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From the prizewinning Jewish Lives series, a meditation on the deeply Jewish and surprisingly spiritual roots of Stan Lee and Marvel Comics Few artists have had as much of an impact on American popular culture as Stan Lee. The characters he created—Spider-Man and Iron Man, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four—occupy Hollywood’s imagination and production schedules, generate bi From the prizewinning Jewish Lives series, a meditation on the deeply Jewish and surprisingly spiritual roots of Stan Lee and Marvel Comics Few artists have had as much of an impact on American popular culture as Stan Lee. The characters he created—Spider-Man and Iron Man, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four—occupy Hollywood’s imagination and production schedules, generate billions at the box office, and come as close as anything we have to a shared American mythology. This illuminating biography focuses as much on Lee’s ideas as it does on his unlikely rise to stardom. It surveys his cultural and religious upbringing and draws surprising connections between celebrated comic book heroes and the ancient tales of the Bible, the Talmud, and Jewish mysticism. Was Spider-Man just a reincarnation of Cain? Is the Incredible Hulk simply Adam by another name? From close readings of Lee’s work to little-known anecdotes from Marvel’s history, the book paints a portrait of Lee that goes much deeper than one of his signature onscreen cameos. About Jewish Lives: Jewish Lives is a prizewinning series of interpretative biography designed to explore the many facets of Jewish identity. Individual volumes illuminate the imprint of Jewish figures upon literature, religion, philosophy, politics, cultural and economic life, and the arts and sciences. Subjects are paired with authors to elicit lively, deeply informed books that explore the range and depth of the Jewish experience from antiquity to the present. In 2014, the Jewish Book Council named Jewish Lives the winner of its Jewish Book of the Year Award, the first series ever to receive this award. More praise for Jewish Lives: “Excellent.” – New York times “Exemplary.” – Wall St. Journal “Distinguished.” – New Yorker “Superb.” – The Guardian


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From the prizewinning Jewish Lives series, a meditation on the deeply Jewish and surprisingly spiritual roots of Stan Lee and Marvel Comics Few artists have had as much of an impact on American popular culture as Stan Lee. The characters he created—Spider-Man and Iron Man, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four—occupy Hollywood’s imagination and production schedules, generate bi From the prizewinning Jewish Lives series, a meditation on the deeply Jewish and surprisingly spiritual roots of Stan Lee and Marvel Comics Few artists have had as much of an impact on American popular culture as Stan Lee. The characters he created—Spider-Man and Iron Man, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four—occupy Hollywood’s imagination and production schedules, generate billions at the box office, and come as close as anything we have to a shared American mythology. This illuminating biography focuses as much on Lee’s ideas as it does on his unlikely rise to stardom. It surveys his cultural and religious upbringing and draws surprising connections between celebrated comic book heroes and the ancient tales of the Bible, the Talmud, and Jewish mysticism. Was Spider-Man just a reincarnation of Cain? Is the Incredible Hulk simply Adam by another name? From close readings of Lee’s work to little-known anecdotes from Marvel’s history, the book paints a portrait of Lee that goes much deeper than one of his signature onscreen cameos. About Jewish Lives: Jewish Lives is a prizewinning series of interpretative biography designed to explore the many facets of Jewish identity. Individual volumes illuminate the imprint of Jewish figures upon literature, religion, philosophy, politics, cultural and economic life, and the arts and sciences. Subjects are paired with authors to elicit lively, deeply informed books that explore the range and depth of the Jewish experience from antiquity to the present. In 2014, the Jewish Book Council named Jewish Lives the winner of its Jewish Book of the Year Award, the first series ever to receive this award. More praise for Jewish Lives: “Excellent.” – New York times “Exemplary.” – Wall St. Journal “Distinguished.” – New Yorker “Superb.” – The Guardian

