George R.R. Martin has done that rarest of things: create a wholly new pop culture franchise that people actually care about. Game of Thrones (adapted from his ongoing high fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire) finished its run in a fiery cloud of controversy and fan expectations in 2019, but now that it has been a few years, HBO is ready to expand its world. However, it seems George R.R. Martin is now increasingly concerned about his future as the creator of the franchise and his role in it. Even more specifically, George R.R. Martin is determined not to end up like Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee.
According to a recent interview in The Hollywood Reporter, George R.R. Martin is spending a lot of time wondering what other titan of pop culture he is most analogous to. It is telling that the three figures he brings up are George Lucas of Star Wars, Gene Roddenberry of Star Trek, and Stan Lee. While all three are credited with huge aspects of their work (and quite a bit more is debated), all three men lost control over their work at some point. George Lucas famously sold Lucasfilm to Disney, which was quick to not-so-subtly promote the fact that he would not be involved with the franchise in the future. Gene Roddenberry saw his influence over Star Trek diminish over the decades as he was saddled with an “executive consultant” title by Paramount. And finally, Stan Lee essentially became a figurehead for Marvel Studios to trot out for cameos and eventually had his likeness rights sold off. That appears to be the fate that George R.R. Martin is afraid of.
However, Stan Lee also produced most of his famous works for Marvel in a time period when creators had very little right to their works in the comics industry and even less legal recourse. Unlike George R.R. Martin, Lee largely worked under contract to Marvel Comics and while he was at the forefront of comics history in working to make sure the writer, artist, penciler, and letterer received credits, he still had little ownership over his work. Also unlike George R.R. Martin, Stan Lee was a legendary self-promoter who was not afraid to portray himself as a flamboyant businessman and even write himself into comics.
HBO is soon to release the first of several planned spin-offs of Game of Thrones, the House of the Dragon prequel. Unlike the mega-popular earlier series, George R.R. Martin is officially credited as one of the creators of House of the Dragon, which presumably indicates he has a decent amount of sway behind the scenes at the network. There is also the upcoming Kit Harington series Snow in development and, of course, the continuation of the novel series with the long-awaited The Winds of Winter. At the very least, George R.R. Martin seems to be staying very involved in the franchise he thought up and hopefully will be able to avoid that fate of so many franchise creators before him.