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NYCC: Toon Zone News Interviews Stan Lee on "Mosaic" and "Condor"

Stan Lee is a man who needs no introduction. To the general public, his name is synonymous with comics, and his frequent cameos in movies and voice-over work in Marvel Comics animation may make him the most recognizable personality in the comic book industry.

I can say that the experience of interviewing Stan Lee is just about exactly what you would expect it to be. Thanks to the folks at Starz Home Entertainment, Toon Zone News got a chance to have a brief chat with Mr. Lee about his latest direct-to-video animated movie projects: Stan Lee Presents Mosaic and Stan Lee Presents the Condor.

Stan Lee at New York Comic ConTOON ZONE NEWS: You’re well into retirement age now. Why do you keep going?

STAN LEE: Greed. (laughs) That was an easy answer! No, I enjoy what I do. You’re a guy who looks like you could do legitimate work, why are you doing interviews? (laughs)

TZN: You made a point at your panel of saying that the lead character of Mosaic is a woman…

STAN LEE: A female. A teenager. An older teenager…old enough to have a romance, but still a teenager.

TZN: You also mentioned that the Condor was Hispanic. At what point did you make those creative decisions?

STAN LEE: I said, “I want to do a girl. I want to do a heroine. And I want to do an Hispanic hero.” Right up front. The details are always easy. The first thing is deciding what you want to do. That is the toughest thing. Once you know what you want to do, working out the details are just like peeling a grape.

TZN: How involved are you with the creative process? Are you involved in casting or voice acting direction or animation supervision?

STAN LEE: I come up with the basic story. I do an outline or a treatment or a precis. Whatever you want to call it. And then I find the BEST writer I can, give it to him or her, and we discuss it. I say, “What would your take on it be?” and make sure that they’re following the way I thought of it. And then they write it. After it’s written, I edit it and make sure it’s the way I want it to be. After that, it goes to the animation company. I don’t have as much control as, probably, I did at Marvel Comics when I controlled everything, but I still check over the model sheets and make sure that the characters look the way I want them to. And I look at the storyboards and I try, if there’s anything that’s glaringly wrong, which there often isn’t, I try to fix that. But basically, once it goes to animation, there isn’t too much I can do about it.

TZN: Are you worried about repeating yourself?

STAN LEE: No, because I never do (laughs). No, it’s funny that you say that. You know the old saying, “There are only nine basic plots in the world.” The whole trick is to try and do stories about characters that you haven’t done before. Now, for example, with Mosaic. She’s a superheroine — a teenage girl with a superpower — who wants to be an actress. Now there have been teenage girls who want to be models, who want to be detectives, who want to be reporters for television. As far as I know, none of them have wanted to be an actress. So by making our heroine a gal who wants to be an actress, it’s a whole new way of writing a story with all new situations and problems and a whole fresh approach. So all you have to think of is one detail that’s different.

Now, with the Condor, the big thing there is that he’s an Hispanic hero, and we’ve had very few, if any, Hispanic superheroes. So, bearing in mind the fact that he’s an Hispanic, everything becomes different. He has different problems. I have him a little bit embarrassed about the fact that his parents speak with an accent. He learns, as the movie goes on, what an idiot he was, and he learns to respect them. But that’s something I haven’t written before. So any story that I ever do, I try to find one point which will be different than what I’ve done before. And considering we have billions of people on the Earth and we have billions of types of people with billions of different problems, it isn’t hard finding something different in every story. That was incredibly profound, and I hope you recorded every word of it (laughs).

TZN: I hope so too (laughs). One thing that Marvel Comics was credited with was introducing more socially relevant heroes and heroes that had problems and were a bit more grounded and dealt with issues of the day. Are you attempting to do the same thing now with these cartoons for the era we live in?

STAN LEE: I will. You see, I never did that in the first issue of our books. It was only after I was familiar with the characters and I had gotten to know them and the readers had gotten to know them, that we started getting off on current events and issues. In the beginning, you spend most of your time just establishing the character and getting the viewer to know the character. But we certainly will, as we move along. You can’t help but get involved in current issues because you can’t put those things out of your mind when you’re writing. Another equally profound reply (laughs).

TZN: What was the biggest surprise for you during this whole process?

STAN LEE: No surprises. Everything we do is so perfect and so well calculated (laughs). Maybe I was surprised how well they turned out. I couldn’t BELIEVE I was THAT GOOD! But, no, really there weren’t that many surprises.

TZN: Looking at the films in hindsight, is there anything you’d like to do again?

STAN LEE: Oh, always. I’d like to do them all over, and make them still better. ANd if I did, and I looked at them again, I’d like to do them again and make them STILL better. Every time you see something you’ve done, you say to yourself, “Gee, if only I had done it this way, it would have been better.” You know? I read stories that I wrote a million years ago which people love, and I say to myself, “Why didn’t I put this scene in?” or, “Why didn’t I change that?” I think any writer feels that way.

TZN: Is there anything specific you can think of, in Mosaic for instance?

STAN LEE: No, it’s really quite a perfect product (laughs). I would only know the few little things, but to the public, it will seem like a minor masterpiece (laughs).

TZN: So what’s next? I know the Ringo project in December.

STAN LEE: Ringo is next, and then we have three others called Whirlwind, Widowmaker, and Alexa.

TZN: Is the last one based on the comic?

STAN LEE: Yes, based on the graphic novel that we had done.

Toon Zone News would like to thank Stan Lee for taking the time to talk with us (and for signing my copy of
Marvel Visionaries: Stan Lee) and Starz Home Media for setting up the time to talk with him. Stan Lee Presents Mosaic is available on DVD now, and Stan Lee Presents the Condor will be on sale on DVD on March 19, 2007. Both movies will also air as part of Cartoon Network’s Toonami 10th anniversary, with Mosaic airing on March 10, 2007 and Condor airing on March 24, 2007.

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