Forty-two years ago, a devilishly handsome adolescent man recorded one of his absolute aboriginal interviews with a fable in the banana book business.
(Soundbite of archived audio)
CONAN: My name is Neal Conan and I’m in the flat with Stan Lee, the distinct actuality best amenable for what abounding bags of bodies alarm the Marvel Age of Comics. Stan, at this point, you’re the editor as able-bodied as autograph several of the magazines yourself, isn’t that right?
Mr. STAN LEE (Comic Book Writer): That’s right, Neal. I anticipate I’d rather you had said millions of people. We acquaint ourselves we accept millions of readers.
CONAN: Stan Lee and a absolute afraid kid in the flat of WBAI in New York aback in 1968. In those days, I anticipation Stan Lee was old. Today, we all apperceive he’s immortal. The co-creator of “Spider-Man,” “The Fantastic Four,” “The Hulk,” “The X-Men,” “Iron Man” and too abounding others to name, Stan Lee additionally guided Marvel Comics from cast (unintelligible) to a multimedia giant.
If you’d like to allocution with him about his characters and his comics, the buzz cardinal is 800-989-8255. The email abode is email@example.com. You can additionally accompany the chat on our website. That’s in npr.org, bang on TALK OF THE NATION.
A book alleged “The Stan Lee Universe” comes out this December. It will affection attenuate and abstruse materials, including a allocation of my account from 1968. We should additionally acknowledgment addition new book, “Stan Lee’s How to Draw Comics.” And the man himself joins us now from a flat at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills. Stan Lee, nice to accept you with us today.
Mr. LEE: Oh, it’s abundant to be here. Of course, it was boxy accepting here. My appointment is beyond the street. I had to airing that accomplished distance.
CONAN: Well, that’s brutal. And amazing how little your articulation has afflicted in 42 years.
Mr. LEE: Yeah. The articulation is the aforementioned perhaps, but the blow of me has gotten a few years older.
CONAN: Well, Stan, aboriginal of all, congratulations on the new book. And do you still arise in a adornment in every Marvel movie?
Mr. LEE: Oh, I don’t know. It’s not obligatory. It’s aloof whenever they’re cutting article that’s abreast Los Angeles and I can do it. It’s fun. Now, I don’t apperceive if I’ll be in the “Captain America” one. They’re cutting that in London and I’m not able to fly there. But if they accept a arena here, I’ll be in that. I try to be in whatever I can because you apparently apperceive by now I’m the world’s better ham.
CONAN: We ample that out, Stan.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: You focused on giving the comics personalities. Before, there wasn’t a lot of focus on accent pattern, on characters’ outlooks and motivations. You fabricated them added than aloof kids’ stuff.
Mr. LEE: Well, I tried. I approved to accomplish them the affectionate of comics that I would appetite to apprehend if I apprehend comics. And I was aloof annoyed of the aforementioned old abstraction that all you bare was a lot of panels of bodies angry anniversary added and that would get the readers. I acquainted it would be fun to apprentice a little about their clandestine lives, about their personalities and actualization that they are animal as able-bodied as super. So that was the accomplished idea.
CONAN: And in those days, it was anticipation that you were absolutely aiming for a added boyish admirers as adjoin to adolescent kids. Has it afraid you that comics accept developed up so abundant that now the demographic is a little older?
Mr. LEE: Actually, I was aiming for academy advisers and bodies of that ilk.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. LEE: See, I consistently resented the actuality that I was in a business that bodies absolutely looked bottomward on. They best bodies anticipation that comics were either for absolute adolescent accouchement or semi-literate or conceivably benighted adults. And it’s no fun autograph aback bodies accept that assessment of the things you’re autograph or the admirers you’re autograph for. So it was absolutely abundant aback we started accretion – or busy our cant and we approved to get some personality in our characters and apply on characterization.
And slowly, the mails started changing. Originally, our fan mail was accounting in crayon. Afterwards a while, we’d get belletrist accounting in pencil, afresh in ink. Afresh we’d alpha accepting typewritten letters. I mean, I could acquaint that the admirers is accepting earlier and smarter and that was absolute agitative to me.
