Stan Lee's Favorite Stories...In His Own Words
Nov 18, 2018
by Troy-Jeffrey Allen
In the wake of his passing on November 12th, plenty has been said about comic book luminary Stan Lee. However, just because “Smilin” Stan is gone doesn’t mean that he is short on words.
Proselytizing on behalf of Marvel Comics was how Stan became the fearless frontman for funny books. At college campuses, on radio shows, talk shows, vinyl records, Saturday morning cartoons...Lee’s thoughts, feelings, and dramatic retellings are easy to find in print and online, which is all the more reason to give this titan of industry the final word on his career.
The following three selections are some of Stan Lee's favorite stories. Straight from “The Man” himself and in his own words.
Fantastic Four #51 (June 1966)
"This Man...This Monster."
In the 1991 book Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics, Lee pinpoints this particular comic as one of the strongest examples of the "Marvel style." "This is one of my favorite stories," Lee said. "I liked it because it, while it had a lot of fantasy, it was basically a character-driven story."
In "This Man...This Monster" the Fantastic Four's rock-skinned muscle, Ben Grimm, wanders aimlessly through the rain-soaked streets of New York City. Stricken with sadness over his permanent state as an orange monster, Grimm is taken advantage of by a fame-seeking, power hungry mad scientist. This unnamed inventor swaps places with The Thing, giving Grimm another chance to be human but against his will. The story subverts expectations with a somewhat action-less climax where both hero and villain discover that sacrifices must be made for the greater good.
It is tales of morality such as this that not only were revelatory for young readers in 1966, but came to define Marvel in general. "I love stories that deal with characterization," Lee is quoted as saying in Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics. "I thought this was a good example of the Marvel style."
Fantastic Four #51 also happens to mark the first appearance of The Negative Zone.
Daredevil #7 (April 1965)
"In Mortal Combat with...Sub-Mariner."
This one is quintessential Stan Lee: Two heroes. A clever setup. A giant misunderstanding. A lopsided fight followed by some form of mutual respect.
In Daredevil #7, Namor, Prince of Atlantis, emerges from the ocean in pursuit of a lawyer. In an amusing twist, it turns out that the Sub-Mariner wishes to sue the surface world for its crimes against the sea! His counsel: Matt Murdock a.k.a. Daredevil. Murdock explains to Namor that what he's asking for is unreasonable. Unfortunately for Daredevil and the people of New York City, Namor doesn't really do reason. What ensues is a smackdown where combat-trained Daredevil (donning his red costume for the first time) desperately tries to defeat the superhumanly strong Sub-Mariner.
"These are not our two top characters, but I did a story where Daredevil fought the Sub-Mariner," Lee told DigitalSpy.com back in 2014. "They were both our heroes and I had to make it look like one of them couldn't beat the other, so they practically fought to a draw and then Sub-Mariner went back to the ocean and he left Daredevil lying exhausted on the sand," Lee adds. "He said something like, 'You were a noble competitor'. I enjoyed the way I made them both seem heroic, even though they were fighting each other."
The Silver Surfer #1 (December 1988)
Stan Lee viewed the Silver Surfer as his philosophical outlet. So much so that, for years, he didn't allow other writers to dialogue the character. Eventually, Lee would relinquish his passionate grasp on Norrin Radd (a.k.a the Silver Surfer), but not after collaborating with one of Europe's most revered artist. Moebius.
This Eisner-winning collaboration - "Parable" - is as much an illustrated poem as it is a comic book. Here, Silver Surfer is once again put to the test by Galactus, devourer of worlds. However, this time, Norrin Radd has spent enough time on Earth that apathy has set in. When Galactus arrives on our planet, the sentinel of the spaceways discovers that the giant isn't here to consume Earth (as he once attempted before) but to demand veneration. In turn, he will put an end to our suffering.
In the DVD documentary Sentinel of the Spaceways, The Comic Book Origins of Silver Surfer (below), Lee earmarks his two-part story with the French cartoonist as an absolute favorite. "I really think - as much as I love the Surfer - I think the story I did with Moebius is my favorite Surfer story," Lee admits, showcasing his trademark enthusiasm. "The way Moebius drew it was different than any Marvel artist could have done it. He had a style - a magnificent style. Of all the stories I've written, that's got to go at the top as one of my all-time favorites."
Troy-Jeffrey Allen is the consumer marketing editor for PREVIEWSworld.com and the producer of PREVIEWSworld Weekly. His comics work includes BAMN, Fight of the Century, the Harvey Award-nominated District Comics, and the Ringo Award-nominated Magic Bullet.