True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee (Abraham Riesman) - Crown/Random House - 2021 - 394 pages

Journalist Riesman was a Marvel comic book fan as a teenager.  After researching the life of Lee for a newspaper article, he was encouraged to write this well-researched book to tell the real story of the comics icon, Stan Lee (1922-2018).  As a teen in the early 1960s, I was a comic book reader.  I preferred the books about DC superheroes, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc. with Justice League of America being my favorite.  The only Marvel comic I read was Fantastic Four, the one that started the Marvel empire in 1961.  I bought them for the art and the superhero action.  I thought the dialog was weird and at times corny.  Little did I know then that it was Stan Lee who wrote the dialog that humanized the characters and exposed their flaws.  Lee was the co-founder of Marvel (formerly Timely Comics) with Martin Goodman (1908-1992).  Lee's association with Goodman & Marvel provided a substantial income for him and his family who had an extremely expensive lifestyle.  Although Lee always viewed himself as a writer, his real skill was being the editor of a series of successful comic book titles.  Throughout his career there were complaints from the artists that they did not get due credit for their role in the creation of the popular stories.  In this book, Riesman documents those complaints and exposes the non-public persona of Mr. Lee.  Although he gained fame from the Marvel books, Lee wanted more.  He wanted to take Marvel into television and movies.  His efforts in that direction were mostly failures.  And, along the way he formed partnerships with many unsavory characters outside of the business.  The details of those failed business relationships form the bulk of this volume.  Stan Lee eventually achieved the fame he wanted by the cameo appearances he made in the various blockbuster Marvel superhero hero movies.  However, Lee played no part in the actual production of those movies.  This book is difficult to read because of the bizarre group of unsavory grifters who surrounded Stan Lee in his post-comic book days.  [JAM 3/30/2021]