Well, today is turning out to be a rather good day, and that is because I have just got my grubby little hands on a brand-new book, which I am very excited about. The book is The Amazing Spider-Man from Penguin Classics.
Yes, you read that correctly: PENGUIN CLASSICS. Spider-Man is now so old, that he gets the Penguin Classics treatment!
This beautiful, full-colour, hardback book is part of the Penguin Classics Marvel Collection, and essentially comprises a run of iconic Spidey comics, all housed in one stunning tome. The book is edited by Ben Saunders, includes just over 350 pages of content, and features a number of Spidey stories written by Stan Lee and illustrated by Steve Ditko.
Now, before I delve further into the delights of this book, I should mention that two sister titles are also available as part of the collection: One for Captain America and one for Black Panther. All three books are part of the Penguin Classics Marvel Collection and are available in hardback or paperback.
I opted to pick up the Spidey book from this collection, because Spider-Man is one of my favourite Marvel characters, and the Lee/Ditko era in particular is fantastic. As for why I chose the hardback edition over the paperback, well, it’s simply because the hardback is gorgeous to look at!
And this is perhaps where I should begin my discussion. As you can see from the images in this post, The Amazing Spider-Man from Penguin Classics is a ridiculously good-looking book – there’s no other way to describe it.
The cover is a mix of red and gold, and showcases a bold image of Spider-Man in the centre. The red/gold theme then continues on both the spine and the back, with some additional gold colouring added to the edge of every single page.
Just one glance at this book and you can see that it looks the business. It is also looks expensive too – yet it’s surprisingly affordable.
This edition cost me £40 in a bricks-and-mortar store, which isn’t bad for a book that boasts this much quality. But if you search for it online, you can find it even cheaper, so be sure to do your homework.
OK, onto the interior now, and moving beyond a couple of introduction pages, as well as a foreword, this book includes 12 classic comic book tales, all lifted from the 1960s. The stories begin with Spider-Man’s first appearance in the pages of Amazing Fantasy #15, and run through eleven editions of The Amazing Spider-Man comic.
Each of these comics is reprinted in full, complete with original covers and letters pages. In the case of Amazing Fantasy #15, the original issue’s non-Spidey stories are also included too – something which often gets overlooked in other books.
Now, I should point out that while 11 editions of The Amazing Spider-Man comic are included in this book (along with Amazing Fantasy #15), the issues featured are not a straight forward reprint of #1 to #11. Instead, the comics are issues #1 to #4, #9 to #10, #13 to #14 and #17 to #19.
The book skips some issues of The Amazing Spider-Man’s early days, in order to cover a broader collection of tales. Why? Because this Penguin Classics book isn’t about reprinting every issue of Spider-Man in chronological order (other books are available should you want this), it is about presenting readers with a selection of stories that showcase the development of Spidey over his first two years in print.
So, rather than reprint issues #5 to #8 for example, the book substitutes these stories with a chapter discussing how Stan Lee and Steve Ditko adapted to the success of Spider-Man during this period of time. Meanwhile, other chapters that replace issues #11 & #12 and #15 & #16, look at other parts of the Spider-Man mythology.
The aim is to provide a collection of stories, as well as a number of discussions, that provide a clear overview of what Spider-Man comics were like during the early 1960s. So, if you want to learn more about the character, while reading a selection of key stories, this is most certainly the book for you.
On the other hand, if you are wanting a book that reprints every story from start to finish, this isn’t the book for you. So, please be mindful of this.
As to what stories you do get, well, as mentioned above, this book covers the first appearance of Spidey, along with tales featuring The Chameleon, The Vulture, Doctor Octopus, Sandman, Electro, The Enforcers, Mysterio, and the Green Goblin. Most of Spidey’s best villains appeared during the Lee/Ditko era of The Amazing Spider-Man comic, and plenty of them get their chance to shine in the pages of this book.
I’ve read these Spidey stories a number of times before, via other comics and publications, but these tales are always fun to return to. Sure, they are little dated in places (this was the ‘60s after all), but the sheer creativity and imagination on display from Lee and Ditko is astonishing.
My hope now is that Penguin get to publish more books in the Marvel Collection, to accompany Spider-Man (and the aforementioned Cap and Black Panther books). I’d personally love to see the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby era of Fantastic Four given the same treatment, so Penguin if you’re reading this review, please make it happen!
But putting my hopes and dreams to one side for a moment, for now I have this copy of The Amazing Spider-Man to sit on my shelf, where it can look all sexy and snazzy. And yes, it is both sexy and snazzy, as well as damn good too!
The Amazing Spider-Man from Penguin Classics is a real treat of a book. If you’re a fan of Spidey, I urge you to head to your local bookshop to take a look – you won’t be disappointed.
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