• True Believer

  • The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee
  • By: Abraham Riesman
  • Narrated by: Vikas Adam
  • Length: 14 hrs and 1 min
  • 4.1 out of 5 stars (170 ratings)

1 title per month from Audible’s entire catalog of best sellers, and new releases.
Access a growing selection of included Audible Originals, audiobooks and podcasts.
You will get an email reminder before your trial ends.
Your Premium Plus plan is $14.95 a month after 30 day trial. Cancel anytime.
Buy for $31.50

Buy for $31.50

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

The definitive, revelatory biography of Marvel Comics icon Stan Lee, a writer and entrepreneur who reshaped global pop culture—at a steep personal cost

HUGO AWARD FINALIST • “A biography that reads like a thriller or a whodunit . . . scrupulously honest, deeply damning, and sometimes even heartbreaking.”—Neil Gaiman

Stan Lee was one of the most famous and beloved entertainers to emerge from the twentieth century. He served as head editor of Marvel Comics for three decades and, in that time, became known as the creator of more pieces of internationally recognizable intellectual property than nearly anyone: Spider-Man, the Avengers, the X-Men, Black Panther, the Incredible Hulk . . . the list goes on. His carnival-barker marketing prowess helped save the comic-book industry and superhero fiction. His cameos in Marvel movies have charmed billions. When he died in 2018, grief poured in from around the world, further cementing his legacy.

But what if Stan Lee wasn’t who he said he was? To craft the definitive biography of Lee, Abraham Riesman conducted more than 150 interviews and investigated thousands of pages of private documents, turning up never-before-published revelations about Lee’s life and work. True Believer tackles tough questions: Did Lee actually create the characters he gained fame for creating? Was he complicit in millions of dollars’ worth of fraud in his post-Marvel life? Which members of the cavalcade of grifters who surrounded him were most responsible for the misery of his final days?

And, above all, what drove this man to achieve so much yet always boast of more?

©2020 Abraham Riesman (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Illuminating.... A well-researched, engrossing and compulsively readable book." (Los Angeles Times

“Tantalizing...Riesman puts in the hard yards to separate fact from myth.” (Dorian Lynskey, The Spectator

“An illuminating and reliable account of Lee’s improbable odyssey.” (Jacob Heilbrunn, Washington Monthly

What listeners say about True Believer

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    90
  • 4 Stars
    40
  • 3 Stars
    22
  • 2 Stars
    9
  • 1 Stars
    9
Performance
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    76
  • 4 Stars
    44
  • 3 Stars
    22
  • 2 Stars
    6
  • 1 Stars
    4
Story
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    84
  • 4 Stars
    36
  • 3 Stars
    17
  • 2 Stars
    6
  • 1 Stars
    10

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Bizarre compilation of imagined sleights

I've got no issue with humanizing icons, but after listening to this compilation of information using claimed journalistic techniques, I was left with the impression that this was an effort in dehumanization. A warts-and-all attempt that devolved into an all-the-warts approach.

There is good and interesting research in this book; much of it available elsewhere, though not compiled into a narrative.

The worst stuff is wildly distasteful. The dog whistle that Stan Lee turned his back on the faith of his father; that he wasn't a good enough Jew, he married a gentile, he was cremated, etc. It's a bridge too far and reeks of personal orthadoxy. This is more pervasive in the earlier biographical chapters, but is sprinkled throughout. Bad form, sir.

The reader does a serviceable job of pacing out the material in tones from slightly left of neutral to J. Jonah Jameson levels of quirky vitriol. I think he did a good job interpreting the source material.

Overall, this book feels less an unveiling of an icon and more like elder abuse.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Terribly one sided

Perhaps my fault, but I was looking for an impartial biography ofStan Lee. Stan Lee was definitely a complex and controversial individual. But in my opinion, The author took every fiber and word of this book to discredit Stan Lee and right N one-sided and unfavorable view of Stan Lee. I had to labor through this 14 hour book. I will definitely return his book and look for another biography.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

More flamboyance than story.

I have several books about marvel and stan lee. Even Stan lee's book. I could not get past chapter 2 and I had to skip to that one. It's almost like the author is trying to write an opera about comics. Traded it.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Not the attack some claim

Contrary to an awful lot of reviews, this book really isn’t an attack, slight, take-down, hatchet-job, or whatever other such terms many reviews use.
It’s a sobering look at the life and career of a larger than life figure, whom anyone who dug the least bit beneath the surface would see was not quite as larger than life as he seemed.
I will concede that the book starts off sounding a little too wordy, and almost odd. But it soon settles into a solid, engaging, exhaustively detailed account.
It never presents Lee as a bad guy, and never says he stole credit, but it does show that he often passively took more credit than he was due. And pointing that out does not make the author a villain or something other than a “true believer”.
None of us want to hear that our heroes are anything less than perfect. But considering how many Marvel characters have flaws and make mistakes, why is it so hard to accept that the co-creator of so many of those characters was himself flawed and made mistakes?
I would never recommend this as the ONLY Stan Lee biography a person reads, but I would recommend it as a supplement to anything autobiographical by Lee himself.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

not cool

The man pronounced RZA as R, Z, A instead of Rizza. negative 1 star for that BS.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Misery and lies

You dont know who to believe, the author or the subjects. pass on this one.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic. A real roller coaster.

Loved it overall. You will NOT believe the directions this story takes.

Very good narrator, especially when he's Quoting Stan and becomes especially animated!

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Face Front...

