Marvel Icon; Saved Comic Books, Lived the American Dream; “Excelsior”


Cincinnati, December 26, 2020 – Marvel icon Stan Lee would have celebrated his 98th birthday on December 28. Although he passed away two years ago, his legacy has far-reaching consequences, from bringing comic books to a new generation of readers in the early 1960s to co-creating some of popular culture’s most enduring characters.

The superheroes that Lee and his co-creators brought to life in Marvel comic books are at the heart of contemporary storytelling. Lee created a narrative foundation that has fueled pop culture for nearly six decades. By establishing the voice of Marvel superheroes and shepherding the comic books to life as the head of Marvel, Lee cemented his place in American history.

History and context are important in helping people comprehend their worlds. New comic book readers and ardent filmgoers who turn out in droves to see Marvel Universe films should grasp how these influences impact their worldviews.

“Superman launched comic book superheroes, but Spider-Man made them human,” explains Bob Batchelor, cultural historian and Stan Lee biographer. “This nerdy teenager from Queens was full of complexities and angst, just like the rest of us. But, he still abided by Stan Lee’s immortal line: With great power, there also must also come — great responsibility.”

Stan Lee became one of America’s foremost creative icons. He transformed popular culture by introducing generations of readers to flawed heroes who also dealt with life’s everyday challenges in the familiar New York City setting. Lee did not invent the imperfect hero, one could argue that such heroes had been around since Homer’s time and even before, but Lee delivered the concept to a generation of readers hungry for something new.

The Fantastic Four transformed the kinds of stories comic books could tell. Spider-Man, however, brought the idea home to a global audience. Lee told an interviewer that he had two incredibly instinctive objectives: introduce a superhero “terribly realistic” and one “with whom the reader could relate.”

While the nerd-to-hero storyline seems like it must have sprung from the earth fully formed, Lee gave readers a new way of looking at what it meant to be a hero and spun the notion of who might be heroic in a way that spoke to the rapidly expanding number of comic book buyers.

Spider-Man’s popularity revealed the attraction to the idea of a tainted hero, but at the same time, the character hit the newsstands at the perfect time, ranging from the growing Baby Boomer generation to the optimism of John F. Kennedy’s Camelot, this confluence of events resulting in a new age for comic books. Stan Lee tells the whole story of Lee’s life, which also helps us understand our own culture and times.

In addition, generations of artists, writers, actors, and other creatives have been inspired, moved, or encouraged by the Marvel Universe Lee voiced and helped birth.

Why comic books (still) matter for today’s readers:

  1. Advance their critical thinking abilities
  2. Provide contextual information (history, emotions, politics, beliefs)
  3. Build language skills
  4. Develop visual acuity
  5. Enhance creativity
  6. Spark imagination
  7. Help organize ideas
  8. Identify emotional and developmental concepts
  9. Enrich belief systems: re race, tolerance, empathy, and compassion
  10. Create world views

Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers)

264 Pages, • Hardback • September 2017 • $22.95 • Paperback • December 2018 • $16.95

  • eBook • September 2017 • $16.00

About Author