Saturday, October 18, 2008

Doug Tells: Why We Like the Marvel Visionaries series

At the August 2007 WizardWorld Chicago comic convention I plunked down some cold, hard cash for three books that have become treasures in my reprint collection: the Marvel Visionaries hardcover volumes for John Buscema, John Romita, Sr., and Roy Thomas.

I am very excited that I bought the Visionaries books. I won't post the exact contents here, but you should know that a simple search on will reveal that information for you for all of the volumes in the series. You should know, too, that these books are larger than the Masterworks volumes, and at around $35, they cost A LOT less!

Of the three, the John Romita, Sr. book is perhaps the most redundant to my collection. I have the John Romita Sketchbook from Vanguard, as well as a John Romita hardcover published by Marvel several years ago (which I bought firsthand from the Jazzy one at an art gallery when he was in Chicago hyping the giclee that he and Alex Ross did of Spidey vs. the Goblin). Anyway, much of the material in this Visionaries volume was reprinted there, as well as the oft-reprinted ASM 39-40 and 50. Of note, however, is some 1950's Captain America work, as well as some Cap stuff from the late '60's-early '70's. Two issues of his FF run immediately after Kirby left for DC are also in the book; it's funny to see that Romita (or Sinnott) tried to ape Kirby's look rather than let John work his own magic. It’s one of John’s faults – the continual admission that he never felt comfortable penciling, that he always felt he lived in Kirby’s shadow. The reality for me, anyway, is that Romita is one of the most integral creators at Marvel, and gave them their “look” as Nick Cardy helped to give DC their “look” at approximately the same time. At any rate, this is an essential volume because of the nice package and survey of all periods of John's work; but like I stated earlier, there really isn't any surprising material.

Of the remaining two volumes, if I'm ranking, I guess I'd place the Roy Thomas edition second. And that's tough to say -- there are some great stories in it!! What strikes me, however, is what a great survey of Marvel art this volume presents! The work of Gene Colan, Marie Severin, Don Heck, John Buscema, George Klein, Dan Adkins, Mike Esposito, Gil Kane, Tom Palmer, Neal Adams, John Verpoorten, Herb Trimpe, John Severin, Joe Sinnott, Barry Windsor-Smith, Alan Weiss, Dick Giordano, Frank Robbins, Vince Colletta, George Perez, and Jackson Guice is all between the covers, and wonderfully reprinted in fine color (not too bright, as is often my complaint of these retooled volumes – I particularly find the Masterworks series guilty of this. Newsprint was generally muddy – brightening it too much takes away from the original feel). As all books in the series are surveys of the history of a particular artist, this volume showcases the evolution of the company. Essential stories are, of course, Avengers #'s 57-58 and Sub-Mariner #8, which again are often reprinted. The treat in the book for me, though, is Amazing Adventures #8 featuring Neal Adams art on the Inhumans and the Avengers. We just don't see that type of thing in reprint form! Some of Roy's black-and-white work is in here as well, but alas (as is the case in the Buscema volume) no Conan.

Lastly, to no one's surprise (at least no one who has followed this blog or my musings on the Avengers Assemble! message boards) as my favorite, is the John Buscema volume.

The editors made great choices for this -- it truly is the essential John Buscema. And what strikes me most about this book (and to a lesser extent the Romita book) is that what I hold in my hands is truly an evolution of John's work. His late '50's stuff is very rough compared to what we came to know and love in the Silver and Bronze Ages. I think Buscema hit his stride after the examples in the book where he drew over Kirby's lay-outs. I have read in multiple resources that John did not like to have to do that, but when looking at his work in a linear, historical fashion there is no mistaking the King's influence (on Romita, too). Also vital to the Buscema fan is the effect of different inkers on John's pencils. Inkers here include Frank Giacoia, John Tartaglione, Mike Esposito, George Roussos, Sal Buscema, John Romita, Sr., Tom Palmer, Joe Sinnott, John Verpoorten, Syd Shores, Rudy Nebres, Bill Sienkiewicz (my least favorite, bar none), and Stephanie Cerwinski (who is John's granddaughter!). John's first Avengers work (#41-42) is here, as is the pin-up from Annual #2. Later, #'s 75-76 are reprinted, in my mind to pay homage to John's Conan work (Dark Horse currently holds the licensing to Conan and Tarzan properties, and this volume suffers because of it), as that story included Arkon. The treasure in the volume may be Marvel Spotlight #30, with the Warriors Three; Sinnott remarks in his Brush Strokes With Greatness (TwoMorrows) that this was the first time he inked Buscema when John turned in loose breakdowns and Joe had to finish the job. The end result is striking, and it's neat to see Sinnott "do" John Buscema -- there's no mistaking John's presence on the page. One more thing -- Silver Surfer #4 is in here, too, and is in my humble opinion John's standard, his masterpiece. Buscema’s mastery is here – from the almost-splash of Norrin Radd with the animals of Africa to the majesty of Asgard to the brutality of the joust. All comic art should be compared to that single issue. Wow...

