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: 4688

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

After a hiatus of two years (and a bit) ...

WE'RE BACK!!!

Hopefully it won't take 2 years for my next post!

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL 1 (1964)

"The Sinister Six!"

41 Pages of Indescribable Excitement

Written by: Stan Lee

Drawn by: Steve Ditko

Possibly the most talked-about team in comics today!

Lettered by S. Rosen

Cover by Steve Ditko

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

Our story opens at state prison.  Dr. Octopus' metal arms have been removed from his body.  However, the authorities are unaware that Ock still has mental control over them, and he uses them to break out of prison.  The next day, Spider-Man is outside of J. Jonah Jameson's window, tormenting the Daily Bugle publisher.  He snags a copy of the paper out of Jonah's hands and learns Doc Ock has escaped prison.  Hanging from a web, he comments that he would hate to have to tackle Ock again.  Just then Thor flies by, oblivious to Spidey's presence, almost knocking him to the ground.  Elsewhere, Mysterio enters a room, where Electro, Kraven, and Doc Ock are waiting.  Octopus says two more are coming.

The next day, Peter Parker is on a street in Forest Hills.  A man walks by him and sets off Peter's spider-sense.  Before he can do anything, Flash Thompson confronts him for walking Liz Allen home the day before and wants to fight him.  Flash takes a wild swing and misses, and just then Dr. Strange walks by, in his astral form.  Flash and his buddies are freaked out, and Peter ducks away and changes to Spidey.  He catches up with the man who set off his spider-sense, who is now standing on a sewer grate.  Spidey leaps towards the man, but is startled to find only an empty suit of clothes.  Beneath the grating emerges the Sandman, who is late for a meeting with Dr. Octopus.  Spidey heads home to Forest Hills.  He sees a light in the attic, and sees Aunt May looking at Ben Parker's old things.  He thinks back to when he became Spider-Man and the death of his Uncle Ben.

After going down memory lane, Spidey thinks about how he can never forgive himself for his uncle's murder, but sometimes he hates his spider powers and wishes he were just a normal teenager.  Just then he loses his balance while standing on the ledge of a rooftop.  He grabs a flagpole and realizes he has lost his powers!  While he is dangling there high above the ground, the Fantastic Four fly by in their Fantasti-Car.  They think he is goofing around and keep going.  Slowly Spidey crawls towars the ledge and gets safely inside a building.  He eventually makes his way home to Forest Hills on foot, sneaking thru back yards and behind fences, trying to stay out of sight.  Safely home, he wonders what is next for him.

Sandman has joined the other villains, as has the Vulture.  The six of them all agree they want to destroy Spider-Man, but are divided on how to do it.  Some want all six of them to attack Spidey as a group, others want to go after him on their own.  Dr. Octopus tells them all that he has a plan.  He gets them to all draw a number, and they will fight Spidey one at a time, in the order of the drawing.  He tells them he has a scheme that will force Spider-Man to face them.  Back in Forest Hills, Aunt May sees that Peter is clearly upset about something, but he denies that anything is wrong.  Later, May calls Peter's school and finds out he is not there.  He is moping and wandering down by the docks.  Just then a crowd runs past to catch a glimpse of Giant-Man and the Wasp rounding up a gang of crooks.  Peter takes off the other way, not wanting to be near any criminals.

Later, May is waiting outside the Daily Bugle offices when Betty Brant comes out.  They are unaware they are being watched by Sandman and Electro.  Jonah sees this from his window, as Betty and May are forced into a car by the villains.  Betty and May are brought into the house where the villains have gathered; just before they are brought in, Doc Ock ushers the Vulture to head out.  He welcomes Betty and asks who is the charming lady with her.  Sandman says she's the aunt "of some kid named Parker".  Betty is horrified by her "host", but May, not knowing who Dr. Octopus is, seems charmed by him.  Soon afterward, Peter is at the Daily Bugle, after being called by Jonah.  He's in disbelief that May and Betty were kidnapped.  Just then, the Vulture flies up to Jonah's window.  He tells them he has a message for Spider-Man, that the Sinister Six have captured Betty Brant, and if he wants to save her he has to come get her.  He tells Jonah to put a notice in the Bugle for Spider-Man, telling him to go to the Stark Electric Plant.

