Spider-Man in the 1970s! A Marvel Comics Book Review
Essential Spider-Man Volume 8: A Wild Ride Through The 1970s!
The Essential Spider-Man Vol. 8 contains issues No. 161-185 of the Amazing Spider-Man series, plus Nova issue No. 12 and the Amazing Spider-Man Annual No. 11. Note that it is Spider-Man, not Spiderman, which is how a lot of people misspell it! The cover says the collection also contains Giant-Size Spider-Man No. 6, but inside is only the cover to that comic, which was simply a reprint. The ISBN of this book is 0785125000.
The Marvel Essential series of books, each topping several hundred pages, contain the original stories in black & white rather than color.
Fun Collection of Stories With a Few Lame Ones Thrown in!
This collection of stories, which originally were printed from 1976 to 1978, is a fun and enjoyable time, with most of the tales being straight adventures where Spider-Man meets the bad guy, they fight, and he eventually wins. Very straightforward story-telling, and I don't mean that in a bad way!
Len Wein handled most of the writing chores, with Marv Wolfman later taking over with issue No. 182. Ross Andru draws the majority of the stories, which included the returns of such classic bad guys as the Kingpin, the Lizard and the Green Goblin.
Dr. Faustus, who was really Captain America's foe, pops up, as well as guest stars such as the Punisher, Nighcrawler and Nova.
The stories spend a good bit of time with Peter Parker, and this collection ends with the story of his college graduation.
Buy the Book Here!
Green Goblins Here, Green Goblins There...
...Green Goblins everywhere!
The highlight of this volume is a five-part saga featuring the return of Spider-Man's deadliest foe from those days: the Green Goblin.
Len Wein does a good job of setting things up over past stories, with scenes of Harry Osborn (who had last worn the Green Goblin costume) and his psychiatrist. Then Wein involves Osborn's fiancée Liz Allen in a separate adventure with bad guy the Molten Man, which leads her to leave Osborn and pretty much send him over the ledge and sets up the return of the Goblin.
I don't want to give too many details of the actual story, as there are some surprises in store. But the climax involves a fight with more Green Goblins than Spider-Man should ever have to face! The stories originally appeared in issue Nos. 176-180.
The Punisher Strikes!
The Punisher, who became a much larger star in his own series in the 1980s, was a regular guest-star in the Amazing Spider-Man since his debut in issue No. 129. The thing to remember is that this type of antihero, who was determined to kill criminals, was definitely a strong contrast to the superheroes of the 1970s, who went to great lengths to defeat the bad guys without killing.
In this collection the Punisher appears in two two-part stories. He and Spider-Man team up in issues No. 175-176 to stop the Hitman from killing J. Jonah Jameson, which culminates in a classic fight on top of the Statue of Liberty. The tale also gives some insight into the crucial differences between the antihero Punisher and the villain Hitman, who it turns out knew each other in the Vietnam War. I was disappointed by the ending of the tale because I found the Hitman to be one of the better villains introduced during that era.
This image is taken from the cover of Amazing Spider-Man 162.
And The Nightcrawler Came Prowling, Prowling!
The other two-parter starring the Punisher also features Nightcrawler from the X-Men series. Nightcrawler had debuted a year earlier with the revamped X-Men series, and I have vague memories of his appearance in Amazing Spider-Man No. 161 as one of the character's first outside the X-Men series. In fact, one of the sub-plots involves Nightcrawler trying to recover some photos Spider-Man took because the new X-Men haven't been disclosed to the world-at-large.
This was a cool story because we were still learning about Nightcrawler, and he was one of my favorites of the new X-Men. The villain's motive as pretty stupid -- he was killing random people to get The Punisher to attack him, but overall I really enjoyed the story.
Nightcrawler's Debut in Giant-Size X-Men No. 1
Plus the First Appearances of Storm and Colossus!
Nightcrawler was one of four new superheroes introduced in 1975's Giant-Size X-Men No. 1, in which a new team of X-Men take over. The other new characters were Storm, Colossus and Thunderbird. Read my review of that collection here:
Marvel Essential X-Men Comic Book Review: Wolverine, Storm and a Return to Greatness!
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An Old-Fashioned Mystery Guest-Starring Nova!
