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Published on June 9th, 2014 | by Genevieve Mc Bride


Stan Lee Reveals Guardians of the Galaxy and Other Marvel Secrets at the 2014 Phoenix Comicon

I could sit and listen to Stan Lee tell stories all day. Unfortunately his panrl at this year’s Phoenix Comicon was only  an hour long. His Sunday appearance the Phoenix Convention Center was highly anticipated by thousands, so I was thrilled to sneak into his panel before the doors to the packed North Hall closed.

I was a little late and came in to Lee  giving the moderator, Todd McFarlane, a hard time – deriding him for asking long, boring questions. McFarlane was pretty no-nonsense, playing the perfect straight man to Stan’s hilarious insults and setting Stan up for funny answers. Stan even tried to throw McFarlane  off his all-business stride by presenting him with an autographed Spiderman guitar. McFarlane took a very brief moment to look touched before continuing with his interview. Lee’s astounded, “That’s it?! ” compelled McFarlane to stand up and give Lee a kiss on the head which Stan shook off with mock outrage.

The audience came up with some great questions like did Lee model his superheroes after any real people. Lee said most of his superheroes had characteristics of multiple people he knew, but only one superhero was modeled after a real person. Lee thought it would be a great challenge to make someone as rich, smart, eccentric and successful as Howard Hughes likeable. And thus, Tony Stark was born.

When asked Lee listed his influences growing up as the great writers like Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, and even Shakespeare. “I didn’t understand a thing Shakespeare wrote but I loved the exclamations like, ‘What ho, Horatio!’ And who was that guy who wrote Sherlock? Sorry, I have an awful memory.”

At 91, Lee doesn’t need to apologize for a bad memory. He remembers the important stories – or at least the important gist of stories. When a fan asked what inspired the “Marvel Dynamic” Lee responded with, “What the hell is the Marvel Dynamic?” The fan elaborated with “When the character overacts…” Lee laughed and a story was born. He explained that he never wanted his supervillains to be angry, he wanted them to be furious. He didn’t want his superheroes to just be in love, he wanted them entranced by romance. He actually gave McFarlane credit for explaining the Marvel Dynamic perfectly on another platform they shared.  “But I can’t remember what Todd said we exactly.” McFarlane, a comic book industry superstar himself, expounded by comparing the dynamic to a Broadway show. “In a Broadway show, you don’t act for the front row, you act for the grandmother in the very back row. A superhero has to look like a superbero even when they’re doing the most mundane thing – “

Lee interrupted with, “Mundane means simple, everyday, for you D.C. readers.”

After the laughter died down, McFarlane asked the audience to imagine Thor standing in a powerful, threatening stance, muscles flexed, veins in his hands “angry, as he clenches the handle of his hammer with sparks shooting from its head. Lightening flashing, his hair blowing haphazardly around his face, his cape flowing behind him from the strong winds. And the bubble over his head says, ‘Pass the salt.’ That’s how you draw a superhero.”

Lee nodded in agreement before scolding McFarlane, “Didn’t you read the rules about not being more entertaining or more charming than me?”

McFarlane managed to sneak in another lesson to the audience while in his role of relaying questions off-mic to the hard-of-hearing Lee “He’s Stan the Man. I’m Todd the God. Remember that.”

Before a fan could finish asking the next question, Michael Rooker of The Walking Dead joined Lee and McFarlane onstage to surprised cheers. Rooker stars with Lee in Marvel’s next theatrical venture, “Guardians of the Galaxy”. Okay, “starring” may be a stretch for Lee, but he believes his cameos are starring roles, just condensed so the other actors aren’t jealous. He credits half of X-Men: Days of Future Past’s ticket sales to his cameo. “People think they blinked and missed it, or they were looking down to get more popcorn, so they buy another ticket to watch it again to see if they can catch my scene.” He says he doesn’t know what his scene has to do with Guardians of the Galaxy but it could be his longest scene to date. When asked, he said his favorite “starring role” was in Captain America, because “That was real acting! I would’ve been SO fired.”

Not getting fired was actually Lee’s inspiration for creating so many superheroes.  When asked, he initially said, “In all honesty, GREED.” He went on to explain he wanted to continue getting paid, so the more he wrote, the less likely he would get fired. When asked if there were any stories he wished he had written but didn’t think were good enougg, he confided that there was never a story or idea he didn’t like.

“I am my biggest fan!” Lee exclaimed with his trademark enthusiasm. The thousands in North Hall would probably beg to differ.

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