Hey kid... are you surfin' the net looking for corn? That's right, "corn", with a "c". Today we're serving up a big helping of classic corny Spidey stuff in the shape of the wonderful "Power Records" Book & Record sets from the mid-70's.
Power Records (aka Peter Pan Records, aka Zap Records) produced two distinct Spider-Man Book & Record sets as part of their range of that time. Their range also included various other Marvel character stories, plus Frankenstein, Dracula, and various Planet of the Apes tales. The two Spidey Book & Record sets were this one, Spider-Man: The Mark of the Man-Wolf (PR10) and Spider-Man: Invasion of the Dragon Men (PR24).
Power Records also released a number of listen-only stories (no book to read) in various other formats. You can find more about those no-book stories and various other CDs and Vinyl elsewhere in our Spider-Man Audio Section. But here we're just going to review the two Book & Record sets, including their various reprinted forms.
The first of the two stories from that series is "Mark of the Man-Wolf". The tale is based on Amazing Spider-Man #124/125, from 1973, Original writer was Gerry Conway, pencils were by Gil Kane and Ross Andru. John Romita, Sr. and Tony Mortellaro did the inking on the original tales.
The story has been edited and adapted in order to remove references to continuity, and hence create a clean stand-alone story. So, for example, let's take the first page in the record book, and compare it to the original comic. Firstly, the splash page on the comic has gone, along with two thirds of page two. This is because the original comic opens with a series which refers to the recent deaths of Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn.
The cut panels actually show Spidey comparing the latest newspaper headlines, the Herald-Star banners "Spider-Man... Killer or Victim", whereas the good old Daily Bugle runs with "Spider-Man Murders Prominent Businessman". The next panel in the comic is headed "Meanwhile, several blocks south..." But in the Power Records version, this panel (the very first in the reduced story) says "The Amazing Spider-Man has many friends, but Jonah Jameson, publisher of the powerful Daily Bugle isn't one of them."
Of course, the record book then goes on to have Jonah say "Maybe you don't understand, Robertson. A man has been killed..." whereas the original comic said "Maybe you don't understand, Robertson. Norman Osborn was an associate of mine..." So, they kept the fact that Spidey just killed somebody, but all the context as to who or why is gone. Still, I guess most readers will just take that in their stride.
The editing continues in this vein. Footnotes are blanked out. Huge chunks of the original tale are removed... especially anything to do with Peter at college. In total, the original 40 or so pages in two comics are edited down to 20 pages.
On top of that, various text passages are simplified. For example, in the original comic we have "...and leaps from roof to roof, as though from cliff to cliff. A snarl escapes its lupine breat... a growl of sheer hatred reserved for the quarry it hunts." In edited form, we get "...and leaps from roof to roof as it hunts its quarry."
I guess that's all very interesting. But the key point is that in the end the book contains 20 pages of self-contained story, every word of which is on the record. Woohoo! So what does it sound like?
To be fair, Power Records knows their stuff. The voice actors do a passable job, although John Jameson does have a bit of a kids voice for a 6'2" ex-astronaut! They've added an abstract background sound-track which seems consist of a lot of random post-modern plink-plonk noise. There's plenty of layered sound effects. I'm sure that back in 1975 this would have kept your average 8 year old Spider-Fan glued to the record player for the 15 minutes that both sides of this 45 rpm record add up to.
But while I adore this record purely on kitsch value alone, I have to say that as an older reader/listener, there is something significant lost in the translation from comic into audio story. When I read those Amazing Spider-Man comics, I find my self quickly drawn into the tale. The removal of continuity and background story layers, the simplification of the text, and the tale being told out loud instead of in the privacy of your own head. All of these factors mean that the record version loses all the depth of original tale, and the result works on a completely different level. Hey, I'm not complaining, it's just an observation!
Having a story read to you is a very different thing from reading a comic. For one thing, I tend to vary my comic-reading pace greatly, depending on the quality of what I'm reading. I also have to say that the "voices in my head" generally do a top-notch job... better than the voice actors on the record!
There's no denying that there's something special about these audio stories. They're pure golden nuggets of Spider-Man history, and they're absolutely essential in any serious Spider-Fan's collection.
On the other hand, I can't completely ignore the fact the stories themselves are far from perfect. The Man-Wolf story is a real challenge to have undertaken, given the amount of continuity which needed to be peeled away in order to make stand-alone story. The Man-Wolf art is the original great art of its time, the characters and some of Gerry Conway's first-rate dialog survived the translation process. I gave it bonus points for kitsch, and a final rating of four webs.