BLOGROLL

Captives of the Deadly Duo!

BLOGROLL
March 24, 2020

September 1962

Fantastic Four #6 (vol. 1)

“Captives of the Deadly Duo!”

EIC: Stan Lee

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers

Writers: Stan Lee

Pencilers: Jack Kirby

Inkers: Dick Ayers

Colourist: Stan Goldberg

Letterer: Artie Simek

Editors: Stan Lee

Cover Date: September 1962

Release Date: June 1962

Pages: 24

Cover Price: $0.12

Fantastic Four assemble on the roof of the Baxter Building following the their conflict with Dr. Doom from the previous issue. Johnny has been searching for him but states he cannot locate him.

Elsewhere, Dr. Doom searches the ocean depths in his personal submarine, looking for Namor, the Sub-Mariner. He finally finds him, and after introductions, travel to Namor’s underwater dwelling.

Doom convinces Namor that he will help him in his quest for vengeance against the surface world. Namor agrees, but with one caveat – Susan Storm must not be harmed.

Doom shows Namor one of his scientific creations, a magnetic device he calls “the Grabber” which can be used to retrieve objects via magnetism. He gives it to Namor and reveals his plan for the conquest of the surface worls.

Back at the Baxter Building, Johnny Storm finds a photo of Namor among Sue’s things and asks her about her feelings for the Sub-Mariner. Sue confesses to having feelings for him even though she is engaged to Reed Richards, the FF’s leader, Mr. Fantastic.

As if the mention of his name summoned him, Namor appears, having entered through a window, stating he is on a peace mission. Reed has to restrain Ben from attacking Namor, but Johnny attacks him.

After a brief skirmish, Namor insists he is there as a friend. But the Fantastic Four don’t trust him and search the building for any booby traps.

Suddenly, a loud noise is heard outside as the building begins to shake. Dr. Doom has employed his Grabber to seize the Baxter Building and carry it into space with his ship.

Before they suffocate in the airless coldness of space, the team put on space helmets. Johnny finds he can’t use his flame powers due to the lack of oxygen.

Ben blames Namor for their capture, and attacks him. Meanwhile, Doom is carrying the Baxter Building in the direction of the sun, intending to send the structure into its fiery depths.

When Namor realizes that Doom means to kill them all, he immerses himself in a water tank to replenish his strength. He then flies into space to confront Doom.

Reaching Doom’s craft, Namor forces his way inside. Doom attacks him. But Namor, possessing the powers of an electric eel, turns the electric shock back towards Doom, who is forced to eject into outer space. Unable to control his trajectory, Doom is carried away by a passing meteor.

Namor takes control of Doom’s ship and guides the Baxter Building back to its foundation in New York City. The Fantastic Four find and dislodge the Grabber device from the building as Namor returns to the sea, his true home.

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The Mighty Thor

BLOGROLL
September 30, 2019

BIO

Dr. Don Blake was an American physician vacation in Europe when he over heard an old man telling people of stone men from outer space. They, of course, thought he was nuts, but Dr. Blake believed him and decided to have a look for himself.

These stone men came from the planet Saturn and had increased strength and invulnerability thanks to Earth’s atmosphere. Dr. Blake overheard the stone men speaking about killing any who discover them and he fled in fear.

He entered a cave, and unable to find another exit, conceded defeat. Dr. Blake leaned back against a wall, revealing a hidden door. Behind it, he found a hidden room where lay a very old walking stick. With hope growing, he tried to use the stick as a lever to move a boulder blocking a secondary exit from the cave. In his frustration at not being able to budge the enormous stone, he struck the boulder with the cane. There was a sudden blinding flash of light and Blake discovered that he had been transformed into Thor.

As Thor, Dr. Blake easily moved the boulder and escaped the cave. Outside, based on what he had read about Norse mythology, he tested his abilities . He quickly discovered that if he let go of the hammer for more than 60 seconds, he returned to his normal form.

Further tests showed the hammer’s ability to return to him when thrown, destroy a tree, summon storms, as well as stop them. He also finds that hitting the hammer on the ground once returned him to normal and the hammer back into a walking stick.

Meanwhile, the remainder of the stone men attack fleet entered the atmosphere and were picked up by military radar. The stone men’s ships were protected so that the missiles couldn’t harm them. Seeing this, Dr. Blake transformed back into Thor and hurled himself with his hammer into the middle of the landing party. The stone men couldn’t match strength with Thor and his hammer, and were quickly defeated.

Thinking that all humans must be like Thor, the stone men fled the planet. As soldiers arrived on the scene, Thor transformed back into Dr. Blake and walked away without anyone taking a second look.

The Stonemen From Saturn!

BLOGROLL
September 13, 2019

August 1962

Journey into Mystery #83 (vol. 1)

“The Stonemen from Saturn!”

EIC: Stan Lee

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Joe Sinnott

Writers: Stan Lee, Larry Lieber

Pencilers: Jack Kirby

Inkers: Joe Sinnott

Letterers: Artie Simek

Editors: Stan Lee

Cover Date: August 1962

Release Date: June 1962

Pages: 13

Cover Price: $0.12

First Appearance and Origin of:

  • The Might Thor/Dr. Donald Blake

SYNOPSIS:

Dr. Don Blake is an American physician vacation in Europe when he over hears an old man telling people of stone men from outer space. They of course think he is nuts, but Dr. Blake believes him and decides to have a look for himself.

These stone men come from the planet Saturn and have increased strength and invulnerability thanks to Earth’s atmosphere. Dr. Blake overhears the stone men speaking about killing any who discover them and flees.

