Bob Batchelor’s ” Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel” (Rowman and Littlefield, 2017) takes the reader through the life and struggles of the most well known comic book creator in Pop Culture in a wonderful read.
The book starts off walking the reader through the early childhood of the comic legend, from his parents struggling with ways to make money to support the family, especially his father, who was many times unemployed. This family background leads to Lee’s incredible work ethic throughout his life. Lee’s love for reading early on, especially the classic works like Shakespeare, helped form his writing skills that inspired many of his comic creations. The book mentions that Lee’s love for “Frankenstein” and “Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde” helped created The Hulk, and his love for Edgar Allen Poe, Shakespeare, and Alexandre Dumas influenced creating the character Thor, along with Howard Hughes and the Cuban Missile Crisis inspiring the Iron Man/Tony Stark character.
After graduating high school, Lee began his writing career, starting off as an office boy for Timely Comics, which was geared to be a men’s magazine. The book covers the years Lee worked his way up from a gofer to ending up being the head of Marvel Comics, and his relationships throughout the years with the staff, freelancers, and artists in the company, including other comic pioneers Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.
Batchelor’s book is not just a date to date biography, but has plenty of interesting storied added to in that keeps the reader engaged. One interesting story from 1977 (when comic sales were down) is when Lee had to be convinced to take a chance on doing a comic tie in with a science fiction movie, called “Star Wars,” which not only became a cultural phenomenon itself, but also saved Marvel from bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy is a common theme throughout this book as well, which was educational for this reader who was not familiar with all of the different bosses, mergers, and bad deals that occurred throughout Lee’s and Marvel’s history. The business undertone in the book makes the text more than just about a man who wrote comic books. Many people may have thought that every creation Lee made was a success, but the book takes the reader through characters like Savage She Hulk, The X-Men, and other titles that did not sell well at first, or was only in limited runs due to an early business deal which Marvel was only allowed to produce a certain number of titles per year. Bad business deals also put the company in trouble several times, including the famous attack on comic books in 1954, which involved Frederick Wertham attacking comic books for its contents. This Senate hearing ended up with the creation of the Comic Code Authority, which put limits on what could and could not be placed in the books, which affected the industry and caused many writers and artists to be fired.
Even throughout the bad business deals and attacks on the industry, Batchelor paints Lee as a person who perseveres throughout his life, including the fact that Lee wanted to be seen as a “credible” writer by his peers, besides comic books, and worked on the men’s magazines and had dreams of being a novelist, but was seen as a comic book writer. The reader gets a nice heart-filled touch to what may be seen as just a fact based book.
“Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel” is not just a basic biography where the author presents a lot of research material (although it is very well researched), but it presents themes of The American Dream of a man who wanted one goal, but embraced another that turned him into a legendary figure in publishing, even through down turns, such as sales plummeting, canceled series, and numerous bad business deals and multiple bosses. The easy to read chapters makes this 204-page book an educational read for many who love comics, or just want to know more about the man behind many of the great comic book creations.
(A Special Thanks to Rowman and Littlefield for the Reading Copy of this book).
“Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel” (Hardback ISBN: 978-1-4422-7781-6 and ebook ISBN: 978-1-4422-7782-3) is available at http://www.rowman.com. Or order at 800-462-6420
For information about the author, go to http://www.bobbatchelor.com
If you are looking for comics, culture, and collectables, and live in the Columbiana, Ohio area, visit WatchTower Heroes, LLC, located at 6 Main Street Columbiana, Ohio 44408. Check them out at http://www.watchtowerheroes.com and on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/WatchtowerHeroesComics/