February, 1978

I bought this Pocket Book collection of early Spider-Man stories from a mall bookstore, despite the fact that I couldn’t find the first edition, and so would be starting in the middle of the run. I remember thumbing through it as my family stopped off at a Jack-In-The-Box fast food restaurant on the way home. It was my introduction to the original Steve Ditko version of the wall-crawler, and more than anything else what made me a fan of the character.

This little paperback compiled issues #7-13 of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN in reduced form, and in full color. By this point, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko had more or less worked the bugs out of the strip–the earliest issues of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN are somewhat herky-jerky, as the creators try to figure out on the fly what will and will not work for the character. The soap opera elements were now in place, with Peter Parker asking Betty Brant out in the first included story. And the colorful villains were both making comebacks (the Vulture, Doctor Octopus) or appearing for the first time (Electro, Mysterio). 

While later artists did a fine job on the web-slinger’s adventures (most notably John Romita), Steve Ditko set the tone and the style of the series, and his run has never been equaled. Plotting as well as penciling (and being given credit for it, after a certain amount of time), he crystallized the underlying tone of adolescent alienation that really made the strip play (combined, of course, with the witty repartee and colorful language that Stan brought to the table). SPIDER-MAN was almost a broad parody of the Batman mythos, with more heart. These stories hold up well, even today. 

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