Spidey was my jam as a young Martian. I must have crafted this masterpiece near the end of the 1970s, when I was five to seven years old. Clearly, I had a lot to learn about architecture and anatomy. Feel free to mock me now for those ridiculous hands!
Well into my early adolescence, if you had asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said, “A comic-book artist.” I designed different characters and drew them poorly, no matter how many drawing tutorials I attempted to follow. Eventually, I became reasonably okay-ish in various visual, musical, and literary art forms, but I still can’t draw sequential art to save my life — unless it’s stick figures!
Someone on Reddit suggested this could be a super-rare variant cover, so I ordered a five-dollar copy of the blank version of Non-Stop Spider-man #1 using some of the store credit I earned at MyComicShop in the last couple of months thanks to this blog’s readers. I’ll see if I can get this image printed on it.
In other news, I finished drafting episode 34 in the ongoing Adventures of Meteor Mags and Patches this week, and I had a blast writing it. It’s really two stories in one. In the “present day” of February 2032, the interspecies telepathic band Small Flowers performs their final concert in the asteroid belt. That story is spliced with flashbacks about the musical friendship between Mags and Alonso, who is the only human in Small Flowers and one of the people Mags loves most in all the solar system.
I’m not ready to officially publish it and the other three new stories, but you can download or preview a PDF copy of the pre-publication draft for free.
Bonus points to anyone who gets my silly Spider-man drawing printed on a t-shirt before I do. Until then, Cadet Stimpy and I remain stranded on the planet Ballknob. We had to eat what was left of the ship.
Marvel Team-Up #2 is a riotous mix of 1970s superhero nonsense and insanely dramatic confrontations between the Human Torch and Spider-man. The villains take control of Spidey’s mind and turn him into a weapon against his friend, Johnny Storm.
Oh, the pathos! My suspension of disbelief is only hampered by the fact that Spidey was, by that point in comics history, established as being so strong that a punch from him should have killed Torch immediately. Spider-man isn’t strong on the level of Hulk or Thor, but he packs a wallop that could take off your head.
Regardless, this scene inspired me to use a couple panels as ink studies for chisel-tip markers I’d recently acquired. They create broad, angular lines but also finer lines when rotated 90 degrees. I found I could get a mix of bold shapes and detail lines if I worked at the appropriate scale for the brush width.
I cut the pages from my sketchbook and hung them in a prominent place where I see them a few times a day, as a reminder. Sometimes I feel so wrapped up in and trapped by all kinds of stuff, focused on negative things about what’s wrong while my brain tries to solve problems, that it’s nice to have a buddy like Torch: someone willing to yell sense at me when I totally lose the plot. Someone to remind me who I am.
Johnny Storm stands his ground even when mind-controlled Spidey is trying to kill him. Sure, Torch could crank up his flames, “go nova”, and incinerate Spidey to a pile of ash. But it wouldn’t be enough for Torch to save himself. He wants to liberate Spider-man, too. That’s true friendship.
The friendship and occasional rivalry between these two heroes has been going on since the 1960s, and I enjoyed Jonathan Hickman’s treatment in his run on the Fantastic Four. When the Human Torch ***spoiler alert*** dies to save our universe from an invasion, Spider-man takes his place in the FF. Spidey honors his old pal’s last will and testament, and also completes a lifelong dream of joining the FF, a dream that began in the very first issue of The Amazing Spider-man where a much more inexperienced and arrogant Peter Parker tried out for the team—and failed. One especially heartfelt tale on Hickman’s run has Spidey share with Johnny’s nephew, Franklin, about how Spidey lost his uncle, too.
I got so into Marvel Team-Up #2 that I cut up a copy in really poor condition I got for fifty cents. It’s a crazy expensive comic in better condition, but it retails for about $5 in the condition I found it. I definitely got more than $5 worth of artistic inspiration from it, doing a few other ink studies and also the first painting in my 2013 dream journal series which has a partially visible underlayer of panels concerning the argument between Spidey and Torch, a battle not just for their bodies and their minds but the very essence of their friendship.
Panels of their conflict fill the angry rift running from the upper left corner to the bottom right of the painting. Over them, I painted and textured layer after layer, including found objects from small pieces of hardware to a dead, dehydrated lizard I found on my porch, adding color washes until they became like a soothing balm for the raging argument below, brushing and pouring and splashing until a peace came over me and I knew that despite what had happened to them, Spidey and Torch would be okay. Their lives and friendship had been torn apart by anger, but they would heal. Their friendship would heal.
In that sense, the painting became a way for me to work though some dark things that had come up in my dreams until I could see the light again. It wasn’t just about anger, as I later titled it. It was about regaining one’s senses and overcoming that emotional disruption.
