The Reading Room: STAN LEE and MARVEL COMICS
STAN LEE AND THE RISE AND FALL OF THE AMERICAN COMIC BOOK by Jordan Raphael and Tom Spurgeon (Chicago Review Press, 2003)
A lot has been said about Stan Lee, both pro and con. He was the major impetus for the rise of Marvel Comics in the 1960’s and into the 1970’s. As both writer and editor he turned the dormant comic book industry around, revived it’s heart, infused it with realism and soap-operatic drama but with a light-hearted touch. He spoke directly to the reader. Lee was equally revered for his enthusiasm and criticized for his hucksterism. Lee was given credit for perhaps more than he accomplished and he accepted that. Beyond being accused of not giving due credit to Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, he later became embroiled in further controversy over artists’ rights to original art and accused of being a “company man” for not staying impartial rather than taking the creator’s side in the battle.
I found this book to be one of the most objective biographies that I've read. The authors don't make judgments -- they just give both sides and back it up with the details. There is no denying the impact that Stan Lee has had on the modern comic book. His place in that history is reserved, and up front where it belongs.
I got the sense after reading this book that perhaps his best accomplishments were those he did to promote Marvel and the entire industry and bring both needed and deserved attention to this art form as well as new and more mature readership.
Anyone who has an interest in the history of Marvel and/or a thorough background on Stan Lee's role will enjoy reading this . It gives a critical appreciation of his accomplishments without the fanfare and fluff.