Comics Scholar Spotlight Words

Stan Lee & The Popular Culture Studies Journal

Is the “Stan Lee” we think we know actually Stan Lee? Or is the “Stan Lee” we know actually a character that a guy named Stan Lieber created. Is there a difference anymore?

The Profs Do Pop team is kicking off a new series of posts entitled highlighting specific scholars and scholarship.  

When most scholars publish their research, it is targeted to other academics and is often behind onerous paywalls. We started Profs Do Pop in order to be transparent in our process and to work toward making our scholarship more accessible. By accessible, we don’t just mean downloadable (but that certainly does help). We want to make it so that people do not need a PhD to benefit from the great scholarship being done in our field. If you are a Supernatural fan, you should have access to some of the interesting insights from scholars interested in those fans and fandom in general. We believe that availability of this research should not be restricted to other eggheads with fancy letters behind their name.

So, it is with this in mind that we have set out on this journey to build a series in which we will be highlighting publicly accessible research in our fields. For those in our lives who wonder “What do you actually do with a PhD/MA/MFA in movies and television?!” – this series is for you.

Now – take it away Andrew!

If you have followed ProfsDoPop, then you know I am a huge Marvel comics book geek. I collect them. I hunt them out. I have then signed and graded. I start this blurb this way, because to me one of the most interesting characters in Marvel isn’t a character at all. It’s Stan Lee.

Stan Lee is an actual person. Stan Lee does cameos in every Marvel movie. In the theatre, during a Marvel movie you hear: “Hey there’s Stan Lee!” Stan Lee goes to comic conventions. Stan Lee gives interviews. Stan Lee signs autographs. Stan Lee is obviously a real person. Or is he?

Is the “Stan Lee” we think we know actually Stan Lee? Or is the “Stan Lee” we know actually a character that a guy named Stan Lieber created. Is there a difference anymore?

How is it that Stan Lee became THE famous person, rather than other comic luminaries such as Kirby or Siegal or Shuster? How did Stan Lee help to create the first true comic fan base, which given the popularity of the multi-billion MCU franchise, continues to grow? How is it that Stan Lee straddles three different worlds: as comic book creator, as comic book fan, and as comic book character?

It is with these questions in mind that I bring you to Peter Bryan Cullen’s article in the academic journal, The Popular Culture Studies Journal** and their special edition on Stan Lee and the Marvel Universe. “

I chose Cullen’s article, “True Believers: Stan Lee and the Legitimization of the Comics Fan Community,” because I have met and am interested in Stan Lee. I also chose this because it’s lighter on technical academic language. It’s part biography, part history, part business, and part marketing: all wrapped up under the moniker Stan Lee.


**The Popular Culture Studies Journal (PCSJ) is an open-access, academic journal published by the Midwest Popular Culture Association/Midwest American Culture Association (MPCA/ACA), which is a branch of the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (PCP/ACA). These organizations are made up of scholars throughout the world who study popular culture. You can check out past issues of the PCSJ here. 

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