CONAN: I spent some time traveling with Minor League Baseball teams and they don’t alive bottomward to their average either. But I do accept to acquaint you the alone actuality on those buses traveling up and bottomward I-95 who apprehend banana books was me.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: And let’s see if we can get some callers in on the conversation. Our bedfellow is Stan Lee. Let’s go aboriginal to this is Jerry(ph), Jerry calling us from Modesto in California.
Mr. LEE: Hi, Jerry.
JERRY (Caller): Hello. Mr. Lee, wonderful. I can’t accept I’m alike talking to you appropriate now.
Mr. LEE: Well, you are. Aloof don’t ask me any adamantine questions. I achievement itll be an accessible one.
(Soundbite of laughter)
JERRY: Agreed, agreed. Aboriginal off, acknowledge you for dispatch the imaginations of in my family, gosh, two generations. My boys are seven and 10, and they’re absolutely absorbed on “Spider-Man,” “Iron Man.” Did you accept any abstraction that you would be creating article that would amount generational bridges?
Mr. LEE: No.
JERRY: And how do you appear up with these ideas?
Mr. LEE: See, I knew it would happen, a two-part question. No, absolutely I had no abstraction at all. In fact, in the canicule that I was autograph those stories, I aloof hoped that the books would advertise and I’d be able to get my bacon and pay my rent. And the abstraction that anytime I’d be talking on the radio to an absolute fan never alike beyond my apperception or the minds of any of the bodies alive there at that time. And I forgot the additional allotment of the question. I’m sorry.
JERRY: Area do these I mean, area did you how did you spawn these account of these my favorite, of course, is aloof the accustomed guy, the Tony Starks…
Mr. LEE: Oh, yeah.
JERRY: …Peter Parkers, aloof these accustomed guys with these amazing talents.
CONAN: I anticipate Tony Stark would booty anger of actuality alleged accustomed but…
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. LEE: Actually, with Tony Stark, what I was absolutely aggravating to do I consistently admired account about Howard Hughes. And I anticipation it would be fun to get a superhero who went adjoin the accepted angle of what the superhero admirers wanted. Best of our readers didn’t like affluent bodies or industrialists or bodies who fabricated war abstracts and so forth. And I anticipation it would a claiming to accomplish them like a guy like that. So I fabricated him, as abundant as I could, like a Howard Hughes character, but with a faculty of amusement and a little bit of tragedy befuddled in.
And, you know, the funny affair about Iron Man, we got added fan mail from females for the “Iron Man” book than any added comic. I assumption it was because he was affluent and handsome and he did accept a bad heart. And he bare addition to attending afterwards him. And that charge accept appealed to females absolute much.
CONAN: Jerry, acknowledgment absolute abundant for the call.
JERRY: Acknowledge you absolute much.
CONAN: Here’s an email…
Mr. LEE: Amusement talking to you.
CONAN: We accept an email from Frank(ph) in Morrisville, South Carolina. Aback I was eight years old, I would blitz out our New York City accommodation on Saturday mornings with the ancestors arcade barrow in tow, scouring the adjacency for returnable bottles and cans. Six cans bought one 12-cent comic, and 13 cans bought an annual. I acknowledge I started with DC Comics. But by nine, I accept accomplished into adulthood and accepted Marvel. Acknowledge you for bringing so abundant to our lives.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. LEE: There is abundance in that man.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: Here’s a alarm from Bill(ph), Bill with us from Stockton, California.
BILL (Caller): Hey. My catechism is really, absolutely direct. Stan, did you appear to archetypal Mr. Jameson afterwards yourself, at atomic on a concrete level?
CONAN: J. Jonah Jameson, the administrator of the Circadian Bugle.
Mr. LEE: You bent me. I absolutely did. I thought, if I were a grumpy, annoyed man, which I am sometimes, how would I act? And that was it. So, you got me.
CONAN: Well, a lot of bodies saw Perry White in J. Jonah as well.
Mr. LEE: I can’t acknowledgment that because, I’ll be honest with you, I never apprehend that abundant of the “Superman” stories. And I never apprehend any “Superman” adventure in which Perry White appeared. I apperceive the name, that’s all.
CONAN: All right. Bill, acknowledgment absolute much.
BILL: Acknowledge you.
CONAN: Let’s see if we go abutting to Carlos(ph), Carlos with us from Charlottesville.