Peter wonders what he will do without his spider powers, while Jonah contacts the Fantastic Four to see if they can reach Spider-Man.  Reed tells Jonah they haven't seen him since the previous day.  Ben suggests contacting the Avengers, so Reed calls them and speaks to Captain America.  Cap says he has never even met Spider-Man, and none of the other Avengers are there.  Later the Human Torch puts a flaming message in the sky for Spidey, which is seen by the X-Men while they are in their Danger Room at their mansion.  Angel alerts the rest of them about it, but good old Charles Xavier orders his students to ignore it as it does not concern them, and to continue with their training.  (What a swell guy!)

Peter knows that without his powers he is no match for any of his old enemies, let alone six of them.  But with Betty and May's lives in danger he has no choice but to show up, and if it's his finish, at least he'll face it like a man.  He enters the Stark Electric Plant, and is confronted by Electro; he tells Spidey he has to defeat him to get the card with the next location on the trail to finding Betty Brant.  Electro hurls a bolt and Spidey leaps out of the way, and realizes his spider powers are back.  He continues to evade Electro's bolts, and then grounds himself, leaps at Electro and knocks him out.  Just then, Iron Man arrives on the scene, and asks what is going on.  Spidey says he has to leave but tells him "a reluctant guest" is inside.

Spidey's next stop is across the bay from the World's Fair.  He spots a leopard and realizes his next foe is Kraven, who shows up with a second leopard.  After a brief skirmish, Spidey snatches Kraven's card and heads off.  He soon encounters the Human Torch, but Spidey rebuffs him as he wants to go to his next destination.  They have a brief fight but all the Torch wants to do is lend a hand.  Spidey tells him it's personal and he'll handle it alone.  Meanwhile, at his house, Doc Ock treats Betty and May to danish pastries and coffee; May is charmed by his good manners.

Spidey arrives at his next destination, with the X-Men waiting for him.  They attack, and Spidey soons discovers they are actually robots!  He fights them for a bit and then his spider-sense alerts him that his next foe is behind a camouflaged wall.  It's Mysterio!  He tries to use his smoke and illusions to evade Spidey, but our hero retrieves the card even after Mysterio tries to burn it.  Back at The Daily Bugle, Jonah sees a spider hanging from his window.  He figures if Ant-Man can talk to ants, a spider can relay a message to Spider-Man.  His employees are worried about Jonah's mental health.

Spidey's next stop is a walled in court in the middle of nowhere.  A card telling him where to go next is just sitting there.  Suddenly the Sandman materializes.  They fight, and then Spidey leaps past him and grabs the card, which triggers a trap.  Spidey finds himself inside an escape proof iron cell with the Sandman.  The villain thinks it's just a matter of time before he is able to defeat Spidey, but the trap is a little too perfect.  The cell is airtight, and Sandman passes out from lack of oxygen.  Spidey was able to hold his breath longer and then pries open the door, heading to his next destination.

At the Bugle, Jonah finds out all of his competitors are reporting what's happening with Spider-Man.  When Jonah demands to know why no one told him he needed to do an extra on this too, they remind him he ordered them hours earlier not to disturb him, and they can't go to press without his o.k.  Meanwhile, at his house, Doc Ock expresses surprise that Spidey has gotten past four members of the Sinister Six.  Only the Vulture remains, and Ock decides he needs to make new plans.  Spidey meets the Vulture along the rooftops of the city.  Hovering in the air, the villain tells Spidey if he wants to find Betty Brant, he must remove his webbing devices before they battle.  Spidey complies, and the fight begins.  The Vulture sprays some oil at Spidey's feet, causing him to start to lose his balance.  Then he rapidly rotates his wings, causing Spidey to topple over, but using his hands, Spider-Man sticks to the side of the building he was standing on moments before.  Vulture lassoes his leg, and Spidey grabs the rope and climbs up it towards the villain.  Vulture drops the rope, Spidey grabs it, and lassoes the criminal.  Now the Vulture is caught, and Spidey webs him up and leaves him for the police.

Spidey's final destination is an old castle, which he says was imported to America stone by stone.  Inside he sees Dr. Octopus, without his mechanical arms.  He demands to know where Betty Brant and May Parker are; Ock pleads ignorance, but he is really just stalling so he can spring his trap.  Spidey is attacked from behind by the arms.  After a brief battle, Spidey stuns Ock with a punch and goes searching for May and Betty.  Ock reattaches his arms and has another trap for Spidey, a trap door.  Spider-Man falls thru it and lands in a giant fishbowl.  Ock dons scuba gear and says he will attack him just like a real octopus would.  A weird battle begins, as Ock taunts his nemesis but then states Spidey can't hear him anyway.  Although the fishbowl is quite large, there isn't much extra space with the two arch enemies inside.  Spidey decides to release all his webbing at once, and there is so much of it that Ock's arms get all tangled up.  Spidey pulls Ock out, and then taunts him, saying that if the Sinister Six had worked together instead of each trying to beat him alone they might have succeeded.

