This week on Arcs & Runs we are going to play a game of “What If”. Our question – If you had to accept a one-year assignment in an arctic weather station, what twenty issue run of comics would you bring with you?

My favourite comic character is the Amazing Spider-Man so he gets the pick, for me it is an easy pick, however, I can think of a ton of others that would qualify nicely for this job. Marvel Tales #1-20 would have been my close second choice. Spider-Man and a lot more variety of additional characters.

We’ve already covered many of these books and I will be grouping stories together as well to keep this post at a reasonable length, the synopsis will be brief. Who am I kidding: you’d better grab a drink before you start it is going to be a very long post. I would also like to hear from anyone who would like to share their favourite runs of comics with us.

And awaaayy we go!

Amazing Spider-Man #31-38 are by the creative team Steve Ditko (art) and Stan Lee (story). This is the final eight issues of Ditko’s run on the Amazing Spider-Man. With both men having passed on we’ll likely never know the real reason for the less than acrimonious split and Ditko’s departure from the book. Maybe some of the people who might have known the reason will feel free to speak up now that they are both gone. and then again maybe not. It always made for interesting speculation and debate.

Amazing Spider-Man issue 32 page 4 by Steve Ditko. Source.

Amazing Spider-Man #31-33

We’ll start with the story that I and many others have felt was the high-water mark story for the Ditko/Lee team. Spider-Man battles the Master Planner/Doctor Octopus while trying desperately to save his Aunt May’s life from a rare blood disorder. The story is top-notch, Ditko is at his very best throughout. I always felt this story was Ditko’s definitive vision of heroism and “his” Spider-Man. Issue #33’s cover is my favourite Ditko cover. This storyline also features the first appearance of Gwen Stacy, Harry Osborn, and Professor Warren. I also covered this arc in a previous post on Arcs & Runs.

Amazing Spider-Man #34-38

#34 Kraven the Hunter returns for his third bout with Spider-Man, this time he impersonates Spidey and lures him into battle. Lots of well-paced action and battle scenes. The outcome is never really in doubt though and Kraven falls for a third consecutive time.

#35 The return of the Molten Man. Usually when a villain gets a quick second chance in a comic book it is because of brisk sales in the first appearance. Another well-paced battle issue takes place very similar to the last issue. The Molten Man alias Mark Raxton goes down hard, with picture evidence to put him jail provided by Spider-Man. The Molten Man does not return until the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #132 &133. I think the sales on the Molten Man’s first appearance might be tied to the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #28.

#36 A new villain for Spider-Man – The Looter later called the Meteor Man. An origin story featuring yet another wacky scientist Norton Fester. There is an origin story, and Spider-Man makes pretty quick work of the powerful but inexperienced Meteor Man. Not a bad costume. Peter Parker’s love life isn’t so hot. Gwen Stacy thinks he’s a dud, and Betty Brant has left the bugle presumably with Ned Leeds.

#37 The most notable thing about this book is the formal introduction of Norman Osborn, Harry’s father and the president of Oscorp. In this issue, Professor Stromm is out to kill Fredrick Foswell (Patch) with a killer robot. Spider-Man to the rescue. Stromm is mysteriously killed late in this issue. A ho-hum book.

#38 A guy named Joe is the title of the last Spider-Man issue pencilled by Steve Ditko. It is another ho-hum issue with boxer Joe Smith the lead character in the story This book was ho-hum II even though I am comparing it to other Spider-Man books. Calling them ho-hum is knit-picking, they are solid books just weaker than I had come to expect.

Steve Ditko had really polished up his Spider-Man look over the last ten or so issues and his action sequences were always top-notch. That’s why the next issue came as such a shock to Spider-Man fans.

Amazing Spider-Man issue 39 splash by John Romita and Mickey Demeo.

Amazing Spider-Man #39-40

Exit Steve Ditko. Enter John Romita. The Green Goblin returns and finds out Spider-Man’s secret identity, and the Green Goblin’s secret identity is revealed as Norman Osborn. Amazing Spider-Man#39 is an absolute blockbuster of a comic. The whole story is Stan Lee at his best. I squirmed through the whole book, thinking the cover was somehow a dream – but it wasn’t. It is hard to describe just how much of a change this was to your comic book senses as a ten-year-old Spider-Man fan. Amazing Spider-Man #40 provides the solution to the secret identity dilemma, and the Green Goblin looks like he is gone for good with amnesia after his battle with Spider-Man. Well, we all know now how that turned out.

