Wednesday, 7 September 2016


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

In 2002, MARVEL reissued their 1968 The SPECTACULAR
SPIDER-MAN Special.  This was a black and white, larger sized
magazine, although the second and last issue was in full-colour.  Read
the spiel on the back cover of the reprint (below)  - if you're a Spidey
fan you want this mag after reading that, don't you?  Well, don't
get excited - the reprint was a major disappointment.

Most of the lettering was replaced by inferior computer-style
fonts that completely ruined the look of the pages.  Logos and dis-
play lettering were also replaced, diminishing the 'Marvel' effect that
comics had in the '60s, especially when lettered by SAM ROSEN
and ARTIE SIMEK.  Honestly, this is a car-crash of a reprint
and I'm surprised it was allowed to see print in this form.

The story was reprinted once again in a volume of MARVEL
MASTERWORKS with the original lettering intact, leaving me to
wonder why the earlier reprint's lettering was ever replaced to begin
with.  I can only hope that Marvel will reissue a second edition, but
this time done properly.  Go on - how about it, Marvel?

And below is the cover of the original '68 edition, followed by
'before and after' comparisons of two interior pages - as you can
see, the differences are screamingly obvious.  Even the contents
pages (not shown) are infuriatingly different.  Some replica!

The original - compare the above final caption with the feeble effort below...

Again, the original - is the second version (below) better in your view?  Nope!




paul Mcscotty said...

I have that book and in general it is not one of the better Spidey's - wasn't this originally reprinted from (or later reprinted in) the regular "Amazing.." monthly comic - I think I have that as well somewhere

TC said...

A classmate of mine had #1, and showed it to me. Despite the different format, it was basically the same kind of thing as Marvel's Annuals or "King-Size Specials." It didn't really seem like a big deal deal to me, even back then.

And I don't know if the format was all that "ground-breaking" or innovative. Warren had been publishing their horror comics (Eerie, Creepy) as B&W, full-size magazines for years.

Maybe Marvel hoped that the new format would appeal to older kids who had outgrown color comics. And/or that it would be displayed on the shelves with the "real" magazines, and would get noticed by adults and teenagers who did not look at the spinner racks.

They seemed to be trying the same thing again in the 1970's and '80's with B&W magazine versions of The Punisher, The Nam, and Savage Tales. But, AFAIR, none of those really caught on.

Kid said...

As far as I know, PM, it was an original story that first and only appeared in this mag. (Until it was reprinted in 2002 and in the Masterworks volume.) Could be mistaken 'though. (Edit: I've just been reminded that it was recycled in ASM #116-118.)


I suppose it could arguably be considered 'groundbreaking' doing superheroes in this format, TC, as I think Warren only printed horror comics in b&w magazine format. Again, could be mistaken.

Colin Jones said...

Wasn't there a UK Spider-Man annual which had a very similar cover ? 1975 or 76 I think.

Kid said...

I believe there was, CJ - I used to have it.

Joe S. Walker said...

Actually Marvel didn't do anything very experimental when the line expanded in 1968, they just did a lot more books in their established style. DC were doing some much odder stuff around that time - there are no Marvel equivalents of The Hawk And The Dove, Angel And The Ape, or Brother Power The Geek.

TC said...

Warren published a B&W magazine reprinting Will Eisner's Spirit comic strips in the 1970's, and I guess the Rook could be considered an action hero. But, AFAIK, no one had published a superhero comic in a B&W magazine before 1968.

Graham said...

I hate when people try to "improve" things that worked just fine the first time around. I wish that movie producers would take that advice sometimes. As NBA great Charles Oakley once said, "If it ain't broke, don't break it."

Nick Caputo said...


I was around when that first Spectacular Spider-Man issue came out, although distribution was spotty and it was hard to find on newsstands in Brooklyn, New York. In fact, my older brother John (who did all the purchasing back then, since he was 15 and I was 8 - and he had more coins than me) couldn't find a copy. My cousin did, so we were able to borrow his copy to read.

