Stan Lee was here yesterday to promote his new book, Election Daze. It didn't follow the normal authors@google
format (author stands at a lectern, talks for 30 minutes about their book's subject, and maybe reads from it, and then there are questions). Instead he and some other dude sat in front of the room, and the other dude interviewed him a bit, asking him pre-submitted questions from the audience, and getting him to talk about the new book, before asking for questions from the floor. Here are a representative sample of the questions he was asked, scribbled down from memory after the talk.
[Who would win in a fight, Spiderman or the Black Widow? Like, they're both spiders.]
This was the first question. The moderator read "Who would win in a fight..", then paused for the enthusiastic laughter, then continued. It was great. The answer was "It depends on whether the writer's a man or a woman."
[What non-Marvel characters do you like]
He doesn't read non-Marvel comics. He don't even read Marvel much any more. But if he had to pick, he'd say DC's Lobo who was "a bad guy, and -beautifully- bad".
[Do you mind when people do things with your characters that aren't how you imagine the character?]
Sure, this happens all the time, but when a writer takes over the character, they should make it their own. He talked about the X-Men and said "I wish I'd written.. what's that wolf character called?" [Response from crowd] "Yes, Wolverine. I didn't write him and now he's everyone's favourite character. I can't believe I didn't think of him"
[On writing process].
He said that he's a hack. He doesn't have ideas for stories he might want to write. Back in the day, someone would say "We need a story for [whenever]" and he'd just sit down that evening and write it. He has never had writer's block; he can produce a story on demand. His other books are mostly collections of amusingly captioned pictures, which sell well (which he likes) but which basically just require him to think of funny captions. He finds that very easy to do.
[You do a lot of cameos. Who would you love to play?]
He wanted to be J Jonah Jameson, who is the character he's most like, but by the time the movie was made he was too old.
[What character didn't turn out like you expected?]
Once he had to write a story and needed bad guy at short notice. He decided the bad guy was called Diablo, and Jack Kirby drew a perfect Diablo, and they both loved the character and were excited about using it. But he couldn't think of who Diablo was -- what his motivation was, why he was evil -- and he couldn't make him interesting in the short time they had. They wrote the story, and it wasn't any good, and to this day he doesn't remember anything about who Diablo turned out to be. And that's his most disappointing character story.
[Will Gambit be in any movies?]
Probably not. None currently scheduled anyway.
[What happened with Jack Kirby?]
Jack said he was going to DC. Stan offered him partnership and asked him to become the art director of Marvel on the same salary as Stan. Jack went to DC anyway. They were still on good terms, but Stan doesn't know why he went. Thinks Jack reckoned he could make more money freelancing. Thinks it didn't work out. Seemed a bit sad about it.
[Advice to wannabe writers?]
Write stuff you'd enjoy reading. Don't write about something you find boring, just because it's more likely to sell, because it'll probably suck.
[What do you think about the influence of the internet (or some vague question like this)]
"Why do people always assume that once you're a bit famous you suddenly know things. I'm probably the least qualified person in this room to answer this question. [tells anecdote about something else]"
Anyway, he was a delight. He's less bombastic than I'd expected; instead you get the impression he's still a bit surprised that people are interested in what he has to say. He was a bit bewildered that people had video conferenced in from all over the place to listen to him, and actually the VC process itself was a source of fascination to him too, and he was never sure which way to face when responding to someone in another office. It was all rather charming. I hope he comes to talk to us in nyc some time.