Friday, October 12, 2012



An in-depth look at Marvel's very first and most mysterious collectible



The Amazing Spider-man is without a doubt one of the most popular comic book characters ever created. A true icon of the industry that people of all ages and nationalities gravitate towards and adore. Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and making his 1st appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15 (Aug. 1962), Spider-man was an instant smash hit. How could any teenager not be able to relate to the quirky, adolescent nerd, Peter Parker was? Most of the readers were him in real life! They suffered from all the same everyday hang ups of teen angst that Peter did and they couldn't help but love him for it. But when Peter eventually donned the costume to become Spider-man, fans needed to have a costume to become him as well.

A legend was born on August 1962 and the comic world was never the same. 

Now enter the man and legend known as Ben Cooper...

Ben Cooper was born on the Lower East Side of New York City in 1906. Although his father was a restaurateur, Cooper studied accounting and briefly sought a career as a songwriter before founding a theatrical costume business in 1927. Cooper designed costumes and sets for the legendary Cotton Club in Harlem and several editions of the Ziegfeld Follies.

With live theater, becoming rarer in the 1930s due to the Great Depression and Halloween becoming a more popular holiday, Cooper established Ben Cooper, Inc. in BrooklynNew York, in 1937. The firm assumed control of A.S. Fishbach, Inc. which had a license to produce costumes based on characters owned by The Walt Disney Company such as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Snow White in 1937 and began selling Disney costumes under Fishbach's "Spotlight" brand. The two companies formally merged and incorporated as Ben Cooper, Inc., on December 8, 1942.

By the late 1940s, Ben Cooper, Inc. was one of the largest and most prominent Halloween costume manufacturers in the United States. Its costumes were generally very thin fabric with a silkscreened image on the front that sold for less than $3.00. The company began selling its costumes through large retailers such as J. C. Penney, Sears, Woolworth's, and most five-and-dime stores. Costumes often sold for only $1.25 (about $11.35 today). At the time, the most popular costumes were traditional Halloween figures such as devils, ghosts, skeletons, and witches. But Ben Cooper constantly evolved and expanded its line with new characters and creations. In the 1950s, television characters such as Davy Crockett, Superman, and Zorro were very popular and all got costumes that sold immensely well. And as parents became more concerned about safety, the company responded by creating its "Glitter Glo" costumes, dresses and jumpsuits with large amounts of blue glitter glued to the front (which would reflect the headlights of oncoming automobiles). In the 1960s and 1970s, Ben Cooper, Inc., was one of the "big three" Halloween costume companies, along with Collegeville and the H. Halpern Company (Halco). But they became known for licensing popular film and television characters and getting their images onto store shelves much more quickly than the others.

Ben Cooper, Inc. was famous for licensing hundreds of characters much quicker than their competition. 

It was by accident that Ben Cooper, Inc. got introduced to a new character called The Amazing Spider-Man. As chance would have it, Ben Cooper had been already distributing a custom "Spider man" costume for years since 1954. And to make this story even more crazy there have been rumors that Jack Kirby himself was the creator of it! Yup, you read that right. Kirby is rumored to have freelanced for Ben Cooper in early 1954 when he and Joe Simon were having financial problems with their independent comic company, Mainline Publications (located at 1860 Broadway, just a few miles from the Cooper factory). Looking for work, Kirby submitted ideas for potential costumes for the upcoming Halloween season. One of those ideas was in fact a "Spider man" character loosely based on the Simon and Kirby Spiderman/Silver Spider/The Fly concept that they created the previous year in 1953. Whether this is true or not, we will never know, but in September of 1954 Ben Cooper, Inc. released a "Spider man" costume to retail outlets across the country. And ironically, the Marvel Comics character looked very similar to that design (makes you wonder why Kirby always said that he created the Spider-man costume, right?). But regardless of all this, Marvel now owned the legal rights to the name "Spider-man" when they published their character in 1962 and Ben Cooper, Inc., for whatever reason, simply stopped producing their "Spider man" costume and licensed the likeness of the Marvel character. In September of 1963, the very first licensed product of Marvel Comics was distributed to stores in the form of a Ben Cooper Spider-man costume. 

Ben Cooper catalog from 1954 advertising its very own original "Spider man" costume.

A close up of the Ben Cooper "Spider man" costume on the catalog that sold from 1954 until 1957 (it's rumored that this costume was designed by Jack Kirby himself but we'll never know for sure).

Was Marvel's Spider-man a knock off of Ben Cooper's Spider Man? You be the judge...

My daughter Bryn (with me) sporting the 1954 Ben Cooper Spider man costume. Walloping Web-snappers!

Any savvy businessman has to wonder why Ben Cooper (who was extremely business savvy) would simply let his idea go straight to Marvel without a hitch. I mean, somebody had to notice that the Stan Lee and Steve Ditko collaborative concept of Spider-man looked remarkably similar to the Ben Cooper costume design they made back in 1954 (a full 8 years prior to Amazing Fantasy #15). This accusation is not as far-fetched as one might think because Ben Cooper, Inc. ruled Halloween and New York at this time (their factory was only about 10 miles from Marvel), so their merchandise and costumes were everywhere you looked. Artist Steve Ditko also always had the habit of walking to Marvel to submit his work so he had to see the costume at one point or another in his travels. This leaves many to ponder if he might’ve taken/borrowed or was influenced by what Ben Cooper had already created when he got the assignment to design Spider-man. Not to discredit the genius of Ditko in any way, but it is possible. Who knows, maybe a private deal between Ben Cooper and Marvel's publisher Martin Goodman was made? Maybe Cooper didn't say anything because he saw an opportunity to make more money with a real comic book character because he had done well with Superman in the past? Maybe Cooper was simply blind to it all? Either way, there is a case here. When I personally asked Stan Lee about it he said;

"Martin never told me anything. I was in a little room writing the stories and nobody told me what was going on in the real world."  

I'm with Stan Lee discussing the significance of the 1963 Ben Cooper Spider-man costume... how awesome is this??

On November 29, 2014, I did the impossible and sent the reclusive Steve Ditko a letter about this mystery. I included pictures, clippings and a letter asking him if he was influenced by the 1954 Ben Cooper "Spider man" design in any way before he designed his Spider-man for Marvel. I also told him there might be some speculation that he did. Not thinking he would ever answer a question like that, I remarkably received a response on January 8, 2015. The legendary creator answered in typical "Ditko" fashion, leaving me wanting more...

HOLY MOLEY! Steve Ditko's hand-written letter to ME!!

"The burden of proof is on the person who makes the assertion, claim, charge. Some clipping, etc. are not rational proof of anything but some clippings, etc.

Sadly, with answers like this from Stan Lee and Steve Ditko (who both passed in 2018) the mystery just intensifies. Only Martin Goodman and Ben Cooper could truly answer, but both are long deceased. Even the company of Ben Cooper, Inc. is gone. Not that it would've mattered much because they had a habit of keeping bad records with all of them being lost to the ages. This story becomes yet another comic book mystery that fans will always speculate about and live in infamy.

Close up of the 1958 Ben Cooper "Spider man" costume updated with web-mask (so kids could see better) and orange body design which sold until 1962.

Close up of the 1958 Ben Cooper "Spider man" costume with web-mask and a different orange bodysuit design that sold until 1962. It wasn't uncommon for Ben Cooper, Inc. to make different variations of its costumes.

And if you think the 1958 Spider man mask has nothing to do with Lee and Ditko's Spider-man check out this close up of the mask with the Ditko design below.

Another incredible similarity if you ask me. Thwipp??

