Sunday, July 6, 2014

Stan Lee

I had the delight of hearing Stan Lee speak at the conference this year.  The room was completely filled, so I had to go to the overflow room, which was set up with sound and a projector so we could watch remotely.  That room was also completely full.  Everyone wanted some Stan Lee.

Stan Lee is clearly at the stage in his life where he's just going to say whatever the hell he wants to say and not give a damn.  And it was delightful.

Stan Lee started off by asking us "what the hell can I teach you about reading?"  Legit question, Stan Lee.  He then informed us "reading is good," which is going to get no argument from an audience full of librarians.  He told us about a time when comic books use to just be about fight scenes.  The plot and the characters didn't matter at all.  He didn't like doing this kind of comic, and he was going to quit, but his wife said, "Why don't you write whatever you want?  You'll get fired but you want to quit anyway."  Stan Lee thought this was good advice and created The Fantastic Four.

He told us about how he used to be embarrassed to say he wrote comics, because comics weren't very good.  At parties, he would just say he was a writer.  When pushed to admit that he wrote comics, people would then excuse themselves from the conversation.  But comics improved (which Stan Lee had a lot to do with) and became much more than just elaborate fight scenes.

Stan Lee got another cheer from the crowd by saying that "Libraries are the most wonderful places in the world."  He made regular use of his public library as a child.  He can't remember the name of his favorite author, but he's the one who wrote The Raven.  His favorite movie cameo is in Spiderman.  He plays a librarian.  Spiderman is having a huge fight with the villain, and they're crashing all over the place, but Stan Lee as the librarian quietly keeps working on.  He explained to us what this meant was that books are so important and so all engulfing that they are more important then anything that could be happening!  This was his subtle way of carrying the torch for libraries and librarians.  So now you know the inside scoop.  Thanks Stan Lee.

Stan Lee's newest graphic novel is Zodiac that will be out in January.  It stars a Chinese American character, because China is gaining on the U.S. and we'd better be nice to them.

Stan Lee is asked by the moderator to talk about the creating of his villains.  Stan Lee likes creating villains because they are such interesting characters.  What you have to do is make the villain seem unbeatable.  If he's easy to beat, that's not very exciting, is it?  Stan Lee then went off on a tangent about character development and how he didn't want a hero who just works at a newspaper and takes off his glasses (sorry, DC).  He can fly.  Well, how can he fly?  Marvel is much more scientific than DC, Stan Lee claims.  For example, Thor.  Thor has a hammer.  It is magnetic.  Because of lightening.  Thor twirls the hammer around really fast and then lets it go, but because it's attached to his hand, it takes him with it.  See?  Totally scientific.  The most important thing is making characters unique.

At this point Stan Lee suddenly remembers the name of his favorite author and yells out "Edgar Allan Poe!" which kind of made my entire life.

Stan Lee then talked about his time in the army.  He was trained to replace wires and would have been on the front lines most likely but he got pulled at the last minute because someone heard he was a writer and they needed someone to write training films and instruction manuals.  Everyone needed to know how to operate their guns (duh) but the training manual was long and complex and made no sense.  So Stan Lee created a one page comic that explained how to do it.  There was also an army wide problem with VD, and they needed to get men to go to a pro station.  So Stan Lee drew a cartoon about why they had to go.  And thus Stan Lee practically won the war single handily. 

And with an "excelsior" the talk came to an end.  As he said himself, "I don't have the memory I use to have, but I'm adorable as ever."  So true, Stan Lee, so true.

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