Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir

By Stan Lee, Peter David and Colleen Doranamazingfantasticincredible
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9781471152597

It would be reasonable to say that Stan Lee has led a rather charmed life. He landed a plum job in comics at an early age that was fortunately kept open for him while he was called up to the army in 1942. Upon his return he was placed in a formidable position of strengthening the comics line that saw the creation of some of the most iconic characters in comicdom, and he’s ridden that wave ever since, well into his 90s. Arguably he’s better known now than he’s ever been through his cameos in Marvel’s movies.

Presented as a graphic novel with Stan as the hero, it’s a fitting way to tell his tale, and yet, despite its glorious celebration of a life well lived that cheers the richness of the collaborations and creations, it is rather a weak and somewhat shallow insight into the mighty Marvel mouthpiece.

Much is made of the Marvel method of doing things, where Stan was once so over-worked that he had to give the artists brief outlines of the intended story. The artists would then draw how they’d imagine that tale to go, and then Stan would write the words to fit what had been drawn. This method went on for some time at Marvel. Stan makes much of this, and of his career as a writer, and yet this book is written by Stan Lee with Peter David, the comic and sci-fi author, and it carries many of David’s hallmarks, suggesting that Stan didn’t do much of the writing.

Then there’s the artwork. In a book that champions his team work with comic greats such as Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby and John Romita and their exceptional drafting skills, the art in this book is incredibly weak, with the bare minimum of detail, backgrounds and staging.

It’s not dreadful, but it could have been so much better. It just doesn’t seem to fit its bombastic fanfare. In fact, it reminds me of those 90s comics that were churned out quantity over quality.

At a time when it’s been announced that there’s to be a spy-themed TV series about Stan Lee’s early life, he truly remains a larger than life character. What seems to be forgotten is that his story is interesting without all this fanfare and style over substance. Excelsior indeed.

And if you like that: It may be a little dated now, but Peter David’s collected columns on the industry, But I Digress, is a good read

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