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Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book Paperback – September 1, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press (September 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556525419
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556525414
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #589,780 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Stan Lee, the cocreator of pop cultural icons like Spider-Man, the Hulk and the X-Men, has long been the subject of debate within the comics community, and Raphael and Spurgeon aim to set the record straight in this well-researched and entertaining book. In the late 1960s, Lee elevated himself into the public eye as the face of Marvel Comics, adopting a colorful persona along the way. Left behind were his c-creators, artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, who never received the credit they deserved. At age 17, in 19TK, Lee (n‚ Stanley Lieber) took a job as an all-purpose assistant at his cousin Martin Goodman's comic book company, Timely. A frustrated novelist, Lee remained at Timely, shielded by Goodman from the industry's mid-century tumults, and eventually he transformed the company into Marvel Comics, steering it and himself into pop culture history. The authors portray Lee as a constantly enthusiastic, slightly daffy figure who turned a Depression-era work ethic and real bursts of creativity into something special. For all of his faults, the authors give Lee proper credit for being a fast and exciting creator who gave superheroes real-world problems and anxieties and used this realism for its maximum potential. Raphael and Spurgeon also chronicle Lee's decades in the wilderness of Hollywood, trying and failing to get decent films made from Marvel properties. Writer Raphael and cartoonist Spurgeon have put together a solid narrative well interwoven with the history of comics. As they demonstrate well, Lee's story is the story of mainstream comic books and one that is important reading. 12 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Raphael and Spurgeon march readers through Lee's first 80 years, taking many compelling byroads along the way to observe the history of American comic-book development, distribution, and readership. Lee created a dynamic and somewhat charismatic persona for himself early in life, and was able to move from technical grunt work to a certain level of co-creativity with more sophisticated artists, and from errand boy to publisher to media mogul. He is, indeed, a part of popular culture with high name recognition. The authors use a variety of resources, including interviews with field specialists and unpublished writings, to substantiate their views of both the man and the medium's evolution. While there are source notes for each chapter, they appear in alphabetical order, making it impossible to find the specific reference to which some controversial declarations are attributed. This will frustrate those doing higher-level research but won't impede casual readers' enjoyment of a colorful man's story told through well-described vignettes.
Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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An awful lot of fun to read.
Amazon Customer
The book asserts that Lee was able to create unique personalities and dialogue for his characters that distinguished them from other comic books as well as each other.
Joseph T. Reeves
This book gives an excellent overview of Stan Lee and his contribution to Marvel and the history of comics.
Reader from the North

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By SUPPORT THE ASPCA. on October 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is an intruiging narrative of Stan Lee's career & his influence on the American comic book industry. The title is a bit of an oversimplification, the industry went through many business cycles of highs & lows over the twentieth century. Marvel went from an IPO, bankruptcy, & than an unexpected resurgence in the past decade or two.

The author gives you a not so surprisingly "Marvel centric view," which is fine up to a point. I did find his describing the creation of Spiderman & the X-men very good. The former remains my favorite character. Had there been more on DC Comics Superman, European, & Japanese influences I might have given it 5 stars? But, Stan Lee & his cocreators at Marvel provides the reader with a deep & vivid life at the prolific & hectic early years with Lee presiding as editor & writer over many artists who worked slavishly for low pay.

I can see why so much bitterness & controversy erupted over the decades about Mr. Lee's putting his name on most Marvel productions was certainly shameless self promotion. On the whole, the writing is fairly measured to impart a balanced account. Noting that in the old system where work-for-hire was not well defined & comic book artists had little profile in the limelight. Tod McFarlane & Frank Miller appear to be the exceptions. as you get deeper into the book, you get the sense that Sstan Lee sided with the corporate side over the petitions by the artists out of necessity rather than malice on his part. Perhaps, Mr. Lee's convivial nature hid his own insecurities about his own talents?

