Stan Lee, the legendary comics figure who helped bring many of Marvel's most iconic characters to life, has been in the news lately for reasons beyond his comics legacy. Over the last month, several reports about Lee's personal life have uncovered bizarre attempts to capitalise on the 95-year-old's fortunes... and a new twist in the tale makes the saga even stranger.
In the wake of the Daily Beast's reporting that Lee's finances have allegedly been drained (in part) by ongoing disputes with a former business partner associated with Hands of Respect, a for-profit charitable organisation that both Lee and his daughter JC were formerly involved with, this week celebrity news site TMZ reported that this former business associate allegedly forged medical documents last October to instruct Lee's personal nurse to drain several vials of blood from Lee.
Originally, TMZ reported that people close to Lee were concerned the blood itself was going to be sold off in the form of actual pens, containing it as an ink substitute, but an updated claim today from the site alleges that the blood has instead been used to stamp Lee's signature onto several recent Marvel Comics - The Mighty Thor #700, and a variant cover of Rise of the Black Panther #1. [Full disclosure: Rise of the Black Panther writer Evan Narcisse is also a senior writer here at io9 and Gizmodo.]
According to TMZ, the comics are being sold at the Las Vegas Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N., an officially licensed exhibition and retail store based on Disney and Marvel Studios' Avengers movies currently operating at Treasure Island Las Vegas. The site obtained a certificate of authenticity included with one of the stamped comics - retailing for up to $US500 ($650) - claiming that the signature on the book has been "hand-stamped with Stan Lee's Solvent DNA Ink." One of the many curious things about certificate is that it ties the comics and Lee's purportedly stolen blood back to Hands of Respect, whose logo is printed at the bottom of the document.
Cursory searches online about the ink turn up little beyond mentions on social media, going as far back as last December, of fans receiving other Marvel comics stamped with Lee's signature stamped with Solvent DNA Ink. Additionally, a thread posted on the forums of the third-party comic book grading service CGC Comics from February inquiring about the comics on sale at Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. with Lee's signature on them includes a post claiming to represent the exhibition's retail store, stating that the comics, stamped with Solvent DNA Ink infused with Lee's blood, were donated with Lee's consent in the wake of the Las Vegas mass shooting that claimed the lives of 58 people while leaving 851 injured last October.
Marvel's Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. is a global touring interactive exhibition, in association and produced under the licence of Marvel Entertainment, LLC, which is also owned by The Walt Disney Company.
Following the October 1, 2017 tragedy in Las Vegas, Nevada, Stan Lee's Hands of Respect™ was moved by the community response of blood donations to help the victims. In response, Stan Lee's Hands of Respect™ chose to dedicate the introduction of the Stan Lee's Solvent DNA Ink™ made with the actual blood of Stan Lee to the Las Vegas community.
Due to this commitment and passion, Stan Lee donated his blood to create the Stan Lee's Solvent DNA Ink™.
Stan Lee's Solvent DNA Ink™ was created with the highest of care and standards. Blood was drawn from Stan Lee by a hand-selected nurse and under the direction of Dr. Ram Dandillaya, M.D., FACC, FACP, Clinical Chief of Cardiology, Beverly Hills, California and Stan Lee's Hands of Respect™ Medical Ambassador. Following the strictest of protocols, Stan Lee's blood was delivered to Cleansnap™, one of the country's leading manufacturers of ink products, where a team of chemists developed and uniquely customised in composition specifically for Stan Lee's Hands of Respect™. Hand-stamped signatures utilising Stan Lee's Solvent DNA Ink™ are certified, authenticated and numbered with Certificates of Authenticity.
This product is sold exclusively at the Marvel's Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. and quantities per comic book hand stamped with Stan Lee's DNA Ink™ is limited edition.
We are located at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas Nevada and we look forward to welcoming you to visit us soon.
Marvel's Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N.
The purported statement claims Cleansnap is behind the ink, however that appears to be a mistake: Cleansnap doesn't exist (except as a data aggregation service for the construction industry), but Clearsnap, an ink pad manufacturer based in Washington, does.
When we reached out to Victory Hill Exhibitions, the Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N.'s parent company, their legal counsel responded with a succinct statement confirming that the comics had been previously sold at the location, but that they no longer would be:
"We're a retail store which purchased product from Hands of Respect LLC and DLK Brand Consulting LLC that appeared certified and obtained with authorization. The books were removed from our shelves immediately."
Though we also reached out to Hands of Respect, Dr. Dandillaya's office in Beverly Hills, and Clearsnap, after being put on hold in each instance, we were told that no one was available for comment. As wild, weird, and sad as this whole story is, we'll definitely update if and when we hear back.