Stan Lee Talks Comics, Movies, and WHO WANTS TO BE A SUPER HERO -

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Stan Lee Talks Comics, Movies, and WHO WANTS TO BE A SUPER HERO

By Stephen Lackey     August 09, 2007

© SCIFI Channel
I’ve been planning for a few weeks to cover the new season of Who Wants to be a Super Hero airing now on the SCI-FI Channel. In some of my editorials, I’ve been a bit critical of the first season, but I’ve been convinced I must be missing the boat on the series because it’s so popular. So, when I was offered an opportunity to chat with Stan “The Man” Lee (Creator of some of Marvel Comics greatest heroes, as if you didn’t already know) and series producer and Andy Sheer, I was excited for the opportunity. 
One issue I had with last season, among many, was that the ideas of the series just felt out of sync with modern comic books and with many modern comic book fans. This leads me to one of the things that I love about Stan Lee. He’s an old time huckster, able to sell with enthusiasm and zeal whatever he’s involved in. From his perspective, the ideas of this series are classic super hero ideals and he hopes and has heard that the series is a family event each week. So like Nintendo’s Wii gaming console, he and his producers seem more interested in bringing in kids and family, rather than the hardcore comic book fans that are looking for harder edged and more mature storytelling. When asked about modern comic books, Stan mentions that “real writers” are working in comics these days and telling more adult stories. While he appreciates what they are doing, he really hopes that kids don’t get “weeded out” in the maturing of comic books in general. One thing that bothered me though, is that Stan and Andy admit that they don’t read comics these days. Stan says that he is aware of Marvel's Civil War series and believes that it’s clever, but he hasn’t read comic books regularly in many years. I wondered to myself if that’s why I felt a bit disconnected form the series last year because these guys just aren’t very aware of what is happening in comics and what we, “the fans” are reading.
I’ve watched all the episodes up to this week and I couldn’t wait to ask about Hygena. There’s concern from more than just me that some of the characters on the series are satirizing and almost making fun of the super hero genre of media and comic books in particular. Stan feels that he, the producers, and the cast are taking the show “completely serious but with a lot of humor”. Andy believes that all of the contestants take their roles very seriously and that they are just trying to find ways from episode to episode to show that they have what it takes to be a super hero. It was Stan who brought my issue with Hygiena in particular home, though. I think I’ve mentioned here before that her character and other similar ones from last season are just too ridiculous and a bit condescending. When I asked Stan how they felt that she would fit in the world of comics if she won, his response was that this is a reality show first. As a fan, my focus has been on the idea of comic books and super heroes, but those ideas are just wrappers for a reality show. So, if they picked all contestants that fit the traditional, or even modern, mold of a super hero, they wouldn’t have the diversity required to make a reality series interesting. This exchange with Stan was the most important in the entire interview for me as a critic. I have to review this series first as a reality show and second as a show about super heroes and comic books. I’m looking forward to seeing if the series will fare better in my eyes with this new realization.
Once Stan and Andy got into talking about the remainder of this season, we were given a few minor tidbits about what we can expect. They say they have worked hard, in Stan’s words to make the series “more spectacular” and Andy seems to be the most proud of the new story arc that will weave its way to the end of the season. They revealed that Feedback, last year’s winner will play an even more significant part in the series later in the season and that Stan will get to come from behind the desk and off the monitor to be a full-fledged moving part of the series. That’s all they’d say about the remaining episodes. They, of course, won’t talk in detail about any of the character in order to not show any favoritism or give any hints as to who will win so I asked about characters that didn’t quite make the cut in the early auditions. They both play it pretty diplomatic, but the funniest ones they mention are “Loud Man” and of course “Homeless Man” who appeared briefly in the first episode of the season. Stan mentions too that there were people in costumes that “represented almost every fruit or vegetable imaginable”. If you’ve ever thought about auditioning, Andy mentions that the biggest issue with some of the characters is that they were compelling in short bursts, but, they didn’t feel that they would remain interesting all the way to the end of the season. One interesting thing that Andy mentioned is that Stan was the innovator that first created super heroes in comics that had flaws, so who better to judge the flaws in the heroes of this show. The question gets asked how bad is the flaw? Is it a unique and dramatic character flaw or is it so bad that the contestant just doesn’t have what it takes? I actually appreciate the idea that Stan is looking at the flaws of the contestants because the flaws in his characters like Spider-Man and Daredevil are what makes me a die hard Marvel fan.
As far as what else Stan is up to? He mentioned a project with Ringo Starr and that he has two films in development at Disney but he can’t discuss them yet. He says he is “trying to do more cameos than Hitchcock” in upcoming Marvel films. As far as the next big Marvel film Iron Man goes, he’s already shot his cameo and he says that “it’s probably the greatest one so far, and the funniest, and don’t you dare miss it.” He also mentions that there’s interest in doing a junior version of Who Wants to be a Super Hero? in the U.K. Stan mentions that they’ve joked behind the scenes about doing a spin-off such as Who Wants to be a Super Villain?, now that could be really fun. Stan’s enthusiasm is contagious and he actually had me more excited to watch the show by the end of the interview. Just listening to him speak took me back to those narrations he did for Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends when I was a kid. Look for me to give the series another go and post a review!


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jedi4sshield 8/10/2007 1:28:43 AM
I like this show my only problem is with some of Lee's costume designs.
ReverendVader 8/10/2007 10:32:53 PM
"...fell out of sink.."? You mean out of "sync." Unless you meant it fell OUT of the sink... Then, well... yes. :)


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