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 agree. Faking photos in recent years has destroyed careers.

Luke Blanchard said:

Peter goes too far when he fakes the photos. I think that element a misstep by the creators.

Peter so far in his career has committed fraud twice on Jameson. Perhaps he's been portrayed as being so despicable so that our hero can do things like this and feel somewhat justified.


John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

I think before this he may have gotten $100 for some really spectacular photos.  In my opinion, $1000 is used here only because it sounds like a fee a high priced surgeon might charge.  A surgeon charging a $100 fee might have sounded dumb.  On the other hand, I think at the end of an earlier story Jonah paid him enough for some pictures that Peter was able to buy Aunt May a whole new set of appliances and pay the rent for a year.  Neither that nor the $1000 in this story feel realistic to me.

Under the Department of Putting-Things-in-Perspective, according to the various inflation calculators on-line, $1,000 in 1964 would be about $7,650 in 2016 dollars.

Now, according to figures provided by the United States Census Bureau, the median American household annual income in 1964 was $6,600.  That's right:  $6,600 . . . per year.

That translates to Jonah Jameson paying Peter Parker over a year's average salary for those photographs. Taking that as a given, then Jameson certainly isn't the skinflint he's touted to be.

 

In fact, it would have been a nice touch by Lee, something that would have gone a long way toward giving Jameson more dimension, if he had inserted a thought balloon from Jameson stating, "These photographs aren't worth nearly that much, but I heard that his aunt is in the hospital and needs an operation.  I can't let Parker know, or the word will get out that I'm a soft touch!"  It would have preserved his image as a tightwad, yet leant him a touch of decency.  And Jameson paying that much for Parker's photos would have made more sense.

  

Commander Benson said:

In fact, it would have been a nice touch by Lee, something that would have gone a long way toward giving Jameson more dimension, if he had inserted a thought balloon from Jameson stating, "These photographs aren't worth nearly that much, but I heard that his aunt is in the hospital and needs an operation.  I can't let Parker know, or the word will get out that I'm a soft touch!"  It would have preserved his image as a tightwad, yet leant him a touch of decency.  And Jameson paying that much for Parker's photos would have made more sense.

I agree that would have been a nice touch, but I think it may have been a deliberate choice to not give Jonah any redeeming qualities in this issue.  That will play into the plot of next issue in a way.

That's a big moment for JJ. Can somebody print those panels when we get to it? My only copy is from the paperback in the 70s and it's difficult to read his dialogue.

I volunteer to provide the panels. When the time comes I'll need to be sure which scene you want to see.

Ronald Morgan said:

That's a big moment for JJ. Can somebody print those panels when we get to it? My only copy is from the paperback in the 70s and it's difficult to read his dialogue.

Thanks. The ones where JJ admits he's jealous of Spider-Man.

Amazing Spider-Man 10 (March 1964)

"The Enforcers!"

Written by Smiling Stan Lee / Illustrated by Swinging Steve Ditko / Lettered by Sparkling Sam Rosen

Cover by Steve Ditko (Big Man and Enforcers), and Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers (Spider-Man)

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

A masked man is informed "Everything's all set, boss!".  He states Spider-Man has been sighted nearby, and it's time for Operation Hi-Lift to begin.  A jewel thief climbs to the end of a flagpole and taunts police when they urge him to surrender, saying the Big Man planned this, and he never fails.  Spider-Man shows up and tries to grab the hood but the man is pulled up to a waiting helicopter via a cable he had around him.  Spidey swings around the flagpole several times to launch himself toward the helicopter but is stopped by a blast of chemical foam.  The crowd on the street below take notice, and many are laughing at his failure.

The Big Man says soon the news will be out everywhere that he made a fool of Spider-Man.  He orders the helicopter be flown to his hideout.  Waiting for him are several mobsters, and he tells them he is taking over the rackets and will head up the crime syndicate from now on.  They balk at this, so the Big Man unleashes his Enforcers: Fancy Dan, a master of judo, the very large and very strong Ox, and Montana, an expert with a lasso.  The Enforcers make quick work of the gangsters.

At the hospital, Liz and a reluctant Flash come to visit Peter and his Aunt May.  Just then Peter is told May needs a blood transfusion.  He hesitates because his blood was affected when the radioactive spider bit him and gave him his powers, but Liz and Flash shame him into it.  Afterwards, the doctor tells him it will take a few days to get back to normal.  Aunt May soon recovers, and the next day goes on a trip to Florida with her neighbors.

