10 Things I Love About Spider-Man
I recently embarked on a mission to read the entire run of The Amazing Spider-Man. Over my years as a comic fan, I’ve read a fair-sized chunk of them, but this time through I want to tackle them in chronological order.
And then I says to myself, I says, “Marshy, my boy, you write for a pop culture website! Why on Earth wouldn’t you write about this project so the world, or at least a very small cross-section of the world’s population can see it?”. And then I said back to myself, I said, “Geez, relax. I was gonna do that anyway. Go have a cigarette or something.”… and it went on like this.
THE 10 BEST THINGS ABOUT THE FIRST 20 ISSUES OF AMAZING SPIDER-MAN
(AND AMAZING FANTASY #15… AND ANNUAL #1)
10) The Then-Topical References
As Mark Millar would go on to make horribly apparent on numerous occasions, one should avoid fleeting pop culture references when writing comic books. In The Ultimates, he had Freddie Prinze Jr. (whose Q rating has dropped below that of his father) dating Betty Ross and Shannon Elizabeth (whom you kids at may remember from that American Pie movie your parents briefly liked) absconding to space with Tony Stark.
That being said, there are times when it’s done with prescience.
The Lone Ranger, as we learned this year, may not be a big draw in movie theaters but it’s definitely a character with whom the world at large is familiar. Granted, it was a wildly popular franchise at the time, so this little jab doesn’t sting quite as much in 2013, but it still plays. But then there are moments like this.
Actually, though… despite the fact that Fats Domino is 85 years old and hasn’t been relevant for half a century, he’s still a more viable moneymaker than the Lone Ranger.
I’ll save you a trip to Google and just explain that it was a very successful series of novels, radio plays, movies, and even a TV series that somehow managed to never be mentioned after the year 1966.
9) The Power of Chest Expansion
I’d kill for Dan Slott to bring this up again. Have the Superior Spider-Man get in a bind that can only be escaped with the remarkable ability to expand one’s chest. And, you know, instantly… not with one of those old fashioned exercise devices.
8) The Vulture was a serious threat!
So, imagine you’re an octogenarian with a magnetic flight suit, looking to create a little nest egg for yourself (pun definitely intended, since he’s an old man and those dudes love that kind of humor).
Naturally, you’d outfit yourself with wings and a mink collar. And since green fabric is apparently very affordable in the world of 1960s Marvel, you’d save a few pennies on that. Vultures aren’t green, but they didn’t have Wikipedia back then, so I’ll let it pass.
Now, Adrian Toomes may be senile, but he’s not stupid. Being able to fly and looking like a jackass might land you a spot in the Silverhawks, but it’s not going to make bank tellers hand over bags with dollar signs on them. That’s why the Vulture carries a FUCKING HANDGUN.
I don’t know about you, True Believers, but that makes this guy a whole hell of a lot more credible in my book. The combination of a ridiculous costume and a conventional weapon is, to me, so much scarier than some kind of sci-fi laser rifle. This demented old bastard is fully prepared to fire a slug into J. Jonah Jameson’s heart.
7) For a bookworm, Parker did all right with the ladies.
Peter Parker, as you probably know, began his career as Spider-Man while still in high-school. He had a flirtatious relationship with Daily Bugle staffer Betty Brant, whose age was never clearly given, but was clearly a bit older. Not bad for a wallflower who “wouldn’t know a cha-cha from a waltz”
Not longer after Peter got up the nerve to mack it to Betty Brant, his classmate Liz Allen was all over him. Now, he never actually encouraged Liz, but he certainly never turned her away. Betty Brant eventually starts seeing Ned Leeds to make Pete jealous, but he’s so cool about it that it only makes her want her more.
Our boy Parker is all about the casual relationship. He accompanies Betty to drop Ned off at the airport, and before Mr. Leeds has even lit his first in-flight cigarette, he’s escorting Betty around town.
6) The Green Goblin Was Goofy As Hell
I’ve gone on record that Doctor Octopus has always been Spider-Man’s number one villain in my eyes (not counting the Tarantula), and the first few appearances of the Green Goblin, the other widely supported contender for the position, have cemented this notion in my mind. The Green Goblin’s look doesn’t bother me, I prefer his tunic having a turtleneck and Steve Ditko’s eerie style really suits this character, but I take issue with his bag of tricks. It’s hard to take a guy seriously when he pulls this kind of bullshit…
In his first appearance, The Green Goblin lures Spider-Man out to the desert by convincing a movie studio to film some batshit crazy movie about the two of them fighting. The studio is so eager to get that Spider-Man money that they let it happen, and the Green Goblin and the Enforcers are apparently method actors, since they try to murder Spider-Man for realsies. They don’t, though… don’t worry.
Really, I’m not surprised the plan doesn’t pan out. The Green Goblin is really keen on form over function, as illustrated below.
Most of these things are electrically charged bombs, but he’s designed them to look like Halloween party favors. And a frog. I was born in the 80s, but as far as I know frogs were not generally considered to be a frightening animal under the Kennedy administration.
