I Am Stan Review

By | Monday, September 18, 2023 Leave a Comment
Do we really need another biogrpahy of Stan Lee? I think we've gotten at least two every year since he passed away in 2018, and there were plenty on the market before then. Tom Scioli's I Am Stan isn't even the first biography done in graphic novel form.* So why pick this up?

There are, as I see it, four reasons why you might want to pick this up.
  1. You're a big fan of Stan Lee and want to get every biography about him there is.
  2. You're a big fan of Scioli's work generally and just want to see what he does with this story.
  3. You've got Scioli's graphic biography of Jack Kirby and think this is a kind-of companion to that book.
  4. You want the latest biography available of Stan Lee, and this is the most recently published.
That sounds a bit limited in its praise, I know. The book isn't bad or anything, but it doesn't really offer anything new or insightful. Granted, an author/researcher is not likely to find much new about Lee given how many times his life story has been regurgitated (often by Lee himself) but Scioli doesn't even really seem to take particular point of view here. He relays the same stories and the same anecdotes with little in the way of editorialization. Even the couple instances where he includes someone calling Lee out on comments he made that were somewhere between self-inflated exaggerations and flat-out lies, it's within the context of quoted interviews where he got called out for real. And those pretty much only occur late in the book, long after we're presented with the Lee version of events much earlier.

The book also doesn't really have a strong narrative. It reads more like a series of not-often-connected anecdotes that Lee himself is relaying. Many of the sequences, in fact, only seem like they would make sense if you've heard Lee address that in one of his many interviews or written pieces. And that might suffice for much of the book for much of Scioli's intended audience, but it does feel disjointed and somewhat confused if you're not 100% familiar with the anecdote already. There is a Notes section in the back that offers some reference points on where Scioli got some of his material, but I can easily see a reader being confused by who these random people are that show up suddenly and disappear just as quickly. While many are name-dropped in the dialogue, many are not. Lots of projects are mentioned, but many are not followed up on in any way. Sure, many of them have boring (often financial) reasons why they're not completed, but couldn't there be a line of dialogue saying that the Willie Lumpkin comic strip with Dan DeCarlo never caught anyone's attention or The Monster Maker movie with Alain Resnais was shelved before casting even began? For as many hits as might be attributable (even in part) to Lee, he had a huge number of misses too. That seems like it's worth making more explicit than just not mentioning their outcomes and letting the audience assume they weren't successful because they never heard of them.

It's not really a bad book, I guess, but it's just the same stories Lee himself told over and over and over again. And while Lee's versions were frequently more in an individualized anedcotal format and this does put them in more-or-less chronological order so you get a vague sense of context, that's pretty much what every biography of Lee does already. It would've been nice to see Scioli do something different. Angelicize him in a way that Lee didn't already do himself, or lionize him, or something. But I didn't see anything new or different here. It's a biography of Stan Lee; that's about all you can really say about it. I Am Stan came out from Ten Speed Graphic last week and retails for $28.99 US (hardcover) and $22.99 US (paperback).

* The back of the book claims this is "the first graphic novel biography of the legendary Stan Lee" but also adds "from Eisner-nominated comics creator Tom Scioli." The Peter David/Colleen Doran graphic novel from 2015 is even cited in Scioli's work here with Lee specifically mentioning that he did nothing on it despite his name appearing as the primary author. But yes, this is the first graphic novel bio of Lee by Scioli.
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