Monday, January 11, 2010

Stan Lee's Defining Midcareer Moment

I reproduce below a few segments from an interesting Best Life article written by comics legend Stan Lee. The defining moment described in the article changed not only his career, it changed the world of comic books too:

Ever since I was a child, I had wanted to be the next Mark Twain or H. G. Wells. Instead, I had turned into a hack. And I didn't realize it until more than 2o years later. ...

So in a moment of frustration, I told my wife I wanted to quit... and she proved that she was as smart as she was beautiful. She said, "Why don't you just write your next comic book the way you want? The worst thing that will happen is you'll be fired, but you want to quit anyway, so it's a win-win situation." I knew I was capable of better, so I happily followed her advice.

The first comic I created was the Fantastic Four, which violated everything Martin had always insisted on: It had real characters, grown-up dialogue, and real action, but not in every panel.

When it went on sale, luck was with me: It was the best-selling title that month. Martin asked me to do more, so I created Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, X-Men, and others. They all did so well that I talked Martin into changing the company's name to Marvel, which evoked a new, more exciting image. Marvel was a word I could play with and have fun with in advertising. The rest is history.

I think a lot of people have that midcareer moment when they realize they have been playing by other people's rules. At that moment, you can go one of two ways: You
can keep playing by their rules or you can start making up your own. I just happened to be very lucky: I married a woman who was smart enough to understand this,
and she pushed me in the right direction when the time came.

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