Today marks the completion of a dream for yours truly: I got a chance to sit down at the table with Stan "The Man" Lee and pick his brain about everything from the state of the modern-day comic book industry to his newest project with Disney, a digital motion-comic about a time-jumping hero, appropriately titled Time Jumper.
Oh and I also got to ask the father of the Marvel Universe about the possibility of snagging a certain Man of Steel who's going to become a "free agent" in the next couple of years...The roundtable was a follow-up to the Time Jumper panel at the 2009 San Diego Comic Con International, which featured Lee (a producer and voice actor in the series), co-star Natasha Henstridge (Species) along with series writer Omar Ponce and artist Anthony Diecideue.
The quick rundown on Time Jumper is that it tells the story of a brilliant scientist who invents the "Articulus," which is a time traveling device that is encoded with a DNA lock. When the scientist dies in a tragic accident, only his two sons are able to use the Articulus. The pair of reluctant heroes are recruited by a secret crime fighting organization to use the device in the battle against a super-evil sect, led by a your classic super-evil villainess (Henstridge).
After screening the first "episode" of Time Jumper, I can say that it's definitely a throwback to Lee's early work, setting up a pretty basic good guys vs. bad guys superhero story. Other than that...
However, the roundtable interview after the panel was the real highlight. Mr. Lee is older now, bit he sure does still have the spark of a young man with an inexhaustible imagination. And talk about charisma! The guy worked every journalist at the table, including yours truly, I confess.
Check out some of the highlights of the convo:
- When asked about what it takes to create a new superhero today, Lee confessed that it's gotten somewhat harder, "Because everything has been done!"
- When asked how felt about making the jump from traditional comic to the digital medium of motion-comics, Lee said that although he's getting too old to keep up with all the jumps in technology, the motion-comic, to him, was a logical and exciting step forward in telling a superhero story, and that even if the medium becomes a huge draw (which he of course hopes it will) he doesn't believe it will ever fully be able to replace the traditional comic book.
- Lee went on to admit that he's found the modern-day comic book industry to be quite different from the one he and Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko and Co. started. Since comic books have become big business, according to Lee, the writers and artists involved in it are almost compelled to think far beyond the basic task of good storytelling and imagination - they have to approach their projects with the heavy thought of making big bank.
- ...Which is the perfect seugway into Stan Lee's ultimate point, which he made an effort to hammer home again and again during the discussion: The best way to build a new superhero into a success is, and always will be, telling good stories. Before Spider-Man was a universal story about the geek who gets to be a hero; before X-Men was a famous allegory for prejudice and intolerance, the characters were just the fanciful conjurings of Stan Lee's imagination. And that is where the real magic lies (ok Stan didn't say that, but I am).
So that was pretty much covers everything that was talked about at the roundtable. Now onto the best part: I got a chance to ask Mr. Lee (you call him MR. Lee) the question that I had been wondering ever since I found out that I would be sitting at this roundtable:
Me: "Just off the top of my head: in 2013 Superman becomes a free agent...the heirs of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster [the creators of Superman] will own the full copyrights to the character. Any plans on snatching him up for the Marvel Universe?"
Stan Lee: "Oooo... have Superman be part of the Marvel Universe? [Pointing at me] I like this guy! I had never really thought of it... See I'm with Marvel but I'm not really part of the Marvel decision making team...I think my title is "Chairman Emeritus," which...doesn't really mean much...To prove they haven't forgotten me I get these cameos in the movies which is kinda nice, and people still come to the movies, but...it's nice."
Me: "But you're still the magic, so..."
Stan Lee: "And don't you forget it!"
Ok so that's not really news, perse, but it was still a pretty cool moment for me!
In a way it was kind of sad to hear Stan Lee - the originator - fondly reminisce about the days long fading when he and a few other like-minded visionaries set to create the fantastic worlds we now worship celebrate in all the Hollywood glitz and glamor that is the San Diego Comic-Con...
I feel like I had something more to write but I think I'll leave it right where it is. It was good to sit in Stan Lee's presences and I wish him all the best of luck (and fun) with Time Jumper. "'Nuff Said."