Stan’s Soapbox – Marvel Age #136 (May 1994)

Hi Heroes!

By now, most of you literature lovers have undoubtedly sought out the first of the Riftworld novels, and are eagerly anticipating the debut of the comic book version! And that, students, is our subject for today!

Since all Marvelites are incredibly sharp-eyed, you’ve probably noticed that the full titles is “Stan Lee’s Riftworld.” That wasn’t done because I love to see my name in print – although I’ll admit I do get a kick out of it. It was lettered that way because I didn’t actually write the book! It was written by my good friend, Bill McCay, a terrific story teller whose previous novel had been on the New York Times Best-Seller List!

So why does it say “Stan Lee’s Riftworld?” I thought you’d never ask. It’s because I dreamed up the characters and the plot, but unfortunately I didn’t have time to actually write the story. Although I probably shouldn’t say “unfortunately,” because it would be mighty hard to do a better job than Bill.

At any rate, the first in the series of Stan Lee’s Riftworld books was entitled “Crossover.” It had a tremendous first sale, but if any of you missed it, there may still be a copy or two left at some isolated bookstores. It’s a paperback novel, with some terrific illustrations by my buddy Dave Gibbons, and is published by Roc, the science-fiction arm of Penguin Books. That’s the whole scoop, so now if you miss it, you’ve got absolutely no excuse!

When I was talking recently to MARVEL AGE’s ebullient editor, Snappy Steve Saffel, he asked how I feel about shifting gears from comics to projects like Riftworld and how I go about engaging in my own brand of “world building.” He thought the multifaceted multitudes of maniacal MARVEL AGE readers might like to know. So, just for your benefit, here goes…

I suppose I’ve always been a “gear shifter.” To me, a writer is someone to writes – whether it be comics, books, articles, screenplays, or ads. In fact, even within the comic book field, over the years I’ve enjoyed switching from horror stories to war stories to romance tales to western yarns to humor books or whatever. I remember joking with my pal Roy Thomas years ago and saying that there’s no difference, for instance, between a crime story and a western. In the crime story you say, “Follow that car, man!” In the western you say, “Follow that stagecoach, hombre!” But hey, a story’s a story, right? You just change the external trappings depending on the genre.

So going from comics to creating novels isn’t really much a leap; all the same rules apply. You need exciting, believable characters, mounting suspense, sudden surprises, and a plot that grabs you. It also helps to have a great guy like Bill McCay put it all together for you!

As far as how I engage in my own brand of “world building,” that’s a little tougher to explain. In attempting to create a new fictional universe, the first thing a writer needs is that one unique springboard idea, an idea that grabs you and effortlessly leads to a whole kaboodle of other ideas. Whether the idea is as simple as, “How about a guy with the proportionate powers of a spider?” or, as in the case of Riftworld, “How about a typical New York comic book company suddenly encountering two real twenty-foot tall super heroes from another dimension?”

Once that initial thought hits you, if it’s the right concept, other ideas and story points start piling up in your head until you’ve got to get it written or explode! In my case, having no desire to expose, I never stray too far from my trusty ol’ computer!

And there you have it; my long-awaited comic book confessional! The moral, of course, being – watch your step when you talk to Steve Saffel. Or, to put it another way, “Omnia Vincit Amor!