EXCLUSIVE: Comic book icon Stan Lee is mixing superheroes with William Shakespeare for his next graphic novel creation unveiling at Comic-Con NY today. 1821 Comics has made a three-book agreement made with Lee and his POW! Entertainment. The first book is Romeo and Juliet: The War, a futuristic and stylized retelling of the Shakespeare tale, with story by Lee and Terry Dougas, and artwork by Skan Srisuwan. Here’s a peek, courtesy of Deadline. It will be published next spring. The 1821 Comics start-up is being backed by entrepreneurs Paris Kasidokostas Latsis and Dougas, who will be at Comic Com today with POW! partners Lee and Gill Champion to announce the project and unveil artwork for Romeo and Juliet: The War. In it, two groups of superhuman soldiers turn the Empire of Verona into the most powerful territory on earth. The Montagues (powerful cyborgs made of artificial DNA) team with the Capulets (genetically enhanced humans with super speed and agility) to destroy all threats to Verona. When they succeed, they turn on one another in a race for total dominance. In this volatile backdrop, a young Monague boy and Capulet girl fall in love and plan to marry in secret.
Now, I realize I’m writing a rah-rah Stan Lee piece a day after my colleague Nikki Finke and a chorus of commenters took him to the woodshed for making a deal to create superheroes for each National Hockey League team, which does sound a bit cheesy. Here’s how I feel: based on the value of the $4 billion Disney paid for the publisher/producer, they couldn’t have paid Lee enough for co-creating and god-fathering all of Marvel’s most memorable comic book characters. I like that Lee is still scrapping as he turns 88. The depth that Lee and colleagues like Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby infused in those characters when nobody was looking is the reason the Marvel character catalogue is way more successful than rival DC Comics. My view: when you’ve had a guiding hand in Spider-Man, Hulk, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor, Daredevil, and Captain America that are the life blood of Hollywood, nobody can begrudge using your fame to earn a buck, fuel other projects, or look silly showing up for cameos in every Marvel superhero film. Rock on, Stan Lee.