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Two comic book legends took the stage at L.A. Comic Con on Sunday, October 29th when Todd McFarlane talked with Stan Lee. For the most part, McFarlane asked Lee questions about his career and his approach to various big moments. Although McFarlane has been a major figure in the comic industry for a long time, for this panel he played second fiddle and let Lee poke fun at him (which Stan did on numerous occasions). Despite being a few months shy of 95-years-old and getting over a cold, Lee was still very gregarious, sharp and funny.
McFarlane asked Lee about his now-famous streak of cameos in movies related to Marvel Comics. Lee answered the question of which was his favorite cameo. He mentioned the one in the first Thor movie. In a bar, Lee’s character asks Thor if he can have a sip of what Thor is drinking. The God of Thunder says no it’s too strong, but Lee persists and takes a sip. Cut to the next scene where a couple of guys are carrying an unconscious Lee out of the bar. So why is this Lee’s favorite cameo? Emphatically, Lee said, “It’s two scenes!,” adding that all of his others are one scene cameos. “I’m going to tell them my next cameo, I want three scenes and pretty soon it will be my movie!”
Lee will be doing a cameo in the upcoming Spawn movie, which McFarlane will be directing (he created the character). McFarlane did not discuss the project in any real length, but he did let the crowd in on how Lee’s cameo will go. I won’t spoil the details but a hint is that it involves Lee watching an Alfred Hitchcock movie (Hitchcock famously had a cameo in all of his movies).
Lee and McFarlane discussed the major milestones of Stan’s early career at Marvel, including when Lee moved from New York City, where Marvel is located, to California to get involved with the television production of animated Marvel properties. Lee recounted, “I called a meeting at Marvel and said why don’t we produce our own cartoons rather than let other people do it for us? In fact, I am willing to move my whole family out to the coast to set up our own unit. What they didn’t know was I wanted to move to the coast! I wanted this beautiful weather. I didn’t want the snow days. But I made it sound like I would be making a sacrifice and there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. They said ‘you would do that for us, Stan?’ And I said yes.”
Lee was asked by an audience member about his favorite character. He said that it was Spider-Man because it changed the way that comics were made. Spider-Man was about a teen with personal problems. After Spider-Man, people started writing better comics. This is a pretty accurate assessment from Lee, and it is hard to argue that Spidey is not his most popular creation (which is saying something).
A fan asked Lee what message he wanted fans to get from his comics. At first, Lee joked that the main message was to buy more Marvel Comics. He then took a serious turn. He said, “The message I always tried to get across was, for crying out loud, you can be a good guy or a bad guy. Be a good guy. It’s more fun and it pays off in the end. Nobody likes the bad guys and that’s it.” McFarlane correctly pointed out that while that is true, Lee also created some of the best villains in comics history, including Magneto, Doctor Doom, Galactus, the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus. Lee concluded by asking the crowd to join him in his signature phrase – Excelsior!