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Slamdance: Exploring the story of Stan Lee's super drawing powers

Published January 23, 2012 7:11 pm

Slamdance • Documentary explores the story of the comic book master artist who invented beloved superheroes.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Slamdance Film Festival documentary, "With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story," focuses on the 89-year-old artist whose name appears on more than 1 billion comics in 75 countries in 25 languages.

In making the film, Terry Dougas, Nikki Frakes and Will Hess had a simple goal. "We hope to tell people about [Stan Lee], like he did for us with Peter Parker," Frakes said.

Peter Parker and his alter-ego Spider-Man are part of the more than 500 legendary pop culture characters Lee has created, including the Fantastic Four, X-Men, Iron Man, Thor and Hulk.

Many films and TV specials have been made about Lee's characters, Dougas said, but less is known about the man behind the art. "It's the story of a guy who comes from nothing and [attains] the American Dream," Dougas said.

The filmmakers sent out 180 interview requests to actors and celebrities, asking them to comment on Lee and his legacy. More than 65 responded, with Nicolas Cage, Kirstin Dunst, James Franco, Kenneth Branagh and Paris Hilton included in the film. With so many interviews to schedule, the key to making the documentary was "perseverance," Hess said.

Dougas developed a friendship with Lee through the project. "When Terry suggested it, I was flattered as hell," Lee said in a Tribune interview. "The son of a gun."

Lee, who will attend the Slamdance screening, approves of the film. "Terry, Will and Nikki worked so hard on it, the least people can do is enjoy it," he said.

Part of the hard work involved the filmmakers traveling to the University of Wyoming, which houses Lee's archives. Why Wyoming? "They asked," Lee said with a laugh, adding that he has no connection to Wyoming otherwise.

After sending many of his personal effects to Wyoming, Lee was delighted to learn that the same university also had the archives of Barbara Stanwyck and Jack Benny. "I was flattered to be in the same place as Jack Benny," Lee said.

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'With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story

When • Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 5 p.m. at the Treasure Mountain Inn

More • Master comic book artist Stan Lee will be in Utah for the screening. In the morning, he will be the guest at a Morning Coffee Master Class from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Treasure Mountain Inn. At 12:30 p.m., he will be at Canyons in Park City for a panel conversation with KISS's Gene Simmons, a huge comic-book fan. The conversation will be free and open to the public as space allows, and will also be streamed live on Ortsbo.com.

Screenings • Treasure Mountain Inn, 255 Main St., Park City

Tickets • Available at slamdance.com