Search This Blog

Monday, March 4, 2019

Spider-Man Newspaper Strips: Kraven the Hunter - a Review

Spider-Man Newspaper Strips, volume 1 (2009)
"Kraven the Hunter", October 31, 1977-December 25, 1977
Stan Lee-John Romita

Raise your hand if, back when you were a Bronze Age Baby, you peddled your bike to the local gas station or convenience store to pick up the daily paper that carried the Spidey newspaper strip. Yup - me, too! For me, it was around a 6-block ride to the Convenient Food Mart on Main Street. They sold the Chicago Tribune, and once Stan Lee had told me in the Bullpen Bulletins that the strip was starting, I started saving my pennies! I didn't get there everyday, but man - did I make the effort! I'm sure I clipped-and-saved, but darned if I know whatever happened to those strips. I also recall being somewhat disappointed that some of the arcs did not include the rogues gallery I'd come to know and love from the comics. If you don't have access to the strips, the first storyline featured Dr. Doom. I'm certain I don't recall that at all. I do, however remember an extended run that featured the Kingpin. But all that aside, today we're looking in on Kraven the Hunter! And a BWBC thank you/acknowledgement to Matt from the Not a Hoax/Not a Dream blog for his scanning (stolen and presented today) and to Al Bigley for the color Sunday strips (also stolen and presented today). Just so you think I'm not a total loser, I've also included some of my own photographs from the strips. There...

Let's roll, in the Mighty BWBC Manner!

100-Word Review:
Mary Jane Watson and Flash Thompson are on a working vacation in Florida, where they take in the animal act of Kraven the Hunter. Back in Manhattan, J. Jonah Jameson and city editor Joe Robertson debate sending Peter Parker to cover Kraven. But Jonah has an epiphany - if Kraven is the world’s greatest hunter, then why couldn’t he hunt a Spider? Robbie protests, and walks out the Daily Bugle’s door. Jonah hires Kraven anyway - and brings him to New York, and fisticuffs between he and our wallcrawling friend ensue. But… will Jonah sabotage Kraven’s victory?

The Good: What's better than a Stan Lee/John Romita collaboration on our favorite Web-spinner? Not much, unless you wanted to look for some Lee/Jack Kirby Fantastic Four stories? Let me warn you ahead of time: I'm going to contradict myself in the next section. But for now, I want to say that if the goal of the various Marvel (and DC, too) newspaper strips was to introduce our heroes to a wider audience, then this should be considered a success. All the elements you'd expect from a Spidey story are here - his supporting cast, Peter's "lovable loser" persona, an over-the-top villain with ego-stroking as his sole motivation, and so on. This story was a warm blanket on a cold day (which, as I'm writing this on 1/31/19, the outside temp is 5 degrees below 0).

You can argue with me if you like (you'll lose), but the characters in the Amazing Spider-Man universe are the best across all comics. I'll further posit that J. Jonah Jameson may be the best villain - super-powered or otherwise - in comics. He's a foil, an antagonist, a plotter & schemer, and a perpetual pain-in-the-butt. He doesn't have to wait 12-14 issues to reappear, because he's always there! And his presence is certainly felt on both ends of these shenanigans, from setting it up to bringing down the curtain... it's JJJ, all the way!

How good is John Romita? Really good. What a wonderful illustrator. Some would say that he doesn't take a lot of chances, that his style is very clean. For me, that's what I like about it. I've heard some say that once Kirby left Marvel, John Buscema sort of became the caretaker of the "house style". I can see that. But running through the Silver and Bronze Ages was the watchful eye of Romita. His steadiness in providing promotional art, book covers, calendar pages, etc. put the Marvel pantheon of characters in a nice, neat box. I appreciate him for that.

And Stan Lee? I like his Spider-Man writing perhaps best of all. I'd have to fist fight myself to see if I really enjoyed his Fantastic Four more, but those two books would be out in front with a gap to third place. I guarantee I like this stuff better than Lee's Silver Surfer, which can really wear on a man's patience if too many issues are read in close proximity. Hoo-boy... But here all of the voices just sound "right". And I love it.

The Bad: A little over six years ago, I reviewed this hardcover on the BAB. You can read my thoughts on the structure of the book itself, the layout and design, and also on the first story arc (again, featuring Dr. Doom). Let's just say the book, as a book, doesn't get high marks. I'll also add here that the reproductions of the strips seem uneven throughout the book. At times, it looks like they were able to shoot from the original art; in other places it appears that photocopies were used as the "original" imagery. However they did it, without color, the choppy lines are more noticeable.

I'm going to say something that I feel a little badly about writing. However, when you have some history in the rearview mirror with these characters, there's a sense of been-there, done-that. That's what I got when I read today's featured tale. As a peruser of many a Spidey comic over the past 45+ years, I hate to say I've seen it all, but hey - there just wasn't much new here. We had Peter's angst, Aunt May's ailments, Jonah's bluster, Kraven's megalomania, MJ's restlessness - it was all here. Now on one hand, you can argue that it's like comfort food. I can get on board with that. But if you're looking for anything that sets this story apart, you'll find yourself dissatisfied.

The Ugly: Zilch.

Please leave me a comment, whether it be on this story, the Spidey strips in general, or even other newspaper strips of the superhero (or Conan the Barbarian, too) variety. I have three trades that reprint the Batman strips from the Golden Age and hope to get to those at some point. I'd love to hear about your experiences with other strips. Thanks in advance!


