No, not the real Stan Lee. I don’t want to kill him! Nor should you! He’s a nice man!
I mean virtually. Digitally. And not on purpose. I was really trying to keep him alive! Honest!
Ahem. Allow me to backtrack a little and explain.
Last week, the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN movie tie-in videogame came out. I was bored, so I ordered a copy from Amazon. Turns out that the Amazon order gets you a free bonus DLC level where you get Stan Lee as a playable character in a special section walled off from the main game.
Basically, the Stan Lee here is really Spider-Man re-skinned with the likeness and voice of Stan himself, but with the abilities and powers of Spider-Man. The scenario is that Stan’s latest comic script has blown out the window, the pages scattered over New York City. Virtual Stan has to jump and leap all over to get those pages back, and at the end, you get a bonus: a digital copy of a Spider-Man comic. They even have a trailer for this DLC. It’s really disturbing. My God, it’s disturbing.
That got me to thinking (which I admit is often a really bad idea): Stan Lee is 89 years old! His time is not best served having him run around New York City chasing down wind-blown script pages! It’s only a bloody comic script, he’s better off just staying indoors and rewriting it from scratch. Either that or have an underling or intern chase them down for him! An 89-year-old man should definitely not be jumping off rooftops and trying to swing from flimsy ropes! No!
So why would he need to chase down some script pages anyway? This got me to thinking, what if they’re not really a comic script? What if they’re something else… like, say, court papers pertaining to a copyright case or something? After all, Stan here is wearing a nice suit. You don’t need to wear a suit that nice to go into the office at Marvel. You wear a nice suit because you have to be presentable at court. So of course Stan has to somehow get those papers back himself. He probably doesn’t trust anyone else to find them in case they actually read them. He’s going to have to take to the streets like any punter and walk.
That’s right, I’m not having Stan swing on lines or propel himself at 50 miles an hour into the air. It’s undignified. I’m playing the game all wrong. I’m playing Stan as a normal, human, 89-year-old comics writer and editor on the mean streets of New York City! I am not trying to kill him, no. That would be crass and douche-y. I just want him to be Stan and see how he gets on.
Of course, first I have to get Stan off the roof of his penthouse apartment and there’s no elevator down. I guess I’ll have to treat this bit as not the start of the game but a loading screen or transition as I have Stan jump off the roof.
Down he plunges! Down, down down! The graphics are quite impressive. I’m getting real vertigo from this and my stomach is lurching as if I was plunging over 30 stories to what in real life would be a wet splattery death.
Fortunately, Stan lands gracefully and on his feet. No one dies from falling in this game. Now my game can begin in earnest. I am playing a Stan Lee Simulation.
So off Stan walks down the street, he has a court date to make. He has to cover how anxious he is about those lost papers with his usual cheer and bonhomie.
A woman comes up and gives Stan the thumbs up and applauds him. Yes, that’s the stuff. Stan is well used to an adoring public. On he goes, walking, contemplating what he’s going to say in court about the lost papers. Another fan runs up and takes a photo with his smartphone. This is par for the course.
Then a women comes running up.
“How tight are those pants anyway?”
I… what?! What did she just say?!
Is that an appropriate thing to say to an elderly man walking down the street? What the hell?!
Do you talk to your dad like that, young lady?
Now some guy is calling Stan Spider-Man. Talk about identifying someone with what made them famous. Fair enough I suppose.
Now a guy comes up and says something about how tight Stan’s pants are!
They seem to alternate between the ones who come up and applaud, the ones who want to take a photo with their phones and then more remarks about Stan’s pants!
Stone me! The streets of New York City are full of crazy people who like to sexually harass Stan Lee! Who thought of this game design? I really hope this is not a documentary of Stan’s time in the city!
What’s this? Stan hears someone calling for help. A mugging or somesuch unpleasantness is occurring. If he were Spider-Man, he could wade in and save someone’s day, but he is just a man walking down the street. If he had a phone he could call the police, but he doesn’t. He can’t even see where the mugging is taking place. Like any New Yorker, he can only keep walking. The streets of New York are dangerous! What’s a comics writer to do?
Keep walking. Just keep walking.
Now what-? A giant spider-like killer robot is rampaging down the street and it’s coming right at Stan Lee!
It is firing fucking balls of lightning at poor Stan Lee! It is deliberately targeting Stan Lee and no one else! Run, Stan, Run! He turns a corner, away from the robot, only to find that the robot is turning and homing in on him from the end of the street!
What the fuck!! Why is this happening to Stan Lee? What kind of city is this where a comics writer can’t walk down the street without getting sexually harassed and then attacked by a giant killer robot? What has he ever done to deserve this? Did Steve Ditko send it? How could Steve Ditko have found a giant killer robot anyway. ebay?! How much do those things cost?!
Fucking hell! That robot is literally tracking Stan Lee as he runs! Those balls of lightning are knocking poor Stan over and blowing shit up all over! He gets up and runs but the screen is bleeding red! That can’t be good. Another lightning ball comes –
And he’s dead. The camera shifts to poor dead Stan’s point of view as he collapses on the pavement in a poignant expression of the cruel senselessness of this existential game I just played.
All of that took less than 10 minutes. I did not make any of it up. It all really happened in the game.
Poor Stan Lee. The streets of New York really are too dangerous for an 89-year-old man. No wonder the real Stan Lee moved to Los Angeles.
It wasn’t my intention to get Stan killed. I was really just walking him down the street to see how long he would last. The answer is ‘not very long at all.’ It made me think of celebrity and public personas and how they become toys for writers and games developers. It made me want to play a Stan Lee Role-Playing Game where instead of fighting or shooting, he goes though his life as Stan Lee, pitching movies and comics and getting involved with media startups and production companies, of long-running lawsuits and meetings with lawyers, of attending movie premieres and interviews, occasionally dropping by the Playboy Mansion to hang out with Hugh, of meeting adoring fans and comics artists, of dialogue trees and career decisions. A game that lets you discover how it feels like to be Stan Lee. Instead, we get a frivolous action game that makes no sense when you think about it.
Oh well. My dreams of a gaming utopia have to start somewhere.
Just trying to play normal at email@example.com
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stuff for future columns and stuff I may never spend a whole column writing about.
Look! It Moves! © Adisakdi Tantimedh
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