Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel

Rowman & ­Littlefield. Oct. 2022. 236p. pap. $16.95. ISBN 9781538162057.
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.

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