Amazing Spider-Man #39 is my second favourite comic book of all time. I think it might be Stan Lee’s best Spidey story. My only beef and it is a small one was the next issue box on the last page which says “Spidey saves the day”. It took all of the suspense out of the next book for me and took the narrative from Can Spidey do it to How does Spidey do it. A small point but it was big for me. Ironically in reprint form, the change was made to Can Spidey save the day? I think I’m knit-picking again, it’s an awesome comic.

Amazing Spider-Man issue 43 page 9 by John Romita.

Amazing Spider-Man #41-43

#41 Enter a new villain the Rhino! Exit Betty Brant. Enter John Jameson and his Space Spores, plus Peter Parker’s new bike. The changes continue in the new Romita age of Spider-Man. Round one in the first Amazing Spider-Man vs Rhino battles finally goes to Spider-Man. The Rhino is not going anywhere though, after a little rest, he is going to be back with a vengeance in a couple of issues. I am not a huge fan of the value placed upon this book by Overstreet and the market, for content received and said so in my first Overvalued Overstreet post. I still think it has no place being anywhere near Amazing Spider-Man #39 in value.

#42 Our story continues with John Jameson and his new-found power via the space spores he encountered on his last space flight. Jameson becomes stronger and much meaner. He is all Spider-Man can handle. Spidey takes him down with a massive blast of electricity that removes the spores and saves Jameson. Not many people recall that. What they do remember are the last two panels of the book when Peter Parker finally meets Mary Jane Watson, a girl he has avoided meeting for months. If anyone wonders why John Romita was partially brought in to fold, it was his talent for drawing beautiful people. Anyone remember what Gwen Stacy looked like in her first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #31? Nuff said!

#43 If Walt keeps on writing Undervalued Spotlights I am certain someday he will get to this book. An excellent battle cover featuring the return of the Rhino. A big time two battle brawl with Spider-Man and the Rhino, which Spidey wins with some assistance from Doctor Curt Conners. The story also features the origin of the Rhino. This is more importantly the first full appearance of Mary Jane Watson, arguably Spider-Man/Peter Parker’s closest supporting character over the course of his life (sorry Aunt May). Seeing her ripping around town on the back of Pete’s bike on the way to Spider-Man’s first battle with the Rhino, seemed so cool and so different you simply didn’t see something like this happening a few short months ago. Highly recommended. The Rhino disappears from the pages of Spider-Man and he lands in the pages of the Incredible Hulk (#104) where he becomes a reoccurring villain throughout the Silver and Bronze age.

Amazing Spider-Man issue 45 page 13 by John Romita.

Amazing Spider-Man #44-45

The return of Doctor Curt Conners as The Lizard. You had a feeling this appearance was just around the corner when Doc Conners was part of our first arc here (issues #32-33) and last issue. I always enjoyed Lizard/Spider-Man stories. The Lizard was super-powerful and Spider-Man always seemed to hold back just a little as he knew that Doc Conners was his alter-ego. This letting up a bit was painful in this story, as Spider-Man gets a very public cast worth injury to his left shoulder, and it puts his secret identity in some jeopardy when he must wear a similar cast as Peter Parker. Amazing Spider-Man #45 was the very first comic book I ever purchased new off the spinner-rack. All my previous Spider-Man reads came from a used book store or second hand from friends. I bought new comics going forward.

Amazing Spider-Man #46

The first appearance and origin of the Shocker. I always felt this villain was the ultimate “B” character. The rise in value above others in the #43-49 run can be attributed largely to his movie appearance in the movie Spider-Man Homecoming. First appearances have been over-hyped and speculated for some time now, and this book is a very good example of it. Expect this book to flatten out value wise in the future. A very average book. His quilted pin-cushion costume doesn’t help.

Amazing Spider-Man issue 48 page 19 by John Romita.

Amazing Spider-Man #47-49

#47 Another bout with Kraven the Hunter. I love this cover and the story inside matches it. Kraven is back, but his target is not Spider-Man. He is looking to get back at the Green Goblin and his go-between for a $20,000 job he undertook to destroy Spider-Man back in issue #34 (we didn’t know this back then). He mistakenly thinks Norman Osborn was the go-between. In due course, he gets involved with Harry and Norman Osborn and Spider-Man in a battle at Flash Thompson’s going away (to the Vietnam war) party. After some tense moments, everyone gets home safe including Kraven who returns in Amazing Spider-Man #49.

#48 I think this was the first Spider-Man comic featuring snow. Adrian Toomes (alias the Vulture) is on his death bed in prison dying (I assumed from old age). This is not the case however, his cell mate Blackie Drago has been trying to get the Vultures mechanical wings from him and arranged an accident to put Toomes on his death bed. The Vulture gives Drago the secret location to his wings. Blackie Drago escapes the prison, puts on the wings and a new helmet and becomes the new improved Vulture. He takes down a sick with flue Spider-Man leaving him out in the cold and snow on a roof top to end this issue. Adrian Toomes does not die he later returns in issues 63 and 64 and takes back the mantle of the Vulture from Blackie Drago.

