Despite laying the foundation for the wildly popular Marvel Universe Stan Lee says he is no superhero specialist.
“I’m not an expert of any sort,” says the ninety-three-year-old on the line from his Los Angeles office. “I really try to think of stories that I myself would like to read. I try and think of characters that I myself would be interested in. In other words, I never try to write for a certain segment of the readership. I write for myself and I hope that I’m not that unusual. If I like it other people might also like it.”
When it came to naming his characters he had an unusual habit of using alliteration—think Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Matt Murdoch and Reed Richards—for a very practical reason.
“It’s because I have a bad memory,” he says. “If I could remember one of the names like Spider-Man, if I could remember his first name was Peter then I knew his second name began with a P and it was easier for me to think of it. That is really the only reason. I have a terrible memory for names and by making the first and second letter the same if I thought of one name I had a clue as to what the other was.”
These days Lee, who will appear at Fan Expo in Toronto this weekend in what is being billed as his last-ever Canadian appearance, enjoys superstar status but is humble when asked about his legacy. “I didn’t go out of my way to be enduring,” he says.
In fact, when he began writing comic books over seventy years ago, “I was just hoping that somebody would buy them so I could keep my job and be able to pay the rent. In a million years I wouldn’t have thought I’d be travelling around the country, talking to people like you about the comics. It is incredible what has happened.
“I just hope that maybe I brought some enjoyment to people, and they enjoyed reading the stories.”
And they have. Bolstered by passionate fan—or True Believers as Lee calls them—support Lee’s work has endured in the form of movies, videogames, books and on hundreds of comment boards where aficionados pit superhero against superhero in epic make-believe battles and argue over who would emerge victorious. Lee, however, claims he doesn’t have a preferred character.
“People expect me to have a favourite,” he says, “so I always say Spider-Man because that’s what they expect. I’m really not good at favourites. I really love them all.”
So out of Spider-Man, Hulk, Professor X or any of the other three hundred or so characters he created, who does he most relate to?
“Of course I think of myself as being like Tony Stark because he’s glamorous and intelligent and handsome and all that,” he laughs. “But seriously I think there is a little bit of everybody in all these characters. I think that’s why them seem to be popular. I tried to give hem all hang-ups and weaknesses. None of them are really perfect. They are just like regular people, I hope.”