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January 31, 2012

John Romita’s classic ‘Spider-Man’ more amazing than ever

Posted in: Comics

The great John Romita celebrated his 82nd birthday last Tuesday but he was the one handing out the gifts — well, no, not really, that’s just how it felt Tuesday morning when I found a copy of “John Romita’s The Amazing Spider-Man: Artist’s Edition” waiting in my mailbox. The title may be a bit ungainly but everything else about this book from IDW Publishing is graceful and sparkling. Or, in a word, amazing.

This is the third installment in the Artist’s Edition series — following Dave Stevens’ “The Rocketeer” and Walt Simonson’s “The Mighty Thor” — and the brand already stands as one of the most satisfying archival explorations in the history of comics. The hardcover books aren’t cheap (the Romita edition, which hits stores this week, will set you back $100) but they are true works of art.

The approach of the Artist’s Edition series is a simple one and is best summed up by a question: What would it be like to own the pages of original art to landmark runs of comics by top creators? The books consist of color reproductions of vintage black-and-white original artwork pages (and the color allows you to see paste-overs, blue pencils in the art, editorial notes, art corrections, etc.) and each page is printed the same size as drawn. The overall effect makes a reader feel like he’s sitting down at Romita’s art table and flipping through a stack of pen-and-panel treasures — in this case, six classic issues of “The Amazing Spider-Man.”

This is the 50th anniversary of Spider-Man and, already, it looks like it will be an off-the-wall year for Marvel’s most popular creation — Peter Parker’s alter ego is returning to the silver screen this summer and broke records (and bones) on Broadway and, in the comics, writer Dan Slott’s work is really turning heads. The character’s webs reach across all media at this point, but if you want to get to the essence of his popularity, all you need to do is go back to the work of Romita (and, of course, Steve Ditko). IDW’s new book is one of the best ways to take that trip back to an era of heroic innovation.

— Geoff Boucher

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— Geoff Boucher


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