I didn’t read comics growing up. My exposure to comics was through TV with Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk, as well as The Amazing Spiderman and His Friends or Super Friends cartoon. A friend of mine let me read his Spiderman and Incredible Hulk cartoons but I wasn’t obsessed with comics. And of course, later, the movies entertained me. I’m a casual fan.
I wish I could say A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee is an in-depth biography of Lee, but it left me wanting. The author knew Lee for 40 years, and interviewed him for this book, but most of the quotes from Lee come from other source material. Details about his early life are murky at best. Sometimes facts contradict Lee’s memories, which is only natural when a person is looking back almost 90 years. But I found myself asking more questions than what was answered during the early years.
In fact, A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee doesn’t really find a voice until chapter 8, which was the start of the Marvel Age. Then it picked up and got interesting. I found myself thoroughly engaged in the book throughout this section. I don’t know if that’s because I’m not a student of the history of comic books, but the writing seemed more cohesive.
Once Lee leaves the day-to-day of the comic book production, the author doesn’t seem to care about the rest of his life. The years when Lee was shopping Marvel Comics as movie ideas is scant, and when he finally lands Spiderman, little is said. There’s a paragraph about his famous cameos in movies, but again, I expected more.
And at the end of Stan Lee’s life, when there were charges of elder abuse being thrown around, it is just mentioned in passing, maybe because the case hadn’t been resolved by the time of publication. More questions were raised than answered.
If all you care about is the Marvel Age of comics, A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee is for you.
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