AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. “Once More With…”
There are some interesting threads on this forum, already, covering issues of Marvel’s early series – ‘re-reading’’ of the Avengers and Journey into Mystery/Thor and so on and there was quite a good issue by issue thread on the Invaders around too, until it caught up with the present.
What is more rarely discussed are the later periods when these series were in full flow and while perhaps less iconic still number among them some classics… The examination of the Avengers from #101 onwards gets a credit here.
I therefore present to you an issue by issue critique/discussion forum for one of these mainstay Marvel titles.
Not beginning at the very debut – as others have that covered well – but (and I hope I don’t step on anyone’s creative toes here!) – I would like to pick up the Amazing Spider-Man title after a watershed/bookend issue provided an opportune point at which to begin …
Issue #50 featured that classic moment in Peter Parker’s life when he first thought he couldn’t go on and yet eventually realised he just couldn’t possibly give up being Spidey.
“Spider-Man No More!” draws breath for the title before it races on into it’s next phase – less discussed than the Ditko issues and the early Romita ‘End of the Green Goblin’ stuff the next issue builds on those early foundations and catapults our hero and the title to the second half of it’s first century of publishing and its next phase of greatness…
So, after “Spider-Man No-More!”
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN . “Once More With…”
…”With feeling…!”
Or…
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN . “Once More With…”
…”With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility…!”
Or…
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN . “Once More With…”
…”With in-depth discussion and critique…..
Or…
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN . “Once More With…”
…”With #51 (08/67)…..

Come back soon……

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Captain Comics said:

That Sgt. Fury with the all yellow-and-orange cover was the one I was (re-) reading when I heard the news that MLK had been assassinated. I was home sick, re-reading all my Sgt. Furys, with the TV on.

On April 4, 1968, I heard about his assassination on the TV news. The next day, Friday, was my last day of work in Los Angeles before reporting for induction into the Army. When I was traveling to my first permanent Army assignment on a bus leaving the airport I remember being struck by the sight of burned-out storefronts in Baltimore. I returned to my job after separation and retired from it thirty years later.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN  #56 (01/68)

Writer – Stan Lee – Co-Plot-John Romita – Penciller

Inker – Mike  Esposito

Cover Art – John Romita

“DISASTER!”

(That title just had to be in full capitals didn’t it?)

Another perfect cover, beautifully positioned figures, glorious background – I love that the ‘Super-Hero Turns Bad’ headline is circled by Ock’s arm drawing your attention to it.

Yes, you can actually read the newspaper story if you look close enough!

Glorious.

I even credit the black background of the masthead figure – depicting Spidey’s despair perhaps?

Inside and the story is just as amazing as the last few chapters. Our hero is working alongside /for our hated villain due to his helpless state of amnesia and Ock’s devious lies!

We learn that although Ock has the nullifier, it’s a bit faulty and prone to overheating but he’s confident he can solve the glitch and soon works out he needs “a small quantity of isotope 16…” and a further heist is planned.

The good in Spidey is struggling to accept that he’s the partner of such a despicable criminal mastermind as Ock and very nearly removes his mask! “I thought …without his memory…he’d be easy to control! But …I was wrong!” – and therein lies the whole gist of the story.

Thankfully and quite refreshingly Ock remarks “Why should I care whether he removes his mask or not?” – which I really like. We the reader desperately don’t want Peter to reveal his secret identity because …well…because it’s secret but really, why would Ock give a darn – at this point he doesn’t know and has no reason to suspect there is any link between Parker and Spidey other than Bugle photos . – What makes this all a tad more interesting is the more recent layer of the ‘Superior Spider-Man’ plotline adds to this encounter – we know that one day it’ll be Ock behind the face behind the mask..!

Anyway, Ock calms Spidey down and they begin their heist.

We get the now-usual subplots of the supporting cast discussing the mystery of the missing Peter which even by then were becoming a tad repetitive.

