There was a time when superheroes invented by Stan Lee were available in grocery store aisles and newsstands all over America, giving kids the opportunity to read about their adventures and escape into a world of Lee's imagination.
Now, that's happening again.
Wednesday, Archie Comics announced it would be publishing Stan Lee Comics, a new line of superhero books by the legendary creator of Spider-Man and the X-Men. Archie, which has a significant distribution network through newsstands, grocery aisles and the "direct market" of comic book stores, will both print and distribute the line, while A Squared Entertainment will handle licensing and animation.
"Personally, it's a dream come true to work with Stan Lee," said Jon Goldwater, Co-CEO of Archie Comics. "We're really excited about working with everyone involved. Stan is the creative through his POW Entertainment entity, while A Squared will move all the intellectual properties forward with animation, and with licensing. They're going to be doing everything outside publishing. Archie is going to be the publisher, and we'll distribute the comic, through both print and digitally.
"We have such a wonderful distribution hub for Archie Comics and we'll use those for Super Seven and Stan Lee Comics," Goldwater said. "And yes, these books are going to be everywhere. They're going to be on the newsstands, they're going to be in the direct market, and they're going to be released digitally as well. So everyone's going to have a chance to find these wherever you find Archie Comics."
Super Seven is a story of seven aliens who land on Earth and meet Stan Lee, who mentors them as superheroes. The comic will be released in the fall as an ongoing, monthly title written by Tom DeFalco, a long-time collaborator with Lee from his time at Marvel Comics. The artwork will be done by Patrick "Spaz" Spaziante, who currently draws the Sonic the Hedgehog comics for Archie's licensed line for Sega.
"Stan's going to be the narrator," Goldwater said. "He's a character in the comic itself. It's fun. The story is vibrant. The characters are incredible. It's a Stan Lee superhero comic in the old-school Marvel style."
While the comic will be distributed to markets reached by the Archie line of comics, Goldwater said the comic is not necessarily only geared toward the younger age group associated with Archie characters. "We're not writing for any one specific age group. It's just good superhero comics," he said. "It's geared toward everyone who loves real superhero comics."
While Archie is best known for characters in the "Archie Universe" -- like Jughead, Betty and Veronica, and Archie himself -- this is not the first time Archie Comics has published superheroes. The company launched a Red Circle line of superheroes in the 1970s, a group of characters that is currently licensed to DC Comics. In fact, DC just recently launched two titles using the Red Circle characters The Shield and The Web, integrating them into the DC Universe right next to Superman and Batman.
Goldwater said this partnership with Stan Lee will not affect the Red Circle agreement with DC, nor will it be integrated with any of the usual Archie characters.
"This doesn't have anything to do with anything we're currently doing at Archie Comics. It's a stand-alone entity, and we're going to treat all these characters with the respect and integrity that you'd expect from Stan and Tom," Goldwater said. "We're not going to 'Archie-fy' them. Archie does have the Red Circle line of superheroes that was licensed to DC Comics. So we do respect that genre. We're passionate about making this work."