The Spider-Man Challenge Day 21: Amazing Spider-Man #19

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

The Spider-Foot is coming for your face, reader!!

“Spidey Strikes Back!”

Writer: Stan Lee

Artist: Steve Ditko

Synopsis: This issue, Stan decides to kick things off with the most intense caption of all time.

These are border-line "Thriller" lyrics

Then BAM, we go straight into Spider-Man beating up some thieves!

Our boy is back

J. Jonah Jameson, literally about to deliver a lecture entitled “How I Proved That Spider-Man is A Cowardly Fraud”, finds out and we get what may seriously be the best three panel sequence in Spider-Man history:

DESPAIR

The Human Torch, tired from an adventure of in Strange Tales, notices Jameson pounding his fists against a wall, but ignores it. Out of nowhere,The Enforcers and Sandman ambush him.

Uhhhhh

Turns out they’re planning to take down every super-hero in the city (Yeah have fun with Thor, guys). One of Sandman’s cronies shows up to tell him that Spider-Man’s back, but Sandman tells him to shut up before The Enforcers hear (They only agreed to do the job with Spider-Man gone).

Meanwhile, Spidey heads home and catches some sleep. The next day at school, Spider-Man’s return means Flash is popular again, though Liz Allan won’t give him the time of day. After school, Peter spots Fancy Dan on the streets and decides to follow him.

I'd show you the panel of Ox throwing Fancy Dan at Spider-Man if I could, but it's as awesome as it sounds

Fight ensues. The cops show up and everyone scatters. Peter heads over to the Bugle and runs into Betty, who introduces him to Bugle reporter/her new beau Ned Leeds. Ned’s friendly enough and Betty’s surprised to find that Peter wishes her well, wondering if he’s seeing someone new. Peter tries to talk to Jonah, but he’s back to his usual self and slams the door on his face. Across town, The Enforcers and Sandman plan to use The Torch to trap Spider-Man. The Torch tries to give his glass cage The Touch but it’s a no go.

Nothin Doin'

Spider-Man stops by the Bugle long enough to razz Jameson, then shakes down a stoolie named Louie for the location of Sandman and co.

The jacket isn't coming down any time soon, bro.

Spidey shows up at their hideout (an old gym) and is taken by surprise by Sandman. A melee breaks out and Spider-Man holds his own long enough to break out The Torch.

SO MUCH IS HAPPENING

The two take down The Enforcers, but their squabbling keeps them from nabbing Sandman.

Teenagers are assholes.

Luckily, the police manage to catch the now-tired Sandman. Peter skedaddles and sells photos of the fight to Jonah, who greedily buys them up. Peter runs into Betty and Ned again and she’s put off that he isn’t showing a shred of jealousy. Betty really needs to get her shit together.

The issue ends intriguingly with a mysterious figure following Peter home. The figure phones another, even more mysterious robed figure to report in. The robed man says he “must know for certain” before he acts. Uh oh.

??????

Observations:

  • This is a pretty good issue. Not much really happens, but it continues some solid plot lines.
  • Hey, the first appearance of Ned Leeds! Lets look at the handsome devil:

It’s too bad he’ll die in disgrace and then basically be forgotten about!

  • I really enjoyed how this caper ended with Spider-Man and The Torch screwing up and bickering. It’s easy to forget that they’re just kids, so alittle immaturity now and then really demonstrates that.

Final Thoughts: Good issue and a nice conclusion to the three issue storyline Lee set up. Tomorrow: The first issue of 1965 and it’s got the debut of The Scorpion! Yeah!

Advertisements

The Spider-Man Challenge Day 20: Amazing Spider-Man #18

Alright. It’s been a little while, but THE MISSION COMES FIRST.

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

“The End of Spider-Man!”

Writer: Stan Lee

Artist: Steve Ditko

Synopsis: Last issue, everyone was stunned to see Spider-Man flee from his fight with the Green Goblin. This issue, they’re still stunned!

Leave it to Kraven to put a positive spin on things.

Jonah's all ūüėÄ

There’s also a great panel that has the Avengers kind of acting like dicks about the whole thing, the crown jewel being the Wasp’s inexplicable “Wasps and spiders are natural enemies…so I can’t honestly say I’m sorry for him!”. Shut up, Wasp.

Meanwhile, Peter is busy watching Aunt May at home and going to class. He’s worried because, once again, money’s tight.

TO ME, MY X-MEN

Peter decides to try and make some money by hitting up a trading card company about doing Spider-Man cards. It doesn’t go well.

MR.TRADING CARDS TO SPIDER-MAN: "SCRAM WILL YA"

Afterwards, he comes across some would be jewel thieves but, fearing what would happen to Aunt May without him, decides to be someone’s lame neighbor and calls the cops instead. He tries to call Betty Brant, but she’s still mad at him for once again being seen within five feet of Liz Allan. Betty’s clearly upset about it and Aunt May’s heart attack, but it’s ok because J. JONAH JAMESON IS ALL SMILES.

Everything's turning up JONAH

Peter tries again to contact her, but Betty doesn’t trust herself to talk to him, so she refuses to answer. Peter mopes and flashes back to how he saved her from the Sinister Six (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, on stands now kiddies!). ¬†Peter sees Betty, tries to talk to her, she runs off, Jonah pops out his neck chords.

Everything is wrong!

Spider-Man tries another get-rich-quick-scheme and offers to sell his web solution to a bunch of scientists. They’re amazed at first, but then dismiss it once they find out it isn’t permanent. Then, because he hasn’t ran into enough of his supporting cast, Sandman shows up!

