In 1978, Tiger Roholt, a 12-year old comic collector from north Minneapolis, decided to hold a comic-book convention at the Ridgedale shopping center. He figured it needed a famous person to attract people.
So he wondered: Why not Stan Lee? He wrote the Marvel Comics icon and asked for his terms. That's moxie. That's chutzpah.
That's ridiculous, Stan Lee said to his secretary. "But I told her to tell him what my fee was. I thought that would be the end of it," Lee told the Minneapolis Tribune at the time. "I figured it was one in a million chance that he'd pursue the matter."
Tiger accepted the terms.
"I couldn't get out of it then," Lee said. All for the best, though. "As it turned out, I was quite glad that I went to Minneapolis. It was one of the most pleasant experiences I'd had."
The story of Lee's visit resurfaced after the comic book icon's death on Nov. 12. Among those recounting their memories of him was Ward Sutton, a Minnesota-raised artist now based in Colorado. He attended Tiger's comic-con. He, too, was 12, and was impressed by his peer's accomplishment.
"Comic conventions were usually held in these weird random office building spaces or in a Knights of Columbus Hall in Bloomington. This felt more upscale, as befit Stan Lee," Sutton said.
"Stan was on stage, paired with some local artists. I remember him wearing a satiny disco shirt buttoned low with his chest hair coming out, and his trademark shaped sunglasses, that '70s swinger look."
As for Tiger, he's now the chairman of the philosophy department at Montclair State University in New Jersey. So much for those cranky parents who said comics would rot your mind.
"Stan Lee was extremely nice to me," Roholt wrote via e-mail. "He was very generous with his time on the day. He was every bit as good-natured as you would expect him to be, and cheerful.
"I also remember his wonderful New York accent. We talked comics, though I don't recall the specifics — unfortunately! I know I was nervous about trying to make sure that the event went well — and of course, I had no idea what I was doing."
Roholt also noted that Lee's career shaped the direction of his own life.
"I sometimes wonder if there is a connection between my very early interest in Marvel comics and my much later interest in philosophy," he said.
"My first real interest in reading was due to his comics. I needed a dictionary, and I learned to enjoy that process. The inner lives of his characters, as well as their personal struggles and stories, were richer than other comics. This must have left an impression.
"I'm most interested in a kind of philosophy called existential phenomenology, and maybe his comics opened a space in me to appreciate certain existential themes when I encountered them later."