First Published: December 2000
Contents: First and Second Editions: Amazing Spider-Man #69 (February 1969) to #89 (October 1970), and Amazing Spider-Man Annual #4 (1967) and #5 (1968); Third Edition: Amazing Spider-Man #66 (November 1968) to #89 (October 1970), and Amazing Spider-Man Annual #5 (1968)
Key Creator Credits: Stan Lee, John Romita Sr., John Buscema, Jim Mooney
Key First Appearances: Vanessa Fisk, Martha Robertson, Silvermane, Man-Mountain Marko, Hobie Brown/Prowler, Richard Fisk/Schemer/Rose, Mary Parker, Richard Parker
Story Continues From: Essential Spider-Man Vol. 3
Story Continues In: Essential Spider-Man Vol. 5
Overview: Spider-Man swings into the 1970s with this Essential volume. Still battling traditional foes like the Lizard, Doctor Octopus, and the Kingpin, new foes are introduced with Silvermane and the Prowler. We see more of the real-world social issues of the era creeping into the pages of the comics, as student protests are the norm across the Empire State University campus. Other characters from across the Marvel Universe, such as Quicksilver and the Black Widow, get caught up in Spider-Man’s webs. For those occasions when he is out of costumer, Peter has a daily challenge to balance the demands on his time – from Aunt May to Gwen Stacy, from college classes to freelance photographer.
What makes this Essential?: After five plus years of publication, Stan Lee had developed a predictable formula with his stories in Amazing Spider-Man. The art team, which rotated between John Romita, Sr., John Buscema, and Jim Mooney (with a touch of Gil Kane for good measure) perform admirably in their assignments. But the story structure doesn’t seem to alter much. Most stories end with the villain being defeated, but rather than celebrating his victory, Peter laments about how bad his life is – troubles with Gwen, overdue college papers, and he forgot to take photos for the Daily Bugle. The supporting characters introduced flesh out the storylines, but they don’t advance it along either. If you are a Spider-Man completist, look for this volume if you don’t already own the original issues. For the average Marvel fan, your collection will not suffer with this Essential not being on your shelf.
Footnotes: Please note that there are different content listings between the first and second editions and the third edition of this Essential. Volume #4 had different content listings between the editions, due to the placement of Amazing Spider-Man Annual #4.
If you like this volume, try: the original Ultimate Spider-Man HC collection from 2002. This collects the first 13 issues of the Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley series that launched in late 2000. Marvel’s Ultimate line was introduced as a fresh way to look at the characters, without the 40+ years of continuity behind them. With the Ultimate Spider-Man title, Peter Parker works on the Daily Bugle website after school. We get to see the true relationship between Peter and his Uncle Ben, tearing at the reader’s emotions as we all know how the story is going to play out. Issue #13 stands out as one of the best single-issue stories involving Peter Parker, finding a new confidant in Mary Jane Watson. Bendis & Bagley created an incredible legacy with this book, often putting out as many as 18 issues per year during their seven-year run on the book together. While the Ultimate Spider-Man title had a tremendous run, this first collection contains the best issues of the series.