Stan Lee, like Ken Jeong, is one of my personal heroes. I previously wrote about how he probably is Asian1. As a writer, his legacy is unmatchable; he created literally DOZENS of characters with which almost everyone in America has a passing familiarity. I mean, ask a person in a bar to name four characters in The Great Gatsby and it might take a while, but that person will at least have heard of Spider-Man, Iron Man, The Thing, Daredevil, X-Men, Galactus, Magneto.
And, I’m Chinese American, so yeah, technically I’m in favor of more Chinese superhero characters (there are only, like, three of them). And as a culture critic I see the righteous value of a female-led narrative in a Chinese context. The world needs those.
But is it a good idea for Stan Lee to develop Realm, a film featuring Chinese star Li Bingbing? Not REALLY.
Let’s get one thing absolutely clear, too. Li Bingbing is NOT Fan Bingbing, who was the only enjoyable X-Person in the regrettable X-Men: Days of Future Past. (My bad for the Vietnamese accent presumption in the linked writeup, btw.)
Li Bingbing’s main nerd cred is that she was in Transformers: Age of Extinction, which is like, um, ruh roh.
Why, as the Chinese film producer or craftsperson’s logic might go, WOULDN’T you seek out the undisputed master of the superhero genre to create a new hero for China? You wouldn’t, mainly, because Stan Lee’s aesthetic worked for his time. I mean, he also created The Mandarin, which in his genius period (the 1960s) was a perfectly normal sort of Asian character to create.
He created myths, which have been adapted and interpreted by hundreds of other writers and artists over the decades, as time and culture has moved on. Of recent, Stan Lee himself has created things like Stripperella.
I don’t mean to do the picky Asian American self-sabotage thing here, but seriously, NOT only Stan Lee (nor Nixon) can go to China. Jonathan Demme is a pretty good film director, but should he have directed the film version of Beloved? No. Should Joe Montana play QB for the Shanghai Sharks? (I just made that up.) No.
And I’m not saying that Stan the Man isn’t still totally sharp; at a Comic-Con panel, I witnessed him being the only human on a table full of twenty-something video game designers who was capable of pronouncing the word “noir” (as in, “Film Noir” or Spider-Man Noir) correctly. He’s still a writer’s writer — it’s just that he’s done his part, and this particular mission, the creation of the ever-elusive non-stupid Chinese female superhero, looks more like a job for…
Jim Lee, comic ultra-artist and current bigwig at DC Comics.
Except, of course, Jim Lee is Korean, and there’s that whole China-Korea thing.
- P.S. Stan Lee is not actually Asian. ↩