Disney+’s documentary Stan Lee is a picture of a titan and a reflection on a man who became an artistic legend. Rather than lionize a man who has been so mythologized, this documentary paints a picture of a complex man just doing his best. The story never tries to paint Lee as a perfect figure. Rather, this documentary is an authentic reflection on Lee’s legacy and the impact he continues to leave in the Marvel universe and beyond.
Stan Lee is much more than a portrait of a career. The documentary uses archival footage and Lee’s own voice to tell the story of a man who revolutionized comic lore. This story also breaks down Lee’s artistic vision, which has grown into, among other things, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The documentary follows Lee on his journey from childhood to how he developed his unique artistic vision.
From the beginning, the use of Lee’s real voice to tell his own life story is incredibly effective. Viewers are granted unique insight into Lee’s perception of himself and his own artistic process. His views being presented as unfiltered allows fans to acknowledge and fully embrace Lee’s humanity. This is important since Lee has become a kind of legend. Lee is also able to explain in his own words how he created some of Marvel’s most beloved characters.
The animation throughout the documentary is also effective and adds to the overall story. For a man who made his name in animation, this feels like another way to pay tribute to Lee’s legacy. This element of the documentary could have gone off the rails so easily. The animation could have been a distraction. Instead, it’s a fun way to incorporate the medium through which Lee made his name.
The other character who is made even more lovable is Spider-Man. It’s evident through Lee’s own words that he appreciates the unique endearing qualities of teenagers. The fact that he wanted to capture a teenager on the cusp of adulthood who also has to become a hero is proof of how much Lee always respected his teen readers. Spider-Man’s hopes, dreams, and promise are emblematic of generations of teenagers who are coming into their own.
Stan Lee is a reflection on a life and career that impact so many to this day. This documentary never shies away from showing the struggles and missteps along the way. It’s clear that Lee had a distinctive vision that led him to create an immense universe that enthrals fans to this day. Marvel will forever bear Lee’s influence, and his heroic legacy will continue to live on.
Stan Lee was featured at the 2023 Tribeca Festival.