ICv2 had an opportunity to sit down with living legend Stan Lee at San Diego Comic-Con to talk about his collaboration with famed manga-ka Hiroyuki Takei on Ultimo, which just launched in the U.S. in Shonen Jump (see “Lee and Takei’s ‘Ultimo’”).


Tell us a little about how you approached writing for the manga.  Did you do you the overall characters and the story, or did you do a script with scenes and breakdowns?

No, I didn’t write a script.  I just gave Takei-san an outline of what the story should be.  I suggested a robot who’s evil, a robot who’s good.  I gave him the names, and just the way I thought the story should flow and who the main characters should be and left everything else to him to draw it the way he wanted.  I didn’t want it to look like an American comic, and I didn’t want it to read necessarily like an American comic.  It was based on an American concept of the story, but beyond that it’s a Japanese interpretation of it.  I thought that might be interesting--a combination of the two types of story-telling.


How about that setting? The prologue is in twelfth century Japan.  Is that a choice you made or that he did?

Absolutely I thought it should start that way, just to make it dramatic and make it seem like a bigger story.


We’ve only seen a chapter or two but there’s a character in 12th century Kyoto that has sunglasses and looks a lot like you.  Other than the connections to a great-looking character with extreme power, where did the idea to make him look like you come from? 

That’s entirely Takei-sensei.  In fact I told him I think now he should draw himself into the strip and little by little we could use ourselves more and more in the story.  He laughed.  I don’t know whether he’ll do it or not.


We understand you’re writing the English script.  At what level will the language be targeted and does that differ from Japan?  Is it going to be PG, or all audiences?

I think, I hope it will be PG.


Why do you think that there are fewer superheroes in Japanese comics?  In the United States they’re pretty dominant, but not so much in Japan.  Do you have any thoughts on why it is?

Yes.  Because I’m American (laughter).  I don’t know…there seems to be something about it that is definitely an American art form.  Even around the world there are very few super hero comics in England, in Italy, in India  I don’t know how we’re wired; I’m not a sociologist but it seems to be an American trait to do those kinds of things. 


When you were creating this were you thinking of it primarily as a comic or were you thinking gee, we might make television out of this or some other uses of the property?

I always hope that if you come up with a good story then it would lend itself to a movie, a television series, or anything, if it’s a good solid story.  I don’t come up with the idea thinking of television but I try to think of a good story.  If I succeed then I know it would be okay for any other form of the media.


For our interview with Hiroyuki Takei, click here.