30 review for Stan Lee: A Life in Comics

  1. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    "The pleasure of reading a story and wondering what will come next for the hero is a pleasure that has lasted for centuries and, I think, will always be with us." -- Stan Lee Smilin' Stan Lee. Stan 'The Man' Lee. 'Generalissimo.' Call him whatever moniker you may like, but relatively few in the superhero / comic book industry have the worldwide name recognition like the individual originally known as Stanley Lieber. (Lee had commented he planned to use his birth name once he finally wrote his 'se "The pleasure of reading a story and wondering what will come next for the hero is a pleasure that has lasted for centuries and, I think, will always be with us." -- Stan Lee Smilin' Stan Lee. Stan 'The Man' Lee. 'Generalissimo.' Call him whatever moniker you may like, but relatively few in the superhero / comic book industry have the worldwide name recognition like the individual originally known as Stanley Lieber. (Lee had commented he planned to use his birth name once he finally wrote his 'serious' novel, which never came to fruition.) Author Leibovitz's A Life in Comics is billed as a biography of Lee, though while his personal life is discussed the accent is more on the possible / probable inspirations for the popular Marvel Comic characters he created or co-created in the 1960's - the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Spider-Man, the X-Men, Black Panther, Silver Surfer, etc. - and how some of their personality traits, backgrounds, and/or storylines may have been drawn from Biblical / Talmudic stories via the Hebrew religion. Despite its relatively brief length (approx. 162 pages) this was a nicely detailed and speculative little slice of our pop culture.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    Nice background on his iconic characters

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kerry Pickens

    If you love Comic Con or Michael Chabon's book The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Klay, then you will enjoy this biography of Stan Lee (Stanley Lieber). The book traces the relationship between Jewish publishers and the comic book industry as well as the themes from Judaism that informed the development of the super hero genre. Lee was ahead of his time in developing his Marvel comic book characters which more popular today than they ever were. If you love Comic Con or Michael Chabon's book The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Klay, then you will enjoy this biography of Stan Lee (Stanley Lieber). The book traces the relationship between Jewish publishers and the comic book industry as well as the themes from Judaism that informed the development of the super hero genre. Lee was ahead of his time in developing his Marvel comic book characters which more popular today than they ever were.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Brice Fuqua

    Stan Lee was, like Walt Disney, part visionary and part huckster. Like Disney, Lee had a profound impact on pop culture but also exploited others and took credit for their work. As Leibovitz points out, Stan Lee's greatest talent was in self-promotion and the most enduring character he created was himself. A poor, Jewish kid from the wrong side of the tracks transformed himself to a hip spokesman for a nerdy counterculture. Ironically, the wealthier and more famous Lee became, the less influence Stan Lee was, like Walt Disney, part visionary and part huckster. Like Disney, Lee had a profound impact on pop culture but also exploited others and took credit for their work. As Leibovitz points out, Stan Lee's greatest talent was in self-promotion and the most enduring character he created was himself. A poor, Jewish kid from the wrong side of the tracks transformed himself to a hip spokesman for a nerdy counterculture. Ironically, the wealthier and more famous Lee became, the less influence he had on Marvel's works. Eventually, he became a product spokesman not unlike Dave Thomas was for Wendy's. It was the acquisition of Marvel Entertainment by the Disney corporation in 2009 that led to a revival of the fortunes of both Marvel and Lee when the heavily-promoted movies proved giant hits with an audience much larger than the base of comic book fans. Stan Lee's cameo appearances in each of these films made him a familiar figure to those who never picked up a copy of Fantastic Four or Spider-Man. Leibovitz gives a compelling account of Lee's rise to fame but never really unlocks the enigma of his personality. Superficially, extroverted and charming, Lee rarely revealed his inner thoughts. It may not be possible to know if he had a higher purpose in creating his iconic characters or if he was just trying to distinguish his company from rivals and sell more product. Leibovitz's book goes off the rails when he tries to portray Stan Lee as some kind of modern day Jewish prophet, reinterpreting biblical and Talmudic stories for comic book audiences. There is really no evidence that Lee or his collaborators were particularly religious or had a moral agenda other than adhering to the Comics Code Authority. Nevertheless, Stan Lee: A Life in Comics is a worthy addition to a growing list of popular and scholarly volumes on the comics industry.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bargain Sleuth Book Reviews

