Tag Archives: Amazing Fantasy #15

My Amazing (Fantasy #15) Visit to the Library of Congress

In honor the 50th anniversary of Spider-Man’s first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962, I wanted to write a post about my trip to see the Holy Grail of the Silver Age of comic books.

In November 2010 I took a weekend trip to Washington D.C. with my girlfriend.  It was my first time in D.C. and the long weekend was packed with seeing the sights along the mall.  I enjoyed every monument, memorial and museum we visited, but by Sunday I was slightly preoccupied with the thought of our plans for Monday morning’s visit to the Library of Congress.  I wasn’t there to admire the architecture or take a tour, I had some research to do.  About a month earlier I had contacted curator Sara Duke of the Prints and Photographs Division in order to schedule our appointment, and from that moment I was counting the days.

If there’s one thing I’m passionate about it’s comic book art, as both an admirer and collector.  Each published page of original art is a piece of history, with a select few pages fitting into the category of monumental.  When I think of the most culturally significant comic book stories, the first few that come to mind are the first appearance of Superman in Action Comics #1, the first appearance of Batman in Detective Comics #27, Fantastic Four #1 ushering in the Marvel Age of comic books, and of course the first appearance of Spider-Man in Amazing Fantasy #15.

In 2008 an anonymous donor had donated all of the original pages of art from Amazing Fantasy #15 to the Library of Congress.  How this anonymous donor had originally acquired these pages has not been made public.  Considering how much artwork from the Golden and Silver Ages has been destroyed, lost, or stolen, it’s a miracle that every page from this issue was saved.  My mission, with my trusty (and extremely patient) sidekick, was to schedule time to see the complete Spider-Man origin story in its original drawn form.

I woke up at 7:00 AM that Monday morning.  Anyone who knows me knows that I never get up at 7:00 AM.  Ever.  But that morning was different.  We had a short window of time that began at 9:30 AM sharp and we had to make the most of it.  After all, this is the first appearance of Spider-Man and there’s probably a list of folks lined up after us to see it, so I was going to make the most of every minute.

We arrived a little early, checked our backpacks with the security desk and signed up for our research cards.  By the time we made it up to the research room, my spider-sense was tingling.  Sara met us when we arrived and wheeled out a cart with several large folders.  Not only did she pull the original Spider-Man pages from Amazing Fantasy #15 for us to view, she was also kind enough to pull the original comic art to the other three stories that comprised the issue, twenty six pages in all.

I opened the first folder, and there was the opening splash page of Peter Parker standing in the background, ostracized by Flash Thompson and the cool kids.  One thing that struck me right away was how much detail there was in Steve Ditko’s inks.  Every reprint I had seen growing up was a copy of a copy and lost a lot of the detail in Ditko’s brush work.  Seeing the original art allowed me to actually feel the disappointment and angst in the expression on Peter Parker’s face.

At the top of the page is a paste up of the Spider-Man logo that covers Ditko’s original hand drawn logo.  I wish I could have been in the room in 1962 to hear the reason for changing it.  And if you look in the margins, Stan Lee’s original hand written notes “direct” some of the scenes in Ditko’s panels.

I took a lot of pictures, but unfortunately rights restrictions keep me from posting them.  Thumbnails are available here at the Library’s website and you can order scans, but if you’re a fan of comic art I highly recommend seeing them in person.

We had a good hour to see all twenty six pages and were never rushed.  Sarah sat with us the entire time and pointed out details that I never would have noticed.  I thanked Sarah for her time, and mentioned that I would love to come back to see the pages again one day.  I chuckled when I realized my tax dollars made me a part owner of them.  By my calculations, which I won’t bore you with, I estimate that my personal portion of these 26 pages of original art is .000035 square inches of a page.  Hey, I’ll take it!

This was a Bucket List moment for me, ranked up there with seeing Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and statue of David (next up is Leonardo DaVinci’s The Last Supper).  Prior to reading that article in 2008 about the LOC’s acquisition of the Amazing Fantasy #15 pages, I didn’t think they even existed.  And now I saw them.

God Bless America.

But the story doesn’t end there.  Prior to our bus ride back to New York, my faithful (and patient) sidekick surprised me with a copy of Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1, complete with scans of the original Spider-Man pages we had just seen that morning.  She never ceases to amaze me.

