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I was working in a high school library just as teachers were beginning to appreciate the educational value of graphic novels. They finally understood what I had long known; they aren't just picture books, they are an expressive, immerse form of storytelling that is very appealing to readers who struggle with a page full of words. To someone who doesn't have personal experience with them though, they can be intimidating to choose from (because there are so many titles) and to keep up with (because there are so many volumes). But when students, teachers, and librarians ask me where they should start, I don't hesitate: Hellboy.

 

The title is goofy, and I understand why it might keep people away. In the books, the characters even recognize this, that Hellboy is a goofy name considering the arch heroism of his actions. But just as we were once warned not to judge books by their covers, I caution people from judging books by their titles as well. Hellboy, at first glance, is a goofy name. And it betrays a goofy original concept. Creator Mike Mignola just wanted to draw a demon punching nazis and gorillas and monsters and junk. It was a loving tribute to 1950s B-movies and pulp fantasy.

 

Hellboy began as just sketches and drawing that Mignola did not intend to do anything with. In 1993, these evolved into a series of short stories, six to ten page mini adventures in which much punching of nazis or monsters occurred. In 1994, Dark Horse published the first issue of an ongoing Hellboy series, which ran intermittently until 2011, and has since been collected into 12 volumes. It was here that Mignola began to craft a back story, an emotional centre, and a depth for the character. It was here that Hellboy became a classic tragic mythological hero. 

 

The backbone of the Hellboy stories is folklore. Mignola is an admitted myth junkie, collecting stories throughout his life, and weaving them into eventual Hellboy adventures. A trip to Europe and hearing a legend of the ghost of a gambler became The Vampire of Prague. A session of Greek myth make-believe with his daughter became The Hydra and the Lion. A half remembered Japanese folk story became Heads. Mignola used Hellboy to explore these cultural touchstones from a new perspective. Plus, they provided a lot of monsters to punch (or explode).

 

Somewhere along the way, the Worlds Greatest Paranormal Investigator (as HB was known) allowed Mignola to build his own mythology. The Hellboy stories can be fairly evenly divided between short fist fights with beasts and trolls, and a longer arc dealing with the character's destiny. Following in the footsteps of Tolkien, Mignola builds an entire universe from origin to apocalypse, with Hellboy the fulcrum of machinations by evil wizards, desperate gods, and the occasional alien. Drawing inspiration from Arthurian legends and the terrors of Lovecraft, Mignola’s stories are an ode to myths from around the world, and a poignant eulogy for old world paganism.

 

Summoned to Earth by Rasputin in the closing days of WWII, to bring about the end of the world, Hellboy is adopted by the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) and from 1952 until the late nineties worked as a government agent investigating and punching ghosts, vampires, and all manner of foul creature. His right hand though, the Right Hand of Doom, is a carved stone wanted by heaven, hell, and man for it is the key to summoning a great ancient Elderich horror from the abyss. As the story develops, Hellboy is confronted by, and rejects, the destiny others define for him. He doesn't want to destroy the world; he likes it too much. He just wants to live a simple life eating pancakes. His tragedy is that no matter his actions to avert his destiny, it seems unavoidable. Over the course of his story, his apathy turns to torment turns to anger. 

 

So, the short stories allow for easy digestion of action oriented fun, and the longer arcs draw the reader into a deeply realized world and the pathos of a character struggling against what is expected vs what they actually want. But those aren't the main reasons I recommend these books. I do so because, 1) they are very funny, and 2) they are gorgeous. Mignola seeds humour throughout his stories, usually in the form of other characters being very serious and Hellboy being very flip. His usual retort is to call whatever he's fighting "you horrible thing!" He complains about his back hurting after getting knocked around by Anubis, God of the Dead. He can't shoot straight. Mignola also draws on the absurdity of the situation, painting as often as possible the red demon with an apocalypse hand as the only sane man. 