Another of my dream journal series of paintings began as a collage of the same issue’s cover and random interior images, plus a few add-ins from other comics I was sacrificing on the altar of art at that time, including beat-up copies of Marvel Team-Up#5 and #16. The central panel is a John Byrne and Karl Kesel illustration from a six-issue DC series in the 1980s called Legends.
Spidey’s dialogue “Face it, creeps! This is the pay-off!” appears twice, which suggests I had not one but two copies of Marvel Team-Up #2. But maybe the second occurrence comes from a different and far less expensive Spider-man reprint issue, from which I repurposed a bunch of pages.
Later, I added more and more layers of paint and texture until the original collage was almost entirely obscured. The collage centered on a panel where a character thought, “Perfect! The master will be well-pleased!” Over the years, I kept adding to the canvas, trying to bring it closer to some perfect form. I awoke one morning to see what I had wrought upon the canvas in an inebriated, late-night state.
“Perfect,” I said. “Perfect!” Then I laughed like a maniac, probably convincing my neighbors that a real-life supervillain lived next door, because I could not keep a straight face while trying to say, “The master will be well-pleased.”
Years later, I still say this to myself when I feel stressed about some artistic decision. It makes me laugh and reminds me to not take things so dreadfully seriously. But I’ve also learned to build in a buffer of time to step away from decisions made in anger or fear before carrying them out, then come back to them a day or two later with a fresh perspective.
Do I see improvements I could make before acting? Have I realized some potentially negative outcomes I didn’t consider before? Could I improve the ways I plan on communicating with others about the situation? Do I need to do some research to back up my convictions or expose places where I might be wrong?
Then let’s attend to those things now, before we damage friendships and end up punching each other’s lights out in some science-fiction hallway where our actions only serve the villains who seek to destroy us.
Writer Jonathan Hickman’s now-legendary run on Fantastic Four concludes one of its adventures by having a magical science doo-dad teleport the heroes to whatever it is they truly need. Spider-man is part of the crew in this tale and, after the teleport, he finds his friends and explains what happened.
Poor Spidey! But sometimes what we want isn’t what we need, and sometimes what we need is a damn good burger and a tall drink. So, this is just a reminder to be thankful for what we do have, even if it isn’t everything on our wish lists.
When I was a kid, Mom established a tradition that I now see all the time in the self-development books I work on as an editor. These days, coaches call it Gratitude. Mom called it a Thankful List. About a week before Thanksgiving, the blank list went up on the wall of our kitchen/dining room. At dinner time, each member of the family needed to come up with three things to be thankful for and add them to the list.
Some years, it was easier to think of things to be unhappy about, or all the things we did not have. I wasn’t raised in abject poverty, but from the time I was a toddler to my early teenage years, my family always seemed to be just a couple hundred dollars away from it. We had no safety net, and anytime there was a medical emergency or a problem with the car, it was a major financial disaster. And, like most families, we had other problems.
But I always had a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in, and food on the table—and that’s more than many people have. So even though some days of the Thankful List ritual were challenging, it was never an impossible task. Granted, some of the final days might have included items such as, “I’m thankful that we’re almost done compiling this list!” Like Spider-man, we really could have used a million-dollar windfall. But we always found something to be grateful for, and we usually had a good laugh or two.
Sometimes, that’s enough.
So, today, I just want to let you know that I am thankful for the readers and commenters on this blog, thankful for connecting with other comic book geeks to chat about our shared obsessions, thankful for the outstanding platform that WordPress provides, thankful for the affiliate program at MyComicShop that keeps my comic-book addiction affordable, and thankful for all the amazing writers and artists who craft the stories I love and which have inspired and entertained me for as long as I can remember.
Now if I could just get that million dollars, I’d order a second round for me and my pal Spider-man. Happy Thanksgiving!
The pics below feature a nice shot of the back cover, a truly sensational masterpiece from Bob Budiansky and Joe Sinnott. If you like Marvel Treasury Editions, more photos and scans await inside our Marvel Treasury Edition archive.
Even though retail prices have come down from their 1990s peaks on Amazing Spider-man issues by David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane, collecting them all could still put a big dent in your wallet. Those readers on a sacred mission to collect every issue of Amazing Spider-man will overcome this challenge. The rest of us wouldn’t mind having them collected in three trade paperbacks.
Marvel complicated things by publishing the three paperbacks under two different banners. Readers searching in databases at retailers or libraries might find one, but not the other. Let us clear things up for you.
