Stan Lee is unquestionably the King of the Comics. He created the iconic superheroes Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, X-Men and the Fantastic Four among literally hundreds of others for Marvel Comics.
Nearly all of them have become the central characters in movies and there are more on the way.
"They haven't done Dr. Strange as a movie yet although they are working on him and they haven't done The Inhumans but when they do it's going to be incredible. Wait until you see it," says the 93-year-old writer-publisher-movie producer when we talk in a West Hollywood office. "They're doing the Black Panther and I think they have done all the others so I'd better come up with some new ones otherwise I won't have anything to talk about."
And that's exactly what he is doing. New superhero movies he has in the works include The Annihilator, The Realm of the Tiger and a movie about the Greek Gods which he says he cannot yet talk about.
With his trademark tinted glasses, a rollicking sense of humour and a fund of stories, Stan Lee has a personality as colourful as his characters. Anyone paying close attention can catch him in a cameo role in all his movies.
"When I created these characters for Marvel I never in a million years thought they would become the movies that they have," he says. "The only thing on my mind--and the minds of the other artists and writers---was that we hoped the books would sell well enough so that we would keep our jobs and be able to pay the rent."
He doesn't have a favourite among the movies although he says: "I think Iron Man really caught it. They were lucky to have Robert Downey Jr. play the role. I think the first Spiderman was very good. I don't even remember all of them--there are so many now."
What he does remember, however, is the reaction from his publisher when he first came up with the idea of Spiderman."When you do a superhero the first thing you have to think about is what is his super power? So I saw a fly crawling on the wall and I said, 'Boy, wouldn’t it be cool to have a hero who could stick to walls?' So then I needed a name.I thought Fly Man? No.Insect Man? Nah. Mosquito Man? And then I thought of Spiderman, and it sounded dramatic.
" And then I thought I would make him a teenager, because there were no teenage superheroes, so that would make him different. And finally, I thought I would give him a lot of personal problems, because again, the other superheroes I knew didn’t have personal problems. I got so excited, I ran into my publisher and told him and he said, 'Stan, that is the worst idea that I have ever heard.
"'First of all, people hate spiders; you can’t make him a teenager, because teenagers can only be sidekicks; and superheroes don’t have personal problems, that’s why they are superheroes!'
But a comic called Amazing Fantasy was about to be killed off so, because nobody cared about it, Stan put Spiderman on the cover.
"A month later the sales figures came in and my publisher came running over to me and said, 'Stan, do you remember that Spiderman character of yours that we both liked so much? Let’s do it as a series.'".
Here's hoping that Stan is around for many more years to keep inventing new superheroes.