Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Best Readily Available Spidey Collections

Here's a response to reader Rainbow Quiver's question: What great Spidey stories are out there for my friend who's relatively new to comics?

My standards for this list:

1) Accessible to new readers (no mid-run JMS stuff here)
2) No crap (Maximum Carnage is OUT)
3) Must be available to order IN TPB-format from Amazon (used is acceptable)
4) Exemplifies some core aspect of Spidey

Here we go (in no particular order):
  • Spider-Man Wizard Masterpiece Edition HC
    • Sigh. My first choice is not available on Amazon OR eBay, but you can get it at Lone Star Comics for $25. A year or two ago, these were available for $10 on eBay. A great collection that includes Spidey v. Juggernaut AND The Death of Jean DeWolff. In my opinion, when you get excellent Roger Stern AND excellent Peter David, you can't go wrong.
  • The Very Best of Spider-Man
    • Several individual one-off stories. Includes the last part of the "Master Planner" story and "Kid Who Collects Spider-Man," both of which are absolutely indispensable. Plus, $1 (at posting time).
  • Ultimate Spider-Man, Volume 1
    • IMHO, the series has dropped in quality since they killed Gwen, but this was such a revelation back in 2000. A great modern take, and for $17, it's a steal.
  • Spider-Man: Death of the Stacys
    • Excellent classic Spidey that features great classic art and writing. Plus, Green Goblin AND Doctor Octopus.
  • Essential Spider-Man, Volume 1
    • Really, one should get the first two volumes here to complete the Lee-Ditko run. I personally prefer Marvel Masterworks, but those are, of course, $50-a-pop for 10 issues, so this is the budget option. Gets you the first "Spidey quits" storyline, the "Crime-Master" storyline, and the "Master Planner" storyline. NOT recommended for people who can't deal with 60's story-telling convention or B/W art.
  • Spider-Man: Birth of Venom
    • While Venom has worn thin for me over the years, he was a lot of fun for me when I was 13. I remember jumping off the bus and rushing to my house to see if ASM 316 and 317 had come in their brown-paper wrappers, because VENOM WAS BACK! If people like Venom, this is the classic stuff, plus McFarlane art (about which I feel the same as I do about Venom).
  • Spider-Man Visionaries: Kurt Busiek
    • GREAT modern/classic Spidey stories. The ONLY good Spidey stuff from the mid-nineties, this book (reprinting Untold Tales of Spider-Man) is fun for fans. A good compliment to the Essentials above.
  • Amazing Spider-Girl, Volume 1
    • Not the launch TPB, but a good jumping-on point that removes the 2nd-person narration. Very good modern/classic Spidey stories again, but these focus on May. NOT recommended for people who live and die by Vertigo, indy, or "big-gun" books. DEFINITELY RECOMMENDED for people who like classic Marvel action AND the Spider-Marriage. I am a relatively recent convert to this book, but every issue feels like coming home. Bravo, DeFalco, Frenz, et al!
  • Spider-Man: Kraven's Last Hunt
    • Not my favorite, but it's good DeMatteis/psychological stuff that offers a more adult take on Spidey.
  • Spider-Man: Origin of the Hobgoblin
    • Absolutely my favorite Spider-villain, you'll pay a premium for this out-of-print volume, but these are the stories that got me HOOKED on Spider-Man.
  • Amazing Spider-Man, "Volume 1" - the JMS Years
    • Again, not my favorite, but JMS's stuff was solid to start with and went in a different direction with the character. Worth checking out.
I hope that helps. Bear in mind that the criteria above did exclude a LOT of good single issues/writer runs, etc., but anyone who reads all of the above and doesn't like Spider-Man DOESN'T like Spider-Man. Good Luck!



Jared said...

Some of these I own (Spider-Girl), and many of the rest I checked out of the library (Ultimate Spider-Man, Essentials Volume 1, JMS's opening Morlun storyline). All of them were really good, except of course JMS's turd of a run. I'm glad I didn't pay for that one.

