Comic book writer Stan Lee is the man behind some of the world's greatest fictional super-heroes. Today, at 84, the creator of the Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four and Spider-Man is still making his mark on popular culture. Mike O'Sullivan spoke with the writer about his legacy and his future projects.
Stan Lee has dreamed up some of the most memorable characters who ever made the move from the pages of comic books to the movie screen. Working with several artists at Marvel Comics, he created or co-created the Mighty Thor, the X-Men, Dr. Strange, Daredevil, and many other characters.
The most popular was Spider-Man. A bite from an irradiated spider transformed teenaged Peter Parker into a super-hero, but he still faced adolescent problems, from acne to nervousness around girls.
Lee says all of his super-heroes had human failings.
"I tried to show that even though they had super power, everything wasn't perfect in their lives. They still had to worry about earning a living, about their relationship with other people, about their families and their health and so forth," he said. "And I tried to make them real people who happened to have super powers. And apparently that little shade of a difference was the main thing that made the characters as popular as they became."
Today, a new generation of fans has discovered Spider-Man and Lee's other characters from Marvel Comics. The third film in the Spider-Man franchise came out this year, and a fourth has been announced. Another recent release, Rise of the Silver Surfer, is the latest installment in the Fantastic Four series. The super-heroes face the powerful Silver Surfer and the planet-eating Galactus.
Upcoming films inspired by Lee's characters include Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Wolverine, and Nick Fury.
Lee is active in many aspects of the entertainment business through his company POW! Entertainment.
"And that stands for 'purveyors of wonder,'" he noted. "And we're doing movies and television shows, DVDs, and I'm creating new characters, and probably having more fun than I've ever had."
He is creating a cartoon series with former Beatles' drummer Ringo Starr, and another with celebrity-socialite Paris Hilton. He is working on film projects with Disney Pictures, producing video games and content for the Internet and for mobile phones.
"There is so much going on today, and entertainment has become so important," he said. "Where it used to be just movies and comic books, then television came along, now it's movies, television, comics, Internet, DVDs, cell phones. I mean, wherever you look, there are new types and new methods of the media and entertainment, and it's really a very exciting world we live in.
Lee says he is no longer surprised at the popularity of the characters he has created.
"Now I expect it," he added. "In fact, if people talk about some of the great characters in the world today and [when] they don't mention Marvel's characters, I get very upset."
He says the challenge of thinking up new characters and stories keeps his work exciting.