Spider-Man 101
Part 1 - Welcome to the Church of Spidey

You always remember your first time.

How old were you?

Five? Ten? Thirty?

And how did you do it?

And now, you can no longer resist. The veritable potpourri of Spidey has made you curious about the source material from which all of this ungodly licensing sprang - the comic books. Hey - after all, Spidey is a pretty cool character. And guess what - you're not alone in thinking that! How do I know? $1.6 billion in worldwide grosses for the first two films - that's how I know.

So, you stroke your chin and mutter softly to yourself - wonder what he's been up to lately?

Yes my friend, it is o.k. You can come out of the closet - for you are a convert - a new worshipper at the Church of Spidey. And you realize that watching the movie and cartoons is great, but it's like watching Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments or James Caviezel in Passion of the Christ. As good as they may be, they just can't adequately take the place of the source material.

Ah, but the challenge ahead is a daunting one. Where to start? And how do you even find those single issue Spidey comics anymore? After all, times being what they are today, thanks to the evisceration of the mass distribution comic book market it's hard to walk into a grocery store, drug store or anywhere else that you used to be able to find comics (oh oh here comes that of-quoted cliche - I'm sorry, but it's genetic - you really can't avoid saying it after you pass 25 or so) when I was a little kid and pick up a copy of a single issue comic. Now, there is the burgeoning trade paperback market, which aggregates several issues of comics and publishes them in one volume - and you can find a plethora of these in any Borders, Barnes & Noble or Waldenbooks, and even punch them up at Amazon.com. However, you can become easily mesmerized by the choices you have in trade paperbacks, and those hard working folks who stack the shelves with Spidey trades probably know as much (or as little) about him as they do about the contents of the European Literature they also stack.

But I digress. Anyway, Spidey, Spidey everywhere, but the character's been around since 1962! So much to choose from! What do you read first?

So, you suck it up and walk into one of the last bastions for individual comic books, your local comics shop. You look around furtively, hoping that no one who knows you is there, but also not wanting to look out of place, so as you walk in you toss out a "how about those X-Men, eh?" If you're lucky, you won't trip over any Pokemon or Yu Gi Oh players, who seem to believe that they have squatters rights to many comic book stores' floor space these days. Weaving through the maze of overpriced "limited edition" busts and boxes of 25 cent bargain bin comics, you finally approach the cash register, where hopefully you will find the actual proprietor rather than the temporary employee of the month who tells you "What Spider-Man comics should you read? I don't know, I just work here. You'll have to wait until (Comic Book Guy) gets back from the convention in (Insert City here)." However, sometimes when you do find the proprietor, he may be either reading, smoking (legal or illegal substances), imbibing, or engaged in a loud, profanity-laced conversation with his own versions of Cliff Claven and Norm Peterson about anything from John Byrne to The Matrix to Final Fantasy (o.k. - I'm generalizing a little bit here - I know that there are several family friendly shops - and really terrific "Comic Book Guys" - but trust me, there's several of the not so friendly ones either, which unfortunately can be a factor in why women and small children may not make their way into the world of comics). As you try to subtly catch his attention as if you were going to ask for the latest Playboy or Penthouse stuck behind the register, you say in speech that is slow and halting "I want to read some Spider-Man comics, but I, uh, don't know where to start. Could you help me?"

And then there can be one of two scenarios - your proprietor rolls his eyes at you, or laughs at you. "Worst question ever!" he says with dripping contempt at your obvious naivete, as if you, an unclean infidel whom he has already considered unworthy, has dared asked what his religion is all about. And then you walk out, muttering profanities under your breath and determined never to walk into another comics shop.

Or, your proprietor can be friendly, but either lets out a sigh as he assimilates the magnitude of the question you have just asked him, and tries to provide you with a concise answer, or he goes off as if he were channeling William Holden mowing down the Mexican army at the conclusion of The Wild Bunch.

