A biography of the comic artist and pop culture icon traces his life from his Depression-era childhood to his years as an editor and his triumphs as the creator behind such superhero titans as Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four. - (Baker & Taylor)
This first true biography of Stan Lee is an eye-opening look at a pop culture visionary. This book traces Lee's life—from his Depression-era childhood to his years as a teen editor and ultimately to his triumphs as the genius behind some of the most beloved characters in pop culture history, including Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk, and Thor. - (NBN)
Bob Batchelor is a cultural historian who has written or edited more than two dozen books on popular culture and American literature, including books about John Updike, The Great Gatsby, and Mad Men. Batchelor lives in Oxford, Ohio and teaches at Miami University. - (NBN)
Meet Stanley Lieber: movie fan, adventure-story fan, budding writer. Young Stanley started in the comic-book business as an assistant to Timely Comics' head writer, Joe Simon, and to artist Jack Kirby. Along the way, as he graduated from assistant to writer, he became known as Stan Lee and wound up revolutionizing the comic-book business: in partnership with some of the great artists (Kirby and the legendary Steve Ditko, among others), he created Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and other familiar superheroes. What made Lee's creations special was his insistence on giving them recognizable human traits and flaws; these weren't idealized superheroes but real people with special abilities. This is a solidly researched and written biography of Lee (who is in his mid-nineties now). If it feels familiar, it's because Lee's story has been told before, in such books as Sean Howe's glorious Marvel Comics: The Untold Story (2012) and Excelsior! The Amazing Life of Stan Lee (2002), by Lee and George Mair. But don't let that put you off: Lee's is a hugely entertaining story, and the author tells it well. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.
Stan Lee is one of the most recognized names in comic book history, a deserving accolade because of his momentous contributions as a Marvel Comics administrator, editor, writer, and creator of some of the world's favorite pop culture icons. Of course, his penchant to stay in the limelight through self-promotion and self-reinvention, and his good fortune to remain active into his mid-nineties, were also to his advantage. Batchelor (Miami Univ.) does an admirable job of piecing together the verifiable facts and anecdotes about Lee, with non-supported "Stan legend" and murky details (e.g., about his ancestry), bits of history about the comics and society of the times, and plot synopses of comic books created by Lee and his cohorts. He points to decisive periods when Lee questioned being "only" a comics writer, and when he deviated from his publisher's wishes and moved into new directions. Lee and Marvel's downsides, such as his professional squabbles with Jack Kirby and others, and the company's financial woes of the nineties, are not spared, but what is lacking is a picture of "the man behind Marvel" in a non-professional, out-of-the-company light. Stan Lee is a well-researched, lucid addition to superhero comics history and comics biography more generally.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty.
--J. A. Lent, independent scholar
John A. Lent
John A. Lent Choice Reviews 55:08 April 2018 Copyright 2018 American Library Association.
A young readers' adaptation of Batchelor's 2017 profile of the same name for adult readers, co-publishing with a new version of the adult original. Along with lightly massaging his text, the author adds a chapter that takes the Marvel universe story up to Lee's death in 2018 and details the horrific elder abuse that marked his last years. Taking an evenhanded stance on the ugly squabbles that developed between Lee and artists like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko over who played just what roles in developing the foundational Marvel characters, he nonetheless perceptively argues that Lee's distinctive voice was his greatest contribution because it created and, over decades, established a uniquely human, flawed superhero archetype. But he makes more debatable claims too, for example, about the vast extent of Marvel's cultural influence, and sometimes assumes the role of apologist, as when he soft-pedals the sexism of projects like Savage She-Hulk and Stripperella. Problematically in terms of audience appeal, Batchelor stuffs his account of Lee's career trajectory from office boy to international icon with more than enough minor detail about sales figures, corporate maneuvering, marketing deals, failed publications, personnel shifts, and the like to glaze the eyes of most fans. Readers who really can't get enough about the comics biz will gravitate anyway to the marginally longer edition for adults.Nine drawings of Lee and associates and a scanty selection of photos and covers offer inadequate visual relief from the densely packed pages. A superfluous offering. (notes, index) (Biography. 14-16) Copyright Kirkus 2022 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
PW Annex Reviews
This unauthorized biography by cultural historian Batchelor (Mad Men: A Cultural History) is as much a history of Marvel Comics and the comic book industry as it is of Stan Lee, the man largely credited with transforming the comic book industry into a pop culture colossus. Batchelor begins with Lee's childhood in New York City during the Great Depression, to which he attributes Lee's strong work ethic and ambition. A workaholic from an early age, Lee joined the comic book industry at its infancy, learning the ropes from writer Joe Simon and artist Jack Kirby, who were his mentors at Timely Comics (later renamed Marvel Comics). By age 19, Lee had already taken over as editor-in-chief. Aside from the first chapter on his childhood, the book mainly glosses over Lee's personal life, focusing primarily on his career. Batchelor shows how Lee led his team of writers and illustrators with a can-do spirit, working with his staff in employing snappy dialogue and colorful graphics to concoct a dynamic new medium. Introducing racial diversity, serial storytelling, current events, and emotional conflict, the boastful Lee and his team devised a marvelous universe of new characters, who connected strongly with readers by displaying emotional weaknesses that equaled their physical strengths. Though the parallels he draws between Lee and his superheroes become redundant after awhile, Batchelor successfully shows how this dreamer and risk-taker perfectly captured the cultural zeitgeist and assisted in creating "fairy tales for grown-ups." (Sept.)
Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly Annex.
School Library Journal Reviews
Gr 8 Up—In this young adult adaptation of his adult book of the same title, Batchelor chronicles the development of the comic book industry, the rise of the superhero genre, and the life of Stanley Lieber from the Great Depression and Cold War, through 1960s counterculture to 21st-century multimedia stardom. Batchelor presents Lee, like his Marvel creations, as an antihero—an imperfect man struggling to prove himself worthy of his accolades while simultaneously positioning himself as a defender of freedom of expression against the repressive Comics Code. As a child of Romanian-Jewish parents, Lee grew up in a period of economic collapse and patriotic fervor. Quick-witted, opportunistic, and fiercely ambitious, the teen evolved from office boy to writer/editor, scripting the antihero archetype that later morphs into the well-known motif of the paradoxical, accidental superhero. Developing creative collaborations that lasted decades, Lee cultivated talent and generated opportunities for freelance artists through the Marvel Method of storytelling, broke the fourth wall by speaking directly to readers, and fabricated celebrity status through entrepreneurial spirit, keen awareness of cultural shifts, shrewd business acumen, and perseverance. This well-researched and annotated account brings the iconic figure to life with colorful anecdotes and deep dives into historical and sociopolitical context yet gets mired in transactional accounts of the publishing business that may lose the interest of young readers or anyone but the most fervent fans. Very little attention is paid to women in Lee's life or in the comic book industry, as the narrative paints the picture of a business run and influenced by men. VERDICT An extra purchase for libraries to fill a gap or for those with special interests.—Rebecca Jung
Copyright 2022 School Library Journal.