    For this and other book reviews, visit www.bargain-sleuth.com Back in August, I reviewed another Stan Lee biography, A Marvelous Life. I thought it was good, but still left me wanting to know more. When NetGalley offered me Stan Lee: A Life in Comics, I jumped at the chance. All opinions in this review are my own. From the publisher: This illuminating biography focuses as much on Lee’s ideas as it does on his unlikely rise to stardom. It surveys his cultural and religious upbringing and draws surpr For this and other book reviews, visit www.bargain-sleuth.com Back in August, I reviewed another Stan Lee biography, A Marvelous Life. I thought it was good, but still left me wanting to know more. When NetGalley offered me Stan Lee: A Life in Comics, I jumped at the chance. All opinions in this review are my own. From the publisher: This illuminating biography focuses as much on Lee’s ideas as it does on his unlikely rise to stardom. It surveys his cultural and religious upbringing and draws surprising connections between celebrated comic book heroes and the ancient tales of the Bible, the Talmud, and Jewish mysticism. Was Spider-Man just a reincarnation of Cain? Is the Incredible Hulk simply Adam by another name? From close readings of Lee’s work to little-known anecdotes from Marvel’s history, the book paints a portrait of Lee that goes much deeper than one of his signature onscreen cameos. About Jewish Lives: Jewish Lives is a prizewinning series of interpretative biography designed to explore the many facets of Jewish identity. Individual volumes illuminate the imprint of Jewish figures upon literature, religion, philosophy, politics, cultural and economic life, and the arts and sciences. Subjects are paired with authors to elicit lively, deeply informed books that explore the range and depth of the Jewish experience from antiquity to the present. Stan Lee: A Life in Comics is part of the Jewish Lives series. While Lee’s Marvel characters are explored, they are compared and contrasted with the tenants of Jewish faith. During the early days of comic books, the majority of artists, inkers and writers were Jewish. Why? Because they couldn’t get a job in advertising or marketing or newspapers because of discrimination. “We couldn’t get into newspaper strips or advertising,” Al Jaffee recalled (he would later find fame with MAD magazine. “Ad agencies wouldn’t hire a Jew. One of the reasons Jews drifted into the comic-book business is that most of the comic-book publishers were Jewish. So there was no discrimination there.” Stan Lee refused to talk much about his faith or how it shaped him and the characters he created. When asked about it, he talked in circles. He once told a radio reporter during an interview “You know, I have no idea. I never really thought of it. It is strange when you mention it that the best-known characters were done by Jewish writers.” For example, Lee himself attended DeWitt Clinton High School in New York. Two other Jewish students that were several years ahead of him were Will Eisner and Robert Kahn, who later changed his name to Bob Kane. Eisner and Kane were responsible for The Spirit, one of the most influential comics ever created, and Batman. All one has to do is look over the Stan Lee creations to see that he thought differently than other comic book creators: Iron Man, Thor, Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and the X-Men. All his characters weren’t perfect like Superman, they all had flaws, and struggled with their abilities. Those struggles are what made Marvel Comics so important to teens and college-aged kids who were going through some of those same struggles. One thing I appreciated in Stan Lee: A Life in Comics that was missing from A Marvelous Life was a little more detail about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, beginning in 2008’s Iron Man, which I very much appreciated since I don’t actually read many comics. Stan Lee was ahead of his time, until time caught up to him in the 1960’s. He wrote an editorial in November 1968 that could be used to describe culture in America today: “Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest of social ills plaguing the world today. But, unlike a team of costumed supervillains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot, or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them is to expose them–to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are. The bigot is an unreasoning hater–one who hates blindly, fanatically, indiscriminately. If his hang-up is black men, he hates all black men. If a redhead once offended him, he hates all redheads. If some foreigner beat him to a job, he’d down on all foreigners. He hates people he’s never seen–people he’s never known–with equal intensity–with equal venom. Now, we’re not trying to say it’s unreasonable for one human being to bug another. But, although anyone has the right to dislike another individual, it’s totally irrational, patently insane to condemn an entire race–to despise an entire nation–to vilify an entire religion. Sooner or later, we must learn to judge each other on our own merits. Sooner or later, if man is ever to be worthy of his destiny, we must fill our hearts with tolerance. For then, and only then, will we be truly worthy of the concept that man was created in the image of God–a God who calls us all–His children. Pax et Justitia, Stan.” Stan Lee, you will be missed, but your legacy lives large in our society’s popular culture.

