cover image A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee

A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee

Danny Fingeroth. St. Martin’s, $29.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-250-13390-8

In this enthusiastic biography of Stan Lee (1922–2018), Fingeroth (Superman on the Couch), one-time writer and editor at Lee’s longtime employer Marvel Comics, tells the story of the man who helped create comic legends including Spider-Man and Black Panther. Born Stan Leiber in New York City, Lee was “a classic American success story,” who turned infectious moxie, geniality, and restless creativity into a career. Starting in comics as a teenager, Lee became a whirlwind of editorial energy (he did not draw) at Marvel Comics, which prided itself on more human, “neurotic,” characters than DC’s simplistic supermen. Lee’s voice, promulgated through punchy story lines and chattily self-deprecating columns within each issue directed at readers, built a fun, self-aware image perfect for a maturing audience. As the industry competed with television, Lee and artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko reinvented comics by combining “simultaneously cynical and idealistic” perspectives with a strong humanism, spinning off the Fantastic Four, Incredible Hulk, the Avengers, and the X-Men while addressing social ills like racism. Fingeroth’s insider account is likely too long on Marvel’s business permutations, but this biography is a fittingly ebullient tribute to a man who never failed to add one more exclamation mark. This is a sure hit for comics fans of all camps. (Nov.)