Create a fragrance that smells heroic with a touch of villainy — that's what Andrew Levine's Lutherville company set out to do.
Considering the name on the bottle, it makes sense.
The new Stan Lee's Signature Cologne trades on the geek popularity of a comic-book-industry icon who had a hand in creations spanning the good-evil continuum — from Spider-Man, the Avengers and the X-Men to Loki, Magneto and Doctor Doom.
Lee wanted the fragrance to smell like they would smell. If they were real and wore cologne.
"We wanted to do something, we talked about it, and he said, 'I never thought about my characters, what they smelled like,'" said Levine, chief executive of JADS International. "He said, 'Everybody would be pretty good except the Hulk.'"
This is the niche JADS has worked since Levine founded the company 21/2 years ago. Past fragrances include a line of Avengers colognes — yes, the Hulk has one, appropriately called "SMASH" — as well as Star Trek and Star Wars scents aimed at tapping two intense fan bases. ("Sulu Pour Homme," for instance, which "allows you to release your own Intergalactic Man of Mystery.")
The company also will launch a Wipeout body spray next month to tap into the (probably different) fan base for the ABC obstacle-race show. It's a young enterprise that isn't profitable yet, but Levine hopes to nurture it into something like his last business, which he sold off.
Celebrity fragrances make up just 4.5 percent of the so-called prestige market of fragrances sold in department stores, according to market research firm NPD Group. But in both department stores and less prestigious retailers, you can find lots of celebrity scents, said Helen M. Caldwell, a professor at Providence College in Rhode Island who studies luxury marketing.
You once had to be a big star to get your own fragrance — think White Diamonds by Elizabeth Taylor — but now the Snookis of the world have their own lines, too.
In that light, Caldwell said, a Stan Lee cologne seems a bit less bizarre than it otherwise might. But its pool of potential buyers can't compete with the masses willing to shell out for a fragrance associated with, say, Justin Bieber.
"It is very niche — a very, very niche market," Caldwell said. "And I'm sure they don't expect to do extremely well with it."
Levine does figure the Wipeout body spray has bigger sales potential. He expects to sell that product in grocery stores and other retailers across the country, while the Stan Lee cologne — $24.99 for a 100-milliliter bottle — is available on the JADS website, at select comic-book shops and at comic-book conventions.
But Levine is counting on the product to grab a lot of attention. He launched the cologne last week, and "we're getting calls from all over the country already."
Lee, 90, is famous in certain circles for his work on the Marvel comic book lines. His fans love him — they line up by the hundreds to get his autograph and await his where's-Waldo cameos in Marvel movies with bated breath.
"I hugged him at a convention once, and I feel like his natural pheromones made me manlier for the rest of the day," joked the anonymous author of the popular Geekologie blog, explaining why the cologne should have been made to smell like Lee himself.
So — what is the aroma of heroism with a dash of its polar opposite? Bergamot, ginger, white pepper, basil and violet with "accords of cedar, vetiver and musk." A touch spicy, Levine explained.
"You want to feel like Iron Man … but you want to have a little bit of Loki," he added, referring to the supervillain who clashed with the Avengers in last year's blockbuster movie.
By email, Lee explained his reasoning: "I felt a touch of villainy added to the scent would make it more interesting and be of greater appeal to females who always find a villain interesting if he's rich and handsome — and smells good.
"In a perfect world, I'd also want to add a whiff of comicbook store aroma — the smell of newsprint and colored ink, the rush of enthusiasm and the thrill of discovery," Lee added.
Levine sent six fragrance candidates to POW! Entertainment, Lee's Beverly Hills-based company, to let Lee and his staff choose the winner. Yuka Kobayashi, POW!'s director of new media, said it came down to a poll.