  6. 5 out of 5

    ManOfLaBook.com

    For more reviews and bookish posts please visit: http://www.ManOfLaBook.com Stan Lee: A Life in Comics by Liel Leibovitz is a short biography of one of the icons of American mythology. This book is part of the award winning Jewish Lives series. This is a short biography on one of the most influential men in American pop-culture, and a true American success story. The book tries to tie Stan Lee’s stories and ideas to Jewish culture and Jewish religious book, some of the passages are a stretch, but For more reviews and bookish posts please visit: http://www.ManOfLaBook.com Stan Lee: A Life in Comics by Liel Leibovitz is a short biography of one of the icons of American mythology. This book is part of the award winning Jewish Lives series. This is a short biography on one of the most influential men in American pop-culture, and a true American success story. The book tries to tie Stan Lee’s stories and ideas to Jewish culture and Jewish religious book, some of the passages are a stretch, but all of them are interesting and show an understanding of the author of the characters he created. Stan Lee: A Life in Comics by Liel Leibovitz tells of how a poor Jewish kid from The Bronx transformed himself to be the face of geek culture. As his fame grew, Stan Lee found himself being distanced further and further from the creative work which he found so fulfilling, ending up being a Marvel spokesman with very little control over the creative efforts. Stan Lee loved being a spokesman, he loved interacting with his audience and went on a college tour. He hung out with his fans and tried to implement their ideas, and wishes, when he got back to Marvel’s creative team. The book follows Stan Lee throughout his career, focusing on some of the biggest characters he created and how his and Jack Kirby’s poor background, and Jewish heritage might have influenced their inception. It’s important to note that this is all conjuncture by the author, Stan Lee have always been purposely ambiguous about these issues, mainly because he wanted fans to have their own ideas. I remember seeing him retelling the origin of Spiderman, ending it with “I told this story so often, one day it might actually be true”; telling the frustrated host “you want the truth or a good story?” We all want a good story. Some of the chapters tell of Stan Lee’s contribution to the character Captain American (a Jack Kirby creation) and his own creations of the Fantastic Four – Mister Fantastic (Reed Richards), the Invisible Woman (Susan “Sue” Storm), the Human Torch (Johnny Storm),and the Thing (Ben Grimm) – the original X-Men with the civil rights counterparts (Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X), and Spiderman which, at the time, was the antithesis to everything which screamed “comic book hero”. Marvel has been in decline (as a former share owner, I can still see my shares disappear), but when Disney bought the company it has a revival with Iron-Man (a second rate character in the comics), and the Marvel Cinematic Universe became one of the biggest grossing, if not the biggest, franchise in movie history. Stan Lee, of course, has become the cameo king of the movie world.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Ruth

