Stan Lee dreams up new heroes for the Web

LOS ANGELES Fri Nov 18, 2011 1:34am IST

Comic book creator Stan Lee poses after his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was unveiled in Hollywood, California, January 4, 2011. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

Comic book creator Stan Lee poses after his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was unveiled in Hollywood, California, January 4, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Danny Moloshok

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Stan Lee is aiming his powers at the Web, where the legendary creator of Marvel comic characters such as Spider-Man plans to take on the superhuman task of making profitable shows for an online audience.

The former Marvel Comics editor-in-chief told Reuters this week that he has high hopes for a new YouTube project called "Stan Lee's World of Heroes" that he is tackling with his current company, POW! Entertainment.

Starting in 2012, he plans to fill his YouTube channel with short, live-action videos and animation, and Lee said his company has over a dozen of those Web projects in the works.

His new move onto the Web comes as Hollywood has struggled to make a profit creating original productions online.

The Walt Disney Co, for instance, saw little success creating such shows through its online venture, Stage 9, but in a sign the entertainment industry is still looking to experiment on the Web, Sony Pictures Entertainment continues to promote original "webisodes" on its site, Crackle.

One the most successful models has been independent comedy site Funny Or Die, which mixes short parody videos starring celebrities with amateur content.

Now, the 88-year-old Lee said the Internet is ready for more of his brand of content, namely superheroes of all stripes.

"The Internet is so much bigger, and it's so all encompassing and everybody is involved in it," Lee told Reuters in a phone interview. "Years ago, it was just getting started. This is the perfect time for us to dive in with both feet."

Lee founded POW!, which stands for Purveyors of Wonder, in 2001 after he left Marvel. He was given the largely honorific title of chairman emeritus at Marvel in 1998.

STAN AT PLAY

So far, none of the characters Lee has dreamed up at POW! have come close to achieving the worldwide fame of the heroes he helped create in over five decades at Marvel Comics, which included Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four and Thor.

Lee said he could reveal few details about the characters he is planning to unleash on his YouTube channel. "There will be some with super power, and there will be some that are just good stories of people doing good things," he said.

But fans can look to his more recent efforts for clues. Lee's company produced a movie called "Lightspeed" about a government agent who gains the ability to move fast. It came out on DVD in 2007. His reality television show "Who Wants to Be A Superhero?" aired for two seasons on cable network the Sci Fi Channel.

"I don't feel I'm working, I feel as though I'm playing," said Lee, who holds the title of chief creative officer at POW! "There are guys 100-years-old who can't wait to get to the golf course. I can't wait to get to the office."

Gill Champion, president of POW!, said the cost of producing a show for the Web ranges from $500,000 to $2 million, which is much less than the tens of millions it can cost to produce a feature film with superhero characters and special effects.

If one of the series of short videos each lasting a few minutes online -- where viewers have short attention spans -- proves popular, it could be pieced together to create a full-length show that would air on TV, Champion said. Revenue could also come from paid sponsorships of Web shows, he said.

This is not the first time Lee has focused on the Web. His "Time Jumper," which he created in 2009 as a digital hybrid between animation and comics, has been sold on iTunes through a distribution deal with Disney.

His latest venture sees him partnering with digital studio Vuguru, which is overseen by former Disney CEO Michael Eisner.

"I am hoping everything we're doing at POW! will be as good or even better than what I did at Marvel, because I'm more experienced now," he said. "I know more now than I knew then."

(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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