Nova: Part Spider-Man, Part-Green Lantern
Another highlight of this collection is a two-part story that first appeared in Nova No. 12 and Amazing Spider-Man No. 171. In the story, a masked killer murders Nova's uncle, and the two heroes team up to find the killer in an old-fashioned detective story with a roomful of suspects, clues and red herrings.
I enjoyed this tale immensely when I was a young reader, and marveled at the main clue (no hints, as I don't want to spoil things for anybody!).
Nova, who first appeared in 1976, was a cross between Spider-Man and the Green Lantern in many ways. In this case, a teenager with lost of personal problems (just like Spider-Man's alter ego Peter Parker) gains super-powers from a dying alien who belonged to a type of police force (just like Green Lantern). His 1970s series didn't last more than a few years, but it was fun.
Ross Andru, An Underrated Professional
Ross Andru spent five years drawing the Amazing Spider-Man, starting with issue No. 125 and continuing with almost every issue through No. 185 (the last story in this Marvel Essentials collection). I never hear him mentioned as one of the great comic book artists, and that may be because his style wasn't really so distinctive that you'd buy a book just because he drew it (unlike, say, Jim Steranko or Jack Kirby). But he had a nice clean style, and his Spider-Man seemed a bit less bulky and more spider-like than John Romita Sr.'s version, which had been the main image of Spider-Man for the previous 87 issues or so.
Prior to Spider-Man, Andru drew eight years worth of Wonder Woman stories for DC Comics, from 1958 to 1967, cementing in many readers' minds an image of what that superhero looked like. I remember he also drew Marvel Comics' original version of pulp hero Doc Savage in a short-lived series in the 1970s. I was just discovering the pulp reprints, and while reading those novels I always imagined Doc and his colleagues as drawn by Andru!
John Romita Jr.'s First U.S. Work!
This collection also includes a six-page back-up story from the Amazing Spider-Man Annual No. 11 that was John Romita Jr.'s first U.S. work for Marvel (he previously had done some work for Marvel's U.K. unit). Romita would go on to two acclaimed stints on the Spider-Man series, but in this first story the art is very uneven. He handles Peter Parker and Spider-Man well, but Mary Jane Watson is almost unrecognizable at times. It's an interesting little piece of Marvel Comics history for true fans.
John Romita Jr.'s Spider-Man Stories
John Romita Jr. teamed up with writer J. Michael Straczynski in the 2000s for a very memorable run of Spider-Man stories. They are very different from the 1970s stories but well worth checking out!
Who's The Lamest Villain?
The volume contains some of the absolute silliest Spider-Man villains ever! I remember finding bad guys like Jigsaw funny more than anything else. And the Rocket Racer certainly hasn't stood the test of time. These guys just didn't have enough danger to them to ever make you think Spider-Man was in danger. Which of these bad guys do you think was the lamest?
The lamest supervillain in this collection is:
The Marvel Essentials Series
The Marvel Essential series reprints many of Marvel Comics' stories from the 1960s on in large volumes that usually top several hundred pages. The series began in 1997 with the publication of the Essential X-Men No. 1 and The Essential Spider-Man No. 1. Many of the volumes have been printed more than once, with different covers on some of them, so don't let that throw you off when buying. Carefully check to make sure which volume number you are considering. The huge advantage to these volumes is cost: a reader can get 30 or more stories for about what a half dozen new comic books cost, and the old stories have more pages of action per issue. The Essentials books are much more cost-effective than buying all the original comics as well.
Are Marvel Essentials worthwhile?
Some say the Essential series is a great way for fans to read all their favorite series without having to scout down the old comics and spend a great deal of money. Others say the books just aren't worthwhile because the reprints are in black & white and losing the original colors of the art makes everything look drab. I agree the colors are a major part of enjoying a comic, but I do think the Essentials books are a great deal. I no longer have to go through my collection and pull the original comic out of its protective bag to enjoy an old story. Now, they can sit in a handy volume on my bookcase for me to dip into whenever I want!
Is the Marvel Essentials series worth collecting?
New York Comic Convention 2011
Thousands of Comic Book Fans in One Place!
My daughter and I were able to attend the New York Comic Convention in New York City in October, 2011, and wrote a review of our day there. It was a blast, and we highly recommend a visit to the convention next year for any true comic book fan!
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Geppi's Entertainment Museum
Comic Book Heaven!
If you are ever in Baltimore check out Geppi's Entertainment Museum for one of the greatest comic-book collections on display anywhere. See my lens for more details on what you can expect during a visit!
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