He arrives at a cave unable to find another exit and concedes defeat. Dr. Blake leans back against a wall revealing a hidden door, behind which he finds a very old walking stick, which he tries to use as a lever to move a boulder blocking a secondary exit from the cave. In his frustration at not being able to budge the enormous stone, he strikes the boulder with the cane, producing a blinding light and transforming himself into Thor.

As Thor, Dr. Blake is easily able to move the boulder and escape the cave. Outside he tests his abilities based on what he had read about Norse mythology. If he lets go of the hammer for more than 60 seconds, he returns to his normal self.

He tests the hammer’s ability to return to him when thrown, throwing it through a tree, summons storms, and stops them before hitting the hammer on the ground once to return himself to normal and the hammer back into a walking stick.

At that time, the remainder of the stone men attack fleet enter the atmosphere and are picked up by military radar. The stone men’s ships are protected so that the missiles cannot harm them. Seeing this, Dr. Blake transforms back into Thor and hurls himself with his hammer into the middle of the landing party. The stone men cannot match strength with Thor and his hammer, and are quickly defeated.

Thinking that all humans are like Thor, the stone men flee the planet. As soldiers arrive to the scene, Thor transforms back into Dr. Blake and is able to walk away without anyone taking a second look.

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Ant Man Collected Editions

BLOGROLL
September 13, 2019

Marvel Masterworks Ant Man Volume 1 (Vol. 59 in the Marvel Masterworks Library)
Reprints: Tales to Astonish, #27, #35-52

Miscellaneous Creators

BLOGROLL
September 11, 2019

WRITERS:

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Larry Lieber

Larry Lieber is the younger brother of Stanley Martin Lieber, better known to Marvel fans as Stan Lee. Larry was an artist and writer for early Marvel anthology titles as well as some of the popular superhero comics, including writing the scripts for the origin stories of Thor, And Man and Iron Man based on plot outlines given to him by his older brother. Lieber also penciled some Amazing Spider-Man annual issues. In the 70s, Leiber became editor of Marvel UK, which re-packaged Marvel Universe comic books for the British market. He also wrote the adventures of Captain Britain for Marvel UK. In the 80s and 90s, Lieber wrote and drew for the Amazing Spider-Man and Incredible Hulk newspaper strips. He finally retired from the Spider-Man strip in 2018.

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ARTISTS:

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George Roussos

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LETTERERS:

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Artie Simek

Art Simek was a well-known letterer in the comics industry. He designed logos and lettered some of Marvel Comics’ greatest issues such as the Fantastic Four #1 and Amazing Fantasy #15. Simek died on February 20, 1975 at the age of 59.

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John Duffy

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John D’Agostino

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COLORISTS:

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Stan Goldberg

Stan Goldberg was 16 year old when he joined Timely Comics, which would become Marvel Comics, in 1948. He was the color designer for all the classic Marvel heroes including the Fantastic Four, The Hulk, Spider-Man, and the X-Men. It was he who decided that in order to visually distinguish between the heroes and villains, he would color the heroes bright blues, reds, greens and yellows, and leave the olive-drab greens and burnt hombres for the villains. Because his first name was the same as his boss, Stan Lee, people usually referred to him as Stan G. Stan was born in the Bronx, NY in 1932 and died there on August 31, 2014.

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Andy Yanchus

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INKERS:

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Dick Ayers

“Darlin'” Dick Ayers was one of the first artist in the Marvel Comics’ Bullpen, specifically known for being the primary artist for the adventures of Marvel’s WW II comic, Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos. But he is better known as the inker for much of Jack “the King” Kirby’s 1960’s Silver Age work, particularly many issues of The Fantastic Four. Ayers passed away on May 4, 2014.

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George Klein

George Klein was a inker for Timely Comics during the Golden Age of Comics in the early 40s. He did work for DC Comics as well. But probably his most important distinction, which went unacknowledged for a long time, was his inking contribution to the first two issues of The Fantastic Four comic book. He inked John Buscema’s Avengers and Gene Colan’s Daredevil pencils as well as some of Jack Kirby’s Thor work until passing away in 1969 at the age of 49.

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Paul Reinman

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Joe Sinnott

Joe Sinnott was born October 16, 1926 in Saugerties, N.Y. For 3 years Joe worked in a cement factory before entering the Cartoonists and Illustrators School in 1949 (now the School of Visual Arts) in N.Y.C. run by Tarzan artist Burne Hogarth. While there his first comic book work Trudi, a 5 page filler story in Mopsy #12 (Sept. 1950) was published  for St. John’s Publishing. He also worked for one of his instructors at the school Tom Gill (Lone Ranger artist). He  began working for Stan Lee at Timely (Marvel) in 1950, pencilling and inking crime,  horror, war, westerns, sci-fi and romance books. He also drew for Dell, Charleton, Treasure Chest, ACG, Archie and Classic Illustrated. In 1965 Joe began working regularly with Jack Kirby on the Fantastic Four. This is the book Joe is most well known for. He also worked on many other Marvel books such as Thor, Silver Surfer, Captain America, The Avengers, West Coast Avengers, The Hulk, The Defenders, The Invaders, Rom, The Thing, Ms. Marvel and Nick Fury to name a few. Joe’s favorite character to draw is The Thing! He received the 1967 & 1968 Alley Award as comics best inker, an Inkpot Award at the 1995 San Diego Con, 2 Inkwell Awards in 2008 among numerous other awards. The Inkwells Hall Of Fame “Joe Sinnott Award” is named in his honor. In 2013 Joe was elected into the Will Eisner Comic Hall of Fame. Joe retired in 1992 from comic books to ink the Sunday Spider-man comic strip for King Features. He inked the strip for 27 years, until Spidey’s final appearance in March 2019.  Joe worked a total of 69 years for Marvel Comics.

