This month marks the 50th anniversary of the release of the Marvel Comic Amazing Fantasy #15, which introduced the origin of one of the greatest comic book superheroes of the modern age and perhaps of all time, The Amazing Spider-Man!
Spider-Man of course, went from that comic appearance in that anthology omnibus to his own comic series to become one of the most successful franchises in pop culture history, spawning countless merchandise and television and film spinoffs, the most current being the summer blockbuster The Amazing Spider-Man, which is still in theaters and stars Andrew Garfield as the web slinging hero.
But it all started with that fifteenth (and final) issue of Amazing Fantasy. First released in August of 1962, the comic book series was originally entitled Amazing Adventures when it first appeared on newsstands back in June of 1961. Legendary artists such as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko illustrated the comic to limited success. By its seventh issue, it took on the name Amazing Adult Fantasy, started to sport a more “sophisticated” sort of milieu in its narratives (the cover even carried the motto “The Magazine That Respects Your Intelligence”), and had twist endings, sort of quirky style denouements to them, done by staff writer Stan Lee and illustrator Ditko. Kirby still did the covers as well for the most part.
These changes also were to no avail sales-wise. Finally, by Issue #15, it was renamed Amazing Fantasy. By this point, the series was pretty much canceled, and the publisher of the comic, Martin Goodman, let Lee, with a bit of arm twisting, present his story about a teenage youth who went by the name of Peter Parker and was a milquetoast character who was experiencing much growing pains, who by some weird radioactive happenstance of getting bit by a spider during an experiment in his high school becomes the (as he was known then) “Amazing Spider Man.”
Not only did the comic showcase the entire origin story — which is pretty much folklore now in the history of comic books and in a way plays out like a greek tragedy in terms of its narrative with its heartbreaking twist of circumstance and fate which forces Spider-Man to realize the “great responsibility that comes with the great power” bestowed upon him — but it also introduced a character who was pretty much an everyman, even arguably notches below an everyman, who ultimately became a hero to readers worldwide. His appearance marked the final issue of Amazing Fantasy and soon after he was the star of his own comic book to instant and renowned success, part of the 1960s “Silver Age of Marvel Comics,” alongside other huge memorable stalwarts as The Fantastic Four, The Hulk, and eventually The X-Men and The Avengers.
Today, Amazing Fantasy #15 is remembered as one of the great and most valuable comic books of this or any comic book era. It still remains a magnum opus for many comic collectors, mint copies of the magazine fetch sky high in terms of value on auction sites and comic conventions across the country. It continually makes the top spots if not the top ten on many “best comic books of all time” lists, but ultimately, it remains a visual tome and checkpoint in a pop cultural age, in the comic book universe, in trivia questions and key moments, if not THE key moment, as the most memorable and well-known Spider-Man moment of all time. Happy 50th to the origin of Spider-Man.