My Night with Stan Lee!!!
I recently had the privilege of meeting the great Stan Lee at the Boston Comic Con on July 31st. As part of the VIP Pass that I bought, I got to have a Photo Op with him, got to sit in on a Q+A panel, and had one piece of merchandise of my own choosing for Stan to autograph! Overall, I'd say that was money well spent!
The Photo Op went as expected. To keep the line moving, the BCC staff would only allow us to briefly say "Hi" to Stan, take the photo, and then leave immediately. So we only had one shot to make our photo with Stan Lee memorable and I think mine came out as good as it could.
Immediately after the photo, we headed up to the third floor of the Seaport World Trade Center, where the convention was being held.
Once there, I waited and talked with some of the people sitting next to me. Soon, Stan Lee's assistant, I forget his name, walked up to the podium. He wanted to go over a few things before Stan arrived.
1. DO NOT ask questions about the cameo appearances in the Marvel Movies.
2. A surprise for Stan was planned, last minute. Apparently Stan's best friend, illustrator Ken Bald, had come over from New York to surprise his old friend. Plus, Stan's staff planned to have a surprise cake for Ken because he would be celebrating his 95th birthday the next day, Aug 1st!!!
3. The way the Q+A would work is, because of Stan's bad hearing, the fans would ask the questions to Stan's staff members and the staff member would repeat the question into Stan's ear and then Stan would answer.
4. The Stan Lee VIP Experience ended up selling more tickets than they thought (over 400), so to try and make things go faster throughout the panel, Stan would be answering questions from the fans while signing autographs at the same time!!!
That fourth one didn't seem like a good idea. But we only had three hours with the great man so I can see why they would want to rush things.
Finally, Stan arrived and, of course, got a standing ovation. The first thing that came out of his mouth, the moment he sat down, was when he turned to his staff members and said "What could you have possibly told them about me that they don't already know?" The crowd laughed at that.
Stan has had many years of experience with fans and conventions, so he REALLY knew how to "work the crowd". He was funny, had a kind spirit, and seemed to be a child at heart. Basically, he acted exactly how we've seen him on TV.
Soon after, the Q+A began. I don't remember all of the questions so I'll just put down the ones that I do:
Fan: How did you come to develop "Stan Lee's Superhumans" show?
Stan Lee: I wasn't involved in the development process. The producers developed the show and then thought that it would attract a wider audience if I was involved. So they called me up and asked me if I wanted to do it.
Fan: Which one of your superheroes would you like to be and why?
SL: Iron Man! Because he's rich and he gets the ladies!
Fan: Who was your icon when you were growing up?
SL: Errol Flynn! He played Robin Hood, he played Captain Blood. He was a hero to many of us back then. I walked out of the theater once after seeing a movie of his and pretended to have a sword on my waste. I would go around looking for bullies to fight who were picking on young damsels.
Fan: Comics were considered for children back in the day. Did your parents approve of you getting into the comic industry?
SL: It's not the industry they expected me to get into, but growing up, all my mother wanted me to be was a well read child. Believe it or not, one Christmas, my mom got me a book stand, so I could continue reading at the dinner table! [Fans laugh]
Fan: I notice that you are wearing a "wedding band" but I've never heard you talk about your wife. Why?
SL: Don't get me talking about my wife or you'll never get me to stop!
Soon, one of the most memorable moments of the night occurred. A fan, dressed as Gambit from X-Men, was called upon and instead of asking a question he just told Stan that he was a great man and a huge inspiration on his life, but he had a more important question to ask. With that, he turned to his girlfriend, who was dressed as Rogue, and got down on one knee!!!
The crowd exploded with applause and excitement!!! His girlfriend was in tears as she got down on one knee, as well, and kissed him hard in the mouth!!!
SL: I hope she said "Yes!" [Fans laughed]
A couple of times throughout the Q+A, Stan's bodyguard asked us a couple of questions as well, with a prize for the winner (but I can't remember what it was)
Bodyguard: How many years has Stan Lee been married?
Fans: 72? 67? 60? 62?
Bodyguard: Nope. 63!
Stan Lee: 66!!!
Bodyguard: Okay, my bad. Sorry!
Stan Lee: 63? We're not newlyweds! [Fans laugh]
Bodyguard: Here's another one! What non-superhero movie is the only one Stan's made a cameo appearance in?
Stan Lee: I don't remember ever being in a non-superhero movie.
Fan: Princess Diaries 2!!!
Stan Lee: [remembering] Oh, that's right!!!
As I said before, I can't remember what the prize was.
Finally, it was time to bring in Stan's friend, Ken Bald, who got a standing ovation as well. Stan was excited beyond the pale to see him. They hadn't seen each other in three to four years because Stan lives in LA and Ken lives in NY. Even their wives are best friends!
