As a kid, we read a lot of comic books. And we liked everything: superhero comics, monster comics, romance comics, Archie comics, Hot Rod comics, Weird War comics, underground comix, Bob Hope comics, and Wendy the Good Little Witch comics. We even read Classics Illustrated every once in a while.
Without question, the crown jewel in our “collection” was a slightly less-than-mint copy of Amazing Fantasy #15, otherwise known as the first appearance of Spider-Man. Everything we love about superhero comics can be traced back to this single issue. And (apparently) a lot of people feel the same way.
We eventually sold our copy of Amazing Fantasy and used the money to buy a floating castle and a stable of pink unicorns. But we always wondered what happened to it. Did it bring happiness to a handful of impressionable readers? Or has it been locked up in a bank vault for all these years?
With Great Power consists of 24 short stories that follow a particular copy of Amazing Fantasy as it changes hands from one owner to the next. “Like a dollar bill that travels across the country,” writes Paul Castiglia, “each person who holds it has their own tale to tell.”
The story cycle begins in 1962 when a 10-year-old boy buys a brand-new copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 at his friendly neighborhood drug store. Over the years, the comic is sold, given away, lost, found, stolen, and blown away by a tornado. But wherever it goes, it inevitably sparks a life-changing moment for its new owner.
The stories are told in a straightforward and simplistic manner. And each story ends with a strong and positive (and often faith-based) moral lesson inspired by Spider-Man and his famous mantra: “With great power must also come great responsibility.”
Over all, we love this book’s concept. Spider-Man has proven to be one of the most durable comic book creations of all time, and his origin story continues to resonate with each new generation. As such, the influence of Amazing Fantasy #15 has become huge. And this anthology surely benefits from the initial collaboration between Stan Lee and Steve Ditko sixty years ago.
Unfortunately, many of the stories in this collection are really, really bad. “The Professional Wallflower,” “Blood is Thick,” and “Wrong Address” are just a few of the stories that made us wince. The biggest stinker of them all, however, is titled “Legacies.” Honestly, it’s worst than a Green Goblin pumpkin bomb.
But, thankfully, the anthology does have some brighter moments. For example, there is one absolute gem buried somewhere in the middle of the book. “A Monster No More!!!” by Michael Ciccolini is funny and breezy and puts a clever spin on a young boy’s fascination with Spider-Man. Interestingly, Ciccolini’s story is mostly about Amazing (Adult) Fantasy #11 and a monster named GOOM (spelled in all-caps for maximum awesomeness). The story is so good it makes us want to sit down and read the first 14 issues of Amazing Fantasy. After all, we already know what happens in issue 15.
[With Great Power / Edited by Rick L. Phillips, Paul Castiglia, and Dan Johnson / First Printing: March 2013 / ISBN: 9781300570264]