Thursday, December 5, 2019

New Biographies of Stan Lee, Mac Raboy and Irving Berlin

I strongly recommend these three new biographies:

Stan Lee, A Marvelous Life by Danny Fingeroth, St Martin's Press

Stan Lee (born Stanley Lieber), was a complex man. He was both worshiped and vilified, and has been described both as a talented and tireless worker and a shameless celebrity spokesman for Marvel comics. He was an imperious comics writer and editor, a persistent self-promoter, and a credit and publicity hog. His public persona was charming, funny and affable, and he was the public face of Timely/Atlas/Marvel Comics for over half a century and probably the most famous man to have ever worked in the comics industry. Comics historian Danny Fingeroth has written a fair-minded, fun, and finally, the essential biography of Stan Lee, chronicling Stan's rise and fall and unlikely early sixties rise again, as Lee, Marvel publisher Martin Goodman, artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, and others, ushered in Marvel's unprecidented super hero renaissance.

Mac Raboy, Master of the Comics by Roger Hill, TwoMorrows Publishing

Mac Raboy was a slow and meticulous artist and an expert technician, creating lush cover and interior artwork for the "golden age" comic book series Captain Marvel, Jr in the 1940's. His work was some of the most unusually beautiful artwork to ever grace mainsteam comics, and Roger Hill's meticulous biography presents hundreds of examples of Raboy's art as well as a detailed biography of his relatively short life. Beautifully designed by Jon B. Cooke, this book should be on the shelf of every lover of great comic book and comic strip art. Also an excellent introduction by Roy Thomas. Only two photos of the elusive Mac Raboy are known to exist, both of them are included in the book, as well as my full color portrait of Raboy created for my book Heroes of the Comics (Fantagraphics Books)

Irving Berlin, New York Genius by James Kaplan, Yale University Press

Irving Berlin was arguably the greatest American songwriter of the 20th century, his life spanned more than 100 years and his musical output was astounding, beginning with "Alexander's Ragtime Band" up until his last hit "Counting Blessings". Berlin composed the music and lyrics to some fifteen hundred songs. Like Frank Capra, his name was above the title because he earned it. James Kaplan's loving biography details the highs and lows of the brilliant, fiesty, sometimes maddening little Jewish song-plugger from the lower east side who would go on to write "God Bless America" and "White Christmas". It's an intense and glorious page-turner, masterfully written and thoroughly entertaining. 

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed the Stan Lee and thought the Kaplan book was excellent - he focused on Berlin, didn't go off on tangents about the culture or the big picture, and trusted that his readers were grounded in the history Berlin was a part of. A sad tale, in the end. And, because you recommended, I read the Captain Marvel, Jr. books. Beautifully drawn, but the stories were creaky and I lost interest.