Spidey soon finds Betty and May.  Betty is relieved, but May is horrified, declaring Spider-Man to be villainous-looking, with a ghastly outfit, and not at all pleasant and well-mannered like Dr. Octopus.  He tells them he called the police and they will be there soon; Betty is delighted but May is confused, wondering what happened to their host.  Spidey heads home and is waiting as Peter to greet May and Betty when the police drop them off.  He expresses concern and they say they are fine.  Peter asks "you mean, you're not all shook up or anything?" and May admonishes him for using "that awful slang".  Moments later, May seems upset by something.  Peter is worried it is delayed shock, but May is just upset she missed this week's episode of the Beverly Hillbillies.  

Outside Jonah's window at the Bugle, the Human Torch stops by and asks if he's heard from Spider-Man, as he wants to congratulate him for beating the Sinister Six.  An enraged Jonah tells him off.  And at the city jail, the Sinister Six are sharing a cell.  Ock tells them he has a new plan, but Electro tells him "Aw, shuddup!  We're through takin' orders from you!"

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

My rating: 9/10

Hoo boy this was a lot of fun.  There are a few things here and there you can nitpick.  The biggest one is that when Spidey grounded himself during his battle with Electro, in real life that would have killed him.  The timeline seems a little wonky in the early part of the story.  Doc Ock, Electro, Kraven, and Mysterio meet up somewhere and Ock says they are waiting for two more people.  The caption in the next scene states it is now a day later, when Flash takes a swing at Peter.  Sandman had just walked by and set off his spider-sense, and then eventually he and the Vulture join the other villains.  Were they really waiting around for a whole day for them?  Possible I suppose but in the previous scene with the villains, they were getting impatient waiting.

At 41 pages, this story was about twice the length of a regular issue.  Almost all of the supporting cast shows up, except for Liz Allen, who is mentioned but not seen.  In the early days, a story might feature Jonah or May or the kids at Midtown High, or some combination of them, ie, there might be a small number of scenes at the Daily Bugle, but then maybe only a panel or two of Aunt May or Flash and Liz.  Excluding Liz, everyone shows up here.  There's lot of scenes at the Bugle with Jonah, and we see a lot of Betty and May, mostly while they are "guests" of Doc Ock.  While May comes across as being somewhat senile, this is a bit historic as this is her first encounter with both Doc Ock and Spider-Man, and sets up the status quo about how she feels about both of them for decades to come.  Jonah comes off well in the early part of the story.  He's genuinely concerned about Betty and calls Peter to tell him what happened to Betty and May.  As the story progresses, we see more of the jackass and crackpot, the Jonah we know so well and love to root against.  By the end of the story, he's practically foaming at the mouth with rage, saying "you costumed freaks should be outlawed!", but as usual he should really be looking in the mirror.

The story is plotted out nicely.  Each of the six battles is relatively brief but memorable due to the full page splash for each one.  The fight with Doc Ock is a little strange as I think it's the only time he seems to act like his namesake.  The fatal flaw in Ock's plan is having the villains go after Spidey one by one.  He gets a bit of respite between each fight, so it's not exctly gauntlet style.  The battles with Kraven, Mysterio, and Vulture weren't very taxing for Spidey.  I'm not even sure how Kraven ended up in jail.  This is probably the least amount of trouble Ock ever gave Spidey in his first two decades of existence.  The final panel was funny; I hear Electro in Sylvester the Cat or Yosemite Sam's voice when he says to Ock "Aw shuddup!"

Stan and Steve made great choices with the villains they chose, six classic foes.  They left out also rans like Chameleon and the Terrible Tinkerer, and the Lizard, who was considered cured, and probably wouldn't have played well with others anyway.  Also left out was the Green Goblin introduced only two months earlier.  This was a very wise move, and tells me right from the start they had big plans for the Goblin.  The cameos by other heroes were all fun too, and I smiled as Stan plugged all the Marvel super-hero books.  The Marvel Universe was almost three years old at this point, and still pretty small.  We're missing the Hulk and Daredevil, but the former just appeared in ASM 14, and was a month away from getting a regular feature in Tales to Astonish, while the latter appeared in ASM 16, the same month this Annual came out.  Also not seen here is the Sub-Mariner, who is still more villain than hero at this point, and a year away from getting his own feature in TTA.  Pretty easy to tell that Fantastic Four is Marvel's flagship book at this point.  Oh yeah, in the immortal words of Kitty Pryde, "Professor Xavier is a jerk!"

