To say the past few months have been an emotional roller coaster for Stan Lee is a major understatement.
The comic book legend recently received an incredible honor when he was named a Disney Legend at the company’s D23 convention in July. But that event came right on the heels of a devastating personal loss for Lee: the death of his beloved wife of nearly 70 years, Joan. Despite that unimaginable loss, Lee is soldiering on in his unofficial role as the Grand Ambassador of Comics. He just appeared at last weekend’s Boston Comic Con, where he revealed during a Q&A session that poor eyesight means he can no longer read comics.
On Aug. 22, Lee will attend a different event where once again all eyes will be on him. He’s the guest of honor at Extraordinary: Stan Lee, a live tribute event in Beverly Hills featuring celebrities from every corner of pop culture assembled to celebrate Lee.
Ubiquitous host Chris Hardwick is the emcee, and the guest list ranges from Michael Rooker to Lou Ferrigno, Todd McFarlane and even Dancing With the Stars host Tom Bergeron. Who knows? Maybe there will be a salsa competition.
SYFY WIRE spoke with the legendary co-creator of the Marvel Universe about the event and asked him if he was looking forward to an evening of salutes and tributes.
“I certainly am,” Lee responded. “I always look forward to these events. This one sounds like it’ll be a good one.”
Producers promise the "This Is Your Life"-styled evening will be full of surprises, and in fact Lee himself has no idea what’s in store for him. But when you’re a 94-year-old living legend, you kind of know how these things are going to go.
So what goes through his mind at such events? The answer was classic Lee.
"I’ll show you why I’m such a good guy to interview,” he said, before pausing for dramatic effect. “To answer your question, I think, ‘That’s nice.’ [Laughs] I don’t know what else to say, except that it’s nice.”
When the subject turns to his famous Marvel Cinematic Universe cameos, Lee displayed his trademark self-deprecating humor. He instantly launches into a story about his favorite scene-stealing appearance — it's in Avengers: Age of Ultron — and he tells it with the comfort of a man who knows how to tell a good tale.
“Oh yeah, my favorite is when I’m drinking with Thor in the second Avengers movie,” Lee said. “When I was with him at the bar and he was drinking a strong drink from Asgard. And I told him, ‘Hey, let me have a sip.' And he says, 'No, it’s too strong for you.' I’m like, 'C’mon!' So I take a sip, and the next scene, they’re carrying me out. The reason that one is my favorite of the ones I’ve done is that it’s the one cameo I’ve done that has two scenes. I figure that’s making me more of an actor. Pretty soon I’ll have three scenes then I’ll have four, and before you know it, I’ll be starring in a movie.”
We mention that his out-of-this-world appearance in this summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was especially great, and Lee pretends to be outraged and responds, “What do you mean, that was great? They’re all great! [Laughs]”
Because of his age, Lee tends to shoot his cameos now in bunches. He says he spends very little time on set, by design. “I usually just go, I shoot my scene and go back home. Because I don’t want to disturb them, I don’t want to cause any problems,” Lee said.
The man who used to drive artists like John Romita Sr. nuts by acting out his plots for the next Amazing Spider-Man issue instead of actually writing them down — jumping up and down on the office couch before Tom Cruise made that a thing — knows which one of his characters will get referenced the most at next week’s tribute.
“The character I’m always asked about the most is Spider-Man. He’s the one that seems to be the most popular, and the one everyone asks me about,” Lee said.
And yes, Lee still holds out hope that one character he's always been especially fond of will get another shot at Marvel movie stardom. Yes, we’re talking about the Silver Surfer, co-created by Lee and Jack Kirby during their halcyon run on The Fantastic Four. Lee is well aware the Surfer’s appearance in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer left much to be desired. He hopes Norrin Radd gets another shot.
“He’s the one I want to see more,” Lee said. “He’s the most philosophical of all the characters I’ve ever worked on. And I have an idea for my cameo in that one!”
Extraordinary: Stan Lee takes place Aug. 22 at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, California.