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?

Views: 3948

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

I wonder if cashing a check made out to "CASH" at a bank would still involve signing the check? Today they have check-cashing stores but I don't think that was an option back then. 

Jeff of Earth-J said:

Richard Willis said:

Here is the Law is a Ass column mentioned by Jeff:

http://www.worldfamouscomics.com/law/back19991207.shtml

Thanks, Richard. You know, I thought that was the answer but I didn't mention it because it seemed too simple.

But wouldn't the agent have to know his identity anyway?  For tax purposes, the agent would have to report his fee as income, wouldn't he have to reveal who he gave the rest of the money to after he got his commission?

I'm thinking if the venues paid the agent and the agent made checks out to cash, the IRS might question it.

That's a good point. Somebody ask Bob Ingersoll!

Somewhere on these (three!) pages I think someone questioned why Peter was keeping his identity a secret before fighting crime. I can't seem to find the comment for some reason. I think Peter wanted his privacy so that his life wouldn't become a full-time circus.

He wore the stocking to fight Crusher Hogan because he was afraid his powers might suddenly fail and didn't want to embarrass himself if he got beat up. The promoter told him to keep the masked marvel idea because it was great publicity. I think, like the Masked Magician, he eventually intended to reveal himself once he was world famous.

Richard Willis said:

John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

The story glosses over key parts of Spidey's origin, with Peter only saying he was "too late" to save Uncle Ben; there's no mention of him failing to stop the burglar earlier or the famous line "with great power comes great responsibility".

They summarized Spidey's origin in two-thirds of a page. I wonder if it was streamlined for the space available or whether they were having second thoughts about Peter's partial culpability in Uncle Ben's death?

It is a streamlined summary for sure.  My guess is they just looked at the whole origin quickly to summarize it, and the importance of the sequence of Peter not stopping the burglar and the same burglar murdering Ben Parker didn't really jump out at them.  We have the benefit of hindsight and know how iconic that would become; Stan and Steve didn't know if Spider-Man would be around a year from then.

This isn't directed at you, Richard, just a general comment - I think people don't realize just how everything at Marvel in the early 60s was by the seat of your pants.  It was Stan, Jack, Steve, and a handful of others.  They were all doing a ton of work, facing a ton of deadlines, and my feeling is there was little to no time to reflect on what they were doing.  They were almost literally working around the clock, just to keep the lights on so to speak.

The other glitch in my eyes was JJJ accusing Spider-Man of taking the law into his own hands by being a crime fighter. Other than catching his uncle's killer, there's no scenes of crime fighting and no indication there was any.

Good point. If he only went after Uncle Ben's killer how can anybody criticize that? It was left to interpretation at the end of AF #15 whether Peter was inclined to fight crime or not. At the beginning of this story he is wearing his costume and it doesn't seem to be immediately after Uncle Ben's death, so maybe he was fighting crime and they just didn't show us.

My interpretation is that he easily could have been on the path to being a crime fighter at the end of AF #15, but the opening of ASM #1 seems to me to come shortly after Ben's death, and Peter wants to forget about being Spider-Man.  Nothing in what he says in the first few pages indicated to me he did anything else as Spider-Man after catching his uncle's killer.

It is possible Stan (or Goodman) wasn't sure if making Spider-Man partly responsible was a good idea. According to the Code Spider-Man should have been punished if he was responsible.

Jameson might have lost interest in him if he didn't saved his son, making him think he was stealing John's thunder, and possibly putting him in danger to make himself look good.

Peter's main concern seemed to be without Uncle Ben, they couldn't pay their bills.

John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

This isn't directed at you, Richard, just a general comment - I think people don't realize just how everything at Marvel in the early 60s was by the seat of your pants. It was Stan, Jack, Steve, and a handful of others. They were all doing a ton of work, facing a ton of deadlines, and my feeling is there was little to no time to reflect on what they were doing. They were almost literally working around the clock, just to keep the lights on so to speak.

Of course that's true. It just occurred to me to wonder if stating that "I was too late to save him" was an intentional veering away from what happened in AF #15. He was on his way home "from a personal appearance." I suppose if the personal appearance was on a different day or ended earlier he might have been there to stop the burglar, so he was "too late to save him."

Ron M. said:

It is possible Stan (or Goodman) wasn't sure if making Spider-Man partly responsible was a good idea. According to the Code Spider-Man should have been punished if he was responsible.

Failing to aid in an arrest or failing to stop a crime aren't crimes. If anything they are moral failings. The Code talked about punishing actual crimes. Of course by now they had let Dr Doom escape justice a few times so the Code was nothing if not inconsistent, just like the movie rating system today.

