Part 2 of this series on Marvel silver age annuals continues with the Amazing Spider-Man. I thought I had better get to this group of books in a hurry before Walt shines the Undervalued Spotlight on all of these books. He’s already got two of them covered, and in truth you can make a good case for all of the rest. And awwwaaayyy we go!

 

Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1
1964
The Sinister Six

Art by Steve Ditko. Story by Stan Lee.

Our 41 page story begins with Doctor Octopus being put in jail and just as quickly breaks out. He then begins to assemble his team of super villains all of which have fought and been defeated by Spider-Man in the past. Electro, Kraven the Hunter, Mysterio, Sandman, and The Vulture all gather with Doc Ock to form the Sinister Six. Doctor Octopus has a fool-proof plan and he informs his new “team” of the details.

While this happening Spider-Man is having troubles of his own. Feeling guilty over the death of his uncle Ben (brief origin –re-cap) and the pain that it has caused his Aunt May he suddenly loses his Spider powers.  He is trying to come to grips with being normal. He doesn’t get to dwell on this too long before the Vulture arrives at the Daily Bugle with a message for Spider-Man. Doc Ock has kidnapped Betty Brant and inadvertently Aunt May. He has set-up a line of Spider-man’s toughest villains that he must work through in various locations in order to save Betty and Aunt May. How to do that with no super-powers? No matter Peter knows he must try and don’s his costume and goes on to meet his first foe – Electro. Lucky for us and Peter one tossed electric lightning bolt snaps Spider-Mans powers back in to action and he goes on to first defeat Electro and then the rest of Sinister Six one by one finishing with Doctor Octopus. Betty and Aunt May are saved by that awful Spider-Man and reunited with Peter for a happy ending. The Sinister Six are defeated and in jail left to make plans to tackle Spider-Man another day. I always thought the Sinister Six would be a one off, but of course that has not been the case.

Stan Lee weaves a tale that touches upon almost everyone in the Marvel Universe with shameless plugs for Doctor Strange in Strange Tales, Giant Man and the Wasp in Tales to Astonish, X-Men, Fantastic 4, and The Avengers woven into the story. The popular Human Torch/Spider-Man combo gets a page or two as well.

Steve Ditko is at his best in this issue and he gets to draw the most one page spreads I had ever seen in a book as a youngster. Each time Spider-Man meets one of the Sinister Six we are treated to a full page battle scene. In addition there are 14 Pin-ups of every villain fought to date, a Spider-Man pin-up, and a Spider-Man/ FF/ Hulk pin-up. The Secrets of Spider-Man’s powers, his mask, his house, his classmates, you name it – it’s here!

This book is getting a lot of movie-hype attention right now as there is speculation the next Spider-Man movie will feature the Sinister Six as Spidey’s adversary. This is one book that doesn’t need hype; it is a terrific book all on its own.

 

asm annual 2Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2
1965
The Wondrous worlds of Doctor Strange

Art by Steve Ditko. Story by Stan Lee.

This book was just book reviewed in Walt’s Undervalued Spotlight #215 so we won’t spend too much time on it here. It features a twenty page story with Spider-Man’s first meeting with Doctor Strange. This is a real treat for Steve Ditko fans that get their only chance to see Ditko’s two most famous characters together in one book. This story is re-printed in Doctor Strange #179 as well.

There are five new villain pin-ups featuring all of the new villains in Spider-Man since the 1st annual.

Reprints of Spider-Man #1, The Terrible Tinkerer (10 Pages from #2), and issue #5 round out the books content.

Check out its Undervalued Spotlight as well.

 

Amazing Spider-Man Annual 3Amazing Spider-Man Annual #3
1966
To become an Avenger

Art by John Romita, Don Heck, and Micky Demo. Story by Stan Lee.

