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Spider-Man Collectible Series Vol. 20
posted March 16, 2007

Creators: Steve Ditko, Stan Lee
Publishing Information: Marvel Entertainment Newspaper Insert, newsprint insides and covers, 12 pages, January 2007, free in competing newspapers
Ordering Numbers:

imageThis is one of the free newspaper giveaways that started I think about six months ago where competing newspaper are carrying flimsy half-comics featuring classic Amazing Spider-Man reprints. This one in particular is the back end of I believe Amazing Spider-Man #9, featuring Electro. I really like the early Spider-Man: it's one of the few comics in its genre that fires on all cylinders for me. The scripting is lively, Ditko's art is moody and funny and full of entertaining action scenes, the overall development of a struggling young hero making a series of moral choices can be tracked almost scene to scene, and there's a bit of a subversive edge in that a number of the adults and therefore potential role-models for our protagonist are corrupted douchebags. This half-adventure is so minor I don't even remember reading it before, although I must have: Spider-Man rounds up the powerful Electro at the tail end of a prison riot, gets fleeced by J Jonah Jameson and waits on his sick Aunt May with original "maybe Peter Parker complains way too much" babe Betty Bryant.

I would have been delighted to have had this show up in my local paper on Sunday when I was a kid, but those were much different times when one's pulpy favorites in pop culture rolled off the wheel so far off the beaten path and so infrequently that this kind of thing just never would have happened. I think another difference between now and then is that the reduced expectation for getting exactly what one's quivering inner nerd wanted at exactly the point one wanted it bred a more forgiving reader. Ditko's Spider-Man was really different from the Ross Andru one I was devouring as a kid, but I wouldn't have looked a gift horse in the mouth -- any Spider-Man was good. Having few choices, I would have likely accepted the differences and kind of positioned this in my head as a sample of the older Spider-Man, deepening my appreciation for the character's various aspects. Today, I wonder if this comic is so far removed from the kind of entertainment that kids are used to and would no doubt appear as one of 1000 things younger people could choose to devour or wallow in on a Sunday afternoon that this might just seem old-fashioned and crappy.

In other words, a Spider-Man comic in my Sunday Muncie Star would have been competing with an episode of Timothy the Church Mouse as a way to pass the time between getting up and the Star Trek re-run before church. Now a kid could spend that time playing a video game I would have assassinated President Carter to see. Certainly there are differences between comics now and then, too, such as the fact that the progression of the narrative in the Ditko/Lee effort always trumps "the cool moment" -- there are no spreads, or twists in plot, or moments of truth -- and the general talky quality might seem foreign, too. I really like this comic, but I can see how the initiative might not be blowing people away as Marvel may have originally thought.