Cover Image: Stan Lee

Stan Lee

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Member Reviews

Back in August, I reviewed another Stan Lee biography, A Marvelous Life (read my review here). I thought it was good, but still left me wanting to know more. When NetGalley offered me Stan Lee: A Life in Comics, I jumped at the chance. All opinions in this review are my own.

From the publisher:

This illuminating biography focuses as much on Lee’s ideas as it does on his unlikely rise to stardom. It surveys his cultural and religious upbringing and draws surprising connections between celebrated comic book heroes and the ancient tales of the Bible, the Talmud, and Jewish mysticism. Was Spider-Man just a reincarnation of Cain? Is the Incredible Hulk simply Adam by another name? From close readings of Lee’s work to little-known anecdotes from Marvel’s history, the book paints a portrait of Lee that goes much deeper than one of his signature onscreen cameos.

About Jewish Lives:

Jewish Lives is a prizewinning series of interpretative biography designed to explore the many facets of Jewish identity. Individual volumes illuminate the imprint of Jewish figures upon literature, religion, philosophy, politics, cultural and economic life, and the arts and sciences. Subjects are paired with authors to elicit lively, deeply informed books that explore the range and depth of the Jewish experience from antiquity to the present.

Stan Lee: A Life in Comics is part of the Jewish Lives series. While Lee’s Marvel characters are explored, they are compared and contrasted with the tenants of Jewish faith. During the early days of comic books, the majority of artists, inkers and writers were Jewish. Why? Because they couldn’t get a job in advertising or marketing or newspapers because of discrimination. “We couldn’t get into newspaper strips or advertising,” Al Jaffee recalled (he would later find fame with MAD magazine. “Ad agencies wouldn’t hire a Jew. One of the reasons Jews drifted into the comic-book business is that most of the comic-book publishers were Jewish. So there was no discrimination there.”

Stan Lee refused to talk much about his faith or how it shaped him and the characters he created. When asked about it, he talked in circles. He once told a radio reporter during an interview “You know, I have no idea. I never really thought of it. It is strange when you mention it that the best-known characters were done by Jewish writers.”

For example, Lee himself attended DeWitt Clinton High School in New York. Two other Jewish students that were several years ahead of him were Will Eisner and Robert Kahn, who later changed his name to Bob Kane. Eisner and Kane were responsible for The Spirit, one of the most influential comics ever created, and Batman.

All one has to do is look over the Stan Lee creations to see that he thought differently than other comic book creators: Iron Man, Thor, Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and the X-Men. All his characters weren’t perfect like Superman, they all had flaws, and struggled with their abilities. Those struggles are what made Marvel Comics so important to teens and college-aged kids who were going through some of those same struggles.

One thing I appreciated in Stan Lee: A Life in Comics that was missing from A Marvelous Life was a little more detail about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, beginning in 2008’s Iron Man, which I very much appreciated since I don’t actually read many comics.

Stan Lee was ahead of his time, until time caught up to him in the 1960’s. He wrote an editorial in November 1968 that could be used to describe culture in America today: “Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest of social ills plaguing the world today. But, unlike a team of costumed supervillains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot, or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them is to expose them–to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are. The bigot is an unreasoning hater–one who hates blindly, fanatically, indiscriminately. If his hang-up is black men, he hates all black men. If a redhead once offended him, he hates all redheads. If some foreigner beat him to a job, he’d down on all foreigners. He hates people he’s never seen–people he’s never known–with equal intensity–with equal venom. Now, we’re not trying to say it’s unreasonable for one human being to bug another. But, although anyone has the right to dislike another individual, it’s totally irrational, patently insane to condemn an entire race–to despise an entire nation–to vilify an entire religion. Sooner or later, we must learn to judge each other on our own merits. Sooner or later, if man is ever to be worthy of his destiny, we must fill our hearts with tolerance. For then, and only then, will we be truly worthy of the concept that man was created in the image of God–a God who calls us all–His children. Pax et Justitia, Stan.”

Stan Lee, you will be missed, but your legacy lives large in our society’s popular culture.
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This was a great biography of Stan Lee. It was a very engaging journey through Stan Lee's life as it paralleled  the change in the country's dynamics. I wish I grew up with comic books and graphic novels, instead of finding them later in life. It showed Stan Lee as a genius who wasn't without his flaws, which made the bio even more engaging. Part of me would enjoy the book even more without the comparison of the comic books to Catholic and Jewish mythology. I almost wanted to keep the mystery of each character or story line and maintain my own interpretation of his and his collaborators' characters. A very fitting and well done ending. Thanks Netgalley!
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Thank you NetGalley for the ARC.

This is a fascinating read for not just Marvel fans but comic fans in general and those who like to find out more of such a greate character.  A look at Stan Lee's life with a view of how his Jewish faith had a heavy influenence on his storytelling which resulted in a deeply satisfying read.

