SDCC '08 - Stan Lee & Activision Panel
Civil War in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2
On Thursday afternoon, Activision held a panel at San Diego Comic-Con to talk about the upcoming releases of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2: Fusion and Spider-Man: Web of Shadows. The panel was hosted by television journalist Victor Lucas and the panel was headed up by Marvel Comics writer, Brian Reed, and the legendary Stan Lee—as well as representatives from Shaba Games and Vicarious Visions. The panel, set to talk about the aforementioned games, was standing room only and presented a lively discussion of Lee’s efforts as a creator of all of the franchise players of the Marvel Universe.The panel started off by talking about how video game companies explore Stan Lee creations and what Stan himself thinks about the current generation of videogames. Stan was very positive, saying, “Oh, it’s nice,” to laughter from the panel and audience. He went on to say, “I just hoped people bought these things so I could pay my rent!” He described his wonderment at the evolution of the videogame industry and the current superhero games as “unthinkable”. At that point the trailers were cued to be shown for the two videogames—but there was a technical difficulty for a few moments. Stan elaborated, “Well, at least you guys can make pretty games,” creating a roar of laughter in the conference room. Brian Reed asked Stan Lee to create a nickname for him—because he was Stan “The Man” Lee. Stan countered, “We’ll call you Brian ‘Razzle Dazzle’ Reed,” to more laughter.
At that point the trailers were shown for both games. Lucas asked Reed about particulars of Spider-Man: Web of Shadows. Reed explained that Web of Shadows is “like a zombie movie starring Spider-Man,” where symbiotes infect the inhabitants of New York City—and only Spider-Man can save the day. It originally started out as an idea that pitted Spider-Man against New York City. The panel talked about the challenges of mapping a large area like New York City and hinted at some of the freedom of physics present in Web of Shadows; explaining that Spider-Man will be able to punch opponents up walls—taking the conflict to a number of new perspectives. Lucas asked Reed about the differences between creating comics and creating story content for games. Reed explained that the initial stages of both processes are very similar in that the concept of the story is decided and then worked on—but the challenge of creating content for videogames lies in the ability to submerge the person playing the game into the dramatic moments as they occur. Lee added, “the basis of most video games, in many ways, surpasses movies,” based on the content and the accessibility of the person playing the game. When asked about one of his favorite memories as a comic book creator, Lee told a brief story about the creation of Spider-Man’s costume—and how Jack Kirby made Spider-Man seem too heroic and how Steve Ditko created a pitch perfect visual for Lee’s creation. He ended by saying that Steve Ditko was the man who created the costume and that it was a popular myth that Jack Kirby created it. The panel then switched to talking about Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2: Fusion, set for release in 2009, and how the content of the game was changing from the original game. The panel agreed that the original game was superior and the representative from Shaba was quick to add, “We want to carry on the level of high quality content that gamers were given with the original game.” When talking about new elements of the game, the developers described the new ability for the characters to be able to “fuse” their powers together to create new powers beyond the ones they already have. When asked about the new storyline, Reed was tightlipped but said that events from Secret War would be a factor. The panel discussed the stages of concept development—from art styles to model sheets and collaborating with Marvel Comics to ensure the best possible content. They discussed how the nature of the content has evolved over time; noting that 20 years ago, a video game would involve 8 developers and now staffs number in the hundreds. Lee interjected, “…you were lucky if you had four guys working on a comic book back in the day!” The panel did not have a lot of time for questions but issues were raised about the content from the first game carrying over into the second—and the developers elaborated that since they were new to the sequel of Marvel Ultimate Alliance—that the direction of the content would also be new. Another member of the audience asked about TRUE BELIEVER—the documentary film being made about the life of Stan Lee. Stan told the interested fan that the film should be out by the end of the year. A question was asked about using specific comic artists’ work for content and how that was decided. The panel talked about Mark Bagley’s work on Spider-Man game content and how the usage of a specific work is based on the development of each project individually. When asked which character in the Marvel Universe he was most like, Stan said, “Reed Richards—because we both talk too much.” A small boy asked if he could give Stan a picture he had drawn for him. The boy was allowed to go on stage to present Lee with the artwork and posed for a picture. Stan said, “This is one of the real perks of working in the comic book industry.” The boy told Stan that he knew took Karate lessons and Stan expressed the desire to apologize if he had offended the boy to the laughter of the panelists and audience. The panel closed with Lee discussing his “first look deal” and the three potential projects he has with Disney—saying that two of the projects were superhero related and one was an “odd story” but he couldn’t divulge anything else at this time. In typical fashion, the panel ended with a standing ovation and cheers of “Stan, You’re the man.”