Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Amazing Spider-Man Omnibi part 1

I’ve just read through the first three Amazing Spider-Man omnibi, and I have notes. It’s a coincidence that Fraser just published this article that talks about the omnibus editions.
I’ll mostly stick to broader concepts – a few things to do with the omnibi overall, or Spider-Man, or comics in general – and avoid issue-specific commentary because I write too long as it is.

These omnibi are collected in original printing order. It’s something we see all the time, and on the surface, it makes sense. Dig a little deeper and it doesn’t.
It happens with DVDs, too, that insist on putting episodes on the disc in original airing order – that’s how you get things like Tom and Belanna wearing wedding rings two episodes before they get married.
Here, it shows up in a couple of ways. The big one is an extract from Fantastic Four annual #1, which retells Amazing Spider-Man #1 – but is in the omnibus between Amazing Spider-Man #4 and #5.
There are more subtle things, too; Peter paints his bike red in #44 – they kind of make a deal of it – but Amazing Spider-Man ann #1, where his bike is clearly red, is in the omnibus before #44.
It means I put bookmarks through my collected editions so I can read them in chronological order.

More bookmark than book.

I’d love to be able to just read straight through and get the actual story in order. (In order to what, we’ll never know.)

General Comics Ticks

There are quite a few ticks in (early) comics that show up in these omnibi. Here are a few:

I often wonder what opening page splashes were for? Back in the 60s, I mean. Mostly. They have intriguing blurbs and dialogue designed to make the reader want to read the comic.
That they’ve already bought.
That they’re already reading.
In other words, they just seem to repeat the work of the cover, only more pointless. ‘Read this comic which you’re already reading!’

Why aren’t you reading this book yet?
Oh, wait, you are.

Word balloon layout

Yes, I can.Can you predict what I'm going to ask?
Insert The Rock ‘predicting the future’ meme here.

This is an aspect of comics that doesn’t get talked about enough. The word balloon layout can be very confusing. How many times have you read a panel and then figured out you’d read it in the wrong order, and had to go back and read it again?

This is just confusing.

A lot of the time, dialogue is put in speech bubbles when thought bubbles would work better; and there are a lot of random thought-to-speech transitions in comics. It’s not like it makes any difference to what’s on the page, beyond how they draw the outline of the balloon. Sometimes I’d like to see a literal adaptation, where the characters just throw out random sentence fragments with no context for non-telepaths.

(Get a sample!)

The splash page for #100 even describes Spider-Man as silent while he’s speaking out loud.

Uh, Peter? Who are you talking to?

I think most people on this site know about The Marvel Method. Thing is, it’s actually highly noticeable, if you know what you’re seeing. It often leads to clunky dialogue, designed to explain what’s been drawn onto the panel. Sometimes, even if the panel doesn’t need explaining.

I’d planned to skip this, but I just recently saw it explained by the Marvel Method; in #30 there’s a group of villains in uniform. In #31, there’s a completely unrelated team in the same uniform. (It doesn’t explain why, a couple of issues earlier, there’s a group of ‘bad guys’ from a movie in the same uniform again.) You see it above when I’m talking about splash pages.

This one might be one of those one-off issue things that I was going to try to avoid, but in Amazing Spider-Man annual #1, they have cameos from every superhero they’re printing at the time. Each one has a caption that says ‘this hero appears in this comic’; it’s clearly nothing more than advertising. The X-Men one is most egregious; they’re literally there to say nothing other than ‘this has nothing to do with us’. They aren’t even on-panel with Spider-Man.

This has nothing to do with us! Haha!

Superman movie

Reading these issues makes me wonder if Spider-Man comics were an influence on the Superman movie (1978).

Here, a villain has a luxurious lair under the city; much like Lex Luthor’s in Superman. (“A Park Avenue address? Two hundred feet below?”)
More telling is when a villain communicates with the hero through something only the hero’s extra senses will hear. This happens more than once with Spider-Man and his spider-sense; Doctor Doom uses it, for one. (In the movie, Lex communicates with Superman using a high-pitched frequency only Superman and dogs will hear.)

Here’s Chameleon doing it

Bad Facts

They keep saying spiders are insects. I can believe the villains calling him ‘insect’ as a generic insult, but even the captions say spiders are insects, going all the way back to Amazing Fantasy 15.

I had to download this image; it’s colored completely different to my omnibus.

They call scientific formulae ‘potions’. A lot. We’re dealing with Harry Osborne here, not Harry Potter.

I’ll give them this: AF #15 has the latest in positive Christian representation from Marvel. It’s a story called The Bell-Ringer that feels like as a breath of fresh air to me. It isn’t actually reprinted in the omnibus, but I’ve got a full reprint of AF #15, so I thought I’d mention it.
(AF 15 here is Amazing Fantasy #15, not Alpha Flight #15. Because it’s me, I thought I should clarify.)

Marvel Time

Nowadays, we’ve gotten very used to Marvel time being shorter than real time. ‘It’s always four (?) years after the Fantastic Four’s rocket flight’. It turns out, it used to be the other way around; time within comics was longer than time outside comics.

Mysterio, a year after his debut.

Here, Mysterio has wanted revenge on Spider-Man for years, in a 1965 issue. Amazing Fantasy #15 was 1962 (only three years before Mysterio ‘s wanted revenge for years), and Mysterio’s first appearance was in #13, 1964 – only one year before he’s wanted revenge for years.

Oh, snap!

