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Trailblazer Stan Lee


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  ZZ: Stan, a lot of us grew up reading your comics and watching your TV shows. When you were a kid, what was your favorite form of entertainment?

SL: When I was a kid they used to have these 50-cent hardcover books like The Hardy Boys, Don Sturdy, Tom Swift, and Bomba the Jungle Boy. And then there was a group that nobody had ever heard of called Jerry Todd, and another one by the same author called Poppy Ott. They were my favorite adventure stories because they also had a lot of humor in them. At the end of the book -- and I had never seen this before on a hard cover book -- the author had pages where he would talk to the reader and he would print some letters. In fact, that's what gave me the idea to do the Bullpen Bulletin pages in the comics years later.

ZZ: Did you have favorite radio and TV shows?

SL: [Laughs.] I hate to sound so old -- but we didn't have television. We barely had radio! In fact, I got all my practice at sketching by drawing on the walls of caves. [Laughs.] Most of the good radio shows or the good family shows were on Sunday night. And my mother and father and I, and later my kid brother, we would have a delicatessen dinner then turn on the radio and we'd listen to Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Charley McCarthy, and Walter Winchell -- all the shows that we loved. The funny thing about it was that we were sitting facing the radio as though it were a television set. I guess, psychologically, you faced the radio as if it was somebody talking to you.

ZZ: Was storytelling a big part of your childhood?

SL: Yeah it was. In fact, when I was a kid I used to draw little primitive stick figures of characters and I would tell myself stories. I'd draw a little funny horse and I'd put a cowboy on top of him. And I'd have some rustlers over here and I'd move them toward each other. I had a couple of friends when I was, oh, about 10, 11, 12 years old, and sometimes we'd get together in one of our apartments and we would just tell each other stories.

ZZ: You started writing very early. Did you always want to be a writer?

SL: Well, no. I really wanted to be an actor when I grew up. I joined something called the WPA Federal Theater. I believe Orson Wells was a member of it too. But you couldn't make any money at it in those days. It was right after the Depression and my father wasn't working and we needed money. So I found I could make more money by doing freelance writing. I was writing obituaries for a news service. I wrote obituaries of famous people who were still alive. When some celebrity dies the obituary appears in the paper minutes later. You wonder, 'How did they write it that fast?' It's been on file. Anyway, I wrote that and I wrote advertising, freelance, for some agency.
"When I was a kid I used to draw little primitive stick figures of characters and I would tell myself stories."

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