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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I think the Spider-Sense has always been played fast and loose with in terms of what it's actual capabilities were, and it certainly wasn't unusual in Marvel's early days to tinker with character's abilities.

In the early 1960's, was it that unusual for a business to still use cash payrolls instead of paychecks?

I'm not so sure that Peter would have been so forthcoming with his classmates about his Uncle Ben passing away. Later on, when he first entered ESU, he chose not to tell people his sick aunt was the reason he wasn't socializing. It could be he simply never shared that personal tragedy. And kids are cruel.  Unless they had reason to be sympathetic towards him, I could see them using him as a scapegoat for whatever was bugging them that day. Add on the likelihood that Peter wasn't very friendly or social to begin with, and I could see things going along the way they did.

A kid tried telling Flash he was being too mean to Peter in one issue. Flash bullied him into shutting up.

Especially during the Ditko era, but as a general trait even afterwards, Peter was so often so wrapped up in his problems and protecting his secrets that he projected an air of arrogant indifference to everyone else, even to those who might have otherwise sympathized with him.  A lot of people in real life do the same thing, and in both fiction and reality such behavior can cause their problems to get even worse.  Makes for lots of dramatic misunderstandings, of course.

Randy Jackson said:

I think the Spider-Sense has always been played fast and loose with in terms of what it's actual capabilities were, and it certainly wasn't unusual in Marvel's early days to tinker with character's abilities.

In the early 1960's, was it that unusual for a business to still use cash payrolls instead of paychecks?

I'm not so sure that Peter would have been so forthcoming with his classmates about his Uncle Ben passing away. Later on, when he first entered ESU, he chose not to tell people his sick aunt was the reason he wasn't socializing. It could be he simply never shared that personal tragedy. And kids are cruel.  Unless they had reason to be sympathetic towards him, I could see them using him as a scapegoat for whatever was bugging them that day. Add on the likelihood that Peter wasn't very friendly or social to begin with, and I could see things going along the way they did.

That was why Gwen Stacy teamed up with Flash and Harry Osborn against Peter until John Romita came in, because she thought he was ignoring her when he honestly hadn't noticed she was talking to him.

I can buy Flash being miserable to Peter.

I can buy some other kids sucking up to Flash and joining in.

But every kid in school?  That's too much for me to believe.

If Flash was more of a bully than we normally saw, he might have passed word anyone being nice to "Puny Parker" was asking for a knuckle sandwich.

I never got the impression "every kid in school" was nasty to Peter, but even if most of the kids in a school simply ignore or are entirely indifferent to one particular student, even a small pack of kids joining in with one king bully can make it seem as if the entire school is out to get you.  And particularly with a character like Peter Parker, becoming Spider-Man may have made him more confident and perhaps a bit less withdrawn but it also significantly increased his need to be a loner, giving him all the more reason to be secretive.  Having Pete move out from under Aunt May's protective wing and sharing a pad with Harry Osborne would have been entirely out of character for Pete during the Ditko era, but within a few issues of Romita taking over, nearly every regular member of the cast changed, some significantly, some in more subtle ways, with Pete himself becoming much more likeable, less prone to telling the rest of the world to shove it while he looked out only for himself and Aunt May (which he would've done if he'd been a pure Randian, Objectivist hero).  Oddly in retrospect, seems it wasn't until the Conway era that Spidey developed a friendly rather than antagonistic relationship with Johnny Storm, by far the only other Marvel hero he had regular contact with during the Silver Age.  Even during the Romita era, when Johnny attempted to join the fight against the Lizard, rather than even trying to explain the Lizard's backstory to Johnny and maybe get help from Reed Richards for a lasting cure, Spidey refused to believe that Johnny might be sympathetic and so fought him to keep him from hurting the Lizard.  But then, part of the attraction of Spider-Man, IMO, was that he was a super-hero with personality flaws rather than an all-knowing paragon of virtue.

John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

I can buy Flash being miserable to Peter.

I can buy some other kids sucking up to Flash and joining in.

But every kid in school?  That's too much for me to believe.

Fred W. Hill said:

I never got the impression "every kid in school" was nasty to Peter, but even if most of the kids in a school simply ignore or are entirely indifferent to one particular student, even a small pack of kids joining in with one king bully can make it seem as if the entire school is out to get you.

In recent years the public and the news media have discovered bullying, particularly when it rises to the level of suicide attempts. I agree that the handful of kids picking on Peter did not represent the entire school. The desire not to get involved and/or blindness to the problem by the rest of the school (including the faculty) results in the bullied kid thinking that everyone is against him (which they effectively are).

