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Iron Man and what set us apart from the competition

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Comments (1) Please sign in or register to add comments
chrismcc
Tuesday, 22 February 2011 02:21 PM
Stan Lee certainly knows how to tell a story... Nice insight into his creative process and the way...
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Stan Lee certainly knows how to tell a story... Nice insight into his creative process and the way his characters are born.

I think the next one I did was The Hulk. Funny thing, I wanted to get a… I always liked Jekyll and Hyde, and I always liked the Frankenstein movie — the old one with Karloff. And in the Frankenstein movie I always felt the monster is really the good guy. He didn't want to hurt anybody. All those idiots with torches were always chasing him up and down the hills. So I thought it would be fun to get a monster who was really a good guy, but nobody knew that, and to take a leaf from the Jekyll and Hyde thing where he could change from a normal person into the monster. And I did The Hulk. Now since the kids seemed to like costumes, I couldn't think of an excuse to put a monster in a costume so I figured I'd do the next best thing. I'll make his skin a different color. I did not think of green originally, I made it grey in the first issue. I thought, that will be scary-looking, a guy with grey skin. But unfortunately when the book came out the grey was a different shade on every page. One page was light grey, one page it was dark grey, one page he looked black, one page it was white. And I realized the printer was having trouble with the grey color. So when you're a cartoon editor and writer you're like God, you can do anything. I said: ’I'll change his skin color’. So in the next issue I made him green. Turned out wonderful, the printer was able to do a good job with green but more than that, it gave me a chance to come up with little cute sayings like… I called him the Green Goliath, the Jolly Green Giant, and Old Greenskin — I love using expressions. So that's how The Hulk was born. And then we were now on a roll. The Fantastic Four was a big seller, The Hulk was doing well, so Martin said: ‘Stan, dream up another one’. So I did Spider-Man. And when you do a superhero strip the first thing you have to think of is, what super power will he have? And I was trying to think of a new power. We already had The Thing who was the strongest guy, and The Hulk was strong. We had a guy who could fly – The Human Torch – we had The Invisible Girl, we had… everybody could do everything. So I… I was… I've told this story so often that for all I know, it might even be true, 'cause I really don't remember exactly, but I think I was watching a fly walking on a wall, and I said: ‘Gee, wouldn't it be cool if I had a hero who could stick to walls like an insect?’. But I think I'm lying. I probably didn't say wouldn't it be cool, 'cause I don't think the word cool was in usage. I probably said: ‘Wouldn't it be groovy’. I want to be nothing but totally accurate here. At any rate I thought, I'll get a guy who's like an insect. So I figured okay, what kind? What’ll I call him? Insect Man? That didn't sound dramatic. Mosquito Man? No. I went down the list. When I got to Spider-Man — Spider-Man —  oh, that sounded dramatic. So I figured I'd call him that, and then we had him shoot webs. That was great. And again, I tried to keep it realistic. In order not to make him a typical hero I made him an average guy who was kind of unpopular. He was sort of a nerd. The kids didn't like him; they thought he was a bookworm. He didn't have enough money, he had to support his old aunt. He was an orphan. He was shy and so forth. And it turned out he was somebody that the readers could relate to, so he became very successful. He became our most popular character. And then came the others, then… I don't even remember the order in which they were, but I was told later — I didn't realize it at the time — but people would say to me: ‘You gave all your characters handicaps’. And I realized I guess it's true I was trying to make them realistic. Everybody's handicapped in some way. I'm handicapped, I talk too much. But the next one I made blind. I thought it would be fun to have a blind superhero 'cause I had read somewhere when you lose your sight all your other senses become magnified. So I thought it would be great if we have a guy, even though he can't see, he can do anything better that anyone else. He'd have a radar sense, a sonar sense. He could tell if you were lying 'cause he could hear your heart beat change — the rhythm. He could read by running his finger over a newspaper 'cause his fingers are so sensitive. Like with Braille, he could actually feel the newsprint on the paper. And he'd be the world's greatest gymnast because you get your balance from your ear. So I loved Daredevil, he became very popular.

The creative genius of American writer, Stan Lee, who was born in 1922, brought us 'Spider Man', 'X-Men' and 'The Hulk'. They climbed tall buildings and fought the bad guys, but had normal worries too, about love, acceptance and family. Readers loved them and Marvel Comics, with Lee at the helm, went on to become hugely successful. In 2010 the Stan Lee Foundation was founded to focus on literacy, education and the arts. On January 4, 2011 Lee received the 2428th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Listeners: Leo Bear

Leo Bear is a Hollywood-based features writer. Her background is in news and features writing. Leo spent five years on the entertainment newsdesk at BBC Worldwide before going freelance and moving out to Los Angeles. She specialises in writing lifestyle features, celebrity interviews, health stories and travel features for publications including Eve Magazine, OK! Magazine, Total Film, TV Hits and Conde Nast Gourmet Travel Guide.

Tags: The Hulk, Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, The Thing, The Human Torch, The Invisible Girl, Daredevil, Martin Goodman

Duration: 4 minutes, 59 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2006

Date story went live: 24 January 2008