Lee & Kirby & Simon & Ditko & Oleck: The Spider and the Fly Extra

The response to last week’s piece on the complicated and complex origins of Spider-Man and all of the behind-the-scenes activity that stretched back for almost a decade before the character would eventually reach comic book newsstands was incredibly well received. In the space of a week, it’s become one of the most-viewed posts on this site, and the different discussions that it generated were illuminating and interesting, at least to me.

One person who read the piece and reached out to me to remind me of something I had overlooked in my retelling was Alex Ross, the fabulous painter. He called my attention to the book The Full Color Guide to Marvel Silver Age Collectibles written and compiled by J. Ballmann. I own a copy of this book but had forgotten about the specific item of interest that Alex pointed out to me. In addition to the 1954 Ben Cooper Spider Man costume that I showed in the previous piece, Ballman also reproduces a later costume, issued in 1959 by the firm. In this instance, the costume is labeled simply The Spider–but its mask in terms of the web pattern and color are spot-on for what will eventually be used in the Steve Ditko Spider-Man costume. Also like Ditko’s, the Spider costume carried a spider insignia on its center chest.

As I mentioned last time, while it’s impossible to say for certain, I would still chalk this all up to a coincidence and parallel thinking on the part of the Ben Cooper designer and Ditko. In the case of Marvel, it was editor Stan Lee and colorist Stan Goldberg who decided on Spider-Man’s final costume colors (Ditko supposedly wanted the uniform to be orange and purple–which wouldn’t have been that different but still a marked change.) That said, it’s certainly not impossible that Ditko might have seen a child attired in a Spider costume at some point between 1959 and 1962 when he designed the Spider-Man outfit, and the image may have stuck in his subconscious. What does seem likely is that the similarity of design was what led to Ben Cooper licensing a Spider-Man Halloween costume from Marvel very early on, in 1963, making it the very first piece of Marvel merchandise to be created and sold. No doubt they were granted this license gratis or for a pittance to avoid legal wrangling–but that’s just speculation on my part.

AMAZING FANTASY #15, the first appearance of Spider-Man, made a televised guest appearance hanging in a newsstand in the opening sequence of the episode of the TV program NAKED CITY broadcast on September 19, 1962, “Hold for Gloria Christmas.” (As does JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #83, the first appearance of Thor, which was on sale at the same time.)

4 thoughts on “Lee & Kirby & Simon & Ditko & Oleck: The Spider and the Fly Extra

  1. I was wondering if anyone has ever followed up with Sid Jacobson and asked him if he has any more knowledge about Spider-Man’s evolution as a character? Or even if he has any speculation on the use of his notes?

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    1. Yes…I agree. This makes for a fascinating story but is anyone able to confirm it isn’t simply an error in the collector book? It is certainly not unusual for collectors to purchase items and boxes separately and ‘marry them up’.

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  2. “Ditko supposedly wanted the uniform to be orange and purple”

    Ditko has written in one of the essays published by Robin Snyder that his own choice of color was “a warm red orange and a cold blue”.

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