We all sang "Happy Birthday" to Ken and a cake was brought out. For the next half-hour, both Stan and Ken told stories to us about their memories together:
They had met while working at Marvel back in the 40s. Ken was the illustrator for comic books such as Captain America, Sub-Mariner, the Blond Phantom, the Destroyer, and Miss America.
SL: This man is the greatest illustrator that ever lived! I was so jealous of him when we were young! He was tremendously talented, great sense of humor, and he was SO good looking that the ladies would line up for him before coming to me! In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they still do!
Unfortunately, Ken left Marvel in the late 50s and continued illustrating for newspaper comic strips, such as "Dr. Kildare" and "Dark Shadows", where he was credited as "K. Bruce". So Ken and Stan didn't work together during Marvel's Golden Age or, to my knowledge, since. But they've remained great friends.
After Ken left the panel the staff began gathering the merchandise from the fans for Stan to sign while the Q+A continued. Members of the CGC were off to the side to offer grades for the comic books Stan signed. Extra charge, of course.
Fan: Which superhero would you like to see get their own movie?
SL: Well, there are still plenty of superheroes that are planning to appear in the Marvel Universe. Black Panther will finally make his debut and Deadpool is coming out next year-- Oh wait! Sub-Mariner!!! That would be an great movie, right? [Fans applaud]
Fan: Could you tell us stories about the celebrity encounters that you’ve had?
Stan was busy signing autographs so his Bodyguard answered for him.
Bodyguard: There was one time, a few years ago, when both Stan and I were at the SAG Awards. I noticed George Clooney across the way. I had always wanted to meet him so I told Stan that I would be right back. I was just in arm’s reach of George when a hand came down on my shoulder. I turned around to see BRAD PITT!!! He asked me “Are you the one who came with Stan Lee?” I nodded and he asked me if he could meet him. I brought Brad over to Stan and introduced them to each other. The two began talking like old friends. Soon Brad’s wife, Angelina Jolie, came over and started talking with Stan as well. She seemed polite and funny but I noticed that she was secretly tugging on Brad’s suit-coat. Finally, annoyed, Brad turned to her to see what she wanted. She said to him “Brad, aren’t you going to introduce me?” [Fans laugh] From then on, the three of them had a wonderful night together talking about comics and movies.
Due to Stan’s bad hearing, he couldn’t hear what the laughter was all about. He turned to us and said “My bodyguard’s not making fun of me, is he?” [Fans laugh]
Fan: Which actor do you think does the best job of bringing your characters to life?
SL: Robert Downey Jr! Although Chris Evans as Captain America does a great job as well.
Fan: You made a guest appearance on the Big Bang Theory a few years ago. Has anything like that happened in real life?
SL: Yes. But it wasn't me that gave the fans the attitude, it was my housekeeper.
Fan: What lead you to create Captain America?
SL: I didn't create Captain America, I brought him back. I loved the character when he was popular during WWII. Then one day as I was trying to think of a new character, I began to like the idea of a man, set in his ways, trying to adapt into the modern world, and I thought "this is the perfect way to make Captain America popular again!" And the rest is history! [Fans applaud] Believe it or not, Captain America is more popular overseas than he is in the US! I know it's hard to believe, but it's true!
Fan: What is your opinion on the stories that your characters are going through today? Are you happy with them?
SL: I don't keep up with comics anymore. Not only is my hearing bad but my eyesight isn't all that great either, which has taken away the privilege of reading comic books. Whenever I do a cameo in a movie, the text on the script always has to be blown up so I can read it.
Fan: Are there any plans for a movie based on your life?
SL: I have been approached by a famous person, who shall remain anonymous, about the idea of making a bio-movie on my life! But I don't see it happening unless they cast someone REAL good-looking to play me! However, there is a memoir coming out... in September or October, I believe, called "Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir"! AND it will done in the style of a graphic novel!!! [Fans applaud]
Fan: Who are some of the people you were most honored to ever meet?
SL: I met the President of the United States! At the 2008 National Medal of the Arts, I was being honored along with Olivia de Havilland, who was in Gone With the Wind and was Errol Flynn’s costar in many of his films. As she climbed up the platform and met with President Bush, he kissed her on both cheeks. When it was my turn, I climbed up, shook the President’s hand and said quietly “You’re not going to kiss me as well, are you?” The two of us burst out laughing and the photographers got it on camera. When you look at the photo, it looks like the two of us have been the best of friends for many years! I have the photo in my office and whenever someone comes in and sees it, I’m like “Yeah, that’s right! I’m friends with the former President of the United States!” [Fans laugh]
SL: Another Presidential story I have, was with Ronald Reagan. We were at a ceremony together. He wasn’t the President anymore, his time in office had just ended. I said to him, “Ronald, it must be such a relief to not have to worry about the country’s finances, war, and all the rest of that stress anymore.” He looked on the verge of tears as he said to me, “But Stan, I miss being President!” [Fans laugh]
Fan: What advice would you give to future artists trying to get into the industry?
