Tag Archives: Stan Lee

Stan Lee shares his secrets to success

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I’m currently reading Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics The Untold Story.

It’s still early in the book: we’re only in the 60s, Fantastic Four and Spider-Man had just been introduced. Artists like Jack Kirby are scrappy in the ways they make a buck. There have been a few ups and downs, hirings and firings according to the vagaries of the publishing industry and a fickle reading audience, the economy and a government witch hunt — but it’s still the heady days of comics when you consider what’s around the corner.

Howe hasn’t tackled anything terribly controversial so far.  Stan “The Man” Lee is depicted very much as the guy always looking for an opportunity or an angle, but also the one who makes sure everything gets done. He knows how to craft a story — whether the narrative featuring monsters or spandex between the covers or concocting the Marvel Bullpen. He’s a creative and marketing genius in the making.

Fast forward to today. We’re a few days away from Fan Expo Canada in Toronto where the comic industry pioneer is a featured guest after some 70s years in business.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail‘s Courtney Shea, Lee shares four secrets to his success in the entertainment industry.

(The lovely illustration at the top of today’s article is by Camilla d’Errico)

The job you’re meant for may not be the one you apply for

A lot of my early career came down to luck. I applied to a magazine company to work as a writer – I didn’t even know they made comics. I started off as an office boy, getting lunch for the two guys that I worked for – I’d bring them up a sandwich, I’d erase pages. After a while, they let me try writing copy and it turned out I was kind of good at it. That was a different time, though. There weren’t really any great writers in the business. Almost anybody who could put a few words together could write a comic strip. It got harder and harder over the years, but lucky for me, I was already there.

 

Don’t listen to the poo-poo-ers

It has been really rewarding to see the reputation of comics change over the years. When I was starting out, most parents didn’t even want their kids to read comics. They were really considered junk. Today, some of the finest screenwriters in the world are working on comic book stories. I don’t want to sound like a name-dropper, but I was once talking to Steven Spielberg and he said to me, “You know Stan, you and I do pretty much the same thing except my pictures move.”

 

The corner office isn’t for everyone

When they made me the president of Marvel [in 1972], I was suddenly involved in the business end – all sorts of financial decisions – and I realized pretty quickly that it really wasn’t my thing, and I wasn’t any good at it. I was asked to provide a five-year plan for where the company was heading. Hell, I don’t even know what I’m going to have for dinner tonight! I decided to step down. It was a lesson in knowing your strengths.

 

The secret to loving your boss

It’s easy for me to decide which projects I’m going to get involved in because I come up with almost all of the projects I work on, and since I’m my own biggest fan I like almost everything I do! I have always valued freedom in my career and I’ve been lucky to have quite a lot of it, though I guess you could say that the drawback is that if something goes wrong, there’s no one to blame but me.

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Gallery news and book reviews

Globe and Mail reviews Underground Classics: The Transformation of Comics into Comix (Abrams ComicArts). It mentions this book is part of a travelling exhibit, but the only information I was able to find about that is a show in Madison, Wisconsin.

I learned that, while he was still running Marvel, Stan Lee attempted to expose underground comic artists to the mainstream with a series titled Comix Book. The experiment lasted only five issues.

I really dig the way the writer ends the review, especially the choice of the word  freedom rather than escape to describe what these books meant to their readers:

“It’s a bit weird to separate the parts from whole, but it doesn’t matter that it doesn’t really work except for the most rabid fans of the genre and the artists themselves. What does matters is that the book is a reminder of the fun those comix provided in their heyday – and of the blow they struck for kids who got to read what looked like a comic book but felt like freedom.”

You can check out a short slideshow from the book if you click on The Gallery tab at the link. It includes the cover from a 1977 issue of Slow Death that wades into the Canadian seal hunt debate.

Meanwhile, Toronto Star reviews Prayer Requested (Drawn & Quarterly), by Christian Northeast.  This book includes a series of images by the artist who collects found prayer cards and illustrates them using a wide variety of techniques. “A surrealistic hoot that both mock the often pathetic desperation of those seeking assistance in obtaining divine intervention…while being curiously respectful of their efforts.” If you visit the preview section on his artist page, you can see 11 pages from the book. Interesting stuff.

Speaking of Drawn & Quarterly, an exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art titled Pulp Fiction includes two D+Q artists: Marc Bell and Peter Thompson. A snippet from the blurb about the exhibit:

In the late 1960s and early 1970s the Canadian art scene was radically altered. Artists acted to create networks, events, spaces and publications that allowed them to work, showcase and be seen. Their strength and ultimate success lay in their ability to tap into the media, to self-organize and to create strong national affiliations that enabled a entirely new structure to be realized through the formation of artist-run centres, video distribution centres and new publications dedicated to Canadian art. These new organizations created a parallel system for Canadian art that worked in tandem with Canada’s national and regional museums and commercial art galleries.

Pulp Fiction brings together a group of fourteen artists from across Canada as a means of examining this phenomenon of art practice. Because the work bypasses the space, systems and many of the concerns of Canada’s established institutions, it may appear to be a misfit within the traditional confines of the museum. And yet, if one embraces the idea that museums and galleries must be a place that observe, document and make history, reflecting art practice in all of its varied forms, then at some point in the evolution of this new way of practicing the work must surely have a place within the institution. Here, Pulp Fiction serves as an example of an important culture that has firmly established itself on the international market and glibly persists despite the museum.

There is more information about show dates and museum location on the MOCCA site. I’ll try to convince a co-worker to play hooky with me one sunny afternoon, and we’ll do the gallery followed by a patio pitstop.

Finally, as we’re talking about galleries and museums, I came across this post on Rich Johnston’s Bleedingcool.com. Apparently Angoulème, France hosts the world’s largest comic book convention. I’ve never heard of it, but I don’t know much about the convention world. According to Johnston, they’ve now opened Le Musée De La Bande Dessinée, a new home for the “largest public collection of comic books and original comic book artwork in the world.” Time to book a holiday.

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