In 1963 an entirely new Ben Cooper "Spider man" costume came out during the Halloween season. Ben Cooper, Inc. licensed a virtually unknown character named Spider-man from Marvel Comics (for unknown reasons). Ironically, in just a few years this Spider-man would become one of the comic industries most popular characters and not to mention Ben Cooper's best selling super hero costume ever.

The web-slinging superhero may have sold well to kids who collected comic books, but to the mass-media in 1963, he was virtually an unknown character who was only on his 7th issue. While The Amazing Spider-man #7 had a cover date of December, it hit newsstands on September 10, 1963 and Ben Cooper, Inc. would release their costumes for the Halloween season to retailers in mid-September. Upon the Spidey costumes released to stores, it sold poorly to the general public. The costume managed to be re-released in 1964 with the same 1963 dated box due to all the overstock from the previous year and only sold marginally better. Finally in 1965, with Spider-man's popularity growing rapidly, the costume was released in 3 different new box designs and sold with much better results. 

Spider-man was only on his 7th issue and had a mere 11 total comic book appearances (if you include Amazing Fantasy #15, Fantastic Four Annual #1, Strange Tales Annual #2 and Strange Tales #115) when his costume was first released by Ben Cooper, Inc. in September of 1963. Although he was popular to comic readers, he was still unknown by the majority of the mass-media. His costume wasn't a big seller at first, but that would change as super heroes began to get more popular throughout the years.

When the live-action Batman series in 1966 starring Adam West and Burt Ward became a national phenomenon and catapulted superheroes into the limelight, Ben Cooper wisely secured the licenses to the most popular comic book characters in the industry (they even quietly trademarked the word "Super Hero" that same year for only $35.00 which surprisingly neither DC and Marvel opposed the registration possibly due to not even noticing it). Now with costumes made for over 30 heroes and villains and every child in America wanting to be a comic character, their Spider-man costume easily became one of the highest sellers. After the Batman hysteria died down the following year in 1967, so did the popularity of all superheroes. Only Spider-man, Batman (who got his first Ben Cooper costume in 1964), Superman and Wonder Woman sold well enough to remain consistent in stores every Halloween as many of the other characters disappeared from Ben Cooper's costume line-up after 1969. 

An early Ben Cooper costume ad from Woolworth in 1967. Spider-man is among the most popular costumes for kids and it clearly shows here.

A year later in 1968, superhero costumes were still a hot commodity for kids to be on Halloween and there is no doubt that the Spider-man costume was the biggest seller of the bunch. You have to love how the John Romita Spidey image is colored to match the Ben Cooper costume. It looks, well... weird (and that's why I love it!).

This Ben Cooper, Inc. catalog from 1968 shows just how popular Spider-man and the rest of the Marvel Heroes costumes were for their company.

Spider-man is still prominent in the Ben Cooper, Inc. catalog from 1973 although many of the other super hero costumes had disappeared from the company's line.

In this Ben Cooper, Inc. costume catalog ad from 1980, the Spider-man costume is still  prominently advertised and shown to be among the top selling costumes for the company.

Ben Cooper, Inc. was also famous for selling all types of products for Halloween other than costumes such as jigglers (shown here), playsuits, make up, props, rubber masks, etc. Spider-man was so popular that he was included in just about everything they did.

The increasing sales in the mid '70s that went on until the late '80s (with superheroes making another triumphant comeback to Ben Cooper's Halloween costume line-up) were not enough to stave off bankruptcy, however. Ben Cooper, Inc.'s financial problems became so severe in 1988 that many customers left the firm and diverted licenses and business to its biggest competitor, Collegeville. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on March 13, 1988. As a privately held company, little financial data was available on its profit margins (remember when I said they kept bad records?). However, one press report estimated the firm's profit margin below 10 percent in 1989. On January 6, 1989, the company's facility in Georgia burned to the ground, destroying (the company said) $2 million to $3 million in inventory. Cooper's two insurance companies canceled coverage of the firm and refused to pay, citing inaccuracies in the insurance policy. The bankruptcy court refused to consider Cooper's claims against the insurance companies. Cooper appealed the court's ruling.

Throughout the years the Spider-man costume itself got a few upgrades by Ben Cooper as well as many different boxes distributed to various retailers. It was such a huge seller for the company that it even got its very own box that separated it from the others (shown here from 1976). The Spider-man costume lasted until Ben Cooper, Inc. lost the licenses due to bankruptcy in the late '80s. The only other super hero character to have a longer stint as a Ben Cooper costume was Superman.

Ben Cooper, Inc. emerged from bankruptcy in April 1989 after paying all its creditors in full. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit determined in February 1990 that the issue of the insurance coverage was "core" and thus should be heard by the bankruptcy court. One of the insurance companies appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. In a per curium decision, the Supreme Court held that a serious jurisdictional issue had been brought to the court's attention by legal briefs, forcing it to vacate the appellate court's decision, remanding the case back to the appellate court, and asking the appellate court to consider the jurisdictional issue. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals considered the jurisdictional issue, found in Cooper's favor, and reinstated its original ruling in January 1991.

Just days after the appellate court's second ruling, executives of Ben Cooper, Inc. announced they were moving the company to Greensboro, North Carolina. The company said at this time that it had 35 permanent employees, and manufactured and supplied more than 4 million costumes in the previous year. It said it controlled 70 to 80 percent of the licensed costume character costume business, and was partnered with companies such as Children's Television Workshop (producers of Sesame Street), DC ComicsMattel, and Walt Disney Studios. It said the reason for the move was to be closer to Southern textile factories and cutting shops, so that it could move away from the environmentally harmful vinyl costumes it had obtained from Asia and toward more acceptable natural fabrics. The company hoped to invest $6 million in building its new Greensboro facility, and said it would apply for a $600,000 Community Development Block Grant to help defray costs and provide jobs to low-income workers in the area.

But on October 30, 1991, Ben Cooper, Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy yet again. The company's chief executive officer said the cause of the second bankruptcy was due to relocation expenses, the early 1990s recession, and delays in obtaining bank loans. The company was not able to survive as an independent firm, however, and was bought by Rubie's Costume Co. in 1992.

With the end of Ben Cooper, Inc. came the end of its legend and prestige. Throughout the rest of the '90s, many of their costumes had been forgotten with very little interest in the collectors market (other than the ones of John, Paul, George, and Ringo; The Beatles). Most of their items were thought of as a novelty, so collectors had no idea that a Spider-man costume from 1963 existed. Sure, the Spider-man costumes from the '70s were famous, semi-valuable and easy to obtain, but who knew that its first incarnation was the very first Marvel collectible ever? Most experts thought Marvel's "Merry Marvel Marching Society" membership kit (famously known as the M.M.M.S.) that was advertised in the comic books in late 1964 and released to the public in 1965 was believed to be the very first retail item for the company. And it was also thought that the Marvel Heroes wind-up train by the Marx Company that was available in 1967 was the "Holy Grail" of vintage Marvel items. But in 2007 it was all proven false with the release of The Guide to Marvel Silver Age Collectibles by J. Ballman. This guide showed collectors that there was a Ben Cooper Spider-man Halloween costume that demanded instant respect and recognition. This costume is easily the earliest and one of the most valuable Marvel products from the Silver Age. It was listed at a value of $5,000 to $10,000 (and much more today as I was offered a lot more than that for mine by a few crazy collectors) and the actual 1963 copyrighted costume is incredibly rare with only a small handful of them known to exist -- Thwippp!!!!

J. Ballmann's Full-Color Guide to Marvel Silver Age Collectibles (2007) showed collectors Marvel's very first (and most obscure) retail piece ever... the 1963 Ben Cooper Spider-man Halloween Costume!

With only a few actual 1963 Spider-man costumes known to exist, this Spider-man item is the most rare and one of the most valuable Marvel collectible to come out of the Silver Age. The historic significance of this costume alone is simply... AMAZING!!!

