Everybody knows about "Little Golden Books", they're a cultural classic. With the first few issued in 1942, they have now sold over 2 billion copies as at last count. Nobody seems to be able to tell me how many different titles that includes, but as of 2012 the number seems to be somewhere between 700 and 1,000.
With nearly all of them featuring the distinctive golden glossy spine covering, these 6.5" x 8" hardback books can be found in children's schools, libraries and homes all around the world. So how come it took seventy years before Spider-Man finally starred in his very own "Little Golden Book"?
In 2011 and 2012, Marvel offered their headline stars the chance to appear in Little Golden Books of their very own. Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, the Avengers, Spider-Man and (coming soon) The Hulk were the first to be chosen. Let's have a look and see how Spider-Man was treated.
Physically, the book is the standard, well-loved format. 6.5" x 8", hard-cover, squared bound with golden tape binding. No dust jacket. I don't recognise any of the creators as Marvel regulars, which isn't a reassuring start. But let's see where this goes:
Page 1: "Peter Parker was an ordinary teenager until he was bitten by a radio-active spider."
Page 3: "Peter Parker created a costume to wear so that no one would know he was really Spider-Man."
Page 10: "Because he fights bad guys, Spider-Man has made lots of enemies. Super villains are always looking for a way to get rid of the Wall-Crawler!"
Holy crud, but this is a boring book! How on earth can you take the coolest super-hero in the world and turn him into a series of accurate but entirely uninspiring statements. This book could be dead for a week and nobody would notice until it started to smell!
I should clarify that the art work isn't actually bad at all. The pencil work is dynamic, and the coloring is vibrant and appealing. But the text is a complete and utter stinker.
What a tragedy. Seven decades of waiting, and this is the result. Sure, the book manages to identify Spidey's major powers, and enumerate a half-dozen of his classic foes.
But in the process of doing so, all of the truly important elements of Spider-Man's character are discarded. There is no mention of his Aunt and Uncle, nor of the fact that Peter was a shy and bookish individual. The "power and responsibility" angle is discarded, and the vital contrast of his private and public personae are utterly neglected. Similarly for his villains, they are given no motivations at all.
Yes, this book enumerates physical powers and illustrates costumes for Spider-Man and a gallery of his favourite bad guys. However, it does not contain any characterization, nor any semblance of a plot.
A much-loved format, good art work and a great price can do nothing to redeem those fundamental flaws.
One and a half webs.
For a far, far superior re-telling of the Spider-Man origin, I strongly recommend The Amazing Spider-Man: An Origin Story.