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Unearthed: Amazing Spider-Man #1, Part 2

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My apologies for the delay, True Believers! Today we’re finishing up Amazing Spider-Man #1, which features both the Fantastic Four and the Chameleon!

Steve Ditko’s take on the FF is a little different than Jack Kirby’s. It’s a little uneven, a little weird. But let’s give some love to Ditko’s amazing hands. Nobody does ’em like him!

It’s in the NAME, Petey. You think they’re gonna get rid of one of their number just to have you? This surmise is officially the most fantastical thing about this whole issue.

Here’s how the FF are always portrayed: Mister Fantastic doing some kind of experiment, the Thing being the butt of the Torch’s prank, and the Invisible Girl just kind of hanging out. Clearly, unless she’s shopping, Stan Lee doesn’t know what to do with a woman.

THAT’S going to stop someone determined to break in, Reed? Guilt?

I love that this was the bit that really captured Stan Lee’s imagination: the proportionate strength of a spider. Do we know that spiders are strong? It’s ants that are historically known to be strong relative to their size.

But even then, shouting out the word ‘proportionately’ isn’t a fear-inducing move.

Psst… Sue. The rope isn’t invisible, so you being invisible yourself isn’t really doing much. But wow, your lassoing skills are amazing.

Of all the things Reed can do with his body, this is one of the funniest.

I can’t shake the image here that Ben’s just a guy in a Thing suit. I think it’s the eye. Also, this whole thing about scientific research is the thing that’s been missing from all the FF movie adaptations. In my mind, the Fantastic Four is about exploration into weird places and committing superscience. Without that, they’re a not-quite-as-interesting superhero team as the Avengers or X-Men.

Anyway, here’s the Chameleon, with his weird goggles that never get explained.

Reminiscent of Game of Thrones, with the Hall of Masks or whatever it’s called. Arya stuff. You know.

Also, what’s up with this guy? That weird mouth slit is creepy as hell. Why’s he got this full-head mask on at home? What the hell are the goggles for?

And then the goggles finally come off and he’s got these weird eye slits. Or are those his eyes? Do we ever find out?

Here’s a weird one. Spider-Man’s spider sense never works this way in any future comic, as far as I know. But it does here.

Did he make that web gun? Did he buy it somewhere? There’s so much that Lee just never bothers to get into.

Yeah, again, NOT how spider sense works. I get that Stan Lee invented the character, but why introduce things like this and then never show them again?

The mask, the goggles, the vest… THAT’S a look.

Who ironic this statement appears now, in 2020.

Peter, no! If you don’t help now, the Chameleon will just escape and murder your uncle! Oh wait, that’s already happened. Okay, you’re good.

This is when I remember that Peter’s a teenager. The DRAMAAAAAAAAAAA

Okay. It’s comics, sure. But even then, he can’t possibly be making some of these things without some kind of structural underpinning. A shield? Skis? A raft?

I love getting indignant about things that don’t really matter!

And there you have it: Amazing Spider-Man #1! Join us next Monday for something completely different!

Unearthed: Amazing Spider-Man #1, Part 1

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Welcome back, True Believers! Spider-Man made his first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15 (which was to be the final issue of that series), but he proved to be so popular he got his own series. Here it is:

Nothing like a boost from an already-successful series to bring extra eyeballs. Note: this cover was drawn by Jack Kirby, but Steve Ditko did the interior art. On we go!

Fresh off the murder of his beloved Uncle Ben, Peter laments that he was “too late to save him”. Really, it’s more that he failed to stop the burglar who later took Ben’s life when he had the chance. Kind of weird that Lee words it this way.

This is a sad scene, but if the landlord’s already after May to pay the rent, were they living hand-to-mouth? Were they late every month?

Pete momentarily considers a life of crime, but rejects it out of hand because he’s such a nice boy. This will prove to be ironic later this very issue.

There are a couple of ways around this that a science nerd like Pete should have been able to figure out. But it does point up an interesting aspect of superheroing that would be fun to explore in more depth.

Why does the clerk look like he was drawn by Dr. Seuss?

Jameson goes a little overboard with this stance over the years, but initially, hey, he’s not wrong.

