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Posted at 10:15 AM ET, 07/23/2010

COMIC-CON 2010: Legend STAN LEE talks 'geek power,' new movies -- & why he was embarrassed to be a comic-book writer

By Michael Cavna

"I began to realize: Entertainment is one of the most important things in people's lives," says Stan Lee, here speaking at San Diego Comic-Con 2010.

For reasons even he's not quite sure of, comics legend STAN LEE cannot stay away from San Diego Comic-Con. The Spider-Man co-creator has returned for each of the past 30 summers, he says -- like a radioactive swallow returning to San Juan Capistrano.

"I think I keep coming back mainly because I'm an idiot," the self-effacing Marvel mastermind tells Comic Riffs. "Why -- and how -- I'm doing it, God only knows. Every year, whether it's through a friend or people I work with, I say: 'Never again! I will never ever do this again. Don't even mention it, don't even ask me.'

"Somehow, though, I always gets talked into it. It's going on 30 years for me."


For his willingness to be persuaded, thousands of comics fans are deeply grateful. With his legacy and legend and enormous popularity, Lee -- by his mere presence -- presides over the Con like a spiritual godfather. As Hollywood's Iron Man and Thor and Captain America come to dominate the buzz and Hall H bustle in recent years, Lee -- ever charismatic at 87 -- remains the most visible link to their comic-book births.

Just how visible and popular? Last summer, I watched as a spontaneous chant of "Stan! Stan! Stan!" built to a stirring crescendo as the lean legend -- dressed in white and off-white, like the hero out of a Western -- breezed through the halls past hundreds of fans far younger than his '60s comic creations. Even Sam Raimi could not have authored such a real-life scene.

Three decades on, still being talked into returning, he is the eternal King of the Con.

Comic Riffs caught up with Stan the Man (who's also head of POW! Entertainment) to discuss his many future projects, current panels (from Viz Media to Archie Comics to BOOM! Studios) and a certain little documentary about Comic-Con that he's involved with.

MICHAEL CAVNA: So what keeps you coming back, Stan -- returning to the Con each year? And whatever the reasons, by the way, the geeks are grateful.

STAN LEE: It's the fact that fans still care. I like all the comics conventions: The smaller ones are easier, the bigger ones are exciting. In August I'm going to Toronto, in September to Atlanta, in October to New York, in November to Detroit. Each one I say: Never again. But they're all great.

MC: Why do you think comics conventions keep continuing to pop up the world over? What is it about their ever-surging popularity?

SL: These things are important because they keep the fans' interest alive in comics. They keep the fans reading and their imaginations stimulated. We live in a pretty tough world and tragic things happen all the time.

I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic-book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: Entertainment is one of the most important things in people's lives. Without it they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you're able to entertain people, you're doing a good thing. When you're seeing how happy the fans are -- as they [see up-close] the people who tell the stories, who illustrated them, the TV personalities -- I realize: It's a great thing to entertain people.

MC: You're doing a Holocaust-project panel [Friday] with another great entertainer, Neal Adams. Can you speak to your session with Neal?

SL: He's a great guy. He's a wonderful artist. They don't come any better. He's a fellow with a heart and a great imagination. The project is about a woman in Poland who wouldn't give up paintings. I'm just trying to help -- Neal is the true force.

Stan Lee (AP)Enlarge Image

MC: Speaking of projects, what's the status of the documentary about you?

SL: It's been in the works for two years. [The filmmakers] just about have it finished. They're treating it like a major-motion picture. For the musical background, we even went to a recording: It's a 100-piece orchestra. It was like being at the Philharmonic.

They have interviewed just about everybody who has known men, and so many celebrities were still willing to talk about me. There are clips from so many forgotten parts of my life. There are scenes from me in the Army, and when I was on Long Island writing Spider-Man, up to current things. I'm prejudiced: I'm interested in myself. So I'm pleased because I find myself interesting. It's a feast for the eyes, though -- so many visuals. I became a big fan of me after watching it.

MC: And then there's that other little documentary you've involved in -- the one with Morgan Spurlock.

SL: It's his show. I'm just a part of it. Morgan's documentary is all about Comic-Con. This'll be fun. I think Comic-Con has become such a big thing, every major-motion picture wants to be represented there. And there are so many new offerings are view, from television to toy manufacturers. It really is important to do a documentary about this burgeoning event.

MC: Speaking of burgeoning, some people of course say Comic-Con has outgrown San Diego. As a Con veteran since 1980, what do you think, Stan?

SL: The "problem" is that Comic-Con is so damned successful. People who are there seem to have a wonderful time. The very size of it makes it exciting. Wherever you look, there's something exciting. The attendees are always looking around for a familiar face. It's either 'There's a movie star!' Or, 'There's a TV star!' Or, 'There's the guy who drew the Green Lantern!' It means so much to the fans. It makes them feel like they're where it's happening. It's like Woodstock.

The only complaint is that you have to wait in a long line just to get in. But: How can you make the venue larger? You could go to Anaheim or Vegas or L.A. -- it's sort of outgrown the pace they have it in -- but I like San Diego because: The fact that it IS so crowded gives everybody the feeling that they are in the right place at the right time."
MC: As Comic-Con has changed, so has the sense of the word "geek." Hollywood, of course, now comes to cater and woo the geek who used to be the outcast. What's your sense of the shift?

SL: It has become a badge of honor. It's geeks who really make or break a TV show or movie or videogame. They're the ones who are passionate about these things and who collect [the paraphernalia] and talk about them. A geek is really somebody interested in communication and entertainment and [finding] the best way to avail himself or herself to it. ... And every movie producer is here [at Comic-Con] to get geeks to see and talk about and Google and Twitter or tweet about what they've got that's new.



KEITH KNIGHT [right] talks new books, Nappy Hours & why he won't be on an Angry Black Panel

DC's DAN DiDIO talks Superman, Wonder Woman & why he loves fan interaction

Has COMIC-CON outgrown San Diego? Nine big-time guests tell us where to go

By Michael Cavna  | July 23, 2010; 10:15 AM ET
Categories:  Geek Buzz, Interviews With Cartoonists, San Diego Comic-Con, Superheroes, The Comic Book  | Tags:  Morgan Spurlock, Neal Adams, San Diego Comic-Con 2010, Stan Lee  
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Next: COMIC-CON 2010: Rising OLIVIA MUNN has already inherited the geeks. Will she now inherit the Earth?


I bet "The Man" saw Sullivan's Travels when it came out.

Posted by: steveh46 | July 23, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

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