DETROIT — Stan Lee has many titles. Comic book icon. The man synonymous with Marvel Comics. The creative genius behind Spider-Man, X-Men, the Hulk and the Fantastic Four.
So how should one address him during an interview? “With great respect and reverence,” says Lee with a laugh. “I don’t know. Just call me Stan.”
Lee appeared this past Saturday at Detroit Fanfare, a new comic book convention. The show is a tribute to the old Detroit Triple Fan Fair, a pioneer of comic book conventions.
The guest of honor is Lee, who, as chairman of POW! Entertainment (as in Purveyors of Wonder), is working on enough new projects to keep the Avengers busy. He spoke recently by phone about the world of comics and his action-filled career universe.
Q: Are you at all surprised that comic book superheroes have taken over the entertainment world?
A: Well, I was in the beginning when it started, but not anymore. Now I expect it. I’ve gotten very used to it.
Q: What do you think is the essential appeal of these characters and why it never fades?
A: I think they’re bigger than life and they’re very colorful. ... I think almost everybody enjoyed fairy tales when they were young, tales of witches and ogres and monsters and dragons and so forth. You get a little bit older, you can’t read fairy tales any more. But I don’t think you ever outgrow your love for things that are bigger than life and more colorful than the average life. And somehow I feel that these comic book stories are like fairy tales for older people, because they have the same qualities. ... These stories of people with unusual powers and unusual appearances, who do unusual things, people are always fascinated by them.
Q: Are you doing your traditional cameo for the upcoming Captain America movie?
A: I don’t know. They’re filming it in London and I don’t have the time to go there. Now if they shoot any scenes here in the States, I’m sure that I will be in one of them. But I wouldn’t imagine that they’re going to change their whole shooting schedule just to accommodate my cameo, so your guess is as good as mine at the moment.
Q: What do you think about the buzz that ABC is developing a new TV version of the Hulk?
A: Oh that’s very exciting, and I think it’ll probably be very good. I can’t wait to see it.
Q: You’re teaming up with MTV on an online comic series, “The Seekers.” What will that be like?
A: I can’t tell you too much about it, because the whole thing is a surprise. But it’s people from another age and somehow they interact with people today.
Q: You always move into the latest new thing, whether it’s the Web or whatever. Are you excited about that aspect of it?
A: To me everything is fun. I’ve started Twittering or tweeting recently and that’s been fun. ... I enjoy the fact that we have these mobile comics now, which are sort of a cross between a comic book and an animated cartoon. Every day, there’s a new development. ... There’s no limit to the things that are happening.
Q: You appeared last season on “The Big Bang Theory.” Do you actually have a Fantastic Four robe and where can we buy one?
A: (Laughs) I don’t. They made that up for the show, as far as I know. I can’t remember if I took it home with me or if I left it there. But if there’s a demand for them, maybe I can talk to somebody and we’ll get ‘em made.
Q: What do you think of Andrew Garfield being cast as the new Spider-Man?
A: I’m not that familiar with him, but if the powers that be chose him, I’m sure he’ll be good. You remember when Tobey Maguire was first selected, most of the fans were angry. They felt, what kind of a guy is that for a superhero? Nobody thought it was a good idea. Yet he turned out to be great. The people at Marvel who do these things are really pretty smart. If they chose this guy, he’ll probably be terrific.
Q: You are involved in so many new projects. How do you maintain your energy and enthusiasm for work?
A: It’s hard not to be enthusiastic when you like what you’re doing and I love what I do. I love writing stories, I love coming up with ideas for new projects and I love the people I work with, because I work with great writers and artists and directors and actors. And everybody is excited about their projects and I’m excited too. It’s not like working. It’s like playing with your friends. When I was a kid, I’d say to my mother, “Can I go out and play with the kids now?” Now I’m out playing with the kids all day long.