Stan Lee Live & Global from the Sundance Film Festival
Today, Stan Lee gave a live and global webcast with host Gene Simmons from the Sundance Film Festival to promote his biographical documentary which will be screening at the festival this year. Fans could submit questions in 53 languages while also getting live subtitles in any of those languages of the conversation, and Nerd Reactor tuned in to catch the action.
Lee, who will be turning 90 this year, was in good spirits and eager to speak with fans using the Ortsbo technology, the engine which translated the interview in real-time. The live interview attracted approximately 250 watchers throughout the hour and took questions from fans is several countries around the world. Despite the mass amount of questions submitted, Nerd Reactor managed to get a few to Stan “The Man” himself. Lee not only discussed future endeavours that will be released by his company, Pow Entertainment, but also expressed his opinion of the up-and-coming Spider-man film as well as some of his favourite creations.
Q: Our first question is from Cecily in Denmark, and she asks you in dutch, “What was the first comic book you ever read?”
Lee: I think it was probably captain America. When I was a kid. And I couldn’t believe it, how exciting it was, and well drawn it was. And it really got me interested in comics.
Q: Fatso asked you in Finnish, “If you could have a super power, what would it be and why?”
Simmons: Well, I am proud to say that having been a marvel comic book myself, thanks to Mr. Lee in 1978, I fought Dr. Doom because I was able to fly, spit fire, and had super strength, thanks to the wonderful comic book that — I am just all heart. [Laughter] And then I found out that it was just one of Dr. Doom’s robots dressed as him, drat!
Lee: I was not going to let you defeat my favourite villain in real-time that way.
Q: From Nick in Colombia, who is asking in Spanish, “What is your advice for the public youth who want to become writers or comic book artists?”
Lee: Write comic books! [Laughter] No, obviously, the first thing you have to do is read the comics and get familiar with them, and you will find almost every comic book is written in a different style. Decide what style you prefer and most closely, parallels your own writing style, but you can’t write something unless you are familiar with the medium, so you have to steep yourself in comics first, and then you either have the ability or not.
There is no magic formula that anybody could give.
Q: Gene, it’s Rachel in the Philippines, who is asking in Filipino, “Who is your favourite comic book character?”
Lee: You better answer that correctly.
Simmons: [Laughter] It’s a loaded question because the “Kiss” Archie comic books came out as well as the forth coming line of “Kiss” comics. First time in history, two separate comic book companies have agreed on putting out the same characters in different styles.
I’m going to try to say I’m my own favourite character because I am a comic book character, but in all seriousness, Norrin Radd, that’s my favourite character.
Lee: The Silver Surfer.
Simmons: That’s right.
Lee: Mine, too.
Simmons: Because — it’s yours?
Lee: Yeah, I love him because he was able to say all the things I wanted to say. I could get my own little bits of philosophy into his dialogue.
Simmons: You know, for me, Norrin Radd was an alien on an alien world, and this bad guy, Galactus, who was a devourer of words, he fed on worlds, the energy and so on and so forth and went and destroyed his world but kept him alive. His family was wiped out, so he will forever miss the love of his life, and he was kept alive and was made the herald; in other words the guy that went out ahead and tried to find new worlds for Galactus to devour until he came to Earth and found these, you know, these human beings, what fools these mortals be and so on. Fantastic Four No. 36…
Lee: This man has a photographic memory. He’ll tell you what he read, what issue it was, and what page it was, and what panel it was on. And I can’t remember what I had for breakfast!
Q: This one is from Steve rich in the United States who is asking, “If either of you could cast Gene in a superhero movie as someone other than his natural bad self, who would it be?”
Lee: Other superheros other than us and what I have written? There are none.
Simmons: I like your attitude.
Lee: No, we don’t want to sound as though we’re finessing that answer, but really, I have given my all to the Marvel superheros. There is nothing left. There is nothing left to give.
Which is why POW Entertainment is going to be the next logical step. Although I am still involved with Marvel, and we are doing new superheros, but we’ll talk about that later, but we have so many things we’re publishing, and movies that we’re doing, and television and if you are available, we might have a role for you, also.
Simmons: How much?
Lee: I knew it.
Simmons: I knew it.
Lee: [Laughter] I’m not sure that we have that role. [More laughter]
NERD REACTOR QUESTION: This next question is from Genevieve in Canada, and Stan, this question is for you. She’s wondering, “What accomplishment in your life, personal or professional, do you personally consider the most significant?”
Lee: I think maybe getting married to my wife. And everything else pales in comparison.
