Comics : Spider-Man Coloring Book (Gifts Etc.)

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Worst of the Worst

This review was first published on: May 2014.

Background...

As a long-time collector of Spider-Man coloring books, I'm always delighted when I stumble across an older book that I didn't previously possess. While these books aren't particularly expensive in general, they're not commonly seen on eBay.

This is a perfect example. It's a historically significant Spider-Man coloring book that I've seen only once in three years of regular auction-checking. But it only cost $5 when it finally appeared.

In Detail...

Spider-Man Coloring Book (Gifts Etc.)
Year 1999 : SM Title
Publisher:  Gifts Etc.
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This coloring book is from 1999. It was printed in China, but distributed in the USA by Gifts Etc. Physically it is 7.7" x 10.4", staple-bound cardboard cover with 24 black and white illustrations in thin, low-grade newsprint.

I believe this to be a significant book, specifically because it marks a turning-point in the evolution of the Spider-Man coloring book.

Until this time, Marvel coloring books typically featured illustrations and artwork which was sympathetic to the style of the comics or TV shows with which they were associated. They often featured a story-line, or original games and puzzles, and usually featured full-page illustrations.

Similarly they were written or scripted by native English speakers, and had a feel and tone which was appropriate to the western audience. And finally, while the manufacturing processes and paper/coloring technologies of the time were no match for our modern printing techniques, there was usually a sense of sturdy substance to the books.

In General...

This 1999 turn-of-the-century offering changed all that. As you can see from the attached scans, this book breaks free from the shackling conventions of quality which bound its predecessors. Note specifically:

  • The cheap paper stock, thin and grey.
  • The lack of background pencils, skimping in illustrator costs.
  • The heavily inked lines which aren't sympathetic to the character's comic-book origins.
  • The repetitive nature of the images, Spider-Man alone with no supporting cast.
  • The definite "Asian" feel, this book is Chinese in wording, layout and illustration, not just in manufacture.
  • The overall flimsy feel of the book, with no sense of physical quality.
  • The emptiness of the book, with no sense of emotional commitment from the "creative" team.

I believe this to be the turning point. While this example is an official licensed product, I suspect that it opened the flood-gates for the interminable series of unauthorized rip-off publications that you can find archived under our Spider-Man Color/Activity Books (China) title.

Overall Rating...

It's difficult to imagine that something so small and seemingly inconsequential could spawn so much artistic misery. But this book is pure evil, and I have no alternative but to stamp it with the mark of the beast.

Rock-bottom half-web rating.