While there are current controversies about R-rated superhero movies, with the financial success of DEADPOOL, Netflix’s slate of Mature Audiences Marvel shows and the upcoming R-rated Directors Cut of SUPERMAN VS BATMAN, Spider-Man generally has a reputation as one of the most kid-friendly comic book series. But there have been some interesting exceptions.
The most famous is probably Stan Lee’s decision to ignore the Comics Code of Authority for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #96-98 when he and Gil Kane did a three part storyline dealing with drug addiction. The success of this project coincideded with a weakening of the Comics Code. A few issues later the end of the prohibition on vampires had led to the introduction of Morbius (although he was still a science-based villain rather than a supernatural one.)
This wasn’t the first time Spider-Man comics were done without the Comics Code.
During the mid 1960s Stan Lee and John Romita Sr released the first Spider-Man spinoff, meant to be a quarterly magazine. The first two issues have now been collected in Marvel Masterworks Volume 7, as well as the Lee/ Romita omnibus. It’s good stuff, although not as well-known as Lee/Romita’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN work.
What isn’t appreciated is how these comics took advantage of the fact that they were published without the code.
And then I mention the little-known SPIDER-MAN MYSTERY.
Lee did make an effort at a similar project just after he had launched MARVEL TEAM-UP. This series, named SPIDER-MAN MYSTERY, was meant to cater to the 1960s underground comics movement, so Lee paired writer Nicholas Meyer—a younger newcomer to comics—with artist Frank Thorne, and gave them an unprecedented level of flexibility. The two immediately decided to sex things up, as the cover to the first issue demonstrated.
Again, this was posted on the first of April.