We have a wonderful thread, started by Richard Mantle, that examines the Amazing Spider-Man starting with issue #51.  I don't know why it took me so long to realize we don't have a thread that covers Spidey's beginning to the point where Richard starts.

Spider-Man is hands down my favorite Marvel hero and I love the early stuff.  Peter Parker felt like an outsider in high school.  He had girl troubles and money troubles.  I think a lot of us could identify with him when we were teenagers; I know I certainly did.  Those first 50 issues of Amazing, plus the Annuals and Amazing Fantasy 15, are among the cream of the Silver Age.  Outstanding artwork from Steve Ditko and John Romita.  Unforgettable dialogue from Stan Lee.  A fantastic rogues gallery and a wonderful supporting cast.  Just terrific, terrific stuff.

Join me, won't you?

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There may not be another comic that has so many rumors, legends, myths and mystery attached to it than Amazing Fantasy #15.

Looking forward to this.

I most recently re-read this run just about one year ago. Even if I hadn't, it would still be pretty fresh in my mind give the number of times I have read it in the past. This most recent time I read it in "omnibus" format, complete with letter pages, and a whole other layer emerges when read that way. With all due respect to Steve Ditko, I'm a Romita man. As much as I like the Ditko years, I don't think Spider-Man got really good until after he left. I think Stan Lee was coincidentally hitting his stride at that point, too, because Fantastic Four and Thor (to name two) got considerably better around the time Ditko left Spider-Man and Romita came aboard, and the artist (Jack Kirby, natch) did not change.Last year I came to the conclusion that I need not ever re-read the Ditko years of ASM again (at least not for a long, long time to come). I'll be following along this discussion, though.

Hmm. IMO, it's hard to beat Amazing Spider-Man #1-33 for consistency in terms of quality. Sure, there were some clunkers, but there will always be clunkers.

Nothing wrong with Lee/Romita, but it was different, as it should have been. Peter was getting older and more confident, and was making fewer mistakes. But I for one really enjoyed seeing him go from a novice hero to who he eventually became.

Amazing Fantasy 15 (August 1962)

"Spider-Man!"

Writer - Stan Lee / Artist - Steve Ditko / Colors - Stan Goldberg / Letters - Artie Simek

Cover pencilled by Jack Kirby and inked by Steve Ditko

Teenager Peter Parker is described by a fellow classmate as "Midtown High's only professional wall flower".  His Uncle Ben and Aunt May dote on him.  His teachers are fond of him, as he is a brilliant honors student with a bright future.  But his peers are a different story.  Peter is shy and tongue-tied around girls, and laughed at and bullied by the boys.

One day, Peter attends a science exhibit showcasing radiation.  He is happy here in the world of science, forgetting the taunts of the other teens.  Suddenly he is bitten by a spider, which had absorbed a great deal of radiation.  Peter feels strange and goes outside for some air.  He is so wrapped up in his thoughts he doesn't notice a speeding car near him.  The driver honks, and without thinking, Peter jumps several feet above the ground and finds himself clinging to a wall!  He scales the building effortlessly, and figures that the spider biting him gave him spider-like abilities. 

Deciding to test his power further, he sees a wrestling show where there is an open challenge: win $100 if you can stay in the ring at least 3 minutes with Crusher Hogan.  Peter hurries home and changes his clothes.  He also puts on a mask to hide his identity.  He discovers he has great speed, agility, and strength - and Crusher gives up to him after he picks him up and scales up a tall ringpost.

A talent agent approaches him and tells him he can make Peter rich.  Peter accepts, and goes home where he makes a spider costume and also invents webbing and web shooters which he will wear on his wrists.  The agent books him on several TV shows where he shows off his abilities, and "The Spiderman" becomes a sensation.  After one show, he is backstage when he notices a guard chasing a man.  The guard yells for someone to stop the guy, as he is a crook, but Peter, still dressed as Spider-Man, makes no effort to help.  The guard admonishes him but Peter says he only looks out for himself.  Later at home, Ben and May give him a microscope as a gift, and Peter thinks to himself he will always look after them, but the rest of the world can go hang.

Sometime later, Peter comes home after another Spider-Man appearance to find police cars at his home.  He learns that his Uncle Ben was murdered by a burglar, and his Aunt May is with neighbors.  The police tell him the killer is holed up in an old warehouse.  Grief-stricken and raging, Peter goes after him as Spider-Man.  He confronts the burglar and makes short work of him.  Just before he is about to turn him over to the police, he takes a good look at the guy and realizes it was the same man who the guard has implored him to stop days earlier.  He is horrified and now blames himself for his uncle's death.  He now knows that ---

With great power, there must also come -- great responsibility!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

My rating: 10/10

One of my all time favorite stories in comics.  An absolute classic that stands the test of time more than 50 years later.

AF #15 has been reprinted innumerable times over the years, and I always judge the reprint by whether or not the editor chooses to white out Spider-Man’s pupil’s in the panel in which he recognizes Uncle Ben’s killer as the thief he failed to stop.

The original art now resides in the Library of Congress, donated by an anonymous donor. I wonder if it would be possible for IDW to access it for one of their Artist’s Editions. That’s one I’d really like to see.

