Stan Lee celebrated his 92nd birthday Dec. 28, and he has a lot to celebrate. The comic book legend's career has spanned decades, creating some of the most iconic superheroes of all time. In celebration, we're taking a look back at ET's first interview with Stan back in 1984, where he talks his start in the company and the future of the ever-growing empire.
At just 16 years old, he started his renowned career at Marvel Comics. Back then, the company was still known by its former name, Timely Comics. Years later, when Stan was working as an editor, his publisher asked him to create a new team of superheroes to rival DC Comics' The Justice League
"He said, 'You know Stan, one of our competitors has a superhero team which is selling very well -- why don't we do a superhero team?'" Stan told us in '84, "But I had been in comics so long doing the same old thing -- I didn't want to continue doing the same old thing -- and I figured well, if we do a superhero team, maybe we can do it differently -- so we came up with The Fantastic Four
Stan's first team of superheroes was, much to his surprise, an instant best-seller.
"I never thought it would catch on the way it did. Flushed with victory, we brought out other superheroes. We brought out Spider-Man and The Hulk, and Thor and Daredevil, Iron Man, The Avengers
-- on and on, they all did well, and we did them all in the somewhat new style of giving the heroes 'feet of clay,' and trying to make them react the way real people would react to a given situation and that was it."
That new and later iconic "feet of clay" approach is what set Marvel Comics aside from their competitors at the time.
"The whole formula, if there was one, I think was to say -- let's assume that somebody really could walk on walls like Spider-Man, or turn green and become a monster like The Hulk, that's a given, we'll accept that, but accepting that -- what would that person be like in the real world if he really existed? Wouldn't he still have to worry about making a living, or people distrusting him, or having acne and dandruff, or his girlfriend jilting him, or what are the real problems people would have? and I think that's what made the books popular -- but it took years for the competition to realize that, I'm very happy to say."
Stan was confident about the future of his comics, and the increasing audience that followed the Marvel sagas.
"I don't think comics will go away in the foreseeable future, mainly because they're such a pleasurable form of entertainment. If you think about it, what are comic books? They're like motion pictures without the motion and without the sound -- but they're stories told visually, and it's a very viable form of entertainment."
Little did he know at the time just how much the Marvel Universe would expand.
"I don't know about Marvel being an empire but it is a growing company, and there's a great excitement because it's nice to be working on things that the public seems to enjoy, and to like, and to want more of."
Stan has cameos in nearly every Marvel film – check out his and some other epic celeb movie cameos here: