Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Review of "Excelsior! The Amazing Life of Stan Lee," by Stan Lee and George Mair

Review of

Excelsior! The Amazing Life of Stan Lee, by Stan Lee and George Mair ISBN 978-0684873053.

Five out of five stars

 As the superhero genre is now a dominant theme of the movies for the big screen, it is time to give the credit where it is due. In the late fifties and very early sixties, comic books were popular, yet so much of what appeared was repeated and recycled with only slight alterations. It was time for a change and Stan Lee was the driving force behind a large set of new characters that are the subject of many popular and profitable movies.
 Decades after the time of their creation, there is still some controversy over the contributions to the creation, yet there is no doubt that it was Lee that had the original ideas for the characters. To his credit, in this book, Lee is lavish in giving credit to others, such as Jack Kirby, for bringing the characters into existence. As Lee points out, there is plenty of credit to go around.
 This book is about the full life of Lee, from growing up in New York City during the Great Depression until roughly the year 2000. It is a story of an entire industry being transformed through many difficult times and a description of incredible creativity.
 What Lee did was create superheroes that had flaws, specifically emotions that did not diminish their powers, but made them appear as human. He also did another very essential thing, he created antagonists that were worthy of the fight against the powerful heroes. The quality of the stories were also enhanced by the non-powerful supporting characters such as the blowhard J. Jonah Jameson.
 This (auto)biography is not exactly that. It is co-written with George Mair and is constructed of alternating segments written by Lee and Mair. While it is a different approach it is one that works, the flipping from the personal to the detached perspective often give an insight that would otherwise be lacking.
 This is a great book about one of the most creative people of all time. Furthermore, as Lee states several times, he was one of the hardest working writers of all time. Demonstrating that, even for the incredibly talented, there is no substitute for hard work and perseverance.

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