    I was prompted to read this after rereading the Pulitzer prize-winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. After reading this, it is quite clear how much Michael Chabon based the career of his character of Sam Clay on the life of Stan Lee. This book is for people like me who are genuinely interested in the origins and development of comic books. I entered into the readership of comic books a little later than the beginning of the renaissance of comic books after the destruction of I was prompted to read this after rereading the Pulitzer prize-winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. After reading this, it is quite clear how much Michael Chabon based the career of his character of Sam Clay on the life of Stan Lee. This book is for people like me who are genuinely interested in the origins and development of comic books. I entered into the readership of comic books a little later than the beginning of the renaissance of comic books after the destruction of the "Golden Age" spurred by Fredric Werthem, when Marvel titles were already a going concern. So I missed the excitement that surrounded the debut of titles such as the Fantastic Four, Spiderman, the X-Men. What this book did was to bring to me the excitement & creative energy that was bubbling through that period in Marvel Comics, particularly as sparked by Stan Lee. In addition to this history lesson, however, the author brings his insights into the Jewish components of Marvel superheroes. It's no secret that the formative days of comic books were dominated by Jews, from the publishers, to the writers and artists, colorers, inkers, right down to the errand boys. Leibovitz discusses the psychological aspects of why Jews, especially 1st generation Americans in the war and early post-war period would be drawn to an art-form that created powerful protectors. But he goes beyond that to analyze many of the characters in terms of Biblical or Jewish folklore background. Benjamin Grimm and Reed Richards are the Golem and a dybbuk respectively. Spiderman is Cain, who by failing to protect 1 man causes his uncle's death. While I'm not sure that I buy into all his interpretations, there is no doubt that comic book superheroes are rife with images of Jewish history and folklore and it is interesting to see it examined in that way.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nick Bouchard

    *DISCLAIMER* I owned one Dick Tracy comic in middle school and I find the MCU largely unwatchable. I’m also a spiritual atheist. *DISCLAIMER* If you’re a Marvel/Stan Lee fan, I suspect you will already be aware of a lot of what’s presented (biographically) in A Life in Comics. It was all new, often fascinating information for me. This book’s purpose is to connect the mythologies presented by Stan Lee to Jewish teachings and history. The book does a fine job of making these connections and pointing *DISCLAIMER* I owned one Dick Tracy comic in middle school and I find the MCU largely unwatchable. I’m also a spiritual atheist. *DISCLAIMER* If you’re a Marvel/Stan Lee fan, I suspect you will already be aware of a lot of what’s presented (biographically) in A Life in Comics. It was all new, often fascinating information for me. This book’s purpose is to connect the mythologies presented by Stan Lee to Jewish teachings and history. The book does a fine job of making these connections and pointing out parallels. Correlation is not causality and the author isn’t saying Stan Lee was trying to secretly immerse the unsuspecting public in Judaism. More accurately, Liel Leibovitz is showing that the teachings and ideals of Judaism are timeless and urging us to rely on each other in community. The points are well supported and, were I not already in agreement, I might be swayed. The main detractor from this book is its lack of pictures. I have to assume it’s not an authorized biography and is thus not blessed with access to private or copyrighted material. The text makes so much of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s looks and has these wonderfully tantalizing descriptions of Jack Kirby (and others) artwork, but no insert of glossy photos in the center of the book. Comics fans probably know what all that actually looks like and wouldn’t need a bunch of photos. That ain’t me tho. While I recognize that wasn’t even remotely the point of the book, I still want it. Sidekick detractor: not very exciting. It easy a short, easy-to-digest relaying of facts - both comically historic and Jewishly so. It reads like a long article.

  9. 4 out of 5

    GeorgeMonck

    Thank you NetGalley for the ARD. This is a fascinating read for not just Marvel fans but comic fans in general and those who like to find out more of such a greate character. A look at Stan Lee's life with a view of how his Jewish faith had a heavy influenence on his storytelling which resulted in a deeply satisfying read. Lee is shown as being a showman with a mind that appears to have contributed an exceptional amount to mogern culture today. There are also some great stories of how Lee helped c Thank you NetGalley for the ARD. This is a fascinating read for not just Marvel fans but comic fans in general and those who like to find out more of such a greate character. A look at Stan Lee's life with a view of how his Jewish faith had a heavy influenence on his storytelling which resulted in a deeply satisfying read. Lee is shown as being a showman with a mind that appears to have contributed an exceptional amount to mogern culture today. There are also some great stories of how Lee helped combat VD for soldiers in the second world war! GIve this realtively short book a read and you can thank me later.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ster