Simmons: I would like to help answer that question from the other side, if you will.
Lee: What other side is there?
Simmons: The side of us. You have changed my life. You have changed millions of people’s lives. And in a number of ways.
One is I used to publish fanzines. A fan magazine was a fan published journal because of my love for science fiction and horror, the world of imagination, and I sent a love letter to Mr. Lee, not that kind, but an admiring one about how wonderful I think it all, is and I must have been all of 13.I, actually, received, and I still have it, it’s my treasured, you know, message from the Gods, if you will, a post-card from Stan Lee. “You will do great things.”
Lee: I sent a post-card. I couldn’t afford the three cent stamp!
Simmons: [Laughter] And he changed my life, and I would take that as a lesson, whenever you meet a new, young fresh mind, and empower them. Make them think big. No limitations. The world can be yours, you know, go and get it, and he did that to me, and he did it to millions of people.
Lee: No way to respond to that. I’m touched, and I appreciate what you said.
Q: Gene, the next question is for you. It’s from Ethan in Australia who asked, “When Kiss and Marvel came together, how did the idea of the blood in the ink come about?”
Simmons: I may be responsible for that. I’m not sure. It could have come from anywhere, but for those that don’t know, marvel published two Kiss comic books. Both of them $ 1, extra large sized. The size of Time magazine because we wanted to be right alongside Time magazine, not in the comic book section.
Lee: And this man’s talent, was just too big to put in a normal size comic.
Simmons: [Laughter] You know, he’s right. And somewhere, you know, “Kiss” has always been about promotion and stuff, and I have always loved Crackerjacks, you know, I have always loved that because you get the peanuts and the popcorn, and God help us we also get a prize. We never know what it is, and I always love that. The excitement of opening up the box and getting something else.
Marvel was like that, too. You would open up the books, there would be a poster or a bullpen story behind the scenes, stuff like that. So the idea, somebody came up with the idea, perhaps, myself, of flying up to Buffalo, New York, where the printing presses were, and the powerful Stanley came with us on a DC3. We are fully made up, and there is a certified public accountant making sure that we’re actually drawing blood from our veins and pouring it into the red ink, so a thousand years from now when they find those Kiss marvel comic books, you may be able to clone us because our actual DNA is in, on the pages, you know, when they say my blood is in these comic books.
In Kiss, in this case it is real. Every kid who bought that comic book felt he had some Kiss blood on the page.
Lee: And I have got to tell you a funny story about that. I don’t know if you are aware of this, but there were limos that drove us to the printing plant to donate the blood. And all I could think of was there are probably doctors going to treat sick patients who have to stop. There are probably parents looking to take their children from school, and they have to stop because we idiots were on our way to put a drop of blood in a printing plant, and if that didn’t give a perfect picture of what America is like and how important celebrity and publicity are in this world. [Laughs] The cops stopping important traffic, so that we could go and drop some blood in a printing press.
NERD REACTOR QUESTION: Stan, this one’s for you, “What is your opinion on the reboot of the Spider-man film franchise?”
Lee: The rebooting, well, I think it’s something that they had to do.
You know, whether you’re writing comics or doing movies, the one thing you are always afraid of is you are going to start repeating yourself, and after a while, you say, well, we have done — and I am just guessing what the producers of the Spider-man movie thought, but, we have done three Spider-man movies. They have all been successful, and where he fights a super villain. So, what are we going to do? A fourth movie where he fights another super villain? Maybe that will be a little too much. How can we give it a different angle to bring people in to see the new twist? And the new twist that they thought of was the reboot.
And I think that they did very well. That Garfield, that they got, is a perfect Peter Parker. He’s a perfect Spider-man. The story is good. I think people will love it. I guess I’m giving a bit of an ad here. It is not right that I do that. [Laughter]
Q: Gene, the next question is for you, and it’s from Melissa. She is asking, “What comic book character would you like to see portrayed in a movie that hasn’t been already?”
Simmons: You know, I would like to see a serious Silver Surfer movie about the origins, what’s in his soul because, you know, when you take a look at the Silver Surfer, who continues to be the enigma of all the enigmas, he’s alone, a stranger in a strange land, indeed, that was one of the story titles.
But, you know, he’s forever going to be alone. No matter what he does. Even if he veers Galactus away and figures out how not to have, to devour earth or changes his life.
He’s a one of a kind life entity. He’s forever going to be alone. And it’s pretty sad. He has all the powers of the universe, and will never have the love of a family.
Lee: It is sad — It’s funny that you would react to that. Because here’s a guy with a great family who works with great people who has millions of fans, and yet, you relate to the idea of somebody who is alone. That’s very interesting.
