There’s a new biography of the late Marvel legend Stan Lee. It’s called “True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee” by Abraham Riesman. It’s based on hundreds of hours of extensive research and interviews with people who knew and worked with Stan Lee.

It’s not a 100% lionizing love letter. It’s not all negative, either. It’s about a flawed human. Here are three takeaways.

1.) Stan Lee’s Creative Method was Sorta “Stealing”

There’s a lot made of “The Marvel Method” of writing in “True Believer”. Most of Lee’s A+ work was done while he was working with artists/writers Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. Spiderman, Ironman, Fantastic Four, X-men…these were all created in the Lee/Kirby/Ditko era at Marvel.

Stan himself often talked about “The Marvel Method”. Basically, he would describe an idea or a character to his artists and they would then create the plot and details of the characters and story. The artist would then get credit for their artwork while Stan go, to varying degrees, most of the credit for the characters and story. For over 50 years artists would work with the germ of an idea that Lee gave them but would only receive the art credits and (usually) none of the creative credit.

That was the Marvel Method. Was it shady? It doesn’t seem like Stan thought it was considering the number of interviews in which he talked about it. It was, to Stan anyway, just his creative process.

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2.) Stan Lee NEEDED the Money in Later Life

Most Marvel movies have two things in common: 1.) Stan Lee has a cameo and, 2.) they made a boatload of money. Just ludicrous, obscene amounts of profit.

So why was Mr. Lee still doing a GRUELING schedule of appearances, signing autographs for cash at conventions even into his ninth decade? Short answer, he needed the cash. Longer answer, he needed the cash because his wife and daughter were prodigious spenders.

For as much as Stan earned in his career, his wife Joan and daughter Joan (J.C.) found ways to spend it. In the book, Riesman relates the story of when Stan gave his daughter a new Jaguar for her birthday. J.C. loved it. Then she found out it was leased, not purchased outright. This led to a fight in which Stan’s daughter shoved her mother and grabbed her father by the neck.

If that sounds bratty and entitled…J.C. was celebrating her 64th birthday when all this occurred.

3.) By the End Stan was Surrounded by Vultures

Joan Sr. died in 2017 after 69 years of being married to Stan. By every account, Stan was completely devoted to Joan and their daughter. Stan would die a year and a half later at age 96.

The book describes how, toward the end, Stan was almost completely surrounded by hucksters, conmen and even convicted felons. There were also allegations that his daughter JC (she of the Jaguar 64th birthday party) was physically abusing Stan. Riesman asks a question about Stan Lee’s last years that, despite his copious research, he seems unable to answer: Was there anyone looking out for Stan’s best

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