I've been thinking for a while of doing some reviews of pre-Silver Age features, covering their whole runs or periods within their runs. "Pre-Silver Age Reviews" reviews would be a clumsy title for a thread, so I've titled it "Golden Age Reviews" instead, although I'll be including features from the 50s.

 

I've done a couple of reviews along these lines previously in the "What Comic Books Have You Read Today?" thread, so I'll start by reposting those.

15/05/15 I've changed the title to "Golden Age and Transition Era Feature Reviews", as I've started another thread, here, for issue reviews.

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Stan has said he gave his brother the first Iron Man story because he was too busy to write it so it's likely the same thing happened with the first Thor.

I have a theory the Amazing Fantasy #15 story and the John Jameson part of Amazing Spider-Man #1 were created together (I argued my case here), and he did Two Gun Kid himself, which launched two months after "Thor". So I think he did the issues dedicated to a particular feature himself and handed the part-issue features to others, initially Lieber.

I write "issues dedicated to a particular feature" rather than "book-length features" because Two Gun Kid initially carried two or three "Two Gun Kid" stories and a filler story, and continued to carry the filler stories when it switched to doing long lead stories.

Possibly he did Two Gun Kid himself because he had high hopes for it, but I doubt that can be true because the concept of a masked Western hero wasn't new at all and there had been many who maintained secret identities. Possibly he thought Westerns easy to write or just liked them.

Read somewhere that when it was cancelled in 1961, the last issue of Two Gun Kid sold very well, so Stan was told to get it back on the market as soon as possible (which of course at the time meant cancelling something else.) TV westerns like Gunsmoke and Bonanza were popular at the time. Nobody expected the Western to go out of style in a few years because advertisers realized there was more money in catering to city people. Superhero ideas started turning up in the cowboy series, like Hurricane and Iron Mask, so sales were probably disappointing. The Jameson story always seemed kind of old fashioned to me, not something Marvel would come up with in 1963, so I can see it as being meant for Amazing Fantasy#16.

Continuing the origin after the death of Uncle Ben with the Jamesons would have been somewhat anticlimatic. Unless it was completely rewritten and scenes like the landlord demanding money were added in later. That is, he saved John and got blasted by JJ right after his origin, and let the burglar go because the Daily Bugle article had gotten him fired from the tv studio. Then, instead of just seeming to be a jerk, he didn't stop him because he was angry that trying to be a hero had blown up in his face.

I just noticed another link between the origin and the Jameson story; Spider-Man's name isn't hyphenated in the two except in the logos (and when the two parts of the name are split between text lines). It's hyphenated throughout the Chameleon story. But that fits with Jameson story's being intended for Amazing Fantasy #16, as you suggest, as well as my theory.

The unhyphenated name appears in the flashback sequence from the Jameson story p.2. That tells against my suggestion it was an addition, which my theory requires. (There's also a logical flow to the page - Peter starts off undressed, puts his glasses on panel 2, and comes down the stairs panel 4.) The below-the-credits part of the Amazing Spider-Man #1 splash is about the same size as the origin story's splash image, so its size need not be evidence there was originally a lower tier, and the openings of the sub-chapters of the first two stories are part of the chapters, unlike the splashes. The issue gap between the stories also makes the non-depiction of Uncle Ben's funeral more natural.

On the other hand, I'm not sure the anticlimax objection is fatal, as the origin parts of both Fantastic Four #1 and Incredible Hulk #1 end part-way through and it may have seemed right to Lee and Ditko that the ur-issue should climax with Spider-Man doing something heroic. But against me, Peter mentions Ant-Man at the bottom of Amazing Spider-Man #1 p.5, which tells against the story being prepared much earlier than Ant-Man's debut, as I supposed.

I also just noticed that when JJJ complains about Spidey's vigilantism on Amazing Spider-Man #1 p.5 he's complaining about his capture of the burglar. His photo is a variation on the Amazing Fantasy #15 story p.11 panel 3; you can even see the webbed hand. That's another link between the stories but supports your suggestion over mine, since the creators would be less likely to repeat an image in the same issue than in the next one.

I should note that I have the stories in the first Pocket Book collection and there could be differences between the stories' different appearances.

Reading the Linda Brown story in Marvel Tales, the last panel has no word balloons, while the original verson did. Berni Wrightson's Gargoyle Every Night also had two word baloons missing from the last panel. A lot easier to change or remove dialogue than make changes to the artwork.

