A post from my old Marvel blog of a decade-plus ago about filling in holes in my AMAZING SPIDER-MAN collection.
One of the things I’ve found interesting about my own tastes and how they’ve changed and evolved over time is how my reaction to various comic book creative team runs of the past has changed as the years have gone by. I’m not entirely certain whether this is because the material was better than i first gave it credit for, or because the stuff that followed it was worse in my eyes, or what. Probably, it’s a combination of all these factors in some measure.
One of the things I’ve been doing at conventions the past year or so is stocking up on “junk comics”, which amounts to just about anything from the ’70s and ’80s that I hadn’t read that could be found in cheapie dollar boxes. I find the books of these era charming in their simplicity, and the perfect palate-cleanser after a big helping of the heavier, more sophisticated fare that’s largely being published today. And because I’ve been reading comics for so long, these tend to be titles that I passed up on purchasing when they came out, for one reason or another.
For example, I began to winnow down my Marvel buying around 1984, for a variety of reasons. The Direct Market was beginning to open up, and there were all of these interesting young new independent publishers putting out books. Plus, I didn’t like the direction that most of the books had been moving in–what was at the time popularly described as EIC Jim Shooter’s most dogmatic era of “six-panels-to-a-page-full-figures-in-action.” So I stopped buying and reading virtually all of the Marvel line at one point or another.
In the case of Spider-Man, I had been growing dissatisfied for awhile. I felt like there were too many Spidey books (two, three if you counted MARVEL TEAM-UP, which was then trying to tie in more tightly with the main series). And also, it began to feel as though elements and themes were beginning to repeat themselves. So I stopped buying Spidey just before the point at which Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz came onto AMAZING.
At the time, while I appreciated the strong Ditko influence that Frenz was bringing to the book, I also felt like taking a giant step backwards. I also wasn’t crazy about many of the new characters and concepts that had been introduced into the series–everything from Joy Mercado to the Black Cat to the alien symbiote black costume. How I loathed that costume–it represented to me everything that had gone wrong with Spider-Man. So, in a nutshell, I didn’t like it when the past was being strongly evoked, nor did I like it when the creators were trying to break new ground. In retrospect, that’s probably what made this a good point for me to put the series down–not because there was something wrong with it, but because there was a basic and fundamental disconnect between the narrow thing I was looking for and what the creators could ever possibly deliver.
Now, years later, I’ve gone back and filled in all of those issues in my collection. And they’re entertaining as hell, and read like strong, fun Spider-Man comics. Sure, I can still see all of the influences, all of the strings that the creators were tugging on. But I can also enjoy the stories with a certain sense of perspective. And they feel more genuinely “Spider-Manny” than some of what followed. As I say, I’m not sure how much of this change is the benefit of hindsight, or me underestimating the quality of the material in the first place. And it doesn’t hold true for everything–some of the stuff I thought was crap in 1984 still reads like crap to me. But it is interesting how much of a difference a couple of years can make.