Additionally, I’d comment that these volumes contain little text aside from the comic stories. I believe Roy Thomas takes a few pages here and there to comment on the issues included in his volume. He also writes a lengthy introduction to the Buscema volume. A nice touch in the Thomas book is the inclusion of the letters page from FF #176 (where the Impossible Man goes berserk in the Marvel Bullpen) where Roy explains the impetus for that issue. All volumes in the series have dust jackets with additional art and minor commentary; the right side of the jacket has writer/artist profiles. At the conclusions of the Romita, Sr. and Buscema volumes there are some original pencils, watercolors, and character drafts that add a nice touch. However, these types of things only add 3-4 pages to the book and are not to be considered as an expansive sketchbook, et al. Sometimes I think commentary from Stan Lee, Thomas, or other Marvel editors might have been nice to “set the table” for a given story, but that might have perhaps upped the cost and/or dropped the page count for each tome.

At the back of the Buscema volume, there is a four-page story, credited as unpublished but intended for a magazine called "Marvel Italia". The exhibit in the book is a reproduction of John's pencils for the story, which included Loki, Thor, and the Silver Surfer. The pages come courtesy of Sal Velluto, who was the intended inker. I actually have a pencil and ball point pen rough on sketch-paper to page 3 of this story! It is obvious that John sketched it out, liked it, and using a light box reproduced the page onto comic artboard. And there it was, right in the book in my hands! When I first came across this, I made a quick trip to the basement to gather the portfolio in which I keep my non-framed art and viola! My wife was quite impressed...

The Roy Thomas volume contains a very interesting story in regard to inkers, and I guess I’d like to highlight it as one of the many reasons to check out this volume. We've mentioned several times (both here and on the AA! boards) about the power inkers have over pencillers -- Joe Sinnott often being the main subject of those conversations. I would encourage all who are able to view a copy of X-Men #64, the introduction and origin of Sunfire. The issue is credited to Don Heck (filling in for Neal Adams at the time) and Tom Palmer. Palmer is credited as the "embellisher" -- understanding that there can be a difference between inks and embellishing, I would say "did he EVER!"This issue may be the single-most beautiful book ever attributed to Don Heck, and we have Tom Palmer to thank. Given Heck's output at the time (I believe he was on the way out at Marvel and heading to Wonder Woman, et al. at DC), I can honestly say that there are only 3-4 figures in the entire story that one could look at and say, "Yeah, Don Heck's art". Palmer exerts his influence in such a way that this story flows near-seamlessly between the Adams before and after. I truly can't understand why Heck wasn't just credited with lay-outs, thumbnails, whatever -- he's just not in the book.That being said, we've discussed Sinnott and how he "saved" Kirby at times; we could have a similar discussion of Palmer exerting the same type of influence over Buscema's pencils in his last Avengers run (around Under Siege, Acts of Vengeance, etc.) when John was doing very loose lay-outs and Palmer the finishes; it was Palmer who kept the "look" from Buscema to Steve Epting to whoever-came-next. But I'm just surprised that we see this from Palmer so early on in his career.I'm not complaining, don't get me wrong. This is an extremely eye-pleasing story, and Roy Thomas writes a wonderful tale to boot. I just found it interesting given what I'd come to expect from Don Heck in that era how much un-Heck-like the book was.

Other volumes in the series include Stan Lee, two for Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Chris Claremont, and John Romita, Jr. Any would make a valuable addition to the library of the Silver and Bronze Age Marvel enthusiast!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Marvel Team-Up Prototypes: Mutant Mayhem part 2

Spider-Man 92 Iceman
Spider-Man #92 (1971) The Iceman Cometh (come on, what else did you expect?!)

Amazing Spider-Man #92 (January 1971)
Stan Lee/Gil Kane/John Romita
“When Iceman Attacks!”