J. Ballmann's Full-Color Guide to Marvel Silver Age Collectibles 2nd Edition (2014) with more info based on this very blog!


Getting the actual 1963 Spider-man costume is also a mystery in itself. Collector's need to understand a few key elements if they are in the market to invest in this item. The first version of this costume has the 1963 copyright on the box and on the costume.

A look at the 1963 copyright on the side of the box.

The "first-edition" 1963 Spider-man Costume 
It has an all yellow collar with blue dots around the Spider-man name. The 1963 copyright imprint can be seen in the lower right-hand corner near the waist and the costume is made of cotton/rayon fabric. This costume is very difficult to locate and considered the true "Holy Grail" of  Silver Age collectibles.

The 1963 Spider-man costume copyright imprint close up.

The "second-edition" 1964 Spider-man Costume
This has a different variation in design (with the yellow just around the name near the collar and no blue dots) and is without the copyright imprint in the lower right-hand corner. It is also made with the same cotton/rayon fabric that the 1963 costume has. Collectors must be weary of this and the fact that this costume is found in 1963 boxes. Ben Cooper always used, overstock from the previous year to save money.

The "third-edition" 1965 Spider-man Costume
  This costume comes in both variations of the 1963 and 1964 designs, but with a 1965 copyright imprint in the lower right-hand corner. It also came in cotton/rayon, rayon/cotton, rayon/vinyl and all rayon fabrics. Believe it or not, Ben Cooper, Inc. sometimes intentionally didn't put the copyright imprint on late releases of this costume because they were trying to keep costs down on black ink towards the end of the Halloween season (yup, you read that right). It can easily be mistaken for a 1964 costume; the only way you can tell is from the fabric. And early releases of the 1965 costume came in overstock 1963 boxes as well (I'm sure all this will make collecting even more difficult). There was a lot of overstock because the costume didn't sell well in 1963 and 1964. Spidey's popularity really began to grow in 1965 (the reason this costume came in 3 new different box designs) and especially 1966 when the Batman/superhero craze took over the nation. Ben Cooper, Inc. was very inconsistent in packaging costumes, especially late in the season. They were just pumping them out as fast as possible to meet the demand of the retailers. It was not uncommon to find any costume in overstock boxes and sometimes even with different dates. It should be noted that in 1966 the Spider-man costume's design was upgraded with a different look and it basically stayed that way until the 1980s.


*Vintage costume 1954 (hooded version, all variations): 15,000 to 20,000

*Vintage costume 1958 (web-mask version, all variations): 300 to 500

*Costume marked 1963 (first-edition): 3,000 to 5,000 

*Costume with no copyright (second-edition, different design but same fabric as 1963 costume, sold in 1964): 100 to 200

*Costume marked 1965 (third-edition, came in same designs as 1963 and 1964 costumes with a variety of different fabrics, some have no copyright imprint): 50 to 100 

*Box marked 1963 (sold in 1963, 1964 and early 1965): 800 to 1,000

 *1963 box and first-edition costume: 5,000 to 10,000

*1963 box and second-edition costume: 900 to 1,000

*1963 box and third-edition costume: 800 to 1,000

While there are about ten 1963 Spider-man boxes known to exist, 
there have only been four "first-edition" 1963 Spider-man costumes found.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of each costume (from left to right): 1954 Vintage "Spider Man" costume with 1950s box, 1958 Vintage "Spider Man" costume with 1950s box, 1963 "first-edition" Spider-man costume with 1963 box (signed by Stan Lee), 1964 "second-edition" Spider-man costume with 1963 box, and 1965 "third-edition" Spider-man costume (one of many variations with different fabrics) with 1963 box.



Some enthusiastic kid wearing the Ben Cooper Spider-man costume on Halloween in 1963! Thanks to Tellshiar for finding this amazing picture!

The Merry Marvel Marching Society Membership kit came out in early 1965 and was believed to be the first Marvel product ever made... collectors were wrong.

The Marvel Wind-up train from Marx Company from 1967 was considered the "Holy Grail" of all the early Marvel memorabilia items. That was until the Ben Cooper Spider-man costume was discovered to exist.

Who could've ever predicted that this costume would be such a mystery on so many levels? Who really created Spider-man's look? Did Jack Kirby really freelance for Ben Cooper in early 1954? Why would Ben Cooper take the risk and license an unknown character in Spider-man for a costume when there were more popular superheroes at the time? What the hell went down in those meetings between Ben Cooper and Martin Goodman? How many variations of this costume are out there? Why did Ben Cooper, Inc. distribute their costumes so erratically? If I'm a collector, how do I get the actual 1963 box and costume? It's all the stuff of legend! I guess we need Batman or Sherlock Holmes on the case because so much will never truly be answered. Hopefully this blog will shed some light on a few of these lingering questions.

But we do know that the Ben Cooper Spider-man costume will always be remembered as a fixture in Halloween during the '60s throughout the early '90s. You couldn't go a "spooky" night without seeing at least one in the neighborhood. I was honored to wear the costume in 1981 (I was the Hulk in 1979 and 1980 and both split down the middle before I could finish Trick or Treating... UGH). I felt like a superhero ready to take on all the ghosts and ghouls that were roaming the streets on that night. It was always a blast and the reason why I will always love All Hallows Eve every year.

As I got older, I became a major fanboy of the Ben Cooper costumes because I loved the cheap materials and art on the boxes. I also loved all the other stuff they put out because of how ugly they were. Now you might think that I'm putting down Ben Cooper, Inc. products and--you're... well.... right!!! That's why I loved it so much!! I got obsessed, so I collected everything Ben Cooper and then I wanted to know everything Ben Cooper (there really isn't much out there on the man and his company)! So when I discovered about this ever-elusive and obscure Spider-man costume, that just so happened to be Marvel's very first licensed product ever, I went ballistic!! I couldn't believe it!! And I had to have it!! It took me years to find, and years of persuasion to convince a big-time Spider-man collector (I'm still grateful my friend) to sell it to me (for a TON of web-fluid)... and it was well worth it. So this write up is made in honor of the magic of Halloween, super heroes, weird costumes, classic art, cheap materials and to one of the true geniuses that has ever lived, the man who could well be the "original" creator of Spider-man... Ben Cooper! Thanks for the memories big guy!

I'm dressed as the Ben Cooper Spider-man during Halloween 1981 with my brother as Dracula and our cousin as a Ben Cooper Bugs Bunny!

My baby Bryn with the 1963 Ben Cooper Spider-man Halloween Costume... priceless.

Here is my daughter Bryn (rocking a 1964 Ben Cooper Spider-man costume) with Robo collector Dave Keymont. Dave is a proud owner of a 1963 Ben Cooper Spider-man box (not the costume unfortunately). Yup, that's mine in the background... truly an historical moment having two Spider-man costume boxes under the same roof.

 Steve Savino from TOY HUNTER

Jerry "The King" Lawler

My idol and mentor "Rascally" Roy Thomas

Comic historian and writer Mark Waid.

On the Ming and Mike podcast talking Ben Cooper magic.

Mega collector Robert Bruce

My buddy artist Billy Tucci (on left) with Ben Cooper costume designer Frank Romano at Motor City Comic Con in 2017!

Here is Stan Lee's 90th Birthday Bash in 2012, where he signed my Spider-man costume. It was truly an historic moment (jump to 38:53 to see it). I do make the error and tell him that the costume came out when Spider-man #5 was out (hey, I was nervous), but it was a great event so watch it all! THWIPP!!


So who really created Spider-man; Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby or Ben Cooper?

"I did a mess of things. The only book I didn't work on was Spider-man, which Steve Ditko did. But Spider-man was my creation."