This just ISN'T your day, Spider-Man

Sandman attacks (I guess he escaped from prison? The annual had him in a normal jail cell, so not terribly surprising really) and Spider-Man tries to run away while being called a coward by his foe and the public alike. Peter manages to ditch him by changing back to Peter and heads home. Aunt May tells him it’s too bad Mrs.Watson’s¬†Watkins’ niece isn’t around ( writing 80% of Marvel’s initial output meant Stan Lee sometimes fucked up character names). ¬†The Torch sees J. Jonah Jameson’s televised gloating about Spider-Man’s cowardice and refuses to believe he’s a coward.

NO TIME FOR SCIENCE, PROF!

He leaves a flaming message to meet at the Statue of Liberty, but Peter doesn’t show and Johnny’s very sad. Back at school, Flash Thompson still defends his idol and decides to dress up as Spider-Man, figuring Spider-Man will save him if he gets in trouble (What a terrible plan!). ¬†It goes about as well as you’d expect.

OOF

Betty tells Peter what happened and he runs to stop Flash, but Flash gets his ass handed to him by a bunch of car thieves until the police arrive. Peter tries to talk to him the next day, but gets blown off by an angry and bruised Flash. To top off his terrible week, Peter runs into Betty leaving a movie on the arm of another guy.

For some reason, this looks familiar…

Sad Peter heads home and tosses off his Spider-Man stuff and decides to try just being Peter Parker for awhile. When he comes downstairs, he notices Aunt May is out of her wheelchair! ¬†She ‘s feeling better and proceeds to give Peter a much needed talking to about not being such a bitch.

Good lord, how old is this woman??

The issue ends with Peter pulling out his Spider-Man costume. Fuck yeah.

Comments:

  • I like how the series has really transitioned from one-shot, fight-focusedissues with some ongoing plots to ongoing stories with alot going on. This issue is fantastic, if alittle slow. There’s surprisingly little action, but the sheer amount of plot makes up for it.
  • Flash’s desperation is surprisingly subtle, especially for the period. It’s stuff like this that really demonstrate the quality writing Lee puts into Spider-Man.
  • With this issue, you can really see the dissolution of Peter and Betty’s relationship. I love how realistically this is handled.
  • Aunt May giving Peter that pep talk ¬†is such a great plot point, especially after how she’s been less of a character and more of a plot contrivance the last few issues.

Final Thoughts: This isn’t the first Spider-Man waffling about being Spider-Man story, it isn’t the last Spider-Man waffling about being Spider-Man story, but it’s a really good Spider-Man waffling about being Spider-Man story. ‘Nuff said. Next monday, Sandman rematch + The Enforcers = solid gold.

The Spider-Man Challenge Day 19: Amazing Spider-Man #17

Starting tomorrow I’m going to be employed, so that means The Spider-Man Challenge is going to need to be tweaked a bit. So as of today, I’m going to abbreviate the issue¬†synopsis’s and focus more on my observations. Let’s do this.

The Human Torch looks like he's having fun, doesn't he?

So the Green Goblin’s back and out for revenge against Spider-Man

I had no idea that the Green Goblin's weaponry included Halloween Beanie Babies

Meanwhile, Flash Thompson stars a Spider-Man Fan Club

NO PETERS CLUB

Naturally, Flash won’t let him in, but Liz begins to scheme…

Meanwhile, Spider-Man shows up to stop a robbery, only to realize that he messed up filming on a movie! Now everyone’s laughing at him. Everyone’s a jerk!

The Internet: A Dramatic Recreation

Then this happens:

Curb Your Spider-thusiasm

Then THIS happens:

That is one classy looking dude

Later, Spidey gets shown up by local jackass, Johnny Storm

But thankfully manages to miss Mary Jane Watson once again.

Peter you schmuck

Finally, the first meeting of Flash’s Spider-Man Fan Club comes together

I'm pretty sure Betty Brant is going to murder Liz Allan in the next few issues.

Spider-Man shows up, but so does his nemesis. Why he’s surprised to see one of the dozens of dudes who want to kill him at an event advertised in the NEWSPAPER isn’t clear.

Beware The Green Goblin's Strip-o-gram!

Everyone thinks it’s an act, but Storm wises up and jumps in. Peter changes back to dodge suspicion from Liz. But Peter overhears some very important news:

Go home, Spider-Man!

Green Goblin runs off and everyone leaves. Peter makes it to the hospital and the issue’s ending is a real downer.

Woof

Observations: This is an interesting issue, for a couple of reasons.

  • Tone-wise, the end of the issue comes out of nowhere, but at the same time, it’s a great way to end the issue. This is the first issue where Spider-Man really loses. Yeah, alright, he’s been defeated in fights before, but he always makes a comeback by the end of the issue. But here, everyone thinks Spider-Man’s a coward, Green Goblin gets away, and Aunt May’s back in the hospital. It’s ballsy move and it totally pays off. Mad props to Lee and Ditko for taking that risk.
  • With this issue, it seems really clear to me that the Human Torch is a recurring supporting character in this book. I love the friendly rivalry Lee builds up over time and giving Peter a superhero friend is an inspired touch. I picked up Dan Slott’s Spider-Man/Human Torch mini-series last week and it’s just a fun extension¬†of stories like this. I can’t recommend it enough.
  • Stories like this really just demonstrate how Aunt May needs to die already. Great supporting character, but this has been telegraphed for about 50 years. Aunt May still being alive is probably the hardest element of Spider-Man to suspend my disbelief about and I’m saying that as someone who likes the character.
  • Flash Thompson sticking up for his idol is the saddest thing.

ehhhh!

