Comics : Essential Spider-Man #1
This story is part of a Lookback Series: Book of the Month Club
This review was first published on: 2004.
We don't normally bother reviewing reprint books here at SpiderFan. There's plenty of original comics and books that cry out for review before we even think about dipping into cheap black and white copies. But the Marvel's "Essential" titles are actually pretty darned note-worthy, so let's squander a few precious bytes on a quick overview, just in case you haven't seen these before.
Last time I checked my latest Overstreet Price Guide, a copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 sells for $48,000 in Near Mint condition... if you could actually find one. Even if you're prepared to settle for Good condition (which is gonna be pretty scruffed up), you're looking at over a grand U.S. Sure, the price drops pretty quickly after the first couple of years of Amazing Spider-Man, but even so, nobody's going to argue when I say that early Spidey issues are hard to find, and are jolly expensive!
So, let's assume that most of us are reading reprints in one form or another. Heck, even though I do own many of those classic issues, I do most of my reading lying in bed at night - and that's not conducive to proper care of those fragile collectables! So what are your other options if you want to read the original tales (and not some modern re-telling like Spider-Man: Chapter One, or Marvel Age Spider-Man.
Well, there have been a number of comic-format reprints that run through the early Spidey appearances, including Marvel Tales, and Spider-Man Classics. But even these are hard to find now. Really, I think it boils down to two alternative collections - either you go hardback, color, top-dollar with Marvel Masterworks, or you join the rest of us plebs with the Black & White, cheap newsprint, budget-line Essential Spider-Man and Essential Marvel Team-Up.
The difference is purely one of budget. The deluxe Masterworks version gives you roughly 11 stories per volume, at US$33 on Amazon. That's $3 per Spidey story, for which you get glossy paper, color reproduction, and a hardcover binding.
The Essential volumes go for just over $10 at Amazon, and they pack over 20 regular issues into their 400 pages of newsprint. That's a paltry 50c per story, i.e. one sixth of the price of the fancy version. Sure, this is off-white newsprint paper, cardboard covers, and no sign of color ink at all on this inside pages.
I've seen a few comments that this format is a terrible way to experience those classic stories, especially without the color. Personally, the thing I most love about those original comics is the smell... there's nothing like the whiff of genuine 60's comic book stock to carry me off to another world. But that's a different story. Sure, color would be great, but as reference books, as bed-time reading, and as a cost-effective way for the next generation of Spidey fans to learn their history without breaking the bank, I heartily recommend Essential Spidey, and it's partner titles Essential Marvel Team-Up and Essential Peter Parker Spectacular Spider-Man, plus any others that have been released since then.
Judging by their high ranking on Amazon, these books have been pretty successful for Marvel, and I heartily reward them for giving their readers a choice. So, if your personal collection of Spidey back-issues is a bit thin, then don't be ashamed... just grab a handful of these fellows. Even in B&W, the art of Ditko and Romita packs plenty of punch - and Stan's stories don't loose a thing in the translation to newsprint!
Naturally, the early stories of the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, and many other great stories from the formative years at Marvel are also available. Yay!
These are indispensible tales, in a very handy format. Four Webs.