Having Pete move out from under Aunt May's protective wing and sharing a pad with Harry Osborne would have been entirely out of character for Pete during the Ditko era, but within a few issues of Romita taking over, nearly every regular member of the cast changed, some significantly, some in more subtle ways, with Pete himself becoming much more likeable, less prone to telling the rest of the world to shove it while he looked out only for himself and Aunt May (which he would've done if he'd been a pure Randian, Objectivist hero).

The way Peter pushed people away and generally only cared about himself and Aunt May is, now that I think about it, entirely consistent with his chip-on-shoulder attitude that resulted in his uncle's future killer getting away. We have to recognize, however, that Peter was underage when much of this happened. Like any other teen, he really wasn't capable of entirely appropriate decisions.

Oddly in retrospect, seems it wasn't until the Conway era that Spidey developed a friendly rather than antagonistic relationship with Johnny Storm, by far the only other Marvel hero he had regular contact with during the Silver Age. Even during the Romita era, when Johnny attempted to join the fight against the Lizard, rather than even trying to explain the Lizard's backstory to Johnny and maybe get help from Reed Richards for a lasting cure, Spidey refused to believe that Johnny might be sympathetic and so fought him to keep him from hurting the Lizard.

I think Peter and Johnny were both maturing by the time Conway was writing them, so it makes sense that they would behave more like adults. Flash also changed for the better as her got older. Without going back (or forward) to the Lizard/Torch story, IIRC Johnny seemed to see the Lizard as an inhuman monster and might have actually killed him. Then Spidey was off and running after the Lizard. There was no time to explain anything. Going to Reed about the Lizard would have violated Curt Conner's privacy, which Spidey strove to protect.

Excellent points, Richard.  Of course, the issue with the Lizard/Dr. Conner was the same with the Hulk/Dr. Banner and in King Size ASM#3, when Spidey is tasked with bringing in the Hulk as his test to join the Avengers (funny, no other prospective Avenger was so much as tasked with bringing in a rabid dog prior to joining), once he saw that the Hulk was also Bruce Banner, he declined to bring him in (KSASM #3 must have been published at least a few months before it became public knowledge in the MU that the Hulk and Bruce Banner were one and the same).  Naturally, it was only Spidey had lied to the Avengers, telling them he couldn't even find the Hulk, and had taken off that the Avengers, talking amongst each other, revealed that they wanted to try to help the Hulk -- once again, being overly secretive about the genuine purpose of the mission wound up undermining it, but then if the Avengers had been serious about bringing in and helping the Hulk they would have done it themselves rather than rely on Spidey or anyone else outside the group.

He didn't have to bring the Hulk in, just find out where he was and tell the others. But that's still a lot more than they asked from the Swordsman, who they didn't trust at all.

For a group with government security clearance of some sort, it's amusing that several of their members from the very beginning would not have passed legitimate background investigations, although since the Avengers' charter did not require members to divulge their true identities it would have been difficult for any agency to conduct B.I.'s.  Still it's hard to imagine any government agency giving the Hulk clearance!

Thinking it over, since Cap was found by the Avengers without his mask on, Thor, Iron Man, Giant-Man and the Wasp knew what his face looked like, but I don't recall a scene in any of those early stories where he told them his actual name although there were scenes where they clearly knew that he was Steve Rogers.  Hank & Jan revealed their I.D.s when they re-joined the first time, but Thor & Shellhead kept their I.D.s secret from everyone but each other up until the 210s when Molecule Man caused them to be revealed.  And then when Spidey finally joined, it was Iron Man who convinced him to take off his mask at a news conference -- what could possibly go wrong???

Did they have official clearance back in those days? I don't remember them ever working with anyone except that Gyrich moron, and then not until the late 70s. I would have assumed since he turned up in several issues that Nick Fury would have been put in charge of them. Today the Hulk would probably have quit because he would have gotten mad about them not wanting to give him clearance when the others got theirs.

In the Human Torch story where Johnny fought the fake Captain America, he reads a Timely comic at the end, notes he was really Steve Rogers, and wonders whatever did really happen to him. So I think at the time Stan was assuming everyone knew by then who he really was, after twenty years his identity was no longer classified or something. Steranko had him fake his own death so everyone wouldn't know his true identity, but I don't think there was ever a story where everyone found out.

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