With his all-new Kids Universe entertainment imprint, Stan Lee is looking out for today's generation — that is, when the comic-book icon's not engrossed in playing his app game featuring pirates and little fuzzballs.
"The whole games thing was a bad idea to do because we've got Stan now not working in his office and playing all day long," jokes 1821 Comics' Terry Dougas, who's partnering with Lee's POW! Entertainment for Stan Lee Kids Universe.
Launching today, the imprint aims to create family-friendly books, games and characters on a variety of platforms for young children ages 1 to 10.
"There really is no group of books for kids who are very young and have the excitement, the color, the originality that kids are really looking for and will hold and grab them," says Lee, the longtime Marvel Comics editor and co-creator of Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, X-Men and the Avengers.
Stan Lee's Kid's Universe projects will be available starting on Monday, beginning with Dani Jones' Monsters vs. Kittens. The children's tome featuring a variety of cute cats and creatures will be available in e-book, hardcover and softcover editions, with a game to follow.
Also, the A Story Before Bed version features Lee himself reading the book that kids can view on their iPads, or mom and dad can record it themselves if they're away from home and their children want to enjoy it before bedtime, Dougas says. "We try in every way to help parents be closer with their kids."
Part of the Kids Universe mandate is to support young artists and storytellers from around the world like Jones.
"We want to open the door where if a 10-year-old kid comes up with a great story and sends it to us, we will publish it," Dougas says.
Lee and Dougas are also trying to hit the Angry Birds crowd with Goobeez: Pirate Adventure, a game for smartphones and tablets available Monday where players swipe their finger back and forth to get little characters to jump off a pirate ship and onto land.
"We're building cute stuff that we want to give to our kids, and then give it to the rest of the kids," Dougas says.
That's been the modus operandi for Lee for decades, he adds. "Even when I was writing comics, I just wrote the kind of comics I would like to read. Now Terry and I are doing the kind of books and games that we would like to read and play. I find that's a good formula."
Lee's already figured out that Goobeez is habit-forming. "There's also a little humor to it also, like everything we do," he says, adding that he's "not as good as I'd like to be. I don't have enough time to practice, but I swear I'm going to get better."
If anyone deserves to lose himself in a game, it's Lee, 90. He's responsible for some of pop culture's most indelible superheroes, but doing stuff for kids has also been a hallmark of his long career. Before Thor and Iron Man came along, Lee used to write for Paul Terry cartoons such as Mighty Mouse and Heckle and Jeckle.
"Now it's almost the same thing," he says. "It's just the characters are different and the platforms are different. It all boils down to simple, understandable fun stories for young people."
Lee aims to stay on top of and utilize new technology as Kids Universe spawns more projects this year and in the future, with new characters like the canine police of The Fuzz Posse and Reggie the Veggie Crocodile as well as books such as Jones' Once Upon a Time featuring a pig and his animal pals.
Anything that Kids Universes publishes will combine the essential elements of education and entertainment, Lee says.
"Whatever he or she has read or played with, we want that youngster to leave happy and entertained but also perhaps a little bit smarter and a little bit more educated than when they started."
On the Net:
In this image released by Stan Lee's Kids Universe, Reggie the Veggie Crocodile is one of the characters created by new imprint Stan Lee's Kids Universe. The new imprint, founded with 1821 Comics, is aimed at bringing new books, characters, and games and with stories targeted for children. (AP Photo/Stan Lee's Kids Universe)
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