As I said, quite a fun story.  The Annual itself is also very fun; it would have been quite the treat for anyone buying it off the stands in 1964.  A 41 page story, featuring six great super-villains, and cameos by almost every other Marvel super-hero.  Plus "A Gallery of Spider-Man's Most Famous Foes" - one page pinups of every villain Spidey faced up to that, with a synopsis of their history with Spidey; 9 pages of "The Secrets of Spider-Man" (billed as "inside facts about Spidey's powers, his problems, and his personal life, as only Stan and Steve can present them"), and a hilarious 3 page feature "How Stan Lee and Steve Ditko Create Spider-Man" which implies Stan is a bit of a nut and Steve takes things a bit too serious.  In actuality they were just poking fun at themselves and they knew they had something special with Spider-Man.  This series was getting care and attention that others like Giant-Man, Human Torch, and Iron Man just didn't get.  

Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1, both the lead story, and the book as a collector's item, in my opinion realy hit it out of the park.


NEXT:  ASM 17  "THE RETURN OF THE GREEN GOBLIN!"

I really love the first Spider-Man Annual.  I bought it of the stands at 16. My nitpicks are all hindsight.

Flash takes a wild swing and misses, and just then Dr. Strange walks by, in his astral form. 

The scripting has a slight error. Flash doesn’t have time to stop his punch and goes through Dr Strange’s astral form. In the moment it takes to do this he has time to say three sentences. It should have been “I went through him.”

Spidey leaps towards the man, but is startled to find only an empty suit of clothes.  Beneath the grating emerges the Sandman, who is late for a meeting with Dr. Octopus. 

This is a very effective sequence. It also serves to introduce a reader to Sandman if they haven’t already “met” him.

He grabs a flagpole and realizes he has lost his powers! 

The way he grabs the flagpole on a head-long fall pretty much proves he still has his powers and that it’s all psychological.

He welcomes Betty and asks who is the charming lady with her.  Sandman says she's the aunt "of some kid named Parker".  Betty is horrified by her "host", but May, not knowing who Dr. Octopus is, seems charmed by him. 

I guess this exchange inspired later stories in which Doc Ock and Aunt May are in a relationship. I really like that Aunt May admonishes Betty not to be prejudiced against him just because he has “some trouble with his arms.”

Grabbing Betty just because Spidey defended her before flies in the face of Superman’s excuse for not marrying Lois. The bad guys will go after a hero’s friends or dates regardless.

Electro hurls a bolt and Spidey leaps out of the way, and realizes his spider powers are back.  He continues to evade Electro's bolts, and then grounds himself, leaps at Electro and knocks him out. 

The knock-out is the first of the six full-page panels featuring each of the Sinister Six. I really love these!

Just then, Iron Man arrives on the scene, and asks what is going on.  Spidey says he has to leave but tells him "a reluctant guest" is inside.

With this, I believe they’ve included a cameo of all the heroes they had at the time.

Spidey's next stop is across the bay from the World's Fair.  He spots a leopard and realizes his next foe is Kraven, who shows up with a second leopard.  After a brief skirmish, Spidey snatches Kraven's card and heads off. 

Interestingly, Spidey just takes the card and leaves without actually defeating Kraven. I guess this highlights his main concern, which is getting to the end and rescuing May and Betty.

Meanwhile, at his house, Doc Ock treats Betty and May to danish pastries and coffee; May is charmed by his good manners.

Aunt May is obviously losing it, or has a very fast case of Stockholm Syndrome. This is your kidnapper!

Back at The Daily Bugle, Jonah sees a spider hanging from his window.  He figures if Ant-Man can talk to ants, a spider can relay a message to Spider-Man.  His employees are worried about Jonah's mental health.

An enjoyable scene. That is one huge spider, though. The staff can see it from outside his office!

Spidey finds himself inside an escape proof iron cell with the Sandman.  The villain thinks it's just a matter of time before he is able to defeat Spidey, but the trap is a little too perfect.  The cell is airtight, and Sandman passes out from lack of oxygen. 

It seems to me that Sandman, being no longer human and able to change into grains of sand, shouldn’t have this weakness. Don’t think too much.

Hovering in the air, the villain tells Spidey if he wants to find Betty Brant, he must remove his webbing devices before they battle. 

