The Amazing Spider-Man. The Incredible Hulk. The Invincible Iron Man. These are just a few of the iconic superheroes to emerge from the mind of Stan Lee. From the mean streets of Depression-era New York City to recipient of the National Medal of Arts, Lee’s life has been almost as remarkable as the thrilling adventures he spun for decades. From millions of comic books fans of the 1960s through billions of moviegoers around the globe, Stan Lee has touched more people than almost any person in the history of popular culture.
In Stan Lee: The Man behind Marvel, Bob Batchelor offers an eye-opening look at this iconic visionary, a man who created (with talented artists) many of history’s most legendary characters. In this energetic and entertaining biography, Batchelor explores how Lee capitalized on natural talent and hard work to become the editor of Marvel Comics as a teenager. After toiling in the industry for decades, Lee threw caution to the wind and went for broke, co-creating the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Hulk, Iron Man, the X-Men, the Avengers, and others in a creative flurry that revolutionized comic books for generations of readers. Marvel superheroes became a central part of pop culture, from collecting comics to innovative merchandising, from superhero action figures to the ever-present Spider-Man lunchbox.
Batchelor examines many of Lee’s most beloved works, including the 1960s comics that transformed Marvel from a second-rate company to a legendary publisher. This book reveals the risks Lee took to bring the characters to life and Lee’s tireless efforts to make comic books and superheroes part of mainstream culture for more than fifty years.
Stan Lee: The Man behind Marvel not only reveals why Lee developed into such a central figure in American entertainment history, but brings to life the cultural significance of comic books and how the superhero genre reflects ideas central to the American experience. Candid, authoritative, and utterly absorbing, this is a biography of a man who dreamed of one day writing the Great American Novel, but ended up doing so much more—changing American culture by creating new worlds and heroes that have entertained generations of readers.
Stan Lee is a household name, an icon, a hero for those in the comic world that once was seemingly relegated to ‘nerds’ before the global world recognized the importance and power that the written word combined with vivid imagery can convey. Lee has never been one to shy away from self-promotion if it meant finding a new way to bring his work and message to the world so there is no shortage of books about this man who has changed countless lives.
Batchelor has provided another to add to that ever growing collection about the Father of Marvel a beloved figure of our childhoods who has allowed us to take those moments with us as we become adults. Considering the immense body of work out there already by him and about him you’re probably wondering if you need to spend more money on yet another book especially since Lee is still ever creating and changing the world.
That question I really can’t answer for you because it depends on your level of fandom regarding Lee. If you’re a super fan who has the man and myth memorized you’re probably not going to get a lot from this book because Batchelor doesn’t bring anything new to the table that veterans don’t already know and can recite while in a coma. He does a great job with the obviously meticulously researched information he provides so if you’re something of a newbie to Marvel or don’t recognize him beyond his name and the cameos he makes in his movies then this would be a good book for you.
Fifteen years ago Stan Lee published his own autobiography, Excelsior!: The Amazing Life of Stan Lee, which is considered THE definitive work by his fans. Though since it’s by the great man himself there’s going to be some bias, maybe even a bit of coloring, of certain areas of his life so a work by someone more impartial might help give a greater understanding to the later years when Lee wasn’t the great success we know today. In that sense Bachelor does provide more information and a detailed look into the darker times of Lee’s life, the criticisms, legal issues, etc but it is tempered with the artistry of his life as well.
Bachelor is well-known for his unbiased analysis in cultural studies of popular works and figures so you’d be hard-pressed to find a better work done.
Thank you to Netgalley and Rowman and Littlefield for allowing me to review this book.
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*synopsis and pic from netgalley.com