The secret to Stan Lee’s success

With the recent box office success of Thor, its is clear that Stan Lee’s comics and movies are still going strong. 

Anyone who’s had the pleasure of meeting Stan Lee knows the guy’s still sharp as a tack, and like his comic namesake, the guy is truly a marvel. (Lee is 88 years old, and I wish I had a fraction of his energy.)

As the subject of a profile in Success Magazine, writer Tom Horn tried to figure what makes him tick, and why his creations have stood the test of time. Horn called him Photon Man: “Burn bright, never stop moving.”


The term “comic book mentality” has had a negative connotation in movies for a long time and many of the dumb and dumber big screen superhero films have enforced the stereotype that comic books don’t have depth or intelligence. 

But with the success of Bryan Singer’s X-Men, which was easily the best comic book adaptation since Superman, superhero films entered a new era of quality.


Comic fans were terrified the long awaited big screen adaptations of X-Men and Spiderman were going to hit the nadir of Batman and Robin, which thankfully never happened.  

“I think X-Men was a major milestone,” Lee told Creative Screenwriting magazine.

“X-Men showed that you could take a comic book subject and comic book characters, and without ruining them or changing them too much, make them palatable to the general public. It was a great movie.”


As Lee explained to Success, he doesn’t dumb down or talk down to his readers, and one of the keys to the success of Spiderman is that he is (mostly) a normal person who the readers can relate to. 

“Spiderman was the first if not the only superhero who was a regular guy. He just a regular teenage kid who happened to accidentally get a superhero power, but it didn’t bring him fulfillment and victory in every other area. He still had money troubles, he still had family problems, he still had problems with girls, he still had to worry about dandruff and acne and making a living. 

“I think he was one of the more or perhaps the most realistic of all of the superheroes. And I think at the time the readers related to that very much. There was so much about him that the young readers could feel empathetic about.”


So if the goal is to make a faithful and intelligent superhero film, what are some good steps to take?

“I think, before you start, one should try to figure out what are the qualities that have made this character? What are the qualities that have made them so popular? And you don’t want to lose those qualities. By the same token, this is a motion picture, it’s not a comic book, so what do I have to do to make this a perfect movie?

“Are there things that have to be changed a little? If the costume is too cartoony, do I have to modify it a little? Because it may look good in a comic book, but it might be silly in a movie if you see the character walking down the street in real life.”

And as Success also reported, Lee is showing no signs of slowing down or resting on his laurels, even in his late eighties.

“The minute you sit back  to think ‘I’ve done it all,’ you’re through… I love to be busy. Boredom is my enemy.”