Marvel really was a great place to work back in the 90s. They were making so much money that they just gave things away to every employee they had. Based on the success of Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man #1, they continually re-released it with different variant covers. It seemed for weeks all I did during my comic deliveries was hand over new Spider-Man #1 variant covers. Gold metallic cover ink, silver mettalic ink cover, bronze and copper metallic ink cover; it was like the madness never ended. The Marvel Bullpen Proper were so sick of Spider-Man #1 that they half-jokingly asked me to stop delivering their Marvel books to the Bullpen. I say half-jokingly because, remember, these guys did retouches, corrections and a lot of the coloring on these books and quite frankly they could not bear to look them anymore. Marvel, on the other hand, was SO proud of Spider-Man #1 that when the issue in question officially broke 1 million copies sold, the company releasd an in-house ‘Platinum’ edition. That was supposed to mean that you only got the damn thing if you worked for the company in any capacity. A memo even got floated around to all departments that we, as Marvel employees, were being given this as a ‘Reward’ for helping to make the company successful. We were specifically asked not to sell the issue off (remember, this was the 90s and the height of the comic speculator craze that eventually bankrupted the company almost 5 years later).
This memo really wasn’t heeded by those of us reading the book. I took myself to my local comic shop, got a cool $50 for it and laughed my way home. I would imagine many of the Bullpenners did the same. It only got worse in the summer of ’91 with the release of X-Force #1 in June and then 2 months later with the release of X-Men #1 in August. For both comics, Marvel released them not just with variant metallic ink covers. No, no, no, 5 diffferent covers were created, taken from a Jim Lee drawn poster. All 5 covers could be assembled to make one whole image. As if this wasn’t bad enough, Marvel then released a triptych cover edition with the complete image as well. Now mind you, X-Men #1 was a billion times better than Spider-Man #1 but having to deliver the same book 5 times really drove me insane (imagine how the Bullpen felt?).
Anyways, that isn’t my Marvel Tale for today actually. No, I am here to tell about ‘Encounter with Stan Lee #2’ and while it wasn’t quite as meaningful to me as the first time I met him, I think it is a tad more humorous. The Autumn of 1991 was little blustery that year in New York City. I thanked God above that I wasn’t working outdoors amidst the cold, wind and rain. It was a Wednesday, I remember this because the new comics had arrived. I was going about my business of collating the comics for delivery when my boss, Joe Cucolo said “James come here, I got a job for you”. I was surprised by this because I never got selected for ‘Jobs’. “Stan is in town for a charity event” said Joe, “Take these books here and have him autograph them and then comeback here”.
My reaction to this moment was pure boneheadedness. “Stan? Who is Stan” I asked. “Joe looked at me in disbeleif and then it hit me “OH! STAN LEE!”. I was given the address to Stan’s hotel and given very explicit instructions:
1. Go to the hotel
2. Ask the front Desk Clerk that I was there to see Stan Lee
3. Take the Room number the Clerk would give me and call stan’s room to let him know I had arrived
4.Wait for Stan
I checked my package, 3 hardcover editions of Marvel Masterworks. I embarked Marvel Headquarters at 387 Park Avenue South (between 23 & 24th streets) and trekked all the way to Stan’s hotel which was in the mid-30s. The elements were cruel that day my friends. Nasty wind had been blowing since morning and it had been threatening to rain all day. Still, I made my perilous journey through the mean streets of Manhattan until I rached that hotel. I arrived, slung my bag off my shoulders and went to the front desk. The Front Desk Clerk was less than impressed with me, what with me in my sweatshirt, jeans, sneakers and goatee. “How can I help you… sir” he asked. I’ve never felt those words could be used to make someone feel so utterly inferior. “Um yes, I’m from the Marvel Mail Room. I’m here to see Stan Lee” I replied.
