STAN LEE

The great­est hu­man be­ing who ever lived ( pretty much) tells us how to cre­ate su­per­heroes.

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Contents - stan lee’s

It’s im­pos­si­ble to un­der­es­ti­mate Stan Lee’s im­pact on the su­per­hero genre. At Marvel in the early ’ 60s Lee rev­o­lu­tionised the idea of what a comic book hero could be – no longer gods who walked among us but flawed, believ­ably hu­man char­ac­ters whose prob­lems weren’t al­ways of the worldend­ing va­ri­ety. His re­mark­able cre­ative legacy is still pay­ing div­i­dends to this day, the en­tire Marvel Cin­e­matic Uni­verse built on a bedrock of char­ac­ters he co- cre­ated, and Lee is show­ing lit­tle sign of slow­ing down with su­per­pow­ered crime show Lucky

Man cur­rently on the air. When it comes to su­per­heroes, frankly, there’s no one bet­ter qual­i­fied, which is why we turned to Stan the Man for a 10- step guide to writ­ing the ul­ti­mate su­per­hero story. Ex­cel­sior!

Power Up

“The su­per­power comes first, be­cause ev­ery­thing re­ally has to be built around: what is the hero’s su­per­power? For ex­am­ple, with Spi­der- Man, I had the idea of a char­ac­ter who’d have the power of a spi­der, who could stick to walls and build a web. And then, you build your story around the char­ac­ter who has that par­tic­u­lar power. There are many sto­ries that don’t in­volve peo­ple with su­per­pow­ers. But if there is a su­per­pow­ered char­ac­ter, I be­lieve you have to first be very fa­mil­iar with the su­per­power, know how you’re go­ing to han­dle that, how it’ll fit in with the story, plot and so forth. Be­cause that’s al­ways the most im­por­tant part of a char­ac­ter’s iden­tity – what they can do that no­body else can.”

Push Them To The Limit

“I think it’s of paramount im­por­tance to give your char­ac­ters a weak­ness. If the char­ac­ter, like Su­per­man, can­not be hurt or in­jured, if they can do just about any­thing, I don’t feel that’s as in­ter­est­ing as wor­ry­ing about a char­ac­ter who might have a su­per­power, but could also be wounded, killed or frus­trated phys­i­cally in any sort of way. The most im­por­tant thing in my case, when I work on a su­per­pow­ered char­ac­ter, is to find out: what weak­ness does that char­ac­ter have? And then, to me, it be­comes more in­ter­est­ing. Sure, they can do some­thing

no­body else can do, but they’d bet­ter watch out be­cause if so and so hap­pens, that would hurt them too. Then you worry about the char­ac­ter. If you’re not con­cerned about the char­ac­ter, if you’re not con­cerned about them get­ting hurt or be­ing killed, then it’s not as much fun in an ac­tion story.”

Com­pelling Char­ac­ters

“A char­ac­ter be­ing in­ter­est­ing has noth­ing to do with su­per­pow­ers. I think it’s the same rule that Charles Dick­ens would have used, or Mark Twain or Shake­speare or any­body. You’ve got to have a char­ac­ter who, re­gard­less of the su­per­power, is some­body that is in­ter­est­ing, some­body you care about, some­body who you feel if you knew this per­son, you’d want to be friends with him or her. You have to like the char­ac­ter. Once you like the char­ac­ter, then you can worry about what is go­ing to hap­pen to that char­ac­ter. If you don’t like the char­ac­ter, if you don’t find the char­ac­ter very in­ter­est­ing, then the whole story be­comes... I won’t say mean­ing­less, but you’re not as in­volved in it if it’s just about some­body you don’t care much about one way or an­other. And the su­per­power has noth­ing to do with that.”

Com­plex Vil­lains

“The more com­plex­ity you can give a vil­lain the bet­ter it is. The more com­plex they are, the more in­ter­est­ing they are. There’s al­ways got to be the mo­ments of in­de­ci­sion on the part of the reader. ‘ I won­der what will hap­pen. I won­der what de­ci­sion he’ll make.’ And so forth.

If the char­ac­ter is cut and dry, and very ob­vi­ous, and you al­ways know what the char­ac­ter will do and say, and there’s no un­pre­dictabil­ity and there’s no sus­pense, then you have a story that isn’t as in­ter­est­ing. But even though th­ese char­ac­ters are fic­tional, you try to make them with as many dif­fer­ent per­son­al­ity quirks as pos­si­ble, as any hu­man be­ing has.”

