Amazing Fantasy #15 - Steve Ditko art, Jack Kirby / Steve Ditko cover (1st Ditko Spider-man)

Amazing Fantasy v1 #15 marvel 1960s silver age comic book cover art by Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko
Jack Kirby / Steve Ditko
Amazing Fantasy v1 #15, 1962 - Continuing the numbering from Amazing Adult Fantasy, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko begin the Marvel age with this historic issue. Spiderman makes his first appearance with Steve Ditko at the artistic helm. Longtime veteran Jack Kirby illustrates this familiar cover (with Ditko inks) after Ditko's original design was rejected.
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This version is simpler, cleaner and admittedly more iconic, but still far from Kirby's best covers. The background perspective is drawn from below and yet we see the hero at eye level, not implausible but a stretch nonetheless. The "speed lines" of Spider-man and the cloud shape above appear to have been added by the colorist but don't detract from the overall effect. Kirby fits the building on the right comfortably within the negative space of Spider-man's figure, a deft move to counter-balance the composition. Ironically, the series was slated to end with this issue, yet the blurb on the lower right suggests a continuation. Curiously, in his very first appearance, the web-slinger has no qualms about mentioning his secret identity out loud to his captive.
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Ditko does a capable, but not extraordinary job with Spider-man's origin story. The artistic high point is the opening splash of Peter Parker in high school. Ridiculed and humiliated, his shadow metaphorically hints at his upcoming transformation. This tale has been reprinted frequently over the years, but glossy and computer-colored reproductions pale compared to their newsprint counterparts. This origin story was first reprinted in Marvel Tales #1 (1964) but a more recent and affordable version exists in Marvel Tales #137 (1982).
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Most people are unaware that three more Ditko stories reside in the same issue. They follow the same sci-fi/mystery format that filled many Atlas titles in the 1960s. "The Bell-Ringer" has generally weak visuals, but the "Man In The Mummy Case" and "There Are Martians Among Us" rate among his better silver age works. This is number 1 of 1 Amazing Fantasy issues with Ditko art and/or covers and number 1 of 1 Amazing Fantasy issues with Kirby art and/or covers.
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Kirby cover pencils / Ditko inks = **
"Spider-Man" Ditko story pencils and inks 11 pages = ***
"The Bell-Ringer" Ditko story pencils and inks 3 pages = **
"Man In The Mummy Case" Ditko story pencils and inks 5 pages = ***
"There Are Martians Among Us" Ditko story pencils and inks 5 pages = ***

Amazing Fantasy v1 #15 marvel 1960s silver age comic book page art by Steve Ditko
Steve Ditko
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  1. I think we're supposed to assume that Spidey is being observed not from ground level, but through a window of a tall building, which is why we see him as we do. Also, despite Stan's memory of events, it seems likely that AF #15 was intended as the first of a new direction for the title, and the decision to cancel wasn't made until the issue had gone to print and perhaps even gone on sale. (See http://kidr77.blogspot.com/2012/07/amazing-fantasy_17.html for further details.) I've always thought that the guy under Spidey's arm bore an amazing likeness to Boris Karloff, but he seems to be a midget when you look at his proportions.

  2. Meant to say - the Marvel Age is generally regarded as having started almost a year before - with Stan & Jack's FF #1.