Thursday, 27 December 2012

Unreprinted reprints

I've had a few enquiries about various other aspects of the series. So whilst waiting for Essential Marvel Team-Up volume 4 to be released in the New Year, there'll be a few posts detailing some of the stuff that's been asked about. Today it's a brief look at the reprints that ran in the various Spider-Man issues but didn't make it into the Essentials.

Invariably a reprint series rarely stops to reprint material that was already reprinted. This is true of the Essential series as of most other reprints. About the only exception I've seen so far in the Spider-Man volumes is issue #6 of Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man, as its reprint of Marvel Team-Up #3 was modified to tie in with current events. But this blanket approach can have two effects. Firstly material that originally came from outside the Spider-Man titles is thus excluded (although, as we've seen, some of it has appeared in other Essential volumes). Secondly it can deny modern readers the context of knowing what old material would have been fresh in contemporary readers' minds.

I'm not going to detail the non-Spider-Man series, though it's worth noting that from 1966 onwards Marvel Tales regularly carried Spider-Man reprints, at first with other series but it soon morphed into an all-Spider-Man book. Some issues of Amazing were spread out across various other titles, including some Amazing annuals as we'll see, but it otherwise cycled through to issue #159, then began again from the start, running everything up to issue #50. It then adopted a more scattered approach, reprinting many issues of all the Spider-Man titles, and also filled up some page counts with original material featuring the likes of Spider-Ham and "Petey, The Adventures of Peter Parker Long Before He Became Spider-Man!!" The series finally ended in 1994, by which time the availability of past stories to the market had changed so much.

One issue of Marvel Tales stands out above all others and that is the first issue, which was a special annual in 1964. This contained a reprint of the origins of Spider-Man, Thor, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Ant-Man and Sgt. Fury & His Howling Commandos. Today the first four of these are amongst the most reprinted Marvel stories of all time, and all six are easily available in the relevant Essential volumes. But in 1964 it must have been incredible for fans to be able to get all these in a single issue, especially if they'd arrived to Marvel a bit too late to pick them up the first time round. Some years ago DC reprinted a few of their classic 1960s annuals, even though all the material had been reprints at the time. Could Marvel one day reprint this issue especially? It's always a possibility.

But it's the reprints in the regular Spider-Man titles that have been skipped by the Essentials which this post is interested in. First off are the Amazing Annuals. Although #1 was all new material, #2 carried a regular length new story backed up by reprints and the format was followed for #3. #4 & #5 saw a switch back to all new material, but #6 through #9 went back to all reprint material. #10 saw a return to all new material and this was followed for all remaining annuals bar #12, which was an all-reprint issue. Significantly some of the annuals contained material from outside the Spider-Man titles.
My best guess is that Annual #12 was a rush job designed to tie in with the Spider-Man and Hulk TV series by getting a prominent fight between the two back into print.

Then there was Giant-Size Spider-Man. The first five issues carried all-new extra long adventures but also reprints of some classic issues. The sixth and final issue was an all-reprint special.
(Of minor note is that the reprint of Amazing #16 recoloured Daredevil's costume to the best-known all red rather than the yellow and black he wore in the original.)

Prior to the Essentials and Masterworks some of the stories from the issues on this list were particularly rare - not only the Spectacular Magazine but also the Strange Tales Annual and Tales to Astonish issue. It's interesting to see that fans in the early to mid 1970s had relatively easy access to all of these stories when later generations found them much harder to access until the Essentials started covering the more obscure series and there were finally reprints of the Spectacular Spider-Man magazines.

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