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Spider-Man the Icon
Steve Saffel
Titan Books, 320 pages

Spider-Man the Icon
Steve Saffel
Steve Saffel's career as a professional editor has included tie-ins with the first two Spider-Man movies, and allowed him to work with writers like David Gemmell, Greg Keyes, Greg Bear, Eric Nylund and Peter David, Robert Silverberg, Steve Sansweet, John Birmingham, Amber Benson and Mark Cotta Vaz. Currently he's a writer, an editor, an editorial and marketing consultant, and a multi-platform project developer.

Spider-Man the Icon Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

Even if you've never read a comic book or seen any of the Sam Raimi films, you know who Spider-Man is, the iconic super hero Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created in 1962. Author Steve Saffel, however, has not only read Spider-Man comics and seen the films, he has dedicated a significant amount of time to the webslinger and the various products that have been tied in to the character over the last 45 years. In Spider-Man the Icon, Saffel presents a history of the character, both in the comics and in the real world.

Spider-Man the Icon is a 320 page tour-de-force of the character, starting not with his creation, but with the antecedents to his first appearance. Famously making his debut in Amazing Fantasy #15, Saffel explains how aspects not only of Spider-Man, but also of the character's support cast and villains, predated that issue and were later incorporated into the character when he became popular. Of course the majority of the text deals with Spider-Man after he became a hit character, and Saffel includes a lot of information. While most books of this type are excuses for pretty pictures with extended captions, Saffel's accompanying text provides all the information a person could hope to have. If the text has a problem, it is related to layout in that Saffel is so inclusive that the publisher had to decrease the font size to include everything.

The book traces Spider-Man's evolution from comic book hero to a pop culture icon known by millions. The comics evolved and Spider-Man changes or was reimagined, and Saffel explains each of those alterations and their importance to Spider-Man as a whole, whether it was the death of his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy or the decision to drop Spider-Man into the year 2099 or to reboot the character with Ultimate Spider-Man. Although many people will know Spider-Man from the recent films, wisely he doesn't end the book with his discussion of the films. For Spider-Man has life after those films, and by including sections after them, Saffel reminds the reader that Spider-Man continues in comics, and other places.

And for those who are text averse, Spider-Man the Icon includes lots of pretty pictures and extended captions. The images range from reproductions of Spider-Man comics which leave the reader yearning for more of the story, to screen captures from the various Spider-Man animated and live action projects (including not only the recent films, but also the 70s television series and Spider-Man's Electric Company appearances). The sheer quantity of product tie-ins is also amazing, from action figures to cups, to toys, to a pogo stick. Anyone growing up during the last forty-five years will certainly find items to bring on waves of nostalgia.

The problem with font size aside, the production on the book is quite good. The graphics are clearly rendered and at a size that the reader can actually see the detail of the items being reproduced, whether it is the text in one of the comic strips or a White Castle meal bucket. In most cases, such as the figurines and chess set shown on pages 294, the images are reproduced large enough for the reader to be able to pick out details of the work, instead of just getting a feel for what is being shown.

Because of the price tag, chances are that this is a book which will only find its way into the hands of those who are fanatical about Spider-Man, but Saffel has created a book which can be read, and more importantly, enjoyed, by anyone with an interest in Spider-Man. Even if you can't rationalize the price tag, try to take a good look at Spider-Man the Icon, it provides what every coffee table book about pop culture should.

Copyright © 2007 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a seven-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings. He is the publisher of ISFiC Press. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.

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