-Jack Kirby from Comic Scene #2 (March 1982)

"I created Spider-Man. We decided to give it to Steve Ditko. I drew the first Spider-Man cover. I created the character. I created the costume. I created all those books, but I couldn't draw them all. We decided to give the book to Steve Ditko who was the right man for the job. He did a wonderful job on that."

-Jack Kirby from The Comics Journal #134 (February 1990)


"Spider Man" (Ed Wheelan, Sunday Comics 1934)
"Spider Man" (Otto Binder and Kurt Schaffenberger 1947)

 "Anansi the Spider Man" (West African folklore, Philip M. Sherlock and Marcia Brown 1954)
From left to right: "The Spider Man" (Ger Apeldoorn and Jim Vadeboncoeur [Editor: Stan Lee] 1954), "Spiderman/The Silver Spider/The Fly" (Joe Simon and Jack Kirby 1953), "Spider Man" (Ben Cooper 1954), "The Amazing Spider-Man" (Stan Lee and Steve Ditko 1962)

In the Dennis the Menace episode called "Mr. Wilson's Safe" (first broadcast 10/22/61), Dennis tells Mr. Wilson about his favorite TV star called "Spider-Man" who climbs up walls and hypnotizes crooks. This episode aired almost a full year before Marvel's Amazing Fantasy #15 hit the newsstands.


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COMICBOOK.COM (article 1)

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John Cimino
John Cimino is a Silver and Bronze Age comic, cartoon and memorabilia expert that runs a business called "Saturday Morning Collectibles." He buys, sells, appraises and gives seminars on everything pop culture, so if you got something special, let him know about it. He contributes articles to ALTER EGO, RETRO FAN, BACK ISSUE and THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR from TwoMorrows Publishing, runs the Roy Thomas Appreciation Board on Facebook and has appeared on the AMC reality show Comic Book Men. He also represents some of comicdoms biggest stars and brings them to a Comic Con near you. John likes to think he's the real Captain Marvel, people just don't have the heart to tell him he's just an obsessed fanboy that loves to play superheroes with his daughter Bryn. Contact him at or follow him on Instagram at megostretchhulk.


  1. I asked legendary writer Gerry Conway if he knew about this costume when he was a kid and this is what he told me...

    "Wow, nope. If I had I probably would have begged my mom to buy it!"

    -Gerry Conway

  2. Great response sent to me from legendary writer Roy Thomas...

    "Hi John--

    Thanks! No, earlier Spidey costume I knew about was the one I was given in 1965 after I came to work there, which had presumably been made for the previous year's Macy's Parade but didn't appear therein."

    -Roy Thomas

    1. WOW! Even Roy Thomas didn't know about this costume? That's heavy.

  3. I think I had a cloth suit version from Sears, circa 1968. I think there are pics in the Sears catalogs.

  4. Nice response sent to me by the World's Greatest graphic artist Chip Kidd!!

    "Wow, really interesting John. Quite the strenuous bit of research, congrats."


  5. Ahhh, the classic spiderman costume. It really never gets old, does it? Kids all over the world are still craving for these spiderman costumes, even though they are a bit old already. It's a classic!

  6. Spider man is really most famous character for kids and boys also. So that costumes are really like to getting our costumes party and more festive. You can buying superhero costumes then so many best sites are available in market so you getting easily. You can giving really nice information thanks for sharing it.

  7. A nice response sent to me from Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada...

    "That's fantastic, I didn't know that. I had one of those costumes when I was a kid."



    Suffice it to say, this page has made my day today :D

    Thanks for the article!

  9. Awesome article. Here I had the Marx Marvel train IN the box and sold it through THE BUYER'S GUIDE when I was in college (late 70's). Yeah, sure wish I had hung onto it considering what it sold for then and then seeing it years later in TOY SHOP and toy magazines. It was actually kind of lame and it doesn't torture me too much, but I sure can't keep everything and still have too much 'stuff.'

    Sold all of my Captain Action stuff in the same auction and actually had a couple of folks PHONE me...and that was rare back then. Naturally I wish I had kept my Spidey set (loose). It bugged me how the accessories would 'melt' onto each other on all of the sets and that was one of the reasons I decided to sell them. Spidey and Sgt. Fury were the two scarcest ones I had. Ended up getting a few incomplete outfit sets years later out of nostalgia (Superman & Batman). Aquaman was the first outfit set I got.

  10. Oh,it looks very good,I like the costume,Everyone hope they have a good time in Halloween,but I think you must have a Halloween costume firstly ~~~

  11. I just found this blog and think it's incredible, amazing, and uncanny! I wish I still had all my 1960's and 1970's Marvel and DC superhero toys and costumes! Great blog!!

  12. Thanks for giving this such nice information about spider man halloween costumes. Its look too amazing and very different. You have done amazing work.

  13. Whether you're a kid or an adult, Halloween is a fun time for anyone, at any age, and choosing your costume, whether it's of a scary monster, a funny character or an action hero, is part of what makes the holiday so fun and memorable.

  14. i guess you already know this but this site is just about as cool as it gets thanks for sharing

  15. Awesome site. I remember my Ben Cooper Captain America costume from 1966. I wore my dad's thick red wool socks over my shoes to simulate the boots. By the end of the night those socks were completely shreded. Wish I still had that costume! Thanks for the Stan Lee video.

    1. That's awesome! I love "old-school" Halloween stories.

  16. Fantastic idea! This one will surely catch on, I think spiderman is one of those Halloween costumes that never gets old. It's kind of a classic nowadays, in my opinion. Thank you for the idea, I'll be sure to make one myself for the next Halloween celebration.

  17. It's amazing to see how Spiderman costumes have progressed through the years.

  18. This is totally AMAZING!!! I will continue to read your blog!

  19. This is a great discovery that I had no idea about. And I'm very impressed with the information you have about it. The 1963 Spider-man costume is something that has to be told to everybody! Thank you so much for this information and I'm sure your piece belong in a museum.

    Would you ever sell it? I would offer you a substantial amount for it, especially for the fact it has Stan Lee's signature on it. Please let me know.

    1. Thanks for the shout out, I try my best to do something a little different from everyone else.

      As for buying my Spidey costume? Sorry, all my stuff is going to my daughter. HAH, talk to her in about 20 years...

  20. I never knew about this. Awesome find!

  21. Great article! I had the Ben Cooper Spider-Man costume as a kid circa 1966 but I never knew it went that far back.

    A minor comic book geek correction -- the October date on Amazing Spider-Man #5 was not the actual published date, as Marvel (and other publishers) dated their comics 2-3 months ahead. The actual issue of Spidey on sale in October of 1963 was #8 (with a cover date of Jan 1964).

    1. Thank you for the update.

      Upon further contact with some of my resources, I found out that we are both incorrect. When this costume came out, The Amazing Spider-man #7 was on the newsstands. Ben Cooper would ship their costumes for the Halloween season in mid September and that issue was on sale from September 10th until October 8th.

      Thanks for all the help...

  22. I love finding stuff like this on the internet. Incredible work here John.

  23. I was familiar with the Ben Cooper Spider-man from the 70's and although I always thought there was an older version of this costume, never did I suspect how old? Spider-man wasn't really even know outside of a small group of comic collectors, and yet he got his own costume-and all by accident? That is amazing (no pun intended) if you ask me.