This panel just makes Gwen’s famous death all the more poignant. Spider-Man’s been in that situation before, only he saved the first one. A stranger.

Cameos from The Future!

Just for fun, here are some characters who weren’t created yet, appearing in past issues:



Donkey Kong


Venom or the Infinity Gauntlet doppelgänger

I’ve seen so many comics where they insist on drawing a guy shirtless, but without a navel or nipples. Pick one; I really don’t care which. Just don’t insist on showing them shirtless, then squeam out of finishing the drawing.

There are so many Peter Vs Spider-Man ironic comments! A few would be okay, but there are too many. There’s way too much hyperbole, too. Everything is the best, the most amazing, the most spectacular, the most web-of- out there! Can’t we all just calm down and deal with something average?


Random aside:
Who Wants To Live Forever? is a song, by Queen, from 1986. My favourite song, in point of fact – but the phrase is used here in a comic from the 60s.

… oops, sorry, that’s Pink Floyd.

I meant:

Hey, it’s a kind of magic

So, my question is, how long has that phrase been around? Where did it come from? Was it an expression? When I look up the phrase, all I can find is the song. Apparently, Brian May came up with the title in the back of a limo. Could he have got it from this comic?
Brian May has said he’s a Spider-Man fan, but what does that mean? That he’s read a lot of the comics? He liked the cartoon? He’s heard of Spider-Man and thought it was a good concept? He had to say that when he got the contract to score a radio show?
If he’d read the comics, would he even know that phrase from this one issue?
Actually, it’s infinitely more likely he knows it from the movie Flash Gordon. The phrase (said by Vultan, leader of the Hawkmen) makes it onto the soundtrack (on the track Battle Theme, by Brian May). He must’ve heard it in that context at some point – but the question remains (to me anyway), where did that phrase originate? It’s way older than the song. This has been bugging me for a while.

Next: focus on characters.


  1. Multiple thoughts:
    1)As someone old enough to be buying comics in the 1960s, flipping it open to see the splash page would be normal. So yes, making it a hook for the story did make sense. It’s not about reading, but about getting them to buy.
    2)Word balloons are often a mess.
    3)You’re right about the marketing in the first annual but back then, when crossovers weren’t the norm, seeing everyone in one story was still amazingly cool.
    4)Spider-sense makes no sense. It starts as a way to sense danger, then it proves able to spot criminals even when they’re not threatening anyone. Or pick up radio broadcasts. Or find a criminal’s lair. Etc.
    5)”Nobody Lives Forever” was a movie title in the 1940s so the phrase in some form goes back well before Peter Parker.
    6)Going back to your point about reading order, some of the Masterworks do the opposite, printing an annual where it seems to fit rather than the order it came out. For my rereading the sixties project, that’s annoying as I sometimes miss them.
    It’s also noticeable in crossovers that the books are not entirely in sync month to month: Dr. Strange shows up at Reed and Sue’s wedding when he’s in the middle of his big battle with Dormammu for instance. I notice it but it doesn’t usually bug me.

    1. Le Messor

      1) Thanks, that does explain it.
      3) I hadn’t thought of it that way.
      5) but what about ‘Who Wants To Live Forever?’?
      6) I can see that being a nuisance. And you’re right – they’re not in sync. Trying to sync separate issues is one of the things of being a reader. (Whether one of the good things or one of the bad things I leave to the philosophers.)

    2. Commander Benson

      So, my question is, how long has [“Who wants to live forever?”] been around? Where did it come from? Was it an expression? . . . This has been bugging me for a while.

      I know I’m coming to this party real late, but I think I can establish the genesis of that phrase.

      It goes back to the first World War and the Battle of Belleau Woods, in June, 1918. A brigade of U. S. Marines assigned to the American Expeditionary Force were outnumbered by German forces. Instead of retreating, the Marines chose to attack the German positions repeatedly.

      During one such charge, Gunnery Sergeant Daniel Daly spurred his men on by taking the lead and shouting:

      “Come on, you s*** of b******, do you want to live forever?”

      It’s a renowned bit of Marine Corps history which every Marine knows to heart. But, at the time, Gunnery Sergeant Daly’s remark made for good press, and it caught the American public’s fancy.

      Language being as casual as it is, the phrase probably went through some minor distortion, turning into “Who wants to live forever?” and similar remarks.

      At least, that’s the way I look at it.

  2. John King

    I believe Mysterio was later retconned to having made his debut in Amazing Spiderman 2 (though, that only makes his debut 1 year earlier…and that appearance is not really consistent with that quote)

    That Electro panel reminds me of part 1 of who shot Mr Burns in the Simpsons – the moment when Mr Burns returns to his office to find Homer writing in large letters all over the office “I am Homer Simpson” and Mr Burns asks “Who the devil are you?”

      1. John King

        the retcon was in Peter Parker the spectacular spiderman 51 published in 1980 (written by Roger Stern).
        I won’t go into detail as it could be considered a spoiler

        1. Le Messor

          Fair enough – I may never get to read PPSS#51, but spoiler space is always good.
          (Or, maybe I will? I also have a PPSS omnibus that I’ve just read, but didn’t cover in this article. It falls short of #51, but if there’s ever a second volume, I might end up with it.)

  3. There’s a great bit in the “Spectacular Spider-Man” cartoon where Mysterio is initially an actor/crook posing as a waiter as part of his boss’s crime scheme (the actor gets away). He’s quite astonished when after Spidey catches him as Mysterio and unmasks him he doesn’t remember him — my god, his performance as the waiter was so fricking amazing!

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