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 after this it was decided getting messages that way was an Ant-Man power so Spider-Man stopped using it. In a later issue Jameson saw a spider, assumed Spider-Man sent it, and stood there yelling at it to give him the message Spidey had given it, while his employees stared at him. "Am I going crazy or is JJ talking to a spider?!" "If he is you're not the one going crazy!"

Not if the agent was shady. Although that would have opened up all new opportunities to louse up Spidey's day. (And sooner or later the Bugle would be touting Spider-Man was getting money illegally.)

Homer Simpson after being ordered to work for the government for cheating on his taxes, says to the FBI: "Okay, but could you pay me under the table? I got a little tax problem."
John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

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.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 (May 1963)

"Duel to the Death with the Vulture!"

Writer - Stan Lee / Art - Steve Ditko / Lettering - John Duffy / Colors - Stan Goldberg

Cover by Steve Ditko

New York is being menaced by a new villain named the Vulture, who swoops down from the skies to commit daring daylight robberies.  J. Jonah Jameson wants to print stories about him in Now Magazine because he is big news, but JJJ is frustrated that none of his employees can get a picture of the Vulture.  He also orders more stories about Spider-Man, whom he calls a "dangerous menace".  At Midtown High, the teenagers are also intrigued and one young lad speculates a picture of the Vulture would be worth a fortune.  This gives Peter Parker an idea.  He gets a miniature camera that used to belong to his Uncle Ben from his Aunt May, and plans to attach it to his costume.  Meanwhile, the Vulture is planning his next crime, a diamond shipment robbery, and feels no one, not even Spider-Man, can stop him.

Spider-Man gets his first glimpse of the Vulture soon after, as the winged man flies past on his way to leaving taunting message to Jameson, a radio station, and the chief of police.  Afterwards, the Vulture spots Spider-Man on a rooftop, doubles back, and knocks out Spider-man from behind.  He picks him up and drops him in a water tower to drown.  Hitting the cold water revives Spidey, and he soon escapes from the tower.

Back at home, Peter makes some additions to his crime fighting arsenal so he can have extra web fluid on hand.  He also thinks he knows the secret of the Vulture's power of flight, and works on a device for several hours that will come in handy for that.  The next day, he takes picture of the Vulture to Jameson, who is overjoyed to get them.  He asks how Peter got them, but Peter insists that will be his secret.

The following day, the kids from Midtown High go downtown to watch the diamonds get transported to their new offices, hoping to see the Vulture.  Peter tags along, but leaves soon afterward in case Spider-Man is needed, prompting some taunting from Flash Thompson.  The diamond shipment is heavily guarded, with a large police presence.  Many eyes - and guns - are pointed to the sky, when suddenly the Vulture swoops up from under a manhole cover, grabs the diamonds and goes back underground, all in seconds.  

Peter changes to Spider-Man and uses his spider-sense to detect him, but the Vulture spots him as well.  He swiftly flies around a building and is now behind Spidey.  He attacks, but Spidey was alerted by his spider-sense and had readied himself.  He snags the Vulture with webbing and soon grabs him by the ankle.  Spider-Man activates the gadget he had been working on, and suddenly the Vulture can no longer fly.  he slows his fall by spiralling but he lands hard on a rooftop, where he is promptly arrested.  Spidey takes several pictures of all this and plans to ask Jameson for top dollar for them.  He thinks to himself that he guessed correctly that the Vulture flew by harnessing magnetic power, as there was an absence of noise when he flew.  The device was an anti-magnetic inverter.

The next day, Peter takes the pictures to Jonah, who is amazed a teenager could get such great pictures.  He pays Peter well for them, enough so that he can pay rent for himself and Aunt May for a year, and promises to buy her a whole set of new kitchen appliances.  Meanwhile, the Vulture sits in a jail cell, vowing revenge.


My rating: 9/10

First off, I really like the cover - simple but eye catching.  Ditko knew what he was doing.

This was a great story, with a lot packed in to the 14 pages.  The Vulture is Spidey's first iconic villain; he's got a memorable look, and he''s definitely mean, nasty, and deadly, as well as quite clever.  Interestingly enough, I don't think there was a reference to him being old and grizzled.  Although the police were overwhelmed by him, the Vulture wasn't too much of a match for Spidey.  Peter's confidence is growing, I wonder if overconfidence will a problem at some point?

