Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 1

Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 1

First Published: February 2005

Contents: Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #1 (December 1976) to #31 (June 1979)

Key Creator Credits: Gerry Conway, Sal Buscema, Archie Goodwin, Bill Mantlo, Jim Mooney, Frank Springer, Frank Miller, and others

Key First Appearances: Lightmaster, Razorback, Hypno-Hustler, Carrion

Story Continues In: Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 2

Overview: Following the long-established comic trend of duplicating success, Marvel introduced another Spider-Man title to the newsstands in 1976. Currently featured each month in Amazing Spider-Man, Marvel TalesMarvel Team-Up, and Spidey Super Stories, a new title was added to the list with Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man (PPTSS).

In a column in issue #1, writer Gerry Conway explained that this new title was added to help give more room to feature the supporting cast of characters in Spider-Man’s life. We got longer stories involving Glory Grant, Mary Jane Watson, the White Tiger, and others. This title gave us more access to Peter Parker’s life beyond the red-and-blue costume.

Familiar foes like the Tarantula, the Vulture, Morbius, and Kraven make appearances in this run. But the new foes introduced are a mix of intriguing challenges (such as Lightmaster and Carrion) to downright pop-culture bad guys anchored in the 1970s (such as Razorback and Hypno-Hustler). In addition, a long story arc involving White Tiger and the Sons of the Tiger tie in with the popularity of martial arts at that time.

What makes this Essential?: This is a borderline essential book. Spider-Man was the most popular character at Marvel in the mid-1970s, and would be soon making the jump to television with the live action series, so introducing another title featuring Peter Parker made sense. However, within the first year, there were two fill-in issues, so I wonder how much effort was ongoing to make sure the book shipped on time. Compared to the stories in Amazing Spider-Man and Marvel Team-Up at this same time, I feel like these stories are a step below in quality. For the Spider-Man fan, this should be a must read. For the casual Marvel fan, you could skip over this and just concentrate on the Essential Spider-Man line of books.

Footnotes: Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #22 and #23 were also reprinted in Essential Moon Knight Vol. 1.

Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #6 is a reprint issue from Marvel Team-Up #3. A new introduction and final pages were included, and a few panels were re-worded. This did lead into the Morbius storyline beginning in issue #7.

Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #11 appears to be a filler issue that was originally intended for Marvel Team-Up. The issue is written by Chris Claremont, the then current scribe on Marvel Team-Up, and this would be the only issue of PPTSS that Claremont would write. No reference is made in the story to the previous or following issues.

If you like this volume, try: the Complete Frank Miller Spider-Man released in 2002. This collects various issues that Frank Miller drew involving Spider-Man, including Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #27 and #28, which are found in this Essential. There is also a cover gallery of the numerous covers that Miller did involving Spider-Man over the years. This is a great volume to read some classic stories done by one of the modern masters of the comic industry.

Essential Iron Man Vol. 2

First Published: November 2004

Contents: Iron Man stories from Tales of Suspense #73 (January 1966) to #99 (March 1968); Sub-Mariner story from Tales to Astonish #82 (August 1966); Iron Man & Sub-Mariner #1 (April 1968); and Iron Man #1 (May 1968) to #11 (March 1969)

Key Creator Credits: Stan Lee, Gene Colan, Archie Goodwin, George Tuska, and Johnny Craig

Key First Appearances: Ultimo, Whiplash, Whitney Frost/Countess Giulietta Nefaria, Janice Cord

Story Continues In: Essential Iron Man Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Essential Iron Man Vol. 3

Overview: Welcome back to the world of Iron Man! Tony Stark is a man of many roles — inventor, businessman, playboy, and Avenger. Whether holding off another scheme by the Mandarin, or testifying before Congress, Tony Stark balances the many demands and threats on his life with the charm and suave that makes men jealous and women swoon.

In this volume, we see more of Tony’s ties with Nick Fury and his agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division). Tony’s best friend, Happy Hogan, undergoes some freakish changes. And the villain known as Whiplash makes his debut; however, he will rename himself Blacklash in later issues.

Some new ladies come into Tony Stark’s life. First up is Whitney Frost, a.k.a. the Countess Nefaria, the heiress to the Maggia crime family. This puts her at odds with Tony Stark, in and out of his armor. In the next Essential, we see Frost injured in a place crash, forcing her to don a mask to hide her disfigurement and adopt a new identity of Madame Masque. Another character introduced was Janice Cord, Tony’s girlfriend and the daughter of the CEO of Cord Industries, a rival to Stark Industries. Unfortunately, being the girlfriend of a Marvel hero is a hazardous occupation, as we see in Essential Iron Man Vol. 3.

What makes this Essential?:This collection explodes off the page as Gene Colan replaces Don Heck as the Iron Man artist in Tales of Suspense. These stories read quickly, as the stories cram a lot of events into 12 pages of stories. Colan would stay with the character for the remainder of the Tales of Suspense run. (It was also in this era that Colan took over the art duties on Daredevil.) The end of Tales of Suspense marked a lot of changes for the character. Iron Man moved into his own title, and Archie Goodwin replaced Stan Lee as the Iron Man writer. New artists take over from Colan at the same time. Because of the art, I consider this to be a better volume than Essential Iron Man Vol. 1, but so much gets introduced in that first volume that it still remains an essential read.

Footnotes: Tales to Astonish #82 and Tales of Suspense #80 were reprinted in Essential Sub-Mariner Vol. 1

If you like this volume, try: reading S.H.I.E.L.D. by Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver. This series from 2010 explored the history of the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization, with roots back to Leonardo da Vinci and Isaac Newton. While the story jumps around in different eras, the characters from the most current era of the story are Howard Stark (future father of Tony Stark) and Nathaniel Richards (future father of Reed Richards). Hickman creates a wondrous history of an organization designed to protect humanity, and Weavers illustrations are majestic in the scope of the story. Easter eggs are scattered throughout the issues, sure to delight long-time Marvel readers. Hickman and Weaver keep promising to finish up the second volume of S.H.I.E.L.D., so hopefully we will see that later this year.