Portsmouth Comic Con: Remembering Stan Lee With Roy Thomas, Steve Engelhart & Jean-Marc Lofficier

by Olly MacNamee

Kicking the week off in style was the 11 o’clock panel with Roy Thomas, Steve Englehart and Jean-Marc Lofficier celebrating and remembering Stan Lee; his life, his legacy, and the panelists’ fond memories of him.
One funny story that was shared early on into the panel was a time when there was a bomb scare at their New York offices and happily remembered that Stan Lee briskly walked past them without a word. Thomas said, “I never saw him walk quite as quickly as on that day.” This humorous throwaway story got the panel off to a good start.
Talking about Lee’s work ethic – he was voracious it would seem – the panelists spoke about one one the many blackouts New York had back the 70’s  and in that time Stan wrote a whole comic book by candlelight. Meanwhile, Thomas and his friends took the chance to drink and eat. At the time – or there about – he was writing about 13 monthly titles, while Englehart admitted that, at his best, he was writing 5 titles.

(l to r) Steve Englehart, Jean-Marc Lofficier, Roy Thomas and panel host Andy Colman

‘Stan Lee Presents’ which was emblazoned on all Marvel comics at one time was coined by Thomas, because Stan, after giving up the writing, still wanted to be part of the company. This was a very obvious, and effective way.
Of course, there was always going to be the mention of Jack Kirby and a realisation that one would not have been as iconic without the other. Talking about Kirby’s move to DC Comics, when Kirby created Funky Flashman on Mister Miracle, Stan was upset. This came up when Kirby wanted to go back to Marvel. Kirby shrugged it off, even though it was done, “all in fun,” as Kirby claimed at the time. Thomas had to persuade Stan to have him back. After all, having him back at Marvel was better than having him DC. Although, as we know, it wasn’t the return they’d all hoped. Jack, “couldn’t write,” and his stuff was “impenetrable” and that seems to be a great part of his downfall at Marvel and, arguably, why it didn’t work out for him at DC Comics either. Jack could draw, Stan could write. ‘Nuff said. It’s this shared memory that reminded you of the man behind the public persona, and man who obviously had a strong bond with Kirby.

What everyone could agree was Stan was a great performer, even if it meant many talented creators were overshadowed by his big personality. He was the face of Marvel, let’s not forget. To the determent of others at times.
Engelhart remembered a time Frank Miller approached him for some work, but as he was in a rush to fly to Europe, he brushed him off. A year later, he met Frank again, who by that time was far more confident. He shared this story to illustrate how years of this must have swelled Stan’s ego. “You have to have an ego to survive in this industry.”
However, this fame could also be used for no good too. Stan’s importance was so large that by the time Marvel was bought by Disney and some creators felt they had been short changed, Disney would wheel out Stan and out him in the witness box. After all, “who wouldn’t believe Stan Lee?”
Rounding off the panel was a fun story involving Conan, which Stan wanted to cancel at one time to get Barry Windsor-Smith onto superhero titles instead. Thankfully Thomas talked him out of it.
Stan started in the back alleys of New York in Depression era America and ended up staring over the Hollywood hills. That’s a pretty great rags to riches story for you. The pannelists remembered him fondly but also without to much sentimentality either. And we all got to learn a little bit more about one of the godfathers of superhero comics.

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