THE INTERVIEWS, PART II
The week of July 5, 2015

Behind Marvel icon Stan Lee’s new World of Superheroes

By Rae Votta

YouTubers with an itch for superhero stories are getting the chance to work with the true superhero of the comic industry, Stan Lee, thanks to a partnership with the worldwide YouTube spaces.

YouTube’s World of Superheroes is a global program across the YouTube Spaces in Los Angeles, New York, London, Tokyo, and São Paulo that allows select YouTubers access to specific superhero-themed sets and green-screen projects allowing their actors to leap tall building with a single bound—or fly, thanks to the magic of camera tricks. Twelve creators worked with Lee’s POW! Entertainment on their projects, with six lucky creators having direct consultations with Lee, who said he was looking for “originality” and “a sense of suspense” in the scripts for which he’d give feedback.

“We are always looking for a fresh angle, for a type of character that we haven’t seen before,” he explained during a visit to the YouTube Space L.A. in June. “As you can imagine, it’s more and more difficult to find that. But as I tell the people we deal with, it has to be either a new power, or a new problem that we haven’t come up against before, or a new setting. I’m not going to tell you how to do it, because I don’t want any competition!”

YouTube is a chance for Lee and his company to tackle the universality of superheroes head-on, which he theorizes is just a progression of the worldwide obsession with fairy tales.

“Almost everybody loved fairy tales when they were young—tales of witches and monsters, all kinds of things that are bigger than life,” Lee explained. “You get a little older and you can’t read fairy tales anymore, but then along come superhero stories. To me, they’re like fairy tales for older people. They have all those elements of wonder and things that are bigger than life. This is a worldwide thing; this isn’t just America. The nice thing is that YouTube is in a position to satisfy this craving for this sort of thing all over the world.”

“We are always looking for a fresh angle, for a type of character that we haven’t seen before.”

With all the fresh ideas coming in through YouTube creators, Lee joked that he’d happily steal ideas from “anyone, anywhere,” and he had plenty of praise for the digital space.

“YouTube has become like a major movie studio. People want to do things at YouTube because they know those things will be viewed all over the world,” he said, before jokingly calling the platform his competitor.

For the YouTube projects, Lee will continue his tradition of surprise cameos.

“I’ve done three cameos already,” he said. “One of them is the funniest one you’ve ever seen: All I had to do was shrug. But I did it magnificently. The other two I can’t tell you; you have to tune in. I never thought I’d become a cameo specialist.”

More videos from the creators will roll out on YouTube through August. The project is another milestone in a unexpected trajectory that’s seen Lee’s influence stretch from comic pages to global phenomenon.

“It’s unbelievable, actually, and of course I never expected it to happen,” Lee said. “When we were doing these comic books years ago, we were just hoping the books would sell so we could keep our job and pay the rent. And all of a sudden these characters have become the biggest thing in movies, and movies are like the biggest thing in the world. It’s still hard to believe, really.”

Photo via Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)