Final Thoughts: Really surprising issue, pretty standard Spider-Man story until the last couple of page. Comics like this are why Spider-Man is such a great concept. Tomorrow, Sandman and stuff.

The Spider-Man Challenge Day 18: Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1

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

Alright guys, I’m going to apologize for this one. The crucial component to The Spider-Man Challenge has been my cd-dvd rom copy of 40 Years of Amazing Spider-Man. To my knowledge, it had every issue of Amazing Spider-Man. SOMEHOW, FOR SOME REASON, this collection doesn’t have ANY OF THE ANNUALS. So until I figure out what to do about this, for right now I’m going to break out my copy of The Essential Spider-Man Volume 1 and give you an abbreviated, picture-less write-up. It won’t be pretty, but, hell, it’s friday.

Weirdly, the thing that I can’t stop looking at is the rainbow title.

Synopsis: The story opens on Doc Ock, whose robotic arms have been removed from him. He mentally commands them to come back to him and ¬†escapes from prison. Once he escapes, he gathers together five of Spider-Man’s deadliest foes: Kraven, Mysterio, Electro, Sandman, and The Vulture. Spider-Man swings home and sees that Aunt May is in the attic, crying and looking at Uncle Ben’s effects. He still feels guilty for his Uncle’s death and wishes that he was still a normal teenager. Almost immediately, Spider-Man falls off the building he’s perched on. Without warning, his powers have vanished!

Back at Evil HQ, The Sinister Six draw numbers to determine the order in which they take on Spider-Man. The next day, Aunt May worries about Peter, who doesn’t eat his breakfast and never makes it to school. She wonders if it has something to do with Betty Brant and she goes to The Bugle offices to talk to her. Unfortunately, she shows up at the same time Sandman and Electro decide to kidnap Betty Brant. J. Jonah Jameson watches the kidnapping and can’t believe his eyes.

Later, Betty and May are taken to the hideout and, I swear to god, Aunt May and Doc Ock flirt with each other (Who’d of thought their almost-marriage in the 70’s had some actual basis?!). Jonah tells Peter what happened and, soon enough, The Vulture arrives with a message for Spider-Man: The Sinister Six have captured Betty Brant and to meet at the Stark Electric Plant, building #4. Peter realizes that six of his old enemies have teamed up and wonders what to do without his powers. Jonah asks The Fantastic Four if they know where Spider-Man is. They contact The Avengers but Captain America answers and says he doesn’t even know Spider-Man. Johnny Storm sends a message to The X-Men, but Professor X dickishly ignores it.

Peter decides to go anyways and confronts Electro. Electro attacks him and Spider-Man realizes that he dodged his bolt…his powers are back! Spider-Man KOs him (In a beeyuutiful one page splash) and finds a card with his next location on it. Iron Man shows up and bitches at Spider-Man for fucking around on his property¬†asks what’s going on. Spider-Man runs off to the next location, just outside of the old world’s fair grounds. Kraven attacks him with two leopards and Peter manages to snatch Kraven’s card and run off. The Human Torch tracks down Spider-Man and tells him that everyone’s looking for him. He offers to help him, but Spidey declines saying it’s personal. He shows up at the next location, only to find the X-Men. They attack him, but Spider-Man defeats them and discovers that they’re robots. Since it’s robots, it has to be Mysterio and Spider-Man takes him down. Unfortunately, Mysterio’s card falls into a fire, but Spider-Man is able to decipher what it says.

Meanwhile, J. Jonah Jameson talks to a spider, figuring it’ll pass his message along ala Ant Man and his ants. Stupid Jonah.

Spider-Man arrives at a trap set by the Sandman and he’s able to defeat him by¬†asphyxiating¬†him. He heads to his penultimate foe, The Vulture, and they fight until Vulture leads him to Doc Ock’s hideout, an old castle. Octavius mentally controls his arms to attack him until Spider-Man falls into a trap door leading to a water pit. Doc Ock dons some scuba gear and his robot arms and they battle underwater. Spidey traps him the water and rescues Aunt May and Betty. Peter shows up and they head home, where Aunt May is horrified to learn she missed this week’s episode of The Beverly Hillbillies. Aunt May is legitimately senile. The Human Torch swings by Jameson’s office to congratulate Spider-Man and he yells at him for the ulcers he had now. The issue ends with the sinister six sharing a jail cell, licking their wounds and angry with each other.

  • This issue was pretty obviously intended to highlight Marvel’s other books at the time. The FF, Doc Strange, The Avengers and The X-Men all make cameos, complete with little boxes telling the reader where these characters can be found. It’s a pretty smart move and gives this issue a really big scope, even if the cameos are usually only a panel or two.
  • The best part of this issue is that Ditko uses all the extra space to give each one of Spider-Man’s fights one big full page, usually showing Spider-Man defeating the villain. These are gorgeous.
  • The concept of this issue is great and I LOVE villain teams.
  • Aunt May’s wackiness in this issue is astounding, but amusing.

Final Thoughts: If you like Spider-Man at all, you need to read this issue. It may seriously be the best annual Marvel’s ever put out and it’s just a really fun, action-packed story. Monday marks the return of The Green Goblin, a guest appearance by The Human Torch, and, you know, ACTUAL IMAGES to go with the reviews.

The Spider-Man Challenge Day 17: Amazing Spider-Man #16

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

You see, Daredevil is blind, so he fights crime with a cane.

