Stan Lee - Author
Stan Lee is one of the world's greatest comic book writers. He created legendary characters and series such as Spider-Man, X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four, and more. Many of his comic books have been made into movies. He was an important part of Marvel Comics becoming a powerhouse company. He wrote under several pen names, but eventually legally changed his name from Stanley Lieber to Stan Lee.
RIF: Which superhero do you relate to most? Which one would you want to be?
Stan Lee: I probably most relate to Peter Parker (Spider-Man) because he has pretty much the same personal problems and hang-ups as I; which means he has the same as any average person.
If I had a choice, I might want to be Reed Richards (from the Fantastic Four) because he has a great family, wonderful friends, a brilliant mind, and an exciting life.
RIF: When you were young, what did you read?
SL: When I was young I read everything I could lay my hands on. Edgar Rice Burroughs, A. Conan Doyle, H.G. Welles, O.Henry, Charles Dickens, Horatio Alger, as well as newspaper comic strips (they didn’t have comicbooks* at that time) and 50-cent hardcover teenage adventure stories such as The Hardy Boys and Tom Swift.
My mother used to say that if I didn’t have a book to read while I was eating, I’d read the label on the ketchup bottle.
*Lee spells "comicbook" as one word because he considers it different than a "comic book," which is a humorous book.
RIF: Did you ever want to write a novel?
SL: It’s not so much that I wanted to write a novel as the fact that I somehow expected I’d one day write a novel, but I never seem to have gotten around to it.
RIF: Why set your characters in a real city like New York rather than a fictional one? And why New York?
SL: I wanted my stories to be more believable, despite the fact that they were filled with fantasy. I never could understand why some superhero stories made up fictitious places like Metropolis and Gotham City.
I chose New York as the setting for most of my stories because I lived in New York and knew it well and could write about it accurately.
RIF: You gave superheroes more complex lives and personalities, complete with human problems. Did you catch any flack for that?
SL: Not only did I not catch flack for the complex lives and human problems, but that seemed to be what the readers liked most about the stories. It helped them to identify with the characters and the situations.
RIF: Have you liked seeing your characters on the big screen? Have you been involved with any of the movies?
SL: To see the characters I had written for so many years finally appearing on the big screen has been an indescribable thrill for me, especially because the cinematic versions of those characters have been so magnificently produced.
I’ve only been peripherally involved in the movies themselves. There’s no way that I would try to advise some of the best actors, directors, and producers in Hollywood about how to make motion pictures. But I’ve tremendously enjoyed having little cameo roles in most of the Marvel movies.
RIF: What kind of superhero does the world need now?
SL: I feel the most important type of superheroes that the world needs now are leaders of government and industry who really care about their fellow human beings, who are truthful, honest, and trustworthy — and who do the best they can to improve the quality of life for mankind and for the planet itself.
RIF: Are you still scripting books?
SL: I now spend most of my time writing concepts and treatments for motion pictures, TV series, DVDs, and video games. This is done on behalf of Pow! Entertainment, a new company I’ve formed to provide entertainment for people of all ages. (“Pow!” as I’m sure you’ve already guessed, stands for “Purveyors of Wonder!”)
RIF: Do you get recognized on the street by fans?
SL: Yes, I’m occasionally recognized when I’m in a restaurant, a store, or just walking down the street. I suppose it’s because I’ve done so many cameos in so many movies and also my photo has appeared in many articles and interviews on the web and in print.
RIF: What comic would you recommend to kids today?
SL: There is a whole galaxy of reading matter to choose from. The most important thing, for starters, is for a kid to pick a book about a subject that interests him or her. Naturally, I’d suggest reading things that are written by the best authors, writers who have something meaningful to say and know how to say it, but that’s really a voyage of discovery; the more one reads, the more one should be able to differentiate between hack writing and good literature.
But no matter what books a kid reads, the most important thing is the reading itself. Despite movies and TV and video games and all the other visual means of entertainment, there will never be anything that can replace the lasting pleasure or benefits of reading a good book.