Supanova Sydney was pretty much “the Stan Lee Show” this year. Having said that, it’s more than understandable; the man has had a bigger influence on the comic book industry and global pop culture than any single individual in history. These conventions might not even exist without his contributions. So it was a real honor to have Stan here in Sydney, granting his hordes of fans the opportunity to grab a photo and an autograph, as well as a special Q&A session at the FilmInk Theatre.
Starting off with the first audience question, proposed to be a simple one, Stan quipped back “then I’ll give you a simple answer!” Before proceeding to give any real answers, Stan warned that his hearing is not what it used to be, and introduced us to his “interpreter” Max, who sat on stage with Stan. Upon taking a good few seconds to communicate the first question, Stan replied to Max “okay, but you gotta learn to keep your interpretations shorter – these people don’t want to sit here while you’re whispering to me!” Stan intimated than an intriguing, powerful and imposing villain is the most important element in a book, because “if it looks like an easy fight, you’ll go and buy a DC book or something!”. On which actor best embodies their given superhero on film, Stan sang the praises of Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man before comically stating; “I am so glad that I sat him down and gave him all those pointers.” When asked who is his favorite superhero, Stan related the quandary to choosing a favorite child.
Stan may seem, at time, to play up some semblance of arrogance, but it’s more-so a sardonic style of self-deprecation. A prime example is his jest about taking a scientific approach to Thor’s flight ability when compared to Superman’s – “he swings the hammer as hard as he can, and lets go, and the hammer takes him with it! You can’t get more scientific than that!” In an origin story that many might not be aware of, Stan explained that the idea for Spider-Man came from observing a literal fly on the wall…he simply wanted to design a character who could stick to walls. “I’m really sorry I killed it with a fly swatter!” In regards to what was the hardest character design to nail down, Hulk and Iron Man proved most problematic. For the former, the challenge was simply making an ugly monster the good guy through visual language – and those purple pants were purely an artistic choice of Lee’s colourist Stan Goldberg. For Iron Man, it was about iterating on the simple, nondescript grey armor. Stan was never satisfied with Iron Man’s armor, claiming “it took the movie [artists] to design the perfect Iron Man armor!”
Oh, and Stan wasn’t done with the jabs at rival DC Comics;
DC Comics asked me to do a series for them […] it was called Just Imagine Stan Lee Creating the DC Universe. I took about a dozen of their most famous, well, not that they’re that famous…a dozen of their big characters. Of course the books were brilliant, they sold out. But there was nothing DC could do after that! They couldn’t let it continue as a series because they’d be competing with their own books; it was a very stupid idea to begin with, although I did a magnificent job!
Stan went on to relay two specific reasons why we don’t see heroes killing villains in Marvel Comics; “one, I don’t like little kids reading books where people are dying. And two, on a practical basis, these villains are too difficult to dream up and if I kill one, I’ll have to think up another one, and I don’t want to have to go to all that trouble!” On his famous cameo appearances, Stan explained his absence from the X-Men films as a “clever marketing ploy” in which people would think they blinked and missed it, forcing them to buy another ticket just to see if their minds weren’t playing tricks on them, leading to more revenue. “If you believe that, I’ll tell you some other lie later on.” In response to the penultimate question, Lee gave a much more harmless, playful hypothetical relating to DC’s business;
I’ll tell you why I think the people at DC are not as smart as they should be. If you were running DC, wouldn’t you say at some time or other “I want to make sure our next Superman or Batman movie makes a lot of money, so I’m gonna give Stan Lee a cameo!” Just imagine when the fans find out he’s in a DC movie! They haven’t thought of that. So now you know which company is smarter!
Finally, Stan blessed us with a (not anymore) secret – his personal favorite superpower that he has purposely never given to a character on page or screen. Why? Because he doesn’t know what costume they would wear. That power…is 100% good luck. “The villain shoots at him, the bullet misses. Whatever he wants to do, he accomplishes. He’s lucky!” It’s absolutely genius, and would be Stan’s preference for a real-life power. The dilemma of a suitable costume had been his one true frustration for many years, but if you have a great concept for what it should look like – “don’t bother telling me because I’ve already lost interest!”