So one thing I’ve realized that’s a result of doing these blogs and podcasts–I’m a really tough person to buy presents for. I’m always trying to stay out ahead of the curve in terms of finding awesome comic books and related stuff, so when it comes to birthdays and holidays, I’ve already closed off a lot of popular options. That was not the case this last holiday as I was blindsided not once, but twice with some awesome comic-related presents. The first you won’t find in any store–but I’ll show it off anyway: my one of a kind, hand painted Spider-mug!
I’m a sucker for hand-made stuff, so when my kiddo made me this mug, it really made my heart smile–and made for an awesome container for my morning coffee! While I’ll treasure my mug, it’s not for sale, so let’s move onto something you have a shot at picking up for yourself or a finicky comic-obsessed loved one.
The next present is for the hardest of the hard-core out there—but also those with an appreciation for those hand-made things as well: John Romita’s the Amazing Spider-man Artifact Edition!
Published by IDW, there are plenty of other art edition and artifact edition books out there for many varying tastes. Classic artists like Eisner, Toth, Kirby, and the foundations of EC Comics have Artist Editions out there. There are Artist Editions that contain entire stories (Dave Stevens Rocketeer, Walt Simonson’s Thor, Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four, etc), and Artifact Editions that contain selected pages (Gibbon’s Watchmen, Miller’s Daredevil, etc). There are also portfolio editions that contain loose pages. All the efforts try to scan in the original artwork at the original size wherever possible. Even other companies like Dark Horse and Dynamite have put out their own versions of these books. So if you have a Robocop or Red Sonja fan in your life, there are books out there for them, too.
For me, Spider-man is it. Particularly John Romita’ Spider-man. His version of Spidey is the version I had hanging in poster form on my wall, his is the version of Spidey I picture in my head when I think Spidey, and he’s the artist I judge all other Spidey art by.
That’s no knock against the many greats like Steve Ditko, Gil Kane, Ross Andru, Todd McFarlane, Erik Larsen, Marcos Martin, John Romita, Jr., or the countless others who have done amazing work (pun intended) over the years, but Jazzy John Romita’s the artist for me.
As great as this book is, it’s hard for me to find the words to describe it. That’s never stopped me from trying, however!
First, it’s awesome. I mentioned how cool hand-made presents were earlier. This book is a reminder that these comics that I love were put together by people, one step at a time. Comics were once upon a time hand-made, albeit by talented professionals. There are literally a handful of people responsible for creating each comic page.
These art books are a reminder of the day when this was all done by hand, with blue pencils and ink and correction fluid in a very real, very physical process. You can see the cross outs. You can see the notes in the margins. You can see the blue line pencils trying out different fonts. You can see when things are taped onto the board. It’s beautiful stuff. Not to denigrate the digital processes that many of today’s artists use to create comics, but there’s a certain romanticism in seeing the actual physical production. It’s like a reminder that each early issue of Spidey is its own hand-made present.
With the pre-production art on display, it peels back the curtain for those of us who weren’t in the room as it happened. It’s a historical document that’s actually worth reading, unlike those pesky constitutions or bills of rights! Even just seeing the pages in their original size is impressive. I’ve always been a sucker for the treasury-sized larger art formats—these are even bigger! More fun are the notes in the margins, the materials taped onto each page, and the parts that show even the best of us need corrective paint every now and again.
These art books are really nice. I simultaneously want to show this book to everyone I know and also not let them touch it with their greasy, grimy fingers!
It’s a bit of an anomaly for me, I’m not the type of person who typically gets the higher end collections. For Spidey, my version of ‘nice’ or ‘high end collectible’ is getting the actual back issues that I need to fill in gaps in my collection. If I do pick up that back issue, it’s nice to me, and it’s nice to people who appreciate the same things I do, but it’s still something that most likely sat on a drug store spinner rack fifty years ago.
To your average Joe or Jane, it’s not that impressive. It’s the same comic I already have in a Marvel Tales reprint comic I found for a buck or on disc from that time when they released the first 400 issues digitally.
This giant art book is a different story. Even people who don’t have the collector bug like I do can appreciate how cool this book is. You don’t really need to understand it to find it fascinating.
Also, I traditionally spend my money in the trenches on monthly issues or at least trade paperbacks (and action figures and games and bags of ridiculousness), so when the high end Omnibus or art collections show up, I usually pass. I already have the most of the stuff I like in a different form and my funds are reserved for the next great stuff coming down the pike. I’m sure there are lots of other collectors like me out there, too. So if you’re looking for that present that’ll really knock their socks off that they’re not expecting, consider one of these art books. There are plenty out there that fetch top prices, but there are surprisingly affordable editions out there as well.
But when it all comes down to it, it’s the fact that this brilliant showcase is highlighting one of my favorite masters of Marveldom, Jazzy John Romita. Seeing his Kraven and shoddy second Vulture Blackie Drago doubles in impressing me with the craft and bringing pleasant reminders of some of my favorite comics growing up.
As someone who is as big as a Spidey fan as they come, and also someone whose collection of Spidey memorabilia probably outpaces many (not all, because there are some folks with some really really nice collections I can’t pretend to come close to)—my collection now has a centerpiece. One day, when the kids are grown up, on their own and out of the house, I’ll have room to display things all classy-like. My Spidey collection will have its day on display. I’m thinking bookshelves lining the walls with trades and individually bagged issues, glass display cases for the action figure dioramas and plastic banks and trinkets and whatnot. Framed posters, prints, and record albums will line the walls, too. But next to the comfy reading chair will be a nightstand …with other books because this one is too darned big for a nightstand. The John Romita The Amazing Spider-man: Artifact Edition will have to take its permanent place on a coffee table in the middle of the room. That way, after folks are done playing with the toys, or flipping through those old comics that sat around on newsstands so many years ago, they’ll have a clear sign this is a classy establishment. Maybe then they’ll understand why I keep looking over their shoulders and making them wear latex gloves to make sure they’re not wrecking my awesome stuff! Did I mention I hope to still have my hand-made mug on that same table? That’ll be there, too, hopefully.
If you’ve never seen one of these editions, I encourage you to seek them out, if only to bask in their awesomeness. If you’re a hardcore collector, this is definitely something worth saving for. And finally, if you’re looking for that knockout gift for that impossible collector, consider the appropriate Artist or Artifact Edition.
Until next time, I’m sure I’ll keep picking up stuff to add to my future Spidey room, much to my family’s chagrin. Of course, I love you, son, but get your stuff out or move it down to the basement or something. Spidey needs room to breathe!