December 18, 2000. Much-ballyhooed Internet start-up Stan Lee Media has suspended production of new material after laying off some 140 employees. The company reportedly burned through some $20 million in less than a year. Part of the blame for the collapse can certainly be blamed on the current economic climate in which dotcoms are about as well-received as lepers at Disneyland, but Stan Lee Media's failure to produce any revenue streams to compensate for the rapid cash outlay obviously played an important role in the demise of the company's stock which plummeted from a high of $28 per share to mere pennies before trading was halted on NASDAQ.
Still unknown are the fates of projects initiated by Stan Lee Media including a new Conan film and the Drifter television series. According to IGN FilmForce, a split between those at Stan Lee Media who wanted the company to remain primarily internet-based and those who wanted to expand to film, TV, and other media, created dissension at SLM as well as a lack of focus.
The quick short life of Stan Lee Media demonstrates once again the economic difficulties of earning money from web-based entertainment. Today's web entertainment pioneers are paving the way to a potentially profitable future with their corporate cadavers. The rapid demise of Stan Lee Media demonstrates that the situation in the visual media is even more unsettled than the turbulent web-based audio wars of Napster and MP3.com. Ironically, it was the projects devoted to other media, notably the Conan film and Stan Lee's Drifter TV series that generated the most fan interest and seemed to be the best use of Stan the Man's prodigious creative abilities.