Marvel Visionaries: Roger Stern – Spider-Man

Writer / Artist
Marvel Visionaries: Roger Stern – Spider-Man
Marvel Visionaries Roger Stern Spider-Man review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Marvel - 0-7851-2710-0
  • Release date: 2007
  • UPC: 9780785127109
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes
  • CATEGORIES: Superhero

When Roger Stern began writing Spider-Man’s exploits in 1980 he’d already had a spell as an editor at Marvel, and was just about to begin collaborating with John Byrne on Captain America. Spider-Man, though, would feature his first extended solo writing, and this collection presents the first year of his run.

Although labelled as Volume 1, there were no further collections of Stern’s Spider-Man under the Visionaries title, which means this features Stern finding his way into Spider-Man and his supporting cast, but not the subsequent work for which he’d be remembered. That’s found, along with these stories, in Spider-Man by Roger Stern Omnibus.

As Stern takes over, Peter Parker is combining college studies with working in a lab, teaching chemistry to younger students and providing news photos for the Daily Globe. Can there be enough hours in the day to be Spider-Man as well? Aunt May is settled in an old folks home. Stern’s first story is drawn by Byrne and hinges on the intriguing idea of an anger-inducing machine aimed at the Daily Bugle, which results in some uncharacteristic behaviour. A fill-in at the time, it stands up well.

This is a mixed selection artistically. Byrne stands out, but no-one else really shines, and much looks old-fashioned. The sample art is the busy work of Mike Zeck, selected for just about providing more pages than anyone else, showing Spider-Man meeting the unconvincing threat of Belladonna. A young Denys Cowan shows promise on what’s a serialised bonus starring the White Tiger, ordinary until connecting with Spider-Man for the final chapter, and a couple of the artists are given co-plotting credits.

Stern’s obviously having fun with assorted old villains, some not previously associated with Spider-Man, the best of them being the two-part Smuggler story toward the end. It features the novel idea of Spidey having to lug the Smuggler all the way across town to a police station, then rapidly switches to the bonkers sight of aliens invading the old folks home where Aunt May lives.

In 1980 Stern was a breath of fresh air on a series that had grown stale, but divorced from the earlier material these stories don’t stand up as much more than period pieces. The unfettered use of thought balloons alone nails the selection to their era, and while Stern provides variety and the occasional interesting moment, there’s a reason his other stories have been reprinted several times, while these took over 25 years to be collected. One is those featuring better art, but what eventually became a hallmark of Stern’s Spider-Man work was his deft balancing of villainous activity to be sorted out by Spider-Man and the difficulties of Peter Parker’s civilian life. That’s not greatly evident here, with Spider-Man prioritised and interaction with the supporting cast secondary, and some matters too obviously contrived.

These stories can also be found in hardcover as Marvel Masterworks: Spectacular Spider-Man Volume 4. or in black and white as Essential Peter Parker, Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 2. All Stern’s Spider-Man work is combined in Spider-Man by Roger Stern Omnibus.