The M Interview: Meet Mr Marvel
He's the creator of many beloved Marvel characters, but Stan Lee says he never thought "these things would become movies"
With his trademark sunglasses, mile-wide smile, impish sense of humour and indefatigable energy, the legendary US creator of some of the most iconic superheroes of all time, such as Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, X-Men and the Avengers - all turned into Hollywood blockbusters - is arguably the best-known star in the comic book universe.
It's not every day one comes face to face with Mr Marvel himself, but Stan Lee recently dropped by the offices of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in West Hollywood to give us an interview.
Although the company isn't named after him, he was the former president and chairman of Marvel Comics and is synonymous with Marvel.
The 93-year-old admits to not being able to hear or see very well, but he works constantly, with several new projects in the pipeline.
And by the way, he has created 590 characters for Marvel, while Jerry Siegel did only Superman and Bob Kane only Batman for rival DC Comics.
Fans always wait for your cameos in the Marvel movies, and you've already made three this year in Deadpool, Captain America: Civil War and X-Men: Apocalypse. How did these appearances come about?
Accidentally. The first one was in X-Men (2000). Somebody was coming out of the water on a beach, and (director Bryan Singer) wanted people on the sand to look at the person who was a freak and look at them like, 'Oh wow'.
So he said 'Stan, why don't you stand there? You are selling hot dogs on the beach, so hold the hot dog and when the man passes, just go 'oooohh'. Which took a lot of acting! (Laughs)
And then when they did (2002's) Spider-Man movie, the director (Sam Raimi) said 'Hey, you were so good in X-Men, I will give you a cameo in Spider-Man'. And then after a while it just became like a habit.
STAN THE MAN: Spider- Man (2002).
Did you ever foresee that Hollywood would make movies of your stories?
I never in a million years thought that these things would become movies... We hoped that the books would sell well enough so that we would keep our job and be able to pay the rent.
STAN THE MAN: Deadpool.
Was there always a rivalry with DC Comics?
You can't be rivals with somebody when you are so much better than they are. (Laughs) We are all friends. But I was always teasing them.
We used to be called Atlas Comics, and when our books became really popular, I said we ought to get a new name. And I thought of Marvel Comics, because I like advertising, and with a name like Marvel, you could say, welcome to the Marvel Age of Comics, or Marvel Marches On, so I changed the name to Marvel.
Now they had been called National Comics. When we changed our name to Marvel, they decided to change their name. So I want you to get this, we became Marvel and they became… D… C… (Laughs) Need I say more?
STAN THE MAN: Captain America: Civil War.
Of all the movies, which one most nailed the essence of the character?
Iron Man I think really caught it. They were lucky to have Robert Downey Jr. play the role. I think the first Spider-Man was very good.
Did you ever consult with scientists?
No. I know a lot more than they do. (Laughs) But I try to make things sound scientific. I wanted Thor to be able to fly, but I wanted it to be done in a scientific way.
So he has this hammer, with a leather thong that is attached to his wrist. So he spins the hammer around as fast as he can like a propeller, and then he lets go. The hammer goes flying and it's attached to his wrist, so he goes with it. So there you have a perfectly scientific way of flying. (Laughs)
The Fantastic Four got their powers because they were bombarded by cosmic rays. And Bruce Banner became the Hulk because he was subjected to gamma rays. Now I have to be honest with you, I have no idea what a cosmic ray is. I wouldn't know a gamma ray if I saw it. But it sounds scientific.
STAN THE MAN: X-Men: Apocalypse. PHOTOS: AFP, YOUTUBE/ TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX, YOUTUBE/WALT DISNEY PICTURES
Which character would you like to see on the big screen that hasn't been done?
Doctor Strange, although they are working on him. And they haven't done the Inhumans yet, and when they do, that is going to be incredible.
Why Doctor Strange? (Benedict Cumberbatch plays the titular role in the movie that opens here Nov 3)
Because he is different. There hasn't really been a magician as a hero and I tried to make him realistic. So I tried to give him incantations.
Instead of saying 'hocus pocus', I came up with things like 'By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth!', which means nothing... But when the artist Steve Ditko drew him that way and when he said the incantations, the letters looked authentic like this was a real magic phrase.
What are you working on now?
I have a little company called POW! Entertainment... And we do movies there too.
I have a new one coming out in about a year called The Annihilator. We also have a television show that is playing in England right now and it's called Stan Lee's Lucky Man, about a hero who has a strange bit of luck.
As executive producer of all these properties, do you profit from all the billions these movies have raked in, including the merchandising?
No I don't, but that's okay. They treat me nice. I get my cameo. (Laughs) Yeah, they put my name on the screen as executive producer so my wife doesn't forget about me when she goes to the movie.
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