Really, the rule of law means nothing in the Marvel universe. Just like ours! OOH TOPICAL

Note: at this time, there was no Avengers comic. And as difficult as it may be to imagine, Ant-Man was popular.

Poor Aunt May! Desperate for cash, she’s managed to find her way to a card sharp from the 1800s! Look at those sleeve bands!

In this panel, the role of the policeman is played by Peter Sellers.

Why in the hell is the guidance package 1) on the outside of the craft, and 2) so poorly designed that it breaks loose while the craft simply does what it’s supposed to do?

Jeepers creepers, Jonah, he’s offering to HELP! Take it down a notch.

So they didn’t bother to radio ahead and warn the guards he was coming?

I love Stan Lee’s willful ignorance of the laws of physics. There’s no got-damn way Spider-Man could stand erect on a jet plane like this, super-strength or not. Even opening the hatch would cause all kinds of havoc. But hey: comics, huh?

A super-light strand of webbing… forcing its way through incredible wind resistance… hitting a target traveling at hundreds of miles an hour… from a jet also traveling at hundreds of miles an hour PERPENDICULAR to the first craft… yeah.

Oh NOW you want to talk physics, Stan?

So there was no lid or anything? What was it, a screw-in? Then how — you know what, I’ll just shut up now.

This panel, and the ones to come, display Lee’s ability to REALLY let Peter have it. It’s gonna get ugly, y’all.

I’ve left out the panel in which people on the street are seen commenting how much of a menace Spider-Man is.

Even AUNT MAY is against him! Holy cats, Stan, stop the madness! What’ll happen next? Tune in on Wednesday for the second half of Amazing Spider-Man #1 to find out!

Unearthed: Amazing Fantasy #15: Spider-Man!

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Dear friends, we are irreverent here at Comics Breakdown, as I’m sure you’ll have noticed by now. Yet there are certain comics that — even while containing mock-worthy elements — we hold with the proper regard and esteem. Amazing Fantasy #15 is one such issue, because it’s the first appearance of Spider-Man!

The Stan Lee and Steve Ditko classic, Unearthed for you lovely readers today! Chances are that unless you’re a seasoned comics fan, your introduction to Spidey is through the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. Or maybe even the Andrew Garfield or Tobey Maguire films. Or hell, even the numerous Spider-Man cartoons over the years.

But this is it! The actual origin of this character we love so much! Let’s jump into it!

I make fun of Stan Lee a lot for some of his odd storytelling choices, but he created a masterpiece with this one issue. Poor ol’ Peter Parker, bookish and lonely high school student.

The only happiness in Pete’s life comes from his aunt and uncle, who dote on him… but no mention is ever made of what happened to his parents. That’s for another time. Until then…

You’re not even TRYING to fit in, Petey! You poor kid. But Science loves you! Science would never hurt you, right?

SCIENCE!

Not looking at the world around you makes you an egghead? That explains so much.

Unseen: the family of five in the apartment below, asphyxiating due to their exhaust pipe being crushed as though it were paper.

I may be mistaken, but the two in the ring look like they’re just having a blast. They’re dancing, right?

A lot of costumed heroes wear outfits that hide their identity out of a sense of protecting their loved ones from criminal reprisal. Peter’s fear of humiliation is quite different, and fits what we know of his character.

Steve Ditko’s work is instantly recognizable for his mastery of hands and a very distinctive visual style. It’s easy to forget how his perspective work is also on-point. Keep an eye on it throughout this issue.

Also, look: the rare and elusive silent panel!

That look on Peter’s face is one of the creepiest things I’ve ever seen.

Honestly, that’s a hell of a costume for a first-timer who only ever things about science. And he sewed it himself! The world may be gaining a superhero, but it’s losing a fantastic tailor.

Sorry; ‘liquid cement’? CITATION NEEDED

Is that J. Jonah Jameson in the middle there? Probably not; he’s not a movie agent. But it’s hard to shake the likeness!

And now, the beginning of the end of innocence for ol’ Spidey.

There’s never been a quicker example of the maxim “Power corrupts” than this issue. It all happens so fast. And just think about how jam-packed with story these eleven pages are. ELEVEN PAGES. It’s pretty amazing when you get down to it. Lee’s writing is so direct here it’s kind of breathtaking.