  24. Incredible article, so happy I found this.

  25. The part in the video when you met Stan Lee and had him sign the costume was absolute magic. What great footage!

  26. This stuff never gets old. Being a vintage Marvel collector I never knew about this item. Thanks for the info.

  27. Looking for any awesome, scary, funny or weird makeup ideas but sure these Halloween Mask are great options too. Just in time, I found your blog which is very interesting. Thanks for sharing and I do hope I could pin some nice photos on my Pinterest boards. Good day! :D

  28. I own 1 of the 1963 spiderman costumes in the box also.... Costume and good looking box. Both costume and box have 1963 copyright on them. I always wondered how it got licences so quickly and now i know...great article thanks! Mike (ROMITAMAN) Burkey

  29. They also did a Daredevil based on Wallace Wood's character design.

    1. Yes, that costume came out in 1966 and stuck around until 1968 before disappearing from their superhero costume line up. The Wallace Wood part was on the bodysuit itself (an image from Daredevil #9). The mask was just a recolored mask of Batman. I'm guessing Ben Cooper thought nobody would notice because it was Daredevil after all...

    2. interesting conversation you folks have going here...

  30. The fact that there is so much mystery, speculation and history with this costume makes it a true collectors item. Who would've thought that so much controversy would surround it. The story of this costume being made was hard enough to decipher and now getting it while there are so many variations and obstacles make it a true challenge. I commend anyone who owns this piece. Especially the writer of this article. He got Stan Lee to sign the grail. WOW! That is the stuff that collectors dreams are based on.

  31. When I read the title I thought it was kind of silly and rolled my eyes a bit. But after reading this I was pleasantly surprised. Thanks for the information.

  32. I wonder what Steve Ditko would say about this?

    1. Ask and you shall receive! Amazingly, I sent Mr. Ditko a letter about this and he actually answered. See above and witness the magic, and the dodge... D'oh!

  33. Most impressive detective work--just when you think you have heard all there is about Spider-man's origin. I remember having one of those half mask Spider-man costumes in the early 70s on my first Halloween--and seeing those various Cooper masks every October through the 70s early 80s.

  34. I applied for a job at Ben Cooper and got to see the operation inside the Brooklyn factory. Pretty cool. I interviewed for a position as a sculptor which I think I could have easily done as the sculpting on the masks was pretty simple and kind of vague. The only problem was the commute from New Jersey to Brooklyn. I had to turn it down or I would have spent most of my career on buses and subways.

  35. I sense a little hostility in Ditko and a typical dodge. This tells me a lot.

    I personally think he is guilty of stealing Ben Cooper's idea..

  36. Interesting letter. It seems defensive. To me his response reads as "Yes, but try to prove it."

    Don't get me wrong. I love Ditko's work, but he's an odd duck.

  37. Congrats, that's an incredible get.

    If I can offer a little insight, Ditko's not being defensive or hostile. It's his Objectionist talk coming out. What he's saying is "you presented a costume whose context is all inference". inference has no credibility to Objectivism.

    It's actually part of a larger argument for Ditko, which is who created Spider-Man. Ditko acknowledges Kirby had first crack, drew several pages, then Stan handed Steve the book and he redesigned the character. But, Jack and Joe had created The Fly previously, who was originally called the Silver Spider, which according to Simon was an altered name created because CC Beck didn't like the "Spiderman" mock logo Simon brought him. Kirby apparently had the mock logo and claims to have brought it to Stan at some point.

    Silver Spider/Spiderman was created by Simon for Beck, in 1954. Same year as your Cooper costume.

    So either way, the name "Spiderman" most likely didn't start with Stan as you have two outside sources who were using it nine years earlier.

    The question is how did Cooper acquire its licenses? Where were they located in the 50's? If it was in the same NYC area, then you're talking about a period where Kirby and Simon had founded Mainline on Broadway in '53/'54. Same area as Cooper.

    This is also the same exact time where Simon and Kirby split up, mainly over money. Simon then went to work in advertising, while Jack went total Freelance before heading back to Timely. Both guys would have incentive to pitch Cooper, and you could make the case for either. In Simon's case, it would be an easy transition to solicit ad copy. For Jack, you have art mocks for a quick sell.

    IMO, I think the latter is very possible. Jack pitched Cooper some designs, and since it was a Halloween costume, it becomes a monster spider. Jack then goes to work for Timely, then hooks up with Simon to reboot Silver Spider/Spiderman into The Fiy in '59.

    Jack goes to Atlas and make monsters until the superhero boom. Stan starts asking for ideas, Jack brings up the old Spiderman but draws the newer version, which is identical to The Fly. Stan brings on Ditko and they revert back to the Kirby-Cooper design.

    Also, why didn't Simon go back to the Spiderman name for Radio in '59, but instead opted to lift Silver Spider and swipe The Fly name from the movie released in '58? Then when you look at Kirby's history, he had a distinct pattern of recycling his unused ideas into other properties, such as Fourth World and Eternals.

    It would also explain why Cooper would grab the Spidey license so early and his interest in trademarking "superheroes" while not creating original character designs. Cooper was undercut by Marvel's trademark, so he agreed to retool to fit the new design. When the character and genre exploded, he tried to shore up his property with the superhero trademark, which would make Marvel and DC more amiable in negotiations.

    1. Sounds like a great theory, but it's something we'll never know for sure.

    2. I did some follow up on The Spider, and that seems to explain a lot. The pulp book depiction is very Shadowesque, and seems to be closer to what Kirby was after with Silver Spider/The Fly and his Spidey. But the movie serial costume for The Spider's Web/The Spider Returns - is the source for Cooper and Ditko.

    3. Welll---all Ditko's philosophical speak/thought aside... gag orders are gag orders---and history has already shown that Spider-Man's creators (true or false) have had their claims mired in, if not gag orders, lawyerly advice on "how to phrase things safely".

      We may never know---but someone did a private deal with someone---and the fact is that that Cooper costume is very very similar to Spider-Man's ultimate look.

      Taking that mindset, and after factoring in Ditko's recent response, I've concluded that Cooper's costume played a notable part in Spidey's design...and it'd be hard to convince me otherwise until someone "in the know" proves (or even claims) otherwise.

    4. The note from Ditko is interesting because he describes the clippings without actually denying their importance. Ditko was never shy about his opinions but when he didn't want to commit himself he'd dodge the question. When someone once asked him about some 1960s adult illustrations which looked like they were drawn by him, instead of denying it he just said, "Prove it!"

  38. Wow! That's really cool!

    I also enjoyed seeing the costumes. I don't know almost anything about Cooper costumes or it's history, so your article was really interesting. Great job!

    I do know a wee bit about Ditko and his (well, really Ayn Rand's) philosophies - I don't believe there is any coyness or hidden meaning here. He's not being defensive, he's flatly saying 'Your accusation doesn't have enough proof'.

    There isn't a lot of playful subtlety in Rand-land. Ideas that that aren't practical in a physical-world sense are pointless - to his way of thinking.

    I also agree that there might be some connection to the Cooper costume that Ditko is unaware of. Based on the evidence, and testimony of witnesses, Spider-Man kinda percolated for a few years before Amazing Fantasy #15.

  39. First off, I loved your article. Good stuff. Secondly, I agree about Ditko's letter. He's not being evasive--he's just making a philosophical statement in an unnecessarily difficult way, because he needs to mix with other people more or something. Of course, he'd cooly write that opinion off as ad hominem, when we're all really just trying to understand the cat.

  40. Great article, thanks for sharing your research. I have always loved the kitschy look of these Ben Cooper costumes so this was a great read! On another note, Kirby, Ditko and Lee were churning out characters and stories and art at a crazy pace. I would say that everything they "created" was an amalgamation of a dozen other ideas and influences from who knows where. Nowadays, that would be harder to pull off.

  41. That was a good read.

    Cooper probably thought adding Marvels Spiderman would lead to access of more of their characters.

  42. Ditko dodging the question equals = GUILTY!

  43. There are potentially millions if not billions on the line here, not to mention a lot of face to lose, so the last thing anyone involved is going to tell is the truth. Yes, even Mr Black and White, Mr No Compromise Steve Ditko.

