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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 09/ 1/2009

The 'Riffs Interview: Stan Lee Sizes Up the Disney-Marvel Deal

By Michael Cavna

Stan Lee (AP)Enlarge Comic

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.

By Michael Cavna  | 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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Next: The Super-8 List: The Coolest Marvel-Disney Mashup Cartoons


Until I hear a Paste-Pot Pete movie is in the works, I'm convinced this merger will be a train wreck.

Posted by: xaxton | September 1, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

The critical question is just how much Stan Lee will profit financially from the merger. Keep that question in mind, and his answers (and smiling photo) take on a whole new dimension.

Posted by: kilby | September 1, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Stan Lee says it himself: "Disney has it all". I realize that this might not be on the same level as, say, Ford and GM merging or whatever, but isn't there SOME anti-trust laws that are being broken here? There isn't a cartoon or comic character that Disney won't own. I love Disney as much as the next person, but this is bordering on the ridiculous.....

Posted by: Trunuyawkr | September 1, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

I just remembered that back in the 80s John Byrne did a wonderful creepy and humorous take on the Disney Corporation in issues #263-264 of The Fantastic Four [Reprinted in trade paperback Fantastic Four Visionaries Byrne Vol 4] In it he has Alden Maas creator of Wonderworld and Maxie Mouse who thinks of himself as a Mesiah and has a crazy plan to expand the earth! It's lots of fun and the second hey day of the FF after Lee and Kirby! Check it out!

Posted by: dre7861 | September 1, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

I was very disappointed upon hearing the news about this acquisition . . . The reasons being: my fear that Disney will erase any and all traces of mature emotions related to these characters. And also my fear that Disney will bury some of the lesser known and seemingly offensive characters (see: T'challa a.k.a. Black Panther)

However, I have to face the reality that I am part of the reason why this merger is able to take place. As a 31 year old man, I have not purchased a Marvel comic in years!!! Marvel has taken a step to ensure that their share holders are happy. So, it was a very smart business decision... $4 Billion!!! They weren't going to sell that many comics in the next 100 years! ... Good for you, Mr. Lee. You've earned the right to cash in on your imagination.

And if Disney should happen to mess up a good thing, there will be other new and exciting characters to be created by the next generation of story tellers (see: video games)

Posted by: SowfCak | September 1, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Trunuyawker writes:
> There isn't a cartoon or comic character that Disney won't own.

No, the DC comics universe (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, etc., etc.) is still owned by Time-Warner, and they have thus far shown no inclination to sell it off. That, plus all the independent comics (such as those published by Dark Horse) and especially the manga comics (by far the world's biggest comics market), leaves much in the comics world that is unaffected by this acquisition.

Posted by: seismic-2 | September 1, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

So can we get back to discussing the comics? Sure, there's not much money compared to the Disney deal, but I loved the four-panel pool artwork in 9 Chickweed the last 2 days. Does anybody believe Rocky Ledge is gonna get arrested? Or sued? Oh, and did anyone notice that the healthcare debate is seeping into On the Fastrack? What's up with that? It's not an editorial-kinda comic.

Posted by: MSchafer | September 1, 2009 8:55 PM | Report abuse

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