CARLOS (Caller): Yes, sir. Mr. Lee, I’d like to ask you – and hopefully there will be addition chapter of the “Incredible Hulk” because I thoroughly enjoyed the both of them. But maybe in the third installment, if we could abide accurate to the gamma access that Bruce Banner was originally subjected to.
CONAN: Are you talking about a third movie?
CARLOS: Yes, sir.
CONAN: Because both of the Hulk movies – clashing a lot of the others but the Hulk movies accept not has not done so well.
Mr. LEE: Well, the funny affair is, I anticipation that it was the aftereffect of a gamma access in the movie. But they did it in their own accurate way. The alone affair about the Hulk that they afflicted abundantly was they fabricated him so big. And, you know, in our book, he was aloof about seven anxiety tall. And on television, of course, Lou Ferrigno played the role, and he was aloof a big guy. Now, they’re activity to do a TV alternation afresh of the Hulk. I don’t apperceive annihilation about it. I aloof apperceive they’re planning to do it. But itll be fun to see how that works out.
CARLOS: Well, I can’t wait. And acknowledgment additionally for abounding absorbing and alluring adventures over the years with Marvel Comics.
Mr. LEE: Well, absolve your heart. Acknowledge you.
CARLOS: Acknowledge you.
CONAN: And Carlos, acknowledgment for the call. I accept to ask about this new book, “Stan Lee’s How to Draw Comics.” Stan, you’ve done a lot of things in your life. As far as I know, you’ve never fatigued a comic.
Mr. LEE: No. You know, I did draw in the army. I drew posters for the army. And but aback I got aback to the noncombatant life, I saw how accomplished the artists were that were accomplishing those comics. And I wasn’t about to try to attempt with them, so I ashore with writing.
CONAN: And did was – your brother, though, was an artist.
Mr. LEE: Yes. My brother, who additionally writes, but he apperceive draws the circadian strips, the amalgamated “Spider-Man” strip. And he’s been accomplishing that for a cardinal of years and accomplishing a admirable job of it.
CONAN: And you are listed as the columnist of those circadian strips.
Mr. LEE: That’s right.
CONAN: And do you address them?
Mr. LEE: Yeah. Well, I’ve been accomplishing that aback gosh, I don’t apperceive added than 25 years, I think, that band has been running.
CONAN: And do you adore I mean, you don’t accept to do that anymore, I don’t think.
Mr. LEE: Well, I accept to if I appetite my name to break on it.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: Well, afresh yeah. But…
Mr. LEE: But I adore writing.
CONAN: …I anticipate you don’t charge to pay youd charge it to pay your hire anymore.
Mr. LEE: No. My hire is taken cared of. But I do adulation to address and I’m consistently accepting assignments from people. Would I address an addition for this book or a beginning for that book, or a little accompaniment adventure for this comic? And alike admitting I don’t accept the time to do it, it’s adamantine for me to say no, so I end up spending as abundant time on things that accept annihilation absolutely to do with my accustomed assignment as I do with my own work. But somehow, I’m lucky, I get it all awash in.
CONAN: Our bedfellow is comics abiding Stan Lee. You’re alert to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
And let’s go abutting to Matthew(ph), Matthew calling from Grand Rapids.
MATTHEW (Caller): Hi. First, of course, let me get out of the way what a big fan I am. And I absolutely acknowledge all that Stan Lee has done for comics. I was apprehensive if, Stan, you’ve anytime had a actualization that you created that didn’t absolutely do absolute able-bodied as some of your added characters, who you anticipation should’ve had a lot added acknowledgment to everybody, you aloof don’t feel they had a adventitious at success?
Mr. LEE: The funny affair is the ones that I did for Marvel absolutely all did absolute well. The alone one that didn’t become as – or the alone two that didn’t become as big because we didn’t apply on them, were Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D and his predecessor, Sergeant Fury and his Howling Commandos. But I anticipate if we had backward with them, they would accept been as big as Spider-Man and the others. And now, Nick Fury is activity to become rather important in the Marvel movies to come.
CONAN: And Nick Fury – Jim Steranko, an artisan called Jim Steranko did the Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D’s” stories, and they were – I anticipation they were terrific.
Mr. LEE: Steranko was one of the absolute ablaze bodies in our business. And I ability add, he and I are alive on a activity appropriate now afterwards all those years.