Give Them A Home

“The lo­ca­tion is very im­por­tant to me as a writer – and I imag­ine to any writer – be­cause if I have char­ac­ters whose ad­ven­tures take place in New York, I can han­dle that very well be­cause I know New York so well. If you’re

mak­ing up an area you can do that well, but there’s no iden­ti­fi­ca­tion on the part of the viewer. It’s just a fic­tional city. It’s sort of like Bat­man, he’s in Gotham City. Su­per­man, he’s in Me­trop­o­lis. Well, Me­trop­o­lis is sort of an amal­gam of a mil­lion big cities. To me, it’s more in­ter­est­ing if he’s in Lon­don, Paris, New York. You know that city and you can iden­tify with the back­ground scenes.”

Story rules

“A good story is a good story. You of course have to adapt it to the medium you’re work­ing in. If it’s for a comic book you have to tell it very quickly, and you’ve got to think of very in­ter­est­ing vi­su­als, be­cause peo­ple are look­ing at th­ese il­lus­tra­tions all the time. If it’s for a movie you can be more leisurely, if it’s for a TV se­ries you have to think of it in terms of episodes, and how you can keep the in­ter­est go­ing from episode to episode, and how you can make the viewer want to watch each suc­ceed­ing episode. So you al­ways have a lit­tle bit of a dif­fer­ent prob­lem but the story, the ba­sic story, has to be pretty much the same.”

Keep It Real

“Even though th­ese are very fic­tional sto­ries about char­ac­ters that are fairy­tale- ish in a sense, the more re­al­ity you can bring to them, the bet­ter. The same with an au­to­mo­bile. If I have a char­ac­ter driv­ing a car, I’d want them to drive a Chevro­let or a Rolls- Royce or some car you know about, rather than call it a Whizzbang V8 or some­thing. The more re­al­is­tic you can make the story seem, when you’re writ­ing about char­ac­ters who ob­vi­ously are far be­yond be­ing re­al­is­tic char­ac­ters who can fly and have good luck and all of that, then the more re­al­ity you can bring to it and the bet­ter it makes the story.”

Amaz­ing Alit­er­a­tion !

“I have fun with the al­lit­er­a­tion. It’s just a lit­tle stylish thing I do. I don’t know that it makes it any bet­ter or worse, but I’m amused by it. The di­a­logue in gen­eral is very im­por­tant, be­cause you’ve got to have your char­ac­ters speak­ing the way they would speak if they were flesh and blood. You’ve got to al­ways keep them in char­ac­ter. And the way you keep a char­ac­ter in char­ac­ter is usu­ally by the way he or she speaks.”

Never Stand Still

“The char­ac­ters have to al­ways be do­ing things that are in­ter­est­ing. Cer­tainly in su­per­hero sto­ries, you need a lot of ac­tion, a lot of phys­i­cal ac­tion. Even in real life, we all move around a lot. We don’t get into fights to save our lives, but there’s al­ways a lot of move­ment and ac­tion. And in an ad­ven­ture story, you just play that up even more than in real life.”

Strive to sur­prise

“The more sur­prises you can have in a story, the bet­ter it is. Each time the reader sees some­thing he or she hadn’t ex­pected, that makes it more in­ter­est­ing. Now, those sur­prises can’t be ridicu­lous. They have to be within the char­ac­ter of the peo­ple you’re writ­ing about. If you can an­tic­i­pate ev­ery­thing that’s go­ing to hap­pen in a story, you’re not nearly as in­ter­ested in that story as you would be if sud­denly you see a scene and you say, ‘ Wow, I never ex­pected that. Oh, that’s ter­rific.’”

Spidey tri­umphs over ad­ver­sity in Amaz­ing Spi­der- Man # 33. Our hero swings for the first time in 1962.

Vil­lains don’t come more multi- lay­ered than Vic­tor Von Doom. And the re­sult of all th­ese shenani­gans was… the In­cred­i­ble Hulk. And one day, far in the fu­ture, Josh Trank would de­stroy them.

Will we see this scene in this year’s Doc­tor Strange movie? That’ll make him feel a bit Thor… Stan’s char­ac­ters just don’t get on some­times.

Peter Parker em­barks on his new ca­reer in Amaz­ing Fan­tasy # 15. Nick Fury has the coolest wheels in town.

Lucky Man is cur­rently air­ing on Sky 1.

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