Review by J.T. Johnson
WRITER: Stan Lee
ARTISTS: Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby
ISSUES COLLECTED: “Amazing Fantasy” #15, “Amazing Spider-Man” #1-17, “Amazing Spider-Man” Annual #1
Welcome to the first article for ‘Mighty Marvel Mondays’ where I take a look at trades, graphic novels, films and basically anything else from the world of Marvel Comics! Now, at first, I might not be able to make this a weekly article like ‘The Geekly DC Review’. I have limited funds and can only review what I have, but I’ll definitely review anything Marvel I can get my hands on and it will always be released on a Monday.
This week, I take a look at one of the selections from Marvel’s Epic Collection. In this particular trade, titled “The Amazing Spider-Man: Great Power”, I got to read Spider-Man’s first story in “Amazing Fantasy” #15 and from there I read the first 17 issues of “The Amazing Spider-Man”, plus the book’s very first annual that introduced the Sinister Six!
I think what amazed (seriously, no pun intended) me the most about these first few issues of “The Amazing Spider-Man” is how much of what makes Spider-Man who he is was established pretty fast by writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko. When other superheroes were created, it usually took time to set up exactly who they would become such as Batman being a pretty vicious killer at first until DC decided that he would have a “no kill” rule or that Superman actually started off with very limited powers before more powers were added as the book went along.
Here in this book, we are introduced to some of the greatest characters in Marvel’s line-up of classic villains. You get to see the first appearances of Doctor Octopus, the Sandman, Electro, the Lizard, Kraven the Hunter and the Green Goblin. In the first annual, we even got the first team-up of the Sinister Six!
Despite these first appearances, though, how do the stories hold up? After all, other comic book stories are very dated because they are usually products of their time. Thankfully, these original Lee and Ditko stories hold up surprisingly well. I’m usually entertained by early comic book stories because I get to see the origins of some of my favorite characters, but here I also found myself entertained by these original stories even with their built-in camp factor.
Another great thing is that right from the start, this is the Spider-Man that we all know and love. Over the years, Peter Parker would go through some changes such as acquiring the all-black suit in the 1980s, but for the most part the writers have stuck very close to Ditko’s original design for the character and Peter Parker has more or less remained the same character that Lee created in these first stories.
Highlights from the trade include the introduction of several famous Spider-Man villains. Issues two and three introduce us to the thief known as the Vulture and the mad scientist Doctor Octopus. You also get introductions for Sandman, Electro, Mysterio and Kraven the Hunter.
Of course, introductory issues are not the only highlights. I was particularly impressed with issue #12 due to a pretty epic showdown between Doc Ock and Spider-Man and the fact that it’s one of the few times were Parker was allowed a happy ending in these early adventures. In addition to these issues, we also get the first annual that features the first appearance of the Sinister Six.
This was a particularly fun story in which Doc Ock sends out the other five villains to individually fight Spider-man in order to wear the hero down. Spider-Man faces each of them in spectacular fashion and Ditko highlights each fight with beautiful splash pages. It is probably one of the best annual issues that I’ve ever read, both from the past and in modern comics.
Yes, these comic books may be a bit dated and you might cringe at some of the dialogue, but these are thrilling adventures that stand the test of time. If you want to know just how fun Marvel comics were in the 1960s, then you can’t go wrong with this collection that earns its “epic” title from Marvel Comics!