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The Amazing Spider-Man Debuts! A Marvel Masterworks Comic Book Review

Updated on October 25, 2014

The Debut Stories of the Superhero Who Helped Revolutionize Comics, in One Volume!

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 with new editions and reprints that vary slightly, contain fewer stories or bonus material, and have different covers. This review will focus on the 2003 trade paperback version that Marvel published in partnership with Barnes & Noble, as that is the book I am holding in my hands!

Spiderman, Comic Books, Spider-Man, Marvel Comics
Spiderman, Comic Books, Spider-Man, Marvel Comics

A Great Beginning to a Legend!

This edition of the Marvel Masterworks contains Spider-Man's introduction and origin in Amazing Fantasy No. 15 as well as the first 10 issues of Amazing Spider-Man. The elements that made the series so different and complex were there from the start. Peter Parker, who would of course become Spider-Man, is introduced on the first page of the debut story as the subject of teasing by his high school classmates, setting him apart right away and making him a sympathetic character for many young comic book readers.

His origin is well-known, with Stan Lee and Steve Ditko making him feel so guilty about his uncle's death that he has no choice but to become a hero. In Amazing Spider-Man No. 1 his troubles continue with the introduction of J. Jonah Jameson, the publisher who runs a public campaign against him. In almost every issue in this collection there is a new development that would add to the depth of the series and make Spidey the most-beloved character in the Marvel Universe.

The image of Spider-Man by Steve Ditko is reproduced from the book.

So Many Great Debuts So Quickly!

Here is a list of the stories that appear in this Marvel Masterworks edition, along with a brief description. Amazing how Stan Lee and Steve Ditko packed so many classic contributions to the saga of Spider-Man right from the start!

  • Amazing Fantasy No. 15: Spider-Man's origin, with the debut of Peter Parker, Aunt May, Uncle ben, the web-shooters, the great costume, Flash Thompson!
  • Amazing Spider-Man No. 1: Two great stories, with the debut of J. Jonah Jameson and his son John, as well as the Chameleon. Guest stars: The Fantastic Four!
  • Amazing Spider-Man No. 2: The debut of the Vulture and the Tinkerer. Peter Parker finds a job selling photos of Spider-Man. And I think this is the first time Ditko draws the split image of Peter Parker, where half his face would be Spider-Man. That was a gimmick that faded out over time but that I thought was pretty cool.
  • Amazing Spider-Man No. 3: The debut and origin of Doctor Octopus, as well as a guest appearance by the Human Torch!
  • Amazing Spider-Man No. 4: the debuts of the Sandman and Betty Brant. Liz Allan gains a name! I'm not sure if we should count this as Liz's debut, she had been appearing in the series since page 1 of the very first story. But this is where we learn her name.
  • Amazing Spider-Man No. 5: Spider-Man fights Dr. Doom, in one of Dr. Doom's silliest adventures. Trust me, if you are a fan of Dr. Doom this one will make you cringe!
  • Amazing Spider-Man No. 6: Spider-Man travels to Florida to fight the Lizard!
  • Amazing Spider-Man No. 7: The return of the Vulture, and the beginning of Peter Parker's love life!
  • Amazing Spider-Man No. 8: Spider-Man vs. The Living Brain, a computer on wheels! And a second story featuring the Human Torch!
  • Amazing Spider-Man No. 9: The introduction of Electro, and the first of what will become numerous hospitalizations for Aunt May! Over the course of the series her medical bills would become staggering!
  • Amazing Spider-Man No. 10: The debut of The Big Man and the Enforcers. This issue is notable because so many things occur that will reverberate in issues to come: Betty Brant is in some unnamed trouble, Peter Parker donates blood to Aunt May, Frederick Foswell goes to prison, Flash Thompson starts to show more character and we find out why J. Jonah Jameson hates Spider-Man. Amazing!

