Stan Lee looks to the future - Oct 95

In the conclusion of his interview with Westfield's Bennett Neuhauser, Stan Lee gives us a glimpse of the many forthcoming Marvel Film projects. He also speculates on the future of comics and the role he hopes to play in it.

Westfield: We've heard lots of rumors about a live-action Spider-Man movie in the works, maybe a live-action Fantastic Four movie. Are you able to comment on that?

Stan Lee: Oh sure. They're more than rumors. These things are all in the works. Unfortunately, the Spider-Man project is being delayed, because it's to be distributed by Carolco and Carolco is having all sorts of legal and financial problems. Because of that, they haven't been able to give the go-ahead to Jim Cameron to start directing the movie. It may take many more months before they get their own affairs straightened out and can go forward. But there definitely will be a Spider-Man movie, written and directed by Jim Cameron, and I'm hoping that it'll be in production before the end of '96.

As far as the other characters, an X-Men screenplay is being written right now and it'll be produced at 20th Century Fox by Lauren Shula-Donner and her husband, Dick Donner. It's going to be a big movie. We also have the Fantastic Four, which Chris Columbus is going to produce and I'm hoping he'll direct it, also at 20th Century Fox. The Hulk is being written now for Universal and it will be produced by Gail Anne Hurd. Gail is the one who did Aliens and I believe she produced The Terminator. Iron Man is over at Fox now. They have a script and they're looking for a director. Dr. Strange is at Columbia. It's being rewritten and we hope to have - I can't mention his name yet, the contract isn't signed - but there's a very big star who is interested in playing Dr. Strange.

Westfield: That's one of my favorite characters.

Stan Lee: Well, it's in the works. Daredevil is at Fox. That too will be produced by Chris Columbus and he's writing the first draft himself. Blade, Vampire Hunter is at New Line. That script has been written and they're looking for a director. Silver Surfer, also, is going to be produced by Bernd Eichinger who did The Name of the Rose, Last Exit to Brooklyn and the original Never Ending Story. Those are the more or less really definite ones, but there are still others, like Luke Cage for Pressman Productions. Ed Pressman is the one who did The Crow and Judge Dredd. Ed has John Singleton lined up to direct Luke Cage.

Westfield: Excellent. So we're talking a one to two year timetable here?

Stan Lee: It looks that way. I think two years from now you're going to see a plethora of our material on the screen.

Westfield: To what extent are you directly involved with these film projects. Are you an advisor?

Stan Lee: My title is Co-Executive Producer. I advise and go to the meetings and give my opinions. I make sure that whatever they do is going to reflect favorably on Marvel and on our characters. I try to make sure the characters won't be short-changed, as has happened once or twice in the past.

Westfield: Moving from movies to multi-media, you now have the Stan Lee's Riftworld books available on CD-ROM, correct?

Stan Lee: Right.

Westfield: As we see more and more comics moving into the computer realm, I have two rather broad questions for you. First of all, I'd like your impressions of what you've accomplished so far in the comics business; second, where do you see the future of comics going and what role do you see yourself playing in that future?

Stan Lee: Well, what I've accomplished so far is more for other people to answer than for me. (chuckles) Basically, the only thing I tried to do years ago was write some stories that people would enjoy reading. Some of the characters I created or co-created I've been very lucky with, because they've lasted all these years.

As far as what I'm going to do, or where I see the business going, I think there will always be comic books, because there's just something so inviting about a comic book. It's lightweight, it's easy to carry, it's easy to read, it's colorful and exciting. You can bend a comic, keep it in your pocket, you can share it with a friend, you can say, "Hey look at this!" You can put it on a shelf and pick it up and reread it and reread it and reread it. You don't need a cassette player or a television set or a computer.

By the same token, the way the world is moving - with CD-ROMs becoming so big - I think comics are going to branch out in every other field also, just the way comic book characters have become so big in television and movies. They'll be equally big in CD-ROM. They'll be equally big in every new entertainment device that comes along, because people love superhero stories, they love fantasy stories, they love imaginative stories, and that's basically what comic books specialize in. So, I think comic books are going to be with us forever, just as imaginative, bigger-than-life action stories will be with us forever.

Westfield: You mean stories of heroes being challenged to do right under great stress and making decisions people have to make in their own lives, if only on a microcosm level, every day.

Stan Lee: Absolutely right. It's the good guy versus the bad guy. It's the life-and-death problem that has to be solved and how is the hero going to solve it. And to make it more palatable and enjoyable than ever, there's always the dash of fantasy that's tossed in.

Westfield: How do you feel when you see someone writing a character you created, like Spider-Man, which must be one of your favorites? Do you like, for instance, Untold Tales of Spider-Man, which kind of harks back to the more forthright, optimistic outlook on superheroes?

Stan Lee: I like all of them. I like the new ones. I like the old ones I had done. I like the "retro" ones that are being done now. You see the thing is, as you can imagine, you can't keep using the same kind of story over and over again. The readers get tired. Just like you can't do the same motion picture over and over again. So, each new writer that comes along to do Spider-Man, or any strip, puts his own imprimatur on it, gives it his own take, his own style, and that I think is what keeps the strips and the characters alive. While they're based on the original premise, they're continually changing and evolving. We try to see to it that there are always surprises.

Basically a story is a story and all that matters is, is it well written? Does it hold your interest? Does the characterization ring true? As long as we have good writers - and we're very lucky at Marvel, we have excellent writers, as well as very talented artists - whichever type of stories they do, the so-called older style or the newer style or anything in between, or even if they create their own style, as long as they do it well, I'm in favor of it.