Library of Congress Acquires Spider-Man's 'Birth Certificate'

Spider-Man page detail

Spider-Man 1

 

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.)

Helena Zinkham 1

Spider-Man pages

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.

32 Comments

  1. Mike Rhode
    April 30, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    It’s great to finally see some pictures of this. Hopefully the story will continue to spread and bring in some more comic book art for the Library.

    And Spider-Man was a bit different at the time – DC Comics had mature heroes who used their powers wisely and didn’t have too many personal tragedies. That was the big innovation of the Lee-Kirby-Ditko-era Marvel superhero.

  2. William Wray
    April 30, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    Give Marvel a good set of copies would you? I hope you will post large non- yellow scans for the world to enjoy. Yopu are lucky you got a pass form ditko as these are stolen pages.

  3. Ferran Delgado
    April 30, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    Thanks for showing the pics of the originals. I wish there were more of them, but at least, these ones are enough to check that it’s the real thing.

    Only a correction: the image provided by P&P is a photo, not a scan.

  4. Glayrouse jean-luc
    May 1, 2008 at 3:46 am

    Hello, je suis français.
    Je suis tellement content que les pages d’origine du Amazing Spiderman 1 et du Amazing Fantasy 15 reviennent à la surface après tant d’années.
    Elles étaient où exactement.?
    J’espère que vous en ferez bon usage.
    Cela fait partie du patrimoine des états unis!
    Mettez les dans un musée, mais ne les vendez pas à droite à gauche.
    Ne les séparez pas!!!
    jean-luc Glayrouse FRANCE

  5. D.Puck
    May 1, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    I find the white-out areas on the splash page in particular interesting, especially on “Sally’s” face. Looks like Ditko was unsatisfied with the first way he either penciled/inked her.

  6. D.Puck
    May 1, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    And who owns the two original covers done for this book? Both the Kirby one (which was published) and Ditko’s original version which was unused??

  7. A. Leedom,
    May 2, 2008 at 1:56 am

    Wonderful gift. Hope all the pages are up soon. Does the library own much other original art? Red Raven?

  8. mike at the national institue of art
    May 8, 2008 at 6:29 am

    What a beautiful gift. Loving the art! The original are tremendous!

  9. Tim Davis
    May 9, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    I am curious as to comment #3.
    Stolen artwork? Does anyone know more about the history of these pieces?

  10. Marco
    May 17, 2008 at 6:46 am

    And who owns the two original covers done for this book?

  11. Chuck
    May 18, 2008 at 2:33 am

    What a treasure trove of information! I spent my youth collecting DC and Marvel comics.

    Like a dummy – I sold three crates of them for school expenses with many duplicate first editions!

  12. Torsten Adair
    May 19, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    I hope this brings some much deserved attention to the Swann Collection at LC. I was lucky enough to live in DC for three years, and spent many a wonderful time doing comics “research”!

    Of course, this isn’t the first time it’s happened… I believe Swann #318 is the complete issue of Captain America Vol.1 #146, pencilled by Sal Buscema, inked by John Verpoorten.

    As for comment #3, I think the post refers to the fact that original art was rarely returned to the artist(s) in the 1960s. The provenance would be hard to trace unless the donor comes forward, and might suffer some embarrassment over the publicity. Perhaps the pages were “rescued” from Marvel, much like the Elgin marbles. (DC Comics regularly cut up original art pages and handed them out as souveniers to tour groups.)

    This is fantastic, and I hope others will supplement the collection with more original art. (No Kirby? *gasp*)

  13. Myke
    May 21, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    great post! Spider-Man’s Birth Certificate really got me excited for this post.

    Fantastic, it’s good to know they were able to preserve good stuff like this.

  14. Jess
    May 22, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    thank you showing these originals, they are truly art. I have several binders full of comics that i started reading as a kid, i will pass these on as a family treasure to my children!

  15. Mark Lerer
    May 26, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    This is one of the most satisfying and gratifying evens for an old comics fan. Mssrs. Lee and Ditko’s work will now be preserved for posterity. Congratulations to you all. –Mark Lerer

  16. BizeSor
    May 31, 2008 at 7:31 am

    I hope this brings some much deserved attention to the Swann Collection at LC. I was lucky enough to live in DC for three years, and spent many a wonderful time doing comics “research”!

