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Stan Lee was not as marvelous as he and Marvel wanted us to think

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As a young teenager in 1998, Abraham Riesman met Stan Lee at a comic convention called Wizard World Chicago. Lee, known as the father of the Marvel Universe, was not yet famous to mainstream audiences.

“I didn’t have to wait a long time in line to meet him or pay for his autograph,” Riesman recalled.

As Riesman stood across the table from a seated Lee, Riesman’s mother Margaret Ross captured the moment with her camera.

“You’ve immortalized me,” commented Lee as the shutter clicked and the flash went off.

It was a prescient remark, as Riesman, now 35, has written the first posthumous biography of Lee, who died in November 2018 at the age of 95. Published by Crown, it is available from February 16.

Far from hagiography, the book, titled, “True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee,” exposes Lee’s dissembling about who really created the exceedingly popular Marvel superheroes. (Hint: It wasn’t him, at least for the most part.)

In essence, Riesman supports in this biography what many within the comics industry and community have known for decades. Through his extensive research and reporting, the author brings to light the truth about who Lee really was, versus who he presented himself to be.

Lee flogged Marvel — which grew from comic books for children to a universe of blockbuster movies and merchandising — to the world. But what Lee was most interested in selling was himself. He wasn’t exactly a villain, but neither was he the hero that he made himself out to be. Ultimately, he paid dearly for this lack of self-knowledge and awareness, living out his final years suffering from abuse and indignities.

Riesman fell in love with the superhero comics genre a year before he met Lee when his best friend encouraged him to read back issues of X-Men comic books. Riesman’s interest grew, and he developed a minor reputation for writing about comics as a journalist.

While on staff at New York Magazine in 2015, an editor dropped on Riesman’s desk a galley of a graphic adaptation of Lee’s 2002 autobiography, “Excelsior.” (“Excelsior,” like “True Believer,” is a Lee catchphrase.) The editor meant that Riesman should do a short review of the adaptation, but Riesman misunderstood and pursued a more extensive reported essay, baring the “secret” that it was artists like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko —........

© The Times of Israel

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