On February 1 at 8 p.m. EST, fans of Stan Lee will get to see the iconic comic book creator as they’ve never seen him before when US-based The Hub Network premieres original family movie Stan Lee’s Mighty 7, the first SLAM 7 animated movie in a new film trilogy from Stan Lee Comics, a joint-venture between Genius Brands International, Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment and Archie Comics.
Why take note? Although Lee is well-known for his many humorous film and TV cameos (Spider-Man, The Avengers, The Big Bang Theory), the 90-minute film marks the first time he has starred in a leading role in one of his own creations. And because Lee stars as himself, the movie is being billed as the “first superhero reality show for kids.” Stan Lee’s Mighty 7, based on the comic book series of the same name, follows a group of seven alien prisoners and their jailers who, after crash-landing on Earth, are discovered by legendary superhero creator Lee. As only he could, Lee convinces them to use their powers to become superheroes while he creates a comic book documenting their adventures that the public dismisses as fictional.
Mighty 7, which features Lee’s trademark mix of action and humor, was animated by China’s Hong Ying Animation with pre- and post-production completed by L.A.-based Genuis Brands. The film’s all-star voice cast includes Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings trilogy), Jim Belushi (The Defenders), Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory) and Teri Hatcher (Desperate Housewives) among others. Also notable for their involvement with the property are POW! CEO Gill Champion and Genius Brands’ Andy and Amy Heyward.
Origins and expansion The world of SLAM 7 (an acronym for Stan Lee’s Mighty 7) was first unveiled as a monthly comic book series in 2012 with the release of the first two Mighty 7 issues which instantly sold out (new digital editions are expected this year). A robust worldwide consumer products program (digital games, apparel, accessories and more) and an expanded interactive web and social media presence are also in the works for the IP, as well as a 26 x half-hour animated TV series currently in development and slated for 2015. The untitled film sequel, which is currently in production, will launch later this year while the final installment is expected for early 2015.
Lee spoke with Kidscreen on the inspiration behind the franchise, the important role of villains and why superheroes will always remain popular for kids and adults.
Where did the inspiration for Stan Lee’s Mighty 7 come from?
We were trying to create something new and different and reality TV shows are so big, so we thought wouldn’t it be fun to come up with a reality superhero show for kids. And to make it a reality show we would have to include a few real characters. Well I can’t think of anybody who is more real than I am so I figured I would put myself in the story.
How was the process of developing your first starring role with writers Tony Blake and Paul Jackson?
The writers were a joy to work with. No matter what I suggested they found a way to make it even a little better. I put myself in for comedy more than anything. My character, not an overly bright one I might add, is more of a stumbler than anything else. It’s not the role I would’ve written for myself, but I think it worked out pretty well and I hope the fans get a kick out of seeing me.
Did you discover anything new about yourself watching your performance?
I discovered I’m a much better actor than I thought I was. Why have I been hiding my light under a bush all this time? But I’ve had other starring roles. I was in Kevin Smith’s Mallrats, which was the Gone with the Wind of its day (laughs). So I’m an old-time acting star of course!
You play a significant part in an upcoming episode of Marvel’s Agent’s of S.H.I.E.L.D. Do you plan to take on more acting roles?
The tough thing is I’m really a ham. I would love to do more acting, but it’s impossible because I have my job at POW! and if you have a role in a TV series or movie you have to be away. It’s okay for me, I can live with it, but I do feel sorry for the world at large for not having a chance to appreciate my histrionic talents.
Michael Ironside (Total Recall), who is well-known for his many villainous roles, was cast as the evil Xanar in the first film. How important was finding the right villain?
In any adventure story, the villain is really the most important character. Michael Ironside was great. We often spend more time thinking about and picturing the villains and how they figure into the stories than we do just about anything else.
What are your expectations for the property?
I think the Mighty 7 has all of the elements to be a tremendous hit. But the important thing, and I think this holds true for anything in the entertainment field, is for the creators to enjoy it a lot themselves. Then that spirit of fun comes across to the fans. We never treat a project as a business or something that we just have to do and hope it works. If we aren’t thrilled with it then I don’t know how we can thrill the fans. My whole purpose in life in all the things I’ve done in my career, and the purpose of the people I’ve worked with, is to thrill, amuse and entertain the fans. And that’s what we keep trying to do. So far, we’ve been moderately successful.
Every Hollywood studio today is taking a page from Marvel’s shared universe model for The Avengers. Could this lead to superhero overload, or will kids and adults always crave superhero stories?
Superhero stories will never fade away because they are like fairy tales and young people and adults have always loved these kinds of stories. As long as the product is done well and the stories are interesting, fans will continue to love superheroes. But we have to make every project we do seem different enough from all the other projects while still having the elements that young people enjoy. Right now there is no movie like the Mighty 7 and we hope to keep it as distinctive as it is.