Former editor-in-chief Roy Thomas talked about Spider-Man with the creator of the comic and showed him pictures of an upcoming biography: "I was still talking about making more cameos."
Roy Thomas was hired by Stan Lee in 1965 and succeeded him as editor-in-chief of Marvel in 1972, when Lee became the editor. Two days before Lee's death on Monday, Thomas spent one last Saturday visiting his former boss and longtime friend.
When Stan moved to California in the early 1980s, he invited my wife and me to the place where he was staying before buying his house. It was a rented place on the west side with marble floors. At one point, he excused himself and returned on skates. I do not know if the people who owned the place appreciated him skating on his marble floor. I had never seen anyone skate on a marble floor.
I was only with Stan on Saturday. It was fixed a week earlier for me to come back to the east. I was told that Stan said he did not want to see anyone, but when they mentioned my name, he said, "I would like to see Roy." Which was very flattering I was only with him for half an hour, less than 48 hours before he died. I was on the couch, facing the pool, I had a kind of view. He was well dressed and so on. I just did not have the energy I had the last time I saw it. He seemed fragile, but he moved and walked alone.
He seemed happy to see me. It was something different from the usual round of his life, the last months because his health failed him. He asked about the Spider-Man comic strip that I've been writing ghosts for 18, 19 years. Until a couple of years ago, he was working with me.
Somehow the subject of [Marvel publisher and Lee’s uncle] Martin Goodman went up. He did not look for excuses to say cruel things about people. But in the last decades of his life, he would present an abbreviated version of how "Martin thought that people would not like spiders" and "a child can not be a hero". He pulled out his feelings. I said, "I think Martin Goodman's last great creative decision was when he told him to form a group of superheroes, and after that, I thought I could get out of the way." Stan thought that was good.
We had a copy of the new book that had just come out, The story of Stan Lee, which I wrote for the Taschen publishing house. Stan had glaucoma at this stage of his life. We were looking at the book and talking about some of the images it contains. He said he would have to see if he could hook his magnifying glass and everything and take a look. For the book, we found photos of people he has talked about for years, but no one had ever seen a picture of him. We found a picture of this teacher that he liked so much of what he always talked about. We had to put a pillow on his legs because the book is very heavy. Then we open it. That gave us the opportunity to discuss some things, and we reviewed some things.
I think he was ready to leave. But he kept talking about making more cameos. While he had the energy for it and did not have to travel, Stan was always willing to make some more cameos. He got one of those kicks more than anything else.
Published by John Cimino on Monday, November 12, 2018.
A version of this story appears in the November 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.