    This was a great biography of Stan Lee. It was a very engaging journey through Stan Lee's life as it paralleled the change in the country's dynamics. I wish I grew up with comic books and graphic novels, instead of finding them later in life. It showed Stan Lee as a genius who wasn't without his flaws, which made the bio even more engaging. Part of me would enjoy the book even more without the comparison of the comic books to Catholic and Jewish mythology. I almost wanted to keep the mystery of This was a great biography of Stan Lee. It was a very engaging journey through Stan Lee's life as it paralleled the change in the country's dynamics. I wish I grew up with comic books and graphic novels, instead of finding them later in life. It showed Stan Lee as a genius who wasn't without his flaws, which made the bio even more engaging. Part of me would enjoy the book even more without the comparison of the comic books to Catholic and Jewish mythology. I almost wanted to keep the mystery of each character or story line and maintain my own interpretation of his and his collaborators' characters. A very fitting and well done ending. Thanks Netgalley!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tovah

    I got this book as a PJ Library parent gift. I’ve never been into comic books or the characters, but I’ve heard enough about Stan Lee and his creations to be interested. The history was interesting and the connections to Jewish culture and philosophy added depth to the stories described, though occasionally the connections seemed a bit of a stretch. The flow was disjointed in places - could have used better editing.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Reeves

    Vaguely interesting look at Stan Lee’s life. While I enjoyed reading some of the author’s analysis of Lee’s artistic choices and their connections to Judaism, I doubt that they were intentional, as every account of his life emphasizes that he was not a very well-versed Jew. As such, some of the analysis was a little over wrought and slow. In contrast, the speed really picked up at the end in a confusing twist. I’m glad I read it, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Louise Gray

    There was so much to this book which went beyond the average biography. Yes, it covered key events in Lee’s life and his works, but the analysis of his spirituality and how it influenced his art was something I had not anticipated and which gave considerable depth to the account. A must read for Marvel fans.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Aingeal Stone

    This is a short bio of 179 p. focused on Stan Lee's comic book characters and how they represent retellings of biblical characters and stories. Basically how Judaism influenced his work. It was a good read. This is a short bio of 179 p. focused on Stan Lee's comic book characters and how they represent retellings of biblical characters and stories. Basically how Judaism influenced his work. It was a good read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Amy Bodkin

    Excellent read looking at how Stan Lee changed the comic industry creating a mythology for the modern world!! What is really fascinating is seeing it's development over the course of almost a century and what it has meant to people at different times. Excellent read looking at how Stan Lee changed the comic industry creating a mythology for the modern world!! What is really fascinating is seeing it's development over the course of almost a century and what it has meant to people at different times.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mandy Hazen

    I was really hoping this would be more about Stan Lee’s life and how he became who he was. Granted it did have some of this information but instead it was more like a imdb for everything ever done by Lee with a brief description. It was a little monotonous for someone who doesn’t love comics. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lisi Tesher

    If you like Stan Lee and any/all of his creations ie Superheroes, you’ll find most of this book interesting. There’s a bit too much stretch to Judaic reasoning, which dulls the middle portion, but if you can dredge through that, it’s a good read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    A time and a place. A man of that time and place. A subculture I knew nothing about. Stories. Heroes. Business.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jon Desenberg

    Excellent short bio

  20. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    A bit fast at the end ...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ruth Gilbert

    Surprisingly fascinating and very well written.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sc

    I think i would have enjoyed this book more if I had read the comics but a book should stand on its own. A little too biblical for me. I did finish it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Thaddeus Chan

    I didn't finish reading this book. It wasn't a biography of Stan Lee that I expected. This book will appeal to readers who are interested to interpret the meaning of Stan Lee's comic stories to his Jewish influences and upbringing. I didn't finish reading this book. It wasn't a biography of Stan Lee that I expected. This book will appeal to readers who are interested to interpret the meaning of Stan Lee's comic stories to his Jewish influences and upbringing.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rock or Something

  25. 4 out of 5

    Brian

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jradicke

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Adelman

  28. 5 out of 5

    Vic Chen

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Tischler

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sue Auerbach

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