Doug: As we conclude this series, I’d just like to say it’s been a blast re-reading some classic Spider-Man stories. Even though some weren’t among the best the Silver Age had to offer, it’s never time wasted to revisit the foundations of the Marvel Universe. And to be honest, even a weak Silver Age story puts a whammy on most of what today’s newsstands have to offer!

Doug: Amazing Spider-Man #92 is about the closest to a Marvel team-up of the four books we’ve been looking at. The way the heroes meet, fight, then actually get together against a common foe is the formula that worked for years in the pages of MTU and in the Ben Grimm vehicle Marvel Two-In-One. We’ve also seen the work of four of Marvel’s Silver Age stalwarts including Don Heck and these whose work would also grace the covers/interiors of MTU: John Romita, Jim (Madman) Mooney, and Gil Kane.

Doug: Ah, Gil Kane. In the short history of our blog, this is the first story with full Kane pencils that we’ve reviewed. Previously we’ve commented on his covers during the “Celestial Madonna” arc that ran through the Avengers mags. I’d like to take a few minutes to comment on my history with Gil Kane. The first encounter with the man that I can recall was in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #150 (I’m sure I’d seen his work earlier, since he did covers for just about every Marvel comic in the early 1970’s). I was immediately struck by two things: the upshots of people’s noses, and the rigor-mortis-like fingers he drew. And I just could never escape my first impression – I just hated those depictions!! It wasn’t until much later in life that I grew to appreciate Gil Kane as a storyteller and to focus on the dynamism he brought to the four-color page. And (again later), as I discovered his Silver Age Green Lantern and Atom work at DC Comics, I grew fonder of his work even more. But, it’s still a departure from Romita’s polished, realistic pencils…

Sharon: I should disclose that I have not read this particular issue, but Romita still had a hand in the art here, right—didn’t he do the inking? And from what I’ve read, during this time he was basically co-plotting Spider-Man (even when he wasn’t penciling or laying it out); Stan entrusted Spider-Man’s direction to John.

Karen: It took many years before I could really appreciate Gil Kane’s art. I still find it quirky – as Doug mentioned, I get tired of looking up everybody’s nose – but I’ve come to find that certain elements of his work, such as his anatomy, are enjoyable. Certainly he has his own style, which is immediately recognizable. That’s one of my complaints about some of the current comics artists – many of them have styles which look alike (to me at least). Although artists of the 60s and 70s might have had what are considered to be more simplistic styles, I could always tell a Romita story from a Kane story from a Buscema story with just a glance. In this issue, I particularly liked the way Kane drew Iceman – he really looked like he was coated with ice! All in all though, when I think of Spider-Man, Romita Sr. will always be the first name to pop into my head.

Sharon: The two masters of anatomy and musculature were Buscema and Gil Kane. But while Big John’s characters all looked like gods, Kane's characters were very much human. Take a look at his depictions of Green Lantern, Atom, and Batgirl. At Marvel, Kane did a great job with Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell). I always loved how Kane positioned the human body; he did a lot of over the shoulder, dorsal and posterior shots (Adams used that shot too but Kane drew better butts). Kane’s figures were athletic and balletic at the same time. And he was like Kirby in the sense that his art was consistently dynamic and kinetic.

Sharon: As for the faces, I have always loved how individual and memorable he made features, expressions, etc. This individualization did not apply only to the villains (who were typically not as good-looking as the heroes and thus easier for artists to draw “a la carte”--they could add outsize features, for example)--but also the heroes heroines, who generally had to be drawn in accordance with a classical standard. Ray Palmer and Hal Jordan have distinct visual looks and it isn't just because of the hair.

Doug: Back to the story… The reader not up on then-current Spidey continuity was literally dropped into the middle of a story. We’ve noted elsewhere that in the late 1960’s Stan had commented on Marvel’s move to write done-in-one stories; this certainly wasn’t one of them! The cast of characters, the recent death of Captain George Stacy, and the month’s guest-star all required some backstory – overtly lacking in Stan’s storytelling but fed to the reader in a piecemeal fashion to the point where, by the end of the tale, one could at least feel somewhat familiar with the surroundings.

Sharon: I have always enjoyed this aspect of 1960s Marvel. My first Marvel books were Fantastic Four #68 and Avengers #45, and even though both issues (coincidentally) happened to be the first parts of arcs, there were clearly histories and events leading up to these issues…so it was like being dropped into the middle of an ongoing saga. The authors assumed intelligence—and curiosity--on the part of the reader.

