BY AARON BLOCK
Author: Sean Howe
Filed under: Historical, Nonfiction
I suspect many people who grow up reading comics have had roughly the same relationship with Stan Lee as I have: at first he is the face of Marvel Comics, beloved for his role in creating the X-Men and Spider-Man; then, as I grew up and learned to appreciate Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, Stan Lee seemed less important, more hokey uncle than genius storyteller; finally, when I began to learn about the company’s history and the disputes over credit and iffy work-for-hire contract claims, Lee became a traitor, representing the company’s business interests while masquerading as an enthusiast for the medium. In a plot twist that could’ve come out of an issue of The Amazing Spider-Man, the once friendly father figure turns out to be the villain.
But classic Marvel villains are always somewhat sympathetic, and though Sean Howe’s superlative Marvel Comics: the Untold Story, recently reissued in paperback, doesn’t exactly reframe that narrative, it does find gray areas, caveats, and compromises to complicate my rather simplistic take on Lee. Still a company man through and through, the version of Stan “the Man” offered in Howe’s history is wracked by guilt, frustrated by unrealized ambition, and ultimately reduced to a figurehead role in a company he planned to one day escape. Continue reading