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Marvel legend Stan Lee was neither superhero nor supervillain

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Stan Lee, seen in 1991, led a life of complexity rivaled by that of the characters he helped create. 

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Comics legend Stan Lee was one of the true titans of pop culture, комиксы дс комикс читать онлайн with his cameos cementing his status as a pillar of the Marvel universe. The man behind , the , the and the went on to charm the public in countless interviews and signed comic books for fans who paid $50 (or more) and waited in line for hours to meet him.

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Abraham Riesman takes a deep-dive into Stan Lee.

Penguin Random House

I did exactly that at Wizard World New York in 2013 and felt a little odd as I observed the then-90-year-old legend's hand shaking as he signed my copy of Amazing Spider-Man No. 96. It was a flash of the vulnerable human behind a man I'd all but worshipped as a hero since I started reading Spidey's adventures religiously at age 9.

In the years since that meeting, through Lee's , I've read countless biographies and accounts about him and Marvel's early days to try to understand the real people behind the fictional universe. Those stories had almost become as comfortable and familiar as the comics they spawned.

Then I read , which hits shelves this week, and one early line told me this take wouldn't be quite so comfortable.

"Stan Lee's story is where objective truth goes to die," he writes.

Instead of starting with the familiar tales of Lee's childhood in Depression-era New York City or his early days at Marvel, Riesman wastes little time in alluding to Lee's alleged falsehoods and exaggerations regarding his role in creating characters, the faced by his post-Marvel companies and the elder abuse he in the final months of his life.

It made for utterly engrossing and deeply uncomfortable reading, so I asked Riesman why he opted against opening with the usual romanticism about the dawn of Marvel Comics as we know them.

"If I'd started with 'Bang pow zoom, comics are cool' -- I mean, who cares? It just seemed like the natural thing to do to situate the reader in Stan's world, with all of its different facets," he told me via Zoom from his home in Providence, Rhode Island. 

"Stan was neither saint nor Satan. He was a human being, he was not a superhero. There are no superheroes."

Riesman's own Marvel origin began in '90s after he picked up a copy of Megan Stine's Marvel Super Heroes Guide Book, a mini-encyclopedia designed to draw young readers into the worlds of Spidey and friends, at an elementary school book fair. The Marvel Action Hour, in which Lee episodes of Fantastic Four, Iron Man and Hulk cartoons, introduced him to the man himself.

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The first real-life encounter came in 1998, when Lee signed his beaten-up copy of Fantastic Four No. 47 (an early story) at the Wizard World convention in Rosemont, Illinois. Riesman's biography includes a delightfully retro photo of the encounter taken by his mother, but that doesn't capture a strange moment in its immediate aftermath.

"He looked at me, looked at my mom and said, 'You've immortalized me' -- a very weird thing to say to somebody who will end up becoming your biographer," Riesman recalled.

The uncertainty behind who created Marvel's most iconic characters has long been a bone of contention for comics fans -- the late artists and both claimed Lee took more than his fair share of the credit for dreaming up the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man in particular. It's a question we shouldn't expect clear answers to, according to Riesman.

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