Review: With Great Power

With Great Power: The Marvelous Stan Lee, An Unauthorized Biography

by Annie Hunter Eriksen, illustrated by Lee Gatlin

Page Street Kids (imprint of Page Street Publishing)

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Cynthia Levinson

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Kazow! Kids who love Spider-Man, The Thing—in fact, any comic book about super heroes—will twist themselves into knots to read this book and stick to it like Spidey himself. This picture book biography of Stan Lee—born Stanley Lieber—opens with our hero as a gawky boy, hemmed in within a tiny apartment in the Bronx. So, what does he do? First, he reads every story he can get his hands on, finding adventures from Frankenstein to Shakespeare. Then, at age sixteen, he gets a job as an errand-runner at a publisher of comics. Imaginative and hard-working, Stan, who hides his real name behind the pen-name Stan Lee when he writes copy, quickly becomes editor! However, bored by formulaic story-telling of damsels in distress saved by flawless heroes in white hats, he pushes the boundaries—shazam!—and creates stories of people like himself. Geeks, wallflowers, and science whizzes share their flaws and limitations but turn into heroes when they do good for humanity. Soon, his books became series, then movies, then a monthly column—all with the message that “anyone can be a hero as long as they stand for what’s right!” With Great Power is filled with onomatopoeic sound effects, dazzling graphics, and a story arc perfectly fit for its intended readership.

The only hint that Stan Lee was Jewish comes from his birth name, Stanley Lieber. With Great Power contains no other Jewish content. As a result, it does not meet the criteria for a Sydney Taylor Book Award.

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Reviewer Cynthia Levinson writes nonfiction picture and middle-grade books focusing on social justice. Her books with Jewish content include
Watch Out for Flying Kids! and The People's Painter: How Ben Shahn Fought for Justice with Art.