Friday, June 5, 2015

The Most Influential Comic Book Ever (As far as I am concerned)

For those who don't know, I am a fan of comic books. I have a good sized collection that spans around sixty years, maybe more, especially if you count reprints and collected works. If so, then I have comics from over 75 years ago. I have read the first appearances of many characters, including Bat-Man, Superman, Namor, The original Human Torch, The Fantastic Four, just to name a few. I have some idea of the evolution of comic books into what is on the market today. I won't claim to be an expert or even one of the most knowledgeable of comic book fans, but I feel I am able to form some fairly well thought out opinions concerning comic books.

As I said I have read some significant first appearance issues now from all eras of comic books. The more I have read from the various ages (Golden, silver and modern) the more I see where the big changes have happened. With that I have no doubt at all that there is one comic that really can be said to have had the most influence as to where comics have ended up at now.

As far as I am concerned that comic is undeniably Amazing Fantasy #15, the first appearance of Spider-Man.

Before I go into the reason I say this, I will openly admit that for some time Spider-Man has been my favorite super hero. His titles were the first super heroes titles I collected and is in essence when I really begun collecting comics. So I will not deny the possibility of bias here. For whatever reasons Spider-Man has always been a hero I felt connected to and I know I am not the only one to feel that way.

Now I shall defend my belief that Amazing Fantasy #15 is the most influential comic ever.

If you read comics before the comic came out (BAF15) character were for the most part just concepts. I am including the Fantastic Four here as well. Bat-Man, Superman, the FF, none of them were much more than an idea of a hero who fought the bad guys and won in some manner, even if it really made no sense at all. The first battle between Namor and the original Human Torch ended in about the silliest of manners with no actual resolution. And that was not at all uncommon

Then Amazing Fantasy #15 came along and introduced the idea of a super hero being more than just a person with super powers. Peter Parker is noticeably more than just Spider-Man from the get go. His origin story is far more than just him getting powers. He actually goes through a real ordeal and has strong reasons as to why he is a hero, instead of just saying 'hey I'll go fight crime' which was how it had been done before that. Even with Stan Lee's other comics at that time, there was not that level of depth to it all. (Not going to go into the Ditko debate here, but there does seem to be something beyond what we had seen from Lee before this in there). Just about everything about this comic went against what was going on in comics at the time, and that is why the story was originally rejected.

Then we jump to After AF15 and we see that even with the established heroes, they all had to have depth to them now. The established character had their back stories rewritten and updated to give something more to them. All new characters needed to now be relatable with more to them than just their powers or hero persona. And after over 50 years that has not changed.

Recently we got to see Marvel create the newest Spider-Man with the new Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan. She is a teenage Muslim girl living in New York, having to balance being a hero with being a young girl dealing with school and family. In so many ways she is the updated idea of what Spider-Man was.

So go and read any comic books BAF15 (Aug 1962) and then go look at the comics that started to come out not too long after that. It took a few year for the changes to really set in, but it is there.

Now there have been other comics and series that have had an impact on comics as a whole. The industry has evolved and has advanced in a great many ways since then. Yet if you really look back at the history, AF15 really stands out as being a major turning point in the industry that has helped to shape where comic books are today more than any other comic I can think of.

So that is my opinion and the defense of that opinion. Feel free to challenge me on that if you disagree.