The Spider-Man Challenge: Monday through Friday, I read a Stan Lee-written issue of Amazing Spider-Man and write crap about it.
Something that’s been bugging me about these posts is that I feel my synopsises (synopsi?) are kind of…dry. But I can’t really go without them because they give you, the reader, some pretty valuable context. So, starting with today’s post, I’m going to try and write the recaps alittle more casually.
“The Man Called Electro!”
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko
Synopsis: The issue kicks off with Spider-Man swinging through the city in a hurry. He swings by a shootout between the cops and some crooks, who are happy/horrified to see him, but are then just confused when he swings past.
It turns out Aunt May is incredibly sick (with WHAT we never find out) and Peter filled a prescription for her as fast as he could. This sequence is really well done, especially little details like Peter clumsily throwing a jacket on over his costume when he gets home. On the other side of town, we’re introduced to this issue’s antagonist, Electro, who’s charging his body with some kind of sciencey electrical generator. Electro then robs an armored car of its gold (though the security guards are all holding bags with $’s on them? Maybe they’re sacks of gold coins.) by shooting rings of electricity around the guards. The next day at Midtown High, Peter ignores the usual taunts and walks off in a huff, leaving Flash Thompson, in a moment of genuine humanity, to consider that maybe he’s been “too rough” on him. Flash even tries to talk to him but Peter ignores him. Peter shows up at the hospital to visit Aunt May, only to find Betty Brant by her side (she had heard she was sick). Peter and Betty talk alittle, but Peter has to run and Betty wonders if Peter’s carrying some kind of deep secret. Peter tries to take some pictures to pay for his Aunt’s medical bills, but, in classic Parker Luck fashion, it rains and he has to go home and dry off. The next day, J. Jonah Jameson is at the Forest Hills bank, being J. Jonah Jameson and demanding sales figures from a teller. Electro shows up, recognizes Jameson and uses his powers to open a time-lock safe and takes off with the money. Jameson, realizing that Electro knew who he was and seeing him flee the scene by climbing the side of a building (“Fucking Magnets, how do they work?” – ICP), concludes that Electro MUST be Spider-Man and runs a headline in the Bugle saying so.
Back at the hospital, Peter is told he needs $1,000 to pay for Aunt May’s specialized medical bills. Peter can’t get the money from Jameson unless he can give him photos that prove Spider-Man and Electro are one in the same, but realizes he can use the reward money offered for Electro’s capture. Spider-Man swings around and finds a guy with a telescope and some electrical repairmen before finally coming across Electro breaking into a safe. The two fight and Spider-Man grabs Electro and is electrocuted. Electro almost seems to feel bad about this, but shrugs it off and leaves. Peter recovers and, with no options left, forges a picture of Spider-Man changing into Electro. Peter feels terrible about it and the reaction on the street ranges from disbelief to “Mr. Jameson wouldn’t print it if it wasn’t true!”. The comic then cuts back to Electro enjoying his good fortune. He enjoys it so much that he has a origin flashback! Max Dillon was an extremely dickish electric lineman who got struck by lightning while holding two telephone lines and discovered he could generate electricity from his body (The most recent Electro story by Fred Van Lente retcons this story by explaining that Dillon’s a mutant and the lightning just super-charged him). Electro heads to a jail to stage a prison break and get some willing henchmen (I’m wondering if Bendis remembered this story when he had the Skrulls/Black Widow II hire Electro to do pretty much the same thing in his first New Avengers arc, pretty crazy coincidence if he didn’t). Across town, Peter wants to tackle Electro, but he can’t leave while his Aunt is in surgery and Betty sits with him while they wait. Back at the prison, most of the thugs Electro springs blow him off and run out .
Meanwhile, Aunt May’s surgery was a success and Peter heads to the prison and Betty asks him not go and cryptically says that he’s “beginning to enjoy the danger–the excitment! Just like–someone ELSE I once knew” (More on that in the next few issues). Spider-Man arrives at the prison and Jameson is crushed to discover he was wrong. Spidey dons some rainboots and rubber gloves, sets up his camera, and attacks Electro. He’s able to deflect Electro’s blasts long enough to douse him with a fire hose. Peter takes his pictures to The Daily Bugle and Jameson tries to fire him until Peter points out he’s a freelancer and that he has actual photos of the Electro/Spider-Man fight. Betty, upset that Peter ignored her and went to the prison, reveals that she dropped out of high school last year to take her secretary job, that he reminds her of someone she once knew and that she doesn’t want to get hurt again. Peter yells at her and leaves to visit Aunt May, who has recovered well enough to go home in a few days. Peter leaves, but feels bad about losing his temper with Betty. Betty runs up to him and apologizes and they walk off together.
- This issue is pretty notable for a couple of reasons, but probably most of all because this is the first time we see Aunt May’s ever-fluctuating health. This becomes a pretty common plot line and it (and Peter’s attempts to keep her alive) really come to a head in issue #33, my favorite Spider-Man story.
- The other recurring element introduced in this issue is Jameson being convinced that Spider-Man and whoever the bad guy of the month is are the same. Sad horn.
- Electro’s a pretty solid bad guy in this issue, but I think the basic problem is that he’s pretty confusable with The Shocker, another blue collar thug with similar sounding (though fundamentally different) powers. I really dig Electro’s costume and have never understood why it gets redesigned every few years. My one gripe is that the mask looks like a Klan hood with that one really long bolt, but it’s a pretty sound costume all in all.
- Man, I don’t know what the hell this guy’s up to, but it’s not good:
- I was pretty surprised to see Electro show a shred of remorse for electrocuting Spider-Man, that was a nice touch.
- This issue really shows how Spider-Man really has one of the best supporting casts in comics. Lee does a great job of developing characters; characters like Flash, Betty, and Liz Allan have evolved and grown over a handful of issues. Stuff like the Flash bit was something Lee could’ve easily left out, but I’m so glad he didn’t.
- I LOVE how Ditko continues to do these quiet, cinematic Betty/Peter panels. They’re really poignant and genuine, even with Lee’s usual bombastic narration. Take a look:
Final Thoughts: Electro’s not the best Spider-Man rogue by any means, but he’s a good foe and this issue balances a couple of dramatic subplots really well. Tomorrow’s issue marks the first appearance of a team of my favorite bad guys: The Enforcers! Ox! Fancy Dan! Montana! Plus, the start of the Big Man story arc! Don’t miss it.