Sunday, 10 March 2013

Omitted material: Marvel Masterworks

As well as the Essentials, Marvel has two other major ongoing series of collected editions plus many standalone volumes. The oldest series are the Masterworks which have run on and off since 1987. These collect about ten issues on glossy paper in hardback and often have new masters created from the original comics (which has in turn allowed later collections access to high quality material that wouldn't otherwise be within the budget reach). So far there have been fifteen volumes of Amazing Spider-Man, taking the series up to issue #155, and two volumes of Marvel Team-Up, reaching issue #22. So far the Masterworks have taken a different approach to Giant-Size Spider-Man from the Essentials and would appear to be collecting it with Marvel Team-Up instead of Amazing Spider-Man, though this won't be fully confirmed until the release of a third Marvel Team-Up Masterworks.

However there is the odd other issue that the Masterworks include but the Essentials do not:

Marvel Super-Heroes #14 written by Stan Lee and drawn by Ross Andru, reprinted in Marvel Masterworks Amazing Spider-Man volume 8

Marvel Super-Heroes began life as Fantasy Masterpieces, a reprint title, but it for a brief period it evolved to add originated try-out features before reverting to all reprints. During this try-out period its best known launch was the original Marvel Captain Marvel. It also carried the odd piece from inventory...

A caption at the start informs us that this story was written and drawn as an emergency fill-in when it seemed that John Romita would be unable to meet a deadline due to a sprained wrist, however he managed to after all. Rather than just give the plot to another artist, an original story was devised, a reminder that the artists invariably contributed much more than just putting the actual pencil to paper. This story is something of an oddity, having been drawn relatively early in the Romita years to the point that some of the characters are a little off - Gwen Stacey's hair looks like it did in the #40s of Amazing rather than her more familiar straighter version and there's a touch of a Ditko homage in the look of Spider-Man. Ross Andru would later draw the character for a large chunk of the 1970s, and is in my opinion one of the most overlooked of Spider-Man artists, but here on the first attempt he had not quite captured the feel of the character. Perhaps that's why Spider-Man spends nearly all the story weakened by mental attacks and unable to move and fight in his usual manner.

The story itself would scream fill-in even without the caption at the start or the location of its publication. We get a battle against a rather forgettable villain with much of the setting away from the series's norm and with everything wrapped up by the final page. The tale sees a new villain called the Sorcerer deciding to test his power by destroying Spider-Man - "the most dangerous man of all". Using his honed mental powers and supporting electronic equipment he first weakens Spider-Man by imposing the thought of a mental illness on him, and then lures him to New Orleans for a battle with the Synthetic Man, a non-sentient creation controlled by him. However the Sorcerer was over clever and mailed a doll of Spider-Man to the post office in order to show who destroyed him, and it gets returned. The post man rings the doorbell during the fight and the noise alters the pitch, causing mental feedback which incapacitates the Sorcerer. The Synthetic Man abandons the fight and wanders into the sea, leaving Spider-Man wondering who was behind it all.

It's often all too easy to pounce on a fill-in issue and tear it to shreds when by definition it has to tread water and avoid making a lasting impact on the series. But this is a story rather detached from the Spider-Man norm in this era and it's something of a let-down that he never actually meets his foe. It may find a way to cover for a new artist's lack of familiarity with Spider-Man's movement and gestures but otherwise it's just the first in a long line of such stories that could so easily be ignored. This may be why it's been omitted from the Essentials (even though, as we've seen, later editions covering this era have added material overlooked the first time around) and given the higher price on the Masterworks this is not an issue to search high and low for.

Also in this volume are Amazing Spider-Man #68-77, which are in Essential Spider-Man volume 3 and volume 4.

Daredevil #103 written by Steve Gerber and drawn by Don Heck, reprinted in Marvel Masterworks Marvel Team-Up volume 2

This is to keep this listing complete as I've previously covered Daredevil #103 in both More non-essential Spider-Man Essentials and Essential Daredevil volume 5. It ties in with Marvel Team-Up #12 with both issues seeing Peter on assignment in San Francisco.

Also in this volume are Marvel Team-Up #12-22, which are in Essential Marvel Team-Up volume 1.

And that's all so far. At some point in the future I'll have a brief look at the Marvel Omnibuses.

1 comment:

  1. Volume One of the softcover Dr Strange Masterworks contains the Spidey/Strange team-up from ASM Annual #2, which neither the 1st hardcover edition or the Essentials Dr Strange volume had.

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