John Dunbar re-reads AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (AF 15, ASM 1-50)

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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The Green Goblin never impressed me during his initial appearances, as he always seemed outclassed in the intelligence department. I didn't really get a sense of menace from him until ASM #39 that I really started to get a feeling for how much of a threat Norman would end up being.

He really didn't think that Spider-Man could beat the Enforcers? When he was the one who put them away in the first place? Not too smart.

Spider-Man did come up with stuff to fight his enemies, but he shouldn't be this skilled at it already to just whip up a device.

Always liked how quickly Spidey realized fighting the Hulk was not going to be a good battle. When the Avengers asked him to look for him in Amazing Spider-Man Annual#3 he should have told them to chase him themselves.

The Enforcers might have worked in Daredevil. Certainly the poor guy needed some villains that wouldn't embarrass him. I have to say I think getting rid of the Ox soon after that was a mistake. He was the guy they needed to hang onto, not Montana or Fancy Dan.

Why not?

Ronald Morgan said:

Spider-Man did come up with stuff to fight his enemies, but he shouldn't be this skilled at it already to just whip up a device.

As far as the failing spider-sense, when Spidey first met the Green Goblin, there was no immediate threat. The Goblin wasn't going to attack him in New York City but days later in Hollywood. He was stringing Spidey along but at no point was he a direct danger to him. 

It's not as clear cut as the Enforcers go but it's a similar premise. They weren't going to fight Spidey at the studio but in the desert. So Spidey wasn't in danger there either.

Fantastic Four #26 was dated May 1964 and the Hulk was in New York City. AS-M #14 was dated July 1964 and the Hulk is in California, not New Mexico. There's a story there somewhere!

In the 70s he'd come to Canada, leave, then come right back so he could meet Wolverine. However this could be where he started his intelligence drop.

From accounts I've read, although I forget the sources, Stan Lee's initial rough plot had the Green Goblin as an actual goblin, a supernatural creature. Ditko rebelled against that idea more explicitly than he did against the Spidey meets aliens plot in issue 2 (wherein Ditko planted a mask of the aliens, strongly hinting that they weren't aliens at all). Basically, Ditko thought Spider-Man should remain a street level type hero, battling baddies who may have bizarre powers but were still human and not aliens or supernatural beings, which were ok for the FF, the Hulk, Thor, and Dr. Strange, but did not fit with his conception of Spider-Man. Hence, Ditko made it clear that the Green Goblin was a regular human being, albeit one with a penchant for dressing up as a goblin, creating a variety of devices and going around causing trouble. At this point, neither Lee nor Ditko conceived the Goblin as having an identity of anyone who had already been introduced but they apparently concurred on leaving his identity a mystery and although the Goblin would appear in several more stories drawn by Ditko, the Goblin joined the ranks of those few baddies, such as Dr. Doom and Red Skull, whose plans were foiled again and again but were never captured and turned over to the authorities, and the Goblin was about the only one who (in the Silver Age at least) was never shown to have apparently died in some explosion or other catastrophe but show up none the worse for wear within the next year or so. The first Green Goblin story I read was issue #98, the conclusion of the famed drug story. I was 9 at the time, and that issue really captivated me. The Goblin's costume didn't strike me as silly at all, at least not the way it was drawn, allowing a variety of facial features to put the Goblin's mania and emotions on full display. Alas, in the first Spider-Man film, the mask they came up with did not work at all IMO and looked very silly indeed, although otherwise it was a very fine film.

The Goblin might have worked in Dr.Strange.

Philip Portelli said:

Fantastic Four #26 was dated May 1964 and the Hulk was in New York City. AS-M #14 was dated July 1964 and the Hulk is in California, not New Mexico. There's a story there somewhere!

Sorry, Philip. Spidey met him in New Mexico, not California. IIRC, after the dust-up with the FF and Avengers Hulk was leaping his way back to New Mexico. It's slightly confusing because normally they would have all met in New Mexico in the first place if the crazy director knew he was going to film there.

