Comic book legend Lee offers fans a graphic autobiography in his inimitably jaunty style.
There’s no denying Lee’s place in the pop-culture pantheon. As the writer and co-creator of Spider-Man, Iron Man, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, and numerous other spandex-clad superheroes, he not only influenced subsequent generations of writers and artists, but also laid the foundation for the multibillion-dollar movie franchises those characters have since spawned. Along with co-writer David (Artful: A Novel, 2014, etc.) and artist Doran (The Vampire Diaries, 2014, etc.)—whose detailed linework is superb—Lee recounts his hardscrabble youth in Manhattan; his entry into a nascent comic-book industry still dominated by horror, Westerns, and romances; military service in World War II, during which he was responsible for the creation of a particularly memorable poster reminding soldiers to do their duty to get treated for venereal disease; and rise from intern to icon as superheroes came to dominate the comics landscape (in large part due to Lee’s efforts). After years of being accused of perhaps claiming too much credit for his creations, Lee casts ample spotlight on artists like Jack “King” Kirby (X-Men, Fantastic Four) and Steve Ditko (Spider-Man), who played equally important roles in developing the heroes that are so ubiquitous today, but he makes sure the light shines brightest on himself. The author’s influence on the comics industry cannot be overstated; even if he sometimes gets too much credit for creating characters and stories, he doesn’t get enough recognition for being the driving force behind connecting those characters to an audience hungry for flawed human heroes. One might argue, however, that among his myriad creations, one of his most impressive—and persuasive—may very well be the legendary Stan Lee himself.
A worthwhile primer for adoring acolytes, but too much P.T. Barnum and not enough behind-the-scenes insights for a broader audience.