LOS ANGELES, California—Back in March, The Daily Beast published an eye-opening exposé about the last days of Stan Lee, the iconic comic-book writer and one of the key architects of Marvel Comics.
Months after the passing of Joan, his beloved wife of nearly 70 years, the “vultures” had descended on the 95-year-old Lee, then battling pneumonia, and his estate. There were reports of a forged check for $300,000 to Hands of Respect, a sketchy “merchandising company” masquerading as a charity; the mysterious purchase of an $850,000 condo in West Hollywood; a bizarre $1 billion lawsuit against POW! Entertainment (since dismissed), accusing the company of stealing Lee’s name and likeness; the removal of Lee’s long-time road manager Mac “Max” Anderson following charges of elder abuse; and reports that Lee had groped and sexually harassed several of his nurses (Lee’s camp called it “extortion”). Strangest of all, perhaps, was the news that Lee’s blood had apparently been stolen by an ex-business partner and used to sign copies of Black Panther comics, which were then hawked at a considerable markup.
Lee subsequently filed suit against Jerry Olivarez, a former business associate of his daughter J.C.’s and the co-founder of Hands of Respect. In the lawsuit, Lee accused Olivarez of manipulating him into signing over power of attorney following his wife’s death; of pushing through the $300,000 payment to the aforementioned sham charity; of buying the WeHo condo; and of masterminding the blood-stealing plot. On top of that, Lee—with his daughter J.C. by his side—was granted an elder abuse restraining order against former manager Keya Morgan, a friend of J.C.’s who was accused of making bogus 911 calls on Lee’s behalf and preventing family and friends from seeing him, in July.
Complicating matters further was a lengthy piece in The Hollywood Reporteralleging that Lee’s 67-year-old daughter, J.C. [birth name: Joan Celia], was “a prodigious shopper with an ill-tempered personality” who was not only bleeding his estate dry, spending tens of thousands of dollars a month, but had also verbally and physically abused her father and late mother. The THR piece cited former nurses who claim that J.C. often placed “insulting phone calls” to her father, and Brad Herman, Lee’s former business manager, told the publication that he once witnessed the following incident: “In ‘a rage,’ J.C. took hold of Lee’s neck, slamming his head against the [wheelchair’s] wooden backing. Joanie [Lee’s wife] suffered a large bruise on her arm and burst blood vessels on her legs; Lee had a contusion on the rear of his skull.” (J.C. denies this.)
Enter Kirk Schenck, the attorney for J.C. and the son of George Schenck, executive producer of the CBS series NCIS. Schenck is concerned about the negative press alleging elder abuse of the comic book icon at the hands of his client, so he’s invited me to Lee’s $25 million aerie, nestled in-between the Winklevoss twins and Dr. Dre on the “bird streets,” high above the Sunset Strip, for a friendly sit-down to set the record straight.
Here at what could well be Stan Lee’s last summit, there are only father and daughter, her lawyer, a no-nonsense armed security guard named Kane, the ubiquitous uniformed nurse and a tattooed neo-hippie whose purpose remains hidden, and who Stan affectionately calls “Hairspray.” Long gone are the wolves I encountered last March. Ex-con Max “Mac” Anderson, described by filmmaker and Lee superfan Kevin Smith as his “Jarvis/Alfred,” has been exiled; Keya Morgan is now on probation; and former minder Jerry Olivares made off with the condominium and the allegedly ill-obtained $300,000 that he maintains was a gift.