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Just Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man!

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.

“Amazing Fantasy #15,” Steve Ditko. 1962 Erecting mahogany display cases in the south curtain of the new Library of Congress building. 1905

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 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: “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.”

A disclaimer that appears at the top of the first page almost seems to be begging skeptical readers to give Spider-Man a chance, completely unaware of the phenomenon that the comic book and superhero would become: “Like costume heroes? Confidentially, we in the comic mag business refer to them as ‘long underwear characters’! And, as you know, they’re a dime a dozen! But, we think you may find our SPIDERMAN just a bit . . . different!”

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.

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.

Unique in their scope and richness, the prints and photographs collections today number more than 13.7 million images. These include photographs, fine and popular prints and drawings, posters, and architectural and engineering drawings. While international in scope, the collections are particularly rich in materials produced in, or documenting the history of, the United States and the lives, interests and achievements of the American people.

The Prints & Photographs Online Catalog provides access to more than 50 percent of the division's holdings, as well as to some images found in other units of the Library of Congress. In 2006, the division celebrated a milestone with digitizing its one-millionth image. All of the images are available for viewing and downloading in the online catalg. An article in the June 2006 issue of the Library of Congress Information Bulletin gives answers to the most frequently asked questions about the online catalog.

A. “Amazing Fantasy #15,” Steve Ditko. 1962, Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Not available for reproduction.

B. Erecting mahogany display cases in the south curtain of the new Library of Congress building. 1905. Prints and Photographs Division. SUMMARY: Photographs shows interior view of Prints and Photographs Division in the Thomas Jefferson Building with workmen erecting mahogany display cases for collection materials. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZ62-3865 (b&w film copy neg.); Call No.: U.S. GEOG FILE - Washington, D.C.--Library of Congress--Jefferson Building--Interior--Offices--Prints & Photographs Division [item] [P&P]