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Stan Lee: 'Insectman' just didn't sound right

Stan Lee and his creation,
Stan Lee and his creation, "Spidey"  

Editor's Note: CNN Access is a regular feature on providing interviews with newsmakers from around the world.

(CNN) -- Forty years ago, Stan Lee turned a sad sack into a superhero who could walk up walls and fend off dastardly villains.

As the new film version of "Spider-Man" opened to glowing reviews Friday on 3,600 screens across the United States, Lee spoke with CNN's Kate Snow about his original cartoon creation.

SNOW: Here's what they say -- that you saw a fly on your wall back in 1962 and "Spider-Man" was born.

LEE: You know I've been saying it so often, for all I know it might be true.

SNOW: But you did come up with it?

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LEE: Yes, yes, I did. And the funniest thing was trying get a name for him. Insectman didn't sound so good. Mosquitoman didn't have the flavor. But then Spider-Man sounded nice and mysterious and dramatic to me.

SNOW: Yes, something about that works. What is it about him, about Spider-Man -- or as you call him, Spidey -- that you think has worked all these years that still endures?

LEE: Well, there are so many things. You know one of the things was what you just mentioned. I don't think anybody had nicknames for heroes before that. I love nicknames. And I just couldn't call him Spider-Man all the time. And somehow calling him Spidey, I think it generates a little bit of warmth on the part of the reader.

Another thing, of course, he's the most introverted hero of all. He's always got these self-doubts and these thoughts. And we were the first company in our script to use thought balloons above his head in great abundance. In almost every panel he was thinking something. And when you see somebody's thoughts, you get to know him so much better. I think that contributed a lot, too.

SNOW: And he's a teen-ager, after all. He's sort of this awkward, clumsy teen-ager with all the problems that a teen-ager has. Do you think that was a big selling point to your audience?

LEE: Probably one of the biggest. I think he was very empathetic. Most of the young readers could identify with him because he had all the hangups that they did, and that I used to have when I was a kid. I mean, in a story, I'd have him have his costume tear or he'd get an allergy attack. He'd be worried about acne or dandruff or an ingrown toenail, anything.

SNOW: You wrote in The New York Times this morning, you wrote an op-ed about Spider-Man, which I thought was really interesting. One of the things you mentioned was the costume which we were just looking at. It covers his whole body.

LEE: Right.

SNOW: And you said that that means something. Why does that matter?

LEE: Actually, we didn't do it purposely. It was just a very fortuitous happenstance. The fact that he's all covered means that any youngster or oldster of any race could imagine that it could be me under that costume. And I feel that made Spider-Man so accessible throughout the world, to everybody.

SNOW: Yes. Superman gets a whole lot more press, doesn't he? Superman.

LEE: Well, he used to.

SNOW: Well, he used to. Maybe not this weekend. But Superman is sort of this, you know, moralistic goody two-shoes. It seems to me like Spiderman is a little bit more real.

LEE: Well, I don't want to knock Superman. He was the first. And he was really great. But Spider-Man, I think, was more in the modern idiom, because he's not 100 percent sure of himself. He's not always 100 percent right. He makes mistakes and so forth. And again, I think that makes it easy for a reader to identify with him. And of course, that makes readers like him.

SNOW: I know you were part of making this movie. I don't want to talk too much about the movie. But I know you were part of it. And I'm guessing that you like it, the final product?

LEE: I love it. I mean, I just thought it was great.

SNOW: How true is it to your original idea and to the comic book?

LEE: It's very true because the original idea was a typical kid, who gets a super power and finds it's as much of a curse as a blessing. And he finds it doesn't really make his life any easier or happier. It's just another dimension of his life. And I think the movie brought that out beautifully.


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