Soon afterward, New York is in the grip of a crime wave, all directed by the Big Man.  The police are doing all they can, but are only catching small timers.  Even Spider-Man is frustrated, unable to learn the Big Man's identity.  The crooks getting caught won't talk, terrified of the Big Man and the Enforcers.  Even J. Jonah Jameson takes an interest in the crime wave, saying Spider-Man must be involved somehow.  He states the Big Man doesn't exist, and is an invention of Spider-Man's to divert suspicion from himself.

At the Daily Bugle, Jonah orders one of his columnists, a man named Foswell, to write a series of articles proving the Big Man is actually Spider-Man.  Foswell protests, saying there is no proof and reminds Jonah he had accused Spider-Man of being Electro one month before, so it would be a disaster if he's wrong again.  Jonah tells him to do it or he'll fire him and he'll make sure Foswell never works for any newspaper again.  After leaving Jonah's office, Foswell has a quick chat with Betty Brant as she is leaving for the day.  She waits in front of the Bugle building, and a man points her out for the Enforcers.  She has borrowed money from a loan shark, and they tell her she still owes the Big Man interest on the loan.  Peter approaches, and they rough him up a bit.  He asks Betty how she is mixed up with the Enforcers, but she won't tell him, to keep him out of danger.

An angry Peter changes to Spider-Man and grabs the guy who pointed out Betty to the Enforcers.  He intimidates the guy with a web dummy, that the crook thinks is a giant live spider, into revealing where the Enforcers are hiding out.  When he arrives, Montana pulls him in with his lasso.  The Big Man is there with the Enforcers.  Spider-Man battles all three of them and hold his own for a bit, but soon he is feeling weakened from the blood transfusion.  He takes off, wondering where the Big Man went during the fight.  Just then, he sees Jonah on the street.  He thinks the Big Man has to be someone smart that has money, but he can't believe Jonah is the Big Man.

At home, Peter calls Betty, trying to get more info from her.  She says they will talk tomorrow, but decides after hanging up she has to leave town, so that she doesn't get Peter mixed up with the Enforcers.  Peter learns this the next day at the Bugle from Jonah.  He's upset Jonah doesn't seem to care about Betty.  Jonah tells him to tell Foswell he's waiting for his new Spider-Man column.  Peter asks Foswell if he really thinks Spider-Man is the Big Man, and Foswell replies he does what Jonah tells him to do.  Back at home, Peter decides he will take a dangerous risk to learn the Big Man's identity, to allow himself to get captured as Peter.  The next day at school, Peter brags to the other kids he has figured out who the Big Man is, and he's going to get a big reward when the police catch him.  Flash warns him he's putting his life in danger, but Peter dismisses him.  A crook learns about what Peter is saying, and gets word to the Big Man.

When the Big Man finds out, he wonders how Peter found out and reveals he knows Peter.  The Enforcers grab Peter off the street and tell him the Big Man knows him.  Peter wonders if this means Jonah is the Big Man.  They take him to their headquarters, a large indoor parking garage, and throw him in a cell.  Peter changes to Spider-Man and sees the Big Man and the Enforcers are there along with several mobsters.  There are so many crooks he realizes he needs to alert the police.  Just then he gets attacked from behind.  His spider-sense was tingling but he ignored it when he saw all the thugs in the building.  A fierce battle breaks out, and Spider-Man avoids the crooks as best he can, and uses his powers and agility to keep them off balance.  Finally he is able to contact the police with his spider signal.

The Big Man is frustrated that Spider-Man is slugging his men left and right but none of them can lay a hand on him.  When the police arrive, the Big Man shoots at Spidey but misses.  Spidey goes to grab him, but tired out from the long fight and still not 100% after the transfusion, he is unable to catch him.  But he thinks he can track him down, and if it's who he thinks, he's going to enjoy it!  Meanwhile, the cops take the Enforcers and the other gangsters into custody.

Spider-Man is outside Jonah's window at the Bugle, and thinks Jonah is acting very nervous.  Foswell comes in Jonah's office, saying his new column is ready, but Jonah tells him to tear it up, as he needs proof Spider-Man is the Big Man.  Foswell asks what happened, and Jonah says the Big Man's gang have been captured, and the Big Man will be found soon.  The police arrive, saying they already have found him.  Spidey figures this is it, that Jonah is the Big Man, even though he never thought he was really bad.  However, the cops arrest Foswell, as they had followed the Big Man's car from the garage, and found evidence in it proving he was the criminal - special built-up shoes, an oversized padded jacket, and an amplifier that disguised his voice.  Jonah and Spider-Man are shocked, and Foswell tells Jonah off when he tries to get him to admit Spider-Man was working with him.