The second issue was found in one of the better stocked Luncheonettes, and I quite enjoyed the issue and looked forward to more. Alas, it was not to be. Publisher Martin Goodman apparently pulled the plug, not having any faith in the format, even though, according to John Romita, the issues sold well. Apparently there were also complaints from Goodman's peers, including those who ran the Comics Code Authority, and that was enough to cool him to the format. A shame, since other titles, like the Fantastic Four, were planned. Imagine a sprawling epic by Lee, Kirby and Sinnott! Or an anthology mag utilizing the likes of Steranko, Colan, Buscema, Everett or Shores!

Kid said...

True, Joe, but there were no real DC equivalents for most of the stuff Marvel were doing either. Okay, both did superheroes, but the Marvel stuff was mostly better.


And as you usually know whereof you speak, TC, I'm happy to accept your word on the matter.


That's a great twist on the old saying, G. I'll be stealing it for future use.


Ah, if only, Nick. I suppose the larger sized graphic novels of the '80s & '90s were a continuation of the format to some degree. Thanks for the interesting insight on why the '60s mags ended after only 2 issues.

TC said...

I'm surprised that the Comics Code Authority had anything to say about Spectacular Spider-Man, or any other plans for B&W magazines. I thought that such mags were outside their jurisdiction. My impression was that Mad magazine went to a full-size magazine format so as to bypass the Code. The same with Warren's horror comics. Of course, I could have been misinformed.

But then, Eerie and Creepy were anthologies. Maybe there was some concern about using the same characters from the Code-approved comics in magazines that were not sanctioned by the CCA?

My impression (and again, I could be missing the point entirely) is that Marvel aimed at a slightly older audience than DC in the Silver Age. Not adults, of course, but probably teenagers. Sometime around 1968 or so, DC seemed to start emulating Marvel. More complex plots, more character development, longer serials, and cross-continuity.

DC did try more experimental concepts in the late 1960's. Angel & Ape, Hawk & Dove, Brother Power, Anthro, Deadman. IMHO, they tended to overdo it, trying too hard to be cool, hip, "relevant," and trendy. But, hey, at least they were trying to do something different. I'd give them some credit for making an effort.

By the end of the Bronze Age, the superhero genre dominated the medium. In the 1980's, both publishers were doing the same kind of stuff, and the only question would have been which was doing it better.

Kid said...

I think your second paragraph is likely to be correct in its assessment, TC.

And nowadays, Marvel and DC comics are largely indistinguishable. I'm not sure whether that means one company has got better or the other one worse 'though

Nick Caputo said...


The black and white magazines were outside the purview of the Code. However, Goodman was on the board and did not like to ruffle feathers, so..

Sorry I wasn't clear on that point.

Kid said...

There you are, TC - a personal reply from Nifty Nick himself. Ta, Nick.

TC said...

Thanks, Nick.

Phil S said...

I don't have any evidence for this but I suspect the magazine size was an experiment to try and escape the confines of comic book distribution. At the time Marvel Was being distributed by DC. I'm guessing magazine distribution was not run by the DC subsidiary. I remember seeing the book later at cons and not being too enthused at black and white versions of colorful super heroes. In fact I may even have this. I should check.

Kid said...

There you are, Nick - a personal thank you from titanic TC. Criv-ites are just so civilized. Now, any thoughts on Phil S's theory?

John Pitt said...

I had the original, but not the second, colour issue. But, even with my careful handling, the square binding started peeling off, which spoiled it!

Kid said...

I just fixed one up for a friend, JP. Did not a bad job too.

TC said...

I would say Phil's theory makes sense. And sometime around 1968-69 was when Marvel got out of that restrictive distribution deal, allowing them to expand their regular comic book line. (That was when Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, et al. got their own self-titled comics instead of appearing in the "split book" anthologies.) That may have been one more reason why Marvel saw no need to continue the B&W magazine.

Kid said...

Of course, it may also have been that John Romita was being overstretched having to turn out an extra-length mag every month. perhaps it was a combination of the various factors mentioned by Nick, Phil and yourself, TC (and me).

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