SPIDER-MAN NEWSPAPER STRIPS VOL. 1 (Marvel, First Printing, 2014; Softcover)
Collects the Spider-Man newspaper strips from January 3, 1977- January 28, 1979
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: John Romita, Sr.
The road to this book has been long and bumpy. First we had the old Ballantine Books The Best Of Spider-Man from 1986, which cherry picked arcs. I had a copy of it but dumped it on eBay when there were rumblings of a Marvel hardcover collection several years ago. I didn't end up buying those for two reasons: One, they were presented in standard trim size and you had to flip it sideways to read it, and Two because the Sunday strips were presented in black and white. While the latter was not a deal breaker in and of itself it pushed the needle to pass. So I gladly picked this up once initial online reports were favorable. Of course Marvel has since partnered with IDW's Library of American Comics imprint to rerelease this in a properly formatted hardcover, which I bought a few weeks ago for reasons that science has yet to come up with a term for.
This strip is set in separate continuity from the main comics, although the characterizations ring true while some scenarios are altered for the late 1970s instead of the 1960s. Cultural reference points of the day abound (Star Wars, John Travolta, Disco, etc.), adding to the fun factor. Eventually comic book continuity is thrown out the window entirely.
Things start out with this playing out like a straight up superhero strip, with Spider-Man battling Doctor Doom, Doctor Octopus, a new villain, the Rattler, and the Kingpin before breaking for a retelling of Spider-Man's origin. From there the continuity relating to the comic is completely disregarded with Kraven The Hunter and Mysterio. Stan Lee begins inserting more and more of Peter Parker's personal life into the strip, as the soap opera element works well for a daily strip. This leads us into a “ripped from today's headlines!” type tale where Peter falls in love with the daughter of a terrorist. Another real world flavored strip deals with some local street hoods. Then Spider-Man has to deal with a blackmailer who discovers his secret identity. There are lots of great moments here, as Lee's writing is at it's melodramatic best while Romita's artwork is as rock solid as ever. A great pair of creators who, for my money, have done work that few have matched.
As mad as I am at myself for purchasing this material again in hardcover, at least I bought great material again as opposed to crap. You might ask yourself why I am reviewing this softcover when I have the hardcover. I started reading this before the hardcover came out because I wanted to be sure that it was worth another dip, and it is. Plus I cannot dump unread books on eBay. I tend to prune my collection several times a year, keeping it at a svelte 1100 books, and I refuse to dump something that I haven't read yet...even if it is a double dip.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.75 out of 5.
The OCD zone- This is the most unique Marvel trade paperback in terms of dimensions. It is shorter and wider than their standard books, being presented in landscape format to better accommodate the material.
Linework and Color restoration: The Sunday strips have full blown restoration and look great. Many of these strips are sourced from original art and film which is in good shape. A handful of these strips are from visibly inferior sources, likely scanned from newspapers. The drop in quality when those strips pop in is painfully apparent. Fortunately there are few of them. I did a side by side comparison with this and the IDW book, and while IDW used Marvel's Sunday restoration they also found better sources for a handful of the effected strips. Not all of them, but many of them are superior to this book.
Paper stock: Matte coated stock of sufficient thickness and weight. This is the same stock found in the softcover Marvel Masterworks and Epic line books.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Thick waxlike lamination.