This morning’s post is the first in my much-heralded series on the Treasuries and Tabloids published by DC and Marvel in the Bronze Age.
The format was launched by DC first; I well remember the house ads for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer , Shazam and Kubert’s Tarzan in 1973. Of course, I couldn’t buy them because I never saw them on sale in Lanarkshire but in any case, they looked a bit juvenile to a Scottish ten-year-old. Until, that is, the dramatic Neal Adams Batman ad appeared in JLA 110.
The adverts in the newly-glossy British Marvel weeklies of 1974 trumpeted Marvel’s first Treasury Edition. A genuine summer special and only 40p! Although Spider-Man was the first Marvel star I saw on tv ( the original “Is he strong? Listen bub…” cartoons on Glen Michael’s Cavalcade) I actually preferred the FF, X-Men and Thor. So, I wasn’t greatly interested anyway, despite the lure of stories never before reprinted in the UK,
In fact, I first read this “colo(u)r-splashed collection of Spidey Classics” in the late Nineties when my friend Alex Harvey gave me the copy that his father (the “Sensational” Alex Harvey) bought for him in the 70s. Let’s look at the contents…
A Message from Spidey’s Godfather: Stan Lee provides an introduction where he raps about Spidey’s symbolic value and the element of social commentary in the comics. It’s the typical cod-literary analysis and hyperbole familiar from Stan’s Soapboxes and I love it: Marvel in the late Silver Age won its earnest college audience with this academic-hipster tone.
Daily Bugle Extra: a two-page feature on the writers and artists associated with the comic. A facsimile newspaper with cartoons by Marie Severin ( I presume), it feels like an escapee from Mad or some other adult humour magazine from the US. I imagine Stan would be delighted with that comparison.
The Grotesque Adventure of the Green Goblin: I’ve never been enthralled by Gobby and this whimsical Ditko tale involves a silly, convoluted scheme worthy of the Cybermen. Spidey is lured into making a phoney movie where he’s pitted against the Goblin and the Enforcers. Movie mogul B.J. Cosmos provides the humour in the story as Stan gently satirises the profligacy and guile of Hollywood.
The Hulk makes a left-field guest appearance for a battle in a cave; I imagine the whole scenario was dreamed up as a warm-up for Ditko and to promote ol’ Greenskin. The Hulk was still a few months away from being relaunched in Tales to Astonish after his original book flopped.
Secrets Behind Spider-Man: A four-page Lee-Ditko feature, it’s a truncated version of a piece from the first Spider-Man annual. In fact, I first read it in the Marvel annual that preceded MWOM. Bookish kids would love this.
Spider-Man Tackles the Torch: A rare Kirby Spidey-story, the back-up tale from the “Tribute to Teen-Agers” issue (Spidey #8). It highlights one of the early, boyish spats between Spidey and the Torch In 1996, Mike Allred pencilled a nostalgic sequel to this story in the Untold Tales of Spider-Man Annual.
The Birth of a Superhero: a rather dull, early Romita tale where JJJ’s son becomes an unstable powerhouse after an encounter with alien spores. John Jameson will, of course, later become the Man-Wolf . The story is notable only for the iconic last-page introduction of Mary Jane Watson.
Rocked by the Shocker: One page by John Buscema where Spidey trounces the quilted villain with the vibro-blasts.
The Reprehensible Riddle of the Sorcerer: A bit of an oddity, this was a story by Wonder Woman‘s Ross Andru, first published in the showcase book Marvel Super-Heroes. It may have been intended for the short-lived b/w Spectacular Spider-Man magazine. Andru’s grotesque, angular style would become the signature look for Spidey in the mid-70s. Bizarrely, Harry and Peter appear to have a shower cabinet in the bedroom of their apartment: a bit low-rent for an industrialist’s son!
While it’s an action-packed entry, the plot is reminiscent of the 1967 Brit movie The Sorcerers, starring Boris Karloff. The villain,whom Spidey never meets, is also called The Sorcerer. The story’s heavy, the ” spine-chilling” Synthetic Man, is a typical goofy Marvel android.
And Death Shall Come: The death of Captain Stacy, precipitated by Doc Ock, whom I always thought of as Spidey’s chief villain. The plot inspired this summer’s Amazing Spider-Man movie. Gil Kane’s art is dizzying and kinetic; no one draws anguished heroes like Kane.
Larry Lieber pin-up poster: Stan’s brother provides a rather static, workaday image of an Atlas-like Spidey holding up the Thing, Hulk, Thor, Hercules and Namor.
It’s not a particularly inspiring selection of stories but it was always about the art anyway and from that perspective, this is a dazzling collection. The next post in this series will focus on the first Treasury I actually bought in the Bronze Age.
Coming soon: The Mystery Men of October- a Canucklehead, a Living Vampire and the Lion of London.
All images presumed copyright of their respective owners