Stan Lee's Mutants, Monsters & Marvels
Within a comic shop, somewhere in America, filmmaker and comic book buff, Kevin Smith, sits down and has a conversation with the creator of many of Marvel Comics' range of superheroes, Stan Lee. Now this interview is mainly focused upon one character and one character alone, Spider-man, thus giving Stan ‘The Man’ all the excuse that he needs to tell Kevin the fundamental ideology behind the development of ol’ web-head, plus many other associative facts as well.
Here, these are some of the topic’s Stan talks about:
AN AMAZING IDEA: After a successful run of publications in the sixties, relating to such characters as ‘The Fantastic Four’, ‘The Hulk’, and ‘Ironman’, Stan Lee had one more idea up his sleeve from his days as a pulp enthusiast -- an idea called ‘Spider-man’. However, the then heads of Marvel, then called Timeley, did not see any future for this type of ‘scrawny urban youthful hero’, that Stan suddenly presented them with. Still, that did not stop Stan from giving Spider-man his debut in the last issue of 'Amazing Fantasy'; and along with it, a concept that will live on in infamy and beyond. Nine months later, due to high sales figures, Spider-man, was thrust into his own comic book series, and with him the artist whom wished that he had more recognition for putting Spidey’s visage on the page – Steve Dikto – for a while anyway.
THE MEDIA AND SPIDEY: With cartoons in the past, and a new movie in the future (please note, this interview was made prior to Sam Raimi’s first 'Spider-man' film) Stan is just loving the media recognition that his once fledgling idea has brought him. During Stan’s recount, he talks about his ‘cut scene’ from the 'Spider-man film' (where he is saving a young girl), plus his venture into narrating the cartoon ‘Spider-man and his Amazing Friends’.
THE FAMILY UNIT AND OTHER ANIMALS: To make Spiderman’s tales more associative and dramatic in nature, Stan devised numerous counterpoints in Spidermans life, which would give him reason for concern in turn. For a start, there are the villains, such as ‘Doc Octopus’, ‘The Green Goblin’, and ‘The Sandman’. Next, there's Spidermans home-life, such as his secret identity of ‘Peter Parker’, plus his frail ‘Aunt May’ too. After that, there are Peter’s diametrically opposed love interests with ‘Mary Jane Watson’ and ‘Gwen Stacy’. In addition to this, there is Peter Parkers association via profession, like J' Jonah Jamerson'. And finally, there is the way how Stan mixes all of these ‘ingredients’ together, and then comes up with a new and exciting way to cause troubles for his hero.
AT HOME WITH STAN LEE: Stan shows Kevin a room in his house that contains a large amount of Marvel memorabilia. There are things such as a painting of Stan and Spidey, a Stan Lee action figure, movie stills with Stan and the stars, plus many more eccentric oddities that are a marvel to mooch too.
STAN-ISUMS: ‘Nuff Said’ – ‘True Believer’ – and 'Excelsior', are just some of the phrases used by Stan when he signs off on his comic books. And why does he uses them? Initially, just to be different. Subsequently, though, it is to make the readers of his work recognize who is saying it, as well as have an associative slogan to show that they belong in ‘Stan’s World’.
OK, I have to admit, that before I sat down and watched this interview, I was kind of unsure about Stan Lee myself. You see, I have read a lot of those articles about how he snatched ‘creative writes’ from other creators in the past, and how he used his status to further his own illustrious career and legend. However, now that I have seen this feature housed within the 'Stan Lee - Mutants, Monsters, and Marvels' DVD, I have to say that my opinion has changed about him quite a bit.
Fair enough, I know that by today’s standards, having a youthful character jumping around all over the place in tight fitting spandex and no chin ventilation, does not really appear like anything special. Still, back in the day, this was a risky and bold direction for comic books to go in. In essence, Stan did more than just create a character, he ventured into a new form of associative mythology, which hooked readers with its blatantly grounded nature and recognizable style. Before Stan, all comic book characters had there ‘own city’, a well-established profession, and a macho physique to match. After Stan, all new characters tried to hop upon the same bandwagon as he did, and with this, a new way of thinking about comic books was born.
Granted, not everybody may think of this in the same way as I do. As some people may say that if is was not for people like Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby to illustrate Stan’s ideas in the first place, none of this would have come to fruition. Nevertheless, there is a tale that Stan tells in this documentary, that in someway roots my opinion with some level of credence.
The tale in question recounts when Stan initially went to Jack Kirby to be the artist on Spiderman, and then passed him by because he thought that Jack did not capture what he really wanted to convey. Now suppose, for arguments sake, that Stan did not do this. Let us just say that Stan stayed with Jack to be the artist on Spiderman, and did not go to Ditko next. What then, huh? Would Ditko have created Spiderman by himself? No – me thinks not. Because just by looking at Ditko’s record of accomplishments with characters like 'Hawk and Dove' plus 'The Creeper', you can tell that he did not think along the same lines as Stan at all.
See what I mean?
Anyway, I have gone on too long about this matter, huh? And I would just like to finish my dia-tribe by saying that I really did enjoy this interview between Stan Lee and Kevin Smith. Oh! And before I forget, I best just say that Kevin has quite a few moments in this feature too, and shows how knowledgeable he is on comic books, as well as how proficient he is as an interviewer – Excelsior.
Great interviewee – Great interviewer – and a Great program to watch for Spiderman fans.
THE RATING: A