Look, I’m going to level with you guys. The mailman brought an enormous stack of cheap tpbs (reviews¬†forthcoming) and the Mattel Peter Venkman figure (review definitely forthcoming) to my doorstep today, so it’s because I love you all so much and that I haven’t retreated into my hermit crab shell and spaced out. But, because I should, because it’s THE RIGHT THING TO DO, and because I promised I would, I bring you today’s issue of Spider-Man.

“Duel With Daredevil”

Writer: Stan Lee

Artist: Steve Ditko

Synopsis: Our issue starts off with Aunt May bugging Peter about calling Mary Jane Watson. Peter says he already has a girlfriend and Aunt May more or less calls him a square.

A 90 year old woman is cooler than you, Peter.

He switches into Spider-Man and gets some fresh air in the city, and is happy to forget about his problems by beating on some nearby robbers. The hoods threaten a blind man standing in their way and Spider-Man swings down and takes them down “like a task force!”. The two men get to talking:

"Yep my life is constant, unyielding darkness! Really, I'm fine!"

The blind man walks into an alley and opens his suit to reveal that he’s actually the costumed crime fighter Daredevil. Using his enhanced senses, he makes some observations about Spider-Man:

Daredevil's classic suit is beautiful in it's hideousness.

Daredevil decides to head back to the offices of Murdock and Nelson, where his alter-ego of Matt Murdock is a lawyer, and uses the trip to helpfully explain to the reader his powers: His sense of hearing, smell, and taste are enhanced to a super-human level and can even “see” the shape of objects with his “radar-like” perception. He changes back to his alter-ego and greets supporting cast members Foggy Nelson (Holy crap Silver Age Foggy is skinny) and secretary/love interest/future-junkie/love interest Karen Page. Foggy and Karen invite Matt to the circus, but he declines out of his secret love for Karen. The focus shifts over to a New York arena, where The Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime are preparing for a big show. The Ringmaster, still sore from his defeat at the hands of The Hulk back in his first appearance, decides to advertise that Spider-Man will be there to draw a crowd (Note: The Ringmaster is apparently an idiot -Max). Peter sees the ad and decides to show up and do the charity show, figuring it’ll give him some good publicity. Peter tells Jonah he’s going and Jonah tells him to get lost and tells him not to take any Spider-Man pictures(“maybe if I stop writing about him, that publicity hound will go to some OTHER city”). Betty invites Peter and Aunt May over to her place for a spaghetti dinner, but Peter has to decline. She sees his circus ticket fall out of his pocket and, as with every issue, becomes upset and accuses him of ¬†seeing another girl.Back at the law firm of Nelson & Murdock, Foggy discovers that Spider-Man will be performing at the circus and Matt decides to join them. Later, Peter notices Matt walk by him at the circus and wonders why his spider-sense is going off, but he brushes it off and gets ready. The Ringmaster tell his stooges to stall the audience until it fills up. Spider-Man comes out and everyone cheers, much to his surprise. He does tricks for the audience and Karen Page wonders how Matt can even appreciate the show. The Ringmaster is surprised to see Spider-Man actually there, but decides to go ahead with the scheme and uses his hypnosis hat on the arena, Spider-Man included.

Still not as weird as Circ du soliel

The only member of the audience not hypnotized is Matt, who quickly changes to Daredevil and confronts The Ringmaster. Ringmaster panics when his hat doesn’t work on Daredevil and orders Spider-Man to attack him. The two fight through out the big top and Daredevil holds his own until he is able to grab the Ringmaster’s hat and use it on Spider-Man.

Here's a fun game: What is the tackiest thing in either panel? There's no wrong answer!

Spider-Man thanks Daredevil for saving him and they take on the entire Circus of Crime. Daredevil notices that Spider-Man has everything well in hand and uses the opportunity to change back to Matt Murdock.

WHAM!

Spider-Man finally chases down The Ringmaster, who tries to hypnotize him again, but is Spider-Man closes his eyes and sock him in the face. He takes the hat and uses it to undo the hypnosis and we get this awesome panel:

He is wearing the shit out of that top hat

The issue ends with the police arriving, Matt giving The Ringmaster his card, and Spider-Man notes that between Betty getting angry and Aunt May’s nagging, “fighting for my life was the most fun I had all day!”.

Synopsis:

  • Not much to say here, really. This is the first time Spider-Man and Daredevil team-up and it’s cool to see where their longstanding friendship emerged from. Daredevil as a 60’s character is pretty mind blowing when you realize he’s one of the first super-heroes with a physical disability. No matter what anyone says, I love that yellow costume. It’s got character.
  • The Ringmaster and the Circus of Crime are great, D-list villains and they’re perfect for stories like this.
  • Spider-Man makes an off-hand reference to Thor in this issue, which I thought was a nice little touch. Marvel really perfected the idea of shared continuity and it feels so natural because of stuff like this.

Final Thoughts: Pretty straight-forward, fun issue and a very good team-up comic. However, tomorrow’s comic is the first Spider-Man annual, featuring The Sinister Six and, man, it fucking rules.

The Spider-Man Challenge Day 16: Amazing Spider-Man #15

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

Whelp, as Lost’s John Locke famously said, “I was wrong!” It turns out that tomorrow’s issue is Daredevil/The Circus of Crime and today’s the very first appearance of Kraven The Hunter (and the return of The Chameleon, even!). Checkemout:

Kraven has caught himself a dwarf in a halloween costume.

“Kraven The Hunter!”

