Well, who saw this coming? Seriously, I didn’t think it would be THIS big.
Just four weekends and Spider-Man is well on its way to hitting the $400 million mark. It’s being talked about everywhere, from the television to the trade magazines. Everyone from children to adults, boys and girls, making their way to a comic book movie... who would have thought? Even more impressive, it outperformed Star Wars for an opening weekend and general/critical response. A guy might get the idea that comics are on their way to the mainstream again. One can only hope.
Getting back to comics, allow me to provide you with some more details on the currently available collections Marvel Comics has provided for new and older readers alike. Again, all these books should be available at your local bookstore (or soon will be) and are orderable through any hobby/comic shop that carries Marvel comics on their racks. Last edition, I covered the reprinted original issues of Spider-Man’s first two ongoing series (Amazing Spider-Man and Marvel Team-Up). This time, I’m going to get into some of the more popular storylines from the last 3 years, particularly through the early 70’s to early 90’s.
Let’s begin with one of the critical turning points in Spider-Man history, the death of his first love, Gwen Stacy. Depicting what would be his final battle with the Green Goblin (for at least a quarter of a century) and currently loosely adapted in the feature film. Collecting the famous story is The Amazing Spider-Man: The Death of Gwen Stacy, which contains the integral and controversial drug story with Harry Osborn and revelation as to Goblin’s true identity (Amazing Spider-Man vol. 1 #96 - #98) and the death of Gwen Stacy (Amazing Spider-Man vol. 1 #121 - #122). The art team of Gil Kane and John Romita Sr. drew both fantastic story arcs, with scripts by Stan Lee and Gerry Conway. In addition to these tales, you will also get a short story (from Webspinners: Tales of Spider-Man #1 in ’99) reflecting on Gwen and the events surround her death, written by Jean-Marc DeMatteis and drawn by Romita Sr. Of an interesting note, the drug story was actually rejected by the Comics Code in ‘71, prompting Stan Lee to remove the code and publish the comics anyway. Be aware though, these issues (#96 - #98) are also available in Essential format, but you will only find them in color here.
Moving forward about 15 years later, Peter Parker makes the next major step in his life marrying his second love, Mary Jane Watson. For anyone out there looking to find out what happened between the two after the events of the movie, look no further. Reprinting Amazing Spider-Man vol. 1 #290 - #292, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 and photos of the live re-enactment of the wedding printed in Not Brand Ecch #6, Spider-Man: The Wedding is the perfect way to catch up on Peter and Mary Jane’s evolution as characters and a couple. A pivotal event, which immediately follows the wedding, is the original Kraven the Hunter’s last storyline, “Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt.” The issues reprinted here were originally run in two issues of each monthly Spider-Man title existing at the time (1987): Web of Spider-Man #31 - #32, Amazing Spider-Man #293 - #294 and Spectacular Spider-Man #131 - #132. The arc was written by Jean-Marc DeMatteis and drawn by Mike Zeck (G.I. Joe, Secret Wars) and follows the final confrontation between Kraven and Spidey as the hunter conquers his fear and puts the hero in his grave (literally). It’s a truly dark and not to be missed tale.
Finally, we bring you to one of the most influential and popular runs in Spider-Man history, that of the famous (and even somewhat infamous) writer/artist Todd McFarlane. Before he went off to form Image, create Spawn or took interest in Mark Maguire’s balls (sorry, that joke never gets old), McFarlane became famous with the distinct stylized Spider-Man he brought to Marvel Comics. Beginning with a couple of years on Amazing Spider-Man (with writer David Michelinie), he eventually received his own brand new monthly, simply entitled, "Spider-Man". The first eight issues of his work on Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1 #298 - #305) have now been reprinted and recolored in the book “Spider-Man Visionaries: Todd McFarlane”, as well as his first eight issues of Spider-Man (vol. 1 #1 - #8) in Spider-Man: Torment. The Visionaries collection includes the first appearance and origin of Venom, one of Spidey’s most dangerous and popular archenemies, while Torment features the return of the long-standing villain/monster, The Lizard. Early word from those working on the films has mentioned both Venom (whose alter ego was mentioned in the movie) and Lizard as possible candidates for regarding the sequels.