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PRODUCTION:

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Sol Brodsky

Sol Brodsky was one of a handful of artists who did covers for Atlas Comics, which would become Marvel Comics. He left to launch Cracked magazine in the 50s but returned to Atlas, now Timely Comics, in the early 60s to do production work just before it became Marvel Comics and the Marvel Age was launched. A master craftsman, Brodsky designed logos, drew, inked, and finally became production manager in 1964. He left Marvel in 1970 to form a new company called Skywald, but returned to Marvel in the mid-70s where he would stay until his death in 1984.

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The Third Musketeer

BLOGROLL
September 9, 2019

The formation of Marvel was truly a three-pronged attack. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had already established themselves with the Fantastic Four and The Incredible Hulk.

So, when Stan Lee wanted to do a comic book for a third hero he had thought up, he went to Kirby again. But according to Stan, Kirby’s work was too beautiful. His heroes were powerful and majestic-looking. Stan wanted his new hero to be a teenage boy and he wanted him to be on the scrawny side and not very attractive.

At the time, Marvel’s other output consisted of westerns, romance books, and anthology titles such as Strange Tales, Tales to Astonish, Journey into Mystery, Tales of Suspense, and Amazing Adult Fantasy. One of the artists on these books was a balding, unassuming man named Steve Ditko.

His work was almost the exact opposite of Kirby’s. His characters were rail-thin, unattractive even when they weren’t meant to be, and appeared more miserable than happy most of the time – perfect dynamics for what Lee had in mind for his third hero.

Ditko took the assignment. Though not as popularly prolific as Kirby, Ditko was nonetheless a brilliant visual storyteller. He brought a moodiness and atmosphere that was starkly different from Kirby’s clean, techno-futuristic elements. Ditko designed the costume for the new hero, whom Lee had decided to call Spider-Man. The costume was red and blue and had a mask that completely covered his head, and even had white one-way lenses that hid his eyes. Ditko also gave Spider-Man devices that he wore on his wrists that could shoot out webbing which he could hang or swing from.

Lee had trouble convincing his boss, Martin Goodman, that this new creation was a good idea. Goodman couldn’t imagine anyone being interested in reading a story about a kid and besides, no one liked spiders.

But undeterred, Lee chose to put his and Ditko’s Spider-Man story into the final issue of Amazing Adult Fantasy. And for the last issue, Lee dropped the ‘Adult’, and just called it Amazing Fantasy. Issue #15 hit the stands in August of 1962.

Within weeks, the mail started pouring in. Readers loved this new superhero. But it wasn’t just the character they loved. The art work was strikingly unique from anything else on the news stands. Ditko’s style is hard to describe but you definitely know it when you see it.

Very soon, it became clear that Peter Parker was a fictional alter ego for Ditko. He was a near dead-ringer for Ditko when the artist was in high school. He also included some of his own experiences in his portrayal of the character.

The only other hero Ditko famously created and drew for Marvel was Dr. Strange. With this character, Ditko really expanded his sense of the wild and weird. Dr. Stephen Strange was an arrogant surgeon who lost his livelihood when his hands were irreparably injured in a car crash. Seeking a way to heal them, he traveled to Tibet and got an audience with an ancient figure in a mysterious temple high on a snow-swept mountain.

As Strange realized that he had not found what he had hoped to, he also realized that the Ancient One’s shifty protege, Baron Mordo, was trying to secretly overthrow his master. Strange overcame his own selfish tendencies and his eyes were opened to something more important than his own needs.

He agreed to become the Ancient One’s pupil and learned the dark secrets of the Mystic Arts. In doing so, Dr. Strange was carried away into fantastic worlds the likes of which had never been seen in comics before, thanks to the incredible imagination and artistry of Ditko.

While he was at Marvel, Ditko helped create some of the most iconic characters and drew some of the most memorable covers and interiors.

With the Amazing Spider-Man #33, “If This be My Destiny..!”, Ditko drew what may be his most iconic and talked-about piece. Spider-Man, trapped under tons of debris underground, may have finally met his end. But over four agonizing pages, Ditko shows the true heart of the hero.

Ditko left Marvel in the late 60s due to a dispute with Stan Lee over a plot choice in The Amazing Spider-Man. He would return in the seventies and draw many, many characters for Marvel through the 1990s, even creating some.

Ditko will go down as one of the most important and influential figures in comic book history. With a style all his own, he was one of the three influential men who started The Marvel Age of Comics.