Doug: Iceman was an interesting choice for a guest-star, as the X-Men had ceased new publications in the spring of 1970. He was here, in ASM #92 approximately seven months after X-Men #66. Only the Angel had appeared solo earlier, in a three-parter spread over two issues of Ka-Zar and a Marvel Tales. Stan writes Bobby Drake in-character for the most part – hot-headed, impulsive, but with honor. He also gives him some smarts later in the story, a nice change from this type of hero (Johnny Storm included).

Karen: Doug, it’s funny you mention Johnny Storm, because that’s exactly who I was thinking of when I read this. Although the two are on opposite extremes of the thermometer, their behavior is nearly identical.

Doug: It seemed like Bullit was a good crime boss-type. Ruthless, heavy-handed. I was somewhat surprised that the story took such a racial angle with Joe Robertson in the second half (did anyone else notice that he was referred to as “Rob” instead of the nickname “Robbie”, as if Rob was his first name?). But, given that the so-called drug issues would be coming only a few months later, perhaps Stan was testing the waters for what the traffic would bear in regard to controversy.

Karen: I thought the racism aspect that Stan brought to the story was interesting. Of course, this was not the first time Stan would show his disdain for such thinking – we had the Sons of the Serpent in the Avengers, and the Hate Monger in the FF years before. I have always respected Stan for his taking a stance on civil rights and other issues. It would have been easy for him and the other Marvel artists and writers to ignore current events, but instead they incorporated them into their stories, and were able to take a strong moral stance. As a kid, those things resonated with me and I believe reinforced the morality my parents taught me.

Karen: It’s also interesting to note how J. Jonah Jameson is portrayed here. Although often seen as a buffoon or caricature, this is one of a number of times where we see a more nuanced character. He may be blustering and have an irrational hatred of Spidey, but he also has a moral center, and it’s refreshing to see him stand by his employees and stand up for the law. After reading these old Spideys, it only confirms to me that this is probably the best supporting cast of any comic (at least during the late 60s/ early 70s).

Doug: I felt that Gwen was played somewhat poorly in regard to her intelligence. Maybe, in light of her father’s death so recently, she wasn’t thinking straight. Spidey had commented in one of the previous issues we reviewed that he couldn’t talk to Capt. Stacy for very long, as the captain was sharp enough to catch Peter’s muffled voice beneath the mask. Apparently Gwen, who by this time knew Peter as well as anyone, wasn’t that sharp.

Doug: Overall, this issue came the closest to being a true Marvel team-up. As I said above, what we would know as the formula for Marvel’s team-up books is all here – the misunderstanding, the fight, the team-up, and the parting as best buddies. This concluding issue of our Spidey survey is the best of the four, and I think it’s because of the strong plot and resolution to an ongoing situation. Iceman’s just there to stir the pot a bit plot-wise. But it doesn’t feel forced, and his rationale for engaging Spidey in battle is a lot more convincing than any of the three previous “prototypes” (Medusa, Black Widow, and Quicksilver). Stan’s just better here, and despite the absence of Romita’s pencils the book works well and left me feeling that I’d read a good book.

Karen: I agree with Doug – this is the best of the four “MTU Prototypes” that we have reviewed. It had action, introspection, great character interplay, and some nice artwork. It was a pleasure to go back and take this little walk down memory lane. One thing I noticed outside of the story: in Stan’s soapbox, he talks about how their plan to do self-contained stories each issue just hadn’t worked out – essentially because the stories themselves sometimes demanded to be longer! I’m glad they didn’t try to force themselves into such a restrictive method; think of all the great stories we would’ve missed!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Marvel Team-Up Prototypes: Mutant Mayhem part 1

Spider-Man 71-JohnRomita-JimMooney
Spider-Man #71 (1969)

Amazing Spider-Man #71 (April 1969)
Stan Lee/John Romita/Jim Mooney
“The Speedster and the Spider!”

