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Excelsior!: The Amazing Life of Stan Lee Paperback – May 7, 2002

4.2 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Lee, chief editor and writer of Marvel Comics during the 1960s, played a major role in the creation of prominent superheroes such as Spiderman, the X-Men, and the Fantastic Four. This autobiography recounts his beginnings in the comic book field in the 1940s, his frustration with his career as a comic book writer and editor until he created richer characters in the 1960s, and his success as a spokesman for Marvel Comics since the 1960s. Throughout, the persona Lee created never falters; the tone is warm, straight-talking, and simultaneously confident and insecure the same traits with which Lee imbued his superheroes. Lee has come under attack in recent years for overstating his contributions to the comic book field and for the failure of his Internet company, Stan Lee Media. This book offers something of a rebuttal, with Lee crediting his creative partners fully and portraying himself as a victim in his company's failure. With the success of Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which traces the early days of the comic book industry, and the motion picture, Spider-Man, interest in the creation of the comic book industry has increased. We'll be seeing more books like Lee's. Purchase wherever patrons are fans of 1960s Marvel comics. Stephen Weiner, Maynard P.L., MA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


This long-awaited autobiography of an icon of the comic world coincides with the release of the spring's most eagerly anticipated blockbuster, Spider-Man. Stan Lee is the Marvel Comics supremo who created Spider-Man, X-Men and The Incredible Hulk. This fascinating memoir traces Lee's life from growing up in a modest New York Jewish family, and his first job as a gofer at Timely Comics. He was made creative director, enlisted when the war broke out, and was one of only eight US Army playwrights alongside such luminaries as Frank Capra. Lee went back to comics after the war as the creative force behind Marvel, selling over two billion comics the world over. Packed with previously unseen photos and artwork from Lee's personal archive, this will be essential reading for students of popular culture. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; Original ed. edition (May 7, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684873052
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684873053
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #633,000 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lawrance Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on September 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
"Excelsior! The Amazing Life of Stan Lee" has a cover with Lee surrounded by some of his famous Marvel comics creations (or co-creations depending on where you stand on the whole Lee/Kirby debate), but you may be surprised and/or dismayed to find that only six of the twenty-one chapters are devoted to the glory years at Marvel. Much of what is contained within Lee has talked about before, which means that by now the stories of how the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the X-Men and the rest came to be born have been refined and polished to the point you really wish he would provide more of the details. "Excelsior!" starts from Lee's childhood in Manhattan to those early days when he stumbled into writing comic books, his work as a "playwright" in World War II, and then through the rise of the Marvel empire and beyond.
The focus of the book is on the narrative recollections of Lee and if you have ever had an opportunity to hear Stan "The Man" Lee do a lecture or speak at a convention, then you are familiar with his conversational style (I liked it when Stan would pretend to be Clark Kent, take off his glasses and have people wondering where Clark went--plus, the man's autograph is always legible). One thing that struck me was how much Lee was affected by the Great Depression, especially since he often laments over the value of the comic books he created but never bothered to collect. Yet it is also clear that Lee is not driven by money but more by love of family and work, two subjects he talks about with equal passion. He does take pains to try and address the issues of his infamous rifts with artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, and whether you believe his side of the story or not he certainly bears no animosity towards either man.
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Format: Paperback
4.5 stars, really, I wish there were more examples of his work.
I am one of those people who loved the Marvel Age of Comics. While many people say they read Spider-Man, the Hulk or the Fantastic Four, even as a kid in the sixties, I would say I read Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko...and a few others. When they left, I left.
Though the years I had heard about and read about many behind the scenes stories about Marvel. It was hard to give credence to many of them and I always wanted to find out Stan Lee's story. Here it is.
Here Stan Lee tells his story. And what an enjoyable story it is. Mr. Lee tells of his early years, his years in the service during WW2, how he meet his wife and how he started working for Martin Goodman, owner of Timely (later Marvel) Comics.
The major part of the story is the creation of the Marvel Age of Comics.
Stan Lee, born Stan Lieber, describes how he almost left the occupation of writing comic books. An occupation that was not well respected. But Stan stayed and broke the conventions of book characters. Stan discusses such stories, how he "snuck" his first Spider-Man story into Amazing Fantasy #15 after the publisher turned it down. We learn what was in his mind when he created the Fantastic Four, Hulk, and Thor.
For me the most important parts involved the Marvel Method of creating comics and his relationships with Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. For years I have heard stories that, frankly, cast Mr. Lee in a bad light. Here, Stan Lee describes how he came up with the character of Spider-man and, at first, gave it to Jack Kirby to draw. Dissatisfied with Kirby's take, Stan turned it over to Steve Ditko. Stan goes out of his way to give co-creative credit to the artist.
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Format: Paperback
Stan Lee, the world's most well-known comic book writer, is truly one of the most inventive minds of the 20th century (and shows every sign of being so in the 21st!). And now, at last, we get a look into what shaped that inventive mind into the force it is today.
"Excelsior!" is peppered with Stan's trademark wit as he relates humorous stories and anecdotes from his life, such as the way he single-handedly won World War II. Sandwiched inbetween are factual paragraphs by George Mair, professional biographer. Mair is quick and to the point, knowing that what readers really want is more of Stan (it's almost impossible to refer to him by his last name), so he gets the facts out there and then he gets out of the way as fast as he can. Very professional.
This is a must-read for any comic book fan, anyone who wants to see how a "bio-autography" (as Stan calls them) should be written, or for anyone who's just looking for an amusing tale of a creative genius's life.
Highly recommended!
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Format: Paperback
4-1/2 stars. With all that's said about Stan Lee, it's nice to see his personal perspective in print.

Here we get Lee's perspective on 80 years(!) of his life: from 1922-2002. Amazing indeed. Stan's writing, with the help of George Mair, is entertaining, personal & filled with details.

His formula for successful comicbook writing as printed in 1947's Writer's Digest: have a provocative beginning; use smooth continuity from panel to panel; concentrate on realistic dialogue which leads to good characterization; maintain suspense throughout; and provide a satisfying ending. This certainly sounds good to me.

Marvel in the 60's is easily a highlight here. Topics include: Lee's longtime relationship with Martin Goodman; Fantastic Four & Hulk by Lee & Kirby; Spider-Man by Lee & Ditko; Thor; Daredevil; X-Men; Avengers; the Marvel Method; MMMS; No-Prizes, and much, much more. These elements are explained from Lee's viewpoint. Kirby & Ditko fans will probably feel Stan needed to say more here about these phenomenal artists, but he does give us significant information about these relationships, and this *is* primarily Stan Lee's life story. And he does say nice things about all the creative talent he worked with.

Whether anyone feels Lee received too much credit for Marvel's success or not, it's nice in my eyes to be able to read his side of the tale. Why rely on secondhand information?

As a Lee & Kirby fan, I also recommend: Kirby: King of Comics, and Marvel Visionaries: Jack Kirby. Lee & Kirby made a truly amazing team.
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