I used to run a pop-culture website for a rather large organization about six years ago, and one of my tasks was to publish everything and anything about former Marvel Comics president/geek icon Stan Lee. At the time, there were many many many (many) entities all claiming to be employed by/working with/associated with Lee—all with their little ambitious projects, initiatives, ancillary merchandise, and so on.
At some point, the red flag really went up for me. We were sometimes getting new “Stan Lee” projects to promote every day. I privately questioned the extent to which ALL of these entities were truly repping Lee—and how lucidly Lee was involved with them.
So to read this recent Daily Beast piece on the sorry state of 95-year-old Lee and his dwindling empire in what might be the twilight of his life…how could anybody involved in either the comics industry or “geek” entertainment circles not see this coming?
The article—which is one of those grand “Hollywood” narratives concerning big-talking frauds, vulture “hangers-on,” and a possible hijacked inheritance by outsiders—lays out all the people and concerns who have possibly sunk their claws into Lee and are draining his estate dry. Add to that the fact that he is fighting pneumonia, and has been accused himself of sexual impropriety by a half dozen anonymous former nurses…this is, as one informant told Daily Beast, “a fucking mess”:
In just over two months, there have been published reports of an unauthorized check for $300,000 written from Lee’s business account without his knowledge to Hands of Respect, a “merchandising company” and ersatz charity formed by Lee and Jerry Olivarez, a former business associate of his daughter’s. The word “loan” is inscribed on the face of the check.
Other red flags included the purchase in the fall of 2017 of an $850,000 condo in West Hollywood a short distance from Lee’s home in the Hollywood Hills; and $1.4 million that mysteriously disappeared in a complicated wire-transfer transaction. Most dramatically—and according to published reports— police on February 16th were called to Lee’s home to remove long-time bodyguard Mac “Max” Anderson, often seen accompanying Lee at his lucrative live appearances, after he allegedly threatened Lee and his daughter.
It’s so emblematic of that underbelly of both the comics/geek business world and the larger entertainment industry; a place of countless “wheeler-dealers,” where elderly celebrities are often manipulated by entrepreneurial “fans.”
Lee himself has become a literal comic book character, an icon devoid of all context except for the dominant fairy-tale of the Willy Wonka type wunderkind who created a “world of pure imagination.” It’s the Disney fairy-tale, it’s the George Lucas fairy-tale, it’s John Hammond from Jurassic Park.
And in the middle of all that pomp and all those honors—and this is not an argument to say that Lee didn’t deserve them—all the parasites swarmed, into that dark underbelly of geek culture. They swarmed and they thrived.
Very few people stopped and questioned it all, because the dominant belief was: “Stan Lee! Yay! Comics!”
And it’s just sad.