So, Stan Lee’s back. Honestly, I wasn’t aware he’d ever left.
Boom! Studios, a steadily growing comics publisher that really gained a head of steam when it named influential comics writer Mark Waid as its editor-in-chief a while back, announced Tuesday it had struck a deal with Pow! Entertainment (Stan Lee’s latest media venture) to produce three new super-hero titles. The announcement comes on the heels of a semi-mysterious ad campaign in February that boldly but vaguely exclaimed that “Stan’s Back!” with simple, minimalist ads online and in print. Since the ads incorporated part of Stan Lee’s recognizable autograph, it was clear he was involved somehow. To what extent wasn’t clear.
Even with that little bit of information, I have to admit I wasn’t all that interested. I truly appreciate all that Stan Lee did for the art and business of comics. He and his artistic collaborators transformed the super-hero genre and the reach of the medium in the 1960s to such a vast extent that it can never really be measured. That being said, I have no interest in reading new comics penned by Stan Lee. The bombastic style that made him such a dominant personality decades ago just isn’t as effective today. Furthermore, we’ve seen Lee’s newer ideas in recent years. It’s not like he’s been sitting by idly since going into semi-retirement years ago. There was DC’s Just Imagine… line of expensive but clunky comics a few years ago, and who can forget his collaboration with Pamela Anderson in the realm of animation, Stripperella.
Honestly, I think Stan Lee’s already said all he’s got to say through comics and other forms of pop culture. I don’t know that his name carries the same weight today as it did three or four decades ago. Fortunately, others’ do.
Judging from the news release issued by Boom! and POW!, Lee’s name and reputation are being used more as a marketing tool than a creative one. Quoting from the news release (emphasis is mine):
Pow! Entertainment and Boom! Studios announced a deal has been struck that will see the production of a series of three superhero titles presented by Stan Lee. These series will premiere from Boom! Studios later this year. Boom!’s editor-in-chief Mark Waid … [snip] … will be writing one of the series. Two other series will follow, featuring A-list writers as a part of the creative team. Further announcements will clarify the teams and the timing for the roll-out.
Note that there’s no mention that Stan Lee had a hand in the creation of these super-hero properties or in the storytelling that will eventually be seen in the final product. Lee is listed as “presenting” these comics. In my book, that’s good news.
Mark Waid’s direct involvement in the writing one of these series is enough to get me on board. I’ve enjoyed his writing for years, and he’s also demonstrated the ability to write a diverse array of characters, moods and genres. As a comics consumer, the news so far is that Mark Waid is writing another comic.
I’ll be interested to see whom Boom! Studios has hired to write the other titles and what qualifies as “A-list” talent in the publisher’s eyes. For the most part, the only A-list storyteller who’s consistently worked with Boom! is Waid. The publisher has proven to be a great training ground for up-and-coming talent, especially when it comes to artists. I’d argue, for example, that artist Paul Azaceta has really come into his own and proven himself to be an outstanding storyteller during his time with Boom!
Waid has wisely maintained his prominent industry status beyond his role at Boom! by freelancing these days as one of the writers who’s helped to revitalize Marvel’s solidly selling Amazing Spider-Man. Still, it’s about time Boom! bolstered its roster of A-list comics talent.
Stan Lee’s just isn’t the one to do it.
Note: Johanna Draper Carlson arrives at some similar conclusions about Lee’s involvement in this venture.
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