These original pages to Amazing Fantasy #15 were featured on the History Channel back in 2009.  That clip can be found here.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thoughts On The Amazing Spider-Man Reboot

The Amazing Spider-Man
Sony Pictures Entertainment

The numbers are in and The Amazing Spider-Man has pulled in $65 million for the weekend, $141 million for the 4th of July week, and $341 million worldwide.

Here’s a film that one month ago I had very little interest in seeing.  Not because the previous three films directed by Sam Raimi were too fresh in my mind or because I felt that theaters are over saturated with comic book films (that thought is sacrilege in my mind!).  Since this reboot was first announced, my first and only thought was: Why?  The origin story was already covered in Spider-Man 1, which for the most part was pretty accurate to the original 1962 story in Amazing Fantasy #15.  By now people know how Peter Parker became Spider-Man even if they’ve never read the comic books.  Socially awkward bookworm Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider, can climb walls, develops web shooters, lets it get to his head, Uncle Ben gets…you know what I mean.

Then a month ago I watched the trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man.

Hmmmm.  Liked it.  OK, I’m curious now.

When my interest level reached that point, I couldn’t help thinking about the one major thing I didn’t like about the Sam Raimi films.  Don’t get me wrong, I liked Spider-Man 1 and I loved Spider-Man 2 (I prefer not to discuss Spider-Man 3, I’ll just leave it at that), but there was one element of those films that the comic fan in me couldn’t ignore: replacing Gwen Stacy in the first two films with Mary Jane Watson, which was absolutely unnecessary.  It goes beyond the dynamic of nerdy kid falls in love with and gets the pretty girl, which in my opinion was the only dynamic between Peter and Mary Jane in the Raimi films.  Having Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man brings a lot more to the story.  Peter’s relationship with Gwen in turn creates a relationship with her father, Captain Stacy, which existed in the comic books but didn’t exist in the first two Raimi films.  Seeing Emma Stone in the role of Gwen made me want to give The Amazing Spider-Man a chance.

I checked out The Amazing Spider-Man at a matinee on the 4th of July.  The theater was about 2/3 full for the 11:30 AM screening.  By the time the movie ended, I was satisfied and for the most part the rest of the audience enjoyed it as well.  While people will continue to debate the need for a reboot in 2012, whether it’s necessary/justified or not I think The Amazing Spider-Man stands on its own.  That’s not to say it’s perfect.  It’s not as visually dynamic as the Sam Raimi films.  Some of the CGI looked a bit cartoony, particularly the Lizard.  Most importantly, a couple of details from Spidey’s comic book origin were simplified, particularly Uncle Ben’s murder (for the record, I refuse to consider that tidbit a spoiler alert and prefer to give my readers the benefit of the doubt) and the events that led Peter to understand “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man is less action and more drama compared to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 1.  It changed several elements of the Spider-Man canon (e.g. Peter’s discovery of the extent of his powers, the circumstances of Uncle Ben’s death), a greater emphasis on Peter’s parents and their disappearance, and more drama to Peter’s relationship with Uncle Ben and Aunt May.  Personally I thought Martin Sheen was fantastic as Uncle Ben (this coming from a huge Cliff Robertson fan), and I think an actress of Sally Field’s caliber will bring a lot to Aunt May’s character in future films.  Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Peter Parker wasn’t as socially awkward as Tobey Maguire’s.  Garfield was a bit too confident as Peter at times, but was effective in bringing some of Spider-Man’s smart-aleckyness from the comic books to the screen.

Things I liked about this film:

Gwen Stacy
The web shooters are back
Peter’s relationship with Uncle Ben
The Lizard

Things I didn’t like as much (SPOILERS):

Gwen’s connection to Dr. Connors wasn’t very plausible.
Not including the famous line of dialogue regarding great power and great responsibility.
The circumstances leading to Uncle Ben’s murder.
Spider-Man was unmasked in a scene that should have made his identity public.

The one question I have difficulty answering is whether or not the reboot was necessary.   Most likely it wasn’t, but overall this film stands on its own even if the first three were not made.  Despite a few caveats, it was still very enjoyable and I’m looking forward to the next film.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,