Stan Lee Critical Essays

Introduction

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Stan Lee 1922–

(Born Stanley Lieber) American comic strip writer, editor, and publisher.

Lee's creation of comic book characters and situations with both relevancy and depth has been instrumental in revitalizing the comic book industry. His characters, such as the Amazing Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four, and Doctor Strange, are invested with super powers and human problems. Their super powers are sometimes natural, as in the case of the Fantastic Four, whose members are able to turn into fire, become invisible, throw out force fields, or stretch. Other times, the powers are the result of unsuccessful scientific experiments, as with Peter Parker, who can use his web-spinning abilities at will to become Spider-Man, or David Banner, who uncontrollably changes into the monstrous Hulk and uses his immense strength to aid innocent victims.

Spider-Man is perhaps Lee's most popular character. He has a special appeal for young people since his counterpart, Peter Parker, is himself a teenager who is still subject to adult authority. Parker has all the problems of the average high school senior, but as Spider-Man he is the superior of any middle-aged person. Readers are able to empathize and sympathize with him, as well as appreciate the excitement of his adventures.

Lee bases his stories on contemporary themes: the heroes battle drug pushers, organized crime, and racial bigotry. His sophisticated plots are centered around the age-old conflict of good against evil, the villains always defeated by their morally upright adversaries. All of these factors have generated new interest in the comics among more mature readers and critics generally agree that Lee's contributions to the comic book have made the genre more acceptable as a legitimate art form.