Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: John Romita Jr./Bob Hall/Bob
/Dave Simons/Frank Giacoia/Dan Green Layton
The year started off inconspicuously without any hint of what would be coming our way in a couple of months. Amazing Spider-Man #236 wrapped up the Tarantula/Will ‘O Wisp storyline. I’ll cover that story arc in my 1982 writeup. Issue #237 was a mediocre fill-in issue written by Bill Mantlo and drawn by Bob Hall and Frank Giacoia.
Stern told Patrick Daniel O’Neill in Comics Scene #9 (1983):
“Ever since I’ve been doing Spider-Man, I’ve spent most of my time trying to re- establish the character that Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and John Romita did all those years ago. I felt that a lot of what made Spider-Man special -- the thing that kept people coming back and remembering Spider-Man so much -- had been sort of lost, been diluted over the years. It’s sort of inevitable when a character’s been through so many writers, I guess. Until recently, there wasn’t any real editorial thought given to the Spider-Man books [Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man, and Marvel Team-Up] as a whole. So I was sitting around thinking, we’ve reestablished Spider-Man, now it’s time to start doing something new, expanding on that, really getting some more growth into the strip again.”
However, everything changed with issue #238. Amazing Spider-Man #238 turned out to be the most important issue of Spider-Man of the 1980s. It featured the first appearance of the Hobgoblin and set into motion the first Hobgoblin storyline that would keep readers trying to guess his real identity. This issue featured the classic art team-up of John Romita Jr. and John Romita Sr..
Amazing Spider-Man #238 was a great jumping on point for new readers. Roger Stern, approaching the peak of his run on the title, weaves a wonderful story that brings out Peter Parker’s character with a distinct voice that I still identify with my favorite Spider-Man. Stern always did a good job balancing Peter’s supporting cast and making them seem far more real and playing stronger role than the usual card-board cut out secondary characters.
From an interview with spiderfan.org, Stern says:
“I came up with the Hobgoblin because I wanted to devise from new villains for Spider-Man, but the readers (at the time) kept requesting the same old villains over and over again. I decided to meet them half-way by introducing a new villain who was using the equipment of the Goblin.”
Amazing Spider-Man #240-241 have Spider-Man cross paths with the Vulture once again. The Vulture is one of Stern’s favorite Spider-Man villains and focuses on the battle between age and youth. The Vulture is finally given an origin after being around for 20 years.
Stern and Romita Jr. bring back Mary Jane Watson in issue #241 and introduce a new love triangle for Peter Parker as he’s already started something with Amy Powell, seen in issue #242.
Peter makes one of the biggest decisions in his life in issue #243. Despite being accepted into the graduate program, Peter quits school. Issues #244-245 have Spidey tried to find the Hobgoblin. In issue #245, the Hobgoblin draws out Spider-Man and he’s unmasked as Left Donavan. However, he’s killed and Spidey knows that he wasn’t the real Hobgoblin.
Amazing Spider-Man #246 is a great, off-beat issue that releases a bit of tension that was setup in past few issues. This story wanders through the daydreams of J. Jonah Jameson, the Black Cat, and Peter Parker. Issue #247 is an artist treat with pencils by John Romita Jr and inked by John Romita Sr.
Interestingly, J.M. Straczynski’s run on Amazing Spider-Man was very reminiscent of these issues, especially since both runs feature the art of John Romita Jr. It’s interesting to see the development of his artwork from emulating his father’s classic Spider-Man style to defining his own style. His artwork back then seems a bit more stylistic and heavily influenced by his father, especially with a great senior inker like Frank Giacoia. This issues inked by Dave Simons seem a bit sloppier and not as refined.
The Stern-Romita Spider-Man run will always be my definite Spider-Man. The more mature Peter Parker seemed to be where I liked the character the most. Stern spent a lot of time developing Peter’s supporting cast and did a lot of great things with them.