Book Review: ‘Excelsior!: The Amazing Life of Stan Lee’ by Stan Lee and George Mair

With Stan Lee passing away recently, I wanted to finally read his autobiography, as I’ve had it for quite some time.

Overall, this was a good and informative read. The highlight is reading Stan’s stories, told in his own words.

The only real negative about this book is that it had a co-writer. While that’s okay and most autobiographies have co-writers, I didn’t like the style in which it was done.

There would be long sections written by Stan, himself, and then long sections spliced in by the other writer, George Mair, in an effort to add more context. I certainly appreciate the extra clarity but it made this a disjointed read.

When I read Don Cherry’s biography, I loved that it was Don Cherry speaking to me as Don Cherry. It was tightened up or edited to come off as cleaner and more academic, it felt as if the entire book was the man talking to me. I heard Cherry’s voice in my head, which made it a really fun experience. I had that same experience here, as I read Stan’s words, but it was always broken up.

I don’t want to sound like I’m hating on the book, as it is a must read for fans of Stan. It is his life’s story, it covers a lot of ground but I feel like it could have been presented better.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other comic industry biographies but most notably, “Kirby: King of Comics” by Mark Evanier.

Book Review: ‘Kirby: King of Comics’ by Mark Evanier

If you love comics and you’re not a fan of Jack Kirby, you might be an evil alien from Apokolips.

Jack Kirby was the King. While this book actually tells you the tale of how Kirby got this name and how it bothered him, it’s hard to argue that he isn’t the King, as far as the art side of comic book creation goes.

He’s a man that’s been around since the beginning of superhero comics and was instrumental in creating dozens of characters that people pay billions of dollars to see on the big screen, several decades later.

I have always loved Jack Kirby and this book is truly invaluable for fans of the man’s work.

The book is a biography but most of the pages are full of Kirby art, throughout his entire career, and this is almost more of an art book than it is a straight biography. But I love that this is really a hybrid of the two, as it’s nice to read the stories behind his creations while also getting to soak in the art associated with it on large pages.

This is a thick, over-sized book that presents Kirby’s work nicely. It feels good in your hands and I know that it is a book that I will always look through for years and years. I may even scan and blow up a lot of the art to make prints for my wall.

What I loved most about this, is it delves deep into Kirby’s life and his work and doesn’t put all of the focus on his time at Marvel and DC. There’s so much here that I wasn’t aware of and a lot of stupendous Kirby concepts and comics that I never knew existed and have never seen until now.

This is a book that all real comic book fans should own.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other biographies of comic book greats, such as Stan Lee’s “Exclesior” and “Will Eisner: A Spirited Life”.

Book Review: ‘The Social Justice Warrior Handbook: A Practical Survival Guide for Snowflakes, Millennials, and Generation Z’ by Lisa De Pasquale

I got this book on the suggestion of a friend. It was pretty funny.

You see, the world has grown way too fucking sensitive. This book pokes fun at the overly sensitive left, more accurately, the social justice warriors that feel that it’s necessary to chime in on every non-issue, blow shit out of proportion and berate everyone that’s not them over how racist, sexist and homophobic they are.

Nothing in this book was all that surprising, it was just a sarcastic parody of the SJW mindset. It exists to showcase their absurdity and how strange these fragile yet militant snowflakes are.

I wouldn’t call this a must own, I’ve read lots of similar books over the years and regarding a myriad of subjects or groups of people. But poking stupid people is always amusing to me.

I don’t know, there’s not much else to say about this. I’m not a fan of SJWs and this made me laugh at them. If that’s what you want in a book, pick this up.

There are lots of people in this world that take themselves too seriously. They need to lighten up, step back and know that it’s okay to laugh at yourself sometimes. Besides, the more someone is offended and irrational, the less likely it is that I’ll listen to them or their message. But I think that’s most people.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: any libertarian or conservative comedy book, really. There’s tons of them out there.

Book Review: ‘How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way’ by Stan Lee & John Buscema

This book was a prized possession for me around the time I was ten or eleven. I think, at the time, that it was the only book I could find on the subject in a small Florida town in the days before the Internet and Amazon.

I once had aspirations of being a comic book artist though. I succeeded in my middle school years and put out some books after starting a company with some friends. We successfully sold a few dozen comics (per release) to other kids but being twelve in an era without Internet meant that you had to pound the pavement and things like school and chores often times got in the way.

This book taught me a lot at the time though.

If it wasn’t for this book, I wouldn’t have had as good of a grasp on drawing dynamic motion, shadowing, light and understanding perspective.

