When talking to Stan Lee, I’m always left feeling like a minor league rookie on the pitcher’s mound facing off with the marquee player. After being in the business for about 74 years, and on the comic book convention circuit longer than my lifespan, the 90-year-old has answered every variation of a question – probably hundreds of times over.
I have been fortunate enough to talk to the beloved writer, creator and living legend – a label I apply without an ounce of hyperbole –multiple times in the past few years. But I still feel like a rookie when it comes to interviewing “The Man.” And one thing I’ve learned as a writer is that there is no talking to Stan Lee; there is only listening. Even when I think I’ve got a fresh question to pitch to the mustachioed one, I may not get the answer I wanted, but nonetheless feel an enormous sense of pride when he hits it with a clever response he chose.
So it went at Wizard World Comic Con NYC Experience this past weekend. Held at Manhattan’s Basketball City, Lee had a packed schedule of a meet-and-greet, autographs, photo ops and a panel. I have never seen him not have one of the biggest lines at any con he’s attended, and this was no different. Not surprisingly, our scheduled interview had to be postponed.
Still, Lee brought me behind his autograph table to chat with him between signing comics and memorabilia, and meeting fans. The activity was enough to wear me out, but Smilin' Stan Lee seemed as fresh as ever:
MTV Geek: [Man of Steel Spoiler Alert] There’s been some controversy over the ending of “Man of Steel” when Superman takes a life. What’s your take on that since your heroes avoided that?
Stan Lee: I haven’t seen the movie but I imagine he must have been awfully mad to warrant that. Now I’ll ask you something about Superman. Have you thought of the one big mistake that company makes all the time?
Geek: What would that be?
Lee: The big one is they’ve never given me a cameo in their movies. Can you imagine the business they’d do if people knew I had a cameo in Superman or Batman?
Geek: Maybe that’s why “The Avengers” made so much money.
Lee: Of course! You know why? It was a small part. People missed it so they had to buy another ticket to come back and try to catch it. I’ll leave it to you; only someone with the power of the press could convince Warner Brothers what I just suggested.
Geek: After doing cons like Wizard World for so long, you’re still so energetic and upbeat. What are the Stan “The Man” Lee life lessons you can pass along?
Lee: Try to not antagonize anybody! Don’t make any enemies because it’s a dangerous world out there. I don’t know; I don’t really have any. I just live from day to day. The big thing I try to do is do things I enjoy. I enjoy meeting the fans, I enjoy working with creative people on movies and television, the Internet. You never feel as though you’re working. I always feel I’m playing. That’s the only thing. The most important thing for anybody is to get into a line of work they enjoy doing, and it never feels like work.
Geek: You have a new Stan Lee Signature Cologne out, so what does Stan Lee smell like?
Lee: I have no idea; I can’t wait to get it home and take a whiff but I didn’t know I had a special aroma!
Geek: If I buy it, does that mean I can start doing cameos and appearances?
Lee: Well everybody will think you’re me and you’ll get all the privileges that come with that!
Geek: Is there anything you’re seeing within the Marvel movies based on characters you co-created you wish had been different?
Lee: Only one thing. I wasn’t happy with the way Doctor Doom was portrayed in “Fantastic Four.” I love the movies but he wasn’t the Doctor Doom I have known and loved. Other than that, I love the movies … we’re very lucky we have wonderful directors, the greatest actors and the movies turned out good.
Geek: What are some upcoming Marvel movies you know about and – because you’re partial to the Silver Surfer -- do you think he’ll ever get a standalone film?
Lee: Well, let me put it to you this way: Back at Marvel, they are frantically looking for what is the next one they’re going to do. There is no way they won’t eventually do a Silver Surfer movie. It may not be for a few years because they’re thinking and working on Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy. Everything we have. And the fans seem to want all of them. But they’ll get around to a Silver Surfer feature because he’s a wonderful character.
Geek: What’s the most obscure character or hero you helped create you’d love to see in the movies?
Lee: I do NOT have obscure heroes, thank you very much! We will strike that question from the record!