ITEM! Have you ever noticed how most of my casual cameos in our Merry Marvel Movies go by so fast you need to hit slow-scan on your DVD remote to catch ‘em? That’s what happens when they make you an “Executive Producer”. Hiring you as an Executive Producer is Hollywood's way of getting the glitz and glammor of having your good name in their credit roll while paying you a paltry pittance to basically sit down and keep quiet. I don’t take it personally. Heck, I practically invented that system at Marvel in the 60s.
But did yah also notice how much beefier my cameos were in the two Fantastic Four movies? Well True Believers, here is the never-before-revealed secret origin of how the Smiling One went from cutting room floor reject to wonderously worthy speaking parts.
You see, FF director Tim Story and I turned out to be two of a kind. Of like minds, as they say. When we met during pre-production meetings on the first FF movie, there was that kind of sizzling simpatico usually reserved for likes of the Fred Astaires and Ginger Rogers of the world. After Tireless Tim had gotten the the lion’s share of his hero worship pour moi out of his system, he confided in me that he was feeling a little shaky about directing his first epic super-hero action flick with only fluff-fare filmic farces like Taxi and Barbershop sitting on his resume. It was your Uncle Stanley to the rescue after he dropped that little self-confidence bomb on me! If there’s anything that I have to share with the world at large, it’s an unswerving belief in my own Stylish Shakespearean Storytelling ability. So I decided to give the Timster a little self-confidence transfusion.
I shared with him that prior to my creation of the Fantastic Four in 1961, my biggest-sellers had been Millie the Model and Linda Carter, Student Nurse. Since Tumultuous Tim isn’t quite old enough to remember those iconic comic book classics, I sent a runner back to the hotel for my personal leather-bound copies that I keep on hand whenever I travel far from home. Sharing some of these shining examples of my peerless scripting resume seemed to perk him up some. Then I shared with him that the whole secret to handling huge creative challenges like the Cosmic Quartet was to find an artistic collaborator like Jack Kirby to help a fellah smooth out some of the rough edges in his cosmic conceptualizations.
Of course Jack having gone on to his great reward made him unavailable to help, and besides Tim had the John Byrne run of the FF planted firmly up his keister anyways. To his credit, Tim tried calling Byrne before I could warn him that Jaunty Johnny Byrne doesn’t return phone calls to anyone, anytime, ever. But then we had a good laugh about it all and I offered my scintillating services as both co-director and co-writer. Tim liked the idea, but apparently there were some union rule against an executive producer also writing and directing or some such nonsense. I suggested “Chairman Emeritus” but no one understood exactly what that job title really means, myself included.
But all was not lost, True Believer! Triumphant Timmy and I established a rapturous rapport during that brief 10 minute conversation, and the results speak for themselves. I got cast to play the speaking part of Baxter Building Postal Delivery Specialist Wee Willie Lumpkin. Granted, that was the only part on the whole casting sheet for anyone over the age of 60. But still, I finally scored a substantial speaking part of a fan-favorite guaranteed not to end up on the cutting room floor. The rest, as they say, was history!
Later on during pre-production on FF 2, I suggested a story arc where Willie got belted by cosmic rays and joined the FF with his super-power of speedy postal delivery, but to no avail. I mean an all-powerful cosmic being that rides a surfboard — sure thing. But a super-fast postal worker? Apparently that was too unbelievable a concept even for a fantasy super-hero flick. I also campaigned to play the part of the preacher at Reed and Sue’s wedding, but apparently that part called for someone who could both act and stand up for more than 10 minutes at a time. Ah well. To quothe the Bard, all’s well that ends well. In the end, your Fearless Leader finally had to settle for playing the single greatest super-being in the known Marvel Universe — himself! Who says this isn’t the Marvel Age of Humorously Happy Endings?