Bodyguard: I can answer that better. To make it in the industry is difficult, but the key thing to have is a portfolio. Have a series of your artwork ready to show the higher ups and the more you practice your skills, the better you’ll become. Your work needs to be attractive to editors but if it’s not, keep trying and don’t give up! If you do, you will be giving other artists a chance to snatch the opportunities that should’ve rightfully been yours!
Fan: What advice would you give to future writers trying to get into the industry?
SL: Getting into the industry, as a writer, is more difficult than for an artist. The most important thing to do is have a piece of your work published, first. The editor will not consider you for a job if no one else has published your work beforehand. They’ll just see you as a writer “wannabe” and they won’t take you seriously. Plus, if they do consider you, you still need to impress them. Pitch an idea to them that they have never thought of, themselves, and make sure it’s interesting.
Fan: What was your military career like?
SL: My job was to create training videos for the Army. I helped to prepare the men for the battles to come. They were so tired and many of them had been drafted so they had no experience in combat. I tried to help encourage the men through my videos and soon we started winning more battles than ever before. Let me tell you, from the progress that I helped make in the Army, I could have won the war singlehandedly! [Fans laugh]
At this time, it seemed that the autographs just weren’t moving fast enough and it was already approaching 10pm. To try and make things go faster, the staff decided to have each row of fans line up with their merchandise instead of the staff taking them up to Stan. I felt bad for the people in the first few rows because instead of going up to meet Stan, they just had their items brought up for Stan to sign and then returned.
However, Stan knew how late if was getting and said that he had promised to call his wife at 10pm. So, the panel was put on hold while he called his wife, Joan. Not being able to work his cell phone, the bodyguard called his wife for him. It was a just a social call, checking up to see how things were doing. I was in line to meet Stan, at this point, and right next to me a young female BCC staff member began to cry on a male staff member’s shoulder while Stan talked with his wife. She thought it was so beautiful that after 66 years of marriage, Stan still remains loving and loyal to his wife.
Before the call was over, the bodyguard let us briefly speak to Joan.
Bodyguard: Joanie, there are some fans here who would love to say hello to you. Do you want to talk to them?... Okay, I’ll put you on speaker.
Fans: HI, JOANIE!!!!!
Joan: … Hello?
Bodyguard: They say “Hi, Joanie”!
Joan: Hi, I’m Joanie! I’m the “Woman Behind the Man”!
[Fans roar with laughter]
Soon after the call, I met with Stan and he autographed my copy of Amazing Spider-Man #42, first appearance of Mary Jane. There wasn’t time for chit chat because they needed to keep the lines moving and the questions were still coming, so all Stan could do was give me a smile.
Now for the past two hours, I had had my hand raised for a question, but I was never called upon. I don’t know whether it was because of the big headed people in front of me or if I was just being passed over. After the first hour, the people around me started to notice this, as well, and they tried to help me out. It wasn’t until I sat back down after I got my autograph that we finally got the bodyguard’s attention.
MY QUESTION: Before you stepped down as Editor/Writer were there any characters or story ideas that you had that you wished you could've done but were too busy to do?
SL: Nope. By the time I stepped down I wasn't even thinking of other ideas. I mean, some of the staff was clever enough to come up with ideas even I hadn't thought of, like Deadpool! So I believed the company was in good hands.
I didn’t stay too long after that. It was almost 11pm, I had an hour drive back to my Aunt and Uncle’s place, and my cousin and I were planning on taking the 7:30am bus back to the BCC the next day. So I had to get back and get some sleep. As I left, there was a BCC staff member just outside who was selling holographic stickers for our Stan Lee autographed items, for $5!!! I was annoyed. $5 for a holographic sticker when we’ve already paid so much to meet Stan??? Yeah, I’ll pass!
It obvious that Stan’s staff and the BCC hadn’t planned that night very well. We went way over the three hour limit and you could just tell that Stan was getting tired. He’s 92, it was almost 11 at night and he had to sign over 400 autographs!!! I felt bad for him, but admired how loyal he was to his fans.
The most depressing thing about the entire night was leaving Stan’s presence. The man has truly lived an amazing life. One that is very rare to find these days. My advice to everyone reading this is to see Stan Lee while you can. It may cost a bit, but it’s a moment you won’t forget.