“Mister Lee is in this room” responded The Front Desk Clerk, as he wrote down the suite number, “Now go over there where no one will visibly see you and use the house phone behind the fern”. Apparently my appearance was so offensive to this Hotel Clerk that I needed to camoflage myself behind a plant, like some VC lying in wait for unsuspecting G.I.’s. Still, I obeyed and trudged over to the the house phone and dialed Stan’s room. “Hello” said a sweet female voice giggling.
“Um, yes… is this Mr. Lee’s room?” I asked. “It sure is sweetie” the voice replied, “You want to talk to Stan?”.
“Well ma’am, I’m from the Marvel Mailroom” I said nervously, “I’m here with the books for Mr. Lee to sign. “Oh! We’ve been expecting you” replied the voice, “Stan will be right down, he just has to get his pants on. He was a little busy when you called”. It was 3:30 in the afternoon and Stan Lee was busy without his pants?
Hey Idiot!;, screamed my brain, “You’re missing the point! Stan Lee WAS BUSY WITHOUT HIS PANTS!. “Thank you ma’mm” I quickly replied, “I’ll be in the lobby waiting by the fern” was all I could muster to say. The voice giggled and said Stan ‘The Man’ would be down in a minute. It was more like 15 minutes. I imagined Stan Lee, proud like a lion not satisfied, lurking in his suite, stalking his prey and when he was done, deciding that once wasn’t nearly enough. I also imagined Stan shouting “EXCELSIOR!” more than he normally would while this was going on. I took a seat at the least luxurious chair by the fern, for fear of th Front Desk Clerk scolding me that the chairs were ‘not meant for the likes of you’. I waited and finally Stan came down in the elevator in a style that was so awesome that it was a pure miracle that I didn’t get down on my knees and worship him like the Golden Calf.
He was the only person on the elevator, as he should be, I mean he was Stan ‘Fucking’ Lee (and as far as in my mind went, he had been just that right before I called). He was in satin pajamas and the most awesome smoking jacket a man has ever worn. He was like Hugh Hefner as he stepped off the lift in his slippers. I stood up immeadiately. He saw me and walked over with an easy smile. “You must be from Marvel” he said grinning as he shook my hand, “I’m Stan Lee!”. “I know Mister Lee” I replied, “We met once before”. He nodded, still smiling “Excellent!” he remarked, “I would’ve been down sooner but… well, I was…”
I waited for it, I really was hoping Stan Lee was about to tell me he was getting his freak on. I mean he is Stan Lee, can you imagine what deviances he could possibly have? Does he tell Mrs. Stan Lee to “Kneel before Doom”? As he puts on his mounting face does he shout “IT’S CLOBBERIN’ TIME!”? Could he possibly dress as Captain America and she Sharon Carter (or even worse… BUCKY?)?
My mind raced for a moment until Stan flashed that winning smile at me and winked “I was indisposed… if you know what I mean!”.
That cinched it! I totally caught Stan Lee gettin’ some sugar from Mrs. Stan Lee. I had interrupted Stan Lee’s post-coital bliss.The man all but came out and said “This is Stan Lee! Have you ever had sex with a woman? WELL STAN LEE HAS!”. Stan chuckled to himself after winking and then asked me where the books to sign were. I fumbled with the plastic wrap and opened the covers. “What should I write I wonder?” Stan asked aloud.
What should you write? my brain shouted, How about “I’m Stan Lee and I am a STALLION IN BED! EXCELSIOR!” or How about “This is Stan Lee and you will NEVER know the pleasures of sex with my wife! Nuff’Said! EXCELSIOR!”.
Finally Stan scribbled smething on the inside front cover and flashed that smile again. “I think this will do” he said as he shook my hand again, “Thanks for coming down”. “No thank you Mr. Lee” I replied, with the same dopey smile I had on my face the first time I met him.
“Oh please, call me Stan” he said through those shining teeth. He then turned and walked back to the elevator, looking ever the part of millionaire playboy. As for me, I put the books back in my bag, slung the bag over my shoulder and began the long trudge back to the office. I never looked at the inscription Stan wrote. I didn’t care. I just discovered, on that day, why he is Stan ‘The Man’ Lee!