You're the man, Stan! As master of the Marvel Comics universe, Stan Lee cocreated Spider-Man, the Hulk, Fantastic Four and X-Men. But that's not enough for the 84-year-old wunderkind. He's just signed a mega-deal with Disney. He's developing a Paris Hilton cartoon series for MTV. Hasbro is about to issue a Stan Lee action figure (complete with his trademark specs, khakis and windbreaker). And this week he returns for his second season as judge on Sci Fi Channel's Who Wants to Be a Superhero? (premiering tonight at 9 pm/ET).
TV Guide: What sets Superhero apart from the other reality contests?
Stan Lee: It's really about heart, and being an empathetic human being. There's genuine crying and caring among the competitors when someone is eliminated. You don't see that on The Bachelor.
TV Guide: With so many superheroes out there, isn't it hard for the wannabes to create something fresh?
Lee: You'd think so, but I'm amazed at the great ideas this season. We have Mr. Mitzvah, who's a real-life millionaire from Miami, and Hygena, who fights grime and crime. Her weapon is a skillful use of cleaning utensils. Very clever.
TV Guide: This season you expanded your auditions into America's heartland, including several stops in Texas. Will that change the complexion of the competition?
Lee: It makes for a great mix of heroes who make us care. It doesn't matter if you're a big-city sophisticate or just a regular small-town Joe, as long as we relate to you. If you aren't interested in Peter Parker, the Spider-Man stories will have no appeal to you. It's the same here. It's not about the superpowers, it's all about the people.
TV Guide: You're much more involved this round. Word is you even get kidnapped and need to be rescued. True?
Lee: That was the producers' idea, so who am I to argue? I'm a real ham. In fact, what do I need the contestants for?
TV Guide: You're adding a couple of recurring villains — Dr. Dark and Bee Sting. What do they bring to the party?
Lee: How do you know so much about this? I was trying to keep that a secret. Somebody will pay for this! In fact, it may require that we do a whole new episode to find your informer!
TV Guide: Well, now that I've ruined everything, you may as well cough it up!
Lee: A lot of our viewers requested that we throw in a villain, and whatever the public wants we deliver. It'll make the show a lot more fun and a little more comic-booky.
TV Guide: Disney? Paris? Tell us more.
Lee: I'm not allowed to talk about Disney yet, but we're doing a number of very exciting projects together. I've been a fan of the Disney product for as long as I can remember — it appeals to kids and families yet it can be intelligent and exciting for older people. So it's a good match; we think alike. As for Paris, the project started long before she went to jail. She won't be your typical superhero — it's a very funny, refreshing and compelling situation comedy. I like her. She's a nice, lovely girl.
TV Guide: On top of all this, you're getting your own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Isn't that long overdue?
Lee: I don't have the Nobel Prize yet, either. People are so slow.
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