The first of the three is under the “Visionaries” banner. You can find many good stories from Marvel’s flagship characters in various Visionaries collections. The Todd MacFarlane one includes Amazing Spider-man #298-305, notable for taking Spidey’s black suit from the first Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars and bonding it to Eddie Brock to create Venom. Spider-man Visionaries Todd McFarlane #1 is listed at MyComicShop and Amazon.
Marvel then moved the series over to the “Marvel Legends” banner. The first of the two Marvel Legends collects Amazing Spider-man #306-314, plus a story from Spectacular Spider-man Annual #10 with McFarlane art. This one may be our favorite of the series. We can’t find it at MyComicShop, but it is listed correctly on Amazon despite not having the right cover currently.
Marvel wrapped it up with a second Legends collection that includes Amazing Spider-man #315-323, #325, and #328. Although the listing on Amazon doesn’t have the right cover at the time of this post, it is the right book.
The collections are an enjoyable romp through Spidey’s rogues’ gallery, with drama, humor, and interesting developments in the lives of newlyweds Mary Jane Watson-Parker and her wall-crawling hubby. Michelinie breaks with the “hard-luck hero” tradition of Spidey. Peter Parker marries an incredibly fun, smart, super-model. He gets famous for his Spider-man photos in the Daily Bugle and goes on a book-signing tour. Peter and Mary Jane move into a nice place. They have some money for a change, and even Aunt May has a cool boyfriend now. This was a fresh approach to the character at the time. It reminded us that even though Parker has lots of bad luck, he still totally kicks ass.
Spidey looks great zipping through these books in a mass of webs with a look McFarlane seems to have invented. The webs have since been copied, but we don’t recall ever seeing anyone draw Spidey’s webs like McFarlane before these books.
The creative team brought back one of our favorite Spidey supporting characters: the Prowler. In the Prowler’s claws, mask, and swirling cape, you might be witnessing McFarlane get the ideas for his Spawn character worked out on the page in these Spidey stories.
The following bonus “pin-up” was also printed as a postcard by Marvel, and we’ve always loved this image.
Venom’s gleeful sadism and obvious mental illness are good signs he might be a keeper as a Spidey villain.
Another nut job and total loser from Spidey’s gallery of bad guys shows up: the Scorpion. The Scorpion never looked so awesome as he did in this story. Spidey must rescue J. Jonah Jameson from the guy in green armored tights with a fatal tail. It’s a hoot.
Spidey looks pretty awesome crouching in the snow in a graveyard.
And that’s all the photos we had time to snap before selling these wonderful books on eBay. We read them not long after they first came out, in their original single issue form. It was fun to read through them again and enjoy them in these collections. It’s a good chunk of Spidey stories that deserves a place on even a casual Spidey collector’s shelf.
Spider-man was our first great superhero enthusiasm and this is one of our favorite stories of his. It has no big fights between men in tights and other misfit miscreants of science. It merely shows a poker game, and a few old friends telling funny stories.
This isn’t a comic book you give to someone who has never read comics before. This material assumes you know and like these characters already. It gives you a chance to spend an evening shooting the breeze with a few of your favorite Marvel superheroes. Paul Jenkins spent his Spider-man run exploring Peter’s psychological and emotional landscape. But here, at the end of his run, he leaves us with something lighthearted. And for that, it qualified for runner up in our second round of Top Ten favorite single issues of all-time.
Although I posted about the Spider-car back in 2011, I took more photos of this awesome little toy to sell it on eBay. Mattel did a great job with these in 1978, and many of them have held up well through the years. You can usually find one for about $20 in excellent condition.
Of the handful of my childhood toys I re-collected in the last few years, the Spider-car stands out in one amazing way. It was the only one that was still as much fun to play with as when I was little! As a kid, I got lost in epic storylines created for my toys. For example, plastic dinosaurs and Star Wars figures could have a war that lasted all day, only to team up when Godzilla showed up on their battlefield. Better call in GI Joe for back-up!
But despite a nostalgia for those immersive days of playing pretend, I just couldn’t get there again with my old toys. They seemed to lack the same magic. Spider-car, however, turned out to be just as much fun to “drive” all over the house, do spectacular aerial stunts, and generally forget for a few minutes the dreadfully serious business of being an adult.
This made me wonder if perhaps all the utterly ridiculous toys scattered around the houses of my child-rearing friends are really there for the kids! How many fathers have bought the latest toy for their sons just so they could play with it too? Most working adults seem to have the means to buy most of the toys they could ever want. But, by the time you can do that, you may have also lost much of the child’s ability to get completely absorbed in play.
