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William Shatner, Stan Lee, Sean Astin discuss careers, success

Stan Lee signs photos for fans at the Wizard World Ohio Comic Con on Sept. 21 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Credit: Judy Won / For The Lantern

Stan Lee signs photos for fans at the Wizard World Ohio Comic Con Sept. 21 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
Credit: Judy Won / For The Lantern

As the black curtain drew back, fans rose to their feet in applause, cheering as “The Man” walked to his seat onstage.

“Thank you for all you’ve done for us,” said the master of ceremonies to the creator of such characters as Spider-Man, Iron Man and the Fantastic Four in the Terrace Ballroom at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

“I didn’t do it for you, I did it for me!” Stan Lee said, laughing along with his audience.

Lee, “Star Trek” star William Shatner and “The Lord of the Rings” actor Sean Astin met with fans and answered their questions at the Wizard World Ohio Comic Con Saturday in their respective one-on-one panels.

The dimly lit ballroom, about the size of a high school basketball court, had chairs set up from the front of the stage to the back of the room. The first six rows of chairs were designated for VIP ticket holders. Two microphones were set in the aisles where fans could stand in line and ask the speaker questions.

Lee answered questions ranging from how he started writing comics in the 1940s to his views on Superman.

“Marvel Comics is very factual and scientific,” Lee said of the Marvel Comics characters and creations for which he writes, “while DC is not that scientifically accurate.

“Superman flies, right?” Lee said, becoming very animated with his hands. “With no visible means of propulsion. All he does is he goes like this.”

Lee mimicked the one hand in the air, one hand on the hip flying style Superman is known for while the crowd laughed.

Lee then explained Marvel’s reasoning behind Thor’s ability to swing his hammer around in order to fly is that it looked like a propeller.

When one fan asked who would win in a fight between the Incredible Hulk, another Lee creation, and Superman, Lee smiled.

“I get questions like this all the time,” he said. “And I’m going to be honest. It depends on who is writing the story.”

Lee’s event ended with a question about the decision to make the Hulk green.

“When I created the Hulk, I wanted to make a monster who was a hero,” Lee said, explaining that it was “Frankenstein” and “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” that gave him the idea for the hero.

Lee said he received fan mail that said how much people liked the costumes superheroes wore, which lead him to think what kind of costume the Hulk would wear.

“You can’t have a monster make a costume,” Lee said. “So I said, ‘I’ll give him a different skin color — that was like a costume.’”

Lee said the Hulk was originally gray, but due to the printing process, the colors were not consistent. For example, the Hulk would be a darker shade of gray on one page compared to another. Green was not a color frequently used in the comic book business.

Shatner, known for playing Captain Kirk in the “Star Trek” franchise, answered questions from his appearance on the television show “American Pickers” to his thoughts on working on the Starship Enterprise spaceship set in “Star Trek.”

“I’ve never been asked (about the set) before,” Shatner said as he leaned back in his chair.

Shatner said he had done his fair share of work early in his career from being on Broadway, television shows and movies.

“I had done my share of seeing sets,” Shatner said.

Shatner said “Star Trek” art director Matt Jefferies sketched several drawings of the Enterprise on a show that was new to everyone.

“A great deal of imagination went into something that had not been done before,” Shatner said of the ship’s design.

Shatner explained how his fellow actors and he had to learn how to use the set, especially when they had to act their ship being under attack. This was done with the camera man physically moving and turning the camera around to simulate turbulence on the ship, while the actors moved like they were experiencing this turbulence themselves.

“It was very technical,” Shatner said. “We had to learn a lot of things. There was a learning process in learning that bridge.”

When a 10-year-old boy asked Shatner who his favorite person to work with on “Star Trek” was, Shatner smiled.

“I’m not going to tell you about any of the women,” Shatner said as the audience laughed.

Shatner said Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock, was his favorite.

“He is a brilliant actor and a wonderful friend,” he said.

Astin, known for his roles as Rudy in “Rudy” and Samwise in the “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, answered questions about working with Pauly Shore in the 1992 film “Encino Man” and interacting with fans at conventions.

“The first time I was at a convention, the exchange was weird,” Astin said with a laugh. “It hasn’t gotten any less weird.”

Astin said he compares the interactions with fans to speed dating.

“I always try and honor the time I spend with each person,” he said.

Astin then shared a story about being at a convention in England where while he was doing signings, an autistic boy with his parents were in line, “thrashing about and making sounds.” The parents of the boy held the boy’s arms on either side.

“They were not going to give up,” Astin said. “They knew they sat with him 100 times watching ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ and they weren’t going to give up this moment because it was embarrassing.”

Astin said fans in the line were respective of the boy, making sure neither to not bump into him nor mind his outbursts.

“They knew this is a safe place for that guy,” Astin said. “This is a place where he belongs.”

Astin said when the boy approached him, he locked eyes and placed a hand on his shoulder.

“I asked him, ‘You really love your parents do you?’” Astin said, then mimicking the boy’s response of a nod.

Astin said after this exchange, the parents instantly began to cry.

“Some people have too much love and they can’t harness it,” Astin said.

Other one-on-one panels at the con included “Power Rangers” star Jason David Frank, “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” star Ray Park, “Ghostbusters” star Ernie Hudson, “The Boondock Saints” star Sean Patrick Flanery and “Ghost Hunters” reality TV star Grant Wilson.

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