The Amazing Stan Lee

Stan Lee profile

ELLE Men China

Photographer: Max S. Gerber


If there is any man as superhuman as Spiderman, The Hulk, Ironman, The X-Men, and all the rest of the heroes of the Marvel Universe, that man is for sure, Stan Lee.  The brains behind those superheroes and many more of the world’s most famous, Stan “The Man” has been a “purveyor of wonder” since the 1940s, when he (then known by his birth name, Stanley Lieber) had aspirations to become a writer and stumbled upon a job at Timely Comics, which would eventually evolve into Marvel Comics.  Since then, Stan has risen through the ranks of comicbook excellence, becoming a real legend in his own right, co-creating with the likes of artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, about 90 percent of Marvel’s characters, including all the ones who fight the age-old battle of good versus evil in the most epicly dazzling summer blockbusters of the last fifteen years.

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DP:  What was your secret to turning something you love into your life’s work?

SL:  I don’t know that it’s a secret, I think that I was just very lucky.  But the thing is, I didn’t love comicbooks that much until I got into the business.  And then I began to love them even more and more.  But as far as the secret, it just happened to me.  I applied for a job at a publishing company, and they published many different types of books.  They published sport magazines, romance books, adventure stories, and they also published comics.  And it happened that they had a job open in the comicbook department.  So I fell into comicbooks really by accident.  They could have asked me to be in the romance magazine department, cause I’m a very romantic guy!  Or it could have been any department.  What happened was, the more I worked on the comics, the more I began to love them.  I’ve always loved to write, so it gave me a chance to write, but I was also working with such talented artists, and it was fun.  And I stayed there ever since.

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DP:  Do you think part of the reason for Spiderman’s amazing enduring legacy is the fact that he’s a “hero of the people”?

SL:  I did plan him to be somebody that the audience could relate to.  So, I made him a teenager in the beginning because most of our readers were teenagers.  And I didn’t want to make him a hero where everything is perfect for him.  I tried to give him the same problems that the average teenager would have.  He wasn’t the most popular kid in school, girls didn’t fall all over themselves to meet him.  He was smart, but he also had responsibilities.  He lived with an aunt who didn’t have much money, and he had to help try to support her.  Again, I tried to give him the type of problems and the type of life that the reader could relate to and figure, ‘hey, that could be me I’m reading about.’

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DP:  If you could hang out for one night with one of your characters, who would it be and why?

SL:  Maybe Tony Stark.  Because he’s the richest, and we’d probably have a great time.  Also, he’s very handsome, so all the girls would notice us.

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DP:  How did you get involved in bringing the Marvel franchise to Hollywood?

SL:  Well, it happened slowly.  Years ago we had a lot of cartoons based on the Marvel characters.  And then we decided to do a movie called Blade, he was a vampire hunter.  Nobody thought it would be that great, but it did very well.  I said, ‘hey, let’s try some more.’  And then we did The X-Men, and it was a monster hit.  So we weren’t about to stop.  I forget the order of them, I think we did Spiderman after that or Hulk, and every one of them did well.  It was wonderful for me because I was just, years ago, involved in comics and an occasional cartoon series.  Suddenly, I was involved in motion pictures that are known all over the world, so obviously that was a great feeling.

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