While I don’t plan on raising little Martians of my own, the Spider-car did help me reconnect with that playful state of mind. These days, I simply find it takes different kinds of toys and activities to get there. I get caught up in sketching, painting, doodling, and jamming on a guitar for hours where time just melts away. Instead of creating worlds with plastic dinosaurs, I create universes on paper. Now, the Spider-car can’t take credit for all of that directly, but it did serve as a reminder: a reminder that as adults, we have the power to create a safe place for that inner kid that is still within us, and set him free to play at his leisure for a few hours.
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 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 rogues 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. 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 things turn 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 maintain Romita’s overall tone and style.
Let’s see some more of the interior artwork, below!
We’re still not sure what it sounds like when doves cry, but thanks to Skottie Young we know what it looks like when alien symbiotes mate. It looks like a twisted heart of flowing evil!
Enjoy these splash pages from the final thrilling conclusion of the 2003 Venom series. Also, we have one of our favorite Spider-man covers, presented without its logos and design elements: Spidey wrapped in that disgusting tongue!
Collector’s Guide: From Venom; Marvel, 2003-2004. Story by Daniel Way, pencils by Skottie Young.
The first ten issues of the 2003 Venom series raise more questions than they answer. An extra-violent version of the Venom symbiote gets free from an Arctic laboratory, spreading mayhem and destruction as he goes. But if this isn’t the Eddie Brock Venom, what is it?
Issue #11 begins to bring in all the back story and reveal the insidious plot behind this new Venom. Here, we have the opening scene where the Fantastic Four and Spider-man round up the Brock symbiote. In all the excitement, they leave behind a big chunk of Venom’s nasty tongue. And someone else decides to take it home.
Collector’s Guide: From Venom #11; Marvel, 2003-2004. Story by Daniel Way. Pencils by Francisco Herrera, cover by Mike Deodato.
Amazing Spider-man #347 brings a multi-part Spider-man story to its climactic conclusion in “The Boneyard Hop.” On a deserted island, Spidey and Venom wage a life-or-death battle. While many Spider-man villains pursue the usual world domination or petty heists for their own self-interest, Venom gleefully revels in the sheer horror he can inflict on Spider-man.
Writer David Michelinie first brought together Eddie Brock and Spidey’s black “symbiote” suit to form Venom. The art team of Erik Larsen and Randy Emberlin carry the stylistic torch established by the previous penciller, Todd McFarlane. Together, they make Venom just as much fun as he is evil!
We also enjoy the look Larsen brought to Spidey’s traditional threads, filling in most or all of the blue areas with black. Some fans disagreed with this rendition, but we love it. Bring back the red and black!
We liked this pencils-only cover by Gabrielle Dell’Otto so much we picked it up just to hang on our wall. It’s one of our favorite renditions of Spider-man’s short-lived suit from Tony Stark.
Decisions completely reprints the hard-to-find issues Amazing Spider-Man #529-532. It culminates in the scene just before Spidey announces his secret identity to the world in Civil War. Decisions also includes all the covers and variant covers without their logos and other design elements, some of which we’ve included in our gallery today along with a few choice splash panels.
The Avengers made such a splash getting “Disassembled” back in 2004 that sometimes Spider-man’s creepy role in that event gets overlooked. Paul Jenkins took advantage of the wave of weirdness coursing through the Marvel Universe to have a bit of horrific fun with our favorite web-slinger.
A femme fatale takes a shine to Spidey. Her diabolical plan? To transform Spidey into some kind of hideous spider mutant. Throughout the four issues of this story, we see Spider-man in various stages of grotesqueness as he mutates into something that, we guess, the lady wants to mate with. The build-up is intense, and the resolution is as cool as it is unexpected. Captain America guest stars. Have a look at some of the splash pages in our gallery today!
Collector’s Guide: From Spectacular Spider-man #17-20; Marvel, 2004. Story by Paul Jenkins. Pencils & Covers by Humberto Ramos.
Spider-man India reads like an issue of Ultimate Spider-man with all the names changed. Instead of Aunt May and Uncle Ben, you’ve got Aunt Maya and Uncle Bihm. Peter Parker = Pavitr Prabhakar, and that’s about the size of it. Don’t expect any insight into the culture of modern or ancient India. You won’t be diving into the world of the Hindu pantheon reconfigured as some Spider-mythology. Sitars and tabla will not be playing in the background.
But what you will get is some pretty awesome splash pages of colorful artwork. Even though this story didn’t cosmically transform us as expected, you should at least check out these wonderfully rendered pages from artist and co-writer Jeevan J. Kang. Now that blows our mind.