"Well, currently there's Amazing Spider-Man, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man and Sensational Spider-Man, which is not to be confused with a previous verison of Sensational Spider-Man. Then there's been three versions of Spectacular Spider-Man, older titles such as Web of Spider-Man, and No Adjective Spider-Man, which was also known as Peter Parker: Spider-Man, but not to be confused with Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man which the second Spectacular Spider-Man title was known as for several years, as well as Tangled Web of Spider-Man which isn't Web of Spider-Man with bad hair days although it sounds like it, and then there's Untold Tales of Spider-Man, which if they were really important tales of Spider-Man don't you think they would have been told in the first place - and at least three incarnations of Marvel Team-Up, which starred Spider-Man and another character in the Marvel Universe, but too often it was just some lame character who couldn't get their own title, so they showed up later as a new member of the Avengers. Then there's the collected volumes of the older Amazing Spider-Man that are called Essential Spider-Man. There's also Spider-Man: 2099 which was about a future Spider-Man who was no relation to the real Spider-Man (although they did meet once) and there's all those miniseries that have come out over the years, which if they were a regular title would be known as The Creatively Bankrupt Spider-Man and finally, there's Ultimate Spider-Man which is kind of the same Spider-Man, but it's also a different Spider-Man in that..." and by that time he has run out of breath and collapsed on the floor.

You quickly look around hoping that no one blames you for his incapacitation and then slip away to ruffle through some spider titles. The events of the Spider-Man films are emblazoned in your memory - that of a college age Spidey who makes a few bucks snapping photos for the miserly J. Jonah Jameson of The Daily Bugle while he pines for the love of the one and only Mary Jane Watson and tries to help his dear old Aunt May makes ends meet, while worrying about his best buddy Harry Osborn, whose father, Norman, was that gregarious greedy goon, the Green Goblin. So, you open up a title and all of a sudden, you realize - holy crap! And I'm not just talking about the fact that the comics are at least $3 with some even $4! A handful of those and you could buy yourself some new video games if you're a young convert, or if you're an older convert coming back into the fold you get cranked up to say when I was a little kid comics were only twelve, fifteen or twenty cents! After that initial shock, you realize that not only is Peter NOT in college, but he's 30 years old (give or take a year or two)! He no longer works for the Bugle but he's a teacher! When did that happen? He and Mary Jane got married, had a baby girl (who has subsequently been forgotten for reasons we'll delve into in future parts), then separated, and recently reconciled? Aunt May actually died and came back to life four years later - no wait, she never really died - and she now knows that Peter is Spider-Man - and that didn't kill her like Peter always thought it would? And poor Harry Osborn became the second Green Goblin, married, had a son - and then he died, while his father Norman Osborn, who we all thought had died back in the early 70's, came back from the dead and became the Green Goblin again - no wait - he never really died either (but Harry is still dead - for the moment) - and say - who the hell is the HobGoblin, anyway (not to mention the fact that there was not one, not two, but three HobGoblins - in addition to five Green Goblins)? And then there was a time that Peter Parker wasn't really Spider-Man, but some dude named Ben Reilly was Spider-Man - but that's not the real kicker - Ben Reilly was actually the real Spider-Man, while the Peter Parker who had been Spider-Man for over 20 years was a fake Spider-Man - and then all of a sudden Peter was the real Spider-Man again and Ben Reilly was the fake Spider-Man? Amazing Spider-Man goes from issue #441 to #1-#58, then #500? And what is this - Spidey was an Avenger? And he REVEALED HIS SECRET IDENTITY! And is now a fugitive from justice? Is there no end to the madness? This time, you start to run out of the comics store screaming, determined never to pick up another comic book other than Archie because you know for an absolute certainty that Archie is still in high school, and he still hasn't made up his mind on the dilemma that has dogged him for decades - Betty or Veronica?

