Stan Lee – The Man Behind Marvel
A special thanks to Rowman & Littlefield Publishers for sending a copy of Stan Lee – The Man behind Marvel for review.
Stan Lee: The Man behind Marvel begins with the story of Stanley Lieber’s Romanian-born, Jewish, immigrant parents’ migration to Depression-era New York City. Due to his family’s serious financial hardships, young Stanley was forced to enter the job market at a young age, and hard work was always ingrained in him. His intelligence and imagination was apparent, even in his youth. He worked hard to graduate high school early and began a string of jobs writing for various outlets and as a theater usher on Broadway; which, hinted at a potential future in entertainment. He enjoyed writing the most, and often dreamed of one day writing the “Great American Novel”.
In 1939, Stanley’s family associations got him a job as an assistant at publisher Martin Goodman’s company, in the Timely Comics division, the entity that would eventually evolve into Marvel Comics in the 1960s, and propel “Stan Lee” to be the cultural icon that he is today.
In the early years of pulp magazine and comic-book publishing, known as the “Golden Age of Comic Books”, the industry was burgeoning. Modern comic books were first published, with new ideas and formats being produced for voracious audiences. It was during this time that the superhero archetype was conceived, and many well-known characters of comic book history were introduced. While Lee was not the only major player in the superhero industry, he is credited for innovative ideas that set his characters and comic books apart from the others. He gave his heroes genuinely human traits, which allowed audiences to relate to these characters even in the modern day. He was the first to introduce thought balloons, which he explains as letting “readers know what a character was thinking as often as possible… and add a whole additional dimension to the story.” He also chose to have many of his heroes reside centrally in New York City, which not only allowed readers to be familiar with the setting, but also allowed for multi-hero interactions and story arcs.
Even in his later career, Lee was a groundbreaker, becoming the public face for Marvel Comics. He began attending comic book conventions around America, lectured at colleges, and participated in panel discussions. He eventually moved to California to begin developing Marvel TV and movie properties. While he eventually became president of the company, he truly enjoyed the creative process. After a brief stint, he stepped down to become the publisher. His choice of collaborations, partnerships, charitable work, and other projects expanded beyond the comic book industry that he pioneered.
In 1989, Stan made his first Marvel film appearance in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, which began his streak of appearances in what are now highly anticipated cameos in various Marvel movie franchises. He has been a credited executive producer on most Marvel film and television projects since the 1990’s.
It is safe to say that Stan Lee has developed and transformed the superhero and comic book industry that we have grown to know today, and has solidified himself as one of the great cultural icons in contemporary American history.
As a cultural historian, Bob Bachelor has evidently done vast and in-depth research of Stan Lee and his path to becoming a central figure in American pop culture, as well as the birth and evolution of the modern day comic book industry.
At times, the book is almost too heavy in facts and details. But once it is past the historical references and background information, and as the story of Stan Lee unfolds, it becomes a pleasant read. It is not a book that you can sit down and breeze through in a summer afternoon. If you want something that speed, you may want to defer to the Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir, which is Lee’s autobiography in graphic novel format. But if you want a heavily researched book that gives a solid analysis of the comic book industry and the man that heavily influenced its transformation, then this book is for you.
To learn more about Batchelor and his other books about popular culture, check out his author page.
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