About a year ago it became my monthly tradition to attend the Midtown Comics book club which is hosted by my good friend Thor Parker. The comic book club convenes on the last Friday of each month at the Downtown location on Fulton Street in New York City. It’s a really entertaining gathering of people who enjoy reading comics and each month there’s a special guest (usually the author, artist or editor of that month’s selection). Thor moderates the discussion and the rest of the group listens attentively as we become privy to the anecdotal behind-the-scenes type stories and experiences that went into the creation of the book. Did I also mention that there are donuts? The discussion usually runs for about an hour and afterwards the guest will stick around and sign your book. If you love reading comics, meeting creators, and collecting signed trades, you should definitely check out the Midtown Comics book club!
At the end of each club, Thor announces the next month’s selection, and Midtown Comics always offers the book at 25% off the cover price from that night until the night of the next book club. I was absolutely overjoyed when I found out that February’s book club would focus on a Spider-Man graphic novel entitled Kraven’s Last Hunt. And even more exciting, the guest speaker would be Jim Salicrup, who edited the series! I really enjoyed reading Kraven’s Last Hunt several years ago and I found it to be an even more enjoyable read this time around, especially considering the recent direction that Dan has taken Amazing/Superior Spider-Man in. (I wrote a post a little while back about Dan’s Amazing Spider-Man run which you can read here.)
Kraven’s Last Hunt (written by J.M. Dematteis with art by Mike Zeck), is one of the few Spider-Man tales where the reader gets an in depth look into the mindset of the lesser used villain, Kraven the Hunter. Kraven successfully ‘kills’ Peter Parker and begins parading around New York City in the black Spider-Man suit armed with the demented notion that by imitating Peter and embracing the spider, he will somehow master him, and become a superior Spider-Man (No really, he says that! See page 37!). Hence, one of the intriguing parallels between Spider-Man now and Spider-Man then. A fair portion of the story is also devoted to Peter’s new wife, Mary Jane Watson. Part of Peter’s motivation to overcome the handicap that Kraven has imposed upon him is the prospect of spending more time with MJ. While I have always and will always be a Gwen Stacy fan, I have to admit that Mary Jane’s vulnerability caused by her fear of losing Peter is quite endearing. She even considers confiding in Peter’s boss at the Daily Bugle but she thinks better of it because she realizes that she’s been entrusted with Peter’s secret it’s her responsibility to maintain it. There’s a scene where Mary Jane thinks she has found Peter, but she quickly realizes that it’s not her beloved in the suit after she witnesses the masked Kraven’s overly violent crime fighting techniques. When Peter returns he is forced to deal with the repercussions caused by the havoc that Kraven has been wreaking. The ending of Kraven’s tale is shocking, but you’ll just have to pick up the trade if you’re curious about how the story unfolds.
Jim told us all about how Kraven’s Last Hunt was one of the grittiest and darkest Spider-Man tales ever told, especially at the time of its publication in 1987. The story was originally shopped as a Batman/Joker story, but was transformed into a Spider-Man tale before it was released. It was originally titled “Fearful Symmetry,” but the name was changed to Kraven’s Last Hunt in trade. Jim was one of the first editor’s to attempt to streamline all of the Spider-Man titles under the Marvel umbrella instead of selling each title as an individual story. This is why Kraven’s Last Hunt collects Web of Spider-Man #31-#32, Amazing Spider-Man #293-#294, and Spectacular Spider-Man #131-#132, yet when read together, the issues form one cohesive story arc. I always love to hear stories about the inside workings at Marvel, and about the great comic legends who paved the industry for today’s writers and artists so I found Jim to be a particularly interesting speaker. He touched upon his interactions with Stan Lee, and John Romita Sr., and several other Marvel bigwigs. We also learned that Jim had originally gone by ‘James,’ until John Romita Sr., had dubbed him ‘Jim.’ While Jim’s time at Marvel has ended, he is still actively contributing to the comics industry. Jim is currently the editor in chief of Paprercutz which publishes graphic novelizations of Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and one of my childhood favorites, Tales From the Crypt.