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For the first time in 40 years, Stan Lee visits London and the Super Comics Convention to talk Marvel and a life among superheroes.

Words Alasdair Morton
 
American Stan Lee is the biggest name in comics; the only guy in the business whose name could genuinely be described as ‘household’. He’s been working in the industry he helped define since the 1940s (his first writing contribution was Captain America Comics #3 in 1941), creating characters such as Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk that have entered and remained in popular culture. The devotion he has cultivated is such that he is the toast of the town, no matter which town he happens to be in. It’ll be London soon enough, as the 89-year-old New Yorker travels across the pond for this month’s London Super Comic Convention. It’s an appearance 40 years in the making. So why now?

“I had never been invited to a big ‘super’ con before in London,” Lee explains earnestly when we chat. “This may be my last chance. My wife, Joan, who is English, said, ‘Why don’t you go and you can tell me about it’. So I thought I would. I love England, I have been there many times, years ago, and I wanted to see it one more time.”  Rather than spurning the UK, it seems UK-based fans’ wait to meet the man in person has been because no one had previously asked him to come.  Lee, born Stanley Lieber, started working for Timely (latterly Marvel) Comics in the Forties and swiftly ascended the ranks to first editor, then its publisher, vice-president, to his current role as all-round Marvel figurehead.



During his reign he’s seen the birth of the X-Men (brought to the screen in 2001 by Bryan Singer making an icon of Hugh Jackman and Wolverine), Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, Thor, as well as Hulk and Spidey and became a god to geeks everywhere.  It is, though, in the pop culture-laced past decade that his influence really infiltrated the mainstream, as comic book movies, many of these Marvel properties and most featuring cameos from Lee, stormed the box office. Explaining the rise in popularity of Marvel’s characters and stories is simple, he says – it’s all about the power of the storytelling.  “When you are young, you love to read fairytales about giants, witches, goblins and magic,” Lee says. “As you get older, you stop reading them but you’re never too old to love those larger-than-life stories – and then along came superhero comics: fairytales for grown ups.”



The convention scene, with which Lee has been involved since it began, represents the coming together of fan and author; the craving public and the people behind the stories, characters, and films it loves. It’s a big business: entrance fees are high and popularity is unparalleled. The scene, though, has changed dramatically over the years. “Now, they’re more than just comic book conventions. They’re tied to movies, with actors often there, making it even more exciting,” Lee says. “Years ago, it was mostly young children, occasionally an adult if the kids were too young, but today it’s mostly adults who grew up enjoying comic books and it stayed with them.”




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Interview: Stan Lee on Spiderman, Marvel and London Super Comic Convention
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