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.
I had friends who worked at the competition, just like they had friends who worked at our place, and occasionally these guys would tell me, they'd say, ‘Stan, it's the funniest thing. Over at the other comic book company they keep saying: ”Why is Stan's books outselling us?” And some big-brain would pop up and say, “It's because he's got a lot of red on his covers”. So they would start putting a lot of red on their covers. The minute I'd hear that, I would tell our colorist, ‘Don't use any red for the next few months’. Or they would then say, ‘He uses a lot of dialogue on his covers’, so again I would say, ‘Keep all the dialogue off the covers. Let's drive them crazy’. I think we did. Oh, another thing that I think… gave us the edge. This was something that I sort of… I didn't originate it but I popularized it. I gave all our characters a lot of thought balloons where… you know, these little balloons with bubbles instead of pointers where you knew what the character was thinking. Now, I did that to a great extent. Hardly anybody else ever did in comics, but it gave such another dimension to our characters, 'cause if you know… know what somebody is thinking, you really know the person. So instead of just dialogue, sometimes we had pages of a character all by himself, running around doing whatever he does, with thought balloons, and I think that made a big difference too. Oh now, the last thing. Maybe it's not the last, who knows? The… I remember where I left off. Martin said to me, ‘Why are our books selling so much better than anyone else's? It must be because…’ whatever nonsense he said. And I said ‘Martin, it's 'cause we have a different style than…’. He said, ‘Style has nothing to do with it, it must be maybe our characters have better names, or…’. I said, ‘Look, I'll prove it to you. I'll come up with a book that has the worst title you've ever heard about a subject that nobody is interested in, and I'll bet I can make it sell just because of the style we do it in’. He said, ‘There isn't a chance in hell’. So anyway I said, ‘Okay’. And what I did, I put out a book, Stories of World War II, which nobody cared about. We had already had the Korean War, Vietnam… the kids didn't care about World War II. So it was Stories of World War II with the unlikely title Sgt.Fury and his Howling Commandos. And we did it, and it became a good seller. And why did it become a good seller? Because again, it played — even though there are a lot of action and battle scenes — it played up the characterization. What I did, I came up with an ethnic platoon. Everybody… the leader was a typical John Wayne American — Sergeant Fury. But there was a black character named Gabriel Jones in the platoon. There was Izzy Levine I think, a Jewish guy. There was an Italian, Dino Manelli. I don't remember the others, but there was somebody representing everything. And there was a lot of humor, and a lot of gags, and a lot of action and excitement, and the book did beautifully, Martin never admitted it; we always changed the subject when we got on that matter.
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.
Stories of World War II, Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, Martin Goodman