Writer: Stan Lee

Artist: Steve Ditko

Synopsis: Lee and Ditko don’t waste any time with this issue, Spider-Man foils a group of bank robbers at their hideout, but their leader evades him impersonating an old man, meaning it could only be issue #1 baddie The Chameleon. He heads back to his swank hideout and decides to call in some help in taking care of the wall-crawler:

Silk robe from The Luke Cage Collection

A week later, J. Jonah Jameson has Betty and Peter come with him to the pier for the arrival of the world-famous Kraven The Hunter. Liz and Flash show up and Betty, like in every issue, gets super-jealous of her blonde rival. Kraven arrives, but without warning, Kraven’s collection of dangerous animals escape!

Just snakes and gorillas, really.

Peter switches into Spider-Man, but falls back once he sees how easily Kraven takes care of the situation. Afterwards, Jameson is furious that Peter didn’t get any photos, Betty’s still icy, and Flash threatens to give him a fat lip. He’s really just getting it on all side today. Jameson asks Kraven what he’s in New York to hunt and he tells him:

Hair-met?

Betty gives Peter the cold shoulder and Peter sits on the sidewalk and mopes about inevitably being hunted for sport. Back at his bachelor pad, The Chameleon shares some intel on Spider-Man with Kraven.Chameleon warns him not to underestimate their foe, but Kraven boasts about his enhanced, jungle potion derived strength. Later, Spider-Man stumbles into trouble while out on patrol:

SPIDER-MAN'S CRACK CALL WORKED

He comes across a bunch of thugs breaking into a building and takes them out. Kraven watches from a distance, Chameleon having set up the thieves so that his partner could observe Spider-Man in action. Kraven makes his dramatic entrance and engages his prey. Kraven has him on the ropes initially, but Spider-Man’s intense strength forces the hunter to resort to drugging him. Spidey flees and discovers his hands can’t stop shaking. Kraven regroups with Chameleon and can’t wait to triumph over his super-messed up foe. The next morning, Peter still has the shakes and Aunt May tells him he’s set him up on a date with her friend Mrs. Watson’s niece, but Peter’s got bigger problems to worry about.

They're never going to follow up on this.

Peter shows up at The Bugle and Betty’s still miffed with him. But Peter forgets about her the second he sees Kraven there; turns out Jameson made some deal with Kraven to capture Spider-Man (I’m guessing there’s money involved? It’s never made clear, weirdly). At school, Peter’s shakes get in the way of his studies.

GOTTA GET THAT CRACK

Peter continues to worry about the Kraven problem and heads out in the evening to find him. His spider-sense finds Kraven, but he ends up tracking The Chameleon into the woods instead. The duo spring a trap and OUT COME THE JUNGLE DRUMS:

WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING?!!?

Kraven and Spider-Man fight, but Kraven tosses magnetic manacles onto Spidey that gradually pull his arm and leg together. He runs from Kraven and manages to pour some webbing over the device. Someone triggers his spidey-sense and he’s surprised to find that he’s grabbed The Chameleon. Spider-Man turns the tables and Kraven finds himself fleeing. They fight, but Kraven ends up stuck in a giant web, defeated. Spider-Man leaves him there for the police, who’ve already nabbed Chameleon. The next day at The Bugle, Jameson praises Peter for getting pictures of Kraven AND The Chameleon and even offers him “one of my own personal bars of milk chocolate” (all class). Betty’s glad to see Peter looking chipper and apologizes for her behavior and says she’s free that night. Peter wants to go with her, but remembers he has that blind date. Betty’s put off yet again. Back at home, Aunt May tells Peter his blind date canceled and even Liz Allan isn’t available. Back at the pier, Kraven and Chameleon are deported and put on a boat to South America, but Kraven vows revenge after he’s trained in the Congo. Spider-Man sees the boat and wishes he was on it. “It looks so quiet–so peaceful!”

Observations:

  • I have to say, I don’t remember reading this issue before at all, but it’s pretty great. I think Lee has really come a long way as a writer. This is the first issue that really feels …clever. The Kraven-Chameleon team-up is inspired and feels natural, the fights are really well thought-out, and the dialogue is really crisp. Spider-Man’s last lines to Kraven in this issue are perfect.

  • Kraven is another one of my favorite Spider-foes (I know I say that kinda often, but it’s just a testament to the quality of Spider-Man’s villains) and this issue does an excellent job of showing you why. He’s works great with the loose theme of “animal/predators” that Spider-Man’s bad guys tend to have, for one. He’s also got some depth: He’s the self-proclaimed greatest hunter in the world, but he resorts to cheating when things don’t go his way. Kind of like Doctor Doom, you get the idea that he believes he has honor, but he really just likes the idea of having honor. Awesome costume too, it shouldn’t work, but it totally does. He works perfectly with The Chameleon, who’s just an out and out coward and schemer.
  • The really interesting thing about this issue is this is the start of the “Mrs. Watson’s niece” running gag, where Peter keeps missing the girl Aunt May’s trying to set him up with (who later turns out, of course, to be his future wife, Mary Jane Watson). One of the things that really makes these stories such classics is that Lee isn’t afraid to be funny and do silly running gags. Most contemporary Spider-Man writers seem unable to do that. I’m not saying a Spider-Man story needs to be funny, some of the best ones aren’t, but it tells you something when Brian Michael Bendis IS one of the writers to incorporate is and Ultimate Spider-Man is a consistently great book.

Final Thoughts: Really great issue all around and a real joy to read. Definitely one of the highlights of the last few issues. Tomorrow: Daredevil! Circus of Crime! For real this time! It’s going to rule.

The Spider-Man Challenge Day 15: Amazing Spider-Man #14

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

The Enforcers are really just out of their element

“The Grotesque Adventure Of The Green Goblin”

Writer: Stan Lee

Artist: Steve Ditko

Synopsis: The issue kicks off with the Green Goblin (his real face in shadow) working on a “flying broomstick”. He puts on his costume and meets up with The Enforcers and recruits him in a plan to take down Spider-Man. The Goblin then bursts into the office of Hollywood producer-caricature B.J. who he entices into making a Spider-Man film.