A very heart-wrenching and human look at the man so many people associate with beloved icons of the modern age. Stan Lee was a human, underneath that grinning jovial persona so many know, and full of the same contradictions and ugliness. Like many, his highs in life were dizzying and the lows reached beneath the crust of the Earth. But like the stories of his beloved characters, you won’t be able to stop listening to the tale of the character that is Stan Lee... even if unlike the superheroes, his story comes to a tragic end.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

If you're a Non-Believer you'll love this

This book was written as more of an attack on anything Stan Lee ever did or said. The author does little more than tell the stories that have already been published in other works and then tries to poke holes in them. With sometimes no other evidence than his own speculation. If you want to read an obvious Jack Kirby fan belittle Stan Lee for 14 hours, then this is the book for you. I do not believe that Stan was an infallible human. I just didn't find the authors explanations to be evenly balanced or backed up with facts. What could have been a great biography is nothing more than an angry internet bloggers hit piece.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Too Preachy

it had some interesting information, but at times, became too preachy, as if it had a biased agenda.

1 person found this helpful

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Shel
  • Shel
  • 02-19-21

A fascinating listen and must read

This is a fascinating book and Riesman has done a great job of collecting various viewpoints, bits of opposing evidence and presenting them here in one place. For anyone that only follows the Marvel via the MCU I am sure that a lot of the bombshells dropped here will be a surprise and the polar opposite of what they have come to expect from Stan Lee, however it's very familiar territory for anyone who has followed comics or even read the wonderful 2012 book "Marvel Comics: The Untold Story" by Sean Howe (highly recommended follow-up reading if you have not!). Even as a teen in the 1990's I wondered why on earth each Marvel Comic had "Stan Lee Presents.." on the opening page when Lee was not included anywhere else in the credits; evidence enough that Lee was only happy to have his name against something he creatively had nothing to do with. It's staggering how many comics that Stan Lee see signed that had nothing to do with himself either, even on characters he didn't claim to create.

As a life-long Spider-Man fan I had previously heard a lot of the pieces that involve the creation and evolution of the web crawler. In 2007 Jonathan Ross made a UK documentary called 'In Search of Steve Ditko' (it often gets uploaded to YouTube) which highlights the battle of credit for who should be called creator and in his interview Stan Lee begrudgingly accepts Ditko's claim to be called co-creator however he immediately follows it up with that he considers whoever dreams up the idea to be the creator which was himself. Hmmm..

Blurred lines between writer and artist is nothing new either, Bill Finger only received the co-creator of Batman in 2015 from DC, prior to that Batman charlatan "Bob Kane" had the audacity to publicly claim credit for everything whereas in fact everything you know and love about Batman was created by Finger.

It's appropriate that Riesman notes that Stan Lee liked to be compared to the comics world version of Walt Disney as both men have a very public persona as a friendly, caring, creative genius and a darker business side; both Stan and Walt were pro-business and anti-worker rights, Walt was anti-union and handled himself extremely poorly throughout the animators strike, firing as discriminating against many including star animator Art Babbitt effectively tarnishing his career.

Anyone expecting this to be one prolonged attack on Lee will be happy to be proven wrong, Risemen walks the tightrope of narrative well, including both points of view when there is one and comes across fairly well balanced (to continue the analogy!). The details of Lee’s later life are heart-breaking as much as hearing about Jack Kirby being overlooked and you cannot help but have sympathy for all parties here. Even his prodigal and wily daughter JC.

Both Walt and Stan equally leave a shadow over their career, however their accomplishments cannot be, and in the case with this biography by Risemen is not, denigrated. Without Lee's imagination, his salesmanship, his persona you could easily argue that the media landscape would not be the same as it is today. Lee was not a perfect man, but no one ever is. Did I believe that the "Marvel Method" of comic book creation was purposefully used to obscure just how much those bullpen artists did in the early days of comics? Absolutely. Do I believe that Lee is responsible for less than he actually is? Absolutely. However that will never change the fact that the man is the co-creator of a universe beloved by many, a universe that sparked the imagination of kids and adults for decades, a universe that helped inspire many children to pick up a book and read, a universe that continues to dominate the TV screens (for good or bad) and entertain the world over. There will never be another Stan Lee.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for uramyx
  • uramyx
  • 03-19-21

Too much for me

it's just all a little bit too much of an information dump for me.
No stone unturned.
It's so extensive in its research it's almost boring and massively depressing.
We need more mystery in our lives. To have just MASSIVE amounts of research, so extensively, on such a person is too much. It's just calls into question the validity of a person's entire existence. The way this book goes there is almost no point in having Stan even have been alive as EVERYTHING he ever did and said is contested.
Good on Abraham for putting in the effort and it's tremendous journalistic skills but aside from that it's just bitter, sad and pointless.
Just punching sand at this rate. Can't get absolutely anything else out of it.

Most people will probably love it but that's because people just love digging into every aspect of a person's life (especially one so fraught with controversy) until there is nothing more to go into. Folks love gossip. Especially some that can be backed up.

For me, personally, give me the brush strokes. I'll figure out the rest and make up my own mind. It's such a sad life to lead just needing to know every detail until your dying day.

In comparison to the "Marvel the untold story" for example, it's long as heck and very well researched also but it covers every aspect of Marvel's history so has to just gloss over certain aspects that really aren't important. It's only 3 hours longer than this Stan book. So that shows you how much extra stuff you don't need from this.

This is just my personal take, you may find it great but it's a no from me.

p.s. the performance from the narrator is very well done. Over the top from time to time but mostly great.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Mr. J. Filsell
  • Mr. J. Filsell
  • 03-04-21

Excelsior!

A great read that gets into all the controversy about the creation and ownership of the big Marvel characters, the different and often mitigating aspects of Stan’s life and ultimately - sad passing.

A worthy read about an interesting man.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Ian
  • Ian
  • 02-23-21

An extraordinary life - well told.

Terribly sad, but absolutely fascinating. His life was Shakespearean - he's a tragic character. Recommended.