What is really interesting here is the very first appearance of Gwen’s father the ‘out-of-retirement’ Police Captain George Stacey – a wonderful and important supporting cast member whose influence far exceeds his (3 year?) actual length of appearances in these comics.

Stacey’s appearance also highlights the final end to the softening of Gwen herself and as a ‘girlfriend/soulmate to Peter. Artistically Romita has removed all the sharp lines from Gwen’s face and the sassy posture has been completely replaced by demur sweetness.  The cementing of her position in Peter’s life and cast is completed here by George Stacey  reassuring Gwen that he thinks Peter will be fine but he’ll check records and Gwen thanking him…”Thanks Dad! It would make his aunt feel better!” – Capt Stacey’s pretty tuned in though as he asks…”Only his aunt, Gwen?” alongside a clearly worried Gwen.

I think this sequence was a watershed, the MJ-or-Gwen question was answered from here on in.

Amnesiac but tortured Spidey attacks the new military base to steal a canister of the special ingredient for Ock but significantly drops a map, which contains the location of Ock’s lair and we learn he thinks he probably dropped it subconsciously deliberately …the good in him is seeping through you see?

Once Spidey returns to Ock and he realises his game may be up there’s another battle royal between them and it is another powerfully dynamic battle indeed.

This was before the tendency to play Doc Ock as a comedy villain and show him to be overweight, he’s not exactly ‘buff’ but he holds his own in a physical fight very well and it’s good to see.

John Jameson’s covert Ops team surrounds Ock and his henchmen and even turns the nullifier on Ock’s arms in a clever use of the mcguffin. Ock turns to his ‘partner’ Spider-man and demands he battle on his behalf but even though he can’t remember why, Spidey allows Ock to be arrested and declares “I’m…no partner…of his..!”

In return for that help Jameson allows Spidey to leave without also being arrested, leaving our hero on the run from the authorities and still…remarkable…without his memory!

I really expected the memory thing to be wrapped up on the last page as Ock is captured.

The fact that Peter still cannot remember his life and is …”Someone with no yesterdays…and…with no tomorrow!” is an incredible hook to end on.

This was indeed a ‘disaster’ to my young self when I first read this adventure – but what is truly remarkable is it really does retain its power, pathos and heart even now.

Stan Lee is played for laughs these days, especially by Stan Lee himself but boy he wrote a darn good tale in his day!

 

Come back…

 

 

This was the only chapter of this story I ever had, so I had no idea what was going on, or how he would get out of it.

Perhaps that's why it was Otto not some other bad guy that took over Peter's body in Superior Spider-Man. Trying to get the #1 villain spot back from Norman.
 
Randy Jackson said:

I will argue quite strenuously that there never was a switch, and any perceived shift began when Norman "got better".

--Randy Jackson, President of the "Norman Osborn stinks like a big ol' Goober-Head Society".



Richard Willis said:


I think it's been pointed out before that Ock was generally considered Spidey's greatest enemy at that time. The switch occurred when Norman killed Gwen.

Thankfully and quite refreshingly Ock remarks “Why should I care whether he removes his mask or not?” – which I really like.

Ock puts his foot in his mouth by ordering Spidey to take off his mask, saying "I want to see who you are." Spidey starts to take it off but realizes that if they are really partners Ock should already know who he is*. This combined with his spider-sense raises Peter's suspicions. Only after this and a brief physical skirmish does Ock decide to drop the matter.

* IIRC, I think they had the Green Goblin in the first Spider-Man movie try to tell him they were partners. Not sure. I haven't seen this in a while.

In return for that help Jameson allows Spidey to leave without also being arrested...

Actually, Colonel Jameson tells him he has to go with him and that he can't let him go. When Spidey leaves anyway Jameson tells the guard to hold his fire and that he'll take the responsibility.

Captain Stacy dies in #90, so he's actually around a bit less than three years. It seemed like he was there a lot longer than that.

