He co-created the Marvel comic book universe, lent his voice to a number of Saturday morning cartoons and has become the go-to cameo for superhero movies from Iron Man to next year's Deadpool. What's next for Stan Lee? The world of music videos, it seems, with the release of "Stan Lee's World of Heroes Presents ... No Hero Now," a video for a new track by Vy Nguyen featuring Jason Chu that introduces a brand new superhero universe.
"It was a project that actually came out of a conversation with Yuka Kobayashi at Stan Lee’s World of Heroes," Ramon Govea, who produced the video with Kobayashi, Kevin Dowell and executive producers Greg Barbee and Nathan Lindgren, tells The Hollywood Reporter. "I had initially met with her to talk about a few different projects with a superhero theme at its core, but when she played the song and told me her idea to shoot a music video, it just made sense to me."
Jennie Kong, who'd previously worked with Lee's YouTube channel, was brought on board to write and direct the video. "The concept and world I had originally was actually for a series I wanted to develop, which I condensed into this video," Kong says of its origins. "I felt passionately earlier on to make it more of a memorable 'music video event' — and to create a world with characters that you cared about long after the four minutes of song, as that’s what usually sticks with audiences once the superhero sheen is gone."
Those characters include a villainous socialite called "The Mantis," played by Leverage's Beth Riesgraf and former assassin-turned-hero Rian Leung, who anchors the video. Jessika Van, who plays the character, says that she "forgot the format" when it came to creating Rian: "I created a living, breathing puzzle out of Rian's world, and the more I layered her world with specific relationships and struggles, the more dynamic each passing moment became. I had faith that what Rian was dealing with would come through, even without exposition and dialogue."
The video sees Van, who also appeared in the CW's The Messengers, return to the world of superhuman powers. "There's something visceral about the life and death reality of the superhuman world that allows me to hone in on what's important: love," she says of her love for the genre. "I relate to the loneliness of their struggle, especially in this age where we spend the majority of our time behind a screen or in a vehicle. To me, the beautiful thing about superhumans is that they are incredibly human after all."
Kong says that basing the video around a female hero was a no-brainer. "Personally, I grew up with characters like Ellen Ripley, Sarah Connor and even Beatrix Kiddo — I think their characters are some of the most complex and interesting to work with as a director and storyteller," she reasons. "As an audience member, watching their stories is incredibly visceral."
The release of "No Hero Now" marks the debut of Rian's world, but producer Govea teases that more is coming. "I can only say that there is a larger world to explore here, but how it manifests and, more specifically, which digital platforms we use to expand this story world are mapped out on a wipe board for right now," he says. "We will be sharing something very soon, though."
The cast and crew of the video will be making an appearance to talk about the project at the "Stan Lee's World of Heroes Presents ... No Hero Now" panel happening Sunday at noon during this weekend's Stan Lee Comikaze Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center.