The Biography of Steve Ditko

This is the definitive biography of artist Steve Ditko, who co-created Spider-Man and eventually took over the plotting of the comic book series. Then he walked away from the series as it began to reach the height of its popularity in the 1960s. A fascinating man and a great book. I also have a fuller review in a separate lens.

Spider-Man's Fantastic Super-Foes!

Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created so many memorable super-villains in their early issues of Amazing Spider-Man: Dr. Octopus, the Sandman, Electro and more. A large number would go on to become legendary characters in the Marvel Comic universe, and it's hard to imagine Spider-Man would have been so popular without these great super-baddies. The scene with Electro pictured here, from the cover of Amazing Spider-Man No. 9, is part of the collection.

Which of the Villains Who Debuted In This Collection Has Best Stood The Test of Time?

See results

Stan Lee's How to Write Comics - Writing of Spider-Man's Creation and Much More!

In his recent book Stan Lee's How to Write Comics, Lee discusses his collaboration with Steve Ditko on the Amazing Spider-Man series, and how their story instincts eventually diverged so much that the artist left.

It is interesting to note that several times in the book he praises Ditko and says he trusted the artist to draw a compelling story. It was veterans like Ditko and Jack Kirby that enabled Lee to use the famous Marvel method, which consisted of Lee providing a summary or outline of the story to the artist and the artist using his imagination to pace the story and fill in exactly what was on each page.

The book is a wide-ranging discussion, led by Lee, of how he and various other writers and artists (including Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Roy Thomas, Jerry Ordway, Kirby, Ditko, etc.) create comic books. It's definitely a fun book for anyone who loves comic books, and well worth checking out!

Marvel Masterworks vs. Marvel Essentials

The Marvel Masterworks series has far fewer stories in each book, but they are published in wonderful full-color that enables you to enjoy them in all their original glory. The Marvel Essentials series of books publish the stories in black-and-white, on lesser quality paper, but you get more than twice as many stories.

Is the Marvel Masterworks series better than the Marvel Essential series? Why or Why Not?

Spider-Man in the 1970s!

Green Goblin, Nightcrawler and The Punisher!

Marvel has published numerous collections of old Spider-Man stories. These reviews focus on two of those volumes that collect the superhero's adventures in the late 1970s. Check it out and you'll see how different the character is!

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....

Growing Up With Spider-Man: The Day Gwen Stacy Died
Spider-Man's girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, died 40 years ago this summer, marking the end of one era in comic books and introducing a realism into the lives of sup...

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 review 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...

The Theme From the 1960s Spider-Man TV Series! - Spider-Man, Spider-Man! Does Whatever a Spider Can!

When Stan Lee began creating a new wave of super-heroes in the early 1960s it's hard to believe he could have imagined that 50 years later the Marvel Universe would expand to include cartoons, movies and so much more.

Here is the opening theme to the classic Spider-Man cartoon series from the 1960s!

Stan Lee's Pulp Inspiration For Spider-Man! - The Spider, Master of Men

Stan Lee, in his book called Origins of Marvel Comics (1974), tells where he got the name of his character: ''One of my favorite pulp magazine heroes was a stalwart named The Spider.'' Lee says The Spider's adventures sent goose pimples up his spine, and he loved the magazine's subtitle. ''The Spider, Master of Men.'' The pulp character is nothing like the comic-book one, by the way. As Lee says: ''It was the name that grabbed me. But that was enough.''

My Comic Book Reviews

Ghost Rider, Daredevil, the Avengers and Many More!

Here are some other reviews I have created that related to comic books. If you have enjoyed this review please give these others a look. I'm sure you'll like them!

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...

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-...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

Captain America
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...

Darwyn Cooke
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 ...

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...

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 ...

The X-Men in the Early 1970s: Neal Adams
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 ...

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...

New York Comic Convention

Thousands of Comic Book Fans in One Place!

My teen 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!

Here's your chance to discuss this book, Spider-Man, comic books, this lens or anything else on your mind! Thanks for stopping by!


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