Amazing Spider-Man 1 (Mar 1963)

"Spider-Man vs. the Chameleon!"  (2nd story)

Script - Stan Lee / Art - Steve Ditko / Coloring - Stan Goldberg / Lettering - John Duffy (as John Duffi) 

Peter has a brainstorm for making money - join the Fantastic Four!  He goes to their headquarters and tries their private elevator.  He thinks it's not working but then remembers it can only be operated by one of the FF using a special electronic beam.  He forces open the doors but sees the elevator car is above him and he can't get through.  He goes to the roof of an adjoining building and shoots a web across to the Baxter Building, and walks across the strand of webbing to the FF's HQ.  This trips an alarm, and the FF see him on a screen.  The Human Torch wonders why he just didn't make an appointment, and the Thing responds:

'Cause he's a teen-age cornball showoff, just like the Torch!

Spider-Man leaps through an open window, but before he lands on the floor, a plexi-glass cage drops from the ceiling, trapping him - but only for a moment.  He breaks out of it only to run into a right hand from the Thing.  Spider-Man responds by picking up the Thing and hurling him into the Torch.  Mr. Fantastic tries to catch him, but gets his hands caught in Spidey's webbing.  Next is the Invisible Girl who tries to catch him with a rope, but his spider-sense warns him of the danger, and he evades her.  The Torch then attacks, encircling Spidey with a wall of flame, but he escapes it by leaping to the wall and then the ceiling.

Reed puts a stop to the fight, stretching his body to make it a wall between Spidey and the rest of the FF.  He asks why Spider-Man is there, and he tells them he wants to join the team, and also expects their top salary.  He's shocked to find out they are a non-profit, no salaries, just enough money to cover expenses and the rest goes into scientific research.  When he's asked whether or not he's wanted by the police, Spidey leaves in a huff.

In another part of town , at a defense installation,  a janitor has been tied up by a character calling himself the Chameleon.  He says thanks to his "multi-pocket disguise vest" he can impersonate the janitor and anyone else he wants to.  The vest contains face masks, wigs, and other things to help him pose as others.  As the janitor, he gains access to a restricted area, then he disguises himself as one of the scientists, and steals some missile defense plans from the facility - plans that Iron Curtain countries will pay a fortune to have.

The Chameleon is watching a TV broadcast about Spider-Man joining the FF, a hot rumor at the moment.  He figures if a wanted man like Spider-Man wants to do that, he must be desperate for a legitimate way to earn money, which makes him the perfect fall guy for his plan to steal more missile plans.  He says that since Spider-Man has the powers and instincts of a spider, he will send him a message that only his spider-senses can pick up.  The message is to meet on top of a building at 10, and it will be very profitable for Spider-Man.

Peter hears the message but can't tell who sent it.  Saying he can't pass up a profit, he heads out for the rendezvous.  Meanwhile, the Chameleon uses a series of disguises to gain entry in and through a building, ending with him impersonating Spider-Man when he steals the missile defense plans.  He has a gun that shoots webbing similar to Spidey's own.  He escapes in a helicopter, just as Spider-Man is arriving, who notices it came from the building where he was supposed to go.  When gets there, the police are waiting for him, demanding he surrender the secret plans "he" just stole.  Spidey realizes he was set up and swings away.  He realizes the person flying the chopper was the one who framed him.  He uses his spider-sense to "tune in" on the helicopter's location, and after a few seconds determines it's on the waterfront.

When he gets there, he sees the chopper has already reached the sea.  He makes a parachute from his web, and lands in a motorboat.  He takes off in it and a few minutes later sees a Red sub surface to meet the helicopter.  He webs up the hatch and the sub submerges.  He then shoots a web at the helicopter and climbs in after ripping the door off.  He forces the Chameleon to head back to the roof of the building where he stole the plans.  As he is about to turn him over to the police, the Chameleon drops a smoke bomb and runs inside, but the building's exits have all been sealed off.  The Chameleon disguises himself as a policeman, but Spidey's spider-sense shows him which cop is the Chameleon.  As he grabs him, the fake cop shouts the Chameloen has disguised himself as Spider-Man again, causing the other police to grab the real Spider-Man..  He breaks free from them, and in frustration leaves, saying the cops can catch the Chameleon themselves.  Seeing him scale the wall, they realize he's the real deal, and soon catch the Chameleon, as his Spidey costume is seen under his police uniform, which was ripped during the fighting.

As Spidey heads away, he thinks to himself that nothing ever goes right for him, and he wishes he had never gained super-powers.  At their headquarters, the FF wonder and worry that Spider-Man may one day turn against the law.

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

My rating: 9/10

I like this story even better than the first one.  It almost seems like two unrelated stories under one roof, but that really isn't the case.  Both trying to join up with the FF and the battle with the Chameleon are tied together by a common theme - Peter Parker is not an adult, he's young and emotional, prone to arrogance and pride, and has a hot temper to boot.  He makes mistakes because of all this.  At the same time, there's reason to fear him.  He not only holds his own against the FF, he picks up the Thing and hurls him like a projectile.  When he catches up to the Chameleon, he rips the door off a helicopter while it is in mid-flight.  These are both clear examples that Spider-Man will be a force to be reckoned with.  Brilliant storytelling.

