Lunch With Stan Lee

After reading the Fool's recent interview series with Marvel Enterprises (NYSE: MVL  ) Vice Chairman Peter Cuneo, I got to wondering what -- at its core -- made Marvel a good investment. The answer came to me when I recalled a lunch I had with Marvel icon Stan Lee back in 1995.

I had written a script called SuperKids for Stan and mega-producer Lynda Obst at 20th Century Fox. Marvel, meanwhile, was going through a difficult time. It was on my investment radar, but the screenplay was the order of business, so I postponed my investment decision.

Stan was a total delight, a charming and soft-spoken man of great enthusiasm. We talked about comics. We talked about heroes and villains. Most importantly, we talked about character. Stan reminded me that every Marvel superhero started as a regular person who transforms into something special. The stories deal not just with battles against evil, but also with the internal conflicts of the superhero. That was the key to every Marvel comic and character. It was what our script needed if it was to be successful.

That's when it hit me. The Stan Lee-Marvel storytelling concept has always been a constant. How that concept was executed would determine the company's success. Back in the 1990s, Marvel was in the death spiral of bankruptcy -- it wasn't properly exploiting what it had in front of its nose. Now it is.

What makes Marvel a good investment is a matter of simplicity. Great stories and great characters. The method of delivery doesn't matter -- comics, movies, or television -- as long as they are delivered with Stan Lee's theory of storytelling. So far, they have been. The Spider-Man and X-Men movies, just for starters, demonstrate this.

The best investments often are based on a simple concept. Take First Cash Financial Services (Nasdaq: FCFS  ) . Charge folks with bad credit high interest on payday loans and pawnbroker services. Take Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX  ) . Serve a common, everyday comestible that's highly addictive and charge a lot for it. Simple, simple, simple -- and well-executed.

Despite the recent court victory in Stan Lee's favor, investors in Marvel have nothing to fear -- Marvel's story will continue to entice as long as the stories it delivers do the same. Now, if someone would only rescue SuperKids.

See also:

Marvel is one of David Gardner's most successfulMotley Fool Stock Advisorrecommendations. Subscribe today without risk for six months to learn more.

Fool contributor Lawrence Meyers owns shares in Marvel and First Cash, but that doesn't mean you should. This article solely reflects his opinion and is not a recommendation to buy or sell any stock.


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