COMPREHENSIVE LIST OF DITKO’S WORK FOR MARVEL

  • Journey into Mystery #33, 38, 50–96 (1956–63)
  • Mystery Tales #40, 45, 47 (1956)
  • 2-Gun Western #4 (1956)
  • Journey Into Unknown Worlds #45, 51 (1956)
  • Strange Tales #46, 50, 67–146 (Doctor Strange in #110–111, 114–146), Annual #2 (inking Jack Kirby) (1956–66)
  • Marvel Tales #147 (1956)
  • Spellbound #29 (1956)
  • Strange Tales of the Unusual #5 (1956)
  • Astonishing #53 (1956)
  • World of Mystery #3, 6 (1956–1957)
  • Strange Worlds #1–5 (1958–59)
  • World of Fantasy #16–19 (1959)
  • Battle #63, 68, 70 (1958–1960)
  • Tales of Suspense #1–49 (Iron Man in #47–49) (1959–64)
  • Tales to Astonish #1–48, 60–67 (The Hulk in #60–67, Giant Man in #61) (1959–65)
  • Gunsmoke Western #56, 66 (1960–1961)
  • Amazing Adventures #1–6 (1961); becomes
  • Amazing Adult Fantasy #7–14 (1961–62); becomes
  • Amazing Fantasy #15 (debut Spider-Man) (1962)
  • The Incredible Hulk #2 (inking Jack Kirby), #6 (1962–63)
  • The Amazing Spider-Man #1–38, Annual #1–2 (1963–66)
  • The Fantastic Four #13 (inking Jack Kirby) (1963)
  • Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #15 (inking Dick Ayers) (1965)
  • Tower of Shadows #6, 8–9 (1970–1971)
  • Machine Man #10–19 (1979–81)
  • Tomb of Dracula magazine #2 (1979)
  • Micronauts #39, Annual #1–2 (1979–1982)
  • Daredevil #162 (1980)
  • The Incredible Hulk #249, Annual #9 (1980)
  • Marvel Spotlight vol. 2 #4 (Captain Marvel), #5 (Dragon Lord), #9–11 (Captain Universe) (1980–81)
  • Marvel Preview #21 (Shroud) (1980)
  • Crazy Magazine #68 (1980)
  • Marvel Team-Up #101 (1981)
  • Fantastic Four Annual #16 (1981)
  • Iron Man #160 (1982)
  • What If? #35 (Tigra) (1982)
  • U.S.1 #12 (1984)
  • Rom Spaceknight #59–75, Annual #4 (1984–86)
  • The Avengers Annual #13, 15 (1984–86)
  • The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #21, 25–28, 32–34 (1984–86)
  • Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos 1–3 (1987)
  • What If Special #1 (Iron Man) (1988)
  • What The–?! #1 (1988)
  • The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #22 (debut Speedball), #24–25 (1988–1991)
  • Marvel Age Annual #4 (Speedball) (1988)
  • Speedball #1–10 (1988–89)
  • Marvel Comics Presents #7, 10, 14, 54, 56, 58, 80–81, 83 (1988–1991)
  • Web of Spider-Man Annual #5 (Captain Universe) (1989)
  • Iron Man Annual #11 (1990)
  • The Destroyer #4 (1990)
  • The Destroyer vol. 2 #1 (1991)
  • Marvel Super-Heroes vol. 2 #1–3, #5–8 (#8 debut Squirrel Girl) (1990–1992)
  • Phantom 2040 #1–4 (1995)
  • Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #2, 4 (1995–96)
  • Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Ninja Rangers/VR Troopers #4–5 (1996)
  • Heroes & Legends #1 (1997)
  • Shadows & Light #1 (Iron Man) (1998)
  • Incredible Hulk and the Human Torch: From the Marvel Vault #1 (story created in the 1980s) (2011)

The Amazing Spider-Man

BLOGROLL
July 5, 2019

BIO

Peter Parker was a high school science student. He was not very popular with the other students and in fact was picked on and ridiculed for being a ‘square’ by the more popular kids.

He was an orphan who lived with his elderly Aunt May and Uncle Ben who loved him as if he was their own son.

One day, at a science exhibit, unbeknownst to anyone in attendance, a small spider entered a high-radiation area and became irradiated itself. Before dying, it bit Peter Parker.

Peter became ill and stepped outside to get some fresh air and clear his head. In his preoccupation with the spider-s bite and his feelings of nausea, he wandered into the path of an oncoming car. In the last split-second before the car would have struck him, Peter leaped out of the way.

But his leap carried him three stories into the air towards the side of a building. Putting out his hands to keep from crashing into the wall, he was startled to discover that his fingertips adhered to its surface and he clung to it high above the street below.

Amazed, he began scaling the wall until he reached the roof. Reaching out to grasp a steel pipe, he was again astounded as the stiff metal was crushed in his hand like aluminum foil.

Ever the scientist, Peter sought to further test his abilities. Happening upon a contest which offered $100 to anyone who could stay in the ring for three minutes with a professional wrestler, Peter thought this would be an adequate test.

But not wanting to embarrass himself, Peter pulled a stocking mask over his head to disguise himself. And it is in this disguise that he showed up at the arena and challenged the burly wrestler for the prize money.

Once in the ring, Peter was tiny compared to his bulky opponent. But as the match began, Peter nimbly avoided the wrestlers grasp, then tossed the man onto his shoulder like a feather pillow and leapt up to cling to one of the ring corner posts high above the crowd. The wrestler quickly conceded and Peter set him safely in the ring.

In the midst of the cheering audience, a television producer pondered what a fantastic attraction someone like the masked character could be. As Peter counted his prize money, the producer approached him and gave Peter his card. He told Peter he could make him rich.

Reaching home, Peter decided that if he was to embark on a career as a masked entertainer, he would need a colorful costume. To that end, he designed a red and blue suit with an overhead mask that had white one-way lenses so people couldn’t even see his eyes.

And employing his scientific skills, he created a fast-drying fluid that could be use as his own ‘spider’s web’ to hang or swing from. He even created devices that he could wear on his wrists that could spray the webbing out through tiny nozzles when he pressed the buttons in his palms with his fingers.

Now, armed with his amazing powers, nifty gadgets and colorful costume, Spider-Man became a television sensation, doing things that defied reality to the eyes of the enthralled audiences – crawling up and down sheer walls, using his webshooters in fantastic ways, hanging and swing about the studio in ways that seemed to defy gravity and physics.

After a show one evening, Spider-Man had a rare moment alone, standing in a studio hallway, when a man ran towards him pursued by an elderly police officer who yelled for someone to stop the thief. Spider-Man stood passively as the thief dashed past him and safely into a closing elevator. The police officer chided Spider-Man for not helping. Spider-Man responded coolly, saying that he was tired of taking orders from other people and would only do what was in his own best interest from then on.