I got the feeling that some points were discarded & the book is only a half history. Nonetheless, it fills the void in an industry that never got the respect it deserved & I give it four stars. Perhaps, someday someone will write a complete history of this fascinating topic?
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By B. Capossere TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As the review's title says, this is a quick and effectively concise look at Stan Lee and Marvel comics. The book moves quickly through Stan's early biography, slows down through the years leading up to Marvel, then takes it time with a detailed look at his work in the Marvel Universe. One of the strengths of the book is that it doesn't do all of this in a vacuum; it also takes some space to fill in some of the context. It does a good job with some backhistory of comics in general, with DC comics, and with the social/legislative response to comic books during the time they were regarded as a "threat to our youth". The authors fill in the context skillfully and quickly, giving you enough information for a more full picture of what was happening and why at Marvel but without bogging the main story down in digressions.
The main story is the growth and decline and regrowth of Marvel as seen through the lens of Stan Lee's career and if not covered in exhaustive detail, it certainly is covered in enough for all but the most obsessive of fans I would guess. While Lee is the obvious focus, the authors also spend, as they should, quite a lot of space on the two main artists of Marvel's glory years--Kirby and Ditko, placing their work in a wider context than just their time at Marvel. And while clearly fans of all three men, the authors, rather than act as fawning bio artists, reveal their flaws (both professional and personal) as well as their qualities, as well as going into some of the more ugly aspects of their working (or not working as the case may be) relationships.
The "origin" stories of many of the classic comics are here, with some fair warning to the reader that the origins are more mysterious than previous tellings would relate.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By William Meurer on September 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As a fan of comics since the late 60s who "grew up" with Stan Lee, as well as someone who didn't know a lot about the details of the industry, I found this book hard to put down. It was entertaining on two fronts; first, as a detailed and objective look at Lee's career in comics, and second, as a history of the comics biz and Lee's / Marvel's impact on the industry for better (in the 60's) and worse (the 80's to the present).
While the authors clearly admire Lee (the book is dedicated to him), they are objective, balanced and frank about Lee's career, motivations, impact on American pop culture and missteps. While celebrating Lee, it also takes some wind out of the sails of Lee's persona and track record. The book also delves into the backgrounds and significance of key artists like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko (and others) who are so intimately linked to Lee's creative output and legacy.
I particularly liked the chapter that recreates in text the entire first issue of the Fantastic Four. Believe it or not, it works!
The book is also somewhat bittersweet, even depressing, for a comics fan like me. Given the impact, fun and cultural relevancy of Marvel comics in their heyday it is sad to see how, in large part due to the industry itself, the comics industry today is shrunken, derivative and culturally irrelevant.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Ignore the rather pitiful review from the writer who takes rather a lot on themself by claiming that all comic fans (and "Star Trek" fans as well) want is to hide from the awful attentions of the "mainstream" (i.e.; the real world), and be left alone. Having spent much of my life as a comics/SF/fantasy enthusiast,I can testify that many of them take great comfort in the idea that they are special, persecuted, and somewhat beyond the comprehension of non-fans, the "mainstream", and other people they conceive of as "outsiders". Well, they're not. This book is in no way, shape, or form "tabloid journalism" as claimed, but an excellent and thought-provoking examination of a pivotal, highly creative, yet slightly ambiguous figure in pop-culture. Lee's talent and influence are nowhere denied by the authors, and yet it's hard not to be a little uncomfortable with the efficiency with which he wound up assuming virtually all credit for creating a lot of hugely profitable superheroes that were, pretty clearly, co-created and plotted by Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. I've never really thought that Stan deliberately hogged the glory; It's just that he was so effusive, so outgoing and personable, whereas Kirby and the extremely private Ditko were not, that fans just sort of gravitated toward the idea that Stan was the mastermind. He could certainly have done more to dispel this notion, but it was good for business, and having seen Stan give a lecture once in the early 70's, I can bear witness to the fact that the audience regarded him as almost a holy object. It can be awfully hard to make yourself contradict complete adulation.Read more ›
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