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.
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!’
Word balloon layout
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?
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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:
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?
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.
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.