Don't do it! If you do, you will play right into the hands of the late 1990's, early 2000's Mighty Marvel Management Machine, which considered its very own comic book fans to be slack-jawed troglodytes who lived in their parents' basement wanking off to Elektra comics - Marvel's own special way of saying "thank you" to the folks who kept a financially and creatively bankrupt company afloat until the recent industry revival (fortunately, there have been some changes in both managers and philosophy at the House of Ideas). They thought that the average comic book reader (but then again - no one "average" reads comic books - we're all clearly superior!) was so incredibly stupid and so woefully inept that they could not possibly navigate their way through the rich, and yes, somewhat complex history of its most popular and iconic character unless it was either re-booted every 12 months or had the word Ultimate in front of Spider-Man.

But we here at Spidey Kicks Butt! know that you're much better than that.

Wait a minute - you ask. Who is this pretentious, self-important loudmouth who's going to propose to tell me everything I ever wanted to know about Spidey? Why - I'm J.R. Fettinger (who? never heard of him), aka the MadGoblin, and the author of the Spidey Kicks Butt website, which has been devoted to detailed commentary, analysis, and just plain opinionated rantings and ravings about the wonderful web-slinger since 1998. My site has typically been written from the perspective of a hard core old-time Spidey fan for other hard core old-time Spidey fans who already had more than a passing knowledge of the wall crawler and who enjoyed wallowing in the minutia of his convoluted continuity as we stitched together the seemingly frayed ends of 45 years of stories into a monumental epic adventure of Shakespearean proportions. But a few years ago, Alex Hamby, the former webmaster of what was once the Hero Realm, a site that I regularly contributed to, asked me to take a breather from my usual hyperbole and speak to those who were not quite yet hard core Spidey fans - who may not currently read the comics, or who have dabbled in them, but find some of the references confusing, and much of the internet chatter unfathomable. You've discovered Spidey through other means - but now you're ready to dive into the glorious four-color press that gave him his start.

Well then - you've come to the right place! This is the first of six installments which will cover, among others, the following topics:

Now, I'm not really planning on doing a history of Spider-Man, or coming up with lists of his powers, or get into too much detail on why he is so popular. Part of the reason for that is because other websites and message boards tend to go into those subjects ad infinitum and I really don't want to duplicate someone else's hard work. Also, if you own the first Spider-Man movie DVD - the subject of his popularity is discussed almost ad nauseum in the special features. And I try to specialize in commentary and analysis - not just lists of facts.

But what makes me qualified to be your guide? Nothing! Except perhaps my inflated ego. You don't go to any school to get a degree in Spidey. If you're really curious in a masochistic sense about me and my ties with Spider-Man, such as how I got my start with the character, then this is the best source from my own site A Very Special Spidey Kicks Butt . And yes, it also explains where I got the stupid name for my site.

And you know what - you don't have to be a new convert to enjoy these articles! Spidey fans love to debate, and I plan to offer all kinds of obnoxious opinions that will keep my long time readers involved and interested as well. You don't think that I would turn on my long time fans, who have supported me through thick and thin, who have encouraged me to continue with what I'm doing when I wanted to give it up and return full time to my bean counter Ward Cleaver-like suburban existence, who have given me good suggestions, compliments, and creative criticism over the years? You don't think I would get completely self-indulgent, or jump on a new trend simply for the sake of it, do you? Who do you think I am - a comics publisher?

And maybe, just maybe, along the way I'll be able to articulate in some broad fashion just why I, and so many others, dearly love this character.

O.K. so let's presume that frustrated with or unable to reach your local comics proprietor - you ask ME your questions about reading Spidey. Your first question might be something along the lines of:

What should I read - the trade paperbacks or the individual issues?

Good question. Of course, I'm not going to make this easy - so let me ask you an important question - do you plan to be a reader of Spider-Man comic books, or a collector of Spider-Man comic books? There is a difference. Many folks are one or the other, but there are many, such as contrary old cranks like myself, which are both.

