LOS ANGELES Stan Lee is barging into the pages of his own comic book as a character based on himself who rubs elbows with superheroes - call it a cameo for the reality TV age.
His new series "Stan Lee's Mighty 7", which hit stores this week, is inspired by reality television and throws into the mix real-life characters - like Lee himself, the creator of such Marvel Comics icons as Spider-Man and The X-Men.
Those creations have made the 89-year-old Lee a legend in the comic industry, but since leaving Marvel and starting his own company POW! Entertainment in 2001 his latest projects have met with more limited success. That does not phase Lee.
"Somehow I think the only thing that could tarnish my legacy would be ... in fact I can't think of anything that could tarnish it, because those things have already been done, and nobody can take them back," Lee told Reuters in a phone interview.
"Everything I'm doing I'm trying to do in the same way, because when I did Spider-Man and Iron Man and all the others, I was trying to do something different," he said. "There had never been a teenaged superhero like Spider-Man."
The real-life, Los Angeles-based Lee describes his creative process in a note inside the pages of "Mighty 7." He writes, "Reality TV is a big deal today, so why not do a reality comic book? (See why I get the big bucks?)"
"Mighty 7" features superheroes with names such as Strongarm, Laser Lord, High Rise and others who have powers ranging from super strength to shrinking ability.
The superheroes are on a ship hurtling through space that lands on Earth in a desert just steps from the character representing Lee himself. In the following issues, Lee's character will guide the superheroes.
Nobody should expect Lee's character to display a superpower, other than his prolific ability to post to Twitter, to which his fans can attest. In fact, in the comic Lee is tweeting or texting a message to his fans when the spaceship hurtles behind him.
"It wouldn't be a 'reality' comic book if I gave myself a super power, because I don't have one," Lee said.
"So it would just be fiction again. See this story is very true," he joked. "Please say I say these things with a laugh or people will think I'm crazy!"
The comic series, which is written by television veterans Tony Blake and Paul Jackson, results from a partnership between POW!, Archie Comics and the company A Squared Elxsi.
Meanwhile, Lee said he is forging ahead with another POW! project called "Stan Lee's World of Heroes" for which he and his team are creating online videos for YouTube.
"POW! has become the greatest toy I ever played with," he said.
(Reporting By Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Jill Serjeant)