If you've watched TV, looked at city buses or had a Dr. Pepper recently, you may have noticed what hopes to be one of the biggest blockbusters of all time, The Avengers. Not only is this a super hero movie but it features one of the earliest super hero teams and promises to deliver yet another hit for Marvel Studios. With all of the hype and promotion I couldn't help but think how close the entire thing came to almost not happening. It was a very real scenario at one point in time that there might not be an Iron Man, Thor, Incredible Hulk and most of what is now known as the Marvel Universe.
The story goes like this: a young Stan Lee, was tired of his job publishing comics that followed the latest craze, whether it was detective or western or war story, and wanted to go off and be a "serious" writer. He had given it a lot of thought and made up his mind that the next day he was going to quit his job publishing un-original comic books to go do something better. You could hardly blame the guy, he wanted to be a real artist, not a hack pretending to be one, following the latest fad in story genre. So he walked into work the next day ready to quit but there was something he was not anticipating: his boss' news of a super hero team book called "The Justice League." He had played golf with the executive over at DC Comics and learned the super hero team book was selling really well, so of course, like he always did, he told Stan Lee he wanted a super hero book. His boss' enthusiasm for the idea was too high and he decided not to tell him he was leaving until later. He went home and told his wife about his conversation at work and how he didn't want to do it anymore. His wife gave him some good advice. She said, "why don't you write the book the way you would want to do it, not the way you think they want you to and if they hate it then you'll get fired and you didn't want to work there anyway, but if they like it and it sells then you've achieved writing something you want to write." Stan Lee took her advice and wrote a story of a super hero team unlike any other: "The Fantastic Four."
The phenomenal success of "The Fantastic Four" gave Stan Lee the green light to create a whole new universe of characters that were unlike superheroes of the past. His heroes had problems and weren't always perfect. They were relatable and people connected in droves. He went on to create another superhero team "The Avengers," as well as Iron Man, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, The Silver Surfer, The X-Men and his most famous creation: Spider-Man. Regardless of his other successes, Stan Lee faced opposition when he pitched the idea of Spider-Man. His boss just couldn't see how a pimple faced, weakling of a teenager would be a believable super hero and told Stan Lee to toss it. Luckily, he didn't toss away the idea and instead slipped the story into the last issue of a series that was about to end. He figured it wouldn't hurt the series any and at least he'd get his story out there. When the numbers finally came back months later for Amazing Fantasy #15, the first appearance of Spider-Man, it was one of the biggest selling single issues of the decade.
It goes to show that you must always create from a joy of creating, not from the financial need to or to produce something you think will fit into what everyone else is doing. Being original and making something that was not there before is the real reason why we create at all or we might as well just go enjoy the art we tried to copy. Stan Lee had the good sense to listen to his wife and do what he wanted to do and damn the consequences. I think it's a good example to follow when it comes to tackling your work. Always create and do what you want to because in the end you only have yourself to please. I'm glad I knew his story and excited I get to see the characters that almost never were, come alive on a movie screen. Artists Run This Planet!
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I'm David Carus. From overcoming one of the most dangerous cities in the country and graduating from one of the most prestigious colleges in America to leading an educational movement as a teacher and running for Congress at the age of 25, I decided the best hope our world has is through art.