You may be surprised, and as much as I hate to admit this - if you were starting out anew on Spidey and wanted to read his new adventures right away, I would tell you to pass on the individual issues and go straight to the trades, particularly the recent trades collecting the works of Babylon 5 scribe J. Michael Straczynksi on Amazing Spider-Man, which is still the flagship title from which the other titles usually take their lead, and Brian Michael Bendis' Ultimate Spider-Man, which gives audiences a rebooted Spidey for a new century. Don't worry, I'll explain the difference in those titles in Part 2. The old school Spidey vs. Ultimate Spidey is one of the biggest debates going on in the Spidey community today, and it needs more time for it than I have in this first column.

Truth be known, I am becoming more and more disillusioned with the modern single issue comic book as it currently exists as a storytelling vehicle. When I was a little kid back in the 1960's and 70's, a single issue of a comic would often give you a complete story with a resolution, but even after the proliferation of multi-part stories, they were often two or three parts, seldom any more than that. And there would be the occasional single-part story to give the reader, and at times, the creative team, a little break. But still, something significant always seemed to happen in each issue, and even in multi-parters, there would be the feeling akin to those of the old movie serials - the hero or someone close to the hero was in just the most dreadful, dastardly peril and you just HAD to get the next issue to see how it came out (for me - it was the Punisher pointing a loaded weapon right in a dazed and confused Spidey's face at the end of Amazing Spider-Man #134).

Also, crossovers with other titles were rare. Oh, the superheroes would certainly guest star in each others' magazines every now and then, but these stories would often be self contained within that particular magazine. There certainly wasn't this obsessive, relentless, and repetitive practice of company wide crossovers where you had to get 30 different titles over three or four months to get the entire story, gimmicks which are more promotional hype on steroids rather than exercises in storytelling (Civil War is but the latest example).

These days, you can often get through a single issue of a comic book in less time than it takes for you to be done taking the average crap on the toilet. Many times - NOTHING HAPPENS! The issues are often set-ups for succeeding issues, interludes, repetitive back and forth mono syllabic conversations that don't advance the story, retelling of the same events of the previous issue, but from a different character's perspective, pages of panels with no dialogue, huge splash pages, ad infinitum. I used to review comics at the Hero Realm for some time myself, but one reason I quit, other than the time commitment and some personal stuff was that it was becoming too difficult, for me at least, to honestly critique a six part story on a month by month basis. Oh what, I'm going to recommend part 1 of a story, but not part 2 or 3, but then I'll recommend part 4, and 5, but certainly not 6 because the story ended on a sucky note? Taken as a whole, isn't that kind of dumb? I recommend you only buy half the story? Aaaargh! Of course, many times the plots don't really start cooking until the story arc (as multi-parters are called these days) is two or three issues into it! And then there's all these loose ends that have never been collected into a cohesive whole that can go on for YEARS, frustrating even the most anal and continuity-minded fan.

Blame the economics of the industry for this problem. Every story now becomes a story arc that has to last at least four issues (even if it should be told in only two) so that several issues can be repackaged at a later date and sold as a trade paperback. After all, issuing trades allows the comic companies to be able to go to the well twice with the same material. Now, if by recycling the same stories in a different format helps to ensure the survival of the industry and of certain titles, I can live with that. I'm not that much of a purist that I won't take padded Spider-Man stories over no Spider-Man stories at all. But still, it has made reading the individual American comic book a far less satisfactory experience than it was, say 30 years ago when I was a little kid. Many will disagree with that - but hey - that's my opinion.

But at this stage of the game, I am simply too old and stuck in my ways to change when it comes to Spidey. I have every monthly issue of the major Spider-Man titles since Amazing Spider-Man #134 back in 1974, and I'm too old and cranky to really change my habits now. And personally, I like to see the evolution of the comics format over time, from the cheap, pulpy yellowing paper with the primitive color separation techniques that sometimes resulted in the blue in Spidey's costume not coming out so he looks like he's only wearing the red parts of the costume (yep - butt nekked he is), and the back cover imploring me to sell Grit magazine or seeds, to the slick art and computer-assisted coloring techniques which sometimes result in figures almost literally leaping off the page.

