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Spider-Man's Earliest Adventures: A Review of Marvel Comics' Essential Spider-Man Volume 1

Updated on October 1, 2014

The Debut of Spider-Man! And the First Appearances of Doctor Octopus and the Green Goblin!

Marvel Essential Spider-Man Volume 1 contains the debut story of Marvel Comics' most-popular character, who first appeared 50 years ago in the summer of 1962. In addition to that fateful tale, contained in Amazing Fantasy No. 15, this Essential collection includes the first 20 issues of the Amazing Spider-Man series plus his first super-sized annual.

If you have seen the movies, the cartoon series or read any of the comics, you probably already know the origin of Spider-Man. But these early tales are so much more than that! Writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko pack a lot into these early tales, making Peter Parker a much deeper character than might have been expected. Add in a great supporting cast and the first appearances of such memorable super-villains as Dr. Octopus, Green Goblin, Kraven the Hunter and the Vulture, and you have a collection of tales that are well worth the price!

Here are some highlights from Marvel Essential Spider-Man Vol. 1. This book's ISBN is: 0-7851-0988-9. Also, note the character's name is Spider-Man, not Spiderman!

Amazing Fantasy 15 Spider-Man
Amazing Fantasy 15 Spider-Man

Spider-Man's Debut Five Decades Ago: Amazing Fantasy No. 15

Stan Lee's Follow-Up to the Fantastic Four and the Hulk!

The Marvel Universe had begun with the debut of the Fantastic Four in 1961, and writer Stan Lee followed that with the Incredible Hulk.

The story is often told about how Lee came up with Marvel Comics' third hit, which would become the company's best-selling character. In fact, Lee has often told the story himself in many places. He wanted to make a different kind of superhero: A teenager who wasn't the most popular kid at school, a teenager who was picked on and never seemed to win. This was very different from other comics back then, because up to that time teenagers were reduced to sidekicks of the main hero, who was an adult male

Lee called the new hero Spider-Man, inspired by the old pulps' crimefighter The Spider (and perhaps as a play on Superman). His publisher thought the series would never work: people didn't like spiders. But he agreed to allow Lee to put the story in Amazing Fantasy No. 15 since the series was already being canceled due to low sales.

Lee decided against using artist Jack Kirby, his partner on the Fantastic Four and the Hulk, because Kirby made his characters too heroic. Instead, Lee chose Steve Ditko to illustrate the story.

And what a story it is! Unlike so many other superheroes, when Peter Parker gains his superpowers he doesn't swear to use them to help humanity or fight crime! Instead, he tries to make some fast cash off them, leading to the death of his beloved uncle. It's a really great story that would set the tone for the series and shape the character for decades.

Buy Your Copy of Marvel Essential Spider-Man No. 1 Today!

Amazing Spider-Man No. 1
Amazing Spider-Man No. 1

Amazing Spider-Man No. 1: Guest-Starring the Fantastic Four!

Plus the Debut of J. Jonah Jameson

Amazing Fantasy No. 15 appeared in August 1962, the series' last issue. It wasn't until March 1963 that the first issue of the Amazing Spider-Man would follow.

Lee and Ditko picked up right where the debut story ended, pretty much. With his uncle dead, Peter Parker and his Aunt May are struggling to pay the bills so he tries to use his powers to make some money. But it doesn't work out. He also saves an astronaut in a runaway capsule, but is attacked in print by the astronaut's father, a newspaper publisher who sees Spider-Man as someone trying to hog the attention from his son!

That publisher, J. Jonah Jameson, would go on to be a major part of Spider-Man's world. And it's stunning how well Lee captures Jameson's personality right from the start. And in a twist that would become typical for the series, Parker as a freelance photographer ends up working for Jameson!

The manner in which Spider-Man saves the astronaut is kind of silly, by the way. The issue also has Spider-Man fight his first costumed foe, the Chameleon. And as you can see from the cover of the issue, Spider-Man also visits the Fantastic Four in hopes of joining the group. But he leaves when he finds out they don't pay a salary!

Amazing Spider-Man No. 14 Hulk
Amazing Spider-Man No. 14 Hulk

The Fantastic Four, the Hulk and Daredevil!

