Marvel Adventures – Episode 1 “The Time I Met Stan Lee”
April of 1991 was a magical time in my life. I had been asked to take an ‘Academic Leave’ from Drew University in January due to achieving the impossible, an actual 0.0 GPA. I wasn’t ready for College, I realize that now. I had gone from the very rigid, structured life of Boarding School to the flexible schedules and theoretical option of not being forced to attend my classes. I simply wasn’t ready. I don’t blame my boarding school for this, I blame myself. I should’ve prepared for it better. Taking a year off of academics to travel probably would’ve served me better than jumping into the fray of College life. Instead I discovered a group of geeks and spent all my time playing Role Playing Games and reading comics and the works of Michael Moorcock.
Thus being, in reality, expelled from school I was back at home living with my father. Did I mention my father was kind of a brainiac that graduated Cornell University while still in the womb? No? Well, that is obviously selling my Dad short. He was working on a Doctorate in the womb, so obviously I was somewhat of a disappointment to him. The comparison to my sister was Dad’s favorite weapon of choice against me. My dear sister had proudly graduated from Johns Hopkins University somewhere close to the top of her class. To compare me to her was unfair. My sense of pride and accoomplishment came from actually owning a copy of Fantastic Four #5. What? It was the first appearance of Doctorm Doom!
So after a a few temp jobs working in NYC, my Dad set-up an interview for me with a man named Bruce Slovin. Bruce Slovin worked for Ron Perlman. Ron Perlman owned Revlon which owned Marvel Comics. From that meeting Bruce Slovin got me an interview at Marvel for a job in the mail room. I never wanted a job so badly in my life and killed at my interview. Three weeks later I found myself being introduced to my boss Joe Cucolo. Joe was a great boss and genuinely nice guy. He probably wished I hadn’t spent so much time reading comics on the job. Honestly, I was a terrible employee. I spent way to much time cavorting with the crew in the Marvel Bullpen. There was also the time I ended up talking with Ralph Macchio (Marvel Editor, not The Karate Kid) for an hour about our mutual love of both Thanos & Darkseid as villains.
Part of my duties as a mail carrier was to deliver the new comics to everyone in the building every week. Boxes of the week’s new comics arrived every Wednesday & Thursday. I had to open and breakdown the boxes, collate everything and then deliver it to 2 of the 4 floors that comprised the Marvel offices. Wednesday saw delivery of the Marvel books and Thursday the DCs. That is right kids, both major publishers got handed out. Marvels arrived on Wednesday and got distrubuted on Thurday and DCs got delivered Friday. The Marvel Bullpen hated me on Thursday because those were the books they worked on and for the most part they hated them, especially if it was drawn by Rob Liefeld. Fidays however I was welcomed warmly by the Bullpen because Friday was the day they got their DC Comics and they loved their DCs. There was even one Bullpenner who eagerly awaited the old DC licensed Dungeons & Dragons comics (Actual Quote: “They are utter crap but the artwork is masterful”).
But the day I treasure above all others was the day I met Stan Lee. Now understand, Stan Lee is one of my personal heroes. Sure there are those that bash Stan and not give him his due as a creator. Those people really don’t get that the ‘Marvel Method’ of making comics truly was a collaboration between artist and writer. Stan may have just put words in the character’s mouths to fit the action that Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko drew but it was those words that worked so well. So Stan Lee is one of my heroes and the first time I met him only furthered my worship of him.
It was a Thursday afternoon and I was about to make my afternoon mail delivery. I had a very specific route that I ran and followed it as a circuit every day. I always left via the back door that led down the hallway to the film library and some cubicles. It was a narrow strip and when I had my mail cart it was impossible for 2 people to walk in it, it was that wide. I made my first stop and got thanked for the mail and was ready to shove off for my next stop. Then like some smiling saint… HE WAS THERE!
‘Smilin’ Stan Lee himself was standing right in front of me and he was… well he was smiling. I was struck stupid for 3 seconds as I was unable to speak a word and believe me I was trying to talk to him. I’m stunned I wasn’t struck deaf and blind as well. Stan asked how I was doing and then finally I said “I’m fine Mr. Lee”. He winked and said “That’s swell” and tried to squeeze past the monstrosity of my mail cart. I couldn’t just let him walk away without telling him what his stories meant to me, it just wasn’t going go down with me just saying “I’m fine Mr. Lee”. I made myself heard!
“Mr. Lee” I said,”I… I just have to say thank you! I grew up reading your stories, in fact they are one of the reasons that I actually learned to read. I just have to say thank you”. Having said my piece I held out my hand which he immeadiately shook. He then drew me in closer, smiled and said in that trademark Stan Lee voice “The smile on your face says it all True Believer!” and then squeezed past me to walk to to the mail room.
I stood there absolutely numb. I just met Stan Lee. It was processing in my head… “I JUST MET STAN LEE!” my brain was yelling, “I JUST MET STAN LEE & HE CALLED ME A TRUE BELIEVER!”.
I stood there for 2 minutes longer, shaking and smiling like a goon. I met Stan Lee and he was just as awesome as I imagined him being. I could’ve gotten fired 5 minutes later and wouldn’t have cared at all. Why? Because I just met Stan Lee that’s why! I met Stan Lee and he confirmed for me what I always knew in my heart, I was a True Believer! Stan Lee said so and therefore it was, without a doubt, true. I met Stan Lee and all was right in America and The World. I finally nodded my head and smiled and finished delivering my mail…
Stan Lee called me a True Believer. Fuck all the haters, that is what I say. But after the story I just told there is only one fitting way to end this entry…
Next Brave Blog: How Can I Top That Story? SERIOUSLY!!