Most know Stan Lee for creating the heroes of Marvel. The iconic writer and editor had a hand in creating Marvel mainstays like Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and many more. But Lee’s first comic book gig came in 1939 — over two decades before the game-changing Fantastic Four #1 (1961) hit stands. Before the Marvel Universe was born, Lee played in plenty of other genre sandboxes including science fiction, romance, Westerns, and even the much darker world of horror. Now it’s some of Lee’s scarier creations that will be brought to life to create a new horror cinematic universe.
The news comes from Deadline, who says it’s the Kazakh-Russian filmmaker Timor Bekmambetov who is developing Stan Lee’s later horror creations for a cinematic universe in conjunction with POW! Entertainment, which Lee co-founded in 2001. Bekmambetov said the first stories representing “the darker side of [Stan Lee’s] creative genius and imagination” to be adapted are Carnival of Killers and Sawbones. However, you’re not going to find these stories on comic book stands, in back issue bins, or in the graphic novel sections of any bookstores. Deadline reports these were “unexploited” stories Lee wrote in his later years, meaning neither have been published.
According to Deadline’s descriptions, the premises for both of the Stan Lee horror tales being adapted involve young children in terrifying situations. The hero of Carnival of Killers is described as “a young girl with psychic abilities” whose senses warn her of an impending alien invasion as her and her mother travel with a carnival during America’s Great Depression. Twelve year old Alex Colvin is the hero of Sawbones, which will find him somehow transported into the pages of a comic book. In his strange new reality, Alex is a prisoner in a “haunted juvenile detention facility” which is threatened by supernatural forces led by the homicidal Sawbones. There are no release dates or casting announcements yet for either project.
Bekmambetov’s filmmaking experience should serve him well in bringing Stan Lee’s darker stories to the big screen. The director, producer, and writer is no stranger to either horror or comic book adaptations. His filmmaking credits include the 2019 adaptation of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary and the Unfriended films. On the comic book movie side of things, he directed 2008’s Wanted, which adapted the 2003-4 comic book mini-series of the same name by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones.
As remembered by Horror News Network, like many of his contemporaries, Stan Lee created a lot more than just superheroes and their villainous counterparts. In the ’50s –when Marvel Comics was still under the name Atlas Comics — Lee followed the example of the popular EC Comics and published horror stories in titles like Astonishing, Menace, and Strange Tales (the latter of which would later transition to a superhero title and, among other things, premiere Doctor Strange). But when Frederic Wertham’s book Seduction of the Innocent convinced far too many readers that comics were turning their children into criminals and worse, few genres beyond superheroes and talking animals would survive the resulting purge by the newly formed Comics Code Authority.