This weekend, Stan Lee's health became a topic of some conversation, after the comics legend cancelled a pair of appearances and a representative for Lee gave the rather ominous-sounding but non-specific explanation that he had done so due to a "serious circumstance."
While some struggled to take that at face value and avoid taking anything for granted, there were some in the blogosphere who immediately jumped to Lee's health as a possible explanation--perhaps not surprisingly, considering his age.
A pair of such stories, though, drew the ire of Comikaze Expo, a convention that Stan Lee runs along with Comikaze Entertainment, and the social media administrators sharply criticized both Comics Beat and The Toledo Blade for speculation that they say scared and upset fans unnecessarily.
"Its really sad that the Toledo Blade had to go spread nonsense," read one entry on the convention's Facebook page, while another gave the Blade a pass, saying in effect that they unknowingly reprinted false information that started at The Beat. When a representative for The Blade questioned reports of the quote above (it was made in response to a story which had been hidden on the Comikaze Facebook feed in order to avoid further unnecessary concern), ComicBook.com tried to make sense of the dichotomy, saying in effect that it appeared Comikaze was upset by what they considered erroneous reportage, but that depending on who was running the keyboard the target of the anger may change.
Following that story, Regina Carpinelli (CEO of Comikaze Entertainment) reached out to ComicBook.com to clarify their position. Carpinelli, who likens Lee to her own grandfather, is the staffer responsible for the "milk shake" theme that ran through much of what appeared on the Comikaze Facebook page as well as Lee's own Twitter feed. Carpinelli's first message was, basically to say that she had just shared a milk shake with Lee, so clearly he was not in dire straits.
Carpinelli acknowledges that when one is close to someone who is close to ninety years old, it's natural to worry about that person's health and well-being from time to time. The hysteria created by inaccurate or speculative reports over the weekend, though, had thrown fans into a panic. Tearful posts filled up their Facebook page and the Comikaze team went into self-defense mode trying to reassure their supporters that Stan wasn't in need of well-wishes.
"When somebody starts scaring fans about Stan, we get defensive," Carpinelli told ComicBook.com. "Maybe one of our social media guys went a little overboard--it was late and we just wrapped up our show--but we were defending Stan, because we started seeing all of these people crying, literally their hearts breaking on each post."
She said that on top of it all, many members of the media were not willing to talk to Comikaze when contacted and so getting the word out that Lee was not ill proved more difficult than one might think. Some members of the media were simply unwilling to talk to Carpinelli and her crew--and of course, getting anyone to return your call or e-mail on the weekend is a crap shoot in any business.
"The last thing anybody wants to see or hear is Stan's ill," Carpinelli said. "Our family at Comikaze Entertainment and me personally--we take it personally when people make things up. We stick up for our fans, we stick up for our partners, we stick up for our company and if we do something wrong we apologize for it.
"So we apologize if we were rude to the Toledo Blade or anyone else, but we want everyone to know that Stan is fine and that if you're going to say something, contact us, contact Stan. If we can't get you a quote, I'll put you in direct contact with the right person. And we don't like it that people got scared--that bothered us. We don't want fans--any fan--crying, I don't care if they come to our show of not, that was heartbreaking news for anybody. That's the bottom line."
She also noted that while everyone was jumping immediately to the health questions, it's likely that the representative who gave that original statement chose their words to be general.
"Serious circumstance can mean a lot of things," said Carpinelli, suggesting that it could range from a last-minute commitment to a wedding anniversary (according to Wikipedia, it's not a wedding anniversary--which he probably would have seen coming when he was scheduling the appearance anyway--but you get the idea).
She added, "I know why he canceled. It's not my place to say, but he's not sick."