Once he's alone, a frustrated Jonah wonders if Spider-Man is always going to embarrass and thwart him.  He admits to himself that he has only cared about making money, but Spider-Man risks his life all the time for others, without looking for a reward.  If Spider-Man is a good man, what kind of man does that make him?  The truth is, Jonah envies him, and since he can never be the man Spider-Man is, all he can try to do is tear him down, because he's jealous of him.  Meanwhile, back at his home, Peter is pleased to get a postcard from Aunt May, but is disappointed he hasn't heard from Betty, and he wishes she would let him help her.  Betty is in a hotel room in Pennsylvania, missing Peter, but not wanting to have his life put at risk.  She thinks only someone like Spider-Man could help her, but getting his help seems impossible.

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

My rating: 9/10

An excellent story.  The Aunt May plotline gets a happy ending, and then we move right into a new melodrama - Betty Brant getting mixed up with the Enforcers and the Big Man and feeling she has to push Peter away because of it.  Even after they are captured, something is still very wrong in Betty's world ... if only she confided in Peter!  But her reasons are good ones, as she wants to avoid tragedy.  That will soon prove ironic.

The mystery of the Big Man was done well, with lots of signs pointing to Jonah.  In this story, he shows up just after the Big Man is spotted.  He's wearing a similar hat and green suit.  He's trying to throw suspicion on Spider-Man.  As Spidey said, the Big Man would have to be someone like Jonah, even though he didn't quite believe it was Jonah.  The way JJJ treats Foswell was awful, threatening not just to fire him but also doing the whole "and you'll never work in this town again" bit if he didn't write what Jonah told him.  His lack of concern about Betty skipping town wasn't very nice either.  Also, last issue, he was pretty nasty too, happily cheating Peter (although to be fair, Peter had sold him some fake photos) and also generally being an awful person.

On the other hand, Foswell stuck out like a sore thumb being a newly introduced character.  The ending probably inspired the Scooby Doo cartoons, right down to Foswell saying "I'd have gotten away with it, too ... if not for some crummy luck!"

The Enforcers are a pretty minor part of Spidey's rogues gallery.  I guess that is to be expected since they are flunkies with no powers, and Spider-Man held his own against them and dozens of mobsters in a weaker than normal state.  Funny thing, he beat up Ox worse in the first short battle than the second longer one.  In the big fight, he put down Montana in one panel and Fancy Dan in two.  These guys may be one of the few Marvel bad guys who never got a power upgrade, like say, the Terrible Trio from the FF or Count Nefaria.

The cover was pretty bland and I'm guessing it was a rush job.  There's no background at all, and according to the GCD, Ditko drew the Big Man and the Enforcers, and Kirby drew Spider-Man, inked by Dick Ayers.  The first cover was rejected.

The rejected cover:

I'm guessing it got nixed because even without the captions it looks crowded.  Three large captions make it worse.

I like Ditko's original cover far more than the one that was used.  Circa 1973 I started collecting the Marvel Tales, the first I got featuring a reprint of ASM #53, on the first page of which refers to the death of Frederick Foswell in the previous issue.  Within a couple of years I got the 2-part MTU story with the new Big Man (and Crimemaster), but it wasn't until several more years that I got the Pocketbook reprints of the very early issues of ASM, including this one, that I finally read a story in which Foswell was still very much alive, and a little more filling in the holes to get to Foswell's return to the series.  I agree the mystery would have worked better if Foswell had been introduced several issues earlier so he didn't stand out so much.  Overall a very entertaining story, even if the Enforcers were among the goofiest of Spidey's early recurring foes.  I know the original Ox was killed off in an issue of DD but to my knowledge other than being brought out of the mothballs for that MTU story, Fancy Dan and Montana went right back into storage and were still there when I mostly quit keeping up with Spider-Man circa 1985.

I liked the concept of the Enforcers, but they just weren't in Spider-Man's class, even this early on.

Ox was used quite well in Daredevil later on. Much more appropriate as villains for him than for Peter.

John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

The cover was pretty bland and I'm guessing it was a rush job.  There's no background at all, and according to the GCD, Ditko drew the Big Man and the Enforcers, and Kirby drew Spider-Man, inked by Dick Ayers.

One way that could have come about is Ditko drew the first version of the cover and Lee had Kirby replace his Spider-Man figure. That would explain why the big Man isn't quite pointing at Spidey. Perhaps Ditko's Spider-Man was too small, or had his back to the camera. (Or are the figures of the Enforcers on the cover stats from inside?)

 
The unused cover must've gotten close to being used, as it's been lettered. Might Lee have decided Spidey's pose was too close to his pose in the main image of #9?

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