In what can only be described as a notable plot twist in an epic tale, the life rights of Marvel legend Stan Lee have been acquired for cinematic adaptation – by Twentieth Century Fox. While the eventual telling of the comic book creator’s story always seemed inevitable, the fact that it will be under the banner of Fox – not Disney – is surprising to say the least. While Fox does remain home to a number of Stan Lee creations, it is Disney that now oversees the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with which Lee is synonymous.
Stan Lee is one of the most recognizable faces in the comic book genre, thanks to his many cameo appearances in film and television adaptations of various works. He is presently 93 years of age, and first entered the comic book industry 76 years ago, at the age of 17. Through family connections, he went to work for Timely Comics in 1939 – a small organization that would eventually evolve into Marvel.
During his career – in addition to occasional stints working on various established DC titles – he collaborated regularly with Marvel colleague Jack Kirby and others to create Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Fantastic Four, X-Men, Daredevil and Doctor Strange, to name just a few. He also led the charge against the Comics Code Authority, which sought to censor comic book content, and was instrumental in transforming Marvel Comics from a small publishing operation into a vast multimedia corporation of international renown.
Stan Lee was arguably one of the biggest influences in pop culture of the 20th century, and this impact continues into the new millennium. This being the case, any screen adaptation of his life could hardly be undertaken as a standard biopic. Rather, the film is expected to focus specifically on the 1970s, during which time Stan Lee moved to Hollywood. Here, he worked to facilitate the crossover of his characters from the page to the screen – both big and small – which was an endeavour that led directly to the superhero cinema events, and comic book TV series we see today.
A writer and director have yet to be announced for this project, but we do know that the man himself will be executive producing. It seems that the tone the studio is aiming for is one that is akin to Kingsman: The Secret Service, or the James Bond of the Roger Moore era – with a 40-something Lee schmoozing his way around Hollywood in adventure movie style.
While the premise sounds great, its success will surely hinge entirely on one thing – the casting of the role of 1970s-era Stan Lee. Will Twentieth Century Fox get it right? Who could possibly grow that iconic moustache? Is anybody willing to bet that it will be impersonator-extraordinaire Michael Sheen? What a cliffhanger. What a prospect. What a project to keep a very close eye on.