The Hollywood Reporter recently unearthed a vintage interview with comics giant Stan Lee from back in 1977, and on the occasion of Spider-Man: Homecoming’s release, they’ve decided to share some of its contents with the public. And if I may editorialize for a moment, it’s the single most relatable, humanizing media appearance the famously camera-friendly Lee has ever done. Because the unearthed truth of this Q&A is that Stan Lee did exactly what I would do — what any of us would do, really — if I was the head of Marvel Comics during the ‘70s: mess with DC all the time.

Lee puts on a little ‘tude in the interview, baldly dissing his main competitor, saying, “They’ve been trying to catch up. They’re doing the best they can, bless their innocent little hearts. We used to have a lot of fun with them when we started outselling them.” When pressed on what that might mean, Lee happily tells the interviewer that he used to make key editorial and design decisions just to confuse and frustrate DC executives. He relates an instance in which he caught wind that DC planned on adding more of the color red to their covers, under the impression that that was the secret key to Marvel’s success. Right on cue, Lee struck the color red from Marvel’s covers, and continued outselling DC. When Lee heard DC wanted to add more dialogue bubbles to their covers in an effort to ape Marvel and goose sales, Lee did the same thing, presumably while chuckling to himself in an office wallpapered with money.

The secret, of course, is that there was no secret; good writing, beautiful art, and memorable characters made Marvel the industry leader. As Lee said, “It never occurred to them that we take the work a little more seriously and maybe we have a little bit more of a sense of humor. And maybe people don’t like things that are a little bit stuffy. They like things that are whimsical or humorous.” You hear that, Zack Snyder?

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