Hey, John Romita drew this mini-comic for a Spider-Man Aurora Comic Scenes model kit
You always see ads in old comics for model kits, and Lord knows there have been enough of them reposted here on the blog. A number of these kits weren’t the standard cars/planes models, but fictional characters, frozen in time like wax museum exhibits or figures in a diorama. Batman. Superman. Spider-Man. All of them had the plastic, glue and paint treatment, for the consumer who found action figures a tad gauche and wanted a more museumish feel for their figurines. To each their own.
A long time ago an ad for a Spider-Man kit from Aurora was posted here, a model that had the web-slinger perched on a banister in an apparently condemned building, blasting his webs down on a prone and defeated Kraven the Hunter. It looked kind of snazzy, one of the more action-oriented of the Aurora catalog, a credit to that company, blah blah blah. The forgotten thing about that Comic Scenes line, though? They came with miniature comic books inside, which served as both assembly guides and backstory on how the assembled scenario came to be. And the comic for this Spider-Man/Kraven model was illustrated by none other than John Romita, the only artist able to stand shoulder to shoulder with Steve Ditko — and perhaps surpass him.
You don’t see these pop up all that often. I found this one recently. Let’s have a quick look inside.
The book is smaller than your typical comic in all three dimensions, but still wider and taller than a digest. The first two interior pages are a primer on how to slap together your model:
Then comes the story. Written by Len Wein, it opens in media res like an Indiana Jones adventure, with Spider-Man pursuing Kraven and his animal goons after the latter stole some old tapestries:
No time is wasted getting to the action — a good thing, since the story is all of five pages. Soon Spider-Man is webbing the oddly-clad Mr. Hunter, and then comes this full page panel, which, when you’ve assembled you model, makes your hard work a part of the comic:
There’s still a page left after that, an odd coda in which Spider-Man’s webbing destroys the precious ancient tapestries and the secrets they contain:
Our hero, I guess?
There you go — Spider-Man: The Model Kit: The Comic Book. While this is by no means a “lost” slice of John Romita’s Spider-Man oeuvre, found after languishing for decades in some Argentinian vault, it’s still interesting to see him illustrating something a bit off the beaten path. And the fact that you could incorporate your model into a genuine comic book is a simple, cheap yet pleasant gimmick. There are a good number of these insert comics out there, and hopefully we’ll be able to look at some more in the future. They’re rather neat.