But one evening soon after, returning from another television appearance, Peter saw police cars in front of his house. The same old officer he had seen nights before at the studio told Peter that a burglar had broken into the house and killed his Uncle Ben. But, he told Peter that they had the man cornered in the Acme Warehouse near the docks.

In a rage, Peter donned his red-and-blue costume and swung off across town on strands of webbing fired from his webshooters, vowing that though the murderer might be able to hold off the police, he wouldn’t hold off Spider-Man.

Outside the old boarded-up warehouse, the police were powerless, while inside, the murderer, holding a gun, planned to slip past them in the dark.

But suddenly, like a nightmare crawling down the wall towards the murderer, Spider-Man tells him that he will never escape again. The murderer, thinking he must be seeing things, tried to run, but Spider-Man made a tremendous leap from the wall, vaulted over the murderer’s head and landed in front of him, blocking his getaway.

The murderer pointed his pistol but Spider-Man immediately covered the gun and the man’s hand with a later of webbing, rendering the weapon useless. And then, faster than the man could react, Spider-Man knocked him cold with a vicious right cross to the jaw.

And then, in one of the cruelest twists of fate, the murderer’s head lolls back as Spider-Man holds his inert body, revealing him to be the man who had raced past Spider-Man at the studio nights before, the man Spider-Man could have easily stopped but had let go because he couldn’t be bothered with other people’s problems.

And in that terrible moment, Spider-Man realized that if he had only taken a moment to do something to stop the murderer when he had the chance, his Uncle Ben would still be alive.

And so, after hanging the murderer from a strand of webbing for the police to find, Spider-Man wandered off into the darkness, realizing that when fate grants someone great power, it also demands great responsibility.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:

This comic is one of those great against-all-odds stories of a million-to-one smash hit.

First, Lee’s publisher, Martin Goodman, told Stan that, for one thing, people hated spiders. Then he told him that a teenager could only be a sidekick, never a hero starring in his own book.

But Lee was so committed to the story that he decided to run it in the last issue of a failing anthology series called Amazing Adult Fantasy. For the fifteenth and final issue, they dropped the ‘adult’ part and just called it Amazing Fantasy.

In Lee’s own words, he ran the story and then promptly forgot all about the series and Spider-Man. That was until the sales reports came in a couple of months later along with a deluge of letters raving about how great the story was and what a great, unique, original character Spider-Man was.

By March of the next year, The Amazing Spider-Man had his own series. And the rest, as they say, is history.

REVIEW:

If I haven’t already mentioned it, Spider-Man is my favorite superhero.

The reasons are many, but off the top of my head, he has the sweetest costume, especially the white one-way lenses that hide his eyes. He also, for my money, has the coolest powers – some natural, some via his immense scientific creativity – wall crawling powers, webshooters, spider-sense, super-fast reflexes, balance, speed and agility. He is incredibly strong, especially for his size. And he is a kid, just as I was when I first discovered him.

The tone of his comic book appealed to me more that any other, melodramatic but with plenty of humor. And Spider-Man, like myself, was a loner. He spent much of each issue alone with his thoughts just as I frequently did.

The story from his origin issue is particularly classic. For my money, it is the most perfect origin story ever created.

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had been cruising along with the success of the Fantastic Four and The Hulk. Lee asked Kirby to draw the Spider-Man story but Kirby’s version was about a boy who finds a magical ring that transforms him when the need arises. Ditko pointed out to Lee that this was the same story Kirby had done for a character called the Silver Spider for another company.

Likewise, Lee was not happy with Kirby’s rendition of the character. Kirby’s characters all had chiseled jaws and physiques. Lee wanted Peter Parker to be a nebbish, a shy, skinny, unattractive and unpopular bookworm that fit Ditko’s character renderings to the letter.

Ditko was an inspired choice. His version of Parker was appropriately pitiful-looking while his concept of Spider-Man, unlike Kirby’s majestic powerhouses, was lithe and acrobatic, and uniquely mysterious in his skin-tight red-and-blue costume with menacingly shaped white eyes rimmed in black.

As the years passed, Lee and Ditko grew further apart on their ideas of what Spider-Man and his stories should be. And as Lee was the boss, Ditko eventually left after 38 issues.

But, fate in its infinite wisdom, provided the perfect successor – ‘Jazzy’ Johnny Romita, a romance artist who had worked for Marvel in the 50s and who had been doing art duties on Daredevil. At first, just as when any popular creator is replaced, Romita was not very popular.

In time however, he not only matched Ditko’s popularity, many say he exceeded it. And his version of Spider-Man became the house style.

Romita soon became the art director for Marvel, and his art duties on Spider-Man were first shared by the likes of Don Heck, Jim Mooney and John Buscema, before being taken over completely, going first to Gil Kane, and then to Ross Andru, the Spidey artist of the 70s.

The writing chores for The Amazing Spider-Man also changed hands, beginning with Lee’s protege, Roy Thomas, and then to the other quartet of 70s EICs, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Gerry Conway and Archie Goodwin, as well as Roger Stern.

Spider-Man is undeniably the Mickey Mouse to Marvel’s Disney. He has spawned numerous other titles – Marvel Team-up, Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man, Web of Spider-Man, and Spider-Man, as well as numerous one-shots, mini-series, and other shorter-lived series with various adjectives before the name.

Every person has their favorite superhero. Some are more obscure characters, some more popular. Obviously, mine is one of the most popular of all. But, just as every other person who claims Spidey as theirs, my reasons are as unique as they are personal.