Crossovers in the Marvel Universe!

One of the things that always thrilled me as a young comic-book reader was that the characters all existed in the same Marvel Universe, and most of them lived in New York. That meant they were always crossing paths with each other, sometimes in cameos and sometimes as major guest stars. It was fun and it rarely felt forced.

In this collection there are numerous examples of appearances by the other superheroes of the Marvel Universe. I've already mentioned Spider-Man's attempt to join the Fantastic Four, in hopes of gaining a steady salary. But the Human Torch would also appear regularly in follow-up stories (especially Amazing Spider-Man No. 8 and 17-19 in this collection). As the two characters were both teenagers, they developed a friendly rivalry that has carried on for decades.

The Hulk appears in issue no. 14, a fun story in which the Green Goblin persuades Spider-Man to appear in a movie out west. They end up filming in the Hulk's stomping grounds, leading to a short fight between Spider-Man and the Hulk. This issue, by the way, is the Green Goblin's debut.

This collection also includes a very early appearance of Daredevil in his original yellow-and-black costume. In Amazing Spider-Man No. 16, the bad guys are the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime, and the Ringmaster orders a hypnotized Spider-Man fights Daredevil. It's a pretty silly story, mainly because there doesn't really seem much possibility that the bad guys would come out victorious!

Daredevil in his Original Costume - The Yellow-And-Black Costume Makes a Comeback!

Daredevil was a fairly new character in the Marvel Universe when he appeared in Amazing Spider-Man No. 16 in September 1964, having debuted in his own title only five months earlier. Spider-Man No. 16 would have appeared on the newsstands shortly after Daredevil No. 3.

Daredevil would discard his original costume four issues later, in issue No. 7. His red costume would go on to become one of the classic designs of the Marvel Universe.

Even so, the original costume has had its fans over the decades, and has been the subject of a number of statuettes in recent years.

Amazing Spider-Man Annual No. 1
Amazing Spider-Man Annual No. 1

The Sinister Six Fight Spider-Man!

Amazing Spider-Man Annual No. 1

This collection ends with the first Spider-Man Annual, which was dated October 1964. The lead tale has just about everything in it that Lee and Ditko could throw in: Aunt May and Peter Parker's sometimes-girlfriend Betty Brant are being held hostage by six of Spider-Man's deadliest foes, and he must fight each of them one at a time to free his loved ones.

Thor, Captain America, Giant-Man and the Wasp, Dr. Strange, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men all make cameo appearances along the way. One fun little idea that Lee had was that Aunt May would find Dr. Octopus to be a well-mannered, ''charming, soft-spoken gentleman,'' never realizing that he's trying to destroy her nephew.

Her impression of Dr. Octopus would return to haunt Spider-Man years later, as Dr. Octopus and Aunt May strike up a relationship that almost ended up with them married!

The other wonderful thing about the story is that Ditko really outdoes himself with some great artwork. He devotes a full-page shot to each battle, so the book feels like it includes pinups of Spider-Man vs. Electro, vs. Kraven the Hunter, vs. Mysterio, vs. the Sandman, vs. the Vulture and finally against Dr. Octopus.

Strange and Stranger: The Odd Career of Spider-Man's Co-Creator

The World of Steve Ditko

Steve Ditko was more than just the artist of the early Spider-Man tales. He is credited with the design of Spider-Man's costume, which was more distinctive than other superheroes of the time.

Ditko also helped developed the look and feel of the series. It was Lee who wanted the hero to be a nerdy high school student, forever being picked on by his classmates, but it was Ditko that brought to life the living hell of the bullied, the loser, the outcast. Peter Parker's travails at school and at home, with his part-time boss and possible girlfriend, contributed just as much to the series' success as Spider-Man's fights.

Unfortunately, Ditko became estranged from Lee and left Marvel after Amazing Spider-Man No. 38. Though he continued to draw comic books, he never revisited the commercial success or popularity of Spider-Man.

