J. Michael Straczynski - Amazing Spider-Man run
It is no question that I am a big Spider-man fan. From my beautiful Kotobukiya statue to my professionally framed Stan Lee signed lithograph, my comic room shows exactly how much I care about Spider-man. I guess I should also mention that my son is named Parker, but a big part of that is how much I love the name regardless of the comic attachment.
If my shaky memory is correct, my first Spider-man comic was given to me by my Marvel zombie of an older cousin. The issue was Web of Spider-man #100, where he dons a gimmicky metallic version of his costume displayed proudly on the very 90’s holographic green cover. It was this same cousin who would a decade later recommend the start of my hefty Amazing Spider-man collection.
When J Michael Straczinski (JMS) took the title of Amazing Spider-man, the title had been suffering in quality for a while. The flagship Marvel character was in the same slump that the entire comic industry was going through in the 90s. JMS along with artist John Romita Jr. are widely regarded as the creative team that revitalized the character and brought new readership to the title.
Having only knowledge of the character from the cartoon and movies, I was afraid I’d have a lot of catching up to do. This simply was not the case with this run. JMS’s run serves as a fantastic jumping on point for the series, and establishes a new status quo right off the bat. Instead of the nerdy high school photographer that I was used to, Peter Parker was now a high school teacher with a marriage on the rocks. That was the starting point to a soap opera that would take wild twists and turns as comics tend to do.
It should be noted that the run is not perfect, most noteworthy is one very egregious storyline involving the supposed children of the Saint Gwen Stacy. Also, most people see the run and focus on the strange direction that the plot ended on that was quickly followed by a Spider-retcon that shook the world. Still, I choose to accept editorial retcons for what they are, a way to keep the character fresh and allow for better stories to be told. Taking entire the run at face value, the writing was solid, the plots were fun, and the ideas were daring.
The artwork was done by John Romita Jr. (JRJR), son of the legendary John Romita that worked on the same title with Stan Lee back in the 60’s. JRJR is widely acclaimed as one of the top Marvel artists, and has a prolific and impressive resume to match it. I personally feel that Romita Jr. is a bit overrated, but it is clear that he is in his element in this Spider-Man run. With action oriented and quickly paced issues, Spider-man is a comic that highlights JRJR’s strengths while avoiding the ‘talking heads’ panels that I feel are his weak points.
Diving deep into my new obsession from the get go, I decided that this run would be the starting point of my Amazing Spider-man collection. Indeed, on my shelf now sits every Amazing Spider-man issue since the beginning of this run collected into neat paperbacks, a run that spans over 14 years of Spider-man comics.