  44. To me, Spider-Man will always be the creation of Stan Lee, drawn by Steve Ditko.
    There can be no doubt it was Stan who came up with the idea of the nerdy teenage hero. Ditko may have designed the costume, but the character's success lies in the CONCEPT. This is evidenced by the fact that Spider-Man got even better once Ditko left and Romita took over. The creation of the character is so much more than just designing the costume. If Spider-Man were all about the costume he'd never have survived the black suit.
    When ASM 252 appeared on the newsstand, I, like everyone else was blown away by the radical change, but ultimately it didn't matter WHAT he was wearing. Spidey was still Spidey.
    In Spider-Man's case...clothes do NOT make the man.

  45. This article really is AMAZING!!!

    Good job John.

  46. Considering sales reports took months to come in, it is pretty surprising that Spider-Man would be licensed so early into his run. Who knows what went on behind the scenes with both companies being located so close together and both being in the "character" business.

  47. I believe Jack was somewhat bitter during the times he commented on being the creator of Spider-Man.

    I feel Jack's overarching point was that he created the body of work that became the Marvel Comics Universe, and while others greatly profited from his work, he was compensated very little - in fact, he was penalized when compared to the other artists / creators
    (eg: getting a small percentage of his OA returned and having to sign a different, more restrictive agreement).

    Combine this with Jack's earlier experience with Martin Goodman, where Goodman reneged on his promise to pay Simon and Kirby royalties on Captain America (with Goodman fudging the numbers on what he did pay them), and Jack felt cheated by this pattern of behavior by Goodman and Marvel - and rightly so.

  48. Hey John,

    I heard that you got to recently meet Steve Ditko in New York ...AND... that you got pictures and film footage of the man. Is this True?????

    If so, you my fine sir, are my hero!!!!!

    1. Yes it is my Anonymous friend. And belive it or not, the picture is with me and Ditko in it. Plus the footage is my experience going to his studio/apartment where he lives.

      I'm going to be blowing up the photo and framing it with the letter he sent me (seen in this blog) for my daughter and for the future. It's really something special.

      As for the footage? Well, we got plans for that down the line. Either way, I respect Mr.Ditko's request to remain anonymous like yourself...

    2. Pretty amazing! But did you reproduce Ditko's address???

    3. Hey Chad, don't know if you know this or not but Ditko's address and phone number are public knowledge! Check the internet or phone book and there it is!

      Want to give him a call? (212) 957-9080

  49. Funny that this costume made it's way into the Spidey-verse. I'm sure this blog had something to do with it. With Stan Lee and Steve Ditko involved it has become a pretty impressive piece of work. I commend you on some great work here John.

  50. This is not a bad blog. It's good, because it has lots of references back to sources. It has a case that Ben Cooper created a form of Spiderman. That's fine. It doesn't have a case that Ben Cooper created the form Steve Ditko created. What the blog does do is it causes a precedence that a Spiderman concept and name existed before 1962, just not the one created by Ditko. If that is significant, then yes, it is an important piece of history. It may just be that other names existed before the created well-known character came to life, too. Who knows if a Batman or a Superman name existed before the Batman or Superman comic creations? How do you quantify the degree to which you can claim proprietary ownership? Does Nietzsche own the Superman comic?

  51. Great post. I do not believe that Ditko, Stan, or even Jack saw this costume, anymore than I think Kirby's Spiderman idea was anything like what Lee and Ditko produced, although, anyone of them could have seen it. More likely that Cooper would have seen the Spider-Man comic, or that the Cooper costume was brought to Goodman's attention, and they got together and made a deal, since no one wants lawsuits. That seems logical to me. I must admit, that there are similarities in the costume, but I wonder if any of the participants would even remember if this was true. Hope this is not a double post.

  52. This article gets me every time I read it. I guess we'll never know the truth for sure and nobody's going to talk.

  53. awesome post...!! thanks for share :)

  54. Nice article. Now the question remains - is Steve Ditko REALLY the creator of Spider-man? Looks like he's not talking.

  55. Hey. I recently ended an eBay auction for one of these Costumes after seeing the New York Post article last week. In my research of the Costume, I saw that this is not only the most comprehensive source of information which you're continually adding to, but that you also included a photo from My Listing as an Example of one of the costume variations. I'm honored. :-) I did get the costume re-listed, after I re-worked it, and below is a link to the auction, if anyone interested happens to see this post before it ends, lol. Thanks!

    ((If the link doesn't work, you can search by Seller for "catastrophe_comics" or by Title for "Spider-man 1950s Ben Cooper" and it will come up.))

  56. Why didn't Ditko deny it? Looks like he sidestepped the question. I hate to say it but I think Ditko is guilty.


    1. Ditko’s note doesn’t sound like a denial to me at all. all it says to me “you can’t prove it” which, actually, often means a person is guilty (or that i watch too much law and order…)

      but anyway, what i get from the note is “you think i stole the design? prove it.” which, obviously, they couldn’t

  57. Interesting to note that the late Pro Wrestler, Brad Armstrong, was saddled with a horrible Spiderman inspired gimmick called “Arachna-Man.” Marvel lawyers came calling and the gimmick was dropped. Interesting in that the Arachna-Man costume looked more like the Ben Cooper one than the Marvel one.

    1. Hulk Hogan had been using the name “Hulk” before he even joined the WWF, and openly took the name from a talk show encounter with TV Hulk actor Lou Ferrigno.

      When he joined the WWF, Vince McMahon had him change his name to “Hogan”, and he was called “The Incredible Hulk Hogan.”

    2. I’m well aware of Hulk Hogan, aka Terry “The Hulk” Boulder, aka Sterling Golden aka Terry Bollea. It was Vince McMahon Sr. who changed it to Hogan, just to be clear. However, the WWWF, as it was known, didn’t have national coverage, like the WWF of the 80s, under Vince McMahon Jr. They had to start acknowledging the Marvel trademark, as they were marketing nationally and couldn’t get away with it anymore. That’s also the era when using actual rock music for entrances gave way to cheaper variations, or specifically produced music. Prior to that, you had guys like the Road Warriors come out to the actual recording of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man;” but, it had to be changed or pay royalties to the artist.

    3. Yup. Road Warrior Animal told me that Black Sabbath wanted 10,000 everytime they came out to the ring with the song "Iron Man." And, of course, they said no and just stopped using it. Such a shame because it did take away a little from their mystique.


  58. The Ben Cooper/Spider-Man thing has always been WAY too circumstantial for me to believe in it. This falls more into the realm of “interesting coincidence” than anything else.

    Ditko is absolutely right that the burden of proof is on the people making the charge. And no, observing a similarity is not evidence. Can you prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Ditko (or Stan Lee) saw the Ben Cooper costume and intentionally copied it? No, you can’t. And moreover, why the hell would they? It’s not like Ditko was unable to design a costume on his own.

    1. I agree, as I believe I have already stated my ideas several posts above. To think that someone "must have", is a assuming a lot.

    2. But you are assuming "must have not" as well so you're no more correct than anyone else.

    3. No, I am not assuming anything. I never said they did not see it, I am just not convinced that they did.


  59. Ditko didn’t take the idea from the costume (at least on any level beyond subconscious). There’s no reason to believe that he did other than a slight similarity being observed between one of the most the popular things to ever exist (Spider-Man) and something else that was created in the span of human history.

    If you find Ditko’s response to Cimino’s letter to be evasive, consider that he has always written in Randian circumlocution. See, for instance, on the same page of Cimino’s site, Ditko writing 1500+ words which can be summarized as “Jack Kirby didn’t co-create Spider-Man. I did.” Yet he avoids making blanket statements to that effect.

