In a deed of superheroic proportions, an anonymous donor has given the Library of Congress the original artwork by Steve Ditko for Marvel Comics’ “Amazing Fantasy #15” – the comic book that introduced Spider-Man in August 1962.
This unique set of drawings for 24 pages features the story of the origin of Spider-Man along with three other short stories — also written by Stan Lee and drawn by Steve Ditko — for the same issue: “The Bell-Ringer,” “Man in the Mummy Case” and “There Are Martians Among Us.”
“The donation of these wonderful drawings is a treasured gift to the American people. The opportunity to see the original art behind the published stories will benefit comic-book readers as well as popular-culture scholars,” said Sara W. Duke, curator of Popular and Applied Graphic Art in the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division. “Looking at the drawings inspires a new appreciation for the artist’s skill and design choices and also deepens our understanding of how a superhero created to attract a teenage audience became a cultural icon with mass appeal.”
For comic-book scholars and fans, this donation is a fantasy-come-true. Those who have heard the news of the survival of these drawings and their future availability at the Library of Congress have already expressed great excitement.
The black-and-white, large-format drawings (21 x 15 inches) detail the transformation of high school bookworm Peter Parker into Spider-Man. He is bitten by a radioactive spider, discovers his new powers and develops his now well-known disguise. The first episode concludes with several of the most famous lines attached to the story of Spider-Man: “With great power there must also come great responsibility … and so a legend is born and a new name is added to the roster of those who make the world of fantasy the most exciting realm of all.”
Visit the Library of Congress blog to view a sample of these drawings.
The donor, who has asked to remain anonymous, preserved the drawings with great care before turning to the Library of Congress to ensure that the designs will be available to researchers for generations to come. In the next few weeks, the Library plans to scan the drawings for easy access on-site in the Prints and Photographs Reading Room, and the digital reference copies will also help preserve the fragile original artwork.
Appointments to view the original drawings can be requested through the Prints & Photographs Division’s “Ask a Librarian” service.
The Spider-Man drawings join a premier collection of original cartoons in the Library’s Prints & Photographs Division. The collection includes more than 125,000 caricatures, comic strips, and political and social commentaries from the 1600s to the present. An ongoing program to preserve and exhibit drawings and to encourage cartoon research is sponsored by the Caroline and Erwin Swann Foundation for Caricature and Cartoon. For more information, visit www.loc.gov/rr/print/swann/swannhome.html.