Life would be less super without Stan Lee, the legendary comic book creator behind Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, the X-Men, and other iconic heroes. We chatted with him last week at E3 in Los Angeles, where the 86-year-old was promoting Activision’s upcoming videogame, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What do you like about this game?
STAN LEE: Just the fact that there are so many characters under your control and the fact that you can team up with three other players at the same time. Every one of them is accurately portrayed. You can be a villain, you can be a hero, you can play with your friends…it’s great. It even has a surprise ending that I can’t tell you about.
You’ve been telling stories since the '60s. What do you make of all of the sophisticated video game tools that are available to the current generation of storytellers? Do you think all of this technology makes their job too easy?
It’s never easy to tell stories. I wish they had these videogames when I was getting into the business. Videogames are like movies but with even more imagination. When you watch a movie you have no control over it, but with a videogame, it’s like watching a movie you can be part of; you can determine which way it will go. It’s like you can be the audience and also the director at the same time. I find that incredibly exciting. I wish that I were more in that field; I wish I knew the technical part and could actually create a videogame; I think it’s much harder to do than a motion picture. You start out with what a motion picture has — a basic story and characters and all of that — but then you have all these options that you thrown in that a motion picture doesn't have. It must be harder to write a videogame than a movie.
EW.com: Let’s say you were Stan Lee in your formative years right now. Do you think you would be still be a comic book creator, or do you think you would’ve been a videogame designer?
Stan Lee: I enjoy creating characters and I enjoy telling stories. Since videogames are a bigger field than comic books right now — they’re bigger than just about anything now — I would want to be in videogames. I would try to come up with some ideas that are different than what they’re already doing or else it wouldn’t be any fun. It would be a challenge. To me a videogame is more of a challenge than a comic book. From that point of view, I’d want to get into it.
Which of the two mediums — movies or videogames — have been better at capturing the essence of the comic book characters that you’ve created?
Certainly, the movies give you more characterization because a videogame, the very nature of what it is, must have continual action and obviously the characters have their own powers and weaknesses, but it's a little hard getting into their personalities the way you can in a movie. A videogame is different; it’s something where you’re a part of it and, at least with today’s games, it’s mostly action. In a movie you probably get more of an actual story. Today it seems that what the public wants is to play videogames and to be part of the action. Videogames are so big today; obviously there is room for something where the action is more paramount than the characterization.