The Spider-Man Challenge: Monday through Friday, I read a Stan Lee-written issue of Amazing Spider-Man and write crap about it.
Fun Fact: This issue is one of Dan Slott’s favorite classic Spider-Man issues. Let’s have a look.
“The Terrible Threat of The Living Brain”
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko
Synopsis: The first story opens in a Midtown High classroom, where Peter and his classmates watch as a robot is wheeled in. Flash Thompson knocks off Peter’s glasses and the two almost get into a fight until Liz Allan breaks it up. Mr. Petty of ICM then explains to the strange looking machine, “The Living Brain”, to the class: the machine contains more knowledge than any human or computer on Earth and has the ability to think. Mr. Petty asks for a volunteer and Peter is selected to operate the robot while two janitors scheme to steal the Brain. The students suggest Peter asks the machine to reveal Spider-Man’s secret identity. Nervously, Peter inputs the data.
Luckily, the machine spits out a numbered code that Peter’s teacher charges him with translating for homework. Flash tries to grab the code from Peter and, after a shoving match, their teacher suggests they solve their problems in the gym. After class, Flash and Peter get in the ring and box. Peter is torn between looking like a coward after dodging Flash’ punches and seriously hurting his opponent. While everyone distracted by the fight, the two janitors attempt to steal the Living Brain. Mr. Petty walks in them and is knocked out and in the scuffle, one of the crooked janitors is knocked into the Brain, which goes kill-crazy.
Back at the fight, Peter figures out how to use the least amount of his strength and lands a blow just as Flash is momentarily distracted by the Living Brain panic. Peter gets booed and he leaves an unconscious Flash in the locker room while he sneaks off as Spider-Man. Spider-Man attempts to stop The Living Brain but nothing works against the haywire machine. This continues until two students are nearly mowed down by The Brain and Spider-Man slows it down, but is grabbed by the machine. He manages to shut it down before it can fall down a flight of stairs. The two janitors flee through the locker room and are accidently knocked out when Flash wakes up. Seizing the opportunity to play a trick on his rival, Peter plants the idea that Flash is Spider-Man. Peter decides to say he lost the paper slip in all the confusion, pleased with getting a chance to clobber Flash and save the day.
- It took 8 issues, but Peter has finally ditched the glasses!
- The Living Brain, man. Only in comics can knocking into a computer make it freak out and attack people. An incredibly useful feature. I’m only sad that the Living Brain didn’t get the ED-209 ending hinted at by the stairs.
- The many goofy faces of Flash Thompson, ladies and gentlemen:
- So yeah, Flash Thompson is a great foil and the pay off at the end is priceless.
The next story is much shorter, but it makes up for it in weirdness.
“Spider-Man Tackles The Torch”
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Synopsis: Spider-Man heads down to Glenville to ruin a party held for Johnny Storm by his girlfriend, Doris Evans.
Spidey and The Torch fight and it takes them to the beach, where the rest of The Fantastic Four show up to watch before being pulled in. Finally, Sue Storm breaks up the fight and flirts alittle with Spider-Man (“You’re entirely too clever, and adorable, to be fighting with us!”). Spider-Man takes off in a huff, but not before leaving a heart made of webbing for Sue.
- This story is…bizarre. Why does Spider-Man act like such an enormous dick? Shouldn’t he still be grateful for the pep talk he got back in the Doc Ock issue?
- As I pointed out in the credits, this is the first Kirby-drawn Spider-Man story. I think he does pretty good with the physicality/movement, but he’s alittle too reliant on webbing gimmicks (Over the course of 6 pages, Spider-Man makes a bat, a parachute, some bags, a hang-glider, and a heart). It’s a well-drawn story, but Ditko’s a much better fit.
Final Thoughts: As an issue, it’s good, but kind of a mixed bag. The first story’s fun and simple with some really funny moments, the second one feels like a last minute fill-in, though Kirby art is Kirby art and that’s always good. Tomorrow: Electro! Why not?