Holy crap, Lee’s just setting us up for the fall here. Look at those happy faces! This can’t last!

And sure enough…

These days, whole pages would be spent dwelling on Peter’s sorrow, but it’s enough to show his wild-eyed face to know how his rage is mingling with his grief.

Ditko’s action is always dynamic. And you can see his past horror comics work in the framing of that first panel.

It’s a little weird that we see Peter’s pupils through his mask here, but it’s understandable. We do need to see his reaction, and it wouldn’t have made sense for Pete to take his mask off here.

Readers take note: modern interpretations have Uncle Ben saying the responsibility line to Peter, but nobody does in the original. Honestly, it’s better this way: the lessons learned best are the ones life itself teaches us.

And there you have it! The incredible first appearance of Spider-Man! Holy cats, what an issue. Did Lee and Ditko know what they had made? Stan would later say yes, but there’s no way anyone could have known that this character would go on to become one of the most beloved heroes in comics. And this issue is why! It’s not about his powers, it’s about his heart and the responsibility he feels the rest of his life based on this one incident.

This issue feels almost like a Twilight Zone episode; it’s pretty self-contained, and it’s got that twist ending. It’s amazing, it’s spectacular… it’s Spider-Man! Join us next week for Amazing Spider-Man #1 for more Spidey, and we’ll see you here Friday for the newest episode of Marvel Retold… introducing Scott Summers!

Unearthed: Heavy Metal #3

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My apologies for the delay in getting this up; personal issues prevented its timely delivery. Keeping this one short, too, as I’m behind on my own deadline for this week’s Marvel Retold (debuting on Friday!). So! Let’s get to it.

Moebius cover! The things he just throws away.

You know you’re an Artist when you create a title that others can’t read. The hell IS that? It’s like a tag you’d find on a wall somewhere.

I don’t know this for sure, but my belief is that Druillet just draws this stuff apropos of nothing, then invents a story out of whole cloth to tie it all together.

And you know what? Doesn’t matter, when you get things like this.

Ah, yes, the good stuff. Look at how LURID these colors are!

Hey, does that bat look familiar? Den thinks so. It may be because Corben also did the cover for this album:

Yissss. If you didn’t have this album in the 70s you weren’t really into rock ‘n’ roll.

Ever see Heavy Metal: The Movie? The Den story in that is basically this moment. In the film, you hear “OO-LA-TEC”, so it’s not clear that they’re chanting “Cthulhu” backwards, as it’s clear here. Or “Cthulu”, as they spell it above.

You should be afraid of a man who fights with his penis forward.

Check it out! C’thulhu!

Out of context, this is hilarious. Hell, IN context it’s pretty funny.

And to finish it all off, some lovely Moebius.

Man, what is it about naked dudes being aggro?

Oh no! Birdie dead!

Yay! Birdie alive! All in a day’s work for Vague Mechanic Guy!

And that’s all the Heavy Metal we got… for NOW. Join us here on Wednesday for a new comics title!

Unearthed: Heavy Metal #2

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Welcome back to the weird and wonderful Heavy Metal magazine! This second issue continues stories begun in #1, but also gives us rare nuggets of only the finest French science fiction. Let’s dive in.

Cover by Moebius. It’s true! Doesn’t really look like the work we normally know him by, but there you have it.

When was the last time you were shamed into drinking a Grecian liqueur? Too long, methinks.

Oh man. If you’re touting playing The Eagles, Boston and Peter Frampton as NOT “the same old song”, you must be in the 70s.

We didn’t get to him last issue, but this here’s the work of Vaughn BodÄ“. You may have seen knock-offs of his stuff on street walls among other graffiti. For some reason his art just struck a nerve with indie wall artists. His stories are complete nonsense, but they’re fun in their own way.

But hey, more Druillet weirdness. I’ll be honest, if there’s deeper meaning to his tales, they escape me. If there’s any actual substance, it escapes me. But wow, look at this fever dream imagery.

And how often do you see a two-page vertical spread? Not nearly enough!

And now Den gets punched by a lizard man! Which, as we all know, is a sure-fire way to jog those ol’ memories back into place.

