of the Caribbean.' I think they're wonderful movie marketers -- they're the best marketers you can find anyhwere. And to combine them with Marvel --the two companies I'm in love with the most.
MC: You've spoken to the marketing potential. What about the creative side of this deal -- can you speak more to that?
SL: Well, don't forget all these characters that Marvel is bringing to the table. The synergy. Marvel has great creative people, and so does Disney. So it's to everyone's benefit.
MC: Iron Man, Spider-Man, Thor, Captain America, X-Men -- these are like your children --
SL: -- Ahh. You're warming the cockles of my heart.
MC: So are your children in safe hands now?
SL: Oh, the best possible hands. I have tremendous respect for the Disney people, having been associated with them for the past three years. They're talented and knowledgeable and rational -- and are all nice guys.
MC: So as a creator or co-creator of so many of these Marvel characters, are there any you'd like to see developed that we haven't seen yet or aren't in development?
SL: Marvel has a dozen others written down that [they're seriously considering]. Ant-Man is on that list, believe it or not. And they have others.
MC: It might be like picking your favorite child, but is there one of your characters you'd especially like to see be developed into a feature film.
SL: They're all my favorites, but if I were picking them, I'd say Doctor Strange. The Master of the Mystic Arts. You can get some great special effects.
MC: Doctor Strange at Disney with great effects, eh? Can you imagine Robert Zemeckis directing it?
SL: You just said the magic word.
MC: What else is there for Disney to buy now, that it needs?
SL: Nothing. There's nothing left. Disney has it all.
MC: Do you worry much about the creative and financial welfare of your old Marvel characters?
SL: It's a funny thing. Of course it feels good [to see them developed]. But I don't spend much time thinking about it. I spend most of my time trying to draw up new ones. We have three deals at Disney. And we have "The Time Jumper" -- it's a mobile thing. So I don't really look back at yesterday too much -- I'm always too excited about the future.
| September 1, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: Interviews With Cartoonists, Superheroes, The Holly Word | Tags: disney-marvel deal, stan lee interview
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