I will finish on a low-note – I have not been happy with the directions (and I use the plural because I feel like the character has been pulled this way and that) the company has taken the character since the mid-nineties, beginning with the Clone Saga.

What followed was, to me, a succession of storylines which were more and more poorly conceived, and which eventually ended a decades-long passion for me – buying Marvel comics. A few of these storylines which stick out in my mind are the following:

  • 1998 – ‘The Gathering of the Five’ and ‘The Final Chapter’ – the problems with these interconnected stories were that they brought back Aunt May – AGAIN! – and they started immersing Spider-Man into the magical/mystical genre, a genre that he is great at brushing up against, as in when he co-stars with Dr. Strange on one of his trips to another realm, but not so much as a main part of who his character is and the type of story he is the primary protagonist in. The prime suspects here are EIC Terry Stewart, notorious for letting all of the major artists who formed Image defect in the early 90s for not giving them enough recognition or monetary remuneration for the money they made the company (and who was about to be succeeded by an EIC whose failures his would pale in comparison to), Tom DeFalco and John Byrne.
  • 2000 – Ultimate Spider-Man – because Spider-Man had been around for so long and had gotten married and graduated college and so forth, Marvel tried to figure out how to get the character back to the younger version so many people who read his comics had first been attracted to. So, they decided to launch a new alternate-reality series called the ‘Ultimate’ line which would also include retooled versions of The X-Men, The Fantastic Four, The Avengers, and pretty much everyone else. In taking Spider-Man and Peter Parker ‘back’ to a version of him that they perceived as a more successful one, they hired Brian Michael Bendis to author this vision. Bendis is one of the first examples of a writer who is very good when he writes in his best genre but not so well when he tries to adapt that different genre to superhero comic books. Bendis’s Powers series was a great series in the hard-boiled crime vein. Unfortunately, Bendis trying to write Spider-Man was atrocious. It didn’t take long for the series to sharply-depart from what was actually the true reason for the early Spider-Man comics’ success – namely, that they were a lot of fun! – and into one dark, tragic story line after another which ultimately (no pun intended) ended with the death of Peter Parker. But that event birthed an even greater travesty: Mile Morales, the new Spider-Man who would actually (somehow) cross over into the 616 universe and replace the original version of Spider-Man. Morales was a ‘half-black (skin)/half-Latino (name) kid who Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli called their ‘creation’ by changing the race/ethnicity of the main character, changing some colors on the costume, and adding one or two new (and non-spider-related) powers, but leaving everything else the same, including the character name! If Stan Lee’s idea of ‘creation’ had been the same as theirs, instead of the 60s renaissance Marvel explosion of The Fantastic Four, The Hulk, Iron Man, The X-Men, and yes, Spider-Man, we would instead have gotten the wet-firecracker-pop of revamped versions of The Destroyer, Marvex the Super-Robot, and Flexo the Rubber Man. Thank God Stan had more talent than to merely be an appropriator of other creators’ ideas. Building on the success formula of Bendis-doing-‘new’-Marvel-characters, he ‘created’ Riri Williams, a teenage black girl who is smarter than Tony Stark, who steals his tech, and then becomes a sort-of ward to him, and become Iron Heart, the new Iron Man. To find motivation for these two miserably misbegotten abominations, look no further than the fact that Bendis is a white man who has two black children. One of the most blatant destroyers of years of Marvel continuity integrity, Bendis went on to spread his particular brand of poison within DC Comics, ruining, in the eyes of many fans of the character, the legacy of Superman.
  • 2004 – ‘Sins Past’ – here begins the horrendous beginnings of J Micheal Staczynski’s authorship of terrible Spider-Man storylines. And this one is a doozy. Because a drawn out explanation would probably make me physically ill, I’ll just give you the abridged version. Essentially, Peter finds out that while visiting England, an event shown over a couple of issues of Amazing Spider-Man in the early 70s, Gwen Stacy gave birth to twins. When he tells MJ, she breaks down and confesses that Gwen had told her about it before she died but asked her to keep it secret. Worse, when Peter tells MJ he doesn’t understand how it could have happened as he and Gwen had never slept together, MJ tells him that the father is Norman Osborne. I won’t go into more details about the story – it is atrocious – but will simply say that this forever damaged anything that was established about Peter and Gwen’s relationship and much of Spider-Man’s canon. By this time, Joe Quesada, by far the main villain in the downfall of the Spider-Man most fans knew and loved, had become EIC in the wake of Marvel’s bankruptcy and recapitalization. He, along with toadie Axel Alonzo, would approve all of the horrid Spider-Man storylines that would follow. Staczynski wrote it, but Quesada enforced it.
  • 2005 – ‘The Other’ – this one took the magical/mystical basis for a Spider-Man story and blew it up to make it the very reason Peter became Spider-Man. We find out that the spider that bit Peter years ago at that fateful science demonstration, didn’t do so accidentally, but because Peter’s animal totem was a spider and he was chosen. To me, this very concept undoes much of what Stan and Steve tried to make a major part of Peter’s story – that he was a nobody who fate allowed to become Spider-Man. A person can’t be a nobody AND the chosen one at the same time! J. Michael Straczynski would again be the main writer for this as well as even worse stories to follow that further damaged the legacy of Spider-Man.
  • 2005 – this was also the year Spider-Man joined the Avengers, something he had, rightly, avoided doing for 43 years. Spider-Man was always best as a loner who worked with other heroes but never as a member of a team. But, Joe Quesada felt that as the Avengers were originally built using the most popular characters in Marvel at the time in 1963, it had been a mistake to not have Spider-Man (and Wolverine) included in their ranks. Apparently Stan Lee knew better and that is why Stan Lee will go down as a legend and Joe Quesada will go down as the arbiter of the abysmal failures that would start the landslide into mediocrity and downright poor product output from Marvel moving forward.
