1/09/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: Perseus Books Group. 192 page illustrated horizontal large hardback. Price: GBP29.95 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-76243-772-6.
check out website: www.perseusbooksgroup.com
The latest in these ‘Vault’ books is one devoted to your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. Much of this book is a recapping of Spider-Man’s life from the comicbook perspective as well as its creators and their own insights. It hits on significant story events such as his marriage and unmarriage to Mary Jane Watson (talk about making deals with the devil), his symbiote costume which later became Venom, clones and the traumas associated with his Aunt May. For an added twist, there is also a look at the female of the kind that became Spider-Woman and, of course, the media interpretations which are many.
Stan Lee recounts that Spider-Man was never thought likely to be a successful by his publisher, Martin Goodman, at the time but the sales of ‘Amazing Fantasy # 15’ disproved that and Spidey became the lynch-pin of Marvel only being floored a bit by a certain team of uncanny mutants in the 70s.
I dropped out of being a fully committed comicbook reader back in the mid-90s, so getting some candid insight into what happened after that point both with Spidey and Marvel Comics here was very enlightening. Not too sure if I totally agree with Michael Straczynski’s assertion that Spidey and his villains are totem animal manifestations, mostly because he also has a number of significant villains who aren’t animal based as well. As Stan Lee points out earlier in the book, his choice of animal named villains was more to do with something that was instantly recognisable in name and power function than anything else deliberate.
It was interesting seeing the changes between Steve Ditko and John Romita who took over, as indeed when other artists did as well. You would think that with such a basic design that there would be limits to what any artist could do with Spidey yet each artist has added something different to him and the people associated with him. Stan Lee’s play of having a super-hero that was an everyman driven by guilt has survived the course of time and recognised by every generation of comicbook fan. Even being closely associated with spiders that a lot of people are rather fearful of worked against the odds that it would be successful but that never seemed to matter. Beneath the spider-like powers, Peter Parker was all so human trying to do the right thing. I suspect this resonances with the reader as being something we would do given his circumstances.
The studies of the various manifestations of Spidey into animation and film is quite candid to its faults but like a lot of the super-hero films, with CGI and decent budgets they’ve come of age. Seeing the comments by some of the people involved in the animation series not understanding the need for Peter Parker to have a costume or even being bitten by a spider, cos he thought spiders was yukky, makes you wonder how they weren’t shown the door or window. On the other hand, it does show not everyone reads the comicbooks. After the recent three films I doubt if that will ever happen again.
The supplementary material in the plastic sleeves seemed a little at odds with the material on the main pages, mostly with art, because they served the same purpose. It seemed a bit weird including a page of Gil Kane art from ‘Warlock’ which was non-Spidey but showed how detailed his pencils were prior to inking. I loved the Daily Bugle Press Pass.
In some respects, this book has to be considered a companion book to Steve Saffel’s ‘Spider-Man The Icon’ book which does cover much of the same ground but I suspect that would be a problem for any book on Spidey. There is a lot of material here that is different so you shouldn’t miss out on adding this in your collection. Don’t forget to hum his signature tune and be sure to check out the correct lyrics herein.
Add SFcrowsnest.com daily news updates to your own web site or blog - just cut and paste the code below...
Stephen Hunt's novels - USA