“Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir”: Looking into the Life of Stan Lee

by HALEY BURNSIDE, Senior Writer

This past week, self-proclaimed comic book geeks around the world mourned together as the news of Stan Lee’s passing spread. Lee passed away at age 95 after a long and creative life that can only be described as marvelous.

Stanley Martin Lieber was one of the most successful and well-known comic book writers. The New York City native got his start in the industry in 1939. He used the pen-name Stan Lee so that his professional reputation would never be tainted by the fact that he had once been a writer for silly comic books. He planned to write serious novels, but because of his immense talent and incomprabile imagination, he made a real name for himself in the industry. For the rest of his life, he was known as Stan Lee.

This origin story is one of the many anecdotes told by his memoir, “Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir.” He worked alongside writer Peter David and illustrator Colleen Doran. Loyal to his roots, he chose the book to have the colorful and graphic layout signature of comic books.

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The memoir begins in his childhood in New York City during the Great Depression. It follows him through his first job with Timely Comics at the end of the 1930s, and it recounts his time serving in the Army during World War II where he was responsible for illustrating and writing the educational film materials for the troops.

Though these portions may seem like enough to fill an entire book of their own, the story does not take off in full until it reaches the beginning of his career at Marvel Comics, the company where he would be one of the most influential creators by the time of his death. While writing for classic characters like Captain America, Lee created some of Marvel’s most iconic new heroes. Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Black Panther, the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men are just a few of his most enduring creations.

“Amazing Fantastic Incredible” then gives the behind the scenes view of the superhero comic book industry through its prosperous times (1970s), its difficulties with censorship (Comics Code Authority crackdown of the mid 1950s) and funny little stories in between.

The memoir traces through Lee’s career as well as his personal life. The brilliantly-drawn illustrations help narrate the sweet story of Lee’s fifty-year marriage to his wife Joan. While sharing the treasured insider information of the Marvel company, the book tells the stories that influenced the comics. The result is a memoir that is both entertaining and informative, and is enjoyable for those who are lifelong fans of Lee’s work as well as those who are just familiar with his iconic creations. It, like the man on which it focuses, truly lives up to its ambitious title.

As the world mourns this legendary man, “Amazing Fantastic Incredible” serves as one of the many reminders that Lee not only lived a fulfilling, exciting life, but he provided generations of people around the globe with touches of excitement through glossy pages of comic books and the action on the big screen.

Stan Lee truly was a New Yorker in every sense. To encapsulate the man, I would like to leave you with this iconic quote of his from an interview with “Playboy Magazine.”

“You know, my motto is ‘Excelsior.’ That’s an old word that means ‘upward and onward to greater glory.’ It’s on the seal of the state of New York. Keep moving forward, and if it’s time to go, it’s time. Nothing lasts forever.”