 

Mignola, who was an artist before he was a writer, lavishes his works with nonverbal story telling. Entire pages will often feature only one brief piece of dialogue (or none at all), letting panel after panel of minimalist art pull you along. The lack of detail in the drawings accentuates the importance of elements, and sparse flashes of colour draw the eye to where it needs to linger. Mignola's style is wholly unique (so unique that Disney brought him in to help design Atlantis: The Lost Empire in the last nineties).  He fills the page, but he fills it with as little as possible. 

 

Hellboy was the favourite comic of director Guillermo del Toro, so much so that he made two Hellboy films in the 2000s. They are wonderful. A reboot film came out last year, starring Stranger Things' David Harbour. It is not wonderful. Two animated movies have been made adapting some of the short stories, and the comic series remains one of Dark Horse's most successful properties.

 

It has had multiple spinoffs, including BPRD, featuring the merman Abe Sapien, firestarter Liz Sherman, homunculus Roger, and ghost Johann Krauss. This series expands on the human perspective of the foretold apocalypse. Hellboy's early adventures are currently being chronicled in Hellboy and the BPRD, set during the fifties. And a host of other minor characters from the Hellboy world have gotten their own books, like nazi hunter Lobster Johnson, or Victorian Witchfinder Edward Grey.

 

Each book strikes its own tone, checks the box of a different genre, but are all united by the vision that Mignola originally set in Hellboy. If all you want to do is see a demon punch nazis, the series gives you that. If you want to do a deep dive and immerse yourself in the world of Anung Un Rama, there is material enough to last you ages. 

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Yours, Fictionally

 

*all images are the copyright and property of Dark Horse Comics and Mike Mignola.

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At LSC, we endeavor to ensure that Canadian libraries have unparalleled access to Canadian content, whether that be materials by Canadians, about Canadians, or what is important to Canadians. Part of that commitment is improving access to materials by Indigenous Peoples. Thanks to some recent initiatives, we now have additional tools to help with that.

 

Back in June BookNet Canada announced a research project they had undertaken, to generate a list of materials specifically dealing with Canadian Indigenous topics. As a starting point, they used BISAC codes to isolate the sales data on materials associated with Indigenous or Native American/Canadian headings. They were then able to see how these materials have sold compared to other English language materials. Happily, from 2016, there have been consistent gains in sales for Indigenous themed material. Next, they pulled just the data from Junes 2018 to 2019, identified the top sellers and broke down the results into Fiction and Non-Fiction categories for Adult and Juvenile. The resulting four lists they are calling the Bestselling Indigenous Books in Canada.

 

They are quick to point out that only two of the forty items were not written by Canadian or Indigenous authors. They also point out that Canadian publishers are responsible for most of the items on the list. This is all to say, this list represents a collection of books in which Indigenous Peoples are telling their own stories, a critical and foundational aspect of decolonization.

 

For a more complete breakdown of their methodology, see their announcement post here. For your ease, we’ve put all four lists together into one single Slist, from which you can purchase the items directly. The Adult Fiction list includes recent favourites by Joseph Boyden and Thomas King, as well as brand new books like There, There by Tommy Orange, and Starlight by Richard Wagamese. The Non Fiction list is a fantastic list of items that would bolster any collection, including All Our Relations by Tanya Talaga, and Indigenous Relations by Bob Joseph.

 

The children’s lists consist of many items that I know are already being used in many elementary schools, including Fatty Legs by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton and The Sharing Circle by Theresa Meuse. As well as newer titles that will hopefully find their ways into the hands of more young Canadians, like The Girl and the Wolf by Katherena Vermette and Go Show the World by Wab Kinew and Joe Morse.

