John Romita’s run on Amazing Spider-man brought a whole new energy to a book once defined by Steve Ditko’s unique illustration style. Peter Parker remains beset by all sorts of problems, but being treated like a wimp is no longer one of them. He has both Mary Jane Watson and Gwen Stacy competing for his attentions, and he doesn’t mind telling his rival Flash Thompson to go take a flying leap. But between his aunt’s failing health and a slew of supervillains that beat him down repeatedly, Spider-man exemplifies the underdog appeal of many Marvel from the 1960s. Though these books cost quite a bit of money, many Marvel Tales reprints from the early 1970s cost substantially less.
Spidey’s classic A-list roster of foes – Dr. Octopus, the Vulture, the Lizard, Mysterio, Electro, the Rhino, Kraven, and the Chameleon – all take turns clashing with the web head. New villains like the enduring Prowler stake early claims to Spidey’s rogue’s gallery, and Captain Stacy’s investigation into Spidey’s identity meets an unexpectedly tragic end.
Along the way, Stan Lee adopts a groovy-man-groovy tone to some of his dialogue, and even places Spidey on campus for a student protest. While it might seem dated to some readers, it shows Lee’s constant aspiration to make his heroes more relevant and relatable to his audience. We find it blends well with his tendency to address readers directly and the melodramatic voices of the villains, giving these stories a unique voice.
While Peter enjoys unprecedented romantic success, Lee takes an issue to hand Spidey a lesson in humility from a strong woman: Medusa of the Inhumans. Despite the hand to hand combat (or hand to hair, in this case) Lee keeps a comedic tone about greed, advertising, and misunderstandings.
But the tone turns more grim near the end of Romita’s tenure, where a fatal confrontation with Dr. Octopus sets the tone for the subsequent tragedy-ridden days of Gerry Conway and Gil Kane’s run.
Still, the majority of the run dishes out personal tragedy, epic struggles, heroic triumphs, and comedic banter in equal parts for our hero. Artists John Buscema and Jim Mooney, among others, fill in a few issues but manage to maintain Romita’s overall tone and style.
We have a big batch of 26 Marvel Tales featuring John Romita’s artwork for sale on eBay, if you would like to own a historic chunk of Spidey’s greatest adventures. Let’s see some more of the interior artwork, below!