But guess what - when it comes to non-Spidey stories - I prefer the trades! I can kick back and essentially read several issues at a sitting, with the story flowing a lot better than trying to read it piecemeal with 30 day intervals between parts. Although the stories don't unfold as fast as they used to, reading a good trade feels like you're reading a good novel - only this one has pictures!

Also, Marvel Comics in particular has had a problem in shipping its titles in a timely fashion. More often than not, the problem centers on the creative team not delivering the product when they were supposed to (and sometimes this occurs because of an all too short lead period established by the publisher. Again, see Civil War). It could be months, or in the case of Kevin Smith's recent Spider-Man/Black Cat miniseries The Evil That Men Do, years before the entire run comes out. Therefore, many people have determined that it doesn't make sense to wait months in between issues because of some problems with the creative teams - they just wait for the trade when they can read the entire story at a single pop.

Economically, trades may or may not be cheaper than collecting individual issues, depending on how many issues are in the collection, and what the original individual issues sold for, or are selling for now. I wouldn't base my decision on buying a trade or individual issues solely on price with the current stories. Price becomes relevant if you want to read an older story where the issues in the back issue bins cumulatively are much higher than you could purchase the trade for.

O.K., but what if you simply want to read ABOUT Spidey, before delving into the stories? Well, there's help for you there as well.

Spidey Reference Materials
Personally, I love reference materials and I know a lot of other long time Spidey fans do as well - and there's a couple of excellent ones on the market right now:

The Spider-Man Encyclopedia is a wonderful treasure trove of information put together by folks who do give a crap about Spidey. However, it really is an encyclopedia, with 200 pages of characters from A to Z that have appeared in the spider-titles. Perhaps more of a hard core fan's delight than the person just starting out.

A cheaper and perhaps easier on the eyes source is the reference book written by former Spider-Man (and current Spider-Girl) scribe Tom DeFalco, Spider-Man: The Ultimate Guide - pictured below. Of the two, I would probably recommend this one to new Spidey fans, not only because you can probably find it dirt cheap these days, but for example, as I mentioned before, the Spider-Man Encyclopedia is just that - an encyclopedia - and it has a 10 page write-up on Peter Parker alone! The DeFalco book on the other hand, typically is much more concise, populated with large and colorful pictures, that gives you the basics about what you need to know about the major characters, as well as the key turning points in Spider-Man's career. It would probably also be the best coffee table reference source for the returning fan who just wants to be brought up to speed on things.

Of course, unless you see these in a library somewhere or otherwise can hang out at your comic shop and peruse through them without arousing the ire of your dealer (comic dealer, folks, comic), then you'd have to hand over anywhere from $10-$25 apiece for them.

But then - why pay good money for coffee table books - when you can find a treasure trove of information on the internet for free!

But, you punch up "Spider-Man" on a search engine and are told there are 27 million web references! Yikes! But - and this will make it a lot easier on you - there are five websites that from year to year have consistently risen to the top as far as "essential" Spider-Man websites - catering to the information needs of the Spidey fan, both old and new. In the interest of complete openness, I am affiliated with one of the sites, and two of the other four link to my own site. Nonetheless - trust me - these are non suck-up opinions.

Two other sites that don't focus exclusively on the comics, but are must-haves on your internet speed dial include:

All of this stuff is great information. And, if you're an older (not necessarily chronologically older, though) Spidey fan that has been away from the titles for awhile, then you might want to sit down and check these sites out in order to get caught up on things before you start laying out your hard earned cash on the current crop of material. Since you're probably already familiar with the players and their relationships to each other, these sites can help you make purchases closer aligned with what you're interested in reading. However - if you're new to the Spidey comics altogether, I really wouldn't necessarily recommend that you start out with these web sites before you actually read some of the source material, for reasons I'll explain later.

O.K. wise-guy, just where do I start?