After this meeting we’ll have a little psychoanalysis. [Laughter]
Q: Stan, the next question is for you. It’s from Derrick in Canada. He’s asking, “If there is one thing that you can change about the world right now, what would it be and which superhero can do it best?”
Lee: I think the one thing the world needs is for people to like each other. There’s just so much hatred in the world. If you are a different religion. If you are a different nationality. Whatever it is, if there were a way to bring people together, and as far as who could do that, probably it needs somebody of the stature of a Gene Simmons, somebody, the imagination of me. And then somebody who really knows what the hell he’s doing.
[Laughter] But, I don’t know. If it were that easy it would have been done by now. I don’t know that it will ever happen. And that’s a very depressing thought. I hate to leave it on that thought. But I don’t know.
Q: Stan, this next question is also for you. Mark in Canada was wondering, “What great things can we expect to see from POW Entertainment in the near future?”
Lee: Well, POW is working on so many different things. We have a new line of comics coming out called Stan Lee Comics. I might add we have a book called The Mighty Seven, which is the world’s first reality comic book. I am in it as a character. And other real people are in it as characters. So, that’s never been done before. It will be out soon, and there is going to be a number of them.
We’re also doing a series of children’s books and digital amusements called Stan Lee’s Universe. And I can’t tell you too much about that, except we have the cutest cartoon characters you have ever seen. I think the Disney people are shivering in their boots at the competition.
We have a number of movies we’re working on a Chinese superhero. An Indian superhero. And a Latino superhero. But, they are not just for China. These are movies for all over the world that I hope can be enjoyed everywhere.
And we’re working on a live action show that’s going to be one of the biggest, spectacular live action musical adventures ever. It’s called Yin-yang, the Story of Tao. It’s being prepared now to be inaugurated in Asia.
We’re working on a number of movies and television series, and I love to keep busy, and the people that I’m with at POW also love to keep busy. We have a small staff, and we have fun with that. Just like you know when you work with a few people, and you are in-sync, you can accomplish more than a million people who are running around wildly.
Q: Gene, this next question is for you, it’s from Thai in the United States. He asks, “How does it feel to be finally married to Shannon?”
Simmons: Good. [Laughter] I mean, look, men are immature. We’re, basically, 14-year-old boys for most of our lives, who continue to yank and that, but that’s another story. We don’t really grow up.
A word of caution to all women, don’t go out with young guys, not seriously. Have fun with the young guys. Look for the mature guys who have got their career this is order, and you may get a serious guy. I have never been married. I got married when I was 62. It’s the only marriage I will ever have, ’til death do us part or she’ll kill me, whichever comes first. [Laughter] I figured out when I was approaching 60, the answer to happiness for all women, I think, is a man wrong, even if he’s alone in the forest, yes.
Lee: You sure don’t make snap decisions, I’ll tell you that.
Simmons: It takes a long time to figure it out. There is no arguing. You are alone in the forest, you are wrong. That’s it. Live with it.
Lee: I got married when I was 25. And was still working at it, but everybody’s different in all the situations are different. I appreciate what you are saying, but I don’t think that you could give a rule. No. Most people would find it tough to wait until they are 60 to get married.
Simmons: I was busy.
Lee: [Laughter] But you were practically married all those years anyway. You just weren’t married, but you were living like a married man.
Q: Stan, the next question is for you. It’s from Lee in Singapore who asked you in Chinese, “I started reading comic books when I was young, and now as an adult I still love reading them. Why do you think that they are so appealing?”
Lee: Why do I think he still loves to read comics at an older age? I will have to give a very profound answer. I don’t want to not do that question justice.
All of us, when we were young, I think, loved fairy tales. We loved tales of people bigger than life and wilder and witches and monsters and Trolls and demons and things like that. Well, you get a little bit older, and you can’t keep reading fairy tales. But, you never out-love your feeling for these bigger than life stories.
Along comes superhero comic books, and they are really fairy tales for grownups. They enable you to have the same fun and excitement to titillate your imagination the same way that those fairy tales did when you were young, and I think that’s the reason, and luckily, there is no scientific way that anybody can prove I’m wrong. [Laughter]
Simmons: I will tell you from the audience’s perspective, being a fan, is I went to school to learn about Greek mythology and the Roman Gods and so on and so forth. Figured out the days of our months and the days of the week and so on were named after Greek and Roman Gods. But the thing about, the thing that makes the mythology of Greek and Roman Gods so interesting, is that they, actually, had human foibles. They were very longful. They were vane. They got jealous of each other. All sorts of bad things.
