The Picture Book Buzz

With Great Power: The Marvelous Stan Lee - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

I was so excited when I saw this cover. Like many people, I enjoy the Marvel "Universe" and many of their movies. Though I have to admit I am not a die-hard comics fan, I have a read a few. It was always a kick to see, and anticipate, Stan Lee's appearance in each of the movies. This book is a rollicking look at a creative genius who strongly felt that everyday people could be heroes and superheroes could be imperfect.

With Great Power: The Marvelous Stan Lee


Author: Annie Hunter Eriksen


Illustrator: Lee Gatlin


Publisher: Page Street Publishing (2021)


Ages: 4-8


Nonfiction


Themes:

Biography, comics, heroes, and ingenuity.


Synopsis:

Every superhero has their origin story: a radioactive spider bite turns ordinary teen Peter Parker into Spider-Man, wealthy Tony Stark escapes captivity by building his Iron Man suit, scientist Bruce Banner survives gamma rays only to transform into the Hulk.


For Stan Lee, it was books of adventure, monsters, and magic that helped him transform from an ordinary boy to a superstar superhero creator. At first, reading these stories was a pathway to a world bigger than his family’s tiny apartment in New York City, but it wasn’t long until Stan was crafting his own stories, creating comics professionally when he was still just a teenager! Still, writing wasn’t exciting when the heroes were always the same: strong, perfect, and boring. Stan had a revolutionary idea. What if anyone—even an ordinary kid—could be a superhero?


Discover more about the life of the Cameo King, known to many for his appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and how he revolutionized comics with this vibrant introduction bustling with action, humor, and references for fans new and old. ‘Nuff said!


Opening Lines:

Stan Lee didn't have hulking strength.

Or fantastic flexibility.

Or catlike reflexes.

His superpower was creating heroes who did.


What I LOVED about this book:

If you are a fan of comics, or the older superhero TV shows, you'll adore Lee Gatlin's end pages!

Text © Annie Hunter Eriksen, 2021. Image © Lee Gatlin, 2021.


Having spent his childhood devouring classics, Stanley Lieber dreamed of being "the next Great American Writer." So, at 16 he got his first job as an errand boy for Timely Comics. When they needed someone to write a story for Captain America, Stanley stepped up. But, still determined to be novelist, he created a disguise - Stan Lee. Not knowing the effect he would have on American literature and culture through his comics and "perfectly imperfect superheroes."


After writing (and editing) similar (boiler plate) plots and heroes for twenty years, Stanley's wife encouraged him to stop grumbling and submit the story he longed to tell. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created a comic with "a pinch of superpowers and a heaping of humanity" - The Fantastic Four.

Text © Annie Hunter Eriksen, 2021. Image © Lee Gatlin, 2021.


Then Stan pushed it even further. Together with Steve Ditko, he created a superhero from a poor, orphaned, teenage, science geek.

Text © Annie Hunter Eriksen, 2021. Image © Lee Gatlin, 2021.


The initial strong skepticism of the publishers turned an abrupt 180 with the adoration of fans. And Stan was asked to create more. Drawing on the classics he'd loved as a kid, Frankenstein, Shakespeare, Norse myths . . . , he created many beloved, flawed characters. Skyrocketing his career and Marvel straight into Hollywood.


I love that Annie wraps up the book with Stan's acknowledgement that "with great power there must also come-great responsibility!" and his creation of a column in every comic, “Stan’s Soapbox,” where he tried to answer, "What makes a hero?" I adore the way Lee's illustrations channel and play with notion of comics throughout the book. Using panels and sounds, speech bubbles, exaggerated anatomy, and fun fonts, the colorful illustrations are so engaging and entertaining. Lee also created a wonderful tribute to Steve Ditko, by modeling his Peter Parker illustration after him. I think Stan would have really loved the final two spreads for their inclusivity and humanity.


This is a great book to introduce Stan Lee to a new generation of readers and comic lovers and a wonderful tribute to the collaborations that created the comics and movies so many have loved. The author's note highlights the writer and illustrator contributors, explores Stan's movie and comics cameos, and his drive to give back to his fans. A great fast paced, action packed biography, which encourages readers to be heroes by standing "up for what's right."


Resources:

- what new superhero would you create? Draw a picture(s) or write a short adventure. Who or what would be your hero's villain or nemesis?

- do you know any heroes? Make a list of everyday people (or even animals) who are heroes in your family, school, and/or community? What makes them heroes? What could you do to thank some of these heroes?

- If anyone can be a hero, by "standing up for what's right," Draw a picture or create a list of things you can do at school, on a team, in your community to be a hero?


If you missed it, be sure to check out Monday's interview with Annie Hunter Eriksen (here).


This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.


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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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