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June 2012

Comics Special: Spider-Man

David Blot

On the 4th of July 2012 a new version of the famous Spider Man will be released in France. But is it too soon after the Sam Raimi debacle? Here we take a look back at the original comic strip, over 5 comic books, 5 artists and 5 dates.AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 1

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 1 (1963)

Legend has it that Stan Lee, the creator of Spider Man, never imagined that a character based on a creature as repulsive as a spider could be so popular. So he decided to take advantage of the scheduled shutdown of the Amazing Fantasy series to test-drive this Spider Man, which he did not have much faith in. The enthusiasm of the readers from the simple 8 pages introductory issue turned out to be so great that the “Amazing Spider Man” series debuted a few months later, and it is celebrating its 700th issue this year. His first appearance in Amazing Fantasy 15 – which cost 12 cents at its release in 1962 – is worth the modest sum of $140 000 (in perfect condition) today. This is not just because they were printed in such small quantity (at the time the prints could easily reach 1 million) but also because people don’t tend to take care of them after they’re done reading. Comic books generally end up in the bin. Human beasts that we are, deprived of the preventive senses of the spider! Whilst Stan Lee is Spider Man’s co-creator and screenwriter, the true creator is probably the artist Steve Ditko. A secretive man – only two photos of him exist – this JD Salinger of comic books is also a strong proponent of objectivism, an everyday hazy philosophizer and very right-wing. 5 years after the creation of the character, Ditko quit the series for a pittance – after having differences over the script with Stan Lee – and he never returned to the character again. He went in the totally different artistic direction of the underground printing scene, and still today, his latest creations in fanzines are pinned up in houses…He has a strict policy of taking nothing from the royalties of all the films, games, t-shirts and mugs that bare the face and name of this Spider Man he created.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 50 (1967)

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 50 (1967)

Steve Ditko’s departure gave Stan Lee free reign to indulge his love of soap opera drama, and the Adventures of Spider Man became increasingly about the love life of the student Peter Parker by the end of the 1960s. As a stroke of genius, Lee secured the services of elegant Graphic Designer John Romita to create the striking redhead Mary Jane, Spider Man’s future wife. Romita (and Peter Parker) also went crazy for her competitor, the icy blonde Gwendolyne Stacy. We were right in the middle of the pop culture, Mad Men, groovy New York and Swingin’ Marvel era, and comic books would never be so glamorous again.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 121 (1973)

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 121 (1973)

The point of no return for super hero comic book’s, Amazing 121 introduced death into a universe that, up until this point, had been frozen in eternal life. Illustrated by Gil Kane, the third great designer of Spider Man, Gwendolyne Stacy is pushed off the Brooklyn Bridge by the Green Goblin – who then dies in the following issue. A tragic dance at Marvel Comics, the young Gerry Conway, 20 years old and Stan Lee’s first successor, initiated the creation of the dark heroes of the 1980s, such as Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Frank Miller with Batman and The Dark Knight. The comic books grew up and Spider Man entered into a prolonged period of mourning.

WEB OF SPIDER-MAN 32 (1987)

WEB OF SPIDER-MAN 32 (1987)

14 years and hundreds of adventures later, it is an unrecognizable Spider Man that we find with a new suit that is as black as the story of “Kraven The Last Hunt”. Jean-Marc de Matteis as scriptwriter and Mike Zeck as illustrator tell the story of Spider Man’s descent to hell, literally three feet underground, killed at the hands of his old foe Kraven the Hunter – who killed himself shortly after, by putting a gun in his mouth, when he realizes he has no more enemies to fight. Boom. The new generation of Marvel authors evolved and developed the character that they themselves grew up with…but in doing so ruled out the possibility of gaining any new 8-year-old readers. Following this, Spider Man returned to his classic attire, and the black suit became associated with the Venomous character, a monstrous avatar of a spider very far from the imagination of Steve Ditko.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN 1 (2011)

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN 1 (2011)

It took more than 10 years for Marvel to fully assume this darkness with a new world and new stories that were easily understood by the young readers. ‘Ultimate Spider Man’ is the title of this series. Barely a year ago, Marvel re-launched the Ultimate collection with a new 1st issue. A genuine success, this Ultimate Spider Man is more than just Peter Parker in a parallel universe this time, but is in fact an entirely new character: Miles Morales, a 20th century teenager with Afro-American origins on his father’s side and Latino on his mother’s. Brilliantly created by Brian Michael Bendis with undisclosed intrigues (and powers), this alternative Spider Man is illustrated by Sarah Pichelli – yes, a woman. The Spider is changing, with much more to come!

 

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