He created some of our most memorable superheroes, and you might as well call him one sa well—because at 93, Stan Lee is still ruling the pop culture world. Among his many projects: He serves as Chairman Emeritus of Marvel, he’s the Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of POW! Entertainment, and he’s working on introducing the world to its first Indian and South American superhero. And in between it all, Lee still finds time to squeeze in memorable cameos on Marvel movies and TV shows.
His latest venture, while still firmly rooted in the superhero genre, is a little different. This month, Lee debuts a new series for young readers called The Zodiac Legacy. Co-written with Stuart Moore (Web of Spider-Man, Namoor: The First Mutant), and filled with gorgeously elaborate illustrations from artist Andie Tong (Tron: Betrayal, Starship Troopers), The Zodiac Legacy explores the story of Steven, an eighth-grader from Philadelphia who travels to Hong Kong on a class trip and stumbles onto an ancient secret. Readers are taken on a mythological, engaging ride as Steven struggles with learning how to be a superhero, and what embracing his powers means for his friends and his family.
The first installment of the series, The Zodiac Legacy: Convergence will be released next week. It’s compelling and action-packed, with interesting characters and a narrative that will leave you wanting more. EW reached out to the man, the myth, and the legend himself to talk about how the book came together.
EW: What was the inspiration for this story? The theme and tone are similar to what we’ve come to expect in reading about superheroes, but it’s also a little different from what you’ve done in the comic book world.
Stan Lee: We really wanted to tell a modern, super-powered, action-adventure story, a story with a lot of classic themes—themes that have run through not only superhero stories, but in plays and fables and fairy tales for hundreds of years. So I wanted to be able to do that, while still bringing a new tone and a wider cast of characters than we often get to see.
You obviously like keeping busy, as evidenced by the many projects that you surround yourself with. What was the decision behind getting involved with The Zodiac Legacy?
I haven’t worked on a series of illustrated novels like this before, and I always thought this would be a great way to bring a new world and a new set of characters to life.
How closely did you work with artists Stuart [Moore] and Andie [Tong]?
Honestly, once Stuart and Andie were brought on board, my initial parts of the story were pretty much done! All three of us, of course, worked closely through the team at Disney Publishing, and we touched base on story moments and art throughout.
Writing a book seems like it would be different than writing comic scripts, but in terms of creating characters and stories, it’s probably pretty similar. What stuck out the most during the creative process?
The character design process was a fun one—we went back and forth with Andie to really make sure all of the characters looked distinctively different and were interesting on their own. I wanted to make sure that even in a group scene with lots of fighting and action, even if they’re just seeing silhouettes, that the reader would be able to tell who’s who.
You helped create the Marvel Universe, and The Zodiac Legacy is a chance for you to create another new universe for a new group of readers. How does that responsibility feel?
You probably know how I feel about great responsibility—but I think that it’s a lot of fun to be bringing a new world of characters and super powers to readers everywhere.
Speaking as someone who has gotten a chance to read the book, although this is a young adult illustrated novel, it can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of age. What do you hope readers take away from it?
I’m glad you like it—and, frankly, I don’t think that any really good story is ever just for kids 8 to 12, or just for adults 24 or 38, or any particular age group. I’m hoping we’ve made a story that anyone who loves an exciting, fantastic tale will love.
Any other secret projects we can expect from you? I know in between promoting this, you’ve got a guest spot on Agent Carter coming up, and probably a few more Marvel movie cameos…
Of course. My company POW! is presently working on several great things, including a live action show. We’re also hard at work developing a number of live action superhero stories, including a Chinese superhero, for audiences all over the world to enjoy.
The Zodiac Legacy: Convergence is out Jan. 27 from Disney Press. Check out some preview pages below.