    Of course, this isn’t the first time it’s happened… I believe Swann #318 is the complete issue of Captain America Vol.1 #146, pencilled by Sal Buscema, inked by John Verpoorten.

    As for comment #3, I think the post refers to the fact that original art was rarely returned to the artist(s) in the 1960s. The provenance would be hard to trace unless the donor comes forward, and might suffer some embarrassment over the publicity. Perhaps the pages were “rescued” from Marvel, much like

  17. Trey
    June 4, 2008 at 1:30 am

    Wow! That really is a “holy grail” type acquisition!

  18. Edinburgh
    June 5, 2008 at 10:26 am

    Good for you! Hopefully kids and fans can go there and see it if they desire.

  19. Coldfusion Developer
    June 5, 2008 at 11:56 am

    How bizarre – A fictional characters birth certificate.

    I will now try and get one for the Jolly Green Giant

    Martin

  20. Mike at Recycling Facts
    June 8, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    This is just awesome! Stolen (comment no. 3) or not, Spidey’s original appearance deserve a prominent place in the nation’s premier library. Thank for this. I sincerely hope you’ll have more of Stan Lee’s and Steve Ditko’s other creations in the future. Congratulations.

  21. Anton
    July 2, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    Wonderful gift! Thank you showing these originals!

  22. Brian Minor
    July 29, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    Marvel was notorious for not returning art to the artists in the 1960’s, and to the artist Jack Kirby in particular. Mr. Kirby was has not been treated well by the company he helped create.
    I would have to say that the artist Steve Ditko is the true owner of this art, though I doubt he would ever come forward and assert his right to posses these pages.

  23. Transformers Fan
    August 11, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Wow…What a great donation! I would give anything to see those in person. I blame Spiderman for turning me into the comic book and action figure geek that I am today. I’ve never managed to outgrow it. Congrats on this spectacular gift.

  24. Marvel Comics Fan
    August 15, 2008 at 4:46 am

    This is a great story. I have always felt and still do to this day that comic books are unappreciated. Most really are works of art with in-depth storylines and incredible artwork. I’m sure that overtime they will get their due respect just like in this story. Long live Spider-Man and Marvel Comics.

  25. Make Money From Home
    September 23, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    Definitly most satisfying and gratifying evens for an old comics fans.Congratulations!

  26. linda
    October 15, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    well, Spider-man has a birth certificate, but would he get a passport with it? did obama get a passport with the one he has shown
    america? My birth certificate needed a raised seal and signature, i don’t see one on his

  27. J Diehl Art
    April 3, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    What an excellent share! It was great to see pictures but would love a chance to see these in person. Congrats!

  28. Brian Despain
    August 5, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Go Spidey GO!

  29. steve vano
    October 28, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    How about more pictures, of this popular art?

  30. pencil drawings
    April 23, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Love spideman. True hero. I read spider-man comics since 1978!

  31. JediJones
    November 13, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    A near mint copy of the original Amazing Fantasy #15 comic book just sold for $1.1 million this year. The value of these original pages is virtually incalculable. A single page from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns sold for almost half a million dollars this year, the most expensive comic book art sale to date. That’s a very significant book, but doesn’t hold a candle to Amazing Fantasy #15. The entire set of these pages would almost certainly sell for into the 10s of millions of dollars.

    Unless original artwork for the first appearance of Superman or Batman still exists, these pages are without question the single most valuable comic book-related collectible or artifact that exists anywhere in the world today. This would be the absolute ultimate holy grail for comic book collectors. I certainly hope the library is aware of this and affords this treasure the utmost protection. I don’t want to hear that some guy went in to look at them and walked out with the pages rolled up in his pants legs.

  32. Harold
    February 25, 2013 at 9:29 am

    I may visit this week just to look over comic books in general…semi-retired, so I have time on my hands. That art of all the early ‘Silver Age’ Marvel comics stokes memories of times and places from the 60’s. What a rush of excitement new comic Tuesdays provided a 10 year old kid, scraping together as many pennies as possible to buy the new ones. I’d just like to view the covers of all those beauties…

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.