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Bob Batchelor is a cultural historian who has written or edited more than two dozen books on popular culture and American literature, including books about John Updike, The Great Gatsby, and Mad Men. Batchelor lives in Oxford, Ohio and teaches at Miami University.
Meet Stanley Lieber: movie fan, adventure-story fan, budding writer. Young Stanley started in the comic book business as an assistant to Timely Comics' head writer, Joe Simon, and to artist Jack Kirby. Along the way, as he graduated from assistant to writer, he became known as Stan Lee and wound up revolutionizing the comic-book business: in partnership with some of the great artists (Kirby and the legendary Steve Ditko, among others), he created Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and other familiar superheroes. What made Lee's creations special was his insistence on giving them recognizable human traits and flaws; these weren't idealized superheroes but real people with special abilities. This is a solidly researched and written biography of Lee (who is in his mid-nineties now).... [Lee] is a hugely entertaining story, and the author tells it well. * Booklist * This unauthorized biography by cultural historian Batchelor (Mad Men: A Cultural History) is as much a history of Marvel Comics and the comic book industry as it is of Stan Lee, the man largely credited with transforming the comic book industry into a pop culture colossus. Batchelor begins with Lee's childhood in New York City during the Great Depression, to which he attributes Lee's strong work ethic and ambition. A workaholic from an early age, Lee joined the comic book industry at its infancy, learning the ropes from writer Joe Simon and artist Jack Kirby, who were his mentors at Timely Comics (later renamed Marvel Comics). By age 19, Lee had already taken over as editor-in-chief. Aside from the first chapter on his childhood, the book mainly glosses over Lee's personal life, focusing primarily on his career. Batchelor shows how Lee led his team of writers and illustrators with a can-do spirit, working with his staff in employing snappy dialogue and colorful graphics to concoct a dynamic new medium. Introducing racial diversity, serial storytelling, current events, and emotional conflict, the boastful Lee and his team devised a marvelous universe of new characters, who connected strongly with readers by displaying emotional weaknesses that equaled their physical strengths.... Batchelor successfully shows how this dreamer and risk-taker perfectly captured the cultural zeitgeist and assisted in creating 'fairy tales for grown-ups.' * Publishers Weekly * Where Batchelor succeeds most is fleshing out the settings and context along the narrative spine of Lee's life. To understand Lee's emerging choices as a teenager, for instance, is to comprehend the rise of the pulp book business, the branching out of comic strip publishing and the convergence of colorful men looking to make a buck after World War I, even if it meant making connections with the Mob. Superheroes are first embraced by American readers not yet economically lifted by the postwar boom. [Stan Lee:] The Man Behind Marvel is a thorough primer for the newcomer to the tale of Lee's legendary 1960s rise. Batchelor delves into not only how Lee worked as an editor - the creative freedom he gave many artists worked to his advantage, too - but also how he built himself into a celebrity brand synonymous with the Marvel name. * The Washington Post * Bob Batchelor's bio of Stan Lee is not only thorough and accurate, it's also extremely well written. If you enjoy reading Stan's stories, you'll enjoy the story of Stan just as much. -- Steve Englehart, novelist and comic book writer (The Avengers, Captain America) An insightful and candid look at one of the twentieth century's greatest myth-makers. -- Mark Waid, writer (Daredevil, The Fantastic Four, Kingdom Come) Bob Batchelor's book takes us on a journey into the life and imagination of Stan Lee, whose collaborations with Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko laid the foundation of the Marvel Universe and unleashed a creative explosion that continues to impact--and transform--all of popular culture. -- J. M. DeMatteis, writer (The Amazing Spider-Man, Silver Surfer) In this smartly written, deeply researched biography, Bob Batchelor cuts through the hype and hyperbole to reveal the secret origins of Stan Lee's thoroughly mythic life and art. It's one for both the casual and hardcore fans. -- Brian Jay Jones, author of George Lucas: A Life Stan Lee is must reading for comics fans and anyone interested in the creative process. A great book about a great man. -- Arthur Asa Berger, author of The Comic-Stripped American Impressively informed and informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, Stan Lee: The Man behind Marvel is an extraordinary biographer that is a 'must read' for the legions of Stan Lee fans. Absolutely certain to be an enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections.... * Midwest Book Review * Readers will love this book even if they know the outcome of Stan's story. The thrill of this biography is not in Lee's triumphs but in following the Voice of Marvel through decades of doubts, frustrations, and professional dissatisfaction before he achieved his status as an American icon. Batchelor took readers back in time with a highly descriptive style that would be at home in a novel. A meticulously researched and fact-filled account accompanied Batchelor's breezy writing to analyze comic's greatest bard.... Batchelor went on to fill in the blanks of history in an approachable and informative manner. It was clear he put a great effort into acquiring the multiple sources he cited regularly in the Chicago style. Moreover, this book would be a blessing for anyone seeking a secondary academic source on comics or the history of Stan Lee.... Whether a reader is a comic historian or just a big fan, Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel is chock-full of a thrilling narrative, stories, and little-known trivia in the life of Stan Lee....Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel is available on Amazon in paperback or e-book and is a must-read for comic readers and historians. Pick it up today! * Geeks Worldwide * [In this] energetic and entertaining biography.... Batchelor examines many of Lee's most beloved works, including the 1960s comics that transformed Marvel from a second-rate company to a legendary publisher. This book reveals the risks Lee took to bring the characters to life and Lee's tireless efforts to make comic books and superheroes part of mainstream culture for more than fifty years. Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel not only reveals why Lee developed into such a central figure in American entertainment history, but brings to life the cultural significance of comic books and how the superhero genre reflects ideas central to the American experience. Candid, authoritative, and utterly absorbing, this is a biography of a man who dreamed of one day writing the Great American Novel, but ended up doing so much more-changing American culture by creating new worlds and heroes that have entertained generations of readers. * Forces of Geek * Bob's Batchelor's Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel provides an insightful look into not only the titular man himself, but also the complex and captivating world of Marvel Comics growth and evolution over the years.... Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel is an exceptionally well researched book and even for those who are not prone to reading non-fiction it will still engage you through the well written prose. You also get to see some great photos of Stan Lee in his younger days. I highly recommend this book to comic book fans, regardless of your publisher preferences, and to anyone who enjoys the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Netflix series. You will come away with so much knowledge and a better understanding of how Marvel has prevailed throughout the years through the exceptional Stan Lee. * TheNerdyGirlExpress * How did Mr. Batchelor tell a story that all comic book aficionados know in a new way and how did he make a comfortably mundane life interesting? The author took a step back from the protagonist of the biography and described the world and conditions that shaped Mr. Lee, allowing the reader to explore their own understanding of the character.... Mr. Batchelor offers us a book worth reading because he does more than distill Mr. Lee's many interviews. Stan Lee teaches us that powerful writing comes out of adversity. Without the restrictions and worries that surely influenced Mr. Lee's work, our shared cultural heritage would be different. Perhaps most importantly, the author doesn't skimp on the parts of Stan Lee's life that you really want to know about. We get detailed tellings of the creation of the Fantastic Four, of Mr. Lee's working relationship with Jack Kirby, and his somewhat unfocused later years. (Where do you go when you become a living legend by your fifties and live into your nineties?) Whether or not you're a comic book person, Mr. Batchelor's book is a worthwhile chronicle of a writer's life and offers other writers the opportunity to see what it's like to have your creative dreams come true in ways you didn't expect. * Great Writers Steal * The Man Behind Marvel is a handy document that not only tracks the career of the best-known man in comic books, but also traces the rise of Marvel from copycat also-ran to industry king. * The Weekly Standard * Bob Batchelor has done a very professional and well researched job.... If you want to understand the principal creator of the Marvel Universe, this new biography could serve as a one-stop shop.... Batchelor clearly knows what he's doing, being the author of cultural studies on subjects ranging from Mad Men ... to The Great Gatsby. If you want someone to provide an objective, outsider's analysis of the life and work of Stan Lee, then it would be hard to find a cultural historian more qualified than Batchelor. This is especially true for readers who haven't dived into the story of Marvel comics before. For all fellow baby boomers-remember how Stan the Man used to sign off all those Soapboxes-Excelsior! * Bookpleasures.com * [Bachelor] does a great job with the obviously meticulously researched information he provides so if you're something of a newbie to Marvel or don't recognize him beyond his name and the cameos he makes in his movies then this would be a good book for you.... Bachelor is well-known for his unbiased analysis in cultural studies of popular works and figures so you'd be hard-pressed to find a better work done. * Artistic Bent * As a cultural historian, Bob Bachelor has evidently done vast and in-depth research of Stan Lee and his path to becoming a central figure in American pop culture, as well as the birth and evolution of the modern day comic book industry.... [It's] a pleasant read.... [I]f you want a heavily researched book that gives a solid analysis of the comic book industry and the man that heavily influenced its transformation, then this book is for you. * Word of the Nerd * There is a lot of content in this book. I think it will be a valuable resource for enthusiasts, students of ephemera, and future historians. I appreciated the incredibly detailed footnotes and reference sections. Amazingly thorough job. * Nonstop Reader * Stan Lee is one of the most recognized names in comic book history, a deserving accolade because of his momentous contributions as a Marvel Comics administrator, editor, writer, and creator of some of the world's favorite pop culture icons. Of course, his penchant to stay in the limelight through self-promotion and self-reinvention, and his good fortune to remain active into his mid-nineties, were also to his advantage. Batchelor (Miami Univ.) does an admirable job of piecing together the verifiable facts and anecdotes about Lee, with non-supported Stan legend and murky details (e.g., about his ancestry), bits of history about the comics and society of the times, and plot synopses of comic books created by Lee and his cohorts. He points to decisive periods when Lee questioned being only a comics writer, and when he deviated from his publisher's wishes and moved into new directions. Lee and Marvel's downsides, such as his professional squabbles with Jack Kirby and others, and the company's financial woes of the nineties, are not spared, but what is lacking is a picture of the man behind Marvel in a non-professional, out-of-the-company light. Stan Lee is a well-researched, lucid addition to superhero comics history and comics biography more generally. * CHOICE *