Rating: 4/5 – Stan Lee’s Autobiography in Comic Book Form!
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.
What is this hardcover book doing under the comic book reviews? A fair question… It was published 2 years ago and I skipped it at the time because the slipcased edition I had ordered was cancelled by Diamond and I never got around to buying the regular hardcover. But even then, I really didn’t realize this autobiography co-written by Peter David was actually told fully in comic book form! I thought it was yet another prose book with some pictures and illustrations (not that there’s anything wrong with prose books, mind you). But a few weeks ago I was reminded of this book on an internet forum I frequent and the fact that it was a 100% comics format came up. I had to get it. 2 day Amazon Prime delivery and when I opened it up for some reading before bed at around 11pm I ended up reading it the entire way through before my head hit the pillow.
Peter David is co-writing this and I can imagine that Stan’s contribution was “Marvel style”. He likely told him a bunch of stories verbally (or recorded them and those were sent his way) and it was up to David to break them down into a story flow, adding the narrative flow, page breakdowns, etc. Then Colleen Doran came in and illustrated the whole darn thing. So let’s break it down into the good and the not-so-good.
I loved seeing this in comics format. For Stan it is just appropriate. There was a fine line to tread in what to include and what not to. On one hand, I’d have loved a bit more “behind the scenes” stuff I’d not seen before, but I think this will be great for people who have not been fans of Stan for as long as I have. Since I’ve read so much material by and about him before there wasn’t a lot new her for me, but I was pleasantly surprised that there were actually a few tidbits in the book I’d never heard before.
The bit with Stan and the big screen shown on page 2 of the book (see above) is actually something I witnessed pretty much word-for-word at a Comikaze convention in Los Angeles a few years back. I don’t know if that specific incident is what was immortalized in this book or if it’s just a standard bit that Stan does whenever he comes out on a stage with his image being projected on a large screen. But, it’s something that happened just like it was told…
The last third of the book reads pretty much like a travelogue of all the celebrities Stan met and events he went to in the years post Marvel Comics, with some of his less popular business ventures thrown in, like the “I wish I could forget her” Stripperella (starring Pamela Anderson). But while this part of Stan’s career is far less interesting to me, it does make up a large number of years and is part of his story so I can see why they needed to be included.
Colleen Doran’s art ran hot and cold for me. She did some really great panels where she captured the essence of the art styles of folks like John Romita, Sr. (in a particularly fun panel where Stan meets his wife-to-be Joan and it is drawn to parallel the “Face it Tiger” panel of Peter Parker meeting Mary Jane). At the same time, the likeness of Stan himself was a bit off to my eye. I can appreciate artistic license and it looks close enough to him that I knew it was him, but I’d have enjoyed a more spot-on likeness (and the pages above are among the better examples of capturing Stan’s likeness in the book).
Whether you know a lot or a little about Stan Lee, I recommend this as an addition to the bookshelf of any true Stan Fan. Obviously if you know less you’ll learn more new stuff, but it was a fun read regardless, even for a long time fan. Despite the minor quibbles I had with the book that held it back from that “perfect” score, it’s still a must read.
Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
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