Presenting The Spider-Man Vault

Many people consider a comic book historian, a title I wear proudly. People often reach out to me with questions and I happily answer since I have a good working knowledge of the field, above-average knowledge of Marvel’s history and a superb command of DC’s corporate history. Some of that has found its way into projects like last year’s Batman Vault and I am pitching some other notions to mine that territory.

In 2009, Peter David asked me if I had spare time to help him do research and be his on-call call for The  Spider-Man Vault, the next in Becker & Mayer’s line of museum-in-a-book releases. He’s a pal, I’m a freelancer, and after the Batman experience, I certainly knew what was involved.

Much of the research work took place during the first half of 2009. That June, I received a call from art dealer Spencer Beck who had just been handed a treasure trove of material to catalogue and sell. The lovely and talented Marie Severin was finally emptying her closet of stuff and there were scads of amazing things to behold.

As you might imagine, she had more than a few things related to the Wall-Crawler. I spent hours sifting through the material, pulling out sketches, thumbnails, original artwork, color guides and even photographs that might help illustrate the project. The most colossal find was a set of Photostats of Steve Ditko’s pencils to Amazing Spider-Man #31, some of which were lettered. Seeing Ditko’s twice-up artwork is cool and seeing his pencils from that fertile period was a rare treat, perfect for the book.

While Spencer was scanning everything I picked, the Ditko stats were brought to Marvel, where David Bogart, my successor over there, arranged to have the oversized pages scanned and cleaned for the book.

Peter completed his work on the book, Marvel approved the manuscript, and later in the summer, I was asked to handle the captions. That was a fun weekend, although that meant I also noted the Ditko pages were not there. Clearly, an oversight, and more tweaks would be made so we hoped they would be included.

A few months back, Peter called, asking for some additional help. The final pass on the book’s text was so comprehensive, that he found himself in a time crunch. Under most circumstances he would have been able to handle this on his own. Unfortunately, that was the weekend Peter was scheduled to appear in Uruguay for a convention. Could I make the revisions? When a pal’s in need, you never say no and I spent a weekend reviewing what needed to be done and rewrote as necessary. A week later, we had the final approvals.

As a reward, in addition to cash, Peter asked Becker & Mayer to let me share the book credit with him.

I hold in my hands the printed book and it is a pretty spectacular thing (even if the cool Ditko pencil work didn’t make it). There’s a ton of information, many anecdotes from Peter who of course helped market the character before becoming one of his best-remembered writers.  This is really his sweat and tears, his take on the Webhead and his world. I helped fact-check things, cheer from the sidelines and pitch in as necessary. Peter’s graciousness in sharing the credit is much appreciated.

One comment

  • Bob,
    it sounds like a great book and I’m glad you’re still keeping busy in the current freelance climate. If you’re going to be at New York Comic Con in October, maybe I’ll see you there…

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