Further thoughts - 

- As I said in the opening post, I think a lot of people could identify with Peter Parker.  Not just us comic book readers, I think feeling like an outsider happens to most people in high school for one reason or another.  Everyone wants to be smooth with the girls or guys they want to spend time with.  Lots of us wanted (and still want) to have the money to buy the things we thought we wanted and needed.  A lot of us, especially in adolescence, felt that we were the only one who felt "this way".  I think that's why Spidey became so popular among comic readers and also why generally his movies (starring Tobey Maguire) were such big hits.

- By contrast, I think very few teenagers could identify with Johnny Storm, which is why he never became as popular as Marvel wanted him to be in the Silver Age.

- In some ways this almost feels like the monster books which dominated Marvel in the years just prior to FF #1.  Peter doesn't transform into a monster, although he easily could have.  Some of the things he can do are a bit weird and creepy, as is his costume somewhat.  Spiders aren't exactly huggable after all.  Martin Goodman reportedly disliked the character and was reluctant to give him his own magazine, supposedly because he thought everyone hated spiders.  I wonder if anyone ever pointed out to him that bats aren't everyone's favorite either.

 - The mask Peter wears when he challenges Crusher Hogan looks a lot like webbing, but this sequence happens before he invents it.  I wonder if that's a mistake or if the mask is supposed to be nylons or something similar.

- How crazy is it that Peter invents the webbing and the shooters at age 15-16-17-however old he is?

- Spider-Man is hyphenated in the title of the story but otherwise it's "Spiderman" or "The Spiderman", even in the message to the readers from the editor.  I don't think he was ever called "The Spiderman" again.

- The guard giving Spiderman a hard time for not doing something to stop the crook feels very much of its time.  Today people are warned repeatedly by the police not to approach criminals who are wanted, and as someone with a retail management background, I know it's been drilled into everyone's head not to play hero with thieves and robbers.

- As all of you probably know, the burglar goes unnamed.  We don't see him again after this story until Marv Wolfman brings him back in the late 70s, and he ends up dying in Amazing Spider-Man #200.  I like that Marvel never did identify him, or worse, give him some kind of connection to the Parker family.

You mean no one ever wrote the epic tale revealing how the Burglar was actually Aunt May's long-lost illegitimate son by a bootlegger she dated back when she was a flapper?  How could they miss that opportunity?

The sad thing is that someone from Marvel might read this and run with it--if so, I apologize in advance.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

AF #15 has been reprinted innumerable times over the years, and I always judge the reprint by whether or not the editor chooses to white out Spider-Man’s pupil’s in the panel in which he recognizes Uncle Ben’s killer as the thief he failed to stop.

My copy of Marvel Masterworks #1, fourth printing, later reissued as Amazing Spider-Man Masterworks #1, had the pupils in his eyes removed. I also have the Amazing Fantasy Omnibus, first printing, which has the pupils restored. I no longer have my (ratty) copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 but the 40 Years of the Amazing Spider-Man CD-ROM collection was shot from the actual comics and, of course, has the pupils. I guess we should be glad the reprints haven't removed his underarm webbing.

John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

- By contrast, I think very few teenagers could identify with Johnny Storm, which is why he never became as popular as Marvel wanted him to be in the Silver Age.

Johnny Storm was presented as "Flash Thompson Lite, " who had superpowers, girls and apparently anything he wanted. I was also supposed to identify with Superboy, who could do his homework in seconds and who they actually showed putting on his pants two legs at a time.

- In some ways this almost feels like the monster books which dominated Marvel in the years just prior to FF #1. Peter doesn't transform into a monster, although he easily could have. Some of the things he can do are a bit weird and creepy, as is his costume somewhat. Spiders aren't exactly huggable after all. Martin Goodman reportedly disliked the character and was reluctant to give him his own magazine, supposedly because he thought everyone hated spiders. I wonder if anyone ever pointed out to him that bats aren't everyone's favorite either.

Marvel's initial baby steps into superheroes owe a lot to their monster books. FF #1 had two monsters on the cover, four if you count a man of fire and a rubber man. Hulk was definitely a monster comic. Spider-Man was very "halloweeny" especially before he went to bright red and bright blue. There is speculation that Marvel was afraid of a bad reaction to its reentry into the superhero market from DC, who distributed Marvel's comics at the time.

- The mask Peter wears when he challenges Crusher Hogan looks a lot like webbing, but this sequence happens before he invents it. I wonder if that's a mistake or if the mask is supposed to be nylons or something similar.

It has a knot tied in the back, so I think it's some kind of netting.

- The guard giving Spiderman a hard time for not doing something to stop the crook feels very much of its time.

He even threatens to arrest Spidey for NOT stopping the thief. I also note that the guard and later the policeman who informs Peter of Uncle Ben's death are both quite up in years. I wonder why?

Spidey's earlier halloweeny colors

Richard Willis said:

John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

- The guard giving Spiderman a hard time for not doing something to stop the crook feels very much of its time.

He even threatens to arrest Spidey for NOT stopping the thief. I also note that the guard and later the policeman who informs Peter of Uncle Ben's death are both quite up in years. I wonder why?


The guard could have been a retired policeman; the policeman probably in his 50s or so.  Ditko's depiction of Aunt May gave you the impression she may have been in her 70s or even 80s as she looked quite elderly.  Romita made her look somewhat younger, I would guess in her 60s or so.

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