 

In addition to this, the UN General Assembly has designated 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. This resolution came about as “40 per cent of the world’s estimated 6,700 languages were in danger of disappearing— the majority belonging to indigenous peoples.” They hope to raise awareness of these languages and the cultures they represent internationally. You can see the full scope of their initiative here

 

Map: Chris Brackley/Can GeoIn Canada, 2011 census data shows that there are 60 active Indigenous languages, belonging to 12 root language families, spoken by 213,000 people across the nation. Canadian Geographic has put together a wonderful graphic mapping these languages, which can be viewed fully here (Image credit: Chris Brackley/Can Geo.)

 

To support this Year of Indigenous Languages, LSC has put together a list of recent and prominent Indigenous materials. This list of 101 items is a mix of Fiction and Non-Fiction, Adult and Juvenile, English and French. The items are all by Canadian Indigenous authors, again ensuring that people are telling their own stories. These items would form a powerful foundation to an Indigenous collection, and satisfies two of the UN’s five key action areas: “Increasing understanding, reconciliation and international cooperation”; and “Elaborating new knowledge to foster growth and development.”

 

LSC is committed to helping libraries decolonize and increase the representation in their collections. Indigenous languages are part of that commitment. We list Southern Cree, Inuktitut and Ojibway among the languages available through our World Languages program. We are constantly looking out for new materials from new and existing publishers, in Indigenous languages. As demand for this material grows, so will supply, and LSC will be there to help libraries build the best collections for their customers.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Yours, Fictionally

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One of the reasons my bookclub fellows and bookworm friends keep me around is for the book recommendations. They know I have the inside track on what is currently popular, but also what is coming. And that is a great perk of working in libraries: knowing months in advance what books are to be published. But who do librarians turn to for reader advisory? That’s where Loan Stars comes in.

 

Loan Stars, for those who don’t know, is an amazing reader’s advisory program. Run in conjunction by BookNet Canada and the Canadian Urban Libraries Council, this service aggregates the recommendations of working library professionals into monthly lists. And unlike some commercial lists, which focus on bringing existing books to the public’s attention, Loan Stars is focused on the future. Their monthly lists consist of the most recommended items that will be published within the following month.

 

How does it work? Anyone working in a library in Canada can sign up for a free CataList account. Then, so long as you are logged in, you will see a “recommend” button next to eligible titles. Click the button, and that’s it. At the end of every month, the super computers and clever folk at Loan Stars tally the results, and the ten books with the most recommendations are added to one of two lists: adult and juvenile.

 

This is a fantastic way to get the word out about books that people haven’t heard about yet. At LSC, we swim in the galley proofs that are sent to us by publishers, and from my days in libraries, I know the case is true there too. And it is a (nerdy) thrill to have the inside track on a book that no one else will be able to read for months. I’m sure we’re all the same, when you read a good book, all you want to do is tell people they should read it. Loan Stars is one of the best ways to tell colleagues across Canada what they should keep an eye out for, or get the jump on and order in advance.

 

We all use things like the New York Times Best Seller list, or Canada Reads to build our collections, but those are reactive lists, and much of the demand for those items is driven by patrons. Loan Stars gives you the chance to get ahead of the rush on items no one has heard of yet, but will want. What I like about it is, it’s not just the best sellers. Those books are going to be popular regardless, they barely need our help. These are recommendations coming directly from staff; their actual opinions, not just what they think will be popular but what they think should be popular.

 

Take a book like Vessel, by Lisa A. Nichols, or Grass, by Kuem Suk Gendry-Kim. These are not books that would usually end up on conventional lists. But enough of your peers across the country liked them so much, they ended up on recent Loan Stars lists. It has effected my personal reading; every month there is at least one book that catches me by surprise and that I immediately put on hold at my local branch. I don’t know if I would have found No Country for Old Gnomes, by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne, without it.