In some regard, this book is now dated but that is mostly due to the art style and some of the old school techniques that this teaches. It’s a very straight to basics book that came out before the digital era. Therefore, it doesn’t touch on modern techniques like creating comic book art digitally.

Still, this is a great starting point for anyone as the core things that this teaches are still necessary today.

In fact, many comic book pros could benefit from the lessons here as dynamic motion seems to be dying and perspective has been a bit wonky in several of the mainstream titles I’ve looked at lately.

If someone is serious about becoming a comic book artist and learning the craft, this should definitely have a place in their library. There are more up to date books on the subject that have come out over the years though. I plan to review some of them in the future but I wanted to go back and give respect to this one first, the O.G. comic book art manual.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Writing and Illustrating the Graphic Novel, Framed Ink, Figure Drawing for Comics and Graphic Novels, Cartooning: The Head & Figure and Realistic Figure Drawing.

Book Review: ‘The Audacity of Hops: The History of America’s Craft Beer Revolution’ by Tom Acitelli

History is awesome. Beer is awesomer. America is awesomest.

Put all three of those together and you get this: a triple awesome badass epic that goes through the history of craft brewing in the United States of America.

Tom Acitelli has put together a great book for craft beer lovers. It doesn’t matter if you are in America or not, this book tells the interesting tales of some of the most interesting breweries there are. It examines how the craft brewing industry came to be such a juggernaut in the U.S. and how it has fought against the bigger corporate megabreweries (still a much, much bigger juggernaut).

The book helped to solidify and enrich my love of beer, its creation process and just about everything else surrounding it.

Acitelli’s words are well-written, the tales he tells are well presented and there is a lot of new knowledge to walk away with even for the most hardcore beer aficionado.

I cannot recommend this book to beer lovers and/or history buffs enough.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: The books Tasting BeerBeyond the Pale and Asheville Beer.

Book Review: ‘Appalachian Trials’ by Zach Davis

*Written in 2015.

Appalachian Trials: A Psychological and Emotional Guide to Successfully Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail is what I would consider a must-read before setting off on the long journey. Granted, I have never hiked the Appalachian Trail but it is something I consider doing more and more each year.

Zach felt the need to create a book dealing with the psychological and emotional aspects of hiking the Appalachian Trail, which has never been the subject of a book before. I agree with him that penning something like this was pretty vital, as every field guide in the world can’t prepare you for the real challenges. And sure, this may not fully prepare one either for something so tough and arduous but at least it gives good information on what one should expect and it also provides tales and lessons to help the reader better understand the trials ahead on an emotional and psychological level.

The book gets straight to the point and doesn’t waste much time. It is concise yet packed with essential information. It is also well-written and an enjoyable read.

If you are like me and have seriously considered hiking the Appalachian Trail, this most definitely should be read before you start your trek into the wild.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: A Walk In the Woods and Wild.

Book Review: ‘The Game’ by Ken Dryden

*Written in 2015.

This book is considered by most hockey purists to be the greatest hockey book ever written.

Now while I am a Chicago Blackhawks fan, I have always had a respect and love for the Montreal Canadiens. In fact, in my lifetime, I’d love to see a Chicago v. Montreal scenario in the Stanley Cup Finals – especially with the two current teams.

Anyway, this book is an autobiographical tale by legendary Canadiens goalie Ken Dryden. It follows him during the 1978-1979 NHL season, which ended up being one of the years that the then dominant Canadiens won the Stanley Cup. In fact, that season was their fourth straight Cup win and their tenth in fifteen years. The Canadiens would win two more (one in the ’80s and one in the ’90s) but they have never had that sort of success since the days of Dryden and that is what makes this an interesting book because it is told from the perspective of greatness, albeit very humble greatness.

The Game is an entertaining read and it is well-written by a man that evolved to be something much more than just a great hockey goalie. Dryden has gone on to be a well-respected lawyer and a prominent Canadian politician. He didn’t just go home with a bunch of championship rings when his playing career was over. These things about Dryden’s character are what make him unique and make his words more than worthwhile to read. You can’t write his words off as just some shoddy life advice through the experiences of some dirty goon.

This book is definitely in the upper echelon of hockey books out there. There are so many that I have read and still many that I should read. The Game is at the top of that heap however.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: J.R.: My Life as the Most Outspoken, Fearless, and Hard-Hitting Man in Hockey by Jeremy Roenick with Kevin Allen, Tough Guy: My Life On the Edge by Bob Probert and Kirstie McLellan Day, Made In America by Chris Chelios and Kevin Allen, Keith Magnuson: The Inspiring Life and Times of a Beloved Blackhawk by Doug Feldman, Leave No Doubt: A Credo For Chasing Your Dreams by Mike Babcock and Rick Larsen.