Actually that's pretty easy. If you are new to Spidey and CAN ONLY READ ONE THING - then look no further than the trade Essential Spider-Man #1, which is one of the few times a title of a book really represents truth in advertising. For the budget conscience, its $14.95 (at least that's what mine cost when I bought it) cover price gives you a lot of bang for your buck - as long as the black and white reprints don't bother you. I emphasize that caveat because apparently some people who have had the Essentials recommended to them are turned off by the B & W. If you absolutely have to have color, then there are the Marvel Masterworks editions, but I find them too expensive for my tastes. After all - the purpose of this article to get you to read as much Spidey as humanly possible for the lowest price (short of stealing, that is).

Why is Essential Spider-Man #1 such a motherlode - 45 years and nine U.S. Presidents after these stories were first published? Well, for one, virtually ALL of Spidey's classic rogues gallery are represented. In this tome alone, which covers Amazing Fantasy #15 (the origin story), the first 22 issues and the first annual of Amazing Spider-Man, you will see the very first appearances of the following classic villains: the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Sandman, the Vulture, the Lizard, Mysterio, Electro, the Chameleon, Kraven the Hunter, the Scorpion - and that nefarious bundle of bad guys - the Sinister Six! Except for Kraven the Hunter, who is dead in the regular Spider-Man books (yeah, I think this one is really dead - his recent inexplicable appearance in the alternate future story Spider-Man: Reign nothwithstanding), all of these villains remain the core of Spidey's rogues gallery to this very day. Even Doctor Doom takes on Spidey! Other fabulous firsts in this volume alone include Spidey's first ever meeting with the Fantastic Four, in which he wants to sign up as a member because he figures it's a good paying gig (the joke's on Spidey, however), and the beginnings of the squabbling-like-brothers Spidey/Human Torch dynamic. Another key relationship, that of Spidey and Daredevil, also kicks off in this volume.

But even though the stories are clearly dated, containing references to then current political events and personalities, several core characters, including Peter Parker, J. Jonah Jameson, Aunt May, Betty Brant, Liz Allen, and Flash Thompson, are still in the titles today in varying degrees. Their relationships, most of which have matured and evolved over time, are still recognizable even in current stories or spin-offs, or other variations thereof, i.e. JJJ still hounds Spidey relentlessly, and Aunt May still dotes on Peter, who still has failures of nerve and several crises of confidence. And he was still bitten by a radioactive spider, although J. Michael Straczynski has tried to add to that with a Mystic approach. The humor, which has been such a trademark of Spidey's for so long, is in full force here. I still either laugh out loud or have to wipe a smirk off my face when I read these stories today. Also, it's a good chance to look at the artwork of Steve Ditko up close and personal - and believe me, that's a name, along with Stan Lee's, that you'll become VERY familiar with as you learn about Spider-Man.

So that's the place to start, bar none. And if you've got a couple of extra bucks on you, go ahead and splurge on Essentials #2 & #3. In the second volume Spidey is graduated from high school and enters college. We also meet such key characters as Gwen Stacy, Harry Osborn, and Mary Jane Watson for the very first time as well. Volume 2 also has the memorable showdown between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin when they first learn each other's secret identities, and marks the artistic transition from Steve Ditko to John Romita, Sr. The Romita name, both Sr. and Jr., is one that will likely be associated with Spidey for as long as there is a Spidey. Essential #2 is the bridge between #1 which establishes Spidey's beginnings, and #3, in which Spidey really begins to take off.

Essential #3 will take you up to Amazing Spider-Man #68 circa 1969. This volume is important because after all of the introductions have been made of the key characters in Spidey's college environment in volume #2, it is in #3 that those relationships actually begin to develop, and this is the era I've always considered Spidey's "Golden Age" because this is the period of time that Spidey's popularity explodes from simply being a comic book hero to a full fledged icon of American popular culture and if you read these stories - I think the reasons why will become very apparent. Harry Osborn's and Peter's initial enmity becomes a strong friendship that inevitably comes to a tragic end. After a couple of years of going back and forth between Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane, Peter chooses Gwen, a relationship that will also have a permanent impact upon his life. Flash Thompson goes to war (Vietnam), demonstrating that Spidey's world sometimes is not that different from the one you and I live in. And a certain bald, rotund crime lord called the Kingpin, whose contract on Spidey put Aunt May in the hospital at the beginning of the "Back in Black" storyline, makes his debut.

