Marvel Comics has begun reissuing their Marvel Masterworks series of collections of classic Silver Age stories. Consequently, this is a good time to review some of the best comics work ever done - Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s Amazing Spider-Man.
Even in comparison to today’s more “mature” or “complex” storylines, Amazing Spider-Man, issues 1 through 38, and Annuals 1 and 2, are wonderful examples of how comic books should be done where characterization, “multiple-plot-planting”, dynamic storytelling and art are concerned.
Lee and Ditko’s Peter Parker was the first true underdog superhero. Far from a simple nerd or bookworm, he was multifaceted, sympathetic and as much fun to read as was his wall-crawling alter ego. His constant struggles with family, romance, work, school and social entanglements are the stuff of classic soap opera, and the very definition of “teen angst”. Without a doubt, rooting for ol’ “Puny Parker”, as constant class bully Flash Thompson tagged him, took no back seat to pulling for Spider-Man as he battled any one of many interesting costumed bad guys.
For many, the artistic style of Steve Ditko is still the definitive representation of the Web Slinger. Eccentric, highly stylized and exceedingly dramatic, Ditko’s Spidey (as well as the rest of his characters) was based in realism, yet perfectly at home on the comics page. His characters were awash with emotion and evocative movement, but not overdone, and his sense of pacing and storytelling are still legendary in the world of comics.
For those who have hesitated taking Spider-Man’s very first adventures out for a spin, fearing the possible “displacement” of the ‘60's setting, trappings and references, consider how popular such television fare as The Andy Griffith Show, My Favorite Martian, Bewitched, Star Trek, The Adams Family and many more continue to be with new viewers. Not to mention some of the great movies and music from the same era.
No, Lee and Ditko’s Amazing Spider-Man suffers not at all from comparison to today’s comics stories. In fact, the only suffering is being done by comics fans, as we continue to await equally well-done and entertaining sequential material.