    (If I had to guess, this is part of Ditko’s philosophy of people drawing their own rational conclusions from facts, as opposed to taking somebody’s word for it).

    As an aside, it’s pretty fucking sad that in America, acknowledging that someone “has no proof” is regarded as an admission of guilt.

  60. Well, the costume has some similarities and the character is actually called Spider Man. I read another article about it, and apparently Jack Kirby had done some design work in the 50’s for Ben Cooper, so that adds another layer of amazing coincidence to the story.

    As I understand it, Ben Cimino wasn’t accusing Ditko of anything, he was just curious about the situation, so Ditko’s prickly response just throws some people off guard. We comics fans know that’s just Ditko, so a polite response would have seemed odd to us.

    1. Uhhhh, that would be "JOHN" Cimino lol! It was the Newsrama article that messed up my name and called me Ben Cimino in it (mistaking me with Ben Cooper, I think). So me John.

  61. While there are some that discredit the old Ben Cooper Spiderman costume, I ask you all this; if someone were to make that costume today and sell it, do you think that Disney would send them a cease and desist?

    Yeah, I thought so! The people who try to discredit that costume are blind, or are in denial. Probably both.

  62. Yes Disney would, so what is your point? The costume came before they comic book, so Ben Cooper would have asked Marvel to stop making the comic book. No one is discrediting the costume, it did come first, we are just not so quick to say that Marvel copied the costume. I think I wrote before that the film the Evil Dead was obviously inspired by the earlier film Equinox, however, the filmmakers had never seen Equinox, so it is not true, it is just a case of similar inspiration. There is no proof that anyone at Marvel ever saw the costume.

    1. But don't you find it incredibly coincidental that the Ben Cooper yellow Spider-man costume lasted until 1962 and the following year in 1963 Marvel's character (whom no one knew about but a few kids reading the comics) became a costume? Why would Cooper invest in a character that defiantly wasn't a guarantee to sell well for him? History dictates that he was a really good business man so he wouldn't have wasted his time on it. It seems kind of fishy to me and looks to be more than just a minor coincidence. Either way, something went on between Cooper and Goodman that they hashed it out. I'm betting he got the Spidey license for free and a really good deal on the rest of the Marvel characters.

  63. Hi Anonymous, I already covered my ideas on my first post. Again, I don't think the creation of marvel's Spider-Man has anything to do with the costume, as that came from Jack Kirby, and then later redone by Stan and Steve. Whether the costume was copied I do not know, but I believe it was just similar ideas, not copied. I am not sure if Steve, or Stan ever even saw the costume, I do believe that someone at Ben Cooper's saw the comic book, and brought it up the Ben's attention, I believe he went to Marvel and they made a deal, probably involving no money, Ben gambling that his so so sales of a costume would be replaced by a super hero who may become big like Superman. I also believe that nobody wanted to sue, as there is just no enough money in it to be worthwhile.

    1. But you are forgetting that Kirby was rumored to have worked for Cooper in late '53 and early '54 when he split with Simon and their Mainline Comics a few months before he went to DC and then back to Marvel in '61. It is said that he pitched his Silver Spider/spiderman character for a costume to the company which was fresh on his mind since Kirby/Simon created him just a few months earlier in '53. What's funny is that Kirby is on record time and time again stating that he designed the Spiderman costume that Ditko designed. Everyone thought he was crazy for saying that but I think he was eluding to the costume he did for Cooper that looks remarkably similar to Ditko's version. I think Kirby had more to do with Spider-man than many previously thought.

    2. I heard about this as well. While there is no actual proof that Kirby worked for Cooper it is possible. And if this is true, it does put an interesting spin on things doesn't it?

      Oh what a web we weave.

    3. Your facts are almost correct.

      Kirby and Simon created Mainline Publications in late 1953 in which they shared space with Al Harvey and his Harvey Publications at 1860 Broadway. Mainline lasted from late 1953 until 1955 and Kirby/Simon published four titles but the company seemed to be more problems then it was worth. They had money issues right from the get go and soon entered into a court battle against Crestwood publications because they were owed money. Kirby was still doing jobs on the side (this is the time where it is speculated that he went to Ben Cooper, Inc. and pitched the Spider man costume idea which was just another interpretation of the Spider-man/Silver Spider/Fly that he and Simon previously created a year earlier in 1953). Eventually their partnership became strained and he and Simon split. Kirby then freelanced for Timely (which was called Atlas at the time) from 1956 to early 1957, then went to DC and freelanced for them until he went back to Atlas in 1958 (which changed to Marvel in 1961 with the Lee/Kirby creation of the Fantastic Four). These freelance years from 1953 until 1961 were tough for Kirby as he was just sticking his hand into anything he could to provide for his family.

    4. Great information John, as always. It makes sense that Jack had it so tough during those years and it explains why he would freelance to Ben Cooper because comics were at an all time low and he needed to make money any way that he could. People seem to forget that Fredric Wertham's book 'Seduction of the Innocent' came out in 1954 and it single-handily almost killed the entire industry. It wasn't until Jack and Stan created the Fantastic Fouyr in 1961 that comics finally came back into prominence.

  64. Anything is possible, however the Spiderman costume that Kirby did for Marvel from all accounts was a typical Kirby type outfit, and looked nothing like Spidey. In fact, Spidey looks nothing like any Kirby character, that I have seen up to that time. The Halloween costume is designed in a way that it could be made, not necessarily designed to be a great costume.
    Again, anything is possible, and none of were there at the time, the only thing I am quite certain of is that Stan Lee did not come up with the Spiderman idea when he saw a fly walking up the wall.

  65. I used the think that the story of Steve Ditko being influenced by the costume was total BS. But the more I think about it, the more I speculate about it. Ben Cooper's biggest sales were in New York and they ruled the Halloween season at the time so it's very possible that Steve saw it because he always walked everywhere, I'm not even sure he can even drive. If he was in some place like Iowa I would say BS, but it was New York and he had eight years to see it??? The more I think about it the more guilty he becomes to me.

    One thing is for certain is that the grouchy old bastard won't ever say a thing about this.

  66. Steve Ditko is a thief!!

  67. Looks like another endless case of where Kirby got screwed out of his creation. Sure his involvement in Spider-man's design may be a rumor but how many times has this happen to him? Kirby said he created Spider-man's costume! Ditko never denied it! Stan Lee has no idea (as usual)! It never ends.

    Give Kirby his due!!!!!

  68. Nice interview on the Ming and Mike show. Nice to know Kirby wasn't as crazy as everyone thought he was for claiming to make Spider-man's costume. Or was he?????

  69. I have to be honest here. With stories like this, it makes comic books more fascinating. You never know what goes on behind the scenes and what's happening. When it comes to the Spider-man costume, whether it be Kirby, Ditko, Lee, or Cooper I think they all have a place in the history of Spider-man and they all should be recognized as such. Great read and great blog.

  70. This is a great article done with some really good research. I have to commend the writer on a sensational job.

    1. Thank you. This article continues to run its course through comic fandom and open people's eyes on just how crazy the industry was. Glad you enjoyed it.

  71. Ditko apparently did some commercial artwork for the company that designed the costume which means it was even less of an original idea but I said to the fella mentioning this that he ought to contact Reed Tucker who wrote the newspaper piece because if anyone might find THAT paperwork i'll be the newspaper. Lee may well have come up with the idea of a Spider-man character out of the blue or been influenced by something -the pulps, whatever. His memory has never been great which is why when people say he did this or that he always says "if you say so" (I laughed when Roy Thomas interviewed him because Thomas had to answer his own questions!!). But Ditko claimed it was an original costume design and he created it and therefore created Spider-man. I think the designer of the Ben Cooper costume and no one can prove it but it may have been Kirby. What a tangled web!