Some questions:

-Does it count as Byrne-stealing if you check it out of the library, since the library will have paid for the book?

-Seeing characters like Flash, Liz, and Jolly Jonah evolve in the first twenty issues, as well as the classic Sinister Six storyline, showed me just why the spider-verse took off the way it did in the 1960s. The only downside was Ditko's art-the fedoras, long skirts, sweaters, beehive hairdos and bow ties are so dated they're painful to look at.

-Ultimate Spider-Man was good, but it never really seemed to click for me, at least the four or so TPBs worth of issues that I read. Why wasn't Electro depicted with a sparkle-mask?

Loses points for also making a joke out of the Shocker-I HATE seeing previously competent villains get turned into D-list minor-leaguers. Loses more points for Mark Bagley's art. I know I'm a heretic here, but I just plain don't like his Spider-Man and even moreso his Mary Jane. Don't ask me why.

-JMS: Please, for my sake as well as yours, don't make me go over this yet again.

-I really need to track down some of Kurt Busiek's work.

-Eric, you should do an entry on the new Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon, particularly on why it rocks on so many levels, unlike John Semper's Less-Than-Spectacular Spider-Wuss.

The new cartoon, along with the third movie, have versions of Venom that are far and away better than the comics. Who says you can't improve on the original?

Jay Boaz said...

I'd recommend checking out Spider-Man/Human Torch by Dan Slott and Ty Templeton. This book is best appreciated by those with some knowledge of Spidey's history, but I think it can be enjoyed regardless. It has hilarious moments and heartfelt moments, and is a great read for "classic" fans and newer alike!

Eric Teall said...

I've heard good things about SM/HT, but it's currently going for $25 for the digest on Amazon.

What I can't figure out about Marvel is this: when secondary market prices get that inflated, why no reprint?

Anonymous said...

'2) No crap (Maximum Carnage is OUT)' What was crap about Maximum Carnage>

Eric Teall said...

1) Man, talk about necro-posting! :-D

2) I don't usually do Anonymous posts. That said, it's an easy answer.

Maximum Carnage was a nice, clear, terribly-executed example of everything wrong with comics not only then but now. Random cross-over guest-stars, terrible derivative "extreme" villains, and a completely consequence-free storyline.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that I'd MUCH rather reread the Clone Saga (which at least STARTED with good intentions) than ever ever EVER read Maximum Carnage again.

Anonymous said...

'Maximum Carnage was a nice, clear, terribly-executed example of everything wrong with comics not only then but now. Random cross-over guest-stars, terrible derivative "extreme" villains, and a completely consequence-free storyline.'
But you have Birth of Venom listed in your must read trades - and Venom was the character who introduced Carnage.

Eric Teall said...

Indeed, I do have "Birth of Venom" on the list. It features an original take on an established character and trope (Alien Costume becomes Evil/Mirror Spider-Man). It features art by one of the premiere Spidey artists of the 80's (McFarlane). It has relatively lasting consequences (it buried the black suit for years for an in-story reason, namely MJ's fear of Venom; Venom becomes a major bad guy in the Spider-Man rogues gallery, etc.). It all took place organically in the pages of a single book (ASM) instead of being an annoying crossover that required one to buy titles one wouldn't normally buy.

More than any of that, though, it's actually interesting to read. Maximum Carnage was a badly written video game of a story. In fact, it made more sense when it was made into a video game. Carnage himself was a one-note villain who was created to ape and one-up Venom in every way except for the interesting ones.

I'd never call BoV one of the greatest Spidey stories of all time. The original Goblin saga (through ASM 122), the Master Planner stories, the birth of the original Hobgoblin... those are absolute classics that have stood the test of time. But BoV is Shakespeare compared to the dreck that is Maximum Carnage.

Eric Teall said...

BTW, this is the final Anonymous comment I'm going to post for some time. Feel free to sign in and continue the discussion. It's been civil and fair so far, even if we disagree. Don't think it's out of some kind of fear or spite that I don't publish the next Anonymous comment; I just don't like nameless conversation partners.