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Stealing mail in the army


Writing for the army
Stan Lee Writer
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World War II broke out and I… like an idiot, I volunteered. I wanted to be a hero. But I never got overseas, I… I enlisted and they put me in the Signal Corps, and I trained to be one of these fellows that goes ahead of the troops and fixes the wires for communication. I trained… I learned how to climb telegraph poles, and string wires, and put them ahead so they had radio communications… Whatever. I don't even remember what it was, but I was real good at climbing telegraph poles. And I was supposed to do that, and then they found out I had written comics, and apparently they needed somebody. They had an outfit — don't remember the exact name — but they produced training films for the army, and there were a lot of big people there. William Saroyan was one of the people who wrote training films. Frank Capra. And others, I… a fellow named Ivan Goff who wrote the James Cagney movie White Heat — really big writers. I was the token nobody who was in that group; I think there were nine of us. I was the only one who came from comic books.

But anyway, there again, I love to write but I hate to write. I love to dream up stories but actually sitting down and writing them is a bore, 'cause I'm trying to catch up to myself. I've already decided what the story is in my mind, so when I sit and write it, it's like I'm repeating myself. I've already been through this, and I hate doing this. So I don't really like the physical part of writing, and because of that I write very, very quickly 'cause I want to get through with it fast. Also, I had to write quickly when I was doing the comics 'cause we had a huge schedule. So when I was in the film department, the… it was stationed in Astoria, Long Island in New York. That's where they had their film division. While I was there I wrote faster than anybody else, and one day the fellow in charge — who was either a major or a colonel, I don't recall — he said… I was still Lieber then… he said, ‘Sergeant Lieber’… was I a sergeant? I became a sergeant at some point, I don't remember if I was a sergeant then, but he said, ‘Sergeant Lieber, can you slow down a little?’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘Don't write so fast’. So I figured he was going to say what I'm writing isn't good, and he said… I said, ‘Why?' He said, ‘You're making the other guys look bad. You're turning out your films in a few days, it's taking them weeks. It's bad on the records’. I thought to myself, I'm making Saroyan and Frank Capra look bad? But anyway, I slowed down. Then after a while I got shipped to other posts where they needed training films written. I also did cartoons. I did — I think — a world famous cartoon. Let's see, how can I explain this nicely? There were troops that were being sent overseas, and the enlisted men were getting venereal disease because they had carnal knowledge of some of the women over there. And they had what they called pro stations — prophylaxis stations. The men were supposed to go to these pro stations after they had spent a night with a woman, and in these pro stations, they were disinfected in a very painful way that I will not go in to now. But at any rate, I was asked to do a poster to remind the troops to go to a pro station after a night of bliss with a young lady. Well, how do you do a poster like that? So I finally figured it out. Each pro station had a little… I think a green light over the door. That's how you identified them. So I drew a little door with a green light over it, and I drew a little soldier — a cartoon character — walking in to the door, and he's like this: ‘VD? Not me’… as he walks in. And that was the whole thing, the soldier like that with the dialogue balloon over his head. ‘VD? Not me’. They must have printed 100 trillion of those. They were distributed all over, and I think I probably won the war single-handedly by doing that.

The creative genius of American writer, Stan Lee (1922-2018) 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: United States Army Signal Corps, Astoria, Long Island, United States Army, William Saroyan, Frank Capra, Ivan Goff

Duration: 4 minutes, 32 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2006

Date story went live: 24 January 2008