  72. Very interesting article backed up by facts and rumors. While the back story of the Marvel characters have been rehashed over and over throughout the years, this article brings a fresh approach to Spider-man. Who designed the Wall crawler? I'm not sure we'll ever know but it's stories like this that keep the legend fresh and ongoing. I'm a lover of mysteries and this was the perfect mystery.

  73. I was born in 1952 and I am one of the lucky kids who grew up with Marvel Comics. I was there when Fantastic Four #1 and Amazing Fantasty #15 hit the newsstands. I mailed away for the MMMS kit, the Thing sweatshirt, the six-foot Spider-Man poster, the Official Swingin' Stationery, etc. I was a comic collector before comic-collecting was a thing. (Or at least a thing that I was aware of.)

    I still have a lot of that stuff, but there is something I remember that I don't still have. I have a memory of a Spider-Man artifact that predates the first Marvel Comics. This was sometime between 1958 and 1960. My parents took me to Woolworth's (or maybe it was a Ben Franklin's) and told me to pick out a mask from a large selection displayed on hooks. I chose one that had the word (or words) "Spiderman" incorporated into the design. That was my Halloween costume that year, just the mask. My memory is that the mask was stiff linen cloth and that it was yellow with red and green highlights. It had a spider in the middle of it where the nose should be and I think the spider was red.

    I have always known that this mask pre-dated the first appearance of Spider-Man in the comics and so I have searched for years, on the web and specifically on ebay, for evidence of its existence. You can imagine my excitement when I discovered this site yesterday.

    The mask that I remember was very much like the Ben Cooper 1958-1962 yellow-and-black Spiderman web-mask in shape and design. It's possible that's the mask I remember. But there are some inconsistencies. First, I am positive I did not buy a Ben Cooper boxed costume. I only bought a mask. Did Ben Cooper sell the masks separately? I don't think so. Second, I distinctly remember the colors yellow, red, and possibly green. The Ben Cooper mask is yellow and black. Third, I remember that the mask incorporated the name "Spiderman" into it. It's possible that the word was positioned at the top as in the Ben Cooper 1958-1962 yellow-and-black web-mask, but somehow that is not how I remember it. Rather than set apart at the top, my memory is that the word was incorporated into the web.

    So I am going to suggest that there may have been a knock-off mask sold sometime between 1958-1960 that copied the Ben Cooper design, or else that Ben Cooper sold a separate mask without a costume.

    Thank you so much for this wonderful history. After all these years, my memory of a Spider-Man mask that predates Marvel Comics is validated at last!

    1. Very, very cool story Ted. And I'm so happy to bring these great memories back to you through this article. That's why I do what I do.

      You are one of the few lucky ones that got into the Marvel magic right when the explosion happened with Fantastic Four #1 back in 1961. I'm sure you have some great stories of youth seeing all that Marvel merchandise hot of the press and brand new, something I could only dream about. So cool.

      As for your "Spiderman" 1958-1962 mask? Yes, you had the Ben Cooper one that I wrote about here. Ben Cooper always had single masks of their costumes for sale because the masks would always break or get destroyed, they weren't made of sturdy stuff at all lol. And it's not uncommon for Ben Cooper to put out different colors of those masks as well. That's why the color of the mask from the photos above kinda throw you off. But, yes, you had it and you are a true gem because of it. What a lucky kid you were!

      Looks like you've lived a very interesting life and have seen Marvel from its infancy to what it has become today. That's every Marvel fanboy's dream. I'm totally envious and I totally love it! Keep those dreams alive!!!

      It's been a true honor sir.

  74. John:

    Thank you for that additional information, i.e., that Ben Cooper sold masks separately and that sometimes they put out different colors. That pretty much solves the puzzle of my memory of a pre-Spider-Man "Spiderman" mask that has haunted me for years!

    It sure would be great to see one of those color-variant web-masks in the colors I remember. It would probably trigger a flood of nice old memories. I've saved a lot of stuff from my childhood, but that "Spiderman" mask didn't make it across the intervening years.

    Thanks again!


  75. Oh, and, just to respond to your observation that I've seen Marvel from its infancy to what it has become today. When I was a kid, the Marvel universe was my mythology. I used to dream that Dr. Strange traveled from the parallel Marvel universe and transported me back, where I had adventures with the Fantastic Four, Peter Parker, and all of the Marvel super-heroes. I also used to dream of movie versions of the Marvel stories. I was very disappointed by early attempts to bring the Marvel super-heroes to the screen, including the cartoons and the Spider-Man and Hulk TV shows.

    But now! Special effects has finally caught up with the vision of the great comic book artists. I am happy and thrilled beyond words to live in a time when these myths of my childhood are being portrayed on the big screen (and on TV screens, too; e.g., Daredevil) in a way that captures the spirit of the original comics.

  76. Thanks for this fascinating history!!!

  77. Not only that, but is it a coincidence that Peter Parker's Uncle BEN was killed in the first issue? As in BEN COOPER??
    Also, I distinctly recall Peter Parker being 'accidentally' called Peter COOPER in one of the early issues... classic Freudian slip there.

  78. I wonder too if this is why Ditko never went after the dollars for 'creating' Spider-Man's image?? Because, you know, he didn't?

  79. Hmmmm, I see there’s also a Cooper mask that looks a helluva lot like Ditko’s Green Goblin — 1st mask on the 4th row down in the photo near the top of this blog.

  80. Exceptional post written here. I have to give you major props on all the research put into it.


  81. Reading this again in 2018. Still as intriguing as ever.

  82. Thank you so much for this post as I was completely unaware of the Ben Cooper Inc. controversy. As many have said, if anything it suggest that Ditko's contributions were less original than believed by many. The Cooper Costume design is obviously not as sleek as Ditko's Spider-Man design but the basic elements are the same. I wouldn't be surprised if Ditko unconsciously received inspiration from the design. I would be very surprised if they took the idea outright. But this is all ideal speculation...

  83. I'm very glad you brought this information forward. I've been considering the contemporary concept of intellectual property vis-a-vis evidence like the Cooper spiderman costume. Perhaps that wasn't the writers intent but there it is. The harsh truth is, as Bono once sang, Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief. Artists steal ideas consciously and more often unconsciously. Which is why I wouldn't be surprised if the Cooper spiderman costume DID impact the creation of Lee & Ditko's Spider-man.

    Our contemporary society has begun to carry the burden of intellectual property - who owns and controls information. The answer of who has the rights to an idea has serious financial and social consequences. The case of My Sweet Lord, the song by ex-Beatle George Harrison, is a great example. Bright Tunes Inc. filed suit against Harrison for copyright infringement alleging My Sweet Lord used Ronnie Mack's song He's So Fine. Harrison lost the case. The judge's opinion in the matter is fascinating.

    After reconvening in September 1976, the court found that Harrison had "subconsciously" copied the earlier tune, since he admitted to having been aware of the Chiffons' recording.[101] Judge Richard Owen said in his conclusion to the proceedings:[102]

    Did Harrison deliberately use the music of He's So Fine? I do not believe he did so deliberately. Nevertheless, it is clear that My Sweet Lord is the very same song as He's So Fine with different words, and Harrison had access to He's So Fine. This is, under the law, infringement of copyright, and is no less so even though subconsciously accomplished.

    Now...I know that copyright infringement is different from crediting creation. HMy Sweet Lord has a different purpose as a spiritual elegy to God for one thing. But, if the songs share musical DNA - and even Harrison admitted to seeing the similiarilites after people brought the issue to his attention - who is or are the creators of My Sweet Lord? Richard63 points out how Batman takes many elements from other creations. If Ben Cooper is a co-creator of Spider-Man than a lot of people can take credit for Batman.

  84. This mystery will never be solved.