I am an immigrant and when I came to the UK with my family way back in the early 1960s my love for reading and for the English language began with Marvel Comics and the work of Stan 'The Man' Lee. I learned to appreciate great writing, irony, alliteration, puns and Shakesperian references not just in the four-colour adventures of The Fantastic Four, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk etc. but also through Stan Lee's editorial pages and responses to readers' letters.
So I came to this semi-autobiography with a strong sense of expectation and I was not disappointed. What I found was the story of a man who had significant lessons to teach me about the hard work and habits that underlie success.
The book follows Stan Lee's life from his beginnings as the child of impoverished parents in Queens, New York City to his current standing as the Publisher Emeritus of Marvel Comics and the man overseeing the realisation of his superhero characters as among the most successful products in Hollywood.
The book is written in the easygoing and mildly self-ironic style that is typical of Stan Lee's work, but in amongst the witty asides and self-deprecatory humour there are some valuable lessons to be learned for even serious businessmen. The three things I learned most from this book are:
Be true to your vision Stan Lee entered the filed of comic book writing almost by accident but found that it became a steady, if not always lucrative, source of income. However in the early 1960s he was on the verge of quitting the struggling comics industry when his wife Joan (a Brit!) urged him to follow his own vision (that of creating comics characters who had distinct personalities and complex personal lives) rather than live his life wishing he had at least tried to do things his own way. Well Stan Lee put his vision into action with The Fantastic Four # 1 and with that comic he both revived a struggling industry and found his niche in the world.
Work hard and consistently Stan Lee came from a poor family and remembered his father struggling to find work during the Great Depression. This left him with a strong work ethic and he tended to work as many jobs as he could at one time in order to pay the bills and enjoy a lifestyle which his father had only dreamed of. This work ethic remains with him today and his tendency to make cameo appearances is only in part due to his love of showboating, more importantly he loves to keep working. His success is down to working hard and consistently, persisting when colleagues around him might have just given up or eased back on their work rate.
The importance of disciplined creativity Stan Lee does not believe in notion of 'writers block'. He says himself that though he has worked in a creative industry, the need to keep producing material has demanded that he keep on writing. He believes strongly that creativity must be tempered with discipline, after all he had sometimes dozens of comics per month to fill with dialogue and character development. This means having to make yourself be creative even when 'the muse' seems to be absent.
There you have it. A very personal book choice for me but one which I think you will find offers some salient observations on just what it takes to be the author of a worldwide success. As Stan himself would say, 'Excelsior!'
6 people found this helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?