Hundreds of comic fans lined up in the pouring rain to meet artist, photographer and author JC Lee at Amazing Fantasy Comic Book Store on Saturday. Marvel legend Stan Lee's only child and “greatest creation” was there on Free Comic Book Day, signing her new comic-style book Stan Lee's Love Story.
Inside, seated behind the counter and clutching her Yorkshire terrier, JC Lee poured through the pages of the book. “If you look at this, it's beautiful dogs everywhere,” she says. “We were always into dogs. I didn't have brothers and sisters, so there are dogs. My father had his favorite dogs. Even now, Mom has four, and I have five.”
Filled with never-before-seen, black-and-white and captioned family photos, Lee's book, which took three years to complete, gives fans unprecedented access into the lives of this mostly private family, headed by a creator of such popular Marvel Comics titles as Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Fantastic Four, Daredevil, X-Men, and Captain America, whose film sequel Captain America: Civil War has already raked in approximately 200 million in box office opening weekend.
[jump] “It was difficult, because we didn't take photos as much back then, so there weren't very many to choose from,” she says. “But just through going through them and ages and dogs, I found the flow. It's like decorating a room, where once you start, the room tells you. You don't tell it. But I have to credit it to The Man Upstairs. I would not be able to do any of this without Him. I'm just a vehicle.”
Stan Lee's Love Story is also a pictorial testament to the Marvel legend's 68-plus-year marriage to his wife, Joan, who JC describes as the “unsung hero” and “talent behind the family,” for writing four books while managing to keep her family happy.
“My mother always said that love and marriage is a farm,” she explains.” “You get up, and you work it. My father has never not worked and my mother has never not worked. They don't vacation. They don't look left or right, and they don't see what's greener. They're just really special people.”
When the idea for Stan Lee's Love Story originated, JC Lee admits that there was a little concern among the tight-knit family about opening up their personal life to the world.
“We're still very private, so I think they were a little surprised that I did it,” she says. “I've always been writing books, and I've been a photographer, so people have always said, 'Why don't you do photo books?' In European families, you all gather around and take care of the genius. So I don't think anyone thought I'd do anything to take away any attention or just be in his field. But because he's so private, now that everyone's digested the book, I'm hoping that if he does go more public, it won't be so shocking.”
Certainly not as shocking as Stan Lee's surprise appearance at the comic book store, following his Q&A panel at the Giants' MARVEL Super Heroes Day at AT&T Park. Fandemonium ensued when the 93-year-old entered the store.
JC circumnavigated the counter to pose for photos with her father, who held her book proudly.
“Here's who you're really here for, guys,” JC joked. “You can all leave after this. Thanks for coming. Yay, Stan, Stan the Man. Without him, it's not happening.”
Diana Frazier and her sons, 16-year-old Lucas and nine-year-old Liam, had already seen Stan and JC Lee at Silicon Valley Comic Con, in March. But they didn't want to miss another opportunity.
“We heard that Stan Lee was going to be here, and it's always exciting to see him,” she says.
Amazing Fantasy Comic Book Store owner Frank McGinn was equally thrilled about hosting the book signing for the same reason.
“We're usually really busy on Free Comic Book Day, but they've added quite a bit of people,” he says. “Then we had Stan here for two seconds, which is fantastic. How lucky is that?”
JC Lee says that her father gets this reaction everywhere he goes.
“When I went to the Captain America: Civil War red carpet, it was religious, a cult,” she says. “It's no longer fans and followers; they take over streets. But he's all about the fans. He's running back now to do a signing in LA. He walks among the people, because he's like everyone. He really loves the people, because it's about all of you. Maybe that's why they love him so much, because they know he's sincere and really cares.”
This is the everyday man behind the superhero creator that Lee hopes fans will discover in the pages of her book.