When I was younger and getting into comics, I loved WIZARD magazine. It had information on what was going on in the comics industry, and what the most popular comics were, as well as recommendations, interviews with creators, and profiles of characters. This is material that is now readily available online, but it was pretty indispensable for me at a time when I didn’t really talk comics with all that many people, and was just getting into a rather convoluted hobby.
One of the first issues of Wizard I read had an article on the state of the Spider-Man comics. The staff gave the Spider-Man comics a report card, looking at the areas that were doing okay, that needed improvement, and that had been so much more promising in the past.
This was just after the Clone Saga had come to an end. The creative teams at the time were Tom DeFalco and Steve Skroce on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, Howard Mackie and John Romita Jr. on PETER PARKER SPIDER-MAN, J.M. DeMatteis and Luke Ross on SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN, and finally Todd Dezago and Mike Wieringo on SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN. Joe Bennet was illustrating the quarterly double-sized SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED, although there was no consistent writer on that title.
The WIZARD staff felt that the main criteria on which the Spider-Man comics should be judged are Sense of Humor, Secret Identity, Unstable Relationships, Death, Youth, Economic Status, the Costume, Intelligence, Supporting Cast, the Depressed Optimist personality, the Rogues’s Gallery, Environment and Unwavering Ethics.
Obviously, your mileage may vary. It could be that the things they liked about the book aren’t what you like about it. Many of the disagreements between Spider-Man fans come down to whether one of the important thing about the character is that he’s younger than most superheroes—which is one of the positions in this article—or whether it’s that he’s the superhero who has actually grown up.
It is an interesting document about how some people who really liked Spider-Man looked at the books shortly before Marvel made some major changes to the title. Pretty soon, Marvel would give Howard Mackie reign over two titles—including AMAZING SPIDER-MAN—replacing the rest with a retelling of the origin, and an anthology series.
One thing that’s kind of telling is that they didn’t focus at all on the art. Granted, the artists at the time were a mix of exceptional (Wieringo, Romita) and good (Skroce, Ross, Bennet, their various fill-ins) so it is to Marvel’s credit that the critics didn’t even bother discussing fixes Marvel could make there.
WIZARD’s staff demonstrated their love of Roger Stern’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, featuring seven clips from the run in the article. This isn’t the last time that happens. A later “Greatest Comic Book Stories Ever” list would include three Spider-Man stories, two of which were Stern’s. “The Boy Who Collects Spider-Man” was ranked #27, “Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut” was ranked #7, and AMAZING FANTASY #15 was ranked #9.
In that same issue (WIZARD #105) they would declare Spider-Man to be the greatest comic book character ever.
For some reason, I’m guessing there will be attempts in the comments to apply the criteria to the current comics. Do you guys agree with what they said about the comics at the time? Do you think these are the appropriate ways to measure the Spider-Man comics? Is there anything there that isn’t important? Is there anything important that they left out? Are there things that have changed about how we should view the character in the nearly twenty (Yikes!) years since the article was published?