Contents: Amazing Spider-Man #211 (December 1980) to #230 (July 1982); and Amazing Spider-Man Annual #15 (1981)
Key Creator Credits: Denny O’Neil, Roger Stern, John Romita Jr., Frank Miller, and others
Key First Appearances: Hydro-Man
Story Continues From: Essential Spider-Man Vol. 9
Story Continues In: Essential Spider-Man Vol. 11
Overview: It’s AMAZING to think that by the time this volume finishes, Peter Parker will be entering his twentieth year slinging webs around New York City. He’s come a long way since his humble beginnings as a novelty character in the final issue of a monster comic, Spider-Man has become one of the most recognizable characters in all of the comics. This is Essential Spider-Man Vol. 10.
The adventures in this collection are overseen by three key players. Veteran writers Denny O’Neil and Roger Stern oversee the majority of the tales in this book, while (then) young artist John Romita Jr. becomes the regular artist on Amazing Spider-Man, following in his dad’s footsteps. These issues are fairly typical of the time, usually one-and-done stories. We do get the occasional appearance from some up-and-coming stars such as Moon Knight and the Punisher.
One new character is introduced in this volume with the creation of Hydro-Man. Given that one of Spider-Man’s long-time foes is Sandman, it’s surprising that it took nearly 20 years to get a Hydro-Man. Thankfully for Peter, he gets some help early on from the Sub-Mariner with taking down the new villain. It won’t be the last that we see of Hydro-Man, and he will often be partnered with the aforementioned Sandman.
The volume wraps up with one of the most memorable Spider-Man stories from the 1980s. Spider-Man goes one-on-one with the Juggernaut, who is on the hunt for Madame Web. She reaches out to Peter for protection, guiding him along the Juggernaut’s path in an attempt to stop him, if not just slow him down until other help can arrive. But there is no one else – the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and even Doctor Strange are all unavailable. Spider-Man finally brings the Juggernaut to a halt at a construction project. Peter launches a tanker truck full of gasoline into the Juggernaut, causing a horrific explosion and making him angrier. So angry, in fact, that the Juggernaut does not notice that he is being led directly into a freshly poured foundation of wet cement. The Juggernaut’s weight sinks him to the bottom of the foundation, where he remains trapped — for now!
What makes this Essential?: This is a very good book. I don’t know if it is Essential, other than the final two issues collected in it, but these issues are worth reading. You don’t have to be reading Peter Parker or Marvel Team-Up in order to keep up with what is going on in Peter Parker’s life. John Romita Jr. does most of the art in the collection, cementing his place on the list of definitive Spider-Man artists. Roger Stern scripts some brilliant stories. I really feel like it is this period when Spider-Man is finally viewed, and treated, as an adult.
Footnotes: Amazing Spider-Man Annual #15 was also reprinted in Essential Punisher Vol. 1.
If you like this volume, try: the Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends TV cartoon series from 1981-1983. You’ll see this show advertised on the front of Amazing Spider-Man #223, as well as all of the other Marvel books that month. This show teamed up Spider-Man with college friends Iceman and Firestar. (Firestar was an original character created for the TV series to serve as an opposite to Iceman. She was later brought into the Marvel universe properly with her own mini-series and appearances in New Mutants.) This show debuted right as I was really getting into comics, so it holds a special memory in my heart. What I loved about this series was that they used so many Marvel characters, even those outside the Spider-Man universe of that era. This was the first time we saw X-Men in an animated series – yes, this is the infamous cartoon that gave Wolverine an Aussie accent. We also got Captain America, Doctor Strange, Doctor Doom, Shanna the She-Devil, the Black Knight and more. The second and third seasons only added three episodes each, so the first season was repeated a lot during this time period. It may pale in comparison in today’s world to so much of the animation that has come out since then, but it was still better than many of the other Saturday morning offerings during this time.