If you love comics, chances are you know about a man named Stanley Martin Lieber. Never heard of him? How about Stan Lee? If that name gets your attention, then you're probably one of the millions of fans of Marvel comics, whose stable of characters includes Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Hulk and a superhero-slew of others. Lee is the man who shepherded these characters into the American consciousness, and Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book is the story of how he did it.

It should come as no surprise to learn that Lee didn't create many of the characters for which he took credit. Devoted fans had figured this out years ago; the plots and dynamics of comics drawn by Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, John Romita and others changed when the artists changed. Lee was the driving force behind the books, but to use a baseball metaphor, he was more like a manager than a player. Authors Jordan Raphael and Tom Spurgeon take us behind the scenes of Lee's rise to prominence in the industry, as well as the gradual decline of the medium and its resurrection as source material for 21st century cinema. Lee gained fame as both a comic book P.T. Barnum and a creator of superheroes who weren't so super when they took off the cape and mask. Raphael and Spurgeon cover both the huckster and the creator in this interesting story of a man who changed American culture.

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