60 years ago, Peter Parker swung into our world after being bitten by a radioactive spider.
June 5, 1962, Marvel Comics published the latest creation from the team of Steve Ditko and Stan Lee. Should you be in DC (the city, not the other comic outfit), stop by the Library of Congress and you can see the original artwork for his debut. He didn’t rate his own comic yet – that would come not quite a year later, in March 1963, with the first issue of The Amazing Spider-man
From there would come Aunt Mae and Uncle Ben, the obnoxious J. Johah Jameson, Harry and Norman Osborn, and those two women vying for Peter’s attention, Mary Jane and Gwen, Doc Ock, The Green Goblin, the Lizard, the Sandman, the Vulture, Mr. Big, Kraven the Hunter, and many others. Even as a kid, I wondered how these bad guys were able to return to fight so often. Did they escape from jail or were they held only a few issues?? There would be times he’d be up against other superheros. After all, NYC was full of ’em!
When I was collecting with my cousin Jeff, way, way back in the distant past, there was just the one Spider-man comic. Now there are…well, I don’t know how many. I don’t know how many villains he’s battled all told. There was animated series shown very early on Saturday mornings in the 60s that my Dad had orders to get me up to watch. I don’t remember the live-action TV series, and that’s probably good that I missed it. I think the second, 2004, Toby Maguire movie with Doc Ock is the best. I had subscriptions to Spider-man, Fantastic Four, Captain America and a few others but had long stopped collecting by junior high. I have most of the Spider-mans from about #20 to #100, and a handful before #20. The first issue I bought was #55, which came out in 1967. At that time, you could to shops selling old magazines and buy them for peanuts. I can’t believe our parents took us to these grungy “bookshops” that were probably filled with porn, but the boxes of comics were on the floor, under shelves of whatever, and we’d eagerly sit in the dust to find issues we were missing. The irony is that those same shops probably were filled with old pulp magazines – Black Mask, Dime Detective – that’d be worth as much, if not more, that the comics we hunted.
So congratulations to Peter Parker, Stan Lee, and Steve Ditko. Spider-man is a great American creation. I’m sure that in on June 5th, 1962, none of them had any idea what lay ahead. I learned to draw by copying the artwork and kept and treasured them these decades. At some point, probably soon, I should part with them but I’m not quite sure I can do it just yet….