THE MAN IN RIDING THE BROOM CAN SHOOT SPARKS. EVERYONE GET BACK.

Meanwhile at Midtown High, Liz continues to fawn over Peter and Flash is, as usual, put off.

The F stands for "Flash"

Peter hears about the Green Goblin flying around the city and runs off to investigate. When they meet, the Goblin tricks Spider-Man into meeting with B.J., who offers him 50,000 to star in the film. Thinking of Aunt May’s ever-rising debts, he signs the contract and a hidden Green Goblin does his best David Caruso impression:

YEAAAAAHHHHH

The next morning, at The Bugle, Jameson assigns Peter to cover the Spider-Man filming out in Hollywood (This is a major metropolitan newspaper and their one photographer is a 17 year old kid! COMICS!). Peter asks Aunt May if he can go and she relents when he points out that he’s almost in college. Later, Spider-Man, Green Goblin, and The Enforcers are standing around the set before shooting (Spidey remarks that the make up on the “actors’ playing The Enforcers is genius!). The Goblin suggests to Spider-Man that they practice their fight scenes before shooting. Poor, dumb Spider-Man.

Spider-Man, come on.

Naturally, The Goblin and The Enforcers use this as an opportunity to try and kill Spider-Man and fight breaks out. Spider-Man is eventually …dogpiled by The Enforcers and…look, I’m just going to show you the panels.

…right, so Spider-Man gets out and creates a dust-storm using the webbing and ¬†nearby dirt. Back in New York, Betty and Liz pine over Peter and Aunt May writes him a letter. Back in Hollywood, Spider-Man takes refuge in a cave and Green Goblin and The Enforcers close in on him. One by one, Spider-Man takes out Montana, Fancy Dan, and Ox ala Batman. The Green Goblin and Spider-Man fight, but they manage to catch the attention of The Hulk and he is fucking pissed.

SPIDER-MAN YOU WILL DIE

Spider-Man manages to feint his way out of the fight and get out of the cave. Spidey spots The Goblin fleeing and tries to stop him, but he throws him off into a lake and escapes. Spider-Man notices The Hulk and stays hidden in the lake until the Jade Giant leaves. Spider-Man leaves The Enforcers for some arriving Army officials and scrams. When B.J. hears about the appearance of The Hulk, he decides to ditch Spider-Man and do a Hulk movie with Doris Day (thesixties). He pays Spider-Man for his expenses (enough for bus fare and alittle extra for Aunt May). Back at his lair, The Green Goblin curses his luck and vows to strike again, while Peter walks the streets of Manhattan, certain that his foe is out there…somewhere.

Don Draper?

Observations:

  • The Green Goblin is, almost unarguably, ¬†the most important Spider-Man foe. Even ignoring the fact that he kills Gwen Stacy, he’s probably the most intelligent and capable villain in his rogue’s gallery. Lee writes him pretty well here, you definitely get this vibe of impish cruelty. Ditko’s design is a classic, though Romita draws the definitive Green Goblin, imo. This is also the start of the long-running mystery regarding the Goblin’s secret identity, though it’s interesting that Ditko never wanted his identity to be revealed.
  • This is probably the most action oriented issue so far, most of the issue is just set up to the fight. It ends up working out great, the fight sequences in this issue are great. The Hulk battle in particular is awesome.
  • Speaking of the Hulk fight,I love fights where Spider-Man is completely outmatched and this one’s no exception. Early Hulk is weirdly wordy, though.

Final Thoughts: It’s a simple plot, but just overall a great issue and a nice set up for The Green Goblin plot line that runs into the 30’s. And really, you can’t go wrong with the issue’s set up can you? Tomorrow: The Circus of Crime and some dude named “Dare-devil”.

The Spider-Man Challenge Day 14: Amazing Spider-Man #13

"Find out in this book-length epic: 'USE YOUR ILLUSION!'"

“The Menace of…Mysterio!”

Writer: Stan Lee

Artist: Steve Ditko

Synopsis: The issue begins with a bombshell: Spider-Man’s turned to crime!

TEENAGE CRIME WAVE

Everyone is in shock! J. Jonah Jameson has his old Spider-Man editorials reprinted “So everyone can see how right I was!”. Peter sits alone in a classroom and comes to the conclusion that he may be becoming a “split personality?? Like Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde?”. Back at home, Peter keeps dropping dishes! Aunt May comments that he must be worried about something, like their swiftly dwindling mortgage. Peter goes to bed and manages to fall asleep, but wakes up in the morning to discover that Spider-Man has committed yet another crime! Peter, as Spider-Man, decides to drop in on a psychiatrist and we get this profoundly uncomfortable panel:

Spider-Man is wary of the man offering to probe him.

Spider-Man wisely leaves before the doctor can take advantage of him (haha) and Peter ends up at the Daily Bugle. Peter, in an incredible asshole move, snaps at Betty Brant and she’s surprised and hurt. Peter goes to Jonah and asks him for an advance on some photos so he can help with the mortgage. Jonah tells him no dice unless he reveals to him how he gets those great action shots. Peter leaves, switches to Spider-Man, and is nearly killed by a lynch mob! He switches back to his civvies and is chased down by Liz Allan, who flirts with him. Flash shows up and Liz continues to blow him off. Back at The Daily Bugle, the GOB Bluth of Spider-Man foes makes his dramatic first appearance!