Same things that human beings went through, and the thing about what Stan Lee and the Marvel team did was to take away the invulnerability, that’s a big word like gymnasium, but it means Superman, which is here’s a guy alone, winds up on a new planet. Stranger in a strange land, doesn’t have any problems.
Doesn’t have a chance of bedding down Mary Jane, the cops didn’t like him as Spider-man. The bad guys didn’t like him. The Hulk had all kinds of problems. Everybody had problems. Nobody really sort of got along. And we are, we are not perfect. And the thing that attracted me to these books is the same thing that attracted me to Greek mythology. These Gods. You look at them, and they go, look how vulnerable they are, and then you find out that they have got problems, and it really connected with me, you know, as a reader. Continues to this day. I still buy them.
Lee: That was a damn good explanation.
Q: Stan, the next question is for you. It’s from Greg, and he was asking, “Would you rather be the superhero or the villain, and why?”
Lee: It depends on who is going to end up the winner at the end of the story. [Laughter] I love our villains. I love the villains as much as the superheros. And even with our villains, I try to do what you were talking about. Like the lizard in Spider-man. He really wasn’t a bad guy. It was a man with one arm. He wished that he had another arm, and he found out that lizards can grow part of their appendages back so he injected himself. I’m terribly scientific, injected himself with lizard venom or something, and he grew his arm. But, it turned him into a lizard. And as the lizard, he was a bad Guy. But, he could turn like Jekyll and Hide, he could be normal again.
And in Spider-man, when he had to fight him as the bad guy, Spider-man didn’t want to hurt him because he knew that he was really a good guy who couldn’t help being the lizard, so instead of just a bad guy fighting a good guy, we tried to put some dimension into it.
Which goes back to what you were talking about: Both the hero and the villain should be more than just 100% bad or good, and that’s the end of it.
And I don’t think that answered your question because I forgot what the question was. [Laughter]
Simmons: And I want to tell you that what I’m attracted to, as well, are these timeless all powerful personalities, characters, that not always are good or bad. I’m fascinated by The Watcher, who simply makes no — there is a race of watchers. They don’t get involved. You know, it’s very God-like.
Where’s God? God seems to be all good. Except that he allows Holocausts to happen. The watchers, The Watcher, specifically, in Fantastic Four, comics and other books, watched. He subtlety sometimes broke his own rules and told Reed Richards some of the stuff. They were there to watch.
Fascinating how, if he was ethical in any way, I’m sure that the burden of not being able to tell the good guy what’s going on.
Lee: And the watcher, nobody talks about him much, but I always thought that he was one of the best characters. He’s from a race of people who are super powerful. They could change the course of history, but they have taken a vow never to interfere. So they stand around while the most horrible things are happening, and our heroes like Reed Richards and the Fantastic Four say, come on, lend us a hand.
No, we can only watch. It’s really very frustrating.
But you must never do characters like other characters. If those who want to write, you have got to come up with something different, even if it’s a little silly. People will like it because they have not seen it before because the public, whether it’s in music or literature or what, the public is jaded. The public has seen everything, read everything, heard everything, done everything. You have got to come up with something all the time, whatever you are doing, that has a new angle in order to keep the interest up.
Q: “Which of your comic book character do you relate with the most and why?”
Simmons: You know, there are minor characters, the marvel universe is so rich, there is so many different kinds of characters, even within the X-men, you have got very outwardly charismatic figures, loners, damaged people, and you have got Professor X, who is in a wheelchair, and has this great intellect and amazing powers, but physically, is stuck in the wheelchair.
And Magneto is very interesting to me as a personality. The history of him, who was allegedly the bad guy, was that he was a concentration camp survivor of World War II. Therefore, Jewish (like Gene Simmons). Saw his parents wiped out by the Nazis, and then discovered that he had powers. These X-men powers, and as he entered into society, he was ostracized for being different. A form of racism, if you will because he’s a mutant.
And then he found a Kindred spirit, initially, in Professor X, who was also a mutant, and found other mutants and responded to the idea of being ostracized from society by turning against society, and you know, versus Professor X is sort of Gandhi like, let’s demonstrate without violence.
So, you have got the violent Magneto and the peaceful Professor X, both trying to work against the racism, if you will, against mutants. — How am I doing?
Lee: Beautifully. I am fascinated. You have got it perfectly.
Simmons: I always wanted to call him “Magnet-Oh” and I always wanted to call the Submariner, “Submarine-Er.”