Here's another point that weighs against me: the theory that a story was prepared for Amazing Fantasy #16 is reconcilable with Lee's statements that he put "Spider-Man" into Amazing Fantasy #15 because the title was about to be cancelled, because it may have been cancelled more quickly than he expected. He may have thought he'd have a two or three issue window.

We posted at the same time. Linda Brown? I don't know that one.

A mermaid in a story in Strange Tales#97 that lived with an old couple she called Aunt May and Uncle Ben. It was drawn by Steve Ditko. The Marvel Age#83 reprint started with a caption mentioning their names and asking "Are these the Parkers? Only Stan and Steve know and they're not telling!" It came out three months before Amazing Fantasy#15. Uncle Ben looks all wrong but Aunt May looks like May Parker.

The Terrible Tinkerer also strikes me as an older story. Amazing Fantasy#17 perhaps?

I don't think so. The similarity between the origin and the John Jameson stories is deep. They both emphasise Peter's suffering and end on downbeat notes. The Tinkerer story lacks the downbeat(1) and Peter's angst elements, and it doesn't build on the end of the Jameson story, which has Peter wanted by the FBI. Spider-Man's name is also hyphenated in it. I'd compare the Dr Strange alien invasion story, which appeared even later, in Strange Tales #118.

The origin and Jameson stories also lack fantastic elements other than Spider-Man himself. The approach of the Chameleon, Vulture and Tinkerer ones is arguably different; in them, Spider-Man has to contend with fantastic villains or menaces.

I've not given up on my ur-issue theory being correct. I think I have to drop the idea that the issue was constructed as a continuous story divided into parts like Fantastic Four #1 and Incredible Hulk #1 in favour of its having two separate stories like Incredible Hulk #4 and #5. p.2 of the Jameson story could be wholly an addition and the first panel of p.3 the original start of the tale. (It's a believable story start, but the last panel of p.2 does lead into it nicely.) The story lengths provide some support as they're not the same. (The origin has 11 pages and the Jameson story 14.) But the spelling of Spider-Man's name in the flashback is against me and the division of the stories into chapters might be too. (I don't know if Lee ever divided an issue into two stories and then divided those stories into chapters. I don't have the stories from those two Hulk issues.)

Thanks for the Linda Brown info. Aunt May is plumper than later in the origin and in the bit in the Jameson story where she pawns her jewels but she looks scrawny on that story's last page and on the flashback page. On p.3 she looks scrawny in profile but plumper full-face.

(1) Things do go a bit wrong for Peter: when he escapes the fire he's seen leaving and someone suggests he caused it. But this doesn't cause trouble for him.

Luke Blanchard said:

Larry Lieber scripted the story from Lee's plot. He's said he always worked with Kirby full script. It could be that Lee talked the character over with Kirby and incorporated his ideas into the plot, or that Kirby changed things when he drew the story. (I think he likely pencilled the dialogue on the pages when working from a full script.) The Stone Men resemble the living Easter Island statues that Kirby had done several times, most recently in Tales of Suspense #28, around five months earlier, and before that in Tales to Astonish #16 in 1960, where the lead monster was called Thorr. But the idea of using them as villains could have come from Lee or Lieber, as Lee probably plotted or coplotted those stories and edited them, and Lieber may have scripted them.

I think this early on working full-script was the standard for all companies. Kirby and Ditko probably had a lot of input but not on everything. Stan and Jack presumably worked more closely on the early Fantastic Four. Ditko was given control of Amazing Adult Fantasy, plotting with Lee apparently scripting the dialogue. This Amazing Adult Fantasy arrangement apparently extended into the Spider-Man feature. A formal "Marvel Method" came along when Stan couldn't handle the workload.

The stories Kirby did for DC in the 50s read so much like Kirby stories I suspect he did some rewriting. I figure when the artists were expected to write the dialogue on the pages they could do that if the editors would let them get away with it. Some wouldn't. John Romita told a story about making minor changes to romance stories and getting yelled at when asked Robert Kanigher if it was OK in this interview.

The first issue of Fantastic Four was apparently written using the Marvel method. Part of the plot survives and can be seen here. (Forgive me if I've made this point in conversation with you before.) I notice it came out the same month as the first Amazing Adult Fantasy. Roy Thomas asked Lee if he used the Marvel method earlier on the monster comics in this interview but he couldn't remember. (He says he thought it started with Fantastic Four but Thomas's suggestion could be right.)

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