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Spiderweek 2010: The Silver Age

Many of today’s most beloved comic-book characters have their origins in the Golden Age, a period in the 1930s-40s where political turmoil, a world war, and a tumultuous economy gave rise to comic book superheroes.  Batman, Superman, Captain America, The Green Lantern, The Human Torch… all are Golden Age characters.

However, the rise of Marvel Comics in the Silver Age of the 1960s was fueled by the introduction of a myriad of new superheroes, many of whom were developed with mature young readers specifically in mind.  The best known of these heroes was a young man named Peter Parker.  In Amazing Fantasy #15,  Peter is bitten by a radioactive spider; he gains unimaginable powers, including super-strength,improved reflexes, and the ability to jump and climb just like a spider.  All that was needed to prompt this hero into action was a costume, some web shooters, and the death of his beloved uncle at the hands of a criminal that he failed to stop earlier in the day.

The legend was born, and for the next four years Stan Lee and Artist Steve Ditko would guide the character through both the Amazing Fantasy books and the first 38 issues his own series: The Amazing Spider-Man.  Now, believe it or not I’m not much of a comic-book nerd.  I’ve read through my fair share since childhood, but as an adult I’ve found a new appreciation for comics as an art-form.  Of course, this can be a very expensive hobby to become involved in.  An issue like Amazing Fantasy 15 can fetch north of $50,000 in near-mint condition.  However, there are a number of equally significant issues that command much more reasonable prices.

Take, for example, Amazing Spider-man #39-40.  These two issues are the first of the series penciled by legendary artist John Romita Sr.  Romita had helped out on issues previously, and had even penciled the character during a special appearance in Daredevil #16-17, but it was up to him alone to bring the character to life after Steve Ditko’s departure. Amazing Spider-man #39 dealt with a villain well-known to just about anyone alive today: The Green Goblin.  Harry Osborn’s evil alter-ego sets up a robbery, follows Parker home, and captures the webbed wonder before taking him back to a secret lab.

In the subsequent issue, Osborn’s backstory is revealed, and we learn how the successful businessman became an evil super-villain.  Much of the issue is a flashback, with events of previous issues referenced by the Green Goblin as “proof” of his superior powers over Spidey.  The Goblin ultimately decides to take on Spiderman mano y mano.  Following an epic battle, Spiderman kicks Osborn into a set of power lines that gives him amnesia.  The issue ends with Peter’s true identity safe, and Osborn alive to return another day.

Now, these may not be the events of the popular 2002 film, but nonetheless they are classic issues drawn by an incredible artist.  The covers alone make them both worth the $250- $800 that you would pay for a fine to near-mint specimen.  Daredevil 16 – 17, also by Lee and Romita, are even more affordable, so by all means check them out.  I’ve got them hanging in glass-float frames on my wall right now.  They really liven up the gaming den.

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