Oh, I always wished I could do something better than comics, but there didn't seem to be anything.
My mother used to say that when I was having lunch or dinner at home, if I didn't have a book to read, I'd be reading the label on the ketchup bottle.
And, in fact, one of the gifts that I got one Christmas... my mother bought me a little metal stand that you could put a book on, so while you're eating you could be reading the book.
There were the Hardy Boys, Don Sturdy and Tom Swift.
One was an adventurer, one was an inventor.
I loved Émile Zola.
I loved Charles Dickens.
Whenever I got an extra 50 cents, I'd buy one of those books.
In those days, grown-ups hated comics, didn't want their children to read them particularly.
So, I figured I'm not going to use my real name, which I'm saving for posterity, for these silly comic books.
So, I cut my first name into two and called myself Stan Lee.
And it was a living, and I was doing the best I could to make the stories a little bit better.
But the kind of stories my publisher wants me to do are banal.
I said to my wife, "You know, there's got to be something better than this."
So, Joanie said to me, "Why don't you write one book the way you'd like to do it?"
So, at that time my publisher, Martin Goodman, said, "Give me a new superhero book. I think superheroes may sell."
“But I didn't want to do superheroes just like Superman or Batman, I wanted something a little more original, and where I played up the personality of the characters more, and where there were surprises.
And I came up with the Fantastic Four.
And I called Jack Kirby, who was the best artist we had, and I asked him if he would draw it.
It sold very well.
We had never gotten fan mail before, but we started getting fan mail, and that started it.
So, I dreamed up Spider-Man and the Hulk and the X-Men and all the others.
What I tried to do was take these characters, who are obviously bigger than life and fictitious, and make them seem real.
They've got these powers.
They do wonderful things.
But what are the things that worry them?
What are the things that frustrate them?
I tried to write a well-rounded character with every character I did, rather than just somebody who is extra strong and can beat up the bad guys.
If you're writing about people, you have to make the people come to life.
I know I always loved reading Sherlock Holmes, and I loved the way Sherlock Holmes spoke, and the way Dr. Watson spoke, and you could tell one from the other.
They didn't speak the same way.
And the same with any good books.
You didn't have to read, 'Joe said' or 'Sam said,' you knew who said it by the way the words were written.
In the beginning, I wrote all the scripts myself.
I typed them out, wrote them.
After a while I was writing almost every book, and we had a lot of books, and there wasn't time to do it.
Kirby would be waiting for a script,
and I couldn't keep him with nothing to do.
So, I would say, "Look Jack, I don't have time to write your script, but here's the story I want to tell, and here's how we'll end it."
I gave him whatever I wanted this story to be.
And I said, "You draw it any way you want, I'll put in the dialogue and the captions later."
So, he would work just from an outline — a verbal outline that I gave him.
He'd put in a lot of details that I hadn't even thought of and that was great.
And I did the same with all the other artists.
One reason that our stories were so successful was I had these great artists illustrating them.
Kirby was good, Ditko was good, John Romita was good, John Buscema, Gene Colan — and I tried to get the best people I could.
Even though we couldn't pay more than anyone else — and we very often paid less — I tried to make the job as interesting as I could.
Even though they were comic strips, it would be great if we could make them readable and enjoyable and having something to say.”
“Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can.”
Interviewer: “What would you like people to be left with from your career?”