40 Years of the Amazing Spider-Man CD-ROM
Company: TOPICS Entertainment
As a comic book reader, I was very interested in this product when I first started seeing advertisements for it six months ago. As the title suggests, 40 Years of the Amazing Spider-Man CD-ROM is just that, all the issues of the Amazing Spider-Man comic on eleven CD-ROMs. Actually, the series also includes the original 1962 Amazing Fantasy #15, which is the first appearance of Spider-Man. From then on, however, it’s all Amazing Spider-Man.
Each issue on the CD-ROM is an Adobe PDF file. You do need Adobe Acrobat 6.0 or later to view the files, which is included on the disc #1 in both Mac and Windows versions. If you try using another PDF viewing application, such as Apple’s own Preview, you get to see the watermark Topics Entertainment placed on every page of every issue. I don’t know why they bothered to put the watermark in the files, as that constitutes the level of anti-piracy they employ. Otherwise, these are simple PDF files.
The forty years include every issue from the above mention first appearance all the way up to issue #500 (December 2003). A curious omission, however, is the yearly annuals.
One of the problems, if you can call it that, is issues that crossover to other comics, be it another Marvel comic such as X-Men or Fantastic Four, or another Spider-Man title, such as Spectacular Spider-Man or Web of Spider-Man. This happened quite often in the late 1980’s, and throughout all the 1990’s. So sadly, while all the Amazing issues are present, not all the stories that go with those issues are.
Quality-wise, the stories are what they are. Some issues are fantastic, some not so much. I won’t try and review every issue, that would be crazy. But there is a quality issue I’m a little disappointed with, and that is the picture quality of the PDF’s themselves. But more on that in a moment.
I enjoy that each issue is complete from cover to cover, including the original ads on each page. Nothing like looking back at the older “Prizes for Cash” ads from the 1980’s. I also like the fact that the covers are not only included, but the back cover as well. 99% of the time, the back cover is an advertisement, but occasionally, especially when you get into the special anniversary issues, a cover would be a wrap-around, so had they omitted the back cover, there was a chance that half the artwork would have been missing.
The problem is that while supplying these back issues of Amazing Spider-Man is a great concept, it’s obvious that Topics Entertainment didn’t work with Marvel Comics to acquire the best electronic format or physical copies of these issues. Rather, they simply used a flatbed scanner to scan each issue, page by page, to build the PDF files. They also did not use very high quality issues, as many of the copies are yellowed and flawed. More, there are some issues cocked at a slight angle, rather than laying them completely horizontal and true. This can be annoying to read. Even worse, there was not much care given to cleaning up the pages within Photoshop. I ran one page through Adobe Photoshop and applied the Auto-Color correction to the page and got fantastic results, at least three times better picture than the supplied PDF file.
Still, to have forty years of Amazing Spider-Man in electronic format on my computer (I copied all the CD-ROMs to an external FireWire Hard Drive for easier access) is a treat. As a long time comic book reader, it feels strange to read these comics on a computer screen. I have many of the physical issues myself, most of which are in better condition than the copies Topics Entertainment used when scanning. But to be able to quickly pull up an issue for reference is fun.
All in all, for $49.99 US (you can find it MUCH cheaper online, such as Amazon.com where the current price is $32.99) you can have a piece of comic book history that never goes out of style.
MyMac.com Rating: 3 out of 5. Good concept, nice format. I would prefer that more care be given to these comics, such as running batch color correction on each issue. I do like the index PDF for each year as well, but all it shows is a miniature version of the cover, not too handy.