Marvel Read-Through: The Web-Swinging Sixties
After my disappointing experience with Spider-Man’s first three appearances, I am very happy to say that the following issues were excellent, some of the best comics I’ve read ever, and this strong run continued through the end of the 1960s. Making my way through Peter Parker’s adventures through 1968 was one of the most enjoyable comic reading experiences of my time making my way through Marvel’s history, and one of my favorite comic reading experiences of anything I’ve ever read Marvel and beyond.
I think my disappointment in the early issues stems from the full cast of characters not yet being fleshed out. As more people enter Peter’s life, and we explore his relationships and friendships outside of his crime-fighting career, the book gets better. Spider-Man’s story has always been about Peter and the people in his life so as the book focused more on that aspect of the wall-crawler, it hit its stride. In fact, there’s very little negative I can say about any of the issues I read. Are they full of Silver Age cheesiness? Of course, but they’re from the 1960s so what else could I expect? Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s creative partnership shines through in nearly every panel. I came across so many classic moments that I wasn’t expecting so early in Spidey’s life, I found myself smiling quite a few times as I read (especially for Mary Jane’s iconic first panel, seen above).
I really have to hand it to Ditko for the excellence of Amazing Spider-Man. Knowing that the Marvel Method was in full force at this point in the creative process, he really did the heavy lifting for this comic, and he did a great job. My one complaint is the abundance of 9-panel pages. I like when the visuals in a comic book change up and the pages don’t all follow the same formula, so Ditko’s reliance on 9-panel pages became slightly irritating by the time I finished his time on the book. Outside of that, his art was impeccable. I stopped to just stare in awe of his artwork so many times during my reading. So far, he is my favorite artist at this point in Marvel’s history. Issue #33 is the best display of how powerful his work is at conveying the emotions and the story. Spidey lifting himself from under Doc Ock’s broken machinery in those iconic panels that have been recreated so many times (notably in Spider-Man: Homecoming’s climax) is one of the greatest moments in all of Marvel comics, and it is all thanks to Ditko. Of course, I can’t leave out John Romita Sr.’s contribution to the look of Amazing Spider-Man after Ditko left. He continued the tradition of excellent artwork and helped define the classic Spider-Man visuals that come to mind today.
Another aspect of this book that elevates it is Spider-Man’s rogues gallery. A contender for the best rogues gallery in comic books, possibly only beaten out by Batman’s, the villains were firing on all cylinders. I chose which issues to read based on classic villains’ first appearances, as well as other major milestones in Peter and co.’s stories, and it was just a whole lot of fun to have so much variety in Spider-Man’s enemies and to see villains who are still constantly battling the webhead today show up for the first time. Lee and Ditko’s creativity had no limit in all the characters they were thinking up, most of which have stuck around for the following decades and that, to me, is indicative of their talent.
Spider-Man exists in his own little pocket of the Marvel universe, so it was hard to find a way to fit him into my reading order, but there was no possible way I could have left him out. Despite, not playing a big role in the grand scheme of things, I could feel the importance of these issues since they exemplify 1960s Marvel and 1960s superhero comics so well. If you’re going to read one thing from the early days of Marvel, I would highly suggest that it be Amazing Spider-Man.
That’s it for this time, be sure to come back next time when I see what Marvel’s First Family has been up to!
Amazing Spider-Man #3–4, #6, #9, #13–15
Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1
Amazing Spider-Man #20, #25, #31–33, #39–42, #46, #50–52
Amazing Spider-Man Annual #5
Favorite Issue: Amazing Spider-Man #33. Steve Ditko. ‘Nuff said