It is very possible that Comic-Con International in San Diego would not be the massive cultural juggernaut it is today without the marvelous creations of Stan Lee. At the first SDCC since the charismatic visionary’s passing in November at the age of 95, fans and fellow creators gathered for a panel celebrating Lee’s legacy, and to discuss the projects he had been developing at the time of his death.
Moderator Bob Sabouni, Chief Marketing Officer of Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment, began the panel by describing Stan as “one of the greatest human beings that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing in my life.” Panelists told their stories in turn, beginning with legendary New Teen Titans writer and formal Marvel Editor-in-Chief Marv Wolfman, and moving on through current Marvel E-i-C C.B. Cebulski, writer Jimmy Palmiotti, X-Men and Transformers producer Tom DeSanto, Pure Imagination’s Chief Content Officer John P. Roberts, Graphite Comics’ Tom Akel, producer Chris Philip, and POW! Entertainment President Gill Champion.
“When I was growing up, there were not very many superhero comics out,” Wolfman said. “In fact there were only three – Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.” Atlas Comics, the company that would become Marvel, was still focused on horror and romance comics. Comics publishers at the time “assumed readers were between 8 and 14,” and indeed Wolfman said he found himself “restless” with the medium in his mid-teens. “I think if everything had been left alone, within about a year I would have left comics and been tending a vegetable stand.” Reading Lee and Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four, though, changed his path. “The stories brought me in ... That kept me going from then until I was selling material,” said Wolfman. “Stan kept me and my generation reading comics until we could enter comics ourselves and continue for the next generation.”
Palmiotti described his story of meeting Lee for the first time in the 1990s, and bringing his work into Marvel’s offices. He saw Lee from a distance — “he’s like a football field away“ — but as Stan began walking toward him, Palmiotti recalls, “I had about two minutes to decide what I was going to say.” But Stan came up to him, all smiles, and said, “Jimmy Palmiotti, how great to meet ya!”
“Oh my god, Stan Lee knows my name?” Palmiotti was shocked. Stan abruptly turned around and began walking away before turning back to the astonished young artist. “Bet you’re wondering how I know your name,” said Lee, according to Palmiotti. “I heard you’d be coming in to the office today, so I cut a picture out of Wizard magazine so I’d know who you were.” Then, “Now I don’t need this picture anymore!”
DeSanto, who was responsible for beginning the tradition of Stan Lee cameos in Marvel movies, remembers that Lee was initially reluctant to the idea. But after seeing himself as the hotdog vendor in X-Men, Lee said, “Next movie, how about you give me a line!”
Describing Lee as “like Jim Henson or Walt Disney” in that the characters he created would continue to live and grow, Sabouni said that there is a “treasure trove” of his unreleased material. Champion, the president of POW!, introduced some of that work — but not before revealing a first look at the Stan Lee wax figure that will debut at Madame Tussaud’s in late 2019 or early 2020.
In comics, Backchannel is already live on LINE Webtoon, created by Lee and written with Tom Akel, illustrated by Andie Tong, and colored by Omi Remalante.
Stan Lee’s Supermom on CBS has been previously announced, but Champion also revealed a television series called Restless starring a Native American hero, which is early in development. “This series is about those ancient practices that some choose to celebrate and some choose to abuse,” said producer Chris Philip. “Stan always had the ability to create socially relevant characters that transcend generations.” The show will find two characters unsure of their powers — hers fading, his growing — as they work to solve crimes together. “They need one another,” Philip said.
Finally, John P. Roberts announced a new cartoon asking something we may all have wondered: what would the world look like through a young Stan’s eyes? The Amazing Stan features the adventures of Stan Lee as a kid. “Imagination gets him into trouble, but gets him out of it, as well,” said Roberts. Scott D. Peterson, of Phinneas and Ferb, serves as showrunner. Lee reviewed art about 10 days before his passing, telling Roberts, “I’m really excited about this.”
Though time had run out, a slide of the audiobook Stan Lee’s Alliances was briefly shown. Then the panel closed out in the only way it could: with a group shout of "Excelsior!"
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