For something that seemed like it might be a sad occasion, it was actually kind of uproarious. What was billed as Stan Lee’s final Canadian con appearance Sunday morning at Fan Expo Canada was a treat to witness as the Godfather of Marvel Comics shared stories, laughs and memories with a packed house of 4,000 of his closest Canadian fans. If this was a going away party, it was one of the best you could have go to.
With assistance of his manage Max Anderson, Lee took the time to answer as many fan questions as he possibly could, but not before the proceedings were interrupted by one of his successors in the Editor-in-Chief’s chair at Marvel, Joe Quesada. “This is my panel, go away!” Lee joked. But Quesada was gracious, “Thank you for saving my life and giving me the creative spark that led me to Marvel and led me to sit in your chair for a little to keep it warm,” he said.
“He’s too busy running Marvel and he says I’m awesome, Joey, your the greatest!” Lee said as Quesada left the stage. “Now we can tell the truth about him,” he added with a laugh.
Among the accolades for Lee were more fans like Quesada who credited Stan the Man with changing their lives. One said that reading the adventures of Spider-Man saved him from bullies as school at taught him morality. Another said that while she suffered from mental illness, reading the adventures of superheroes were like a safe haven for her. Lee himself shared a story about a man who told him that he felt as though Lee were a father figure to him. Growing up without a father, reading and enjoying the adventures of Lee’s heroes was invaluable.
“I think all of the characters at Marvel touch a core, and every one of them should represent some good quality that makes you feel better about yourself when you read them,” Lee said. “Superhero stories are like fairy tales. Fairy tales always have a little moral at the end of the story and I used to think comics should be like that because you have people with special powers that can do special things. You have to be careful to write those stories to make sure they inspire people and make them think there is justice in life.”
For those hoping for spoilers related to the movies, there weren’t many although someone did bring up the idea that Lee’s cameos are all interconnected and pointing to the fact that he’s playing the Watcher. “I did a cameo recently that has to do, in a way, with the Watcher and this guy here [pointing to Anderson], who’s my conscious, tells me I’m not aloud to talk about it,” Lee said. Anderson noted that Lee has recently filmed four Marvel movie cameos including Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and a secret one that couldn’t be talked about.
“Did I tell you the cameos are the reason why Marvel makes so much money?” Lee added.
Speaking of movies, Lee was asked if Hawkeye and Jeremy Renner might be able to carry his own movie. “Of course,” said Lee in his characteristic optimism. “It all depends on who’s writing it and what the angle is, but I think any one of our characters can carry his or her own movie. Even a DC character,” he added. “They just have to know how and they haven’t learnt it yet. They’re crazy not to have asked me to do a cameo.”
In another movie question, Lee was asked who his favourite Marvel movie actor. “Everything is about favourites,” Lee opined. “When I say Spider-Man is my favourite character, everyone goes ‘Yay!’ but I think maybe Robert Downey Jr.,” he said. “I was with him the other day and I said to him ‘Does anybody ever call you Bob?’ and he said ‘Yeah sure. You can call be Bob, Bob-o, Rob-o, and it sounded so unlike Robert Downey Jr. so I call him Bob-o now.”
Speaking of the “Distinguished Competition”, Lee credited DC Comics with the creation of one of his signature catchphrases, Excelsior! “I hate to knock DC, but years ago I was using little expressions and I found them being copied into the DC magazines, and that bothered me,” Lee explained. “So I thought I’m going to come up with an expression that they won’t know how to spell and they won’t be able to copy it.” Excelsior came from the seal of the State of New York. “It has two meanings, it’s the stuff you put in packages so the item won’t break, but the second meaning is an old English one, which means upward and onward to greater glory and what can be a greater saying than that?”
At the age of 93 though, Lee has no regrets about dedicating his life to the stories and adventures of men and women in tights. “I love the comic strip format, I love the idea of reading what people say and seeing them at the same time,” he said. “A lot of people have said its not a good thing to read comics, you should have to imagine what you’re reading, but take Shakespeare, everything he wrote was for plays, and no one ever says ‘I wouldn’t go to a Shakespeare play because you don’t want to see the actors doing it.’ So reading comics is just like Shakespeare.”
As expected, the hour passed too soon, and it came time for the final question of Lee’s final Canadian Q&A. The moment was saved for posterity in the video below…