'Amazing Fantastic Incredible' a comic insight to Stan Lee's life journey
The creator that gave Marvel many of its famous comic characters, Stan Lee, has finally released his autobiography, “Amazing Fantastic Incredible”. And this autobiography is not in any ordinary form, just like his superheroes, his life is also seen in a graphic novel format.
The 92 year old co-creator of Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor and the X-Men, introduced many complex, naturalistic characters and a thoroughly shared universe into superhero comic books. After working tirelessly in the comic space and seeing his work not being just acknowledged but becoming a worldwide success, Lee came up with this idea to pen down his life story during Marvel’s 75th anniversary. He was seen saying, “As Marvel just celebrated its 75th anniversary, I thought maybe it’s time for a look at my life in the one form it has never been depicted, as a comic book… Or if you prefer, a graphic memoir. It strikes me as a horrendous oversight that I haven’t done it before! If I didn’t know everything about my life already, I’d envy your voyage of discovery.”
The vibrantly colored memoir, illustrated by Colleen Doran, walks readers through the life of the Stanley Lieber, and gives insights to the icon’s thoughts as his cartoonish form breaks the fourth wall. Written by Stan Lee and Peter David, the comic consists of 192 pages and delivers a clear message that Stan wants to bring real, relatable characters to his audience even if he’s the character in question.
The journey begins with Lee as a boy, transported to other worlds through books by Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells and William Shakespeare. His real world was the Depression, a father mostly out of work and a dingy New York apartment with laundry hanging in the kitchen and a brick wall for a view. Lee says his mother doted on him; he remembers she’d just watch him read. “One of the best gifts I ever got — she bought me a little stand that I could keep on the table while I was eating, and I could put a book in the stand, and I could read while I was eating. I mean, I always had to be reading something,” he recalls.
In an interview with NPR, Stan mentions:
On comics and picking a pen name
I realised that people had no respect for comic books at all. Most parents didn’t want their children to read comics. And I was a little embarrassed to be doing the work I did, and I figured someday I’ll write the Great American Novel and I don’t want to ruin my possibilities by having my name disliked this way. And I became Stan Lee.
The stories in the comic books then were a little bit different. My publisher was typical of all the publishers, and in the early days he would say to me, “Just give me action! I want a lot of action in every panel! That’s what the kids want.” So I wanted the characters to have good personalities, I wanted provocative situations — I don’t think he knew what the word provocative meant. Aside from the fights, there was nothing much to recommend the books.
On creating the Fantastic Four
I was really ready to quit. I was getting sick of doing these one-character-punches-another and says, “Take that, you rat.” So my wife said to me, “You want to quit. Before you do, why don’t you get one story out of your system? Do one the way you want to do it. The worst that will happen, he’ll fire you. But you want to quit anyway. So what have you got to lose?” So that’s when I did the Fantastic Four.
On artist Jack Kirby’s original vision for Spider-Man
Jack made him look very heroic and strong. But that isn’t the way I wanted him. I wanted him to look like a typical, thin high school kid. And he doesn’t get all the girls because of his athletic prowess. He’s just kind of a shy high school kid who’s a science major. It was no big deal. I said, “Jack, forget it. I’ll give it to someone else.” And he was busy with a dozen other books. He didn’t care. So I called Steve Ditko, and Steve gave him just the right look. And that’s how Spidey was born.
On whether he feels his creations around him
Not really. I love those characters I’ve done. But I’ve moved on to other things. I love talking about them, I love people being interested in them. And I’m interested in them too. But as I say, they’re things that I had written. I’m glad they turned out to be successful. But today is another day.