Stan Lee’s Mutants, Monsters, & Marvels
Stan Lee’s Mutants, Monsters, & Marvels 2002
After watching Confessions of a Superhero, I thought it would be a good idea to watch a couple more superhero themed documentaries, and since I actually own this one, I figured it was a no-brainer. It’s not a traditional documentary, in fact it’s almost more of a bonus disc to a non-specific movie. It was released right around the time Spider-Man came out in theaters, and the first part of the film is strictly about Spider-Man. It’s basically just director slash writer slash podcaster Kevin Smith, interviewing the father of Marvel comics, Stan Lee. As I mentioned, the first part of the interview is all about Spider-Man, and the second part covers pretty much the rest of his career. It’s quite interesting, as both Lee and Smith are both great speakers, even though it’s essentially just the two of them sitting down talking to each other for about an hour and a half.
Of the two parts, I found the second to be much more interesting. The two of them talk about Stan’s entire career, from when Marvel was actually called Timely comics, to his brief stint in the armed forces as a filmmaker of all things, to the creation of nearly all of Marvel’s superhero line-up both then and now. Stan is really a great storyteller, and he has so many amazing stories to tell. It’s really crazy when you think that essentially one guy created: The Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Silver Surfer, Thor, and tons of others. And on top of that, they’ve all remained popular ever since. There’s a lot covered that I never knew about, as well as things I had forgotten about since the first time I watched this. I also thought it was interesting how they were promoting the DC Comics “Let’s Imagine” where Stan created a series of comic books based on the names and general concepts of many the most famous DC characters. I don’t believe it ended up being a significant hit, I got the feeling it was just a modest success.
I honestly think one of the most interesting things about this project is the timeline of when it was created. It was made right around the time of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie, they even talk a little bit about Stan’s cameo and how part of it was cut out – where he was trying to sell sunglasses that were “just like in the X-Men”, which apparently Stan missed the fact that X-Men was done by Fox studios, while Spider-Man was done by Sony, even though I do think that would have been a funny line. They also talk a little bit about how Ang Lee’s Hulk was on the horizon, as well as a Fantastic Four and a Silver Surfer movie, even though the Silver Surfer ended up coming out quite a bit later on. There’s also a brief section at the end of the Spider-Man segment where Kevin Smith visits Stan’s house and sees some of his amazing collectibles and artwork, including a huge classic piece of him staring down Spider-Man in a somewhat Warhol style.
While this is mostly just an interview between two guys, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention all the classic artwork featured. If you’re a fan of silver age comics at all, this has all sorts of great artwork from the greats like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. Featuring close-ups of great comic book moments like the first appearance of Mary Jane Watson, and the cover of the death of Gwen Stacy. I also thought it was fairly interesting that they talked about how Gwen was one character along with Captain America’s sidekick Bucky that stayed dead. Of course I don’t believe either one of them is true anymore, as I remember hearing that they finally brought Bucky back a while ago, and at least in movie form, Gwen’s back. I honestly can’t say one way or another about her comics version.
I remember originally buying this DVD for a couple reasons, one was because I was excited to see Spider-Man coming out on the big screen, I loved the 90’s cartoon series, and I also remember Stan-Lee introducing some of the other Marvel related cartoons at the time. But I think the main reason was that was when I started becoming a huge Kevin Smith fan and collector, and I wanted to collect anything movie related that he was involved with. And while he was fairly tangentially involved with this project; you get to see him, but he spends most of his time nodding and saying “uh-huh”, while Stan does most of the talking. It’s still worth a watch, especially if you’re any sort of Marvel fan at all, it’s great to hear all these behind-the-scenes stories, and it’s just great to see the joy that Stan conveys any time he’s talking about his work. It may be hard to find anymore, but if you catch it, or if it’s streaming somewhere, it’s a good watch, and it’s easy to split up into a couple forty minute blocks.