Spider-Man's Creator Spins The Web
Stan Lee in cyberspace

If you don't know the name Stan Lee, you certainly know his work. Literally millions of people have grown up watching Saturday morning cartoons inspired by his characters, or were caught reading his Marvel comic books by flashlight late at night. Now Lee's new company is launching a whole slew of new superheroes into cyberspace.

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... by Holly Day
... in the Dirt section
... from September 23, 1999

Lee, 76, plans to make StanLee.net "the most successful, the most popular site, on the Web." Along with the main feature, a strip called "The 7th Portal," he's introducing at least eight new strips that will appear only on the site -- for now.

GETTINGIT: First of all, I know that there are literally hundreds of characters associated with your name. Have you been involved with all of the superheroes and supervillains that have come out of Marvel, or do you use a lot of outside writers?
STAN LEE: In the very beginning when we started Marvel, I created virtually all the characters, and I wrote the first few stories. Then once I got them started and I set the style, I'd turn them over to other writers. Some I kept writing myself. Characters like Spider-Man, I think I wrote the first hundred issues, or even more, before I turned them over to anyone else. And I wrote more than a hundred issues of The Fantastic Four.

GI: Do you have a favorite Marvel character?
SL: It's like asking a parent who their favorite child is. But I guess probably my favorite is Spider-Man, because he's the best known, the most famous, and he's probably the one character who's most like me -- nothing ever goes right for him, and he's always beset by a million problems.

GI: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist or...
SL: No, I'm a writer. All my life I've been a writer. In high school, and even before that, I was always writing. When I was a senior, the New York Herald Tribune had a contest called "The Biggest News of the Week." The idea was to write a 500-word essay about what you thought was the biggest news event of the week. I entered the contest three times, and I won each time. The editor of the paper called me down after the third time and asked me to stop entering the contest and give someone else a chance to win.

After graduating, I got a job writing obituaries for a newspaper syndicate. I was writing obituaries about living people, living celebrities. That's how you know when you're a celebrity, when a newspaper already has your obituary written and you're still alive. But I got depressed writing about living people in the past tense, so I gave that up after a while.

Then, I got this job at a publishing company. I didn't even know I would be writing for comics. I got the job, and then I found out that they wanted me to work on comic books. So I figured, well, I'll try it, get a little experience and then I'll go out into the real world. But I ended up staying, because it got interesting.

I did draw when I was young, so I was able to be an art director [at Marvel], but I didn't have either the time or the skills to draw comics. If I had wanted to draw the comics myself, I would have had to spend about a year practicing, and I never had the time because I was too busy writing the stories.

GI: What do you think has been the biggest failure of comic books?
SL: I think one of the reasons that comic book sales are down is that they're not accessible enough to new readers. If you pick up the average comic book, and you haven't read that series before, it's almost like you're coming in at the middle of a movie, and you don't know who the characters are or what they're doing. You've got to make comics accessible to those readers as well as the die-hard fans.

Another problem is that there just aren't as many places to buy comics. I'm hoping that what we do on our Web site is going to help the whole comic book industry. I hope that we will revitalize an interest in comics... make people aware again of the art of telling stories with pictures.

GI: Tell me more about the site.
We're going to be Time Warner's ACMEcity site, and we'll be having the largest giveaway of Web space in history. We're giving away 20 megabytes of space free to whoever wants it. We're going to sell collectibles, we're going to have all kinds of contests and games and many more surprises that I can't even tell you about now.

We also have a club called SCUZZLE, and -- I forget what the hell it stands for, wait, it's Searching Cyberspace for Undiscovered... Well, we're searching for aliens, is what we're doing. And we're searching for Zygomorphic -- and there's another word for what we're searching for that starts with Z that I forget -- Lifeforms. It's going to be the responsibility for the people who join the club to make sure the Earth is safe from attack from cyberspace. That's a big responsibility, and they have to be ready to assume that before they can become an agent of SCUZZLE.

GI: Do you have any political aspirations?
SL: Oh, if somebody wanted me to be president, I would accept. But no, I don't have any. My whole concentration right now is Stan Lee Media.

GI: So if there was a write-in ballot, and everyone voted for you, would you do it?
SL: Oh, yes. But I'm a little discouraged about the tastes of the public. Like when I was in the movie Mallrats, I wasn't even nominated for an Oscar. I lost faith in people's judgement after that. [Laughs] And if you write that down as if I was serious, I'll shoot you.

Holly Day's writing has most recently appeared in Guitar One, ROCKRGRL, Music Alive!, and EYE Magazine.

See also: Silicon Surfer