Man, the colors! THE COLORS!

I fear to guess the hours it must have taken to render this spider’s web, much less the entire comic. DON’T MAKE ME

Amazing light and shadow work in that first panel, and the MOVEMENT in that last panel!

Okay, and now, what the hell is going on? Please tell me I won’t be hearing “Roger, I want your ass!” in my dreams tonight. Please. I can’t… I’m too fragile.

I feel that there’s some metaphor dancing just beyond my awareness here. Probably you all get it, right? That makes me happy. Okay. Moving on.

Hey! It’s Moebius! My happy place! Giant alien orangutan/gorilla dong, a bit less so. But, y’know… French.

My grud, the line work. Painstaking. And remember, that’s pronounced “pains taking”, not “pain staking”. You’re not staking pains, you’re taking pains. Always bothers me when people say it wrong. And because this is my platform, I get to vent about it. Woo!

And finally, a word of caution to black and white artists: if you don’t vary your line weights, your details all blend into each other, making it extremely difficult to understand what you’ve drawn. Good luck!

See you all Monday for issue #3!

Unearthed: Heavy Metal #1

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Continuing on with our look at comics that we WON’T mock, we come to the infamous French comics collection Metal Hurlant, or as it came to be known in the United States, Heavy Metal!

I guarantee you, nobody in the US had ever seen anything like this when it hit the stands in 1977. And while it may have been surpassed in the intervening years by stories that were more graphic and extreme, really nothing can capture the extreme weirdness of these early tales.

And just as a feel for the times, here’s an ad for a science fiction book club. Herbert’s in there, Asimov, Niven, Pohl… hell, I’d join this book club NOW.

And then THIS bit of psychedelia hits your eyeballs, and you know you’re not in Kansas anymore.

And THEN… FULL FRONTAL MALE NUDITY! Dammit, I love the French. Welcome to the meaty art of Richard Corben. He always draws the THICKEST people.

But also, look at this amazing panel. Despite its solidity, it still communicates emptiness. Not going to go into more of the story… you’ll have to find a collection somewhere and just dissolve into it.

Following Den would be difficult for any story, so why not just give readers this bit of nonsense?

… yeah. From the sublime to the stupid in .5 seconds. That’s Heavy Metal.

And just when you think you’ve figured out the tone this magazine’s trying to go for, you get this hyper-realistic rendering style.

I mean, holy crap, it’s gorgeous.

Seriously. LOOK AT IT.

The textures, the chiaroscuro, the linework… just amazing.

But hey, you wanna talk about TEXTURE, give it up for Moebius (or Jean Giraud, as his mother knows him). This is jaw-droppingly wonderful stuff.

Over the course of his career he slid easily between drama and humor, realism and fantasy, and it all looked just incredible.

Also, and I’m not certain of this, I believe he’s using watercolors most of the time, which is a whole other level of mastery.

I’d put this on my wall.

And it’s not just crosshatching or stippling, either; there’s variance of line weight in there too. It’s just so subtle you might not consciously notice it.

And then he hits you with the absurd. And that’s Moebius. This won’t be the last time we get to see his work, trust me.

Let’s throw in one last ridiculously detailed robot, and call it a day.

Join us on Friday for Heavy Metal #2!

Unearthed: The X-Men #3

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Some delightful shenanigans for you, True Believers! Today’s X-Men adventure introduces… THE BLOB!

We don’t find out until later, but his name’s Fred J. Dukes. Perfect. On we go!

You may never see this again: Cyclops is firing his optic blasts WITHOUT HIS VISOR. Continuity was NOT A THING back in The Day.

Also, at this point, still heat-based.

Okay. Warren saying he wants a FEMALE is full-on peak Stan Lee. Jean’s expression says it all.

Why, Xavier? ‘Cause she’s a WEAK GIRL? You’re TRAINING her to fight bad guys! Oh, but hey, it’s actually even worse than this:

Holy SH*T. You know, Pete Holmes wrote something kind of similar, but we all thought he was just making it up. Ha. Hahahaha.

Oh, but right, the Blob. I’m not sure why Stan the Man thought the ability to keep someone from moving you was a great idea for a superpower. And is it just me, or is this a wasted opportunity to turn that second panel into an issue of The X-Rated Men?