  • 2006 – ‘Civil War’ – although Civil War is an enormous story that encompasses all of the Marvel characters through nearly all of the titles being published at the time, it is infamous for one act its writers perpetrate on Spider-Man. During a battle between the superhero team The New Warriors and some villains, a school, filled with young children, is destroyed, killing all inside. *note: remember when comics used to be fun?* In response, the government demands that all masked adventurers register their identities. This act draws a definite line in the sand with many heroes firmly on one side and the rest on the other. Showing solidarity with Iron Man – who approved of registration (big whoop! Everyone already knew Tony Stark was Iron Man) and has become a sort-of mentor to Peter since he joined the Avengers, another slap in the face to a character who had been around for decades, was incredibly successful on his own and didn’t need or want mentorship – Peter unmasks on national television, revealing to the world his identity and thus destroying decades of established reasoning for NOT doing so – to protect the lives of those he loved, namely Aunt May, who is somehow still alive, as well as Mary Jane, now his wife. This one decision would pave the way for most of the worse grievances to follow. This time, Scottish hack, Mark Millar, was to blame, not specifically for the Spider-Man part – that would again fall the Straczynski – but for the entire miserable affair. Millar is like several of the writers who, though great at writing their own characters in their preferred genre, have taken classic Marvel characters and ruined them by infusing their own ‘essence’. Millar is great at writing grim, dark stories and his comic book Kick-Ass, the story of a young boy who has all of his nerve endings damaged in a violent accident, causing him to no longer be able to feel pain, and becomes a vigilante superhero is as entertaining and addictive as it is original. His work on more established characters, however, is an atrocity.
  • 2007 – ‘Back in Black’ – since his public unmasking in Civil War, Peter ultimately decided to change sides and join Captain America’s team after seeing firsthand the horrible treatment of former heroes at the government detention center, 42. As a result, Spider-Man is booted from the Avengers and no longer has their protection. In one of the first of the snowballing repercussions of this, villains are now hunting for not only Spider-Man but Peter Parker, Mary Jane and Aunt May as well. One evening on the street, a bullet strikes Aunt May. Peter gets May to the hospital but she has lost a lot of blood and the doctor tells Mary Jane that she isn’t going to make it. Peter dons his old black suit (you know, to show how dark he now is) and goes on a hunt for the identity of the sniper. In a convoluted series of events that see Peter doing things normally reserved for sadistic vigilantes, he discovers that The Kingpin hired the assassin to kill, not May, but Peter. Peter breaks into the prison and, laying waste to decades of canon which indicates that The Kingpin is a match for him, Peter easily – and brutally – beats him. He then proceeds to torture The Kingpin. He tells The Kingpin that he is going to kill him if May dies. The rest of the story involves Peter realizing that the police are involved in efforts to endanger him and his family, so he and Mary Jane sneak May out of the hospital and go on the run. Chalk up another one for Straczynski.
  • 2007 – ‘One More Day’ – to add to the snowballing ineptitude begun with the events from ‘Civil War’ and ‘Back in Black’, this storyline shows us what the creative braintrust at Marvel – Joe Quesada, J. Michael Staczynski, Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Millar, Jeph Loeb, Tom Brevoort, Axel Alonzo, Ed Brubaker (another successful author in other media and genres who didn;t transition well to comics), and Dan Slott (a writer who would soon assume control over the flagship Spider-Man title and take it to new depths of failure) – think Peter Parker would do to save the life of his elderly Aunt May (who had already ‘died’ multiple times since her first appearance in Amazing Fantasy 15. How does he do it? Well, he makes a deal with Mephisto that if he will save Aunt May’s life, Peter will give Mephisto his marriage to Mary Jane. Oh, and as a bonus, Mephisto will erase the memory of Peter unmasking himself from every person on the planet. And so, Peter and MJ’s marriage ended with no memory of it ever even happening and Peter’s identity as Spider-Man is once more a secret. To his credit, Staczynskin has stated publicly that he thought the entire idea was a bad one and even tried to have his name removed from the series until Quesada talked him out of it. In a nutshell, they wiped out Pete and MJ’s romantic history in a most contrived way simply because Quesada hated the union. He also stated that it was the only way to preserve the Spider-Man legacy and extend it longer. Ironically, there was (rightly) a fan uproar calling it the worst Spider-Man story ever and readership of the character dropped sharply afterwards. Way to go, Joe.
  • 2008 – “Brand New Day’ – I won;t go into detail on this one. I only include it to note that this is the first major storyline written by Dan Slott who will later take over the title and see Spider-Man through some of his worst storylines ever. Let’s just say that, following the event’s of ‘One More Day’, Aunt May is alive and well, Peter and MJ are hardly speaking and she is dating a movie star, The Daily Bugle has been bought by someone else, and somehow, Harry Osborne is back from the dead, now discovered to have been living in Europe. Ugh.
  • Honorable mention: from here on, the Spider-Man legacy is taken lower and lower so I will not dignify these storylines with any details. I will just say that I would shortly cease buying any new Marvel comics, something I had been actively doing for over 30 years. The final straw was when Dr. Octopus, as he is dying, employs a machine that transfers his spirit into the body of Peter Parker. Peter is now a slave in his own mind, helpless to stop all that follows. Octavius, now having access to all of Peter’s memories, realizes that he is Spider-Man and he decides that since he is superior to Parker, he will show the world a better Spider-Man – A Superior Spider-Man. This was, of course, the brainchild of Dan Slott, a portly fellow who many have speculated made Octopus (himself a rather rotund character) Spider-Man as a vicarious vehicle to realize his own childhood fantasies. Regardless, whatever the reason, I could not take seeing my beloved favorite character treated this way any longer and thus ended my decades-long financial relationship with Marvel. From that point, I refocused my efforts on completing my Spider-Man collection, including all miscellaneous series plus one-shots and mini-series, an endeavor I am still actively pursuing today.