That being said, the fact that his identity was deliberately kept a mystery throughout this entire span is just the sort of thing I love about Spider-Man comics. He and the Hobgoblin both spent a good chunk of their publication histories as enigmas, and while the payoff for the latter wasn’t quite as rewarding, I love a good mystery.
5) Is Steve Ditko Trying to Tell us Something?
Stan Lee is without a doubt the most famous personality in the comics world. He’s a charismatic old man with a winning smile and no aversion to doing a little self-promotion. You may have seen him in just about every movie ever based on a Marvel Comic.
But amongst comic book historians, Stan Lee has another famous characteristic: His fondness for putting his name on other people’s work. Jack Kirby’s estate asserts that it was Kirby who created Lee’s famous characters, and that Lee was only loosely involved with the famous stories that are currently being adapted into a multi-billion-dollar movie franchise. And this “claim” is widely believed by their peers.
Steve Ditko has made some similar statements but, since Ditko is a noted recluse, he’s primarily made these statements under his breath as he bitterly slices valuable original art to shreds at home. In reading these issues, though, I noticed a few cries for help. Let’s assume (safely) that it was Ditko framing out these stories… he seems to have been having a little light-hearted fun at the expense of his supposed collaborator.
Now, even Stan Lee admits that he didn’t write the dialogue until after the artist turned in the pages. And if we’re to go the extra mile and say that Ditko came up with the entire story, he’s basically calling Stan Lee out in that panel on the left. All the same, at this time he probably never could have guessed that Spider-Man would be a parade float, let alone the basis of one of the most financially successful film franchises of all time.
4) Kraven the Hunter Was a Total Badass
Sergei Kravinoff , for the uninitiated, was a Russian big game hunter who had bested each of nature’s most ferocious beasts… with his bare goddamn hands. Granted, he was juicing with some kind of mystical steroid, but it’s still pretty impressive. So when Kraven came to Manhattan to try his hand against the Amazing Spider-Man, he didn’t hesitate to show off a bit for the press. But the Tonight Show, this was not. He didn’t bring out a boa constrictor for the crowd and let it slide harmlessly along his arm. He kicked the shit out of a gorilla tag team.
And all while wearing Cyndi Lauper’s hand-me-downs, to boot! As you might expect, he initially has Spider-Man beaten but then the Webhead remembers it’s his comic book and he catches Kraven in a net and hands him over to the police. Fortunately for Kraven, the Police saw the whole gorilla thing and they let him off with a slap on the wrist, sending him and his fellow Commie The Chameleon packing on a steamship to South America as was customary in the 1960s.
3) Spider-Man Cracks Me Up
Spider-Man is famous for being the wise-cracking superhero. However, in recent years it’s sort of fallen flat. I’m not saying there aren’t some gems in there, but the market is saturated. It’s expected that Spider-Man constantly be rolling off a Jerry Seinfeld routine while he webs up small time crooks. The beauty of early Spider-Man’s comedy was not only it’s juxtaposition against the melodramatic scripts of Stan Lee, but also that he was an outright prick in the style of Bugs Bunny.
And as every customer I’ve once served and every woman who’s ever dumped me can confirm, I get a big kick out of calm condescension in the face of outrage. And Spidey is a man after my own heart in that respect.
2) So Many Villains
In this bunch of stories, Spider-Man faced an astounding __ villains! We saw him go up against the Chameleon, The Tinkerer, The Vulture, Doctor Octopus, The Sandman, Doctor Doom (although he’d already appeared in Fantastic Four), The Lizard, The Living Brain, Electro, The Enforcers, Mysterio, The Green Goblin, Kraven, The Ringmaster (who’d previously faced the Hulk), and The Scorpion.
He tackled a few of them more than once in this run, and there was even an issue where he didn’t directly face anyone, but it’s still got to be the healthiest showing of worthwhile villains per capita in comic book history!
1) The Sinister Six
Sony, please get five more villains out of the way in the Marc Webb movies as quickly as possible so there can be a Sinister Six movie. I don’t ask you for much, but please remember that I’ve always been outspoken in my distaste for the XBox, so I hope you’ll take that into consideration.
Allow me to explain, for those who aren’t familiar. In Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, Doctor Octopus hatches a plot to take care of the webslinger once and for all, and the premise isn’t half bad. You see, Spider-Man has proven capable of beating the piss out of his villains whenever the occasion arises, but Doc Ock suggests that they gang up on him. Surely Spider-Man can’t fight six villains with a total of of 16 arms!
It all kind of falls apart, though, when they decide to arrange it as a sort of gauntlet where Spider-Man faces them individually, one after another. Instead of this issue being one big Spider-Man death scene, it’s a montage of him re-kicking the Sinister Six’s asses one by one.
My favorite part of the whole affair, though, is that once Spider-Man saves Aunt May and Betty and delivers the criminals into the hands of the law, they place them all in one big holding cell and call it a night!
And that’s that! Just between us, I’m glad it’s another 20 issues until my next article about Spider-Man! It’ll take me that long to rest up from doing this one!
Ya see what I did there?
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