While searching for something else in a library catalog, I stumbled across a picture book entitled Stan Lee’s Superhero Christmas (Katherine Tegen Book; 2004), and was intrigued enough to check it out. Stan Lee having written a children’s Christmas book seemed like the sort of thing I should have already have heard about, so I was surprised to learn of its existence just now.
I suppose the title itself tells one pretty much all one needs to know about the contents. Stan Lee is, of course, the writer, and though the format is not the one Lee’s best known for writing it, the book reads pretty much exactly what anyone who’s read any Stan Lee comics would expect.
I wasn’t very impressed with the script at all—of course, I’m not the recommended ages 4-8 either—which is as generic and straightforward as can be. There’s still a certain charm to it though, based mostly on the fact that it’s written by Stan Lee, and sounds like it. I often have a hard time explaining this sentiment toward Lee, but, love him, hate him, love certain things about him while hating other things about him, it’s hard for anyone in comics to not have some sort of affection for the man. He’s become so identified with comics and superheroes (in large part after a great deal of effort on his part) that it’s hard to separate him from them.
I tend to think of him as a very distant family member than a writer, so even lame, generic work like this gets a little smile out of me.
Anyway, here’s the story: Its Christmas Eve, and Santa Claus and his sarcastic, trying-too-hard-to-be-funny elf assistant are readying their sleigh, when they are attacked by the Ice King (has no one used that name before) and his “terrifying trolls. The Ice King has Spartan abs, but is otherwise a generic Christmas wizard villain type, with a beard of icicles.
Meanwhile, “In his hi-tech, state-of-the-art command center, the powerful Protector had monitored the Ice King’s cowardly attack.”
The Protector (did no one use that name before either?) is a square-jawed, S-curled, cape-less Superman type in a revolting purple and gold costume. He flies to the rescue, but gets caught alongside Santa.
Luckily his wife, superheroine Protectress (looking like a caped, purple and god Phoenix), and his superpower-less children, are able to fly to the North Pole to help save the day. This particular day being Christmas.
Lee’s artist collaborator is Tim Jessell, and I suppose it’s his fault I didn’t enjoy the book much more, as it tends to be the artwork that makes or breaks picture books for me as a grown man. Jessell’s style is described in his back flap bio as “realistic ‘with a twist,” but I probably would have stopped at realistic.
It’s all painted work, and from the poses and expressions, it definitely seems like live models and/or photos were used as reference, which gave the illustrations a stiffer, somewhat creepier look than I would have liked…especially considering its stars were born from the comic book medium, and it was written by one of super-comics’ most influential voices (Although even by 2004 I guess one could argue that superheroes no longer belonged to comic books the way they used to, but were just as much the product of movies).
Jessell’s not bad at what he’s doing—although the character designs are as dull and uninspired as Lee’s written conception of them—but seems an odd choice for a superhero story.
RELATED: I posted about this at Blog@ this afternoon, but it seems appropriate to mention it at the bottom of a post about a Stan Lee-written story about Christmas Eve. Quickstopentertainment.com has a video of Stan Lee reading A Visit From Saint Nicholas, and it’s pretty much like having Lee read you a bed-time story.