Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir
Review by KC Carlson
The word “humble” appears just 30 words into Stan Lee’s new illustrated biography Amazing Fantastic Incredible. Considering that Stan’s about the closest thing to a modern day P.T. Barnum that we’ve got (huckstering like there’s no tomorrow), it’s a wonder that he waited that long! But I kid Stan… Amazing Fantastic Incredible IS actually an amazing, fantastic, incredible book. It’s not just a look at his work at Marvel, but a portrait of key moments of his private life, co-written by Peter David and illustrated by Colleen Doran.
Since it’s Marvel’s 75th Anniversary this year —- and Stan has been there since almost the very beginning —- Stan can (and does) weigh in on about just every major thing that’s happened there, both good and bad. More than that, Stan’s life is told in great detail, including some family secrets and probably a thing or two that was painful to relate. Like the superhero comics he’s scripted for decades, his life is frequently shattered by unexpected deaths in both of his “families”: the one at home and the one at work.
Stan is assisted by two excellent storytellers in relating his history. Peter David writes everything (not just comics) and, like Stan, has worked at Marvel both on-staff and as a freelancer. Artist Colleen Doran is best known for her epic adventure stories, and this book is not all that much different than those (although this book has a lot fewer sharp, pointy objects and cool hair than her stories do).
The artwork is much fun to read throughout, as there are an incredible number of very clever artistic “swipes” of classic Marvel Comics scenes. They’re adapted to fit into Stan’s narrative as though they belong there, like when Stan meets his future wife Joan for the first time, in a framing reminiscent of the introduction of Mary Jane Watson to Peter Parker. Also, when Stan is talking specifically about things that he worked on, we get to see replicas of the covers and pin-ups and artifacts in their real-life forms. (Of course, Stan can’t resist covering them with copious caption boxes! It’s part of his charm!)
All the stories you want to hear are here. Like when Stan met Jack Kirby (and Joe Simon) for the first time. I’d somehow forgotten how young Stan was when that happened. And there’s sad stuff beyond unexpected deaths, as when Stan became disillusioned with the bosses and the company that Marvel became. There are blow-by-blow accounts of how the classic Marvel characters were created, although I’ll bet that many readers have those stories memorized by now.
I have to honestly admit that I wasn’t exactly thrilled about reading something that I thought I already knew everything about. But, as it turns out, I was wrong about that. Plus, I was absolutely charmed by the presentation of the material; it seemed all new (or at least different, because it was more personal) to me.
Just as its subhead describes, Amazing Fantastic Incredible IS “A Marvelous Memoir”. Stan always was great about giving his readers exactly what they wanted! (The publisher provided a review copy.)