Pipeline #1111: Stan Lee Meets the Silver Surfer, Doctor Strange

I saw someone mention that they had seen Stan Lee 15 years ago at a convention and they were surprised at how spry the old man was.

My first thought was, "He wasn't old. He was only 80."

In Stan Lee years, 80 was the new 40.

We lost Stan Lee this week at the age of 95, and it still seems impossible.

But time eventually claims us all, as it did Marvel's greatest showman and comics' greatest mascot. There's something so completely lovable in Lee's public persona. You wanted to root for him. You wanted to cheer for him. You wanted to believe everything he said and buy everything he told you to. (Admittedly, most of his projects in the last 20 years were a tough sell....)

He was your favorite comics uncle or grandfather. (Wait, 95? "Comics Great-Grandfather")

Stan Lee was a comic book character of his own creation. That reminded me of something that I went back to re-read last night.

In 2006, Marvel published a five issue event called "Stan Lee Meets." In the front half of each comic, Stan Lee wrote about himself visiting one of his creations. The second half featured an all-star cast of creators doing their own stories inspired by and including Stan.

The stories from Lee showed off a lighter side. It was a very self-aware side. It was a side that wasn't afraid to poke fun at himself. For that reason, it's hilarious in a way that a pure parody could never be.

Let's look at two of those stories, in particular.

"Stan Lee Meets Silver Surfer"

Stan Lee meets Silver Surfer
(Photo: Mike Wieringo, Sean Parsons, Marvel Entertainment)

This is my favorite of the batch for two reasons. First, it has the unfair advantage of Mike Wieringo's art. Who could pass up a story drawn by 'Ringo featuring Stan Lee talking to Silver Surfer and Galactus?

The brilliance in this story is that Lee meets the horror of his own creation. He finds himself in deep space on a surfboard with the Silver Surfer, desperately looking for answers to a burning question. And the Surfer speaks in nonsensical platitudes.

At least, they have little to nothing to do with what Lee is asking. It's just high minded nonsense about what is reality and what does any of it mean? It's like the meditations of Marcus Aurelius being used in response to everything.

Stan Lee talks like Silver Surfer
(Photo: Mike Wieringo, Sean Parsons, Marvel Entertainment)

It gets so bad that Lee commiserates with Galactus over it, and the two become almost pals. It's a cute twist to an expected story, and a fun display of Stan Lee not taking himself too seriously.

Plus, you have Mike Wieringo drawing Stan Lee on a surfboard in space. After drawing Jack Kirby in the pages of "Fantastic Four," this feels like the perfect bookend for him.


"Stan Lee Meets Doctor Strange"

Stan stops by the good doctor's house for a visit, but is greeted at the front door with a tourist's price list. There's one fee for a tour of the Sanctum Sanctorum, but additional fees for the VIP experience, the t-shirt, the personalization, etc.

You'd almost think Stan Lee had seen what comic book conventions had become....

Stan Lee meets Doctor Strange doing his taxes
(Photo: Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, Marvel Entertainment)

Stan pushes his way through to the good Doctor, where he is greeted by Strange in a slightly bad mood. No wonder -- he's doing his taxes.

Strange has no problem complaining about his lot in life, as written by Lee. He has a tough time memorizing all the different spells. His Sanctum is expensive, and it's tough to talk the landlord into letting him stick around when demons are constantly flooding the place.

Doctor Strange has a tough time rhyming Hoggoth.  Thanks, Stan Lee!
(Photo: Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, Marvel Entertainment)

Again, it's Stan Lee humanizing his characters to an extreme degree, but also not afraid of poking fun at himself.

Artistically, this one has an unfair advantage too: Alan Davis. Any chance to see Davis draw Strange is one worth jumping on, but he really outdoes himself here. The script gives him lots of opportunities to draw dramatic scenes and weird magical landscapes. It's a Best Of scenario on top of a parody piece.

Davis runs with it beautifully.


More Highlights

Lee Weeks draws Stan Lee meeting The Thing, including a hilarious first page of Lee riding his bike down the New York City streets.

One of the backups in "Stan Lee Meets Doctor Doom" is a two-page autobiographical piece from Tom Beland, right after a back-up drawn by Ed McGuinness that's easy on the eyes, too.

"Stan Lee Meets Spider-Man" includes a back-up from Joss Whedon and Michael Gaydos set at a comic-con.

It's an all-star line-up, for sure.


Final Thoughts

It's obvious that this was a passion project from Marvel, using their best artists and writers at the time. I'm sure they had no problems convincing artists to draw from one of Lee's scripts.

I don't know how well the series sold. I don't care. Looking back on it today, it's a lot of good, clean fun. Seeing people who are successful and yet can still poke fun and themselves is always good.

Stan Lee was many things to many people. He was an enthusiastic supporter of comic books. He was the front man for the industry. He was beloved by many. And, as we've seen this week, his celebrity and his skills were known by those outside our little bubble inside the industry, too. It's good that someone was around to remind the world that comics still exist.

It's not often that the same story is the lead on both FoxNews.com and CNN.com at the same time. Stan Lee's death brought everyone together for a day of both mourning and celebration.

That feels about right.

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Thanks for everything, Stan!

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