×

Todd McFarlane Compares Stan Lee to Walt Disney

Todd McFarlane first met Stan Lee at a comicbook convention. All of 16 years old, the teenage McFarlane was several decades removed from creating Spawn and Venom. In contrast, Lee was already a legend, having ushered in Marvel’s golden age by cooking up Spider-Man, Iron Man, and other iconic superheroes. But despite the vast gap in resumes, Lee allowed McFarlane to spend the entire day sitting by his side.

Years later the two would become friends and fellow titans of fandom. Lee would always insist he didn’t remember that early interaction. But McFarlane never forgot their first meeting.

“I get that he created all these characters, but Stan’s true superpower was the way he interacted with his fans,” McFarlane told Variety, shortly after news broke that Lee had died Monday at the age of 95. “He got that in 30 seconds a celebrity can make a big impact on someone. It can be positive or negative, but it will be lasting. He understood that responsibility and he never treated being famous as a nuisance. He got a kick out of it.”

Tributes to Lee are still rolling in from across the entertainment industry. The co-creator of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and the X-Men is being hailed as a visionary artist whose work continues to reverberate thanks to the mega-grossing Marvel movies and hugely popular shows. It’s a legacy that McFarlane believes is nearly unmatched in the annals of pop culture.

“Few people can create the kind of characters who have that kind of global impact,” said McFarlane. “The only other person I can think of is Walt Disney. Just as Disney’s impact continues to grow and expand, I think we’re going to see Stan’s legacy grow even bigger.”

Part of Lee’s contribution to the world of comics was that he gave his super-powered protagonists a more human underpinning. He created men and women who may have worn capes and tights, but who also grappled with real world problems — from failed relationships to financial setbacks. Those kitchen sink moments, however, didn’t come at the expense of grand adventure, McFarlane argued.

“He understood the bigness of what he created,” said McFarlane. “He got the melodrama. He knew comicbooks were just Broadway plays with lots of bright colors. The heroes have be really good and the villains have to be really bad. But his characters weren’t flawless. They had their Achilles’ heel. They weren’t always perfect or super handsome, but they were still flamboyant. They threw hammers, they stopped cars with their bodies, and they wore crazy space suits.”

Over the years, McFarlane would catch up with Lee at panels or awards shows and tried to visit him whenever he was in Hollywood. It was hard, he admitted, in the last few months to see the indefatigable Lee grapple with old age.

Even as he mourned Lee’s death, McFarlane said his friend and mentor’s approach to his work should be an example for other artists.

“When you talked privately to Stan he’d acknowledge that he had doubts,” said McFarlane. “He didn’t know back then what he was about to unleash. He didn’t know if it would work when he tried something with a character. All creative people have that. But even if he had doubts, he never froze. He kept going.”

“I hope that gives people hope,” he added.

More Film

  • 'QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight'

    Film Review: 'QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight'

    In one of the intermittent revealing moments in “QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight,” a documentary about the films of Quentin Tarantino that’s like a familiar but tasty sundae for Quentin fans, we see Tarantino on the set of “Pulp Fiction,” shooting the iconic dance contest at Jack Rabbit Slim’s. As John Travolta and Uma [...]

  • Zombieland Double Tap

    Why Emma Stone Was Haunted by Fear of Vomiting While Shooting 'Zombieland: Double Tap'

    SPOILER ALERT: The following story contains a slight spoiler for “Zombieland: Double Tap.” The zombie slayers are back! Ten years after Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin first killed dead people walking in “Zombieland,” they’ve reunited for “Zombieland: Double Tap.” “You take stock of your life a little bit,” Stone says of [...]

  • Hereditary

    The Best Horror Films to Stream Right Now

    Good horror movies aren’t always easy to scare up, but with Halloween on the horizon, Variety has compiled a list of some of the best horror films available on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. NETFLIX Apostle Cult horror meets religious hypocrisy in this creepy gothic thriller, which follows prodigal son Thomas Richardson, who returns home [...]

  • Brett Gelman

    'Stranger Things' Star Brett Gelman Joins Michael B. Jordan in 'Without Remorse'

    Brett Gelman, best known for his scene-stealing roles in “Fleabag,” “Stranger Things” and “Love,” has joined Michael B. Jordan in Paramount’s adaptation of Tom Clancy’s “Without Remorse.” Jamie Bell and Jodie Turner-Smith are also on board. Jordan is starring as operations officer John Clark, also known as John Terrence Kelly, a former Navy SEAL who [...]

  • US director Francis Ford Coppola holds

    Francis Ford Coppola Honored With Prestigious Lumiere Prize by Thierry Fremaux, Bong Joon Ho

    Francis Ford Coppola took the stage to claim the Lumière Festival’s lifetime achievement honor, the Lumière Prize, in a stirring celebration that marked the festival’s 10th edition on Friday night in Lyon, France. The four-time Academy Award winner accepted the prize after a series of video tributes, musical performances and testimonials from family, friends and [...]

  • 'Human Capital' Sells to Vertical Entertainment,

    Liev Schreiber, Maya Hawke's 'Human Capital' Sells Rights to DirecTV, Vertical Entertainment (EXCLUSIVE)

    Vertical Entertainment and DirecTV have jointly acquired the North American distribution rights to “Human Capital,” an official selection of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival from director Marc Meyers. The film stars Oscar winner Marisa Tomei, Liev Schreiber, Peter Sarsgaard, and Maya Hawke. The ensemble drama follows numerous interconnected stories surrounding a hit and run, [...]

  • Robert Zemeckis

    Robert Zemeckis in Talks to Direct Live-Action 'Pinocchio' for Disney (EXCLUSIVE)

    Robert Zemeckis is in early talks to direct Disney’s live-action “Pinocchio.” Andrew Miano and Chris Weitz will produce through their company Depth of Field with Weitz penning the script. “Paddington” director Paul King had originally been tapped to direct but had to leave the project for unknown reasons at the beginning of the year. David [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content