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With Great Power ...: The Stan Lee Story


A not-quite-Marvelous look at a pop-culture giant.

Rod Lott November 28th, 2012

There's a great story surrounding Stan Lee and Marvel Comics. I know because a month ago, I read all about it in Sean Howe’s new book about the very topic. As for the documentary With Great Power  ...: The Stan Lee Story, however, it's perfectly fine if the only portrait you care to see is superficial, self-laudatory and largely wart-free.

withgreatpower

But no household name has led a life devoid of conflict and drama, and the three-director doc skirts over those portions, because I assume this project was made with the subject’s full approval. It is — pardon my French — one ass-kisser of a career retrospective.

To give credit where credit is due, Lee truly revolutionized the comics industry. And he did so by making the human being behind the mask more important than the costumed one. Taking this more grounded approach, he gave birth to now-iconic superheroes that include, to name only a few, Spider-Man, The Hulk and The Fantastic Four.

But that's only partly true; he's co-creator of all those beloved characters. Read Howe’s book to learn of Lee’s attempts at hogging credits and his public humiliation of Marvel colleagues, often fatally severing their relationships. Such dissatisfaction is touched upon here only briefly, and in a rather roundabout way that shifts blame away from Stan the Man.

What is here that should prove special to his many fawning fans are glimpses into Lee's private side. We see him at his (gaudily decorated) home with his wife, who lovingly cajoles him into dancing to “The Girl from Ipanema” for a few seconds. We learn of their two daughters, one of whom lived only to be seven days old. We see that he acts not much differently with family than he does on the red carpet, on talk shows or in his many Marvel-movie cameos.

It's just too bad he's made out to be someone just shy of sainthood. I don't mean to sound like I don't like the guy or don't appreciate and acknowledge his work; I do. But every excellent portrait of a historical figure of massive influence tells all sides to the story, and Lee deserves a rounded look. In shirking the “responsibility” portion of the titular reference, With Great Power emerges as merely a good one.

One of those singing Lee's praises is Paris Hilton. Why the hell? —Rod Lott

Hey! Read This:
The Amazing Spider-Man Blu-ray review     
The Avengers film review     
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