CONAN: Interesting. You accept – acknowledgment absolute abundant for the call, Matthew. You accept worked, over the years, with so abounding people. And I assumption it’s assured in any business, we apprehend about, you know, feuds and who’s not talking to whom. Any abjure over the years of, you know, some of the fights that you’ve gotten into and never got out of?
Mr. LEE: Well, there were no fights that I get into that I never get out of. I mean, there was a little botheration with Jack Kirby at one time, but through the end we were absolute friendly. Steve Ditko is – who created “Spider-Man” with me and “Doctor Strange,” he’s a absolute clandestine person. He doesn’t do interviews and so forth. And he feels he doesn’t appetite – he never capital to draw “Spider-Man” or “Doctor Strange” afresh afterwards he stopped.
But on a claimed level, we’re both still friendly. I account the artists that I’ve formed with greatly, and I’ve consistently been affable with every one of them, or approved to be.
CONAN: Here’s an email from Jim(ph) in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. I appetite to acknowledge you, in 1969, you accustomed me and a acquaintance to account you and Roy Thomas for over an hour at the Madison Avenue Bullpen. We say we were from the Yale Circadian News and were accomplishing a story. We were fakers. But we anticipation and still anticipate the Marvel assignment accomplished the fabulous functions of the Jungians’ archetypes. So we – see, we absolutely were Yalies – aloof Yalie fans, not reporters. Acknowledgment again. The adventure has gotten us a lot of breadth over these 40 years.
Mr. LEE: Well, that’s a aboriginal for me. I haven’t heard that before.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. LEE: But I accept been interviewed by, absolute often, by bodies from altered colleges and I adulation it.
CONAN: And – well, I was a kid aback you accustomed me to account you aback at WBAI in 1968, and I acknowledge you for that, admitting the account sounds a little all-a-quiver today.
Mr. LEE: You’re absolute welcome.
CONAN: Brian(ph) is on the band calling from Grand Rapids.
BRIAN (Caller): Good afternoon, Neal, and its a amusement to allocution to Mr. Lee. The catechism is, of all the characters you’ve fabricated through the years, accept they accomplished the way you capital them to. And if they haven’t, do you accept any examples?
Mr. LEE: No, not really. I never capital them to complete any way at all. Aback I was autograph them, I had absolute ascendancy of them and they accomplished – if you appetite to use that chat – the way I capital them to. But I accomplished the minute you stop autograph a alternation and added writers booty over, they’ve got to do it their way. I know, if I took over a alternation that addition abroad started, I wouldnt appetite to aloof absolutely alike what he had done because every artistic actuality wants to put his own imprimatur on whatever he’s doing.
So I can accept that every afterward biographer fabricated little attenuate changes in “Spider-Man,” “Iron Man,” “Daredevil,” “The Fantastic Four” and so forth. And again, that’s what I would’ve done. So I accept no botheration with the actuality that some of the characters accept afflicted a bit. But the – usually, the best important affection of the characters has remained. The affair that makes the readers affliction about them, that is never absolutely changed.
CONAN: Thanks, Brian.
BRIAN: You’re welcome.
CONAN: Stan Lee, we mentioned, has had cameos in cine versions of several of his comics. In the aboriginal “Spider-Man” movie, he pulled a little babe out of harm’s way. In the “Incredible Hulk,” he absolved through a arena giving a address to a aegis guard. In “Iron Man,” Robert Downey Jr. mistook him for Hugh Hefner. Let’s accept to a arena from “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer,” area Stan Lee showed up for the bells of Sue Storm and Reed Richards.
(Soundbite of movie, “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer”)
Mr. MICHASHA ARMSTRONG (Actor): (as Bells Security) Invitation, sir?
Mr. LEE: (as Himself) I should be on that list.
Mr. ARMSTRONG: (as Bells Security) Name?
Mr. LEE: (as Himself) Stan Lee.
Mr. ARMSTRONG: (as Bells Security) Yeah, nice try, Lee.
CONAN: Really, he is Stan Lee. Now, he’s fabricated a adornment actualization on TALK OF THE NATION. Stan Lee, acknowledge you so abundant for your time today.
Mr. LEE: Oh, it was abundant actuality here. I absolutely enjoyed it. Acknowledge you.
CONAN: Stan Lee, administrator emeritus of Marvel Enterprises and architect of PowEntertainment. The book, “The Stan Lee Universe,” comes out this December. And he abutting us from a flat at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills.
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