Friday, January 30, 2015

The Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus, Vol. 1


This is the kind of book that makes a lifelong comic-book fan ponder giving up comics altogether.

 THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN OMNIBUS, VOL. 1 collects AMAZING FANTASY #15, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #'s 1-38 and ANNUAL 1-2, STRANGE TALES ANNUAL #2, and THE FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #1, written by Stan Lee and illustrated by Steve Ditko (With a small assist from Jack Kirby), and it's nothing short of staggering how much comic-book history this one book contains. In the space of these 43 issues, Lee and Ditko introduced the world to Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Aunt May, Uncle Ben, The Burglar, J. Jonah Jameson, John Jameson, Mary Jane Watson, Flash Thompson, Liz Allen, Harry Osborn, Norman Osborn/The Green Goblin, The Chameleon, The Tinkerer, The Vulture, Doctor Octopus, The Sandman, The Lizard, Electro, The Enforcers, Frederick Foswell/The Big Man, Mysterio, Kraven The Hunter, The Scorpion, The Spider-Slayer(s), The Crime Master, The Molten Man, The Cat, Gwen Stacy, Betty Brant, Spencer Smythe, Mendel Stromm, Ned Leeds, and The Looter, a good number of whom have gone on to appear in movies, TV shows, video games, and as various toys and collectibles.

 The amount of creativity and imagination on display here is nothing short of amazing, pun intended. I've read a lot of these issues numerous times before, and some of the stories collected here were new to me, but whether I had already read them or not, there was not one page that failed to entertain, thrill, and impress me. It made me feel that any further reading of comic-books might just be futile...Could anything ever live up to the tales presented in this book....?

 There's always endless debate about who did what in the early days of Marvel...Some folks loathe Stan Lee and think of him as a credit-stealing blowhard who screwed over Steve and Jack. I've always thought that Stan was fairly generous with sharing credit, which he again does here (In an introduction from an early 2000's MARVEL MASTERWORKS reprint), lavishing praise on Ditko's contributions to the plots, as well as his art. To me, the beauty of these early books was the collaborative process between Stan and Steve or Stan and Jack.....The art was bold and dynamic, and Steve and Jack were clearly visionary artists and idea men...but neither one ever produced a comic anywhere near as entertaining as they did when they were paired up with Stan Lee. Kirby's NEW GODS is a masterpiece of imagination, but it's nowhere near as fun to read as FANTASTIC FOUR or any of the other Lee/Kirby extravaganzas. For a few years, Lee/Kirby/Ditko managed to capture lighting in a bottle, and while they all went on to have long, productive careers, they were never as good apart as they had been together. Lee, in particular, shines with his witty captions and dialogue, which never fail to make me laugh. For his part, Ditko contributed career-defining art and plots, forever laying the groundwork for how Spider-Man should look, move, and act.

 The reproduction here is beautiful, and Marvel has outdone themselves by presenting all of the original letter pages, where I had a blast picking out all of the soon-to-be-famous names that started out as fans. It was also a hoot to see that, even before the internet, fandom was filled with crabs, nit-pickers, and people with bizarre requests, such as the reader who would like to see Flash Thompson "turn into a bubble" or "swallow a football", thereby ruining  or postponing, a big football game. There's four different essays from Stan Lee, a bunch of different afterwords, an assortment of Ditko penciled pages, and a slew of related cover art from MARVEL TALES. Clocking in at a massive 1088 pages for a mere $99.99 (Half off at InStock Trades!), I've been reading this book on and off since December 7th. That almost two solid months of reading for less than fifty bucks. Long live the Marvel Omnibus!