I see this discussion has moved on during the weeks I was more or less incommunicado. No matter. All caught up now. Ah, the Doctor Octopus/amnesia storyline! A favorite of mine, but one I had to wait until the 1980s to read in its entirety… cobbled together from original issues, Marvel Tales and, ultimately, Spider-Man Digest. The only original issue of this storyline I had managed to acquire by the time I was in high school was #56. I had another chapter or two reprinted in Marvel Tales. I rejoiced when Marvel Tales began reprinting Spidey from the beginning with #137, but it got only as far as issue #50 before the editorial direction changed and I acquired the missing chapters in digest format. I read quite a few early Marvels initially as reprints in dedicated reprint titles or in annuals or treasury editions or Pocket Books or Stan Lee’s “Origins of Marvel Comics” series or… well, you get the idea. Now, if I don’t have the originals, I’ve got ‘em all in convenient and permanent MMW hardcovers.

Those all red covers (discussed a few weeks back) represent some old style coloring. Red is the color of conflict, of impact, and of downward motion (especially when set against a blue background). You don’t see too many all red panels or figures in comics today, but if you read the Sunday funnies, you’ll notice it used frequently by Charles Schulz in “Classic Peanuts” reprints from the ‘60s.

Still haven't gotten the whole story. Wasn't able to pick up Marvel Masterworks or Essentials until fairly recently, and the Spider-Man issues are hard to find now.

It was also used frequently in pre-Code and early Code horror stories.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN  #57 (02/68)

Writer – Stan Lee – Co-Plot-John Romita – Penciller - & Don Heck

Inker – Mike  Esposito

Cover Art – John Romita

“The Coming of Ka-Zar!”

Well, it’s a dynamic cover but doesn’t having the title character with his back completely to the reader break some design rule (if I remember my Superman Vs Spider-Man Treasury correctly?). We’re obviously not supposed to ask how Zabu got up a skyscraper and doesn’t Ka-Zar look a bit too manic for a good guy?

It’s okay but it really isn’t a very memorable cover is it?

Inside and we are reminded that Doc Ock may have been defeated but Spidey remains amnesiac and with him having to steal a sandwich to survive we feel his despair.

I loved the way that he took one sandwich because he was so hungry but anymore would have been pushing his luck – mainly incase he got caught but you got the feeling he would have felt too guilty .

Unbeknown to Spidey, his aunt May is fretting so much about the still missing Peter that she collapses and yet again needs medical assistance. This is getting tiresome already!

Also following on from the previous story we see Colonel John Jameson be debriefed about the end of the nullifier caper but also how or why he allowed Spider-Man to escape.

This also teaches us more about the ex-Police Chief Captain George Stacy who explains, “I’ve made a study of Spider-Man’s record, General” and “The more I learn…the more he mystifies me!”

John’s dad Jonah reminds everyone he doesn’t feel the need for facts to get in the way of his prejudice “Who needs proof??” but also  adds that he knows someone who’ll be able to defeat our hero once and for all…

We therefore meet Ka-Zar, and his trusty saber-toothed tiger Zabu – arriving from his jungle home for a visit.

Initially immaculately dressed as soon as Ka-Zar reaches his hotel room he strips to the waist  “At last I can move…I can breathe…I can be…Ka-Zar!”

JJJ weasels his way into Ka-Zar’s room and sets him against Spidey.

There is a nod from Ka-Zar to his appearances in Daredevil previously, wishing DD was around to advise him.

Adding to the mystery of Peter Parker’s disappearance Harry Osborn, his roommate searches his room and shock horror discovers a Spider-tracer!

In a wonderful example of Marvel-logic, Harry doesn’t determine that his roommate really if the Web-slinger but jumps to the conclusion – “He Captured Pete!!” This adds to the public perception that Spider-Man is a villain and piles on the anguish! Beautiful writing!

Spidey confronts John Jameson and George Stacy and openly declares to them  “I’ve lost my Memory!” only to have an emotional Gwen attack him on behalf of the lost Peter.

Spidey leaves, Ka-Zar follows, tracking our hero through the urban jungle.

Spidey actually approaches JJJ and appeals to him for help.

