Rave : 1997 : A Word From Al...

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Date: Sep 3, 1997
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Spider-Man Megazine is one of the forgotten offshoots of recent Spider-publishing history. (I had forgotten about it until doing the Lookback on MTU #1 reminded me to mention that that story was reprinted in SMMZ #1, which I subsequently forgot to do.) It is easy to see how it disappeared between the cracks. It only ran for six issues (Cover-dated October 1994 - March 1995) and it was a reprint book. Not the sort of publication that appeals to long-time readers or collectors.

But what a reprint book it was! Each issue featured two Roger Stern-John Romita Jr. stories from the early 1980s, one Marvel Team-Up story from the early 1970s (featuring the talents of Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Ross Andru, and Gil Kane), and one Stan Lee-Steve Ditko story from the early 1960s, all for $2.95! Here is the contents of each book:

#1 (October 1994): "Let Fly These Aged Wings" (ASM #224), "Fools... Like Us" (ASM #225), "Have Yourself a Sandman Little Christmas!" (MTU #1), and "Duel With Daredevil" (ASM #16.) Cover by James Fry and Hector Collazo.

(Why start the early reprints at #16? Because there had been a short-lived regular-sized reprint book called Spider-Man Classics that reprinted the earlier ones. Anybody remember THAT book?)

Also included in that first issue was a letter page commentary by Tom Brevoort extoling the old days of comics when reading was more important than collecting. Tom recommended each reader fold the spine back to read the comic one-handed just like the old days... then fold it right down the middle to stick it in a back pocket. A number of readers wrote in to tell Tom that the thought of this put them in a cold sweat, even if it WAS a reprint book.

#2 (November 1994): "But the Cat Came Back..." (ASM #226), "Goin' Straight!" (ASM #227), "And Spidey Makes Four!" (MTU #2), and "The Return of the Green Goblin!" (ASM #17) Cover by Brian Stelfreeze.

#3 (December 1994): "Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut!", and "To Fight the Unbeatable Foe! (The classic two-parter, from ASM #229-230.), "The Power to Purge!" (MTU #3.), and "The End of Spider-Man!" (From ASM #18.) Cover by Ron Frenz and Al Milgrom. (Oh, and if you're wondering what happened to ASM #228, it was a fill-in by Jan Strnad and Rick Leonardi entitled "Murder By Spider". It was also the subject of a famous Comics Journal article by Strnad all about the consequences of writing for Marvel. But that is another story altogether.)

#4 (January 1995): "Caught in the Act...", (ASM #231), "Hyde... In Plain Sight" (ASM #232), "And Then... the X-Men!" (The first return of the X-Men since their title went reprint, MTU #4), and "Spidey Strikes Back!" (From ASM #19.) Cover by Stuart Immonen and Karl Story.

#5 (February 1995): "Where the @$%# is Nose Norton?" (ASM #233), "Now Shall Will-O'-the-Wisp Have His Revenge!" (ASM #234), "A Passion of the Mind!" (MTU #5), and "The Coming of the Scorpion!" (ASM #20.) Cover by Kirk Jarvinen and Jason Moore.

#6 (March 1995): "Look Out, There's a Monster Coming!"(ASM #235), "Death Knell!" (ASM #236), "As Those Who Will Not See!" (MTU #6), and "Where Flies the Beetle!" (ASM #21.) Cover by Mark Buckingham.

With the cancellation of the book, readers lost the chance to read the first Hobgoblin stories, early Lee-Ditko Green Goblin stories and Team-Ups with Thor and Iron Man. The back of #6 offers tantalizing glimpses of what was to come: a pin-up of Spidey fighting Hobby by John Romita Jr. and Sr., originally planned as the cover for #7, and a great pin-up of Spidey, Iron Man, the Vulture and the Green Goblin by Brian Bolland, planned as the cover for #8.

This book not only made me think back to the days when these stories were current but also to the days of some other double-sized reprint comics. Beginning in 1966, Marvel began publishing Marvel Tales and Marvel Collector's Item Classics. The former featured early stories of Spider-Man, The Human Torch, Ant-Man, and Thor. The latter featured the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Doctor Strange and the Hulk. On the covers of the earlier issues were representations of the original covers for each story in the book. A classy package that made the reader feel like they were in on the ground floor of the "Marvel Age". Eventually, unfortunately, the "cover" covers were halted. Both books became regular-sized (MCIC became Marvel's Greatest Comics) and the excitement of reading several classics in one sitting was lost.

The Megazine brought this excitement back for all-too-brief a time. Fortunately, Marvel has not forsaken the reprint field. Their black-and-white "Essential" series can bring the early issues of Spidey to the newest reader. But why stop there? Why not a new book along the lines of the original Marvel Tales? Why not an "Essential" volume of "Spectacular Spider-Man"? And why not support the reprint business by picking up a book or two if they ever get around to publishing them again? So what if you've got every story in the book? They're fun in read in one sitting. And it'll help those Spidey fans yet unborn to get their hands on every story. Besides, when you're finished you can fold it down the middle and stick it in your back pocket for safe keeping.