 

 

 

What’s on their lists for August? Some choice morsels include:

  • Translated from Gibberish, by Anosh Irani, is a collection of short stories exploring his life and experience as an immigrant. Knitting together his life through seven tales set in India or Canada, with wit and heart, Irani presents a raw – if not entirely truthful – autobiographical journey.
  • Snow, Glass, Apples, by Colleen Doran and Neil Gaiman, is a graphic novel adaptation of Gaiman’s original short story from Smoke and Mirrors, itself a twisted version of the story of Snow White. As only Gaiman can, the story weaves melancholy and pathos with vampirism and necrophilia. This volume pairs that with Doran’s crisp style which blends clean characters with conceptual layout design. This is their second collaboration, having recently also graphically adapted Gaiman’s Troll Bridge (one of my personal favourites).
  • Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me, by Anna Mehler Paperny, is a frank, honest, and at times absurd memoir detailing her time in a psych ward after her first suicide attempt, and her journey through the long-term treatment of living with depression. While not unique to the experiences of those whose life is touched by depression, Paperny’s perspective is a uniquely Canadian one in publishing. There are few books that touch on the Canadian Health Care system, the Canadian pharmaceutical system, the Canadian Mental Health system as it relates to depression, which are far more relevant to Canadian readers than anything coming up from south of the border.
  • Code Like a Girl: Rad Tech Projects and Practical Tips, by Miriam Peskowitz, is a great resource for kids who want to learn how to code, and offers step-by-step instructions for actual projects, like building a motion sensor for their room, or creating smartphone gloves.
  • And, I would be remise in my duty as a professional and a connoisseur of fine literature if I did not point out that Does It Fart: A Kid's Guide to the Gas Animals Pass, by Nick Caruso, absolutely made this month’s list. As well it is should.

Now, you’re asking yourself, “how do I read these monthly lists?” There are two ways. One is to sign up for the Loan Stars monthly email, which has the lists delivered direct to your inbox. However, if you want to be able to see the list and immediately purchase the items on it, LSC creates an Slist version of every Loan Stars list, so you can view and add the items to your cart in our catalogue. Here are the links to the most recent Adult and Juvenile Loan Stars lists for August, and you can find older lists under the “Special” heading in the Slist page

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Yours, Fictionally

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June is Pride month. And every library deserves to have the best and latest materials created by, celebrating, and helping to create more allies of the LGBTQ+ community. This week's blog is a combination of efforts from our Selectors, who keep an eye out all year long for new material, and thankfully the amount being made is increasing every year. There are, happily, too many to talk about. We can however, bring attention to a few.

 

A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities, by Mady G., J.R. Zuckerberg, 

is a great starting point for anyone curious about queer and trans life, and helpful for those already on their own journeys! In this quick and easy guide covers topics like sexuality, gender identity, coming out, and navigating relationships through informative comics, interviews, and worksheets.

 

In graphic novels, we can recommend Bloom by Kevin Panetta. Ari meets Hector while interviewing him as his replacement at his family bakery. As they get to know each other, and as Ari's desire to get away from the life he knew overlaps with Hector entering his world, love rises like a fresh loaf of bread. Meat & Bone, by Kat Verhoeven, is set in Toronto, and follows three young women dealing with the modern world. One roommate wrestles with severe body image issues, another is trying to figure out how to navigate her new polyamorous relationships, while the third practically moves into the gym to work out her own problems.

 

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki follows Frederica Riley as she dates, then breaks up with, then dates again her high school dream girl Laura Dean. Except Laura might not be the best influence on Frederica. Kiss Number 8 by Colleen Venable is about Mads, who is so caught up in her personal discovery that she is less interested in Adam than she is in Cat, that she fails to notice that her dad is hiding something big--so big it could tear her family apart.  Finally, On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden takes place in two different time periods. In one, a ragtag crew travels to the deepest reaches of space, rebuilding beautiful, broken structures to discover the past. In the other, two girls meet in boarding school and fall deeply in love, only to learn the pain of loss.

 

In Children's, we start with It Feels Good To Be Yourself, a picture book by One Bad Mother podcast co-host Theresa Thorn. Inspired by her own young child's transition, this book simply helps young kids understand that some people are boys. Some people are girls. Some people are both, neither, or somewhere in between. In any case, they are people who are being themselves, and everyone is happiest when they are who they really are, and not who others say they have to be.

