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The Spider-Man Challenge Day 5: Amazing Spider-Man #4

The Spider-Man Challenge: Monday through Friday, I read a Stan Lee-written issue of Amazing Spider-Man and write crap about it.


Spider-Man sure gets pinned down…often.

“Nothing Can Stop…The Sandman”

Writer: Stan Lee

Artist: Steve Ditko

Synopsis: Spider-Man jumps the gun on nabbing some burglars and ends up running from a cop. Ending up on a rooftop, he meets infamous super-criminal, the Sandman. Spider-Man’s surprised to learn that his opponent is made of living sand. His Spider-Man mask is ruined and Peter, afraid of being identified, runs off. While mending his torn mask, Peter catches a news program where we learn the origin of Flint Marko, alias The Sandman: Escaping “Island Prison”, Marko ends up on a beach used for atomic testing. Exposed to radiation, his body took on the qualities of sand around him and he became an unstoppable crook. The next morning, Peter arrives at the Daily Bugle offices to find J. Jonah Jameson stuck to his chair (the result of a well laid Spider-Man prank) and brings him a fresh pair of trousers. Jameson rejects Peter’s request for an advance and Peter heads back to school. Peter gets stuck carrying old bottles just as a fleeing Sandman enters the school. Demanding a diploma from the principal (really?), Parker comes on the scene as Spider-Man and they engage in a fight through the halls of the school. Spider-Man tricks Marko into changing into his sand form, then captures him in a shop vac. Realizing he hadn’t shot any pictures of the fight, Spider-Man fakes some photos and sells them to Jameson. After almost losing his temper and hurting Flash Thompson and overhearing the words of his neighbors, Peter is left once again unsure of his actions and his fate.

Observations:

  • The kind of stange thing about this issue is that, with a couple of exceptions, this issue is made up of a 3 x 3 grid sequence. It’s nice to see Ditko continue to experiment with layout, but I’m not sure this works. It’s real hard to read, for one. Check it out:

  • Sandman is SUCH a great Spider-Man villain. Ditko continues to draw really dynamic, visually interesting bad guys and he has Marko use his powers in really clever ways. I hadn’t noticed this before, but Ditko even draws Sandman’s face as rough and craggy.
  • This issue had some pretty funny stuff in it. The most obvious is Spider-Man staging the Sandman fight for the camera, which is literally just the dude throwing sand around and punching the air. The bit with Sandman demanding a high school diploma and the principal being all “No! You have to earn those” is pretty ridiculous and great, as is Peter’s fear that his exposure as Spider-Man would lead to this:

FOR SALE SHOE LACES 10 CENTS

  • First appearance of Betty Brant, the first Peter Parker love interest, so that’s something.
  • The fight sequence at the end of this issue is so good. After a handful of issues where the fights end up in buildings or in the street, it was a nice change of pace to see it take place at Midtown High. The fight itself is so great because it’s so unconventional and weird, you can tell Ditko was having fun drawing this. Spider-Man using the shop vac at the end is so classically comic booky that it works.

I...wow. Damn, Spider-Man.

Final Thoughts: I’m not sold on the 3 x 3 grid that Ditko went with here, but the great action and storytelling makes this one of my favorite early Spider-Man stories.  Tomorrow: DOOM

REALLY?

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About Max Robinson

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