Spider-Man will always be my favorite superhero. However, I don;t consider the character that has emerged in the last twenty-plus years to be the same one I came to know and love, regardless of Marvel owning the rights to the character and thus, the right to state that the current character is one and the same. The mistreatment of Spider-Man is only a microcosm of what Marvel has done to nearly its entire line. They have replaced Captain Marvel, Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, Wolverine, Iron Man, Dr. Strange, and several more with any combination of minority representation (female, black, Muslim, etc.) to present themselves as more ‘progressive’ and in lock-step with identity politics.

I know I am not alone in my displeasure with this change. Sales of Marvel comic books have plummeted and hundreds of comic book stores have gone out of business in the last few years. The implication from the knee-jerkers is that we are racist/misogynist/homophobic which is not the case at all. I have no problem with Marvel creating new black/Muslim/gay/female characters. The problem I and most older fans have with Marvel is that they have taken heroes and their legacies and changed them unnecessarily in the name of social justice.

But the thing that gives me assurance is that, regardless of what garbage Marvel puts out now and in the future, they can never erase the masterpieces created by true innovators like Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, and so many other writers and artists of the silver and bronze age.

That was truly the Marvel Age of Comics.

Amazing Fantasy #15

BLOGROLL
July 5, 2019

August 1962

Amazing Fantasy#15 (vol. 1)

“Spider-Man!”

EIC: Stan Lee

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko

Writers: Stan Lee

Pencilers: Steve Ditko

Inkers: Steve Ditko

Colourist: Andy Yanchus

Letterers: Artie Simek

Editors: Stan Lee

Cover Date: August 1962

Release Date: June 1962

Pages: 11

Cover Price: $0.12

First Appearance and Origin of:

  • The Amazing Spider-Man/Peter Parker

SYNOPSIS:

Peter Parker is the biggest wallflower at Mid-Town High School in Queens, NY. A brilliant science student, he is ostracized by nearly everyone, especially the more popular kids who delight in making fun of the frail, bespectacled teenager.

But he is respected by his teachers and adored by his elderly Aunt May and Uncle Ben, who Peter lives with since his parents are dead.

While attending a lecture and demonstration in nuclear science, Peter is bitten by a spider that has been exposed to the radiation. Peter begins to feel unwell and wanders aimlessly out of the exhibit and into the street. Suddenly, a car careens around a corner and nearly hits Peter, but at the last second, he leaps and in seconds, is clinging to the bare surface of a building facade. Amazed at what is happening, Peter climbs up the side of the building to the roof, where he grabs a steel pipe for support and winds up crushing it in his hand. He also crawls down a taught wire, balancing on it like the spider that bit him.

Unsure of the extent of his powers and eager to test them, he sees an ad offering $100 for anyone who can stay in the ring for three minutes with a professional wrestler. Not wanting to embarrass himself, he wears a mask to hide his identity.

The bulky, muscle-bound wrestler mocks his skinny masked opponent before the match starts, but Peter quickly overpowers him and wins the match. When he collects his money, the promoter tells him he is a television producer, gives Peter his card, and tells him he’ll put him on t.v.

Back at home, Peter fashions a skin-tight red and blue costume. He also uses his scientific ingenuity to concoct a fluid that acts as super strong webbing that he can use for all sorts of different things. He also creates devices to wear on his wrist that will contain the web fluid and shoot it out through a nozzle under pressure. The webbing will adhere to any surface and enable Peter to hang or swing from it.

The last thing Peter does is come up with a name for his costumed alter ego – Spider-Man!

In no time, Spider-Man has become a television sensation. Millions of people watch in awe as he climbs up walls, sticks to the ceiling, and does all manner of amazing tricks with his fantastic webbing.

Backstage, after the show, Spider-Man sees a man running frantically towards him as a police officer pursues him, calling him a thief and yelling for him to stop. Spider-Man does nothing as the man runs past and into the waiting elevator which closes before the policeman can reach it.

The policeman chides Spider-Man for not stopping the thief. Spider-Man tells him that stopping thieves is the policeman’s job, not his, and that he no longer lets others tell him what to do. “From here on,” Spider-Man says, “I only look out for number one – me!”

But, one night soon after, Peter returns home from a television appearance to find police cars in front of his Aunt and Uncle’s house. A police officer tells him that a burglar broke into their house and shot his Uncle Ben.

Furious, Peter rushes off, changes into his Spider-Man costume, and swings off to the old abandoned warehouse by the docks he overhears one of the police officers say the burglar is hiding out in.

The police are being held off, unable to get into the warehouse without being picked off by the burglar. But Spider-Man sneaks inside and surprises the burglar, crawling creepily down the wall of the darkened warehouse towards him.

The burglar tries to run but Spider-Man leaps over him to block his way. He fires his webbing at the man, incapacitating his pistol. Then, he knocks the criminal out with one powerful punch to the jaw.

But as he picks the unconscious form of the burglar off the floor, Spider-Man is shocked to discover that it is the man who was running from the policeman at the t.v. station, the one he didn’t stop when he had the chance.

And now he knows that if he had only acted, his Uncle Ben would still be alive.

As he wanders aimlessly through the night-darkened streets of the city, he is aware at last that with great power, there must also come–great responsibility.

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