At age 90, having brought to life some of the most enduring characters in pop culture history, you’d think maybe Stan Lee would be ready to ease into a nice quiet retirement—but that’s just not how Lee rolls. The tireless comic-book legend who spawned such iconic Marvel superheroes as Spider-Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and Thor has now launched a new entertainment imprint called Stan Lee’s Kids Universe. The company plans to roll out a series of books, games, e-books, and other offerings aimed at young children ages 1 to 10, beginning with a book called Monsters Vs. Kittens and a mobile game for iOS called Goobeez: Pirate Adventure. We asked Lee and one of his partners, 1821 Comics co-founder Terry Dougas, to explain the new venture.
EW: Where did the idea to create Stan Lee’s Kids Universe originally come from?
Lee: From the fertile minds of Terry Dougas and Stan Lee! We got together one day and said, “The world needs a new line of literature for young people.”
But there are countless books aimed at young kids out there already—not to mention games. So why jump into that arena?
Dougas: We’ve been collaborating with Stan for a while now. We had done [the 2011 graphic novel] Romeo and Juliet: The War together, which became a New York Times bestseller, and while we were working on that we said, “Why don’t we start a new label with Stan’s name and creative mind that’s focused towards young kids?” This is like a mini-mini-Disney type of company where you can do books, games, and all types of stuff for children. There’s a void there. There’s Disney, Nickelodeon, Hasbro, but there’s not that many companies that are completely targeted at kids. It’s a massive, massive market. We’re not saying we’re going to become Disney immediately—
Lee: What do you mean, we’re not saying that? Just give us time!
When people hear the name Stan Lee, they instantly think of superheroes, but this isn’t about creating superhero characters for young kids, right?
Lee: Well, we might have a superhero or two. The whole world is our oyster here. We can do anything, as long as it’s good for young children.
Dougas: Stan has been coming up with all kinds of new characters, but this is a company that also wants to support young talent, like Dani Jones, who wrote and illustrated our first book out, Monsters Vs. Kittens. The book has been getting a great response. It’s got a great message for kids and it’s really quirky and beautiful and different. We’ll have some characters come out that are created by Stan—we already have a bunch of those in different stages of development. But we’re also focused on asking kids around the world: What do they like? What characters do they want to see? We want to publish a 9-year-old kid’s story that he wrote because that kid feels that there’s nothing like that story out there. The doors are open for full collaboration with everyone out there that has some talent.
Lee: Monsters Vs. Kittens is one of the cutest books you’ve ever seen for very young children. There can’t be two things more different than a monster and a kitten, but this will put a smile on the face of any youngster. The monsters are as cute and lovable as the kittens. It’s an easy read. The illustrations are entrancing. And any kid, when he finishes that book, will have a smile on his face and will feel good about himself, about monsters, and about kittens.
Monsters Vs. Kittens sounds like a movie title. You guys should pitch it to the studios.
Lee: The beautiful thing is that it’s so original. Where else do you get a book featuring monsters and kittens? What we’re trying to do is fill a need: clever books for young kids that are different than what we usually get.
Dougas: And we want to do multi-platform releases, so this one is available in soft cover, hard cover, as an interactive book, and we’re prepping a game. We also put it on astorybeforebed.com. That’s a web site where—let’s say there’s a soldier in Afghanistan who has a little boy here. On that site, he can actually look at the book on-line, record his voice reading it, and send that file to his kid, so that the kid can see his father reading him Monsters Vs. Kittens before he goes to bed.
EW: And you just launched your first mobile game, Goobeez: Pirate Adventure. What’s the game like?
Dougas: We wanted to start with something simple but fun and addictive for everyone. It’s basically a side-swiping game where you need to save the Goobeez from the pirate ship and get them onto dry land. It has really cute characters and fun noises. As we go on, there are going to be more complicated games.
Lee: I don’t really turn on to these things normally. But when Terry showed this game to me, I couldn’t stop playing with it. This is the cleverest little game I’ve ever seen.
Dougas: We’re having problems here at Stan Lee’s Kids’ Universe because Stan is addicted. We need help!