When news broke on Monday afternoon that Stan Lee had died, it only took a few minutes for lengthy obituaries to hit the internet. Lee would have been pleased. In a 1995 appearance on the Late Night With Conan O’Brien, Lee talked about his past career as a freelance obituary writer (yes, seriously), and revealed how they get those obituaries up so fast.
“When a celebrity dies, about 15 minutes later the newspaper comes out and there are three pages of write-ups,” he said, “and you wonder, ‘How did they write it that fast?’”
The answer is obvious to anyone who works in media (or watched 30 Rock). Newspapers and websites pre-write obituaries for famous people so they’re ready to go as soon as they’re needed. And, clearly, Lee was famous enough to merit a pre-written tribute.
“That’s how you know you’re famous,” Lee told O’Brien in 1995. “I’d like to think my obituary is in a file somewhere. Then I’d know I made it.”
What came off as a dark joke more than two decades ago feels eerily prescient today. But even back then, Lee was keenly aware of the legend he’d created for himself, and he knew his death would have an impact on the world. He just didn’t realize how big that impact would be.
In the year’s since 1995, the superheroes Lee helped create (Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, the list goes on) went from comic book characters to cinematic stars. And Lee followed them, making cameo appearances in at least 39 films — not to mention TV and video games.
Thanks to both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the rise of the internet (Lee was an avid Twitter user). We all feel like we’ve lost a close friend, though it’s at least a little comforting to know he recorded a few more cameos we still haven’t seen.
You can check out the full 1995 interview, which also discusses a much-hyped Marvel vs. DC superhero showdown in the YouTube video embedded below.
Here are some of Inverse’s most-read stories about the iconic comic book creator.
- 5 Times Lee Took on Racists in Comic Books
- Marvel Confirmed a Theory About Lee’s Movie Cameos
- Leo DiCaprio Wants to Play Stan Lee, But Marc Maron Exists
- Marvel, Mortality, and Protesting Anti-Stan Lee with Dave Baker
- Lee Did a Legitimate Cameo in a DC Movie
- Elon Musk’s Twitter Rant Gets Support from Stan Lee
- Lee’s ‘Infinity War’ Cameo Supports a Popular Fan Theory
- Lee Pins Continued Marvel’s Push for Racial Respect
- Lee’s Biopic Will Be a ‘70s Period Piece