His life story was told in the biography Strange and Stranger: the World of Steve Ditko, published in 2008. Here is a review I wrote about the book:

Spider-Man Co-Creator Steve Ditko: Strange and Stranger Book Review
Strange and Stranger: the World of Steve Ditko was published in 2008 by Fantagraphics Books. Author Blake Bell traces the life story of this legendary and re...

Stan Lee vs. Steve Ditko

Amazing Spider-Man 19
Amazing Spider-Man 19

The contributions of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko to the creation of the Amazing Spider-Man and the wild success of the comic-book series have long been in dispute. Ditko felt that his impact was overlooked even while working on the series, and eventually stopped talking to Lee sometime before Amazing Spider-Man No. 25. Lee credited Ditko with the series plots, but still maintained that the series was mostly his invention.

After issue No. 38, Ditko's last, the comic went in a much different direction.

Who Contributed the Most to Spider-Man's Success?

See results

Writer C.J. Henderson's Take on Spider-Man's Origin

The Perfect Origin Story

C.J. Henderson, who has written dozens of comic books, novels and short stories over a career that has lasted decades, discussed the origin of Spider-Man at the Zenkaikon anime festival earlier this year.

Henderson called Spider-Man's debut pretty much the perfect origin story. The first page of the story, which shows Peter Parker being excluded by his fellow high school students, sets up exactly who the main character is and how he is treated by life, Henderson said.

Parker then figuratively shakes his fist at the Gods above, saying if only I had the power they'd be sorry, Henderson said. And through the use of a dying spider Parker gets his wish, and ends up paying for it with his beloved uncle's death. That's Shakespearean, Henderson said.

Henderson also said Lee has probably been read by as many people who have read Shakespeare, which sounded like an exaggeration. But as Henderson pointed out, Lee was writing 10 comics a month for a decade in the 1960s. He also wrote many. many more stories stretching from the 1940s to the 1970s, and beyond.

Henderson obviously was a huge fan and in fact, teared up a bit when he spoke about the influence Lee had on him.

For more on Henderson, see this lens I wrote about an earlier anime festival appearance by the writer:

C.J. Henderson's Writing Advice: A KotoriCon Anime Festival Highlight
C.J. Henderson, a writer of novels and comic books, spoke at KotoriCon 2012, the anime festival at Gloucester County College in Sewell, New Jersey. His panel...

Marvel Essential Series - An Economical Way to Read Your Favorite Comics!

The Marvel Essential series reprints many of Marvel Comics' stories in large volumes that contain several hundred pages. The series began in 1997 with the publication of the Essential X-Men No. 1 and Essential Spider-Man No. 1. Many of the volumes have been printed more than once, with different covers, so don't let that throw you off when buying. 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.

A quick search for ''Marvel Essentials'' on Amazon reveals a whopping 674 items. I'm sure several are duplicates, but even so there should be one available for every comic-book fan!

Marvel Essentials vs. Marvel Masterworks - More Stories Per Collection vs. Full Color Comics!

Marvel Comics has two reprint series, Marvel Essentials and Marvel Masterworks. The Marvel Essentials series of books publish the stories in black and white, on lesser quality paper, but each collection contains more than twice as many stories as a Masterworks book. The Marvel Masterworks series has fewer stories in each volume, but they are published in wonderful full color that presents the tales in all their original glory.

Which do You Prefer? Marvel Essentials, or Marvel Masterworks?

Spider-Man's Early Stories in Color!

Marvel Masterworks Spider-Man No. 1 contains Amazing Fantasy No. 15 and the first 10 issues of Amazing Spider-Man in full color on higher-quality paper than the Marvel Essentials volume.

Here is my review of that book:

The Amazing Spider-Man Debuts! A Marvel Masterworks Comic Book Review
Marvel Comics began publishing its Marvel Masterworks series in 1987 with The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1, among others. Since then the company has come out wi...

Spider-Man in the 1970s

A Different Look as Spider-Man Grows Up!

By the mid-1970s Spider-Man's comic book had changed dramatically: Writer Stan Lee and Artist Steve Ditko had long parted, and the series had gone through several writers and artists. By 1976, writer Len Wein and artist Ross Andru were handling the chores as Spider-Man matured and headed toward college graduation.

