Where would comics be without Stan Lee, the man behind Marvel Comics, creator of superheroes with recognizable human traits, the comic world entrepreneur whose creations now cavort on multiplex screens? Stan “The Man” stopped in Santa Monica last week for an appearance at the Main Library to promote his new photo-humor book, Election Daze – and his fans were out in full force.
Although it was mid-afternoon, a sizable audience of mostly young people turned out to see Stan Lee. Many had already purchased Election Daze and were having a laugh flipping through it. Featuring photographs from the 2008 Presidential race by Lauren Victoria Burke of WDCPIX.COM Photo Service, the easy to “read” book matches photos of the candidates with talk-balloons by Lee.
Some examples: a photo of Barack Obama laying a hand on Hillary Clinton’s shoulder features Lee’s words coming from Obama’s mouth: “It’s called laying on of hands. Now go. You’re cured.” And John McCain, with a perplexed facial expression: “Why must we stay in Iraq? Because! That’s why.”
Stan Lee took the stage, looking amazingly fit for his 85 years, accompanied by his publisher, Tom Filsinger. In response to Santa Monica Library publicist Robert Graves’ comment that “this man needs no introduction,” Lee quipped “Just once I’d like to have an introduction.”
The first questions were about Election Daze. What is it like to write a “photo book?”
“It’s fun,” said Lee. He explained that the idea for the book came first and then he had to find pictures to write the talk-balloons for. When Filsinger obtained Burke’s pictures, Lee knew he would have a great time with them. “The idea is to say to yourself: what does it look like the character is saying that they would never say in real life!”
Then audience members moved on to ask about aspects of Lee’s career.
A young man confessed he had been reading Lee’s comics since age 11 and reading them had made him more of a reader in general.
Lee responded: “When I started out in the [comics] business, people hated comics. As years went by, I got letters from teachers who said ‘My students wouldn’t read – I gave them your comics. They read them avidly – and now they’re better readers.’
“Comics are the thing [kids] enjoy reading. If they equate reading with pleasure, they’ll read.”
Lee is a defender of the written word. While he acknowledges that the world is increasingly cyber-based and “everything can be found online now,” including comics, he believes that printed reading matter will survive.
“Is it easier to write about superheroes or politicians?” someone wondered.
Lee quipped that it’s more a question of who is harder to believe, but he explained that gags (as in the one-liners in Election Daze) are easy while stories are much harder to write.
Why did Lee develop superhero characters with human problems?
“It seemed like the logical thing to do. What would I write about? I didn’t relate to superheroes who had no personal lives. I wrote the stories that I would like to read.”
Which characters did he like best? “ I like them all the same,” said Lee, refusing to be partial.
Someone said “There should be a movie about you,” and Lee got the crowd excited by telling them that there is indeed a documentary about his career in the works.
But a youngster asked why Lee does cameos in all the movies based on his Marvel characters, and Lee answered:
“Because I want people to see the movies!”
Election Daze is available at bookstores, comic book stores, and through Filsinger Publishing, filsingerpublishing.com