In conversation with Abraham Riesman, the inflexible biographer of Stan Lee

Reisman, a reporter from Providence, uncovers the life and legacy of Marvel’s complicated mastermind in “True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee.”
Courtesy of Abraham Riesman/Bobby Doherty.

Abraham Riesman discovered the Marvel Universe through the Spider-Man and X-Men cartoons of the early 90s, but what hooked him to the comics was the disconcerting final issue of one of the many convoluted and defining scenarios of the era of X-Men while in the sixth note.

“It’s really a crossroads with superhero comics; either you say to yourself “I shouldn’t have to do this kind of homework to read an individual story” or, like me, you say “I need to know all about this”. Clearly the truth of the universe is in these comics,” he says.

Now Riesman, who moved to Providence in 2020, is the author of True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee (paperback Feb. 15, 2022), an honest and unvarnished look at Stan Lee’s life and career. one of the titans of the comics industry.

By his own admission, Riesman comes from a long line of non-comic “geeks.” He continued this tradition of focused enthusiasm by frequenting comic shops as a teenager, including the two-million-year-old Thayer Street Picnic, whenever he visited his grandparents. In his twenties, as Marvel movies became a mainstream force in entertainment, Riesman directed his comic book knowledge into industry coverage for New York Magazine’s pop culture site, Vulture. His fascinating profile of the reclusive Steve Ditko (co-creator of Doctor Strange and Spider-Man), an exploration of the origins of Magneto’s Jewish identity, and a 2016 profile of Stan Lee that ultimately led to True Believer are all examples. of the kind. conversations about superheroes and their creators that Riesman wanted to have.

“What I aim for every time I write is how can I make this intelligible to someone who has absolutely no idea about all of this, but how can I also make sure that I have new information for an expert?” he says.

That’s how he took on Lee in True Believer, trying to show fans who only know him from his cheeky cameos that he’s behind the scenes, and getting die-hard fans to think of him. differently. Not easy when your subject was a man who cultivated his own mythos and dubious claims to paternity for decades. The result is a revealing biography that presents Lee, who died in 2018, as flawed and complicated as the heroes he is associated with. It certainly gives fans a lot to think about as his most iconic co-creation, Spider-Man, returns to theaters this month. For Riesman, this exam was a blessing and a curse, much like a certain kid in Queens who was bitten by a radioactive spider.

“I don’t know if I could write the kind of articles I used to do,” he says. “I have an even darker view of human nature than before, but I think through this you find the real truth. This is how you end up finding your way, instead of getting lost in your illusions and say, “I’m happy with that.” ”

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