Stan Lee's passing last November left a giant hole in the hearts of comic book fans around the world. Kevin Feige recently confirmed that there are a finite number of banked Stan Lee cameos left in the upcoming MCU films, and when those run out, fans will no doubt feel the loss even more. (Right now it sort of seems like Lee's maybe just yukking it up in the Quantum Realm with our other post-snap heroes, making jokes and probably comforting Tom Holland's Spider-Man.)
So it's infinitely saddening to hear that another Marvel tradition begun by Lee — and involving one of Lee's greatest creations — is coming to an end just months after the comic legend's death: The first-ever Spider-Man newspaper comic strip will cease publication this week after four decades.
Attention Spider-Man clients:
You'll be seeing some changes in your friendly neighborhood AMAZING SPIDER-MAN comic strip over the coming months. Starting on March 25th, King Features and Marvel will be re-running some of Spider-Man's greatest hits. We'll be back soon with great new stories and art to explore even more corners of the Marvel Universe for you and your readers to enjoy. We'll be announcing more about these new adventures in the very near future, so keep your Spidey senses tuned in!
The strip was launched with Lee's involvement 42 years ago, in 1977, as part of a new wave of comic-book-to-comic-strip crossovers, and is the last to remain in print. It has run serially in daily and Sunday papers ever since, featuring artwork by everyone from original artist John Romita Sr. to longtime daily artist Larry Lieber and Sunday funnies' Alex Saviuk, as well as writers like Roy Thomas.
Thomas worked solo and he also assisted Lee, who at least in name has remained involved all the way up until his death, and even beyond. (The strip, including the current week's edition, still credits Lee.)
Since Lee's death five months ago, there has been speculation about the future of the comic strip. (2018 also saw the passing of Lee's Spider-Man co-creator, Steve Ditko.) While some are holding out hope that a reconfigured Spidey comic may return after the hiatus, the strip's longtime inker "Joltin'" Joe Sinnott said on Facebook that last Sunday's strip was its final Sunday edition:
(In the Facebook post's message thread, Sinnott's son also revealed that the legendary comic artist was retiring at the age of 92.)
When reached for comment by SYFY WIRE, Thomas spoke glowingly of the time, "around the turn of 2000 or thereabouts," when Stan Lee offered him work writing the strip, though Lee cautioned Thomas to hold off on accepting until he heard the not-Amazing weekly pay rate — but Thomas ended up taking the gig nevertheless.
"I won't deny that I'm sorry to see that Marvel may restart the strip without Alex and me," Thomas explains. "I don't take Marvel's actions personally, however much I regret them." But in the end, he says, "working with Stan and Michael, as well as Larry, Alex [Saviuk], and the ever amiable Joe Sinnott, on the Spider-Man strip was an enjoyable experience, and I'm grateful to Stan for offering me that 'pittance' back in 2000."
Saviuk himself told Brad Douglas, of Spider-Man Crawlspace, "Now that KFS [King Features Syndicate] has posted their statement yes, the Spider-Man strip as we know it has come to an end. And as much as Roy Thomas and I were hoping that the strip would go on to continue Stan Lee's legacy... that's not the case here. March 23 will be the last Daily and March 17 will be the last Sunday as we close out the current storyline."
SYFY WIRE has also reached out to King Features Syndicate, Joe Sinnott, and Marvel for comment. Marvel has yet to officially weigh in on what exactly will come in The Amazing Spider-Man's stead, and whether there will ever again be a standalone Spider-Man newspaper comic strip of any kind in the future.
In the meantime, all we can say is, "Mr. Stark, I don't feel so good."