 

Michael Joosten has a pair of board books out, My Two Moms and Me and My Two Dads and Me, which follow happy, diverse LGBTQ+ families as they go about their daily - sometimes busy - routines. 

 

Jacob's Room to Choose by Sarah Hoffman is the sequel to Jacob's New Dress. In this encouraging story about gender expression, Jacob and his classmate Sarah both get chased out of the bathrooms they try to use because they don't dress the "usual" way. This starts a conversation at the school the many forms of gender expression and how to treat each other with respect.

 

For Young Adults, Technically, You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson is about technology, mental health, identity, and expression. Haley and Martin feel like they are the only ones who really get each other. Martin is willing to listen to her weird facts and unusual obsessions, and Martin feels like Haley is the first person to really see who he is. The problem is, they don't really know each other, only speaking over text, and its possible they are becoming addicted to each other.

 

In Non Fiction, Pride: The LGBTQ+ Rights Movement by Christopher Measom is the most in-depth visual tribute to the American LGBTQ+ pride movement ever created. Staring in post WWI bohemian subculture and marching up to the present day push for gender rights, the book features rare photographs, artwork, profiles of movement icons and heroes, activist speeches, and excepts from news reports and literary works. 

 

Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution by Rob Sanders is written to introduce children to the true story of the birth of the modern gay right movement during the Stonewall Riot on June 28, 1969, in time for the 50th anniversary. The police raid that night, the riot that followed, and the empowerment it inspired in members of the LGBTQ+ community sparked their demanding of equal rights.

 

And there is Antoni in the Kitchen. This cookbook comes from Montreal chef and one of the stars of of the Netflix smash hit Queer Eye, Antoni Porowski, and is all about the way to find success in the kitchen with stylishly accessible, few-ingredient recipes.

 

In fiction, there are several Canadian offerings. Song of the Sea by Jenn Alexander follows Lisa Whelan moving to her family's sea-side home to get over the grief of losing her newborn son. She's not expecting to meet anyone, and is caught off guard by the attraction she feels for Rachel, the part-owner of a local restaurant.

 

Even Weirder Than Before is the debut novel from Newfoundland author Susie Taylor. Daisy’s simple life is thrown into cataclysm when her father suddenly leaves and her mother breaks down. Add to that her increasingly confused feelings towards girls, and the drama of past boys that keep coming in with the tide. Our rep Michael Clark saw Susie read an except from the book recently, and it is a deeply personal, deeply funny book, which is garnering a lot of attention.

 

If, Then by Kate Hope Day is an unexpected character study. A quiet Oregon suburb is disrupted by the rumbling of a distant, dormant volcano. At the same time, people begin seeing visions of their lives - not as they are, but as they might be. Samara sees the mother she just lost alive and well. Cass, a new mother struggling with her life choices, sees a different life for herself. Mark sees a wild, homeless creature with his eyes. And Ginny sees a life of domestic bliss with her female coworker. What do these visions mean, and how will they change the lives of everyone in the shadow of the mountain?

 

This is but a scant few of the LGBTQ+ items available through LSC. Slists are available at numbers 41996, 41997, and 41998, and our selectors would be happy to discuss themes and put lists together for you, upon request. Please feel free to reach out to Rachel, Sara, Stef, and Angela for more.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy Pride.

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Automatic Release Plans (ARPs) are growing at LSC and one collection in particular which has been gaining a lot of attention is Graphic Novels.  This can be an overwhelming collection to get started, and is even more overwhelming to keep up with, when there are so many titles and series to choose from.  Most – but not all - libraries have worked a graphic novel collection into their annual budget, and there has most likely been a need to increase your budgets over the past 3-5 years since they have grown in popularity among the general public.

