Stan Lee dishes on 'Who Wants to be a Superhero?'s second season
By Christopher Rocchio, 07/12/2007
Legendary comic-book creator Stan Lee believes it's not about being able to harness extraordinary powers or display inexplicable strength when competing on Who Wants to be a Superhero?.
"The one thing we're looking for mostly is not so much what their superpower is, as what is inside of them. Their own make-up... Their mental and psychological make-up. How much courage do they have, how much loyalty and so forth. A feeling of right and wrong," Lee told reporters during a Tuesday conference call about Who Wants to be a Superhero?'s second season, which is scheduled to premiere Thursday, July 26 at 9PM ET/PT on Sci Fi Channel.
"This is going to be the ones who have the most endurance, the ones who refuse to give up, the ones who perhaps are the cleverest and can figure out a way to accomplish something. If it was just brute strength, it would be a different kind of show. If it were just using the magic powers that they attribute to themselves, it would be a different show. The inner qualities that anybody is capable of possessing, those are the things that ultimately make the winner."
Who Wants to be a Superhero? 2 -- which will feature eight one-hour episodes, a two-episode increase over last year's six-episode first season -- will once again follow Lee's attempt to find a new superhero among a group of contestants who have created an alter ego.
"I think in their innermost thoughts and beliefs, they know that this is just something they made up," said Lee about the 10 new homegrown heroes who will be competing. "However as with any mode of entertainment, they've got to go along with it just to keep the show interesting."
During the season, the 10 superhero wannabes will compete in challenges and attempt to outsmart the show's new nemesis -- Dr. Dark, a masked evildoer whose real identity will be revealed during the second-season finale. Lee said the new villain is just one of a few "surprises" to throw off the new crop of contestants.
"The biggest changes really are trying to dream up some [challenges] that we haven't seen before, which will be surprising and provocative," explained Lee. "The style of the show is still pretty much the same, except we do treat the villain a little differently then we did last time... I don't want to give away any surprises, but we do it a little differently than we did with [Who Wants to be a Superhero?'s first-season villain] the Iron Enforcer. It's a whole different way of doing the villain, and you have to really see for yourself."
Lee said it would "seem like the easiest thing in the world" to create a superhero alter ego, however based on his decades of work in the comic book industry as well as his participation in casting for Who Wants to be a Superhero?, he added that's certainly not the case.
"They make-up all kinds of names and powers for themselves. The amazing thing is they all act like they take it so seriously... They come-up with these great background stories of how they've gotten their powers," said Lee. "The auditions, we ought to do a whole show just of the auditions, maybe we'll do that someday."
In addition to the difficulty he has eliminating superhero wannabes on a regular basis, Lee said "the toughest part of the show" is picking the contestants.
"I'm looking for somebody that viewers would enjoy watching and listening to," said Lee, adding it's also difficult to find a good "variety" of alter egos. "It doesn't really matter to me if they've read comic books or not to tell the truth. It's just if they're enjoying this whole thing about pretending they're superheroes, and do they want to go along with it."
While the 10 contestants competing on Who Wants to be a Superhero? 2 have super skills that range from enlisting the help of bugs to absorbing the powers of celebrities, Lee said few if any have created shortcomings for themselves, and he likes it that way.
"Basically I think most people have enough flaws that we don't have to worry about creating any. Frankly I hadn't even thought of that before, but all of our contestants and all of the people on our crew seem to come with enough natural flaws that it hasn't been much of a problem for us," he explained. "I think you'll find as the elimination process proceeds, almost everyone of [the contestants] is eliminated at some point because of something he or she fails to do, which in a way touches on whichever flaws they might have."
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Who Wants to be a Superhero? 2 is currently being filmed in Los Angeles, and while that may seem like a far cry from Gotham City and Metropolis, Lee explained the production location helps the reality competition series stay fresh on a week-to-week basis.
"We're not all that far ahead [in the filming process]. We're like a week or two ahead because we're working on it all the time and editing them and putting them together and making sense out of them and improving them," said Lee. "It's a real difficult show to do because we're working on these episodes almost until it's time to put them on the air."
In addition to Lee keeping busy while working on the show's production, he teased that he'll also receive more camera time during Who Wants to be a Superhero? 2.
"I am on the monitor of course [instructing the contestants and narrating the show], but I also will appear as a character in the show very briefly, as a surprise. At least I hope it will be a surprise. We'll have to wait and see," he said.
Who Wants to Be a Superhero?'s first season averaged 1.5 million total viewers, and Sci Fi said the show also brought 2.9 million new viewers to the channel, key contributors as to why the cable network renewed it for a second season last October.
"There is no show particularly like Who Wants to be a Superhero?. So I think the novelty of it alone is enough to grab some viewers," explained Lee. "And then hopefully if the characters themselves are interesting enough and colorful enough -- if they say and do interesting things -- that's another grabber. In most shows, anybody who's watched a bit of television can practically anticipate everything that's going to come next, because there aren't that many things you can surprise the viewer with anymore. I would like to think Who Wants to be a Superhero? is replete with surprises, for better or for worse."
"If the show goes on long enough -- and obviously I hope it will for years and years -- there's no reason why we couldn't take some former winners and turn them into the Justice League or The Avengers or whatever," said Lee. "Maybe when we're in our fifth year or sixth year and looking for some variety, maybe we'll spin-off a show -- maybe sooner than that -- called Who Wants to be a Sidekick?. We'll let the sidekicks compete, and then maybe after we pick a few sidekicks, we'll decide which superhero you want to be a sidekick with... There's all sorts of different situations we can come up with. I think this thing will go on forever if people keep watching it."