I like that this story expands the idea of the Marvel Universe being a shared universe.  Besides the FF guest starring here, the Hulk guests stars in issue #12 of their title, also cover dated March 1963.  Ant-Man is also mentioned in this issue's first story.  I thought it was neat that Ben Grimm knows Spider-Man is a teenager.  It's not much of a stretch to think Ben saw him perform on TV or even saw a performance in person, and could tell Spider-Man was a kid, not an adult, from being around the Torch so much.

The spider-sense is a work in progress.  We see some different uses of it here.  One is the traditional warning of a dangerous situation - the Invisible Girl sneaking up unseen trying to tie him up.  She herself is not a danger to him, in an ongoing sense, as she is a hero too.  Some writers have cheated a bit with spider-senses - one example being May Parker once knocking him out with a vase and his spider-sense didn't go off because she's not evil.  It should alert him when he's about to be attacked in any way, regardless of the motives of the person, in my opinion.  I think being able to figure out which police officer was the Chameleon is fair.  Another use of the spider-sense here was finding the Chameleon's helicopter by "tuning in" to it, almost like a radar sense.  This idea was quickly dropped and I don't recall it ever being used again.

The two stories in this issues use two different letterers, and they use pseudonyms, although the one in the second story may just be a typo.  In the first story "Johnny Dee" is Jon D'Agostino, and in the second one "John Duffi" is John Duffy.  I wonder how many readers thought Johnny Dee and John Duffi were the same person.

I also noticed for all three stories to date, none have a happy ending.

Since the spider sense is supposed to pick up vibrations or scents or motion, it should go off regardless of who's sneaking up on him. Unless it's sentient, in which case it should definitely warn him if Aunt May hits him with something. I'd guess the idea of him using it as a radar sense was dropped when Daredevil was being developed, since they didn't want two characters with the same ability.

Not having a happy ending is what made Spider-Man the star he is. Giving him a supermodel wife or a successful company is moving too far away from that. Stan has stated his idea was that people with sad lives would read Spider-Man and think "If I had his powers, I'd have a much better life than this loser! I'd find a way to pay off the bills and win Betty's  hand and settle Jameson's hash once and for all!" (I'm paraphrasing here, but Stan actually did say "settle Jameson's hash.")

He also is in a hurry to leave after Reed says if he really needs money maybe he can arrange something. He may need money badly but he's not going to accept charity.

I found it interesting Spider-Man and the Torch immediately see each other as sort of rivals, and will annoy each other in future meetings (starting with Amazing Spider-Man#8) for decades to come.

The word balloons given to Spidey on the covers of AF #15 and ASM #1 make him sound like a middle-aged egotist instead of a teenager.

John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

As the janitor, he gains access to a restricted area, then he disguises himself as one of the scientists, and steals some missile defense plans from the facility - plans that Iron Curtain countries will pay a fortune to have.

The Chameleon refers to the "Iron Curtain countries" as if he is a Westerner. In later years he is ret-conned into a Russian.

He says that since Spider-Man has the powers and instincts of a spider, he will send him a message that only his spider-senses can pick up. The message is to meet on top of a building at 10, and it will be very profitable for Spider-Man.

I guess this is like the messages the ants send and receive in the Ant-Man stories, which also don't exist in the real world. Peter receives the message. Did it ever happen again? How did the Chameleon know how to send such a message? Best not to think too much about these early stories!

Peter hears the message but can't tell who sent it. Saying he can't pass up a profit, he heads out for the rendezvous. Meanwhile, the Chameleon uses a series of disguises to gain entry in and through a building, ending with him impersonating Spider-Man when he steals the missile defense plans.

He impersonates an elevator operator. When I started the job I eventually retired from we actually HAD an elevator operator.

I like that this story expands the idea of the Marvel Universe being a shared universe. Besides the FF guest starring here, the Hulk guests stars in issue #12 of their title, also cover dated March 1963. Ant-Man is also mentioned in this issue's first story. I thought it was neat that Ben Grimm knows Spider-Man is a teenager. It's not much of a stretch to think Ben saw him perform on TV or even saw a performance in person, and could tell Spider-Man was a kid, not an adult, from being around the Torch so much.

Good observation. Ben figuring out Spidey is a teenager is something I missed when I first read this story. Since I was so aware that he was a teenager I didn't catch its significance. There's a lot of subtext in these short tales, probably because they have so little space.

Reply to Discussion

RSS

Welcome!

No flame wars. No trolls. But a lot of really smart people.The Captain Comics Round Table tries to be the friendliest and most accurate comics website on the Internet.

SOME ESSENTIALS:

RULES OF THE ROUND TABLE

MODERATORS

SMILIES FOLDER

TIPS ON USING THE BOARD

FOLLOW US:

OUR COLUMNISTS:

Groups

© 2018   Captain Comics, board content ©2013 Andrew Smith   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service