Lee, Stan and George Mair. Excelsior: The amazing life of Stan Lee. New York: Fireside, 2002. 246pp.
This is the autobiography of the main personality behind Marvel Comics, creator (with Jack Kirby and others) of The Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, The Avengers and so many others. We already know his public personna from all those Soapbox columns in all those comics -- brash, crazy, enthusiastic, over-the-top, all that. And his memoirs are more of the same. Funny, engaging, a fast-paced tour through his rags-to-riches life in the comic biz, a story Lee tells with a lot of verve and even a little nostalgic warmth. On the other hand, not a lot of startling revelations or deep insights into Lee's personality. Mostly he goes through the superficial business and creative history of his involvement in Marvel, not much about his personal life, not much speculation about what it all means. But that's ok. This is a fast and fun read.
Like I said about the Polgar book, there remains a definitive book to be written about Stan Lee's contribution to modern culture, but this ain't it. But until that book comes along, this is a great start.
Some of the books I'm going to be tracking down and/or digging out of the archives for more depth:
- Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book by Jordan Raphael
- Tales To Astonish: Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, and the American Comic Book Revolution by Ronin Ro
- The Comic Book Makers by Joe Simon
- Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America by Bradford W. Wright