If you ever wondered where Spider-man’s black costume first appeared, you’ve come to the right place! Here is the historic page from the mind of Jim Shooter and the drawing board of Mike Zeck in Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #8. (It was reprinted in the Secret Wars TPB.)
This is all there is to it: a little black ball pops out of a machine on some other planet. No one knew until later it was a hideous alien symbiote! Sucking on Spidey’s will to live! Trying to take him over! Eventually, separated from Spider-man, the alien symbiote would bond with Eddie Brock to become Venom.
Although this was the first appearance of the black suit in Spidey’s life, it was not the first time it saw print.
It is also worth noting that Spidey wasn’t even the first to wear it. Julia Carpenter, the second Spider-Woman, wore the black suit first in Secret Wars #6 and #7. This explains Spidey’s comment about “maybe” being “subconsciously influenced by that new Spider-Woman’s suit”.
Since this post first saw the light of symbiotic day, several people have expanded the research in our comment sections. Transformers #3 (of a 4-issue limited series) has a publication date of January, 1985, so it must have been on the shelves in late 1984 near the same time as Secret Wars #8. An IDW Transformers reprint book discusses the legal reasons behind Spidey’s appearance in the black suit in this issue.
According to reader Lpaul, Amazing Heroes #39 (January, 1984) shows a black-suited Spider-Man in a preview which predates all the above books.
Reader Brandon DeSantis kindly provided us with images of three earlier appearances, along with their dates. First, in Heroes Hotline from December, 1983, we see the front and back of a black-suited Spidey. The Secret Wars series was called by another name: The Cosmic Champions.
Second, and also hailing from December, 1983, is The Comic Reader #215. Here is the cover followed by the preview of the costume.
But we can go even earlier! In Amazing Heroes #35 (November, 1983), we see the back of a black-suited Spider-man in a newsflash about Secret Wars by another name: The Secret War. Notice that the text refers to the suit as being black and red, although the issue is printed in black and white. The image looks exactly like the image shown in Heroes Hotline.
Reader Steven Farshid contacted us to say we can go even earlier! He sent images from Comics Journal #85, dated October 1983. A Newswatch article on page 13 bears the headline “All Major Marvel Characters to Engage in Year-Long ‘Secret War’ in 1984”, and continues on page 14 with an illustration of the black suit.
What’s that you say? You want to see the black suit concept art from when the white parts were intended to be red? Reader Brandon DeSantis has you covered yet again, with these two scans from Marvel Age #12.
The artwork is from Rick Leonardi, based on ideas submitted in a story by spider-fan Randy Schueller. Below is the letter from Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter offering to buy the story. For the full details, check out Randy’s 2007 statement about his original story idea for the black suit.
Last year, we shared with you our favorite “What If” story: What If Spider-man had Stopped the Burglar Who Killed Uncle Ben? One of our readers told us he liked today’s story better – because Peter does not become a complete jerk! So today, let’s read another “What If” scenario on the origin of Spider-man. This time around, Uncle Ben was at the store when the burglar broke in, and Aunt May died instead. Writer Ed Brubaker replaces The Watcher with a guy in a Watcher t-shirt to spin this tale.
We couldn’t help but snag this one from the back issue bin. With the title on the cover “The Rage of the Reptile,” it seemed right up our alley. Here, Spider-man meets up with his pal Dr. Curt Connors, better (or worse?) known as The Lizard. Something’s not right about Dr. Connors and a little iguana he’s got in his lab. Well, guess what? The cute little vegetarian reptile turns into a hideous villain ready to kick Spidey’s butt! Not the greatest Spidey issue ever produced, but you can’t argue with this splash panel at the end. They even used Spider-man’s often-forgotten Spidey spotlight in his utility belt!
Collector’s Guide: From Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #32; Marvel Comics, July 1979. Script by Bill Mantlo, art by Jim Mooney and Frank Springer.
Being a super-villain must be awesome. You never have an existential crisis. Every day when you wake up, you know exactly what you want most in life. One purpose. One plan. One desire that will never die.
The Lizard, Stegron, and dinosaur skeletons come to life. It’s so much awesomeness that you barely need Spider-man to show up! Len Wein picks up Stegron’s story from Marvel Team-Up #20. Dr. Curt Connors co-starred in that saga, even though he never went full Lizard. Well, here’s his chance!
Zeb Wells and artist Chris Bachalo make The Lizard badder than ever in a four-part story called Shed, part of 2010’s Gauntlet storyline. The Lizard at last commits the unspeakable crime Spider-man has tried to prevent since 1963. In doing so, he triggers a transformation to the next level of evil and looking awesome. Check out this creepy scene where Spidey meets the new and morally unimproved Lizard!