Books, Movies and Other Stuff

This year I decided to make a note of every book I read and every film I watched, discussing what I enjoyed or didn’t enjoy. I will also be including magazines, comics, art exhibitions, pretty much whatever I want. This is for me, to be honest, but I hope you enjoy it too.

Books, Movies and Other Stuff

This year I decided to make a note of every book I read and every film I watched, discussing what I enjoyed or didn’t enjoy. I will also be including magazines, comics, art exhibitions, pretty much whatever I want. This is for me, to be honest, but I hope you enjoy it too.

Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel

Obviously I’ve been a massive fan of Stan Lee since as far back as I can remember. Apart from the fact that he was the co-creator, alongside Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko and others, of such iconic superheroes as Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four and many more, and that he revolutionised comics and the culture surrounding them, there was also the man himself.

A powerhouse of creativity, Stan was hugely optimistic with boundless energy even into his nineties. Decades after most people have retired, Stan was setting up new companies, embracing new technologies, creating new characters and stories and keeping up a punishing schedule of comic con appearances.

When he died at age ninety-five I think we all took the news the same way we did when David Bowie died. It didn’t seem possible.

He was human, just like the rest of us?

Stan Lee, The Man Behind Marvel was a Christmas present from my wife.

Probably the most definitive biography of Stan so far (it was published in 2017 while he was still with us) Bob Batchelor’s book takes an honest look at Stan’s life and achievements, alongside the failures and the controversies that dogged Stan throughout his life of who really created those superheroes.

Your heroes have feet of clay. That’s what separated Marvel superheroes from the competition’s. Spider-Man in particular was the poster boy for superheroes who were plagued by insecurities, money worries, problems with their love lives and more. This was part of Stan’s genius as a writer, and also a facet of his own life.

Employed by Marvel, but never the owner or the publisher, Stan still became the face of Marvel. Any fan of Marvel will tell you about looking forward to reading Stan’s Soapbox, or the Bullpen Bulletins, which accompanied every issue of every title produced by Marvel as much as they looked forward to reading the main stories. At heart, Stan was a carnival barker, a showman and an indefatigable self-promoter.

And we loved him for it.

But internally there were struggles.

Batchelor recounts Stan’s doubts about his chosen career, his worries about unemployment that powered his incredible creative output, his unrealised ambitions to write a novel that would give him the respect he felt he didn’t have. Just like his heroes, Stan Lee had feet of clay, consumed by doubts and insecurities. And yet this was also the source of the energy that constantly drove him to create more.

Batchelor also uncovers the shady financial deals surrounding Stan Lee Media, created at the end of the last century to cash in on the internet revolution. Stan Lee was a victim here, betrayed by his partners who were after nothing more than fleecing him and his admirers for as much money as they could. Many people wrote Stan off after that, but in one of the greatest comebacks ever, Stan proved everyone wrong by setting up POW Entertainment and turning himself into a commodity much like his own creations. And all this at the age of seventy-six, when most people would have simply retired.

If you’re a fan of Stan Lee then I do recommend this book. Despite the odd glitch here and there and the occasional lack of judgement, Stan is revealed as an honourable man, who cared about his team of scriptwriters and artists and strived to give credit where it was due, including to Kirby and Ditko.

Well worth a read.

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