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Stan Lee
Cover of Stan Lee
Stan Lee
A Life in Comics
Borrow Borrow

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

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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About the Author-
  • Liel Leibovitz is the author of A Broken Hallelujah: Rock and Roll, Redemption, and the Life of Leonard Cohen. He is a senior writer for Tablet magazine and a cohost of its popular podcast, Unorthodox. He lives in New York City.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from March 9, 2020
    Leibovitz (A Broken Hallelujah: Rock and Roll, Redemption, and the Life of Leonard Cohen) brilliantly charts the life and legacy of the founder of Marvel Comics in this slim but affecting biography. Leibovitz calls Stan Lee (1922–2018) an “effervescent self-promoter” and notes that “by any measure of significance at our disposal, few artists have had so much of an impact on American popular culture.” He walks readers through Lee’s childhood (he was born in New York City to poor Jewish immigrant parents), his start in the business as an errand boy for what was then Timely Comics, and his channeling of his dissatisfaction with existing characters into the development of ones that had recognizable human emotions, and which paved the way for Marvel Comics with such heroes as Spider-man, Iron Man, and Black Panther. Leibovitz examines Lee’s ideas and the inspiration behind his characters, arguing that, in order to understand the characters, they must be regarded as having been “formed by the anxieties of first-generation American Jews who had fought in World War II, witnessed the Holocaust, and reflected—consciously or otherwise—on the moral obligations and complications of life after Auschwitz.” Fans of the legendary comic book writer and publisher will devour this expert mix of biography and literary analysis.

  • Kirkus

    March 1, 2020
    An analysis that goes deeper than most into the metaphysical vision of comics pioneer Stan Lee (1922-2018). In the latest volume in the publisher's Jewish Lives series, Leibovitz necessarily focuses on Lee's essential Jewishness and indicates that his life and legacy deserve academic scrutiny. As an author and commentator who works closely with many Jewish media outlets (he is a senior editor at Tablet) and who has previously published on Jewish subjects, he has the right credentials for the subject. Most importantly, however, Leibovitz brings to the project a deep love for--and knowledge of--the comic-book world that Lee created and how that world impacted popular culture and vice versa. With Marvel Studios now dominating the movie industry, one is less likely to underestimate the popular reach of Spider-Man or the Avengers, but Leibovitz argues that most are missing the big picture, that even serious scholarly attention has been "focusing on history and sociology but rarely on philosophy and theology." The author's analysis is not exactly an introduction or a primer, and it will most satisfy those who are already well versed in the Marvel universe, the Talmud, and the cultural and political upheavals that so profoundly impacted the thematic progression of Lee's empire. Leibovitz wants readers to recognize the cultural parallels between comic books and rock 'n' roll, to see Lee as a kindred spirit with "another gnomic Jewish artist, Bob Dylan," and to see how "his comic books, like Dylan's songs, have become vast cultural canvasses onto which anyone interested in the art form can paint his or her own interpretations, an ongoing dialogue with the artist that mirrors the ancient Talmudic logic of constant conversation and disputation." The author also touches on Lee's gift for self-mythologizing and the charges that, as a collaborator, he has taken more credit than is his due. Another solid addition to the series in which the author brings the seriousness his subject deserves.

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Stan Lee
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A Life in Comics
Liel Leibovitz
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