With X-Men: Days of Future Past and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man 2 taking top box-office this month, one might presume that the co-creator of all these classic superheros is sitting by a pool somewhere sipping mai tais. That is most definitely not the case for Stan Lee, who is delighted to be at BookCon to talk about his latest project, Zodiac, which will be published by Disney Publishing in January 2015.

When Stan Lee brought the idea from his company POW! Entertainment to Disney, executive editor Nachie Marsham was “totally all for it,” Marsham says. He also knew just the team to collaborate with Lee: Stuart Moore to co-write and Andie Tong to provide illustrations. Marsham knew that these two veterans of the comics world “could really bring to life what Stan was bringing to the table and make it a really cool and contemporary story,” he tells Show Daily@Bookcon.

At first glance, Zodiac, an illustrated novel aimed at the eight to 12 year olds, seems very different from his previous work. The protagonist, Steven, is a Chinese-American boy who is no Spidey; he has no superpowers. But Lee says, “I don’t know how different it is. This is just another legend that we’re using. The only difference is that while our hero, Steven, doesn’t himself have superpowers, there are the 12 animals of the [Chinese] zodiac that do, so it’s just a little reversal on the usual theme. What a wellspring of magic that is for a writer to delve into.”

With a boyish enthusiasm that belies his status as a nonagenarian, Lee claims, “It’s even better that Steven can’t rely on his own powers, because the more obstacles, the more problems you put in the way, the more it looks as if the hero or protagonist doesn’t have a chance. Having Steven be a normal young man who himself has no special powers, but is involved in all these tremendous forces and seeming magic, “I think, makes the story more interesting.”

Lee was vaguely familiar with the Chinese zodiac, but did a lot of research for the book and realized that it is “legendary and bigger than life”—characteristics that all of Lee’s work shares. But Zodiac reflects his other upcoming projects, which are become more global in their representation. Lee is currently working on a Chinese-American superhero called the Annihilator, as well as an Indian superhero named Chakra. Also in the works is a Hispanic superhero whose “name is top secret!” says Lee. “An international flavor is so important today,” he continues. “With all the means of communication, the world is getting smaller and smaller. I like to do things that represent other people, other cultures.”

While Zodiac is his first foray into writing for a specific age group, Lee says, “The best type of writing is something that’s simple enough for a young reader to understand and yet interesting enough, with perhaps enough philosophy, for an older reader.” His hope is that Zodiac will “be really great for all readers and will survive and be as popular as Harry Potter, which everyone seems to enjoy.”

Stan Lee will talk about Zodiac and his journey from comic book legend to children’s book author today, 11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m., in Room 1E07.