When you think of visionaries throughout history, you think of people who changed lives. Visionaries have gifted the world the airplane, the lightbulb, and yes, superheroes. Stan Lee was without a doubt a visionary, helping to craft stories that inspire, entertain, and change the way we think about the world. It’s why Marvel’s latest Visionaries trade paperback is a great read.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Celebrate the career of a true Marvel Visionary! In the days before WWII, a teenager named Stanley Lieber ran errands in the offices of Timely Comics. Soon “Stan Lee” published his first story, and before long he was running the show! In the 1960s, Lee and Jack Kirby transformed super hero comics with the Fantastic Four – whose success sparked an unending line of smash hits that created the Marvel Universe! Presented here are some of the greatest stories written by “The Man,” from rarely seen tales from Lee’s earliest days, to unforgettable adventures starring his most iconic co-creations – the FF, Spider-Man, Thor, Silver Surfer, Doctor Strange and Daredevil!
Why does this matter?
At some point in your life, you probably have read a Stan Lee written story. That said, you probably haven’t read every story collected here. This series is a great way to get a taste of a creator’s work from beginning to end, and this collection accomplishes just that — from one of his first prose stories originally printed in Captain America Comics (they had to print these stories to qualify for second-class mail shipping) all the way to a 1995 special featuring Peter and Mary Jane at Aunt May’s grave. It is a truly storied career, and this collection gives you a little bit of everything.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Running 336 pages there is quite a selection of stories here. The book opens with an introduction by Roy Thomas originally written in 2004 that does a great job giving readers an idea of how Stan Lee started at Marvel and then continued to push new ground for the publisher over the decades. There is also some great back matter content, like Stan Lee’s original Fantastic Four emblem sketch, a selection of Stan’s Soapbox from the bullpen back pages, and a reprinting of the actual Fantastic Four #1 plot synopsis. There is essentially just enough here to get you started with Stan Lee and make you want to dive even deeper into his contributions to Marvel Comics.
There is a wide range of his work collected here, from Fantastic Four (1961) #11 and Annual #3 to some great Green Goblin action in Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #96-98 and Annual #5; a story featuring a black character in Daredevil (1964) #7 and #47 that made no mention of his race but instead treats him like any person should be treated, moving the needle on progress; Silver Surfer (1968) #5, which features an alien possibly more human than an Earthling; Thor (1966) #179-181, featuring stories drawn by a then-rookie Neal Adams; Marvel Premiere #3 and material from Captain America Comics #3 and #16, Suspense #28, the greatest origin ever with Amazing Adult Fantasy #11, giving readers a look at a wider range of Lee’s work, Amazing Fantasy (1962) #15 and Spectacular Spider-Man Super Special.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
Much like the John Romita Sr. Visionaries book, this isn’t a complete or thorough look at Stan Lee’s work. Instead, it feels like a good start or a nice way to purchase a snapshot of the creator’s career. It’s an odd sort of read though, since it contains so many snapshots of ongoing stories.
Is it good?
This is a good read thanks to the great introduction by Roy Thomas, the extras in the back, and some interesting snapshots of Stan Lee’s career that may not be easy to find elsewhere. To read everything from the prose that helped him break in at Marvel to his final work as Peter Parker and Mary Jane look on at Aunt May’s grave is quite a jump, and it’s one that helps remind you how important Stan Lee was to comics and to society.