Jeff Smith 6:35 p.m., June 27
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How I Avoided Stan Lee Punching My Face
Before I agreed to write the unauthorized biography of Marvel Comics figurehead Stan Lee, co-creator of Spider-Man and the Hulk, I should have thought about the fact that Lee and I would likely come across each other on the comic convention circuit, promoting our respective endeavors.
My bio raised a lot of still-open questions about who really "created" Marvel's best known characters, scripter Lee or illustrators like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko who dispute their former boss' recollections as to who deserves the most credit, not to mention compensation, the bulk of both having long since been claimed by Stan Lee.
This revisionist look at the foundation of Marvel's eventual empire caused a lot of discussion and controversy in both the mainstream and comic industry trade press.
Sure enough, Lee and I ended up scheduled side by side, signing autographs at the San Diego Comic-Con. A small crowd gathered as I was introduced to him as the author of his unauthorized bio.
Cameras flashed and onlookers seemed to be expecting (or at least hoping for) fisticuffs to erupt any moment, such was the public animosity the book had stirred.
Lee reached out, shook my hand, and told me "I'm sorry."
I was mystified. Why was HE apologizing to ME? Was he sorry to have met me? Sorry the bio exists? I asked what he meant.
"I'm sorry," he said, "that I didn't lead a more interesting life, because perhaps then your book about me would have been more interesting."
This gentlemanly way of telling me that he didn't think much of my work came accompanied with a diplomatic smile that stayed plastered coolly on his face the whole time we posed for photos together.
I'd come prepared with a copy of the bio in question, which I pulled from my briefcase and asked if he'd autograph. Hey, it's Stan "The Man" Lee, okay? And I figured if his hands were busy signing my unauthorized biography then he couldn't punch me in the head.
He graciously did the deed (signing, not punching), we mugged for a few more snapshots with me holding up my prize and then we parted, never to cross paths again.
Well, other than the personalized letter of rejection I later got when I applied for job at his [since failed] internet company Stan Lee Media, signed "Tough luck, True Believer!"
My Stan Lee comic was recently reprinted by Bluewater Productions, as the first issue in their new Orbit line of biographical comic books about pop culture icons. Once again, it caused a bit of a ruckus on comic book blogs and news sites.
By now, tho, I'm sure someone as cool and legendary as Stan "the Man" Lee isn't gonna have a cow over it...
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