Stan Lee: Always a Step Ahead

Stan Lee: Always a Step Ahead


Among Stan Lee’s most exceptional talents was his nearly prescient
ability to gauge where the collective culture/world at large was heading, be it
socially, politically, or technologically. He’d tap into that to create
fascinating, parallel universes that entertained us while also cleverly commenting
on, and at times cautioning us, to take note of the impending realities awaiting
us back home.

That Stan “superpower” never faded in his later years; in fact, it’s on full, brilliant display later this month when one of his final and most technologically innovative works, Stan Lee’s Alliances: A Trick of Light, releases on Audible only, June 27th. Created by Stan and collaborators Luke Lieberman and Ryan Silbert as an audio-first experience, the story introduces a new set of superheroes and confronts the ever-blurring lines between human and tech, organic and digital. As Stan so succinctly put it in his wonderful audio intro to the title: “What is more real? A world we are born into or one we create for ourselves?” Even in his 90s, Stan was tackling one of the key conundrums of our time head-on. As smart tech, biotech, wearables, and AR/VR capabilities continue to develop and envelop every aspect of our lives, we’re all compelled to confront a central question Stan posed so concisely: “Just because we have the ability to recreate ourselves, should we?”

Stan Lee’s Alliances: A Trick of Light was years in the making. Filled with amazing action and a fresh batch of superheroes for us all to escape with, it’s still grounded in what makes Stan’s work singular and timeless—tales of ordinary people wrestling with the issues of our day, just on an epic scale. And like always, Stan Lee is leading us somewhere new that feels strangely familiar and profoundly fitting.

Pre-order the Audible Original Stan Lee’s Alliances: A Trick of Light today and set off into a new universe June 27th. For more info head over to Audible.

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Stan Lee and Marvel Movies Honored at the 2019 Academy Awards

Stan Lee and Marvel Movies Honored at the 2019 Academy Awards

The 91st annual Academy Awards took place last night. Among the hundreds of filmmakers, creatives, and Academy members from around the world in attendance, a handful of familiar faces from the Marvel universe appeared onscreen during Hollywood’s biggest night as well, including our very own Stan Lee.

Though the In Memoriam segment came near the end of the evening, we—and countless fans—were pleased to see Stan honored for his contributions to the world of film. Credited as “Comic Book Writer, Executive Producer,” Stan was celebrated with a brief clip from one of his many cameos, this one from X-Men: The Last Stand; it was also heartwarming to note that Stan received the most audible applause in the theater of anyone featured during this part of the ceremony. As was evident during the show, Stan’s memory and influence lives on and will continue to do so. His legacy was mentioned in more than one interview, and the fact that films based on characters he co-created took home several prizes proves that comicbook movies can transcend audiences and break barriers.

Several actors and creatives from Marvel movies were in attendance, both on the red carpet and on stage. Before the show even started, the cast of Black Panther walked the carpet, looking as stunning as ever. Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige was also spotted, supporting the company’s multiple nominations. Feige paid respect to Black Panther co-creators Stan and Jack Kirby, saying:

“We’ve been talking a lot about Stan Lee, who unfortunately passed away. But Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, more than half a century ago created this character and started this – as all the great writers and artists at Marvel Comics did over the subsequent years – led to the torch to be passed to Ryan Coogler and allowing us to do this. That it’s being recognized, is an honor.”

Three cast members from Avengers: Infinity War attended the Oscars as well: Guardians of the Galaxy’s Bradley Cooper, whose directorial debut, A Star is Born, was up for several awards, attended as a nominee, while Ant-Man’s Paul Rudd and Captain America himself, Chris Evans, presented during the ceremony.

The show even gave us a glimpse of Captain Marvel stars Samuel L. Jackson and Brie Larson, who presented the prize for Best Adapted Screenplay. Both Jackson and Larson have been nominated for Academy Awards in the past, with Larson winning for 2015’s Room.

As for the awards, history was made several times and the presence of Marvel films was a pivotal part of that. For starters, Ruth E. Carter took home the Oscar for Costume Design for her work on Black Panther, noting in her speech: “This has been a long time coming.” Laughter then broke out as she quipped that “adding Vibranium to costumes is expensive!” The Black Panther cast, director Ryan Coogler, and Kevin Feige looked on as the first win for Black Panther unfolded. This was the first nomination and win for a Marvel movie for Costume Design and the first win for a black person in this category.

This win for Black Panther also goes down as the first ever Oscar triumph for Marvel Studios—and it wasn’t the last of the evening, either! Hannah Beachler and Jay Heart won the very next award for Black Panther’s Production Design. Beachler is also the first black person to ever be nominated, let alone win an award for Production Design. During her emotional speech, she thanked Ryan Coogler, Kevin Feige and Marvel for giving her the opportunity to do her best and for “supporting the vision of this film.”

Later in the evening, Black Panther also ticked off another box, with Ludwig Göransson winning the Oscar for Best Original Score. Fittingly, it was presented to him by two distinguished Marvel actors, Tessa Thompson and Michael B. Jordan. The composer thanked Ryan Coogler, who he has known and worked with for over ten years and was happy to be with him that night “celebrating one of the most important cinematic moments in history.”