Our story begins in Avengers headquarters where we find the Avengers in discussion over offering Avengers membership to Spider-Man. There are mixed feelings amongst the team as to his suitability. They seek out and interview Daredevil who gives a glowing testimonial in Spider-Man’s favour. Finally they decide to approach Spider-Man himself and bring him in to be “tested”.  Thor is sent to make Spider-Man the offer and gives him 24 hours to respond. This is a tough decision for Peter to make. He has always been a loner at heart and he has family obligations with Aunt May. After wrestling with the question he makes a choice and heads to Avengers headquarters. The interview doesn’t go smoothly, as a nervous Spider-Man gets into a spat with practically every member of the team. Iron Man uses this time to come up with a test for Spider-Man. Find and bring rogue Avenger – the Hulk back to Avengers headquarters. No problem says Spider-Man and he is off. After a quick pit-stop at the Daily Bugle for some information Spider –Man heads to a Gamma research station and finds the Hulk. A pretty one-sided tussle starts, and during the fight the Hulk breaks a gamma radiation shield, bathing the Hulk in gamma radiation. This turns the Hulk back to Bruce Banner momentarily and he tells Spider-Man about himself. Peter knows of Dr. Banner and doesn’t understand why the Avengers want him. He doesn’t know they want him back to try and help him. Once the gamma rays wear off, Dr. Banner turns back into the mindless brute known as the Hulk. Spider-Man briefly captures the Hulk but finds he can’t bring himself to taking him back to the Avengers. He goes back to Avengers HQ and gives a flippant “hey I couldn’t do it – sorry” type statement and heads off. Disappointment all round for both the Avengers and Spider-Man. As young kid I can remember being glad he didn’t join the Avengers as I liked him as a loner, and I think a lot fandom liked him better that way too.

The balance of the book is made up with the reprinting of the famous Dock Ock  two-parter – Amazing Spider-Man #11 & 12.

Amazing Spider-Man Annual 3 cover by John Romita and Mike Esposito

 

Amazing Spider-Man Annual 4Amazing Spider-Man Annual #4
1967
The Web and the Flame

Art by Larry Lieber and Mike Esposito. Story by Stan Lee.

Our 41 page tale begins with Spider-Man inadvertently crashing a movie set in a film starring the Human Torch. The usual Spider-man/ Human torch battle ensues before the director calls “cut”.  Spider-Man is eschewed by the director and the Torch before he slinks off set. An unknown enemy sees opportunity. Soon after a new movie starring Spider-Man and The Human Torch is announced for shooting in Hollywood. Spider-Man decides he could make some real money playing the part of him self and head’s out. We quickly find out the movie is a front for a deadly attack on our two heroes by The Wizard and Mysterio! We are treated to a long and interesting battle by these two masters of deception before our heroes emerge victorious. I love everything about this book, lots of action and great visuals.

The rest of the book is filled with pages of Spider-Man information and pin-ups.

There is a special announcement about Amazing Spider-Man Annual #5 to follow one year later being a story about Peter Parker’s lost parents. I had read somewhere that Larry Lieber had drawn both stories for issues 4 & 5 at about the same time. This note seems to confirm it. So let’s get to that issue.

 

Amazing Spider-Man Annual 5Amazing Spider-Man Annual #5
1968
The Parents of Peter Parker

Cover art by John Romita. Art by Larry Lieber and Mike Esposito. Story by Stan Lee.

Well we had to wait a full year for this one, and it was worth the wait.  This story is the flip-side to Annual #4. In annual #4 we have an action packed book with a lot of typical Spidey light-hearted humour. In this book we land on the heavy side of Spider-Man with Peter Parker having to deal with a dreadful secret from the past and his long-lost parents.

Our 40 page story begins in the dark of night on a menacing looking street, with Spider-Man’s spider sense on high alert. Spider-Man is attacked by seven thugs with guns and knives. He lunges into battle and has them on the run when one of thugs pulls a gun and grazes Spider-Man with bullet in the head and he falls into a canal. Presumed dead the gang leave to report the good news to their “master”. A groggy spider-man manages to pull himself out of the water and he lays there thinking back how he got to this place.