JJ gets very close to fooling Spidey into removing his mask  - despite the loud yelling at the page by every reader! (Not just me surely!)

The unmasking however is interrupted by the arrival of Jameson’s stooge Ka-Zar and a battle royal is entered into across the rooftops by our misguided pair – oh and Zabu of course.

In fact it is Zabu who deals the final blow, defending Ka-Zar and knocking Spidey into a river.

Ka-Zar soon notices that our hero has not emerged from the water and dives in…only to carry out an unmoving Spider-Man and declares…”The battle has ended…FOREVER!”

It is a truly chilling final panel and the blurb “You Must BE Here Next Issue!” in red only adds to the power of the cliffhanger!

Ka-Zar is treated really well here and was a quality silver Age character but he’s never really been well written since. His own series have been good over the years but never very long-lived or vital and always suffer from lack of ideas – didn’t Mark Waid have him fighting Thanos or something?

The art – an apparent collaboration between regular series artist and Don Heck who was called in to help out is very good and the layouts are clearly Romita’s but the faces and details seem more Heck's.

The regal bearing of Ka-Zar goes a long way to creating the powerful aura and effect of his guest spot here and credit to both artists for him not coming over like Thor without armour.

I remember being impressed by Ka-Zar (I believe this may have been my first exposure to him) and touched by Peter’s plight with the memory and the sandwich but it was the final downbeat cliffhanger that I will always remember this issue for the most.

Where is this series going to go from here…?

Come Back…

In the book How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, Stan showed different rejected versions of a comic where Spider-Man fought Nova. He said one was rejected because "even though Spidey's just a guess we want to show more than the back of his head." So Stan is breaking his own rule here.

Richard Mantle said:

Well, it’s a dynamic cover but doesn’t having the title character with his back completely to the reader break some design rule (if I remember my Superman Vs Spider-Man Treasury correctly?).

I think it's easier to get away with when he's facing the reader in the corner box.

This also teaches us more about the ex-Police Chief Captain George Stacy who explains, “I’ve made a study of Spider-Man’s record, General” and “The more I learn…the more he mystifies me!”

He was a captain of police, not the police chief.

Adding to the mystery of Peter Parker’s disappearance Harry Osborn, his roommate searches his room and shock horror discovers a Spider-tracer!
In a wonderful example of Marvel-logic, Harry doesn’t determine that his roommate really if the Web-slinger but jumps to the conclusion – “He Captured Pete!!” This adds to the public perception that Spider-Man is a villain and piles on the anguish! Beautiful writing!

It does make more sense that Harry wouldn't immediately go to Peter being Spidey. It also validates an earlier comment of mine that it make no sense for the tracers (which by definition are clandestine) to be shaped like spiders.

Spidey confronts John Jameson and George Stacy and openly declares to them “I’ve lost my Memory!” only to have an emotional Gwen attack him on behalf of the lost Peter.

I really liked Gwen's reaction. I might be wrong but this may be her first unguarded expression of feelings for Peter.

JJ gets very close to fooling Spidey into removing his mask - despite the loud yelling at the page by every reader! (Not just me surely!)

His almost being tricked into removing his mask follows Doc Ock's similar attempt a little too closely, but JJJ did approach it more elegantly.

Ka-Zar soon notices that our hero has not emerged from the water and dives in…only to carry out an unmoving Spider-Man and declares…”The battle has ended…FOREVER!”

Did they really think any of the readers thought Spidey was dead?

It was the 1960s. At the time some readers might have believed Spider-Man might get killed. They didn't watch characters die and come back multiple times like we have. There was a DC character that apologized to someone once because he didn't go to see them either of the last two times they got killed.
Seemed like every time he used the tracers somebody would find them, sometimes telling the bad guy he was on their trail when until then they didn't even know he was onto them. Why didn't he just stamp "If found, please return this tracer to your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man" on them? But whatever shape he used, if they were all the same, word would get out he was making them. Now the Wasp, she'd probaby have tracers all different shapes, sizes, and colors.

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