SDCC '08 - Reinventing the Page: Stan Lee & Grant Morrison

Stan Lee & Grant Morrison @ Comic-Con

One of them is the original co-architect of the Marvel universe. The other is currently deconstructing the DC universe in Final Crisis. So what could bring comics legends Stan Lee and Grant Morrison together? Virgin Comics and the San Diego Comic-Con.

As revealed at the New York Comic Con earlier this year, Morrison is working on a series of animated shorts for Virgin Comics called MBX. The Thursday panel kicked off with a video that highlighted the production of the CGI cartoon, which is being done by Perspective Studios. Morrison said it was one of the “oldest stories on the planet” about a family who goes to war. “The world we live in is obsessed with war,” he said.

He said he liked the idea of doing it as “four minute shorts on cell phones” which he called “a great way to recreate it for a modern audience.”

Lee, of course, is taking his universe-building skills to Virgin Comics, building a brand new superhero universe for them. He said he’s “working with new artists on new projects,” comparing it to the early days of Marvel Comics. He added he’s “hoping a tough audience like you will give it a chance.” He said to expect additional announcements about it in the coming months.

Aside from the introduction, Lee and Morrison said little more about their Virgin projects, instead talking about everything from comic book movies to what Stan Lee-created characters Grant Morrison would most like to work on.

Both creators were very jovial throughout the panel, with Lee joking about Morrison’s Scottish accent constantly. But he wasn’t joking when he called Morrison “one of the great comic writers of all time. He writes all sorts of stories. I think the accent has something to do with it. I hope to learn something from him.”

The pair also traded stories about writing using the “Marvel Method,” where the writer comes up with a basic plot, the artist draws the story and then dialogue is added. Lee said he thinks they should call it the “Stan Lee Method,” as he explained he was creating so many stories in the early days of Marvel that he didn’t have time to do full scripts.

Morrison joked that it was a fun way to write comics, “because you don’t have to do as much work.” He added comics are more collaborative than, say, writing a movie script, because it’s “nice to work off someone else’s artwork.”

Lee agreed, commenting that he was creating stories for Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, and later Gene Colan and John Romita, all at the same time. Not only did it keep them all working, but Lee said he thought the stories were better when the artists had more freedom.

“Leave it to the artist, and the chances are he or she will think of a better way to do it,” he said. “So when the art came back to me, it was better.”

Morrison asked if Lee ever wrote full scripts, and Lee said he used to. “I started writing in 1940 and until 1960-something, I was always doing full scripts,” he said.

Lee also commented on his opinions of the DC books of the time, like Batman and Superman. He said he admired Superman. “Superman started all of this, so you can’t take anything away from Superman.”

However, he thought the character was too one-dimensional, saying that Clark Kent’s only problem in life was hiding his identity from Lois Lane.

He said he likes what DC and Morrison are doing with the characters now, as they are no longer one-dimensional. Morrison said he thought that was because of Stan’s influence on comic book storytelling, saying he added that extra dimension.

“I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” Lee said. “All these new writers, especially writers like Grant, are making me look good. I’m getting a lot of credit, and I don’t mind.”

He later added, “I wish I didn’t have to compete with someone as good as him.”

On that note, Morrison discussed what he liked about working on the X-Men, one of Lee’s co-creations. “I went back to originals and read those first ones you did,” he told Lee. He said he thought of the X-Men as a “generational thing,” with children coming up with new ways to look at things that adults don’t agree with.

“He sees things that aren’t even there. I didn’t think of that,” Lee said to laughter from the crowd. “That’s a hell of a good idea, young people and old people who don’t see things the same way. I wish you wouldn’t show me up.”

When asked how much they read outside of comics and how they incorporated philosophy into their work, Morrison joked, “I just read tons and tons of Stan Lee comics. That’s where all the good ideas come from.”

“People don’t like to be preached to, and I love to preach,” lee said. “So it had to be done very subtlety.” He said he would sneak “subliminal messages” into Silver Surfer and Thor, and sometimes even Spider-Man, about making the world a better place.

A fan asked if Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk would team up in the next Marvel movie.

“We have a comic book called the Avengers,” Lee said. “Now, your guess is as good as mine, but it might be an educated guess. That’s all I’m at liberty to say, or they’ll shoot me.”

Another fan asked what Stan Lee character Morrison would like to work on.

He said Iron Man or the Hulk. “Spider-Man is the one I don’t think I could ever do.”

A fan thanked Lee for his modesty -- “I’m known for that, he joked – and asked if there were any comics or characters he regretted creating. The answer? Fantastic Four villain Diablo. Lee said he came up with the name and Kirby came up with a great visual, but the story just wasn’t there. “I just liked the name,” he said.

And finally, a fan asked Lee if he ever thought about retiring, which was met with boos from the crowd.

“I’m really having too much fun,” he said.

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