Whatever, Xavier thinks the Blob is awesome enough to bring into the X-Men. In fact, he WILL start crankin’, Blob. That’s how much he admires you. HURR HURR HURR

I sincerely hope you all didn’t think this blog was highbrow.

Turns out the X-Men are the villains of this piece! C’mon. With eyebrows like that, you didn’t think Xavier was a GOOD GUY, did you? HE WIPED A GUY’S MIND LAST ISSUE.

Holy crap, Xavier’s ordering a hit on the Blob.

Sure. It starts with a single use case, then later becomes the means to control the world. News flash: XAVIER AIN’T A GOOD DUDE.

This panel out of context was just too good not to share.

The Blob inexplicably, and for just one panel, goes bald.

Jean learned this by watching Looney Tunes. You should see the tunnel she painted on the back wall.

One word: Svenzaldo.

How in the Hell of the Horny Dragon was this EVER supposed to stop him?

Honestly, Angel, you’re the worst.

HOLY CRAP HE’S DOING IT AGAIN

Aww, hey, just the way to finish an action-packed issue of nonstop fun, culminating in the erasure of a sapient being’s memories against their will: a tiny portrait of superheroes in regular clothes. The House of Ideas, y’all.

And that’s it for the X-Men… FOR NOW. Just us back here on Wednesday for a new title! What’ll it be? Not even WE know! Sadly.

Unearthed: The X-Men #2

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Omigosh, it’s YOU! I’m so sorry the place is a mess; I’m having someone working on the site a bit to make it even better! Watch this space! Until then, let’s glory in the power of X-Men #2, featuring The Vanisher!

It’s a bald dudes face-off! Who’s the baldest and the baddest? The answer may SHOCK YOU!

But first, here’s Angel getting molested by random women. Take THAT, Incels! What? I don’t know.

Okay. In an issue where the villain has an ACTUAL teleportation power, Stan Lee’s calling this teleportation? But the final exclamation is still pretty funny.

And here’s Cyclops getting molested by random men. See? Something for everyone.

Also, Stan: what weird world do you live in where ice turns other things into ice cubes?

These early issues are famous for Stan Lee thinking something cool and just putting it into the comic without thinking it through. First, the ability to project your thoughts visually onto a surface is… a little outside of what Xavier can actually do. Second, just put that image in their MINDS, Charles! Come ON! Cut out the middleman!

Don’t think I don’t appreciate the cool wide-angle action shot here, Jack, sir, but… how BIG did this room suddenly get? Also, I love Xavier’s “every moment is a teachable moment” methodology. Also also, throughout this issue, Marvel Girl is CONSTANTLY being told she’s beautiful, gorgeous, etc. Thanks, Stan.

Ain’t “unexpected” if you tell him they’re coming, Prof.

It… it’s not like the Vanisher MOVES quickly so much as he just DISAPPEARS, Charles, so no matter how fast Angel flies… oh, you’ve released the missile already. Okay, good on ya.

So… Beast is more difficult to trap because he’s more over-confident? Shouldn’t that make him EASIER to trap?

There’s never been anyone more fabulous than The Vanisher. Adored by rough trade criminals, his cigarettes lit for him, fruit brought to him, that amazing outfit… GAY IS POWERFUL

Read that last panel again. Tell me that’s the work of a man who understands sexual politics.

Did you know Prof X had a contact in the government? I didn’t. Know why? He never comes up again.

Don’t you love Jack Kirby’s imagination? That thing’s crazy-looking. Wait… it was REAL?

Well-played, Jack. Well-played.

“Hold me tight… TIGHTER! I’m … I’m almost THERE!”

See? “Gorgeous”! Marvel Girl could probably take the entire team out by herself, yet she’s constantly condescended to and belittled by her teammates. That’s okay; she gets her revenge later when she destroys an entire alien civilization.

Too soon?

Again, Stan, what are the physics like in the universe YOU inhabit?

CANONICAL! Cyclop’s beams are HEAT BEAMS! Gail Simone, where are you?

“Quiet, Beast! You know the Professor can hear our THOUGHTS, right?”

“Wh-what? So