Days ago Peter Parker was helping his Aunt May move some trunks around from the attic. The trunk Peter was carrying broke open (damn spider strength) and out fell some old newspaper clipping. They were clippings of Peter’s parents that had been killed in a plane crash. More importantly his parents had been deemed traitors to the USA. Peter confronts  his aunt and she tells him what she knows. Pete is in a shock. This news would be a gut punch to anybody, an orphan tends to romanticize their lost parents a bit and now even this little fantasy is gone. Try as he might he can’t get the mystery of his parents out of his head and with the help of the Fantastic 4 he heads to their last known location in Algeria. He looks for the man who identified his parent’s remains. He finds him and he confirms they were spies who worked for a “master of intrigue” and gives Spidey the address. Spider-man was on his way there when he ran into the tugs…

Now conscious Peter heads to the address. He breaks into the building and looks through a series of filing cabinets hoping not to find anything that would prove his dad was an enemy agent. Unfortunately he does and then he/we meet the “master”. It’s the Red Skull!!!  Big time shock for anyone who didn’t know he was the “ big bad” in this book. That would include me. The Red Skull will not sully his hands to destroy Spider-Man and calls for a huge overgrown pug named Sandor to do the job. Spider-Man takes him out easily and leaves heavy hearted. He has his father’s identity card that shows he was in the employ of the Red Skull. He’s worse off now than when he started. The Red Skull is not thru with Spidey yet. He sends for his trusty assassin “The Fixer” who loads up some personal rockets for Spider-Man. This plan backfires as Spider-Man brings the homing missiles back to the Fixer’s car fatally wounding him. Before he dies the Fixer tells Spider-man that his parents were double agents, the Skull found out and had them killed in a plane crash. Great news his parents aren’t traitors – but he still needs proof. He heads back to the Skulls hideout to beat it out of him.

When Spider-Man arrives the Red Skull is waiting.  There is a quick fierce battle and the building goes up in an explosion. There is no sign of the skull and Spider-Man escapes from the fiery building. Finally Spider-Man has a stroke of luck. The identity card he has been carrying has been singed in the fire. It reveals an US government employee card hidden within the singed Skull ID card. It is the proof of his dad’s innocence that Spider-Man has been looking for. I am not sure how Spider-Man got home from Algeria but he looks like he could fly in the last splash page of this book. A happy and satisfying ending to the book.

Anyone wanting to get a kid hooked on Spider-Man would do well to find reader copies of Spider-Man annuals #4 and #5 or a Marvel Tales reprint of the same and it is Mission Accomplished.

P.S. the Red Skull adds to his record 188th escape and returns to menace the pages of Captain America.

 

Strange Tales Annual 2Strange Tales Annual #2
1963
On the trail of Spider-Man

Art Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. Story by Stan Lee.

Our last “Spider-Man” annual is actually in the pages of Strange Tales (I needed a 6th book!). This book was already covered long ago by Walt a way back in Undervalued Spotlight #4. There was a reason Walt picked this book so early – low hanging fruit. It is easily one of the most undervalued Marvel books of the sixties although it has finally started to make up some ground recently.

This comic was primarily a pairing of the two most popular teens in Marvel comics Spider-Man and the Human Torch. It proved to be very successful and was used many times in the future. The books villain – the Fox is a very forgettable villain and I always thought this hurt the book in terms of collectability. He’s no Doctor Octopus. The story is in another title and it is – an annual, and that doesn’t help its cause either.  All good for those of us who still want to buy the book!

The book also contains a bunch of reprints from Marvel/Atlas comics: Strange Tales #67, Strange Worlds #1-3, and World of Fantasy #16.

I love the cover of this book. Jack Kirby proved he was in fact human (something that at times was in doubt), when he famously forgot to draw the spider on Spider-Man’s costume. And it’s still a great cover!!!

Strange Tales Annual 2 page splash by Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko

44th Overstreet guide prices                  6.0       8.0       9.0       9.2

 

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1        $273    $728    $1639  $2550

#2        $102    $242    $541    $840

#3        $48      $102    $249    $385

#4        $39      $89      $195    $300

#5        $33      $73      $157    $240

Strange Tales Annual      #2        $258    $688    $1544  $2400

 

This is a wonderful group of books to buy and collect in whatever grade you can afford. Until next time – happy hunting…