You never know what goodies you can find at Half Price Books. Yesterday I stumbled across the book pictured above. It's a hardcover graphic novel, published by Vanguard in 2002. It was in terrific shape, it was an original work about one of my favorite pulp heroes and the artwork was by one of my all time favorite comic book artists, the late, great Gene Colan.
Imagine my surprise when I opened the book and discovered that it was # 575 of a limited signed print run of 600 copies. That's right, SIGNED. By both writer Don McGregor and Gene Colan. Since Colan died in 2011, anything he signed is an instant collector's item. I snatched it up immediately.
I don't think the good folks at Half Price knew what they had. If they did, they most certainly would have had it in one of their locked display cases and would have been asking a much higher price than $12.50. With my five dollar off coupon and the $2.75 they paid me for the bag of books I sold, I only had to put down five bucks of my own for this beauty. Sold!
The book features an 83 page original Spider story by McGregor and Colan. It's in beautiful black and white and Colan's art is, as always, terrific. I had always hoped that Colan would illustrate a Shadow story at some point in his long career. Since he never did, this is the next best thing. His interpretation of the pulp crime smasher is spot on.
While I loved the artwork, I do have a couple of minor quibbles. One is that, for commercial purposes, the powers that be behind the production of this volume, decided that the Spider story had to take place in the current day, 2002, not during the '30s and '40s pulp era in which the character was born and thrived. I strongly disagree with this decision. Almost every attempt to update, modernize and place '30s pulp heroes into modern day, contemporary settings, has met with limited success, if not outright failure. I'm a pulp purist at heart and I believe that these characters work best when their adventures take place in the era in which they were conceived.
My other quibble is with writer Don McGregor. He's quite simply one of the most verbose writers in comic book history. McGregor has never met a story he couldn't overwrite to death. He does so here, layering prose heavy captions on almost every panel of every page. Worse, he uses the second act of the story for some monstrously heavy handed preaching and politicizing. It's ham fisted and brings the narrative to a screeching halt. I don't read pulp fiction, especially a Spider story, to be lectured about various social ills. I read pulp fiction for for escape. I want blazing two gun action and lots of it. Granted, there are some very well executed action set pieces throughout the book but the ending comes a bit abruptly and leaves a few plot threads dangling.
Still, it's Gene Colan black and white artwork on The Spider in a signed hardcover for five bucks. Sweet!