cover image Stan Lee: A Life in Comics

Stan Lee: A Life in Comics

Liel Leibovitz. Yale Univ, $26 (192p) ISBN 978-0-300-23034-5

Leibovitz (A Broken Hallelujah: Rock and Roll, Redemption, and the Life of Leonard Cohen) brilliantly charts the life and legacy of the founder of Marvel Comics in this slim but affecting biography. Leibovitz calls Stan Lee (1922–2018) an “effervescent self-promoter” and notes that “by any measure of significance at our disposal, few artists have had so much of an impact on American popular culture.” He walks readers through Lee’s childhood (he was born in New York City to poor Jewish immigrant parents), his start in the business as an errand boy for what was then Timely Comics, and his channeling of his dissatisfaction with existing characters into the development of ones that had recognizable human emotions, and which paved the way for Marvel Comics with such heroes as Spider-man, Iron Man, and Black Panther. Leibovitz examines Lee’s ideas and the inspiration behind his characters, arguing that, in order to understand the characters, they must be regarded as having been “formed by the anxieties of first-generation American Jews who had fought in World War II, witnessed the Holocaust, and reflected—consciously or otherwise—on the moral obligations and complications of life after Auschwitz.” Fans of the legendary comic book writer and publisher will devour this expert mix of biography and literary analysis. (Apr.)