Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Son of Origins!
An Origins Sequel.
(or addendum if you will)

There was another formative experience that would utterly hook me into the world of comic books.
One aside from (although, sort of at the same time - or a little later than) the "origin" tale that I related in my most recent entry; the Special 125th Edition post, entitled;

For you see... (and this is offered forth through the foggy haze of poor memory of 30+ years or so gone by)... even before I was wading into the world of actual comic BOOKS, I was already an aficionado of those four-color comics found in the the newspaper (aka; the "FUNNIES").

However, aside from the usual gag strips I would soon become a huge fan of two in particular;

The Star Wars strip, which was based on the "first" film; A New Hope (and then adapting the various paperback spin-off's of the "Han Solo Adventures" that were hot on the shelves) to keep the kiddie's hooked, long before the sequel(s) could start running...

- and, even before that -

The Amazing Spider-Man strip.
Written by Stan Lee and drawn by John Romita Sr.

THIS was my real - true first experience with "collecting" comic books (of a sort).
I had known of Spider-Man himself from the 1960's animated TV cartoons, the live action television show starring Nicholas Hammond - (which I seem to be alone in my professed love of that show) and Spidey's stint on the Electric Company educational, tv kiddie-show.

However, while the various television shows would fade to black after their credits rolled, the newspaper strip was mine to keep - collect and re-read as many times as I'd like.

I had a shoe box filled with clipped-out comic strips; the dailies and color Sunday editions of the Star Wars and Spider-Man comics.

For many years I kept them, archiving them in various manners over time, always being amazed by their quality.


Now, for the most part, the Star Wars strip only interested me because I had actually read and enjoyed the Han Solo books (Han Solo at Star's End, Han Solo's Revenge and Han Solo and the Lost Legacy, as well as the other early adaptations, like Splinter of the Mind's Eye).

I was never much of a Star Wars fan otherwise.

But the fact that I was familiar with those books, the comic was an excellent continuation of the enjoyment that I felt from the actual paperbacks, and so... I read, clipped and collected them.


The Spider-Man strip was something entirely different.

I was really pretty hooked on that strip.
The artwork was so crisp and perfect. I had never seen it's like.
Having never seen Ditko's Spidey at that time, I thought that surely John Romita Sr. was the ONLY guy qualified for the job.

I can only remember a few scant details of them today; the introduction of the PROWLER and the headers.

Especially the one with Spider-Man lifting the bus!
That image has been burned into my mind and will be with me all the days of my life as "THE" most awesome Spider-Man pose. It really gave him some "oomph"!

Check it out!

There were other images that would rotate in placement atop the strip, acting as header, but the bus one was tops for me.

Although, I did (and do) like the quiet, studious and mysterious nature of the "mixing web-fluid" vignette.

The only thing that seemed "wrong" to me, was that for a guy named "Spider-Man", Romita drew him as very muscular and bold. I'm sure I didn't think it consciously, because Romita's Spider-Man was truly perfect to my young mind.
I especially liked how uniform and dimensional he made the webbing on the costume, especially on the arms and boots.

Sometime shortly afterwards, I would be out grocery shopping with my mother and she would purchase "ALL" laundry detergent, and there on a promotional blurb was Spider-Man!

I had to have it.

The promo came with 3 "magic" marker pens and a comic book (although, I don't recall if the comic was somehow attached to the product or if it was a mail-away offer).

But when I received that comic (a reprinting of an early issue featuring Spidey and the Human Torch vs the Beetle - with some cool bonus material) I saw that it was drawn by someone entirely different than John Romita.
Some guy named Steve Ditko.

I wasn't sure WHAT to make of it, really... except... that I fell in love with the fluidity of his Spider-Man.

Romita's rendition was physically PERFECT, and heroic looking (as well as having Peter Parker being quite the handsome young man, and the women were very attractive).
However, Ditko's characters MOVED!
They looked flawed physically and facially... a little too weird for my young self (especially the bug-eyed Betty Brandt and other female love interests) but Spider-Man and the Torch (and even the boxy Beetle) were FLUID!

(And, when, a few years later, I would discover some of the history and back-issues of Doctor Strange, the name of Steve Ditko was one that was immediately recognized by me and he brought that same fluidity and sense of motion and urgency to the mystic master as well.)

So, I was now able to appreciate more than just Romita's style as "the" Spider-Man artist.

However, those newspaper strips would stay with me as my foundation for the print character to this very day.

So, when I read that an omnibus of sorts for the newspaper strip was being offered, I was excited!

Here's the solicit text:

Written by STAN LEE
Penciled by JOHN ROMITA
And since we’re talking about strips written by Stan “The Man” Lee and drawn by “Jazzy” John Romita…that means ALL of ’em! Reprinting all of Stan and John’s Spider-Man newspaper strips in chronological order, Spider-Man Newspaper Strips brings you the earliest classic panels that hit the daily and Sunday papers of the late 1970s! All the daily strips are printed in the original black and white, and all the Sundays in their original color, featuring remastered linework in a deluxe hardcover format that will spin a web of enchantment upon anyone who reads them! Collecting Stan Lee/John Romita's Spider-Man daily strips and Sunday pages, originally published from 1977-1980
352 PGS./Rated A …$39.99
ISBN: 978-0-7851-3793-1
Trim size: oversized

It brings a smile to my face to think that soon I'll plunk down the cash for it (since I had long since lost my clippings) and reminisce about a better, simpler time, and a more perfect Spider-Man!


Sean Aaron said...

I remember reading those in the Chicago Tribune as a youth during holidays with my paternal grandfather in Streator, Illinois.

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