In the Disney XD animated action-adventure series Ultimate Spider-Man, premiering from Marvel Animation on April 1st, 16-year-old Peter Parker (voiced by Drake Bell) has been saving New York City from villains as his alter-ego Spider-Man for the past year while juggling his life at Midtown High School with best friends Mary-Jane Watson (voiced by Tara Strong) and Harry Osborn (voiced by Matt Lanter), who are both unaware of his secret identity. Still in need of the discipline to best utilize his gifts, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (voiced by Chi McBride) offers Spidey the chance to train with the best and plants Agent Coulson (voiced by Clark Gregg) as the school principal to keep a watchful eye and him and four other teenage superheroes – Nova, White Tiger, Power Man and Iron Fist.
During this recent interview to promote the new Marvel Universe series, Marvel icon Stan Lee, who is both co-executive producer and the voice of Stan the Janitor, talked about how involved he is with this project, how much fun he has doing cameos in the Marvel live-action blockbuster films, that his cameos in The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man are his best and funniest yet, how he’s waiting for the call to do an Iron Man 3 cameo, what it like for him to see his comic book characters last for so long, and what he thinks the most significant changes in the Marvel universe are, over the last 50 years. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
STAN LEE: I spoke to the director and the cast and the crew. I learned what my motivation was. They took me through my background and how I arrived at this point. And, I really put my all into this performance. I wanted to be a janitor, from the top of my head to the tip of my toes. I wielded that mop with such care and dexterity that I’m quite proud of my performance. I think I’ve done a lot for janitors, worldwide.
The same that you did for mailmen, playing Willie Lumpkin?
LEE: Willie Lumpkin was another role that was not easy to play, but I threw myself into it. I think it was another total histrionic triumph.
How much fun did you have with your cameos in The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man?
LEE: The Avengers cameo that you will see, when that movie opens up, is possibly one of my best. And you know good mine have been, but it is so funny. I can’t tell you what it is ‘cause they’d kill me, but it is funny. So is the Spider-Man one, by the way. They’re deciding to make my cameos a little funnier. They know that’s what brings the audiences in, of course, so they’ve gotta play them up.
Are you already preparing for your cameo in Iron Man 3?
LEE: I haven’t done that cameo yet. It’s almost scary ‘cause they just give me a date. They’ll say, “Stan, come over next Thursday for your cameo,” but they don’t tell me what it is. So, I show up and they say, “Go to wardrobe.” In wardrobe, they say, “We want to get you a white shirt and a green sweater and a black zippered jacket,” and I’ll say, “Don’t bother, I’m wearing one.” And then, they say, “But, you can’t wear yours!,” and they look around and get me the exact same thing, but I’m not allowed to wear my own. And I still don’t know what my role will be. I go on the set and one minute before we’re gonna shoot, the director says, “Okay, Stan, this is what I want you to do.” So, I don’t know what is expected of me, until I get there, but of course, I do it magnificently.
With Spider-Man turning 50 this year, can you reminisce about the creation of the character and the longevity?
LEE: I don’t think about it much, but all the characters have lasted. It’s a strange thing. The Fantastic Four are still around, The Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, and even Daredevil. Pretty soon, you’ll see Dr. Strange and The Black Panther, and on and on. One of the great things has been the fact that the movies can do the special effects that they now can do. I don’t think these movies could have been made as well, 15 or 20 years ago. The movies are what’s helping to make these characters live on because the movies are so damn good. They’re eye candy, and they’re all so emotional when they’re done well, like Iron Man and Spider-Man. I’m just very lucky. I wrote these ridiculous little comic strips, and because of the magic that these movie producers and writers are able to do, suddenly it seems like, “Boy, that Stan Lee must have been some great writer!”
What do you think are the most significant changes in the Marvel universe, over the last 50 years?
LEE: To tell you the truth, I don’t even know how to answer that. What happens is that the Marvel universe is so fluid that it keeps changing all the time, and it changes with the time. The public’s taste keeps changing, and Marvel tries to stay either up with it or ahead of it, all the time. Sometimes, in an interview, they ask how I created Spider-Man and I’ll say, “Well, I saw this fly crawling on a wall, and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if a superhero could stick to a wall?’” And then, I correct myself and say, “No, I couldn’t have said that. I probably said, ‘Wouldn’t it be groovy,’ because the word ‘cool’ wasn’t around.”
The Marvel of today is today’s Marvel. It’s not the same as it was 20 years ago, or 40 or 50 years ago. Everything moves according to the public’s taste. Some of the characters and some of the stories are a little more violent then they might have been, years ago. The public has somehow learned to accept more violence. I’m happy to say there’s a lot more humor. They still play up a lot of humor in the stories and, to me, that is very important. And they still concentrate on characterization, which is the most important thing of all. Whether a character is a real-life person or a Thunder God or a guy who can swing on webs, he has to be written and acted so that you believe that this guy could exist and it makes sense. The people at Marvel are damn good at doing that.