  1. I certainly recall the Spider-Man strip! Our local paper didn't carry it, so I had to jump through some hoops to see them. I do remember that first arc with Dr. Doom. A fine looking strip, and a great intro to the characters for someone not familiar with comics. But I'd agree with your comment in the "bad" section above. Even as a teenage reader it all seemed a bit repetitive. But one can wonder if some of the difference came from the scheduling . A monthly dose of complete story vs. daily episodes that tended to overlap.

    Of course, that is inherent in newspaper strips. Do daily 'gag strips' work better than continuing adventure strips? I read both, and tended to find the continuing dailies a bit slow moving. But that's just personal preference, I find the format of a comic or graphic novel reads better.

    1. Hi, Redartz -

      One thing I've found when reading an entire arc in the serialized strips is the loss of panels due to dedication to recaps. It was one thing in a monthly comic to see a page (out of 20-22) given to last month's plot synopsis, but when 2-3 panels (sometimes 4-5) are lost to this over the course of a week it tends to kill momentum. I understand the necessity - a publisher obviously doesn't want the material to seem impenetrable to new readers (an argument I'd make about serialized nighttime television these days) - but finding a balance would seem high priority.

      And, while the stories may not be all that great, and certainly not revolutionary, the nostalgia factor is off the charts!


  2. We NEVER got the Spidey newspaper strip in the UK ( or, if we did, I never saw it ) so this stuff is absolute gold to me. 'New' Stan & John Spidey from the '70's??? Are you kidding?!!!!

    1. Pete -

      If interested, IDW has done newer versions of these reprints with much more care taken to presentation. I'd offer you to seek those out as opposed to the hardcovers I own.


  3. Doug- yes, the nostalgia factor in those strips is sky high. And there was a huge "Wow" factor back then, just seeing the webslinger in papers (not to mention the added bonus of new Lee/Romita work!).

    And nice point about the nighttime tv dramas. My wife and I love "Gotham", but thank heavens they start each episode with a recap. Hard to keep track of all the story elements from week to week. Great show, but it would be a challenge for someone just now tuning in.

    And don't get me started on " Game of Thrones". After a year and a half, I can hardly recall what was going on. Gonna have to watch a few last season episodes to refresh the old memory...

  4. Hiya,

    I was a bit luckier than you in the fact that my school library carried a newspaper that ran the strip. The down side was that I never got a chance to read the Saturday or the Sunday segments. I think the paper was delivered to the librarian's home and she never brought those issues to the school.

    In full agreement with your comments so I really just have a little trivia to add. While Stan was dialoguing the strip he wasn't plotting it. So the unnamed co-conspirator to this selection was Jim Shooter. According to his (sadly inactive) blog, working together on the strip is where Lee finally began to feel comfortable with Shooter.

    Also, at this time Romita, always know for his very attractive women, was becoming a bit of a prude while rendering them and would often position them so not to accentuate certain charms . . . oh the heck with it. He tried to avoid showing any cleavage. Lee and Shooter noticed and instructed Romita not to diverge from the rough layouts that Shooter had rendered on certain panels featuring Mary Jane and others.



    1. Good info as always, PFG! I appreciate that little nugget about the plotting and the art. It's funny, too, to think of Shooter as being over Stan and the Jazzy one creatively.


    2. Hiya,


      Bye the bye, I got curious after I posted as to the identity of the current plotter/ghost writer of the strip.

      Apparently for the last eighteen - nineteen years it's been Roy Thomas.



  5. Yeah the Spidey comic strip was a staple of the Trinidad & Tobago Daily Express down here in T & T back in the day, and thankfully it still appears today, with the black and white Monday to Saturday editions done by Lee and Saviuk, and the full colour Sunday edition by Lee, Saviuk and Sinnott. Strangely, Lee still seems to be credited as writer even though he's has passed away. Either he wrote a bunch of these stories way ahead of time, or they have a ghost writer churning out these stories now.

    Back to the strip - I always looked forward to reading the daily Spidey comic strip, with appearances by Doc Doom, Kingpin, Kraven, the Rattler and Mysterio. To prepubescent me, this was the best thing to happen since sliced bread - I didn't have to go to my local comic book shop and fork out for a comic book; my parents bought the daily newspapers everyday, so I got to read Spidey everyday!

    - Mike 'I heard Kraven is a wildlife conservationist now' from Trinidad & Tobago

  6. I missed out on most of the Spidey newspaper strips back in the late '70s and '80s. Initially, we lived in the country, basically, so no nearby newsstand, and initially had no subscriptions to any papers. My parents usually bought the Sunday edition of the (Portland) Oregonian, so I did see the color Sunday strips. However, once our family did subscribe to a newspaper, it was the Salem paper (Statesman-Journal) which didn't carry Spider-man on its comics page. By the time we switched to the Oregonian, when I was in high school, I kind of lost interest.
    This is a good write-up, Doug. I definitely agree with your point about the newspaper strip featuring stories that seemed like re-treads ('playing the hits'). Even as a kid, when I saw the occasional Sunday color installment, I could tell that it wasn't 'real,' i.e, it was just sort of a pale reflection of the 'meatier' stories taking place in the monthly comics. But yeah, they look nice. I still wouldn't mind having reprints of those early years, just to enjoy Romita's art.

  7. Doug, great topic. My family subscribed to the local daily so I remember reading the strip every day when it first started and even cutting them out and saving them for a time (no idea what happened to those).

    And I agree with all of your Goods and Bads. As for Romita, his Spider-Man was MY Spider-Man. I think it was a brilliant move to have his style become the "house style". I find it interesting that so much Marvel merchandise still uses images he drew some 40-50 years ago.

    And yes he could draw women. We hit the "jackpot" there.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...