Monday, May 19, 2014

SPIDER-MAN BY ROGER STERN

"I just tried to write about the guy I'd started reading about fourteen years earlier. He was maybe a few years older -- and he'd been through a lot -- but he was still Spider-Man. I don't know how many times I'd read and reread the stories that preceded mine -- especially the ones that Stan had written -- but I probably knew Peter better than I knew anyone I'd ever gone to school with (after all, I was never privy to my friends' innermost thoughts)."

-- "Roger Stern, the Spectacular Spider-Writer",
MARVEL SPOTLIGHT: SPIDER-MAN, Marvel Comics, March 2007
While regarded by many as the most definitive Spider-Man short of Stan Lee, Roger Stern's issues, aside from certain "evergreen" classics like "Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut" and the Hobgoblin saga, have rarely been reprinted over the years. But somebody in the Marvel collected editions department must be a fan, because this past March saw the release of the much-deserved and long overdue SPIDER-MAN BY ROGER STERN OMNIBUS.

Art by John Romita, Jr. & John Romita
This book has been a pipe dream for many fans for quite some time, but I don't know that anyone legitimately expected it to happen. Stern himself even said in 2012, "...I think that an Omnibus spotlighting John Romita Jr's run would be more likely. After all, he drew eleven issues of ASM before we started working together. (Besides, has there ever been a Marvel Omnibus devoted solely to a writer's work? Writer/artists, sure ...)"

And yet, here we are. Marvel has shown some Stern reprint love in recent years, with new editions of the SPIDER-MAN: HOBGOBLIN LIVES and ORIGIN OF THE HOBGOBLIN trade paperbacks, followed in short order by a NOTHING CAN STOP THE JUGGERNAUT hardcover and a MARK OF THE TARANTULA trade -- but this right here is the Big One. The book we die-hard fans have waited years for. The book which, according to Marvel's collected editions research guru Jeph York, is "...the largest book Marvel has ever published." And Marvel has gone above and beyond here. The book is edited by Cory Sedlmeier, the man behind the pristine reconstruction of the Marvel Masterworks volumes, and features a brand new introduction from Stern -- something Marvel very rarely does for classic Omnibus reprints. Beyond that, all letters pages are included and the book is chock-full of extra bonus features, which I'll review eventually in their very own post.

But first I plan to cover the entire book, issue by issue. There is much written of Stern's work online, but I rarely find in-depth reviews for each issue of his run. Summaries, sure. And reviews as part of a larger AMAZING SPIDER-MAN series, certainly. But not a series devoted specifically to the Roger Stern Run, starting with his work on PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN, all the way up through the end of his AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. My intention is to create such a series.

AVENGERS: ABSOLUTE VISION
BOOK 1 TPB, 2013

SPIDER-MAN: HOBGOBLIN LIVES
TPB, 2011
Besides the contents of the Omnibus, I will also dip into the recently released AVENGERS: ABSOLUTE VISION, BOOK 1 trade paperback, to cover a couple of Stern-written Spider-Man appearances alongside Earth's Mightiest Heroes. And I'm going to cap it all off with reviews of the six issues contained in the SPIDER-MAN: HOBGOBLIN LIVES trade from 2011.

While I intend to cover everything from this run with Stern's name on it, including issues he plotted but did not script, I will not cover the two fill-ins, one from SPECTACULAR and one from AMAZING, contained in the Omnibus. I also intend to skip AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #206, the second issue in the book. While it is among Stern's very first Spider-writing jobs, it was only created to tie up loose ends left by departing writer Marv Wolfman before Denny O'Neil took over the title. Stern's real run begins with PETER PARKER #43, so that's where we will start as well.

My format will be basically the same as the IRON MAN and CAPTAIN AMERICA reviews, but structured just a little differently. Taking a cue from J. Kendall over at Not Blog X, I'll add a separate heading for "Sub-Plots". I'm also going "full Teebore" on this, replicating Austin Gorton's style of pulling quotes wherever possible, as seen in his terrific "X-aminations" reviews over at Gentlemen of Leisure. However most of the Stern interviews and quotes I've found are from recent years looking back at the stories. I have very little which is contemporaneous with the work. There will also be remarks included from others, wherever possible. Additionally, I'll be checking to see if there are any interesting tidbits in the letter columns from this run, as well.

(Hopefully both my fellow bloggers will agree that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?)

So -- about sixty issues, in-depth, twice a week, for just about the rest of the year -- beginning Wednesday with PETER PARKER #43. I'm enthusiastic about this, and I hope you are too.

Note: The quality of the Omnibus reprints will not always be reflected in the panels and other artwork reproduced on the individual review pages. Wherever possible, I have pulled artwork from Marvel Digital Unlimited, which is of somewhat inferior quality, to reduce the workload on myself. When an issue is not available through Marvel's online service, I will scan the artwork as needed.

3 comments:

  1. Really looking forward to it! I used to get the old Spider-Man Megazines off of spinner racks and loved these stories. It wasn't til later that I put together that Roger Stern was responsible for my ideal vision of Spider-Man (and Peter Parker). It's been years since I've read these and I'm really enjoying my slow meander through the tome.

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  2. Great, glad to have you aboard! I've been having a lot of fun re-reading and writing about these issues. I like several Spider-Man writers, but to me Stern and Stan Lee are the cream of the crop.

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  3. Hey, I've not found a copy of the OMnibus to handle, but does it also contain the work by other authors listed by Amazon, like DAve KRaft's Spec Ann 3? It sorta doesn't make sense but I'm asking for Dave :-D I am trying, fingers crossed, to get an interview with Roger. I am about to write up an overview of his Spec Spidey stories. #58 was one of my first comics- the hilarious encounter with the Ringer!

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