Doug: As we move into the second phase of our look at some possible precursors to the Bronze Age classic Marvel Team-Up, it might be a good idea to actually do some data analysis and see if we’re even close to the possibility that Marvel was test-marketing this idea of teaming their most popular character, Spider-Man, with other lesser-known characters throughout the Marvel Universe. DC had been successful with this strategy for years, teaming virtually any of their properties with Batman in the pages of The Brave and the Bold. The dates for the issues we’ve chosen (and these are cover dates – newsstand dates would be about three months earlier on the average) for this blog series are:

Amazing Spider-Man #62 (July 1968) – Medusa
Amazing Spider-Man #71 (April 1969) – Quicksilver
Amazing Spider-Man #86 (July 1970) – Black Widow
Amazing Spider-Man #92 (January 1971) – Iceman

Also of note would be the following issues, which we may get to at a later date!

Amazing Spider-Man #77 (October 1969) – Human Torch
Amazing Spider-Man #104 (January 1972) – Ka-Zar
Amazing Spider-Man #108-109 (May-June 1972) – Dr. Strange
Amazing Spider-Man #119-120 (April-May 1973) – Hulk
Amazing Spider-Man #161-162 (November-December 1976) – Nightcrawler

What’s interesting about this run of guest appearances is that the cover date for Marvel Team-Up #1 is March 1972. One could then argue, looking at the temporal proximity of ASM #’s 92 and 104 to the release of MTU, that those issues were the true try-outs. I would say, however, that unless ASM #104’s sales figures totally tanked, that MTU was on the docket for release, a done deal. I do find it curious, if there was indeed any relation between the events in ASM and MTU, that Marvel went right away again to a guest appearance in ASM with Dr. Strange’s appearance only two months after MTU’s debut. Even more curious is that once MTU was an apparent success, ASM virtually stopped as a vehicle for B-list guest appearances; witness the 3 ½ year gap between the Hulk’s guest appearance and Nightcrawler’s. At any rate, on to this week’s review…

Doug: This issue predates our last review, but one thing that’s consistent is the creative team. Stan’s dialogue and Jazzy Johnny’s pencils really carry the title over these years; I do want to point out the inks of this period. Jim Mooney, perhaps better known for his pencils over at the Distinguished Competition on such characters as Supergirl, is the embellisher for Romita. While generally doing an admirable job, I think his presence is most noticeable in the faces of the characters in the book. His eyes in particular are very much his own, and not Romita’s – not necessarily a bad thing, but just noticeable.

Karen: I have to admit that I would prefer another inker on Romita, like Mike Esposito (aka Mickey Demeo). Mooney’s influence is strong, especially on the faces, as you say Doug, which is a shame, since Romita draws such pretty women and handsome men! Although as far as the general story-telling/layout goes, it flows well and is typical, dynamic Romita. What was up with the credits anyway? I suppose it was just Stan’s zany sense of humor, but Romita is listed as “innovator” and Mooney as “illustrator”. I know we’ve talked about how Romita was mostly doing layouts at this point, but it still seemed an odd way to put it.

Sharon: There’s a harmonious assonance at play here: Stan: Author…Romita: Innovator…Mooney, Illustrator.

Sharon: Apart from that, by calling Romita the “Innovator,” Stan makes sure to acknowledge Romita’s contributions, which would have been plotting (layouts), touch ups, and probably (from what I’ve read) major participation in the story discussions. Mooney did the finishes (if not more) and the inking, so I think “Illustrator” is apt. But it’s Romita who did the storytelling by laying out the action, or at least providing the breakdowns. The overall direction of Spider-Man was firmly in Stan and John’s hands.

Sharon: You know, I was never a regular reader of Spider-Man back then, but of course I’d heard of Romita. So when he took over as the penciler for the Fantastic Four (in 1970 when Kirby left), I remember being very disappointed at his work in FF #103-106—this was the great Romita I’d read so much about? His FF work seemed very simplistic and cartoony.

Sharon: But now, nearly 40 years later, I understand why his FF work back then seemed so “unfinished” to me. As we’ve noted, Romita could not pencil very quickly (he’s admitted as much in many interviews), which is in part why Stan often had other artists (Mooney, Heck) finish Romita’s pencils. With the FF, it seemed like Romita would be responsible for the full pencils and he did not think he was up for the task (and why Romita was so apprehensive about taking over the Fantastic Four --as he has related many times). This is not to denigrate Romita, who not only was a good penciler but also was invaluable to Stan as his art director (first unofficially, then officially) and someone who picked up a lot of the production slack. He was definitely one of Stan’s right hand men.

