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Feature: Spider-Man's creator
Grossing over $220 million in just two weeks in the USA, Spider-Man has smashed box-office records. Who's the brain behind this success? Let's meet Spidey's creator, Stan Lee…
Face front, effendis! That peerless publisher of pulsating, power-packed panels, that amazing adept at the awesome art of alliteration, Stan The Man' Lee, has just finished setting his life story down in print. He refers to his book Excelsior! (published June 1) as "the world's first bio-autography" because of its unusual format in which he provides annotations to the work of co-writer George Mair.
Lee claims, however, that the impetus for the book didn't come from him. "The publishers called me and you don't say no to Simon and Schuster!" As simple as that, then. "Actually, they wanted it to be an autobiography, and I told them I didn't have the time... So, they said: Well, how about if you work with a writer? He'll take notes and write it, and then you can go over it in your own style.' And I said OK', not realising that it would end up taking just as long as if I had written it myself!"
Stanley Martin Lieber's career in comic books began when the medium itself was in its infancy. As a staff writer for Timely Comics in New York, he began producing filler material for Captain America Comics in 1941. He used a pseudonym because he aimed to graduate to more worthy' writing work. Yet his work in comics made the name Stan Lee famous.
Lee's most famous character epitomises his unique approach. Superheroes had always been infallible, altruistic, godlike types far removed from our own experience, so what possessed him to write about a neurotic teenager with spider-powers instead? "I love doing things that are different if I can, and I couldn't think of anything more different than a hero who would be a neurotic teenager. And then I also made him very introspective. His stories had a lot of thought balloons from Spider-Man and from Peter Parker, so while you were reading the story, you were also seeing what he was thinking. Very few other comics had that sort of thing in fact, I don't think any of them did."
The Spider-Man movie sees the live action debut of the Green Goblin, originally just a minor villain in the Spidey mythos. As Lee recalls, the emerald-clad fiend sprang from a name: "It just occurred to me that the word Goblin sounded menacing and unusual, and as far as I knew there weren't any Goblins around in comic books. So, I said to myself I think I'll make a Goblin a villain'. I thought Goblin' alone needed something, so I threw the word Green' in front of him, again just because I liked the sound of it." Ah, that famous Stan Lee alliteration
"Oh, I'm big on alliteration! One reason is that I have a bad memory, and it helped me to remember the characters' names. If I could remember the first name, like Peter, I knew the last name also began with a P, so that gave me a clue what the last name was..."
by Steve Lyons
Read the full interview, plus words from producers Avi Arad and Laura Ziskin, and our round-up of the lasting Lee legacy, in the eight-page cover feature of:
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