Superhero Experimentation

A weekend indulgence of a post here.

Stan Lee is undoubtedly one of the cultural creators of the past century. Inventing, writing and drawing superheroes was his thing. The mega-presence in movies, tv and games that is the Marvel comic universe is down to him and his friends imagination emerging out the post-war gloom.

When he died aged 95 this week, I heard his anecdote laden bubbly humour repeated on various airwaves.

Chief among the nuggets, was his origin story of what he considered his favourite creation, spiderman.

His publisher asked him to come up with another superhero.

He’d noticed a fly on the wall. Then thought, wouldn’t it be great to have a superhero who could stick to walls and have the powers of an insect, and even shoot a web and swing around.

He ran through names; insectman, flyman, mosquitoman. Before landing on spiderman. Which “sounded so dramatic”.

To make him even more different, he wanted to make him a teenager, as he didn’t know of any teen heroes back then. To make him even more different, he plumped for giving him a lot of personal problems.

So he pitched this to his publisher.

But in return, “he said, in his wisdom,

‘Stan, that is the worst idea I’ve ever heard.

First of all people hate spiders, so you can’t call a hero spiderman.

He can’t be a teenager, because a teenager can only be a sidekick.

And a superhero doesn’t have any personal problems’

so I walked out with my tail between my legs.”

But Stan knew they had a book they were about to kill as it wasn’t selling that well (Amazing Fantasy #15 in August 1962). He decided that when you kill a book no-one cares what you put in the last issue. So just for fun, he put spiderman in it. Even featuring him on the cover.

Then when the sales figures came in, it’d been their best-seller of that month.

His publisher duly came running into his office and said,

‘You remember that character of yours, spiderman, that we both liked so much? Let’s make it a series!’

And that was what made entertainment history.

There are countless stories of huge successes that almost never saw the light of day in similar fashion.

What I liked about spiderman – which by the way, when I was dragged to see the original big budget 2002 movie, in America, I was taken with how meh the audience reaction was – is that despite the rebuff, Stan went ahead anyway.

Echoes of the meme; experiment fail learn repeat.

Which reminds me of a conversation with one supposed mentor of mine when I first ever started out in Sales;

“you can experiment whenever you like, just never on one of my deals”


I firmly believe you must have courage. Be brave to test and improve your sales process. The issue is, that too many salespeople do not seek out their optimal process. Let alone actively try and better it.

Keep the bits that work, but do not be afraid to change-up the parts that either don’t, or you feel could be superseded.

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