There’s are many reasons why Stan Lee and John Romita Sr. will never be forgotten, but you can pretty well sum it up in one name: Spider-Man. The series was revolutionary in showing how a character could change over time. Recently re-released in an Epic Collection, readers can get a wide swath of stories by the two visionaries written between October 1967 and December 1968.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
It’s horror on the home front when Peter Parkerbecomes the third wheel to comics’ odd couple. Yes, Aunt May’s found a new special friend – in the person of Dr. Otto Octavius! While a klonk on the head may help Spidey forget that one, teaming up with Doc Ock isn’t going to improve his image as public enemy #1! Next, Spidey battles his way through Ka-Zar, Vulture and Mysterio, before facing his true nemesis. Norman Osborn’s memory has returned and with it – the Green Goblin. The only villain to uncover that Peter Parker is Spider-Man knows and these two icons meet in a gigantic 58-page magazine masterpiece that will truly captivate you. Also featuring the first appearance of Captain Stacy.
Why does this matter?
This collection features a slightly older Peter Parker who now lives with Harry Osborn and attends college with Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane. Speaking of, Peter is juggling a romantic relationship with Gwen while still pulling off his superhero stunts. The stories collected here are certainly some of the most memorable and influential when it comes to who we know as Spider-Man today.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This collection is called “The Goblin Lives,” but a better title may have been, “Supervillain Sequels!” This collection features the return of Doc Ock in an epic, multi-issue story involving Otto renting a room from Aunt May, Peter losing his memory and working with Doc Ock, and even more complex stuff. Later, Spider-Man must fight Vulture again as well as Mysterio, and to cap off the collection, Green Goblin comes back. This collection feels like Lee and Romita are revisiting Spider-Man’s greatest hits, but doing so in a more modern and hip way. The characters dress in the Mod style and Peter’s a bit more grown up. A lot of the stories here are complex, don’t give us the one-off fight without developing the characters, and feel important.
Also collected here are the Spectacular Spider-Man #1 and #2 issues, which were printed in black and white in 1968. This was the first attempt at creating multiple Spider-Man stories in a single month, and while it only lasted two issues, it was printed in a magazine format. Again, this collection houses stories and ideas that were revolutionary for the time and shaped how we read and think about comic book storytelling.
I recently reviewed a John Romita Sr. Visionaries collection, but I think reading this collection is just as good at honoring and encapsulating the creator. It doesn’t show his early to late work, but it does show a chunk of some of his greatest work. We’re talking amazing double page spreads of Green Goblin gassing Spider-Man and making him see things, or wild scenes of Doc Ock fighting, every inch of the villain visible as he destroys police cars. The level of detail in facial expressions is incredible while the musculature of Spider-Man is on point. You could easily slip this into a younger reader’s stack and they’d think it’s from a modern era, save for possibly the color aging it a bit.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
The only thing that bothers me with the storytelling in this is how villains can seem to come and go and get away with anything. The realities of the police, being seen in public smashing a building up, and other factors like this aren’t a factor. It can seem strange that Doc Ock can literally be seen stealing things one minute and then walking about in public without being arrested. Aunt May exacerbates this when she is duped by him into thinking Spider-Man is the real villain. It’s a trope that can be aggravating.
Is it good?
It’s a pleasure to read these stories again and again. Thanks to the Epic Collection format, you can find this for a decent price and get some of the most modern comic book storytelling for its time. It stands up, is highly enjoyable, and is primo Spider-Man storytelling.