Billed for months in advance as “Stan Lee’s Final East Coast Appearance,” the three days of Boston Comic Con last month were a veritable lovefest for Marvel’s icon, and genretastic.com was in attendance at his Friday night event.
The 94-years-young Lee still cut a spry and cantankerous figure as he took the stage in Boston for a Q&A with the help of his assistant (right, in above image), and had the audience eating out of his hand with anecdotes by turns uproariously funny and deeply moving. Above all, he seemed a man profoundly satisfied with the life he has lived, the stories he has told, and the fictional world he has built, but not for a minute complacent that it could have happened as it did without the collaboration of many, many other talents.
After invoking the NYC/Boston rivalry by teasing the audience that “Nobody has fun in Boston,” Lee affected to be unsure why he was there, counter-proposing to the crowd, “We’ll give you the answers and you can try to figure out what the question is,” when his assistant “reminded” him that this was a Q&A. (One got the sense throughout the evening that being Mr. Lee’s righthand man is a lot of work, but pretty fun.)
There were some fun nuggets of information unearthed in the session, ranging from the tidbit that he addresses Robert Downey Jr. as “Bobbo,” to his (and his assistant’s) assertion that his Thor: Ragnarok cameo is his best yet, Lee gleefully exclaiming that with his (first-ever) cameo improv, “I showed them who’s the boss in Asgard, boy!” He also played up the DC/Marvel rivalry repeatedly, at one point musing, “I shouldn’t say anything about DC. They mean well, and they try hard… They have… Wonder Woman!” and later, on the value of nicknames, “I called Spider-Man ‘Spidey.’ They never called Batman ‘Batty!’ What’s wrong with them ?”
On the topic of the film adaptations, Lee refused to pick favorites with anything, from Spider-Man actors to the films themselves, though late in the evening he confessed being sorely disappointed in cinematic Victor Von Doom, and that RDJ’s casting as Iron Man pleased him greatly. He also spoke fondly of his many cameo experiences, and from what his assistant said, it sounds like Lee has been filming them for well ahead into the upcoming slate of features.
On the print side, Lee was enviably sharp at recalling individual plots from the silver age down to specific panels, even choking up when recalling the story he wrote where Peter Parker realizes that a dying Captain Stacy has known he was Spider-Man for some time. Lee’s love of storytelling, and of his creations, (especially Peter Parker), shone throughout the evening, but he didn’t accept any of the opportunities he was handed in questions to take full credit for Marvel’s alchemic success over the years, instead portraying himself as an office boy, first-generation immigrant in NYC (“Poverty motivated me, mostly.”), who lucked into the chance of a lifetime to get paid to tell stories by people who probably hadn’t made the best decision leaving him in charge. While his relationships with other Marvel luminaries have been reportedly complicated and contentious in the past, on this night Lee spoke the names of Kirby et al with reverence, insisting in response to a question, “I worked with many talented people, I did not do it all myself […] I worked with geniuses.”
The most emotional moment of the evening for the packed auditorium, was likely when Lee confessed that he can’t read Marvel’s new comics anymore because of his badly-failing vision, and he tries to content himself with viewing the covers, but “It makes me feel terrible.” I think I speak for most of that auditorium in saying it made us feel pretty bad too.
This may have been Lee’s last planned East Coast appearance, but Lee remains a storyteller of great power, and this session demonstrated that much as in his Guardians’ 2 cameo, he still has stories to tell–and words to the wise for aspiring storytellers too:
“You have to like what you’re writing if you’re a writer. If you don’t like it, why’s a stranger gonna like it?”