Lee: That offenders my ears! [Laughter] And actually, what you said is very interesting.
They are two of my favourites, and what I planed to do, had I remained as the comic book writer, eventually, I would have let it develop that we learned that they were brothers. And for that reason, they can’t get themselves to destroy each other, and yet they always have to be opposed to each other.
And I always try to make Magneto not all that bad because he still felt he was fighting for something that was necessary. To make people stop hating people that are different. It’s just he was using violence to do it, which was wrong. But, the minute you get characters who are complex and complicated, and they are not one note, and you have a chance on, of interesting, somebody like Gene Simmons, who is highly critical.
Q: This next question is for you, Stan. Nick from Colombia asked in Spanish, “In what country do you see the greatest expansion for comic book readers in the future?”
Lee: Well, I don’t know. I haven’t been travelling the world lately, but certainly in America, there are more people reading comics than ever before, and I think the movies have a lot to do with that.
But it’s happening all over the world. I can tell by the fan mail I get, I get fan mail, not just me, I mean, the people at POW and the people at Marvel, and fan mail from India. All over Asia, all over Europe, South America and Africa.
And so, I don’t know specifically where it’s most expansion, but, it’s something that, that’s happening all over the world. And as I say, the movies, and the video games have so much to do with that. Each compliments the other. They play a movie, and they have got to read the comic book to learn more about the character, they play a video game, and they want to go and see the movie and read the comic. They read the comic and they want to see the movie. It’s incestuous!
Q: The next question is for both of you. Alyssa from the United States wants to know, “How do you keep your imagination alive?”
Simmons: You know, perhaps it comes from, you know, where you are from, what’s going on in your life. I don’t know that it’s unique to people. Everybody dreams, you know, everybody goes to sleep, and comes up with wildly imaginative thing, anything from nightmare, who is the, the ruler of the nightmare world that Dr. Strange has to go to, and fight and so on.
So, the difference between somebody like Stan Lee and you — And a lesser person, is, perhaps, that he’s connected to his dreams and makes them real. Because they come from, you know, the subconscious, and so on. You sit there, and you sort of connect with it. It just sort of comes from, it comes from dreams, you know. If we are connected to our dreams, you can do amazing things.
Lee: I love that. And imagination is just something that we all have, and it just depends on how you use it. It’s as simple as that. I don’t think that anybody has more imagination than anyone else. I have had little kids come up to me, and, “Mr. Lee, how about a character called Caterpillar man, and this is what he does.” And that kid’s imagination is wild. Now, whether he can channel it into something that will be a career for him or that will be profitable for him, I don’t know. But, every kid is born with imagination. And you don’t lose that imagination. You have it all your life. It’s just what do you do with the imagination. Are you lucky enough to find the type of work that you will enjoy doing, and that will be profitable for you?
And if you are, fine. And if you are not, it’s really a shame. But we all have imagination.
Q: This is for you, Stan, and it’s from George in Greece who asked you in Greek, “What do you enjoy doing outside of the comic book world?”
Lee: I’m incredibly lucky because I enjoy all the things that I’m doing because we’re involved in movies and television, in video games, in going to, to things like this, and doing interviews, and [to Gene] I feel sorry for you. It’s going to be so tough for you after having been with me to have some lesser person next time. [Laughter] But do the best that you can.
I’m having so much fun. You people are wonderful.
Q: Just before we finish up, I just wanted to ask one more question. Stan, why are you at Sundance?
Lee: I forgot, I’m supposed to be promoting a documentary! [Laughter] Thank you.
Some misguided people thought it would be a good idea to do a documentary of my life, and they have been working on it for a few years, and they are mad as hell that I have not died yet because they don’t know how to end it, but at any rate –[Laughter] But they have got this, they have got this thing that they have done, and it’s called With Great Power, which comes from the Spider-man phrase, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and the poster is great, it’s a shot of me standing like that, with the world under my feet.
And it’s going to be terrific.
It’s a whole story of my life, although I have spoken so much now, that there is probably nothing else for you to find out, but, those of you who are interested, you foolish people, it will be released soon, and it’s called With Great Power, it’s a documentary all about me, and it even has things I didn’t know about myself.
Finally, the webchat came to an end with Stan Lee proudly shouting “Excelsior!”
Overall, the webcast went well, freezing at a few moments occasionally, but always briefly. What I was most impressed by was the live captioning; it was very fast and functioned well. I even momentarily switched the language of the captioning to French and found that the translation was of a high quality, especially for an online translation app. Google Translate may have some serious competition from Ortsbo as the company grows.