Now, there are later Essential volumes out there (they are up to 8 as of this writing), and I certainly encourage you to buy them if you enjoy reading about Spidey - but what makes these first three special is that throughout, Peter Parker and his costumed alter ego are in a fluid, dynamic environment in which there is significant character growth and evolution, and it seems that anything really can happen. Key relationships are established, on both sides of Peter's life, and you feel as if you really are reading a grand epic about a classic myth. We get that strong, and seldom duplicated mix of humor and pathos, of triumph and tragedy, of grand adventures intersecting with the routine humiliations of everyday life. The fact that these original stories were written in the very turbulent 1960's adds a certain bit of electricity to the pages as well. By the time the stories in the fourth volume are reached, however, the characters begin to slip into a holding pattern and character growth becomes almost non-existent and even regressive, with the sad deterioration of Gwen Stacy's character the most notable problem. Some of the infamous Spidey cliches, such as poor old Aunt May having more health problems and telling Peter to dress warmly and drink his milk, Peter screwing up his love life because he has to play Spidey, poor Gwen wondering if Peter really loves her and why won't he be honest with her, Mary Jane acting like a one-note goofy hippie, the Green Goblin going in and out of his amnesiac spells - all of this, once original and invigorating, becomes repetitive and the series begins to endure its first real bout of hardening of the arteries.

In reading these three volumes, you will discover what truly made Spidey special "back in the day," and even currently, although I don't quite think that original creative spark has ever been duplicated. It will also give you a strong base of reference with which to evaluate some of the modern stories. I think starting with the first three Essential volumes is far better than starting with something as comprehensive as say The Spider-Man Encyclopedia which is really geared toward the hard-core fan. You may have all of the facts, but you won't have the context, or get a feel for the legacy, which grew out of strong stories, a great supporting cast which provided for terrific character interaction, and humor.

Yes, the stories are dated and corny at times, particularly when it comes to some of the achingly bad dialogue as the middle-aged Stan Lee tried, and often failed, to capture the dialect of young people in the 1960's and early 1970's. Do not read these stories with the same critical eye as you would those written in the early 21st Century because the times were simply too different. That doesn't imply that the stories are not as good as those told today - many hold up quite well, and are still better than some of the stuff published today. Still, the 1960's were not that far from the days of Frederic Wertham's denouncement of the industry in his book Seduction of the Innocent, congressional investigations about the appropriateness of comic books for children, and the beginning of the Comics Code Authority, which made today's taken for granted mature and topical storytelling impossible to be told in anything but underground comics at the time. But, also, what do you want from your entertainment? Personally, that's just it - I want to be entertained. If I want to get slapped in the face with stark realism I'll just go change one of my son's dirty diapers, or I'll go look at my stack of bills, then look at my checkbook balance. Or I'll turn on the evening news and watch and see people kill each other across the globe for reasons I don't want to even get into - and I'm getting off that soapbox in a hurry.

NEXT TIME: Well, we've got you started - now let's ramp things up a bit. Back in 1969 where we left off - there was just one monthly Spidey title. However, in the 1970's Marvel begins the inevitable process towards milking the cash cow to death. The number of Spidey titles on the market grows almost exponentially, and we'll take a look at nearly all of them - the good, the bad, and the very, very ugly. It's all in Part 2 - An Endless Sea of Spidey. Just click the link.

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Copyright 1998-2007 by J.R. Fettinger. All Rights Reserved. All original content is the exclusive property of J.R. Fettinger. Spider-Man, the Green Goblin and everyone else who appears in the Spider-Man comics is the property of Marvel Entertainment, and are referenced in these essays for the purpose of analysis and commentary.