Stan Lee and Stan Mack market their creativity at Comic-Con
By Donald H. Harrison
SAN DIEGO –Amid fans dressed as Super-Heroes, Walt Disney characters, and inhabitants of the Star Trek and Star Wars universes, two Jewish men named Stan on Thursday, July 12, assiduously worked the crowd, drumming up support for their latest ventures.
Stan Lee, who as a Marvel Comic executive, brought forth such super-heroes as Spider-Man, the Hulk, Thor, and the Fantastic Four, was at the annual five-day Comic-Con to promote his newest enterprise, a television channel on YouTube on which fans, creators and actors all get to share their ideas and love for Super-Heroes.
“Stan Lee’s World of Heroes is for fans who love super-heroes and all kinds of heroes and for me to spend more time with you and lucky you, you to spend more time with me, and to show the different aspects of hero-dom and fandom and to have fun with it,” an often-facetious Lee told an assemblage of several thousand fans packed a 6,000-seat ballroom at the San Diego Convention Center.
With Lee for the promotion of his new programming were Mark Hamill (who played Luke Skywalker in Star Wars and was the voice of The Joker in the animated Batman series.) Hamill will have a program on the YouTube venture as will such others who appeared on Lee’s panel as model Adrianne Curry (America’s Net Top Model), America Young (Geek Therapy) and Bonnie Burton (Star Wars Craft Book.). Writer Peter David (The Hulk) is also involved.
The panel was a light-hearted affair, with Lee at one point stopping the proceedings after noticing that there was only one piece of candy at his place on the panel, whereas other panelists had two.
“Hey, how come I only got one Hershey Kiss, and everyone else got two? That isn’t fair, my name is on the show….” Panel moderator Jace Hall (The Jace Hall Show) quickly passed Lee another piece of candy.
Later in the afternoon, in a room on the other side of the sprawling convention center, Stan Mack was one of the featured speakers on a panel with the serious title of “Progressive Politics in Comics.” Joined by Susie Cagle (AlterNet), Cecil Castellucci (The Year of the Beasts), Shannon Watters (Adventure Time) and Gail Simone (Batgirl), Mack and his fellow panelists agreed that such themes as feminism, same-sex marriages, and the Occupy-Wall-Street movement are often broached in comic books, raising readers’ consciousnesses.
Mack, who in 1998 authored in graphic form The Story of the Jews: A 4,000 Year Adventure, was at Comic-Con to promote his newest humorous history: Taxes, The Tea Party and Those Revolting Rebels: A Comics History of the American Revolution, although that history, he noted, “covers only 33 years.”
A longtime author/ illustrator of “Stan Mack’s Real Life Funnies” which appeared in the Village Voice, Mack said the American Revolution like the “Occupy” Movement both tried to answer the same question in their respective times: “What are the rights and responsibilities of citizens?”
He asserted that freedom of the press is a dearly-won right, disclosing that he recently was a judge of an international competition for cartoonists in Turkey where, he said, hundreds of journalists are in prison on trumped-up charges. One result of such crackdowns is that cartoonists in Turkey feel they must tread very lightly.
In the United States, cartoonists sometimes can get themselves into trouble — but not such severe trouble as in countries without traditions of press freedom. He recalled one occasion when, without revealing his true identity, he took a job as a Christmas Elf in the Macy’s Parade in New York City, then cartooned the experience. Macy’s complained to his bosses at the Village Voice, prompting growls from the publisher’s office. about how important advertising is to the well-being of a newspaper.
After the panel moderated by Douglas Wolk, this reporter accompanied Mack part-way as he headed downstairs to the large exhibition hall to a booth where his book was on sale. He planned to sign autographs for purchasers. I asked him about The Story of the Jews as well as about his historical look at the American Revolution. Did he find commonalities?
“Oppression,” he answered unhesitatingly. ”This (Taxes, The Tea Party and Those Revolting Rebels) is kind of a bottom’s-up history as was my Jewish history.” In the Jewish history, “what I imagined was my family in all these different centuries traveling and what they were facing.” His more recent book looked at “rising up against oppression coming from England.” While the colonists were oppressed economically, oppression for the Jews was both ” intellectual and physical,” Mack said, but “there still was that idea of people fighting against the system, trying to make some headway.”
The idea for the Jewish history came to him, he said, on a visit to the summit of Mount Sinai. “You can stand on the top and watch the sun come up, and I thought ‘if in fact, my line goes all the way back to this, how did we get from the foot of Mt. Sinai to the here and now?’ and that is what drove the story.”
Creating the history, said Mack, “was catch up for me, as I didn’t have a lot of background although my grandfather was Orthodox. My folks weren’t at all religious and I’m not. It’s a ‘Roots’ story What drove me I began to think I understand where my grandparents and great grandparents came from–some small town in Lithuania or the Ukraine some place–but where did their great-grandparents come from and how?”
The book initially was published by Random House and since has been republished by Jewish Lights with some updates and amendments.
Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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