Doug: Early in this tale Stan begins a recap of sorts of events in the recent lives of the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and the Toad. In an editorial box Stan tells the reader that if they’re not up on the Avengers mag, not to worry – all will be clear. Well, being a regular reader of that comic, even I didn’t feel like this story made all that much sense. For my money, I felt Quicksilver was sort of shoe-horned into this story. I never bought Pietro’s explanation that he was out to redeem himself for events gone wrong in the recent past, and I certainly didn’t think that he’d be so easily duped by of all things the Daily Bugle into going after Spider-Man.

Sharon: And why would Pietro zoom off and leave his sister stranded in the Adirondacks, alone with the Toad –when he knew that the Toad had sexual designs on her (at least, he had in the past)? Remember, Wanda was powerless at this time; she’d lost her hex power. Why wouldn’t Pietro take Wanda with him?

Sharon: And in the hindsight is 20-20 department: Pietro strikes a very Magneto-esque pose in the last panel on page 5, doesn’t he?

Doug: As to the fight itself, it was pretty well-choreographed. Romita did a nice job of showcasing Quicksilver’s powers, and Spider-Man’s frustration in fighting one so fast was believable. I’m not sure I cared for how easily Spidey defeated Pietro – yes, Pietro’s prone to carelessness and oft over-confidence, but I still thought it seemed a bit too easy. But then, it did happen on page 19!

Karen: I guess as a kid it never occurred to me how ridiculous it was, that these heroes would constantly run into one another and immediately start fighting. But now, looking back, it really seems so silly. Still, the story was exciting, and the art really conveys Quicksilver’s speed.

Doug: Overall, a good issue – an OK read, good Romita art (although not top-of-the-line), and it was nice to see Wanda and Pietro. I think the strength of the story, though, was not the battle or the guest appearances at all, but the continued use of the supporting cast to move Peter Parker from trial to trial.

Sharon: That’s an excellent point and one that illustrates the key component of the Spider-Man comic. It’s almost like the villains- -or here, the guest appearances- - are an afterthought to the real story, which is Peter’s personal life. At times the two converge, as with the continuing saga of the Green Goblin/Norman Osborne.

Doug: For all the times Stan commented in his “Stan’s Soapbox” that Marvel was moving to a one-and-done format for their storytelling, it was this use of subplots with the Spidey regulars that kept the serial format alive and important. As far as this particular magazine as a try-out for Marvel Team-Up? I’d say it’s possible. All of the characteristics of MTU are here: B-listers, characters brought together by a misunderstanding, and a fight that basically proves nothing. And, as Wanda and Pietro weren’t apparently headed to any solo adventures (as were Medusa and the Black Widow), one could question if this issue was even any kind of marketing device.

Sharon: I agree; I think their appearance in ASM #71 was not a marketing device, but rather Stan’s way of keeping Wanda and Pietro in readers’ minds. Prior to this appearance, the twins not been seen for nine months, since Avengers #53 (in 1968). And after this Spider-Man issue, their next appearance would be about five months later, in X-Men #59. In the X-Men issue, I was glad to see them with the Toad in tow—ah, continuity!

Karen: Well, with Spidey being their most popular character, what better way to expose readers to other characters or books than to have them featured in Amazing Spider-Man? I also have to believe that Stan just really liked having a complete, inter-connected universe. One of the things I really enjoy about looking at these old issues (and I am using the excellent DVD-ROM) is the incredible sense of fun they had. The stories were exciting and the characters were interesting. And unlike today, a lot of story was packed into every issue. I also agree with Doug about the development of Spidey’s cast. In this issue for example, we see a lot of Joe Robertson, who I always felt was an important character in the book, particularly given the times. He feels like a real person here – concerned over his work, his son, the state of the world. While the dialogue certainly sounds corny at times, there is a real depth to these people.

Sharon: Back then I normally didn’t read the solo Marvel books, so a supporting cast full of non-powered people seems unusual to me. I was used to the FF, the Avengers, and the X-Men and their insular circle of friends populated by super-powered beings (okay, there was Alicia and Wyatt, but they were few and far between). As we have mentioned, Peter’s personal life is the dominant element of the book and probably the reason the Spider-Man comic was so popular; his everyday crises (girlfriends, money, relatives, work) seemed more realistic and relatable than, say, Tony Stark’s or Cap’s or Reed’s concerns.

Karen: Two more things that make these books so enjoyable are the letters pages and bullpen bulletins. The sense of camaraderie that Marvel fostered with the readers was remarkable. Back in those days, you felt less like you were purchasing a product, and more like you were dropping in on old friends. I miss that.
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