Comics : Amazing Spider-Man Mark of the Man-Wolf

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: The Magic of Color

This review was first published on: Sep 2015.

Background...

I have to confess up front. These over-sized coloring books are probably the most beloved items in my Spider-Man collection. A big part of that affection is related to how difficult it is to find these books in undamaged condition, and how much logistics goes into bringing them safely back from America to my home in New Zealand.

The format is fantastic. These books are quite overwhelming at 17" wide and 22" tall. This one features 32 newsprint black and white pages.

"Mark of the Man-Wolf" adapts (with some significant simplifications) the key events of Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #124 and Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #125. The original story was written by Gerry Conway, but the story credit in this book is given to David Anthony Kraft. Even more interestingly, the pencils are drawn by John Romita, Jr. re-adapting the illustrations originally pencilled by his father John Romita, Sr..

So this is one of the earliest credits for a young JR JR, and pre-dates his Amazing Spider-Man run which began shortly afterwards with Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #204.

In Detail...

Amazing Spider-Man Mark of the Man-Wolf
Year 1978 : SM Title
Summary: 17" x 22", 32pp
Adaptation Of: Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #124
Adaptation Of: Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #125
See Original Credits, plus...
Publisher:  Parkes Run
Writer:  David Anthony Kraft
Pencils:  John Romita, Jr.
Inker:  Chic Stone
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 Reprinted In: Amazing Spider-Man Wolfman Strikes Again
Amazing Spider-Man Wolfman Strikes Again
Year 1978 : SM Reprint
Summary: 17" x 22", 32pp
Reprints: Amazing Spider-Man Mark of the Man-Wolf
See Original Credits, plus...
Publisher:  Parkes Run
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The heart of the story is essentially unchanged: John Jameson (former astronaut) comes to visit his father with news of his recent engagement, and wearing a necklace made with a stone he found on the moon. Later that evening, Jameson Junior magically transforms into the Man-Wolf (thanks to the full moon, and despite the special protective suit that he wears) and returns to attack his father.

Spider-Man becomes involved, and tracks down the Man-Wolf as he chases down a young girl in the street. Spidey fights the Man-Wolf, rips off the moonstone which has become physically attached to Jameson's neck, and saves the day.

So that's the stuff that stays the same. But there's much which is different also. In the original story, there's significant references to and consequences from the recent death of Gwen Stacy in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #122. This has left Peter and his friends rather shocked, and Peter in particular is brimming over with anger and frustration. But none of these references or the wider supporting cast have made it into the coloring-book version.

Many other simplifications have been made (as you might expect in compacting 44 detailed comic book pages into 32 coloring book pages). In the original, Robbie Robertson is the person who meets John Jameson in JJJ's office, while Peter is not present at all (he's busy fuming about Gwen's death). In the coloring book version, Robbie doesn't appear at all, and it's Peter Parker, Roaming Photographer who meets Jonah's space-travelling son in the Daily Bugle offices.

In the original comic, the Man-Wolf attacks his fiancée in the street, while the coloring book has him attack an unidentified female bystander. The original has JJJ call in police who shoot tear gas into his office, whereas in the coloring book version, Jonah just happens to have a super-powerful tear-gas pellet handily placed in the drawer of his office desk. Very convenient, no?

Several other plot elements simplified or removed entirely, while all of the dialog and action scenes are compacted to match the new format.

In General...

The original Gerry Conway Man-Wolf tale was a detailed, complex piece of work which combined adventure and mystery with a tangled web of long-running sub-plots. The coloring book yanks out the werewolves and the super heroes and splashes them on the page. The result is, of course, somewhat less cerebral than the source material.

There's also a couple of rather strange details. Why does Jonah have a tear-gas capsule ready in his office drawer when the first Man-Wolf encounter occurs? Is it for calming down unruly staff meetings? Or maybe he just got fed up of the Scorpion interrupting his coffee breaks? Still, I can help feel that a tear-gas capsule would be even more useful if he also kept a gas mask in the drawer as well!

The other obvious clanger is the page which shows Spider-Man taking the just-removed moonstone necklace and casually tossing it into the Hudson river. What does he think is going to happen to it now? Is he just littering for the fun of it? Or is he hoping that some innocent bystander will find it so they also can enjoy the pleasure of being a psychopathic Man-Wolf?

Putting aside the plot, JR JR's pencils are entirely serviceable. This super-sized comic book format really does demand clear, simplified illustrations, and that's exactly what we get.

Overall Rating...

Honestly, the story and artwork are probably only really worth three webs. But my undying affection for these grandiose, in-your-face super-sized books is such that I feel obliged to super-size the rating to match the oversized format.

So, let's call it Four Webs.

Footnote...

Note that Amazing Spider-Man Wolfman Strikes Again printed in the same format in the same year contains identical art and text. The only difference between the two is that the inside front cover of Amazing Spider-Man Mark of the Man-Wolf contains a giant black and white jigsaw pattern and encourages you to cut up the front cover into pieces to make a jigsaw.

Of course the title of Amazing Spider-Man Wolfman Strikes Again makes no sense at all. He doesn't "Strike Again". The Wolfman clearly strikes for the first time, it's just a shameless, misleading title for a shameless reprint.