#49 Kraven the Hunter returns again, and once again not to battle Spider-Man but to take on the Vulture. Kraven is a “no one is going beat Spider-Man but me” type person. The two villains eventually start a battle between themselves. A recuperating Peter Parker dons the Spider-Man suit and looks and finds the two combatants. At first, the two baddies look like they are going to team-up to take on spider-Man but Kraven muffs that by mistakenly taking out the Vulture. Spider-Man makes quick work of Kraven and KO’s him with a “Hulk” worthy punch. Peter returns home, gets the doctors clearance on his health, and then takes Aunt May and Mrs. Watson to the movies. One type of happy ending.

Amazing Spider-Man issue 50 splash by John Romita.

Amazing Spider-Man #50

Our last book, and I suspect this one would have been the most well read up in that Arctic weather station. In my last post, I mentioned this is book is often the book I call my favourite of all time. Today we will end the post with one final personal story of my first encounter with the book, one that left a very powerful and lasting impression on me.

One bright sunny summer morning my comic trading buddy Steve rolled up into the driveway with his bike, unrolled his treasure from the handle bar and laid it out on the porch. The newly arrived Amazing Spider-Man #50. We had only read #49 a couple of weeks prior and it wasn’t at the grocery store this morning. Bus Depot says Steve and there are not too many of them left. I stared looking at the book. There is not much green on the cover of this book, I think it was picking up the glare of envy off my face. Steve headed home to read, and I went up stairs to scrounge up some money. $0.12 cents two nickels and two pennies, and no the denominations were not in roman numerals 😊!

When I got to the bus depot, you guessed it the racks were empty. The depot manager was pretty busy and I waited patiently for the lines to clear. When they did, I went up and asked if there were any more Spider-Man comics. He had two boxes left unopened but didn’t know what was in them. He must have seen how keen I was and kindly opened the boxes. Thor #149, Fantastic Four #62, and a Daredevil in mine and I already had them all. The bus depot manager triumphantly announces he has five Spider-Man comics and out they come all Amazing Spider-Man #50. I happily put down my twelve cents. Two more copies were sold before I left the station to other kids. I walked a block down the street to the Grand River. I sat down by a wall I often fished from (now the site of the new Cambridge IDEA Exchange) and read the book – twice. For me, the combination of a simply gorgeous John Romita cover, and great Stan Lee story has always been tough to beat and has stuck with me all these years. This book will likely remain my favourite until I am on the wrong side of the sod 😊.

Listed below are the 48th Overstreet guide prices for the books covered in today’s post.

6.0 8.0 9.0 9.2
Amazing Spider-Man #31 $138 $368 $834 $1300
Amazing Spider-Man #32-38 $69 $161 $356 $550
Amazing Spider-Man #39 $138 $340 $770 $1200
Amazing Spider-Man #40 $114 $285 $641 $1000
Amazing Spider-Man #41 $132 $326 $738 $1150
Amazing Spider-Man #42 $69 $161 $356 $550
Amazing Spider-Man #43-45 $54 $124 $275 $425
Amazing Spider-Man #46 $81 $189 $420 $650
Amazing Spider-Man #47-49 $54 $124 $275 $425
Amazing Spider-Man #50 $279 $744 $1672 $2600

 

Amazing Spider-Man issue 50 cover by John Romita.

This is my last post in the Arcs & Runs column and also my final post as a regular writer here at Comic Book Daily. I haven’t given up the idea of a writing a few Overvalued and Jiminy Christmas posts next year, however, my full-time days here are over.

What I really wanted to do here now is thank the folks who have shown and given me so much support over the past five years or so.

Walt and Scott for giving me the nudge to try and write a column about my love of comic books. Extra thanks to Scott who also had to endure and support my Luddite-like technology skills, and last-minute posts often at the same time. Walt and Scott have created a site they can be very proud of.

My fellow writers Walt, Scott, Dennis, Ivan, and Charlie. A great group of guys and all very supportive of each other.

Most importantly, many thanks to the readers and commentators here on Comic Book Daily. I have learned a lot about comic books in general from many of the posts and comments I’ve read here on the site. My daughter once told me after reading a few of my posts that I had a “dream” group of followers and supporters on this site. Very knowledgeable, and showed a ton of respect for all points of view. She, of course, was spot on. Respect for the other in an opinion piece is key in keeping an open and welcoming forum. Comic Book Daily has it in spades – long may it reign.

Continued Good Luck filling those holes in your “want lists” and collection.