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1975 visit with Stan Lee

1975 visit with Stan Lee

March 1975: Stan Lee, publisher of Marvel Comics, largest comic firm in the nation, believes the state of his art is improving.

This photo by staff photographer Rick Meyer accompanied a story by staff writer Ron S. Heinzel in the March 13, 1975, Los Angeles Times that began:

The first meeting with Stan Lee can be a disappointment.

The creator of comic book superheroes such as Spider-man and the Fantastic Four might be expected to be a caped, masked superhuman, muscles bulging as he clings to the side of a building.

But Lee, publisher of Marvel Comics, the fastest-selling line of comic books in the nation, is a six-footer in his 50s who lounges casually in an easy chair in his suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel for an interview. And he has graying hair and some wrinkles.

Wrinkles and other human imperfections set Lee’s character apart from run-of-the-mill caped crusaders appearing in other publications. And the flaws and frailties of the superheroes are what turned Marvel Comics into a gold mine.

In 1960, when Lee was head writer, editor and art director of the line, he decided to do something different in comic books “from sheer boredom of doing the same thing for so many years.”

Prior to 1960, he said, comic book stories were all the same–one dimensional. “The good guys were 100% good and the bad guys were 100% bad. The good guys always won and the bad guys always lost. The stories were all predictable.”

So Lee decided to write the kind of stories he would enjoy reading himself.

“The first book we did was the Fantastic Four,” he continued. “Unlike all the other books, they didn’t always get along together. Occasionally one member of the foursome would tell the team leader: “I’m cutting out, I’m cutting out, I’m not making enough money. Besides, you’re hogging all the headlines.” …

Another Lee character, Spider-man, would sometimes have an allergy attack while fighting a crook. Sometimes he would worry about dandruff or acne. Another time, Spider-man’s aunt wouldn’t let him out of the house to save the world because it was raining.

Lee was mildly surprised to find that in addition to the kids, college students became fans of the imperfect heroes. Part of the attraction was the flaws, but part was the issued explored in the comics, such as ecology, endangered species, race hatred, crime in the streets and war. …

Marvel is now owned by the Walt Disney Co.

scott.harrison@latimes.com

Follow Scott Harrison on Twitter and Google+

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