 

For many patrons, a desire to read graphic novels comes from seeing the most recently blockbuster on the big screen. The release of superhero movies are eagerly anticipated by kids and adults alike, and publishers such as Marvel or DC use the cinematic adventures of their characters as an opportunity to draw attention to the series which inspired the film. Most of the time, publishers will use the release of a film as a chance to rerelease older titles, in order to bring in new readers (this tactic is currently being used by Dark Horse with their deep library of Hellboy titles and spinoffs, in advance of the new film being released in April). 2019 will see the most superhero movie releases to date, with 11 of them due in theatres throughout the year.  This is a jump from 2018 during which there were 9 releases from all of the big production companies, including Disney, and Warner Bros. 

 

 Aquaman left theatres earlier this year, but how do you know which Aquaman graphic novels to get when there are so many volumes, from so many authors, published over so many years to choose from? That is where we come in to assist you. As LSC’s graphic novel selector I have access to publisher reviews, suggestions, and circ and sales data from public libraries, which I use to compare series. If you are looking for that perfect Aquaman series for your older readers, I would suggest checking out the DC Comics Rebirth series, published in 2017 & 2018 and includes a compilation of all the original Aquaman comics.

 

March saw the opening of Captain Marvel, which will have readers young and old wanting to find out more about Brie Larson’s – star of Room and Kong: Skull Island (which was also adapted from a 3-part graphic novel series) – leading character Carol Danvers.  You can find out more about her in a brand new series called The Life of Captain Marvel, with volume 1 having just been released this past February.

 

What are some of the benefits of letting us handle, or at least make recommendations for, your graphic novels selection?  First and foremost, this will be a huge timesaver for your selector in this area – or possibly to several of them if you have your collections broken out by juvenile, young adult & mature/adult content.  There is a lot of time spent searching for previous titles within series, and figuring out which similar character series should be ordered over another. Secondly, your staff may simply not have the experience of working with graphic novels. They might not be able to tell Spider-man from Antman. Or, a western-style comic from a Japanese manga series, whose sheer numbers, intimidating lengths, and varying levels of appropriate content make them an entirely different battle to wage. A battle we are happy to wage on your behalf. 

 

As previously mentioned, publisher’s information, looking at sales data, and seeing what is circulating in others libraries are the best tools that can be offered when selecting this material.  Most titles will have pre-publication ordering done which will be a big benefit to your patrons. Many of whom are impatiently awaiting the release of the next volume of their favourite title, and will be able to put holds on the upcoming big hit – have you ordered the next title in the Dog Man series that is due to be published in August 2019?  I am sure most of you are still struggling to get through the holds lists from volume 6 which was released just before Christmas! On the Booknet Canada top 10 Juvenile and YA Books of 2018, 4 of the top 10 titles were from this series.  Volume 6 and 7 are sure to make the 2019 list as well so you don’t want to miss this one.

 

One question that I get asked quite frequently by customers who are new to the ARP world and have multiple branches in their system:  How do you know which branches to continue the series in if we have ordered them in the past?  For existing customers who have ordered from LSC in the past this is easy as looking at the historic ordering data in LSCs database.  For new customers, I work directly with your online library catalogue to find out information such as:  Do you carry the series?  Which branches should I be ordering for?  And into which collection to do classify that upcoming Lumberjanes title, Juvenile or Young Adult? 

 

If you are looking to find out what the next steps are in getting your library set up on a Graphic Novels ARP, please get in touch with Angela Stuebing for some sample profiles and outlines of the information that is needed.  This is a quick process and ordering can be started for your collection within days of gathering your library likes/dislikes, budgets and processing details. 

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

See you in the funny pages!

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With great power comes great responsibility. Many would recognize this as the philosophy that has driven Spider-man for the past 56 years. Equally it could apply to Spider-man’s creator, Stan Lee, who passed away last Monday at the age of 95.