The Vulture would get an excellent and touching origin story in ASM 240-241 by Roger Stern and John Romita Jr, 

It's kind of funny to see JJJ not being a skinflint, or at all mean to Peter.  He still thinks Spider-man is a menace, but otherwise is somewhat reasonable in this story in his interactions with others.

After last issue's guest star role by the FF, and mentions of them and Ant-Man in story.  Here, there's nothing like this, as the Vulture seems only concerned with Spidey and no one else.

The whole idea of Spider-Man being a wanted fugitive seems to have been dropped completely.  Also, we get our first happy ending!

The picture of the Terrible Tinkerer story on the side makes this look like one of the split books...which haven't started splitting yet. Perhaps this gave Stan ideas for later?

The Vulture beats Spider-Man easily at first, yet it doesn't demoralize him, like his first encounter with Doc Ock will next issue. Peter will later discover that his boss could be a lot worse than JJJ when he tries selling pictures to the Bugle's competition. It's interesting he picks JJJ because he knows it would tick him off if he ever found out he was giving Spider-Man money.

The Incredible Hulk was split into two stories for #4-#5 and two and a short reprise of the origin in #3. That was earlier in the year: the last issue, #6, came out in the month between Amazing Spider-Man #1 and #2. At that point Kid Colt Outlaw, Rawhide Kid and Two Gun Kid (which had just started) were carrying two stories and a short non-series one.

As I’ve said before, I think it's likely that the first two Spidey stories - the Amazing Fantasy #15 and Jameson rescue ones - were created close together, and there was a hiatus before the creation of the next one.(1) Hence Spider-Man's code name is unhyphenated in those two stories (except in the logos) and hyphenated in the later ones, and Lee got Peter's surname wrong in the Chameleon tale.

The stories in #2 show a shift in tone: things keep going wrong for him in the first two tales, but in the #2 ones he’s an outsider but a winner. The Chameleon story is transitional: Spidey thinks he’s come out behind and runs off at the end, but in fact the police catch the Chameleon so he comes out ahead. Peter's going to work for Jameson in the Vulture story is the beginning of his portrayal as a smart-ass.

(1) I've argued a couple of times that the first two stories were created for the same issue - the length is about right - but to make my theory work the recap page of the Jameson story would have to be a later addition, and it uses Spiderman. I still like that theory but it's probably more likely that the Jameson story was intended for Amazing Fantasy #16 and is longer than the #15 because Lee only had an 11 page slot free for that issue.

I think western comics always had two or three stories until Stan decided to try turning them into superhero titles like with the Old West Dr. Doom character.

Spider-Man meets the FF the same month they meet the Hulk. I'd guess they were probably planned about the same time to show their characters existed in the same universe. Pretty sure an earlier issue of the FF had the Thing say the Hulk was just a comic book character.

Loved the Vulture. Really loved the rivalry with the second Draco Vulture later (covered in another thread I believe...!)

Love this thread too, find myself smiling as I re-read along.

Good job John.

Luke Blanchard said:

it's probably more likely that the Jameson story was intended for Amazing Fantasy #16 and is longer than the #15 [one] because Lee only had an 11 page slot free for that issue.

Amazing Adult Fantasy had been running four 5-page stories and a 3-pager, all by Ditko. Amazing Fantasy #15 had two 5-pagers, a 3-pager, and the 11-page Spider-Man origin.

Stan did say future issues of Amazing Fantasy would have had longer stories. It seems likely the story for #16 was at least started by that point.

Luke Blanchard said:

Peter's going to work for Jameson in the Vulture story is the beginning of his portrayal as a smart-ass.

He also insults Flash Thompson back when that latter needles him in the classroom sequence. Peter's classmates don't appear in #1.

Aunt May appears at the Vulture story's end, so it's the first one with the whole cast, minus Betty, who hasn't been introduced yet. Liz hasn't been named.

And Sally disappears.

Odd that the two girls in Peter's life for awhile are both named Elizabeth. Also, Stan seems to have forgotten he already has a girl named Betty in the Hulk.

There is a shot of Jameson's secretary when Peter first goes to his office. It could be Betty but it's not that clear. She's wearing glasses.

Sue's worry at the end of the Chameleon story that Spider-Man might turn against the law echoes Reed's similar concern about the Torch at the end of Fantastic Four #3.

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