Lee is shown as being a showman with a mind that appears to have contributed an exceptional amount to mogern culture today.  There are also some great stories of how Lee helped combat VD for soldiers in the second world war!

Give this realtively short book a read and you can thank me later.
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A thoughtful and engaging biography of a remarkable figure. This work explores Lee’s life with an eye toward how his comics reflected and shaped twentieth century political and social thought. Compelling, well-written and thought provoking.
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This was a fine book and written well, it just wasn’t for me unfortunately..............................."..........................
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For more reviews and bookish posts please visit: http://www.ManOfLaBook.com

Stan Lee: A Life in Comics by Liel Leibovitz is a short biography of one of the icons of American mythology. This book is part of the award winning Jewish Lives series.

This is a short biography on one of the most influential men in American pop-culture, and a true American success story. The book tries to tie Stan Lee’s stories and ideas to Jewish culture and Jewish religious book, some of the passages are a stretch, but all of them are interesting and show an understanding of the author of the characters he created.

Stan Lee: A Life in Comics by Liel Leibovitz tells of how a poor Jewish kid from The Bronx transformed himself to be the face of geek culture.  As his fame grew, Stan Lee found himself being distanced further and further from the creative work which he found so fulfilling, ending up being a Marvel spokesman with very little control over the creative efforts.

Stan Lee loved being a spokesman, he loved interacting with his audience and went on a college tour. He hung out with his fans and tried to implement their ideas, and wishes, when he got back to Marvel’s creative team.

The book follows Stan Lee throughout his career, focusing on some of the biggest characters he created and how his and Jack Kirby’s poor background, and Jewish heritage might have influenced their inception. It’s important to note that this is all conjuncture by the author, Stan Lee have always been purposely ambiguous about these issues, mainly because he wanted fans to have their own ideas. I remember seeing him retelling the origin of Spiderman, ending it with “I told this story so often, one day it might actually be true”; telling the frustrated host “you want the truth or a good story?”
We all want a good story.

Some of the chapters tell of Stan Lee’s contribution to the character Captain American (a Jack Kirby creation)  and his own creations of the Fantastic Four – Mister Fantastic (Reed Richards), the Invisible Woman (Susan “Sue” Storm), the Human Torch (Johnny Storm),and the Thing (Ben Grimm) – the original X-Men with the civil rights counterparts (Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X), and Spiderman which, at the time, was the antithesis to everything which screamed “comic book hero”.

Marvel has been in decline (as a former share owner, I can still see my shares disappear), but when Disney bought the company it has a revival with Iron-Man (a second rate character in the comics), and the Marvel Cinematic Universe became one of the biggest grossing, if not the biggest, franchise in movie history. Stan Lee, of course, has become the cameo king of the movie world.
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Thank you to Yale University Press and NetGalley for giving me an opportunity to read and review this biography.

I haven't been a fan of comics, much less the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. However, I was drawn towards the biography of Stan Lee, because as a content creator, the stories of popular content creators inspire me in multiple ways. I wasn't disappointed in those terms, because the biography describes in detail the motivation and thought processes behind how the various characters in Fantastic Four series, the X-Men series and characters like Spiderman, Captain America were designed. The influence of the Talmud and the current state of affairs on the plotlines also were an important takeaway. This aspect of the book fascinated me.

However, I couldn't truly appreciate the story of Stan Lee in its entirety, not being an ardent fan of his work before reading this book. Hence, I would recommend this book to all Marvel fans, comic books or movies, as it is an important collectible for sure!
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There was so much to this book which went beyond the average biography.  Yes, it covered key events in Lee’s life and his works, but the analysis of his spirituality and how it influenced his art was something I had not anticipated and which gave considerable depth to the account.  A must read for Marvel fans.
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This book gives an overview of how Stan Lee started out in comics, and almost gave up.  It mainly focuses on how he developed his characters and the influence Judaism had in that development.  Nice addition to the books about this incredible talent.
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I was really hoping this would be more about Stan Lee’s life and how he became who he was. Granted it did have some of this information but instead it was more like a imdb for everything ever done by Lee with a brief description. It was a little monotonous for someone who doesn’t love comics. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
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A great book for lovers of Marvel.

This book reveals more about Stan Lee than I ever knew. So many interesting connections between his Jewish faith and the portrayal of so ,any of his wonderful characters.

A great tribute to a wonderful man.
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A great book for lovers of Marvel.

This book reveals more about Stan Lee than I ever knew. So many interesting connections between his Jewish faith and the portrayal of so ,any of his wonderful characters.

A great tribute to a wonderful man.
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If you love Comic Con or Michael Chabon's book The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Klay, then you will enjoy this biography of Stan Lee (Stanley Lieber). The book traces the relationship between Jewish publishers and the comic book industry as well as the themes from Judaism that informed the development of the super hero genre. Lee was ahead of his time in developing his Marvel comic book characters which more popular today than they ever were.
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