• Fri, Mar 11 2011

When I Grow Up, I Want To Be Stan Lee: Vanity Fair Interviews ‘Spider-Man’ Creator

Hey, guess what, everyone? MORE Spidey news! Vanity Fair published an interview with Spider-Man creator Stan Lee yesterday, and it’s truly one of the most remarkable interviews I’ve ever read. I would expect no less from Stan Lee, but interviewer Eric Spitznagel admirably holds his own with the comic giant. Ever wondered whether the Comics Code has any merit? If Lee gets along with Obama? What various bits of the Marvel characters’ anatomy are made of? Read on, gentle reader, for we have assembled the highlights (with commentary!) of this astonishing interview for your weekend viewing pleasure.

Spitznagel gets the obvious stuff out of the way first:

Are you quoting your own superhero catchphrases all the time? In a private, intimate moment with your wife, do you ever shout out, “By the hoary hosts of Hoggoth?!”

Oh absolutely. I say that all the time. When I want my wife to make me a sandwich, I’ll say, “By the shades of the shadowy Serapeum, will you please make me a sandwich?!” Doesn’t everybody?

Doesn’t everybody, indeed? I know I do. Good to know that I’m not alone in this. Next, Spitznagel addresses the subject of our Fearless Leader:

At a press conference in December, Obama said something about Republicans realizing that “with greater power comes greater responsibility.” When you heard that, were you flattered, or did you immediately call your lawyer?

I just resented the fact that he edited it. It should be “with great power,” not “greater power.” I thought about writing to tell him about the mistake. If you’re going to quote Spider-Man, at least get the adjectives right. But I figured he’s busy.

Good to know that Stan respects the constraints on the President’s time. I wonder if he has similar constraints himself? He seems like a busy guy, but if one busy guy can take the time to write another busy guy… then… maybe they’re both not so busy?

Then again, not unrelated, we have this:
Are you going to be one of those guys who doesn’t quit until they find you dead in your office, face down in a pool of ink, surrounded by storyboards?

I don’t intend to die.

If Lee is immortal, he can’t be THAT busy, right? I mean, he’s got all the time in the world! Literally! Moving on, Spitznagel brings up the unique olfactory qualities of comic books themselves:

I’ve always thought that comic books have a very distinctive smell. Am I crazy?

No, no, I agree. I think everything you enjoy has a certain smell. My desktop has a smell. My car certainly has a certain smell. And comic books, you’re quite right, there’s something in their odor that’s just pleasant and comforting. You know what comic books are? They’re nice. That’s the best word I can think of.

Our precocious interviewer goes on to say:

As a kid, I was convinced that Marvel comics smelled different than D.C. comics. Marvel just had a more pleasing scent.

To which Lee replies:

You know, you not only happen to be a great interviewer, but a great critic. Your judgment is unsurpassed in this field.

Awww, they’re getting along so well! Concerning the now-defunct Comics Code Authority, horrible censors that they were, Spitznagel and Lee have this enlightened exchange:

If it weren’t for the Comics Code, would the Hulk’s pants have ripped off like his shirt?

I guess it probably would have. So occasionally the Code did some good things.

And while we’re on the subject:

Did you ever try to make sense of the Hulk’s magical purple pants? Why did they always conveniently remain intact while the rest of his clothes were ripped to shreds?

I just figured that Bruce Banner had probably been a friend of Reed Richards [Mr. Fantastic from the Fantastic Four], and Reed had given him some elastic trousers. There’s an explanation for everything, but you may not be technically advanced enough to follow me on all of this.

And now, the answer to the burning question that everyone wants to know, courtesy of Mallrats:

In the Kevin Smith movie Mallrats, Jason Lee asked you a question that has crossed every serious comic fan’s mind at least once in his life. You dismissed it at the time, calling it a “superhero secret.” Are you finally ready to answer Lee’s question?

Remind me.

“Is the Thing’s dork made out of orange rock like the rest of his body?”

I never gave it a thought. I guess common sense would say it was made of orange rock too, but I always thought it was more interesting to think about Reed Richards. As you know, he had the ability to stretch, and sexually, that would seem to be a great asset in many areas.

There you have it, folks. The Thing’s thing is made of orange rock, just like the rest of him. Also it’s possible that Stan likes to roleplay as Mr. Fantastic.

Naturally, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark had to come up at some point. While Lee is actually a lot more supportive of the show than one might expect, he did have this to say:

I don’t know if I should put this on the record, but I’m surprised and a little hurt that they haven’t asked me to do a cameo yet. I realize that it might be difficult, especially since the show runs six nights a week, with a couple of matinees. I don’t think I have the energy to do that. But I’m not sure how the show can succeed without a cameo from me.

We should probably take this a little tongue-in-cheek. But he does bring up a valid point: How can we take a drink because Stan Lee made a cameo if there’s no cameo to be had? Says Spitznagel:

Couldn’t they just find somebody who sort of looks like you?

Nobody looks like Stan Lee!

Verily, it is so: Nobody looks like Stan Lee. And nobody interviews like Stan Lee, either. For the full interview, visit Vanity Fair’s website here!

You can reach this post's author, Lucia Peters, on twitter.
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