How does the Vulture know that Spidey’s webbing comes from a device and not his body?

There are a few things here and there you can nitpick.  The biggest one is that when Spidey grounded himself during his battle with Electro, in real life that would have killed him. 

I think their first battle ended with Spidey putting on rubber gloves.

Jonah comes off well in the early part of the story.  He's genuinely concerned about Betty and calls Peter to tell him what happened to Betty and May.  As the story progresses, we see more of the jackass and crackpot, the Jonah we know so well and love to root against. 

I like that  he says to the Vulture: “Take good care of Miss Brant. Good secretaries are hard to find nowadays.” Maybe this is just him trying to look tough.

This series was getting care and attention that others like Giant-Man, Human Torch, and Iron Man just didn't get.  

I think that the complexity and supporting casts of Spider-Man and the FF were the reasons they got the first annuals. They didn’t know what to do with Johnny Storm and his non-existent secret identity. Giant-Man and Iron Man didn’t have enough cast members at that point.

Richard Willis said:

I really love the first Spider-Man Annual.  I bought it of the stands at 16. My nitpicks are all hindsight.

(JD: Very cool!)

Spidey leaps towards the man, but is startled to find only an empty suit of clothes.  Beneath the grating emerges the Sandman, who is late for a meeting with Dr. Octopus. 

This is a very effective sequence. It also serves to introduce a reader to Sandman if they haven’t already “met” him.

(JD: Agreed.  Brilliant storytelling)

He grabs a flagpole and realizes he has lost his powers! 

The way he grabs the flagpole on a head-long fall pretty much proves he still has his powers and that it’s all psychological.

(JD: Good point.  Good use of the FF here too, as at this point they know him better than anyone, and just assume he's clowning around.)

He welcomes Betty and asks who is the charming lady with her.  Sandman says she's the aunt "of some kid named Parker".  Betty is horrified by her "host", but May, not knowing who Dr. Octopus is, seems charmed by him. 

I guess this exchange inspired later stories in which Doc Ock and Aunt May are in a relationship. I really like that Aunt May admonishes Betty not to be prejudiced against him just because he has “some trouble with his arms.”
(JD: Going by memory, I don't think May and Otto interact again for nearly 100 issues, in the storyline that introduced Hammerhead, when she was Ock's housekeeper.)

Electro hurls a bolt and Spidey leaps out of the way, and realizes his spider powers are back.  He continues to evade Electro's bolts, and then grounds himself, leaps at Electro and knocks him out. 

The knock-out is the first of the six full-page panels featuring each of the Sinister Six. I really love these!

(JD: Seconded!  Beautiful and stunning.)

Just then, Iron Man arrives on the scene, and asks what is going on.  Spidey says he has to leave but tells him "a reluctant guest" is inside.

With this, I believe they’ve included a cameo of all the heroes they had at the time.

(JD: Everyone except Daredevil and the Hulk, who had both recently appeared in ASM anyway.)

Meanwhile, at his house, Doc Ock treats Betty and May to danish pastries and coffee; May is charmed by his good manners.

Aunt May is obviously losing it, or has a very fast case of Stockholm Syndrome. This is your kidnapper!

(JD: It's played for laughs, but she has no idea what is actually going on.  The reader doesn't see what happens when Electro and Sandman force Betty and May into their car.  One would think May would be somewhat unnerved by that turn of events, not to mention those two villains are probably the two roughest and crude members of the Sinister Six.  Doc Ock could charm the ladies I guess!)

Hovering in the air, the villain tells Spidey if he wants to find Betty Brant, he must remove his webbing devices before they battle. 

How does the Vulture know that Spidey’s webbing comes from a device and not his body?

(JD: Just an assumption most likely.  Vulture built his wings and accessories, he probably figured Spidey did the same.)

This series was getting care and attention that others like Giant-Man, Human Torch, and Iron Man just didn't get.  

I think that the complexity and supporting casts of Spider-Man and the FF were the reasons they got the first annuals. They didn’t know what to do with Johnny Storm and his non-existent secret identity. Giant-Man and Iron Man didn’t have enough cast members at that point.

(JD: I agree with you on that, but ... Johnny actually got an Annual the year before, with Spidey as the guest star, teaming up - after a Marvel Misunderstanding Fight, of course - against a non-powered villain called the Fox, who looked and acted like a bad clone of the Penguin.)

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

© 2020   Captain Comics, board content ©2013 Andrew Smith   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service