FanExpo 2016: A Marvelous Look Back with Stan Lee

“Welcome, True Believers! I hope one day we figure out what we’re believing in.”

The moment that comics legend Stan Lee steps onto the stage at FanExpo Canada for his first Q&A of the weekend, it’s clear that age hasn’t slowed him down one bit. At age 93 he still boasts a razor wit and genuine glee to meet the crowd of his adoring fans.

After opening the panel by gushing about upcoming Marvel films like Dr. Strange and Black Panther, Stan moves on to field questions from the audience. Unsurprisingly, the lineup for questions wraps around the panel room and the time allotted for the panel just dented its size, but all the same we get to hear some fun insights from The Man himself.

Given the enormity of Marvel’s film franchises, it’s no surprise that a number of questions address his opinions on the Cinematic Universe and some of its casting. In regards to Disney starlet Zendaya taking on the role of Mary Jane in the next Spider-Man film, he shows succinct but clear support: “What’s the problem? She is beautiful and a great actress.” Although some casting he loves less than others, expressing disappointment at Dr. Doom’s depiction in the original Fantastic Four movie, even implying his lack of cameo in the latest version may have caused its lack of success.

“I have a story about how the Marvel movies make so much money,” he mused, “See, you decide to get some popcorn, and you look down to take it, and then, you miss my cameo. So you go back out to the box office and buy a second ticket so that you can look for me!”. considering the bankroll that the studios make on his creations, he might be onto something. Though he doesn’t split hairs over his personal bank account: “I wish they’d pay me more, but it’s an endless debate”. It’s a little tragic, if not oddly reassuring that even one of the greats grapples with getting paid as an artist.

He is not a man who plays favourites – favourite superhero? Favourite of his own creations? Favourite pie? He can’t pick, so don’t ask. Though he does mention Robert Downey Jr. as being the actor closest to what he imagined when he created the characters, even having his own nickname for Downey: BooBoo. You had to be there.

Although fans love to play at war with brand rivalry between DC and Marvel, Stan isn’t glad to extend something of an olive branch to his competitors, citing Lobo as one of the characters he finds the most compelling (excluding his own creations). He even offered to cameo in DC’s films, and write for them if it would please the critics. Perhaps it’s a gentle roast, but he means well.

The history of Marvel comics often implies a chaotic and not always amicable arrangement for artists, but when asked about Jack Kirby, to this day Stan will praise him: “I called him The King for a reason – the way he drew, it was like the image was already alive in his mind and he just traced it onto paper. I did enjoy working with him, I really did.”

Remembering that Stan is winding down for retirement after this year’s convention appearances, it’s hard not to feel bittersweet. But it’s just as hard not to hang onto every word he says regardless.

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