 

It is no exaggeration to say that Stan Lee invented the modern superhero. While Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created the architype with Superman in 1938, and Bob Kane and Bill Finger hit on a cultural icon with Batman in the following year, the early years of superhero comics were filled with pulp stories of war-time intrigue, gangsters, and simple characterization. Comics in the forties and fifties were more interested in tales of chilling horror to delight and amaze than telling complex, human stories.

 

Stan Lee changed that. Having already been a veteran of the industry by the 1960s, Lee was given a chance by the new Marvel comics to tell more complex stories. Instead of white-and-black hatted cowboy stories, Lee wanted heroes that had personalities, who suffered loss and self-doubt, and didn’t always win at the end of the day. Marvel’s heroes were modern heroes, and their masks became metaphors.

 

It is no surprise that Lee’s heroes – the rage-induced Incredible Hulk, the prosecuted mutants of the X-Men, the morally questionable Daredevil – all appeared and rose to popularity during the tumultuous time that was the 1960s. The counter culture revolution had young people questioning their parent’s straight-laced and more repressed mindsets. Unlike Superman, who was a stalwart beacon of truth, justice and the American way, Captain America was a man out of time, proud to wear his uniform but also willing to question his orders if he thought them unjust. The Civil Rights Movement and second wave feminism allowed the voiceless to rise up, and readers wanted to see themselves reflected in the comics. Lee obliged, with characters like Black Panther, and the Wasp.

 

His motivations weren’t all altruism and social responsibility. Lee was a showman, and had an eye for what would sell. He created She-Hulk – Bruce Banner’s similarly green afflicted cousin – as a response to the popularity of the Bionic Woman. His first creation for Marvel, the Fantastic Four, was a direct response to DC Comics own Justice League, and would eventually lead to the creation of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, the Avengers

 

His instinct for the limelight wasn’t always positive though. Through his monthly column Stan’ Soapbox, Lee became the face and the voice of Marvel throughout the sixties and seventies. However, the contributions and accomplishments of his frequent artist collaborators Jack Kirby and Steve Dikto were minimized. It was these artists’ designs and visual storytelling that gave the comics revolution their style. Lee’s self promotion did not always win him friends, and he tied the Marvel Brand to his own.

 

Ditko – who died earlier this year – was Lee’s co-creator on Marvel’s most popular character, and the most relatable hero of the 20th century: Spider-man. Not a brilliant inventor, a billionaire playboy, a famed scientist, or an all-powerful alien; Peter Parker was just a boy. He found himself out of his element, in a world increasingly dangerous and unpredictable. He had responsibilities but struggled to keep up with them. He doubted himself. He had girl problems. Take off the mask, and he was no different than multitudes of readers picking up the comic week after week.

 

Lee left Marvel in the nineties, during a period of near bankruptcy for Marvel. Because of the nature of the industry, when Lee started working for them, he never saw any of the profits from the dozens of characters he created. But Lee had spent decades tying his name to his characters in the public mindset, and neither could ever escape the other. Lee’s cult of personality lead him to movies and television, where he pushed to have Marvel’s characters take to the screen.

 

While a painted green Lou Ferrigno won fans in the eighties, it wasn’t until the turn of the millennium when the action truly left the page and jumped to the screen, and Lee went along for the ride. From the release of 2000’s X-Men to this year’s Spider-man ; Into the Spider-verse, Lee made a humourous cameo in every film based on his creations, the superhero equivalent of Alfred Hitchcock. Lee lived to see his characters go from the funny pages to Saturday morning cartoons to the company he helped put on the map being bought by Disney for $4 billion. The MCU movies featuring Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson are among the most successful movies ever made. Not bad for a bunch of characters jumping around in their pajamas.

 

"I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic-book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers,” Lee once told the Washington Post. “And then I began to realize: entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain people, you’re doing a good thing."

 

We’ve put together an Slist of books and movies created or inspired by Stan Lee, which you can view here.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Excelsior!

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