The next day, Peter visits Betty Brant at the Daily Bugle. He's about to tell her about his trip when Jonah interrupts and tells Peter he is sending him to Hollywood to get photos from the movie set. Peter was hoping Jonah would do that, but Betty is upset, saying Peter can't wait to meet starlets. She's actually upset at Peter for walking Liz Allan home from school recently.

Earlier in the issue it was established that Liz appears to have a crush on Peter as she defends him against Flash’s slanders. Even some of the other classmates say she’s right, but they might just be wanting to be on her good side.

Jonah and Betty thinking that Peter (Peter!) is going to be running around with beautiful starlets is a bit of a stretch.

A few days later in Hollywood, Spidey is impressed with Cosmos' make-up people, as he thinks the "actors" really look like the "real" Enforcers.

This is when the spider-sense should have kicked in, if not in his earlier meeting with the Goblin. They all had evil intent toward him. Maybe his spider-sense was still maturing?

Spider-Man watches the Hulk leave the cave. He grabs the Enforcers and turns them over to the authorities.

To his credit, Spidey puts himself in danger to rescue the unconscious Enforcers, fearing the Hulk will kill them.

Spidey and the Goblin disappeared, and the Enforcers got arrested.

It’s hard to figure out why the Enforcers were arrested. It’s not established that they broke out of prison, though between ASM #10 and ASM #14 there were only a few months to us. Was it longer? Peter mentions to Aunt May that he’s a Senior in High School now, presumably seventeen or eighteen. I believe when the spider bit him he was only fifteen.

The Goblin looks a bit silly, when I think he is meant to be scary, but as a super-villain there's nothing silly about him.

My theory was that he intentionally looked silly so that his adversaries would underestimate him. The next time we see him the Goblin has switched out his broomstick for his classic glider.

I would guess it was the final test of how well the Hulk would be received as a solo star again. This appearance was a great showcase for him. He's dangerous but just wants to be left alone.

This is my favorite Hulk version. He can talk and he’s crafty, not the later “Hulk Smash” version.

It hasn't been long since we last saw the Enforcers, and we will see them again before long. This should have been their farewell in my opinion. Although they work together well as a unit, they are not much more than colorful henchmen, and clearly not a match for Spidey.

In hindsight they don’t seem like very good foes for Spidey. I think after the climax of the Master Planner story we all think of Spidey as much more powerful. When ASM #14 was out he was stronger than he looked but not that strong.

Randy Jackson said:

The Green Goblin never impressed me during his initial appearances, as he always seemed outclassed in the intelligence department. I didn't really get a sense of menace from him until ASM #39 that I really started to get a feeling for how much of a threat Norman would end up being.

I agree insofar that I'm trying off the top of my head to remember anything that stood out about the other Goblin stories by Ditko.  I haven't read them recently and nothing is jumping out at me.  It's probably been a few years at least since I last read ASM #39 & 40 as well, but I could give you the plot of the whole thing.  It's memorable and sticks with you, at least in my case.  The fact that John Romita Senior made his debut with that story helps considerably in that regard, but of course Osborn finding out Peter is Spider-Man and the reveal of Osborn as the Goblin make the story a standout.

He really didn't think that Spider-Man could beat the Enforcers? When he was the one who put them away in the first place? Not too smart.

It may have been Stan and Steve's intention to show the Goblin could make a mistake but also quickly learn from it.  Most other villains keep repeating their mistakes and keep going back to jail.

Ditko may have intended for the Enforcers to be cannon fodder or just the Goblin's test of Spidey. Their going to be the Goblin's right-hand men in the underworld takeover may have been something Stan put in the text on his own.

Ronald Morgan said:

Spider-Man did come up with stuff to fight his enemies, but he shouldn't be this skilled at it already to just whip up a device.

As Randy said, why not?  In his first appearance, Peter invented his web-shooters.  Not too long afterward, he invented the spider-tracer.  He's an off the charts genius frankly.

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