Comic Book Guy of “The Simpsons” has been known to have a cardiac episode or two. But an acquisition the Library of Congress just made might give his heart its “worst episode ever.” (Apologies for borrowing the pun from that particular “episode.”)
“Spider-senses” all around the Library were set tingling when we learned that the Library had just acquired 24 pages of original 1962 drawings from “Amazing Fantasy #15,” which marked the first time the world’s most famous web-slinger, Spider-Man, would appear in print anywhere. The Spider-Man origin story in “Amazing Fantasy” was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko; the pages are Ditko originals, complete with pencil erasures and white-out opaquing fluid.
The acquisition came to the Library within the past few weeks, thanks to an anonymous donor. (News had already begun leaking out — where else — in the blogosphere.)
A couple of colleagues and I got the opportunity yesterday afternoon the see the pages in person. (Don’t worry, we made sure to keep our drool far away from the art.) They do indeed appear to be in very good condition, especially considering their age. The Library’s Prints and Photographs Division (P&P) provided me with a scan of one of the pages and a detail section, which you’ll see here at right. (They are, in actuality, even a bit less yellow than the scans appear.)
I also snapped a few pictures as Helena Zinkham, acting chief of P&P, carefully splayed some of them out for us on a table. In one of the shots of the very first page, you get a clear sense of some of the areas where white-out was applied. The “SPIDER-MAN” title balloon in the banner is literally stuck onto the page.
People who are more familiar with Amazing Fantasy #15 than I are probably not surprised by this fact, but I got a good chuckle from the disclaimer that appeared at the top of the first page (pictured at left). It almost seems to be begging skeptical readers to give Spider-Man a chance, completely unaware of the phenomenon that was about to be unleashed on the world.
The excessively exclamatory paragraph reads: “Like costume heroes? Confidentially, we in the comic mag business refer to them as ‘long underwear characters’! And, as you know, they’re a dime a dozen! But, we think you may find our SPIDERMAN just a bit … different!”
Most sentient beings are already aware that Marvel’s Spider-Man is one of the most popular superheroes ever, spawning several comic-book series, graphic novels, television series, video games, toys, a blockbuster movie franchise, and adding phrases to our popular lexicon such as “true believers” and “your friendly neighborhood (fill-in-the-blank).”
The pages will be digitized within the next few weeks, although access to the images will likely be restricted to on-site use at the Library (copyright restrictions and such). The pages themselves are available to researchers with a valid reader-identification card by appointment only.
Our full news release can be found here.
I never try to guess where an editor will place a story, but I hear a rumor that J. Jonah Jameson will be giving this front-page treatment.