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ANNOUNCEMENT (12/22/12): The winners are SHANE DARLING & BERNARD ROSS via Facebook. Please email your mailing address to email@example.com no later than January 1, 2013. If we don’t hear from you by then, we will re-draw. Congratulations!
My initial reaction when I first cracked open this honking book after removing it from its thick and sturdy sleeve, was one of wonder. Never have I seen such a complete summary of Spider-Man’s 50 years of publication history. It’s all here, accompanied by beautifully remastered scans of individual issue panels and covers. The layout is well thought out, executed, and easy to navigate. The folks at Dorling Kindersley (DK) have outdone themselves this time around.
Each page has a dynamic layout, spotlighting great artwork from key issues, as well as an informative news feed ribbon that runs at the bottom of most pages throughout the entirety of the book, which contains real world facts or historic events that have taken place during the cover date month of the Spider-Man issues in question. The enormous tome is wrapped in a gorgeous piece of artwork by artist John Tyler Christopher, and as a bonus the book comes with two lithographs of that cover art, one inked and one colored, neatly tucked away in a pocket found on the inside cover.
“Chronicle” is co-researched and co-written by Alan Cowsill and Matthew K. Manning. These two gentlemen have carefully plucked, summarized, and arranged in a month by month fashion the history of what are and what should be considered Spider-Man’s most key stories and issues. Manning tackled the 1960 to 1980 decades, while Cowsill penned the 1990s to present day era, as well as writing the introduction that follows a short foreword by Stan “The Man” Lee.
Aside from freelance writing and editing, Alan Cowsill is also known for his contributions to other hardcover books for DK, like “DC Comics: A Year by Year Visual Chronicle,” “Marvel Avengers Character Encyclopedia,” and “Avengers: The Ultimate Guide to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”
Manning is most well-known for “The Batman Files” as well as “Wolverine: Inside The World Of The Living Weapon,” “Iron Man: The Ultimate Guide to the Armored Super Hero,” and “Spider-Man: Inside the World of your Friendly Neighborhood Hero,” with the latter three also published by DK.
The wonderful thing about this book is that it does not read like an encyclopedia, as one might assume it would. Encyclopedias, although chock-full of useful information, are relatively dry and uninteresting to read. “Chronicle” feels more like a trip down memory lane. Aside from a summary of the stories themselves, most issues are presented with fun anecdotes and factoids, giving Spidey fans a peek behind the webbed curtain, so to speak. The reader will also find mini-bios of Spider-Man’s most well-known allies, enemies, writers, and artists peppered throughout the massive 352 pager.
If I had to voice one complaint about “Spider-Man Year By Year: A Visual Chronicle,” it would be for its sheer size alone. It’s bigger and heavier than your average laptop. Understandably, its size is justified by all the awesomeness that it contains, but maybe DK should seriously think about offering a free digital version to go along with the purchase of the book. The portability would be a welcomed feature, especially for tablet device users.
Any serious Spider-Man collector worth his salt will find this book to be an asset and an excellent companion piece to their collection. Flipping through it made me very nostalgic, and I found myself wanting to haul my long boxes out of their resting place to revisit some of the back issues that are highlighted in “Chronicle.” It’s simply amazing. I have nothing but praise for the contents of this illustrated reference book.
Spider-Man: Inside the World of Your Friendly Neighborhood Hero
As is the case with “Chronicle,” the reader is first greeted with a nice foreword by Stan “The Man” Lee. Those kind words by the iconic hero’s co-creator are followed by an introduction to Spider-Man that spans the first 25 pages and is designed to bring the reader up to speed on who and what Spider-Man is. This includes the basics on that character’s origin, story, costumes, and equipment.
Once the reader is all caught up on that, we are introduced to the wall-crawling hero’s second defining aspect – his supporting cast. Another 20 some pages later, you will come upon a very informative Timeline, highlighting all the key events in Spider-Man’s life. From Peter Parker’s birth right up to the Spider-Island event, the Timeline spans eight pages and summarizes each event in tweet fashion. I found this to be the most fun to read and probably the coolest part of this book. By page 50, the reader is ready and fully armed to dive into the world of Spider-Man, as the book delves into his life in greater detail, highlighting key issues, stories, and characters for each crime fighting decade.
Let’s move on to a more subjective part of this feature-review, my impressions of the book’s physical attributes. The binding is strong and sturdy with a striking cover featuring a Joe Quesada drawn Spidey on a blue webbed background. The book’s title is gold foil stamped, both on the front and the spine. The only issue with this is that it oxidizes and scratches easily. I’ve had my copy for less than a week, and some of that foil stamping has already been scratched off just from carrying it around in my laptop briefcase. The bright blue foil stamped page edges are a nice touch, though. As far as its size goes, it is much more portable compared to “Spider-Man Year By Year: A Visual Chronicle,” measuring a modest nine by eleven inches for the cover surface, and about three quarters of an inch in thickness.
The artwork clippings that were chosen and displayed throughout the book are some of the best I’ve seen collected inside one tome. Especially the “Key Character” pages, which usually host an awesome full-page image of the friend or foe in question.
Matthew K. Manning handled most of the writing duties on this one, with some additional text by Tom DeFalco. If you’ve read the aforementioned “Chronicle,” you won’t need to question Manning’s credibility to write “Spider-Man: Inside the World of Your Friendly Neighborhood Hero.” I can’t begin to imagine the amount of hours Matthew K. Manning must have spent researching and reading back issues of everything Spider-Man, but I can tell you that he must have had a blast doing it, because his passion for the medium and the web-head really shines through. Pick this book up and you will quickly see that it was written with much care and adoration.
Well done, DK & Manning. Well done.
Both of the illustrated reference books featured in this article are fantastic additions by Dorling Kindersley Publishing. Spider-Man aficionados and fans of comic books in general should seriously consider adding one or both of these books to their library.