A recurring theme that Stan Lee cites as being the main reason for the great success and mass appeal of the characters he has created for Marvel Comics throughout his career is to remember that the humanity of the ordinary person behind the mask is actually more important than the glamorous, super-powered alter ego. In the feature-length documentary With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story, one gets a glimpse behind the mask at the true Stan Lee, a creative genius and pop culture impresario responsible for bringing to life characters as varied as Spider-Man, Iron Man, the X-Men, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, and Thor--just to name a few. As a result, he himself is a hero to many who have grown up with and identify with these characters. But what is Stan Lee really like?
Lee speaks with bravado, charisma and energy even in his late eighties, claiming that retirement would be a punishment rather than a blessing. He is a perfect character to build a documentary around as he is a natural and witty storyteller, and almost as magentic to observe as the superheroes he has invented. Yet it is the glimpses into his personal life and what goes on behind the scenes of his nonstop invention that makes With Great Power truly intriguing. His interactions with Joan, his equally spirited wife of more than sixty years, are inspiring and full of love. When they describe the death of an infant daughter and their struggles to adopt after that, one truly feels for them, and when they joke about how much Joan loves to spend his money, one can’t help but crack a smile. Lee narrates the story of his life, beginning with growing up poor in the Bronx, idolizing Errol Flynn and hoping to be an actor. He eventually embarks on a journey that led him from Timely Comics to the Army to Los Angeles and elsewhere. The film is not just a history of Lee but a history of comics as a form of storytelling. The two threads intertwine as Lee chronicles how the world’s perception of comics has changed over his decades of working in the business, and how hard he has tried to get the medium taken seriously as an art form and seen as more than child’s play.
One can’t be surprised at Lee’s decades of success when one sees the sheer passion and devotion that he brings to his life’s work. He probably has more energy and excitement in his little finger than most have in their entire bodies, giving him the ability to work and thrive well into his eighties. Despite his age, one can’t really see Lee stopping anytime soon. With Great Power will inspire not just comic-lovers, but anyone who has a dream that they long to bring to fruition.
DVD Bonus Features
The DVD includes filmmaker commentary, an image gallery of characters that Lee created or co-created (which number in the hundreds), the film’s trailer, and over ninety minutes of miscellaneous clips and interviews involving Lee.
"With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story" is on sale November 6, 2012 and is not rated. Documentary. Directed by Nikki Frakes, Terry Douglas, Will Hess. Starring Joan Lee, Stan Lee.