As many hoped, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse also came out on top last night, winning its highest honor yet: the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film. The prize also marked another record for the evening: Co-director Peter Ramsey made history as the first black director to win in the Animated Feature category. Several members of the creative team were present on stage to accept the award and spoke about the representation the film highlighted as well as the ideals of the Spider-Man character. Though the team was unfortunately cut off as they were about to thank Spider-Man creators Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, they were able to include them in the win during an interview backstage. There, co-director Bob Persichetti told the press:

“We were just going to thank Stan Lee and Steve Ditko for inspiring this whole thing and for being a force of believing that all of us, human beings, have the potential, the capacity, to be heroes.”

Congratulations to all the winners!

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My Surreal Life and Times with Stan Lee, By Jesse Wilson

My Surreal Life and Times with Stan Lee, By Jesse Wilson

I once tried to defend Stan Lee by picking a fight with a man in a giant squirrel costume who just so happened to be rockstar Gene Simmons. These are the types of things you experience if you’re as bizarrely blessed as I was to hang around Stan long enough. For those keeping score, I didn’t know it was Gene Simmons. To me, it was a lunatic fan in a squirrel costume in the middle of the San Diego Comic Con floor, with hundreds of people trying to push and shove their way toward Stan. Stan seemed in danger, so I obviously tried to push the giant squirrel back. Years later, I apologized to Gene. He was amused. This is just one of many memorable moments I’ve had with the great Stan Lee.

My life would be a whole lot different if it wasn’t for Stan the Man. I wouldn’t have the career I have now, that’s for sure. As a fan, it wasn’t until I got hired as an intern on the documentary on Stan’s life, With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story, that I fully understood why he’s a legend. I spent years working on that film and was given a front row seat to see and learn so many details about Stan’s fascinating life. And later, his company POW! Entertainment graciously invited me to work for them as well, allowing me to watch and learn from the man himself every week.

I was flat broke starting out. But thanks to Stan and his staff, I was given some paid work! Stan had me create character designs for his Twitter alter ego, the Generalissimo. I even did some work for his family. I was able to pay the rent on time for once and establish some professional credibility. As if things couldn’t get more surreal, with Stan’s support, the filmmakers of the documentary challenged me to handle the movie poster execution and promotional photoshoot for the film. I drove Stan in my own little red car to BLT, one of the biggest entertainment marketing agencies in the industry. Stan somehow managed to find time to show me off to the pros there. He praised me and my work in front of the leading creative staff at the agency. Stan made me look a lot cooler and more talented than I was. One month later that big famous agency hired me as a junior art director to create movie posters and other promotional art for tentpole films. My first assignments there were Captain AmericaThor, and of course, the Stan Lee documentary.

“I guess one person really can make a difference.”

Surely this is all a dream, right?

I mention all these details about myself simply because of what Stan did for me and for so many others, including my friends and family. His natural cool, sense of humor, strength, creativity, and kindness made him one of the most incredible humans I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. Stan had the pedigree and fame to wave me and anyone else off if he wanted to. But he didn’t. When I first met him, he was in his late 80s. He didn’t have to keep working, meet fans, promote and invest in new talent, chase new deals, create new characters, shoot new cameos, pitch new movies, or make big public appearances anymore. He had done it all. He could’ve retired, cashed residual checks, and accepted various lifetime achievement awards. “Retirement is a dirty word,” Stan would say, almost offended. “I have so much more I want to do!” he would yell excitedly.

And he did. The amount I saw him accomplish as a person in their 80s and 90s made you genuinely wonder if some of the famous superhero backstories he wrote were based on personal experience. I watched him go up stairs two steps at a time. He had a long and speedy stride when he walked, too, and an impressively strong handshake. Stan was both physically and mentally sharp for a guy his age. Though his hearing and sight slowly dissipated, he remained quick as a whip in conversation. He always had a joke, story, poem or famous quote at the ready. Stan welcomed me to POW! like family. He literally said, “Make yourself at home.”

The cherry on top of it all was Stan’s charity support. In 2015, I co-created a charity called The For The Win Project that provides disabled, disadvantaged, and seriously ill children with one-of-a-kind experiences that allow them to be their favorite hero in their own “official” movie posters and trailers, creating a new sense of hope, motivation, and self-esteem boost for the kids that need it most. After all, these kids are the real-life superheroes. I’d be lying if I said Stan wasn’t influential in the creation of such a project. As fate would have it, the very first child to receive a For The Win experience was a 12 year old named Aaron who had just undergone a lifesaving full heart transplant. His hero of choice was serendipitously The Incredible Hulk. You get one guess as to who I called after creating the movie poster. Stan’s assistant Mike allowed me and my partner to share this special new project with my old pal. Stan of course loved it. He became one of the first in a now long list of famous For The Win “sidekicks.” He autographed Aaron’s poster and recorded a special video message empowering Aaron to keep fighting. Over the years, Stan graciously promoted For The Win and the many incredible children we’ve worked with like Aaron, even taking photos with Lucas, a boy we helped reveal a special Magic Wheelchair to at LA Comic Con last year.

Stan was a stand-up guy. A role model. And a real-life superhero. You didn’t have to spend much time with him at all for him to leave an everlasting positive impact on your life. I owe him a lot. I wish he was still around so I could tell him. All I can hope is that he’s with Joan, dancing in the clouds, and periodically signing people’s halos. I’m going to miss ya ol’ buddy. Thanks for everything. ‘Nuff said.

-Jesse Wilson, Co-founder, The For The Win Project and Creative Director, Paramount Pictures

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