While some of the great Lee-Ditko supervillains returned to menace the superhero, the bad guys introduced at this time were mainly forgettable and bland ones.

For a taste of what the Amazing Spider-Man series was like from 1976 to 1978, check out Marvel Essential Spider-Man No. 8, which reprints issues 161-185. A second comic book, called Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man, debuted in at the end of 1976, and the focus of this series was on the college life of Spider-Man's alter-ego.

Here are reviews that we wrote about these collections:

Spider-Man in the 1970s! A Marvel Comics Book Review
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...

Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man: A Review of the 1970s Marvel Comics Series!
Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man first appeared at the end of 1976, and was a comic book aimed at cashing in on the growing popularity of Spider-Man....

Marvel Essential Fantastic Four Comic Book Review: Dr. Doom and Daredevil Guest Star as the Legend Grows!
The Fantastic Four rocked the comic-book world when it debuted in 1961, with writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby introducing more characterization and real...

Captain America in the 1960s: A Marvel Comic Book Review
Marvel Essential Captain America Volume 1 reprints Captain America's stories from Tales of Suspense No. 59-99 as well as the first three issues of the newly-...

Marvel Essential X-Men Comic Book Review: Wolverine, Storm and a Return to Greatness!
Marvel Essential X-Men collects Giant-Size X-Men 1 and X-Men 94-119. Giant-Size X-Men No. 1 introduced the new team of superheroes, reviving the X-Men comic....

The Avengers in the Late 1960s: A Marvel Comics Review!
Marvel Essential: Avengers Vol. 3 contains issues 47 to 68 of the comic's original series, as well as Avengers Annual No. 2. For the most part this collectio...

The Ghost Rider Debuts! A Marvel Comic Book Review
The Marvel Essential series contains four volumes devoted to the Ghost Rider superhero, who first appeared in 1972 in a comic book called Marvel Spotlight. H...

The Rampaging Hulk Marvel Essential Comic Book Review
Marvel Essential: The Rampaging Hulk 1 is a collection of Hulk stories from his short-lived late 1970s magazine. This volume includes the tales from issues 1...

Essential Iron Fist: A Marvel Comic Book Review!
Essential Iron Fist Volume 1 collects the first four years' worth of Marvel comics starring the character, who debuted in 1974 during a martial arts craze. T...

The X-Men in the Early 1970s: Neal Adams' Dynamic Art
Marvel Essential Classic X-Men volume 3 is a real hodge-podge of stories that shows just how far below the radar screen the original X-Men had fallen in the ...

Marvel Essential Fantastic Four: Galactus, Silver Surfer and the Black Panther Debut!
Marvel Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 3 contains perhaps the most-sustained run of great comic book stories of the 1960s. This collection of Fantastic Four No...

Marvel Masterworks X-Men Comic Book Review: Enter the Phoenix! Plus Wolverine, Storm and Nightcrawler!
This volume reprints Uncanny X-Men No. 101-110 in full color, a collection of 10 comics during a run that really established the new X-Men as a major franchi...

X-Men's Dark Phoenix Saga: A Marvel Comic Book Review
X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga collects issues No. 129-137 of the original X-Men comic-book series, a series of tales that ends with the final battle over Jean...

Gene Colan, Comic Book Artist: An Appreciation
Gene Colan developed such a moody, cinematic style during his six decades as a comic book artist that his work was as easily identified as the art of Jack Ki...

Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller A Marvel Comic Book Review of The Complete Elektra Saga!
Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller Vol. 2 collects issues 168-182 of the original Daredevil series. Issue 168 was the first comic of the series that Miller ...

New York Comic Con + Anime Festival: A Comic Book Fan's Review!
The New York Comic Book Convention occurred Oct. 13-16, 2011, and coupled with the New York Anime Festival, drew more than 100,000 comic-book fans, video gam...

The Avengers Debut! A Comic Book Review of the Marvel Masterworks Collection!
The Avengers Volume 1 was one of the first four collections when Marvel Comics began publishing its Marvel Masterworks series in 1987. Since then the company...

Darwyn Cooke's DC: The New Frontier Comic Book Review
DC: The New Frontier was a series of six comic book issues in 2004 that focused on the 1950s, when many of the major superheroes that populate the modern DC ...

Captain America's 1960s Adventures in Color: A Marvel Comics Review
Marvel Masterworks: Captain America Volume 1 reprints the superhero's adventures in Tales of Suspense No. 59-81 in full color. This was Captain America's fir...

X-Men Reborn in the 1970s: Storm and Nightcrawler Debut, plus Wolverine!
Marvel Masterworks: The Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1 highlights the rebirth of the team in 1975-1976, reprinting Giant-Size X-Men No. 1 and X-Men No. 94-100. Promote...

Joe Kubert, Comic Book Artist: An Appreciation
Comic book artist Joe Kubert died on Aug. 12, 2012, after more than seven decades of drawing and creating comic books. Over those many years he worked on a w...

The Mighty Thor Debuts: Highlights of His First Marvel Masterworks Collection
Thor, one of Marvel Comics' mightiest heroes, debuted 50 years ago in a comic book called Journey into Mystery. One of the Marvel Universe's earliest charact...

Geppi's Entertainment Museum

See The Old Comic Books Next Time You Are in Baltimore!

If you are ever in Baltimore check out Geppi's Entertainment Museum for one of the greatest comic-book collections on display anywhere, including early issues of the Amazing Spider-Man. See my lens below for more details on what you can expect during a visit!

Geppi's Entertainment Museum in Baltimore: A Tourist's Guide to Comic Book Heaven!
Geppi's Entertainment Museum is located in Baltimore and is dedicated to all sorts of American pop culture: comic books, television, radio, movies, magazines...

About Goldenrulecomics

Of Comic Books and Family Vacations

To find out more about who we are and what we write about please see here:

Of Comic Books and Family Vacations: Who is GoldenRuleComics?
Who is GoldenRuleComics? Actually, the better question is who ARE GoldenRuleComics! I am the father of a teenage daughter, and we live in New Jersey. I hand...

Thanks for stopping by and reading this review of Marvel Essential Spider-Man Vol. 1. Now it's your turn to share what you think about the collection, Spider-Man, this lens or anything else on your mind!

What Do You Think of the Early Spider-Man Stories? - Please Share Your Opinion Here!

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    • profile image

      caryfranco 4 years ago

      You know what, I started liking spiderman since the movies with Tobey Maguire, before that I wasn´t much of a fan. Well, I can see that you really like it and you have share a lot of great info particularly for the fans and for who ever wanted to know more about spiderman.

    • BinendraWije LM profile image

      BinendraWije LM 4 years ago

      Brilliant lens! you've done quite alot of research.Never quite liked spiderman but now my opinion has mellowed.

    • Arod17 profile image

      Arod17 4 years ago

      Spiderman is my favorite super heroe

    • makorip lm profile image

      makorip lm 4 years ago

      Spiderman was always one of my favs

    • mcspocky lm profile image

      mcspocky lm 4 years ago

      Awesome lens! I was a comic book junkie as a kid, although back then I was mostly into DC comics. I've since grown fond of Marvel as well, especially since the various Marvel comic movies have come out. I love how Stan Lee makes a cameo appearance in the movies too... I'll definitely have to check out your other comic book lenses now that I know they are here.

    • mcspocky lm profile image

      mcspocky lm 4 years ago

      Awesome lens! I was a comic book junkie as a kid, although back then I was mostly into DC comics. I've since grown fond of Marvel as well, especially since the various Marvel comic movies have come out. I love how Stan Lee makes a cameo appearance in the movies too... I'll definitely have to check out your other comic book lenses now that I know they are here.

    • RedHairedRockHead profile image

      RedHairedRockHead 4 years ago

      I love Spidey.

    • dave-sutton profile image

      dave-sutton 5 years ago

      In a way the early comic books seemed so much better than the modern films of today. I still look at these comics and they bring back so many good memories of my childhood.

    • PaulWinter profile image

      PaulWinter 5 years ago

      I have never read any of the Spiderman stories, but I really enjoyed reading your informative lens.