AM I NOT BEAUTIFUL TO BEHOLD?

Mysterio declares that he is Mysterio and gives Jameson some written instructions…THAT DISAPPEAR BEFORE HIS VERY EYES.

ILLUSIONS

Peter sees the notice in the paper and Spider-Man meets Mysterio on top of the Brooklyn Bridge. Mysterio attacks him and his tricks make it so that Spider-Man can’t even land a blow.

THE SIXTIES ARE UPON YOU, SPIDER-MAN!

Spider-Man flees, taking comfort in the fact that atleast he knows he isn’t crazy. The next day, Mysterio gets a parade!

This is the happiest moment of Mysterio's life.

Peter, Flash and co watch the parade, but Flash isn’t convinced that Spider-Man’s a crook. At The Bugle, Mysterio arrives for a meet and greet with the staff and Peter manages to slip a spider-tracer onto his cloak. Betty and Peter run into each other and Peter takes off quickly to nab Mysterio. Betty worries that he may be seeing another girl! Spider-Man tracks Mysterio to a “TV Movie studio”. Mysterio disorients and beats Spider-Man again and he takes the opportunity to monologue:

"MYSTERIO/MYSTERIO"

Mysterio was the imposter Spider-Man the entire time and his seemingly magic illusions were gimmicks he created. Spider-Man reveals he’s been recording him this entire time and punches Mysterio so hard HE FLIES INTO THE STUDIO.

Even his falls are over the top!

The two fight through the studio until Spider-Man beats him. He grabs his camera and Mysterio, dropping off the latter at the police station along with his tape recorder. Jameson finds out he was wrong about Mysterio and walks back to his office in shame. He discovers Peter’s photos on his desk and cheers up, but a fed up Spider-Man arrives and once again tells off Jonah for slandering him.

Costumed Hero to Miserly Publisher: "Go screw!"

Costumed Hero to Miserly Publisher: "Go screw!"

Peter comes across Liz and Flash discussing Spider-Man’s innocence and has a laugh at his high school nemesis and his devotion to his super-hero alter ego.

Observations:

  • You know, I forgot how awesome Mysterio is. Ditko’s design just kicks ass and totally plays to his weirdo-strengths. Stuff like the almost constant fog and the eyes on the suit just give off this weird, otherworldy vibe.¬†Lee writes him as this scene-chewing asshole magician and it’s just great.
  • Another important thing about this issue: Liz and Betty get new haircuts!

Betty must've borrowed that outfit from Dana Barrett

That's some Clea hair, man.

  • The thing that really struck me about this issue was how…different Ditko’s art looks. I can’t quite place it, but it feels more detailed. There’s way more close ups, I feel. It’s not bad, just…different. Chalk it up to evolving art styles.

Final Thoughts: Fun villain, fun issue, a classic for sure. Tomorrow: The Enforcers! The Green Goblin! AND The Hulk! Let’s do this!

The Spider-Man Challenge Day 13: Amazing Spider-Man #12

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

KISS HIM JONAH

Synopsis:                                                                   PREVIOUSLY

"Special insert: Spider-Man blows!"

After a brief recap, our issue begins at the offices of the Daily Bugle. Spider-Man’s there to dish some payback on Jameson for his negative coverage and Betty Brant arrives in the nick of time to get her old job back (her replacement quit in a huff). Spider-Man changes back to Peter to talk to Betty and Jameson curmudgeons him out of the office. Meanwhile, Doctor Octopus is on the road:

Your helicopters. ALL OF THEM. They belong to Doctor Octopus.

Doc Ock is committing a string of crimes as he makes his way through the country, hoping to attract Spider-Man, but with no luck. He decides to head to New York and find him. Back at home, Aunt May feels Peter’s forehead and notices it’s alittle warm. ¬†Later, at Midtown high, Peter overhears Liz and Flash reading the newest Bugle anti-Spider-Man article and, after bickering with Flash, we get this gem:

Shut up Peter

Peter heads back to the Bugle, when suddenly Doc Ock shows up and starts messin’ up the place. Octavius kidnaps Betty and tells Jameson to print a challenge to Spider-Man to meet him at Coney Island and to send a photographer to take pictures or the girl dies. Jameson decides to cover the battle himself first hand and sends Peter as his photographer. Spider-Man arrives, but feels inexplicably weak. He attacks Doc Ock, but loses badly.

Unprofessional

And then THIS HAPPENS

Everyone's dumber in comics

Doctor Octopus leaves to find the “real” Spider-Man and everyone just assumes Peter ¬†was “posing” as Spider-Man. Peter goes to the hospital and is told he has a 24 hour virus. A police officer takes him home and Peter rests/yells at himself in his dreams.

THE HEART, PARKER!

The next morning, Peter feels great! Aunt May somehow found out about what happened and scolds him for dressing up like “that DREADFUL Spider-Man!”, but Peter lies to her and throws out a bundle of rags he claims are the costume. Peter arrives at school and everyone’s talking about what happened. Flash rags on him, but Liz Allan is¬†genuinely¬†impressed and even goes so far as to dump Flash on the spot. Doc Ock is furious for being made a fool and unleashes some dangerous animals from a zoo. Liz tries to walk home with Peter, but he escapes while she’s distracted by Flash. He changes into Spider-Man and stumbles onto the escaped animals and, one by hone, rounds them up. Doc Ock continues on his destructive tantrum and Spider-Man shows up to fight him, now at full strength. The fight leads into an empty sculptor’s studio and some knocked over chemicals lead to a fire. The fire rages out of control and Spidey has to flee before he can rescue Octavius. Luckily, some firemen pull him out and deliver him to the police, with Octavius complaining that the fight wasn’t fair. Peter “shows up” and Liz invites him to a party, but, in a display of profound dickery, tells her off and leaves to find Betty.

burnt

Observations:

  • This issue marks the first time Spider-Man is unmasked and, I have to say, everyone refusing to believe he’s Spider-Man is pretty genius. I also like that it had some consequence, even if ¬†it was just having Liz now be a romantic interest for Peter.
  • This is the first use of what becomes the standard Doc Ock costume. Boring, but I can see why they used a simple to draw/color green onesie.
  • Betty sure got over her brother pretty quickly, huh?
  • That Billy Graham line will never not be funny.

Final Thoughts: This is a really solid issue and one that’s pretty needed after the heaviness of last issue. The escaped animal bit felt like filler, but it wasn’t terrible or anything. The highlight of the issue is definitely the unmasking and it alone makes this issue pretty important continuity-wise. Monday: Be there for the first appearance of Mysterio. Will there be fog machines? It’s pretty likely.

The Spider-Man Challenge Day 12: Amazing Spider-Man #11

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

ROGER EBERT OWNS YOUR HAND NOW.

“Turning Point”

Writer: Stan Lee

Artist: Steve Ditko

Synopsis: The issue starts off with Peter, half dressed in his Spider-Man costume, pining for Betty Brant. But then a¬†convenient news report on the radio informs him that Doctor Octopus is due to be released from prison that day. Spider-Man heads over to the prison and tries to convince the warden to stop this, but the warden says there’s nothing he can do and tells him to get lost. Doc Ock, in his cell, gloats about getting time off for good behavior.

Pimp is spelled "O-T-T-O"

Peter, in his lab, constructs a spider-shaped tracking device that he can use to keep tabs on Octavius. A few hours later, Octavius is released and Spider-Man notices a girl is waiting to pick him up. He’s shocked to discover it’s Betty Brant behind the wheel and wonders what her connection to Octavius is. He attaches the spider-tracer to Brant’s car and ¬†notices something fell out of her car: a road map of Philadelphia. He vows to head to Philadelphia and follow through with this until the end. At the same time, In the city of brotherly love, imprisoned crime boss Blackie Gaxton shakes down his lawyer, Bennett Brant. Apparently Bennett is in deep with the mobster for gambling debts. If Betty brings Octavius to Philadelphia, Bennett’s debt will be cleared. Bennett¬†arrives¬†at his home and finds Octavius threatening his sister.

There is something so classy about Doctor Octopus in a suit.

Betty begs Bennett to leave with her, but he says he doesn’t have the courage to leave until his debts are off. Back in New York, Peter lets Aunt May know he’s taking a trip to Philadelphia for the weekend and catches a plane to Philly (it’s unclear whether he bought at a ticket or clung to it as Spider-Man. Spidey heads into the city to find Betty and check on Doc Ock. Following his tracer, Peter finds Betty and she tells him about the trouble she’s in and that Ock was hired to break out Blackie. He tells her that he’s heard Spider-Man’s in the city. Ock breaks out Blackie as planned and Spider-Man narrowly misses them and has to flee from the prison guards. Peter realizes that ¬†Betty might be in danger and swings off to find her. Back at Bennett’s, Blackie’s thugs drag the Brant siblings to Blackie’s ship in the harbor. Spider-Man arrives shortly but lands on his ankle wrong and sprains it (Lee really loves to give Spidey these realistic minor injuries). Blackie’s thugs show up and take him to their boss and Doc Ock savors his chance for revenge. But first. Octavius decides to turn on his employer and exclaims that he’s taking over Blackie’s operation. Spider-Man uses the distraction to take down his captors and fights the room full of thugs. He confronts Blackie, Blackie pulls a gun, and Bennett, shielding his sister, is hit by a stray bullet. Bennett dies, relieved that he’s no longer a burden on his sister and Betty attacks Spider-Man for¬†inadvertently¬†causing her brother’s death. ¬†Spider-Man chases down Blackie and takes him and two of his thugs down single handedly. Octavius returns and the two fight across the ship.

Battle sweatsuit!

The fight goes on until the boat hits a piling and they’re thrown from the boat. Spider-Man makes it out, but notices that Octavius has disappeared. Blackie goes to jail and the police assure Betty that she’s in no trouble. Peter realizes that Betty needs her right now and he fears that he can never tell her his secret identity or Betty will hate him. Peter comforts Betty, who explains that she doesn’t hate Spider-Man, but he will always associate him with her brother’s death. Peter walks off and we get this really gorgeous call back to the last panel of Amazing Fantasy #15:

Observations:

  • So we finally learn Betty’s whole deal after…what, four issues? It’s well done, though Lee could’ve mined more drama from it. Hell, Peter doesn’t even seem to feel any¬†responsibility¬†for Bennett’s death, though he did kind of bring it on himself in the end.
  • Doctor Octopus is great in this issue and he really needs to wear a suit more often. The sweatpants combo he’s wearing at the end looks like a precursor to his “classic” look, which I assume we’ll see next issue.
  • This is the first time we see the now-classic Spider-tracer used. It’s a useful plot device for sure.

Final Thoughts: Not much to say about this issue. It’s a good one and it’s nice to see Spider-Man in new locations (even though Ditko’s Philadelphia looks suspiciously like his Manhattan). The payoff for the Betty Brant story line is decent and I’m curious to see where her relationship with Peter ¬†goes from there. Tomorrow’s issue looks like less of a “part 2” and more of a follow up, if that makes sense. Anyways, Doc Ock’s back tomorrow and he does something big.