In anticipation of the new Spider-Man film, Marvel Comics recently brought out Volume 11 of Essential Spider-Man.
(The Essential series reprints (in black and white) Marvel comics of yesteryear, starting with the very first issues from the 60’s, which would otherwise be prohibitively expensive.)
Volume 11 collects around 20 issues of Amazing Spider-Man, dating from 1982-84. They include some of the very first Spider-Man stories I read.
However, I didn’t read these in the original American comics – they were in a British weekly comic, which is probably as responsible as much as anything for my love of the super-hero genre.
I really enjoyed reacquainting myself with the stories I’d read and discovering the stories I’d missed – including reading the second part of a two-part story after an almost 30 year wait.
Yes, I realise that it’s a little odd to remember comic stories after quarter of a century. But these were formative influences on me; they’re the stories that mean I have several feet of shelves devoted to comics.
But are these stories any good? I certainly wasn’t disappointed by the stories – there wasn’t any of the deflation when you discover that something you loved as a child wasn’t as good as you remember. (What I call the Scrappy Doo effect.)
But am I just wallowing in nostalgia? If I looked at these stories objectively, could I say honestly they were any good?
I think so – these comics stand up pretty well by themselves.
For instance, look at the cover above. It’s Spider-Man facing off against the Vulture – a baddie who first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #2, way back in 1963.
But this cover adds life to this long in the tooth villain – with the Vulture’s wing and the sunburst, it’s a dynamic, almost art-deco cover – something you wouldn’t expect in a mere comic.
In the same story, the interior art retains the dynamism – here’s a picture of Spider-Man rushing to stop the Vulture
Not only does Spider-Man show that he doesn’t need a phone booth to change in (unlike certain heroes), the stop motion imagery also gives a real sense of motion and urgency – something emphasised by the dialogue.
(Incidentally, the penciler, John Romita Jr, is still working on Marvel comics today.)
Roger Stern’s plots are good too – they don’t deconstruct or subvert the genre, but that’s not why people buy Spider-Man comics, either in 1983 or 2012. But that doesn’t make them bland predictable fare either – this collection includes “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man” – generally reckoned to be one of the best Spider-Man stories in the 50 years the character has existed.
So, yes, sometimes things are as good as you remember them.