The Great Stan Lee Reads Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”

What work of Amer­i­can poet­ry has proven more irre­sistible than Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven? Cer­tain­ly we can sel­dom refrain our­selves from fea­tur­ing it here on Open Cul­ture. We’ve post­ed illus­tra­tions by Édouard Manet and Gus­tave Doré, read­ings by Christo­pher Walken, Vin­cent Price, Christo­pher Lee (all avail­able here), James Earl JonesIggy Pop, and Lou Reed, who offered his own mod­ern­ized take on Poe’s words. Even nota­bles pri­mar­i­ly not­ed for some­thing oth­er than their recita­tion abil­i­ty have got in on The Raven: just above, for instance, you can see a read­ing by none oth­er than Mar­vel Comics mas­ter­mind Stan Lee.

We rec­og­nize Stan Lee, of course, as an icon of Amer­i­can cul­ture for his achieve­ments in the field of comics: doing his part to cre­ate endur­ing char­ac­ters like Spi­der-Man, Iron Man, and the X‑Men, fight­ing cen­sor­ship from the Comics Code Author­i­ty, intro­duc­ing the con­cept of coher­ent — or at least coher­ent-enough — fic­tion­al “uni­vers­es,” and much more besides. But a decent por­tion of Lee’s fame also owes to his seem­ing­ly bot­tom­less well of enthu­si­asm, from which he con­tin­ues to draw, at the age of 92, for every pub­lic address to the “true believ­ers,” and he does­n’t leave that enthu­si­asm behind when it comes time to inter­pret Edgar Allan Poe.

Hav­ing pre­vi­ous­ly gone on the record in inter­views nam­ing Poe as one of his favorite authors in child­hood (along­side oth­er such high‑, low‑, and mid­dle-browed lit­er­ary immor­tals as Edgar Rice Bur­roughs, Charles Dick­ens, Mark Twain, O. Hen­ry, and Shake­speare), he makes a cer­tain kind of sense as a Raven-read­er. (And has­n’t, say, Spi­der-Man’s ori­gin sto­ry passed into Amer­i­can myth in much the same way as Poe’s tale of a lament­ing lover tor­ment­ed by a talk­ing bird?) He also sets a high bar with his endear­ing per­for­mance itself, which should get you think­ing: if you, too, one day become an icon of Amer­i­can cul­ture, how will you approach your inevitable Raven-read­ing turn?

You can find Lee’s read­ing in our col­lec­tion, 1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free. Poe’s text lives here: 800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kin­dle & Oth­er Devices.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Édouard Manet Illus­trates Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven, in a French Edi­tion Trans­lat­ed by Stephane Mal­lar­mé (1875)

Gus­tave Doré’s Splen­did Illus­tra­tions of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” (1884)

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” Read by Christo­pher Walken, Vin­cent Price, and Christo­pher Lee

James Earl Jones Reads Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” and Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”

Lou Reed Rewrites Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” See Read­ings by Reed and Willem Dafoe

7 Tips from Edgar Allan Poe on How to Write Vivid Sto­ries and Poems

Down­load the Com­plete Works of Edgar Allan Poe on His Birth­day

Down­load 55 Free Online Lit­er­a­ture Cours­es: From Dante and Mil­ton to Ker­ouac and Tolkien

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­maand the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future? Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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