"Hear me, X-Men! No longer am I the woman you knew! I am fire! And life incarnate! Now and forever — I am PHOENIX! " - Jean Grey
On December 1st, 2012 I went with my friend Phil to the Wizard World Comic Con in New Orleans. It ended up being the most amazing experience of my life.
I met a man that I thought I would never get the chance to meet. This isn’t just on my “30 Before I’m 30” list. This is on my Bucket List. This man taught me how to draw. I remember my father taking out his beaten copy of “How to Draw Superheroes… The Stan Lee Way”. I would sit with this book for hours, trying to perfect the hottest and strongest women I could in my sketchbook. I devoured every inch. I put that book through hell.
Every year I would send pictures and a letter to the Marvel Headquarters. I was going to draw for my own Superhero one day.
Me and my friend Stan Lee
Stan Lee is nothing but an inspiration to me. I owe him more than I could ever possibly give.
When I found out that he was going to be at this Comic Con, and there was an opportunity to meet him, I decidedly determined that I would make this happen.
We got to the convention center and I immediately got directions to the room where he was going to be at. My heart was pounding the entire way up to that floor. All I could hear was that racing and that anxiety as it bled through me. Worst case scenarios flooded my thoughts… What if I messed everything up? What if I spilled a drink on Stan Lee? What if I was incomprehensible?
I was one of the first outside the door. Slowly but surely a few people began to trickle around. They were people of all genders, all ages, all colors. I stood there shaking, wondering if this man meant as much to them as he does to me.
The door opened and we all rushed in to get a seat. The room began to fill. They offered beignets and lemonade. I knew if I tried any of it, I’d throw it immediately up.
A gentleman came up. I guess he won the Stan Lee Superhero television show that he hosted for a short time. I never watched it because it was more fake superheroes than Stan the Man. He was nice though. He explained that everyone would get a chance to ask questions as long as time allotted. He also said that, as of that month, Stan Lee would be 90 years old and has the worst hearing on the planet. He was there as sort of an interpreter as he’s got a loud, clear voice and gets along with Stan very well.
Finally he came through the door. Everyone started cheering as he made his way to the table at the front. He was a lot shorter than I originally thought, but perfect nonetheless. All I could think was Brandi, don’t cry… Please don’t cry. This man shaped who you are, shaped you as an artist, as a professional… he’s had his hand in every aspect of your life, and this is overwhelming and you feel like you’re gonna explode but DON’T! Stay calm!
Stan talking about how shitty Manga is
He talked about how DC was originally named International. After he came up with Marvel - because he too loves advertising, and he thought of the endless possibilities that he could use it in a marketing sense - that International paid a company to come up with their name. And what did they come up with? DC. He absolutely despises the name.
Stan Lee hates manga. He did a contract deal for Takei and wrote for the manga “Ultimo.” He said he would never do it again. Not only was the artwork horrible - which he says he should have expected as it’s manga - but that they’re so corrupt that it wasn’t even what he wrote. They rewrote the whole thing and than slapped his name on it.
He gave the best marriage advice. He said the secret to a good marriage is to marry your best friend and someone who will put up with your shit. Exact verbiage at the end of the advice was “And that’s the secret. Find someone of the opposite sex who can put up with your shit. Unless your gay. Than find whoever.”
Stan Lee also disclosed on accident that they will be making a Gambit movie. Finally!! WIth the popularity boom on Louisiana culture, it’s a perfect time to release a movie specifically orientated on the crazy cajun.
He said his favorite cameo he did was in Iron Man 3.
He was disappointed that the newest rendition of Spider Man didn’t uphold some of the classic themes that he originally developed.
Stan Lee business advice included if he could go back in time and tell something to his younger self, it would be to maintain as much of the rights to his characters as possible. He said that’s one of the things he admires about Bob Kane (creator of Batman).
One of my favorite things quickly becomes THE favorite item I own
After the table session was over, we got to get in line to have him autograph what we brought. I brought my Marvel comic 101. This comic came out in October of 1976 and features the first appearance of the Phoenix. It’s also the first issue where Marvel upped their price to 30 cents AND the first time Wolverine reveals his feelings for Jean Grey. I will not disclose how much I spent on this comic book, but I will tell you that the Phoenix Saga is one of my favorite story lines that they developed with the X Men characters. When I brought it up to Stan Lee, he commented on how he hadn’t seen one of those in that great of condition and that it was a real treat to see it. I was speechless as he signed it. I had a “Ralphie meets Santa Claus” moment.
Luckily I had one more chance. After the autographs, we were to get back in line to get a picture taken with him.
I brought my professional camera and my phone. The idea was to have the picture taken with both. I would pull this off by saying my camera didn’t take a good shot. Which worked. But I digress.
As I neared the front of the line, I slowed my breathing down. I was determined to get a thank you in. This man is my hero. They motioned me forward and he shoots me this giant smile and wraps his arm around me. I take a deep breath and I go “Thank you… for everything.” I put every depth of feeling I could into those words and I made eye contact with him. He looked at me for a second, smiled the kindest smile I’ve ever seen and says “You are very welcome.”
The cameras snap. My eyes start to water and he pats me on the back.
The rest is a haze. I know that I got my comic book notarized. I know I tried to drink some lemonade. I know I had to sit down. Somewhere in there we also sang Happy Birthday to him… And when Stan left the room, I knew it was time to go.
My shaking legs carried me out of there and I headed down to the main floor to try to find Phil and Brittany. I ended up losing it on the way down the stairs. The tears over flowed and I had to stop and get my breath.
At least I made it that far.
Not everyone in life can say that they were able to meet the one person who would shape how their life would be. My father and mother - my other heroes - were there to nurture the gifts that they gave me. But without those comic books, without that drawing book, without those Saturday morning X Men cartoons, I might not have been as driven to do something with the images I created. Stan Lee gave me a world that I could create, that I could control. And he showed me how to achieve the goals that I set for my creative self. He showed me that it’s ok to be a comic book geek because look at the what you can do. His superheroes always had a sense of humanity to them. They could have been the guy sitting next to you as they always seemed to have that human flaw, or that real life they were forced to integrate into.