Spider-Man (Marvel Comics)

Marvel Comics
1990 - 1998

In the early days of my comic book collecting, Marvel Comic's 1990 Spider-Man series was my all time favorite. My first introduction came with issue three, which I found on the newsstand of a local convenience store in Bend, Oregon. This was a place my brother and I regularly rode our bikes to after school, and while he typically got snacks, I opted for the comic books.

As the early 90's proceeded, I continued buying the series on a monthly basis and eventually made my way to a comic shop where I was able to buy an issue number one and two. It was then that I set my sights on a comic that I would drool and pine over for years to come. The coveted platinum edition.

With a price tag of $500.00, this book was far beyond my reach. However, this didn't stop me from promptly creating a money jar at home and setting to task to save up for it. As a kid, this book never made it to my collection. However, as an adult, this was rectified Christmas of 2019 when I bought a copy for myself...Along with every other cover variant of issue number one.

It was doing this which prompted today's post. A look at every issue from the 1990 through 1998 Spider-Man series from Marvel Comics.

With exception of autographed versions, for issue one, there are eleven different versions confirmed to be in existence. These include the four regular versions, or, "green cover".

The first direct release was a purple webbing version, which came polybagged. In the place of the UPC was a facade of Spider-Man's face. This was released in conjunction with a newsstand polybagged version which had a silver webbing and traditional UPC.

The silver webbing version was also released unbagged and came in both a direct and newsstand edition. It's interesting to note that the direct edition silver webbing version, which appears to be the corrected cover of the purple webbing version noted above, never appears to have been released polybagged.

A silver variant cover was released, and this too has its own set of variations. The first one was a polybagged version. The price tag was removed from the version so as not to negate the $2.00 price tag printed on the bag. Below, you can see a bagged and unbagged version of this book. While you can't buy the non-price tag version out of the bag, oddly enough, a loose one is considered to be its own variant.

An unbagged silver cover variant was also available with the $1.75 price tag printed on the book.

This particular version resulted in a very rare print run error before being corrected . There are panels in the issue where the Lizard is blue, as opposed to his regular green color. Because this is a print error, the blue Lizard version is not considered an actual variant. However, it is a holy grail of the series which some collectors will pay upwards of $200.00 for. The result of the error was from the printing press running out of yellow ink.

In August of 2020, it was brought to light that a copper Lizard variant of this issue may exist. This was a result of a ebay seller, doomdoomdoom90, who not only sold one for approximately $15,000.00, but claimed there were only six copies in existence. Skepticism quickly began to surface in October of that same year when the seller once again listed a copper variant, but this time for $10,000.00 less. Considering the blue variant was a result of the printer running out of yellow ink, coupled with the fact that nobody seems to have heard of this variant from a book that is now 30+ years old and sold over two million copies, this makes the validity of the book all the more questionable. It's also extremely sketchy that the one seller who seems to know there are only six in existence would also happen to have two of them (that we know of). I'm not saying that it's unfathomable. I'm just saying buyer beware.

Because of the high demand, the book was reprinted with a gold cover. These too came in a handful of versions, one of which I have never personally seen in the wild, the polybagged direct edition. Despite my endless searching, I have not once seen a gold version sealed in the bag. I only acknowledge its existence because it is confirmed by MyComicShop.com, a reputable online comic seller, despite them not having one in stock currently.

***UPDATE*** I not only found, but now own the polybagged gold version.

A rare version I have seen, and own, is the 10,000 copy print run Walmart edition. The Walmart version can be identified by the traditional newsstand UPC at the bottom left, whereas, the "regular" version is the one with the facade of Spider-Man's face.

Last up, in terms of variant covers for issue one, is the holy grail platinum edition. Of the estimated 10,000 copies printed, approximately 7,000 were given to retailers for helping make the book a major success. Though shops were encouraged in the accompanying letter to them to find a special place in their shop to display it or auction it off for charity, most slapped a high price tag on it and waited for a direct, all profit, sale. 

A side note for those of you collecting polybagged books from the 90's, such as this one, X-Force number 1 or the X-Men crossover series, Executioner's Song (to name a few), you may want to take note that these bags are not acid free. While it's nostalgic to have those polybagged books, just keep in mind, in the long run, they may be damaging your comics.

As most comic book collectors know, the series was started off by Todd McFarlane who would helm the series in a combination of both writing and drawing through issue fourteen. Erik Larsen would take over the series from issue fifteen through twenty-three with exceptions. Those being, issue sixteen was drawn by Todd McFarlane and seventeen by Rick Leonardi. Both McFarlane and Larsen would leave Marvel Comics to co-found Image Comics shortly after. From there, the series would see a rotating list of artists throughout the remainder of the series, concluding with issue number ninety-eight.

For me, the series waned in interest around issue number twenty-six. This was one of the many infamous hologram covers. In this series, the overpriced book served no other purpose than to be a retelling of Spider-Man's origin.

Issue thirty-five drew me back in slightly with its Maximum Carnage storyline, but not long enough to keep me around for many issues afterwards. At this point in my comic book years, I was deep into Image Comics, following artists, and not necessarily characters.

In fact, it was around this time that as a "mature" collector, I was losing interest in Spider-Man altogether. It didn't help when concepts such as the Scarlet Spider and Spider Clone got introduced, completely negating everything with Marvel had established in the Spider-Man universe. Basically, things just got too confusing to keep up with the character. Silly too.

The series wrapped up in 1998 with issue 98, which also contained a variant cover. Spider-Man would continue in The Amazing Spider-Man for another fourteen years before concluding, as well as, several other spin-off titles.

For its time, or better stated, for my time in the series, it served as a key era in my comic book collecting life. The artwork of Todd McFarlane sucked me in, shaping my collecting habits of books. Making me more critical of the artwork, and tuning my radar to that of key artists of the day. With it, it introduced me to several comics which I otherwise wouldn't have read as I followed the creators and not the characters.

The unfortunate catch to this was that it also ultimately led to me quitting comics until just recently. As I found myself more and more intrigued with the art, I found myself reading less and less of the stories. Mainly because the majority of them weren't any good. One day I just stopped buying any books and eventually offloaded my entire collection.

These days, my collecting habits more so follows story arcs or one off stories and not necessarily the artists behind them. I've rekindled my joy for collecting comics through reading and discovering great stories in the process. Of course, I've also found some stinkers, and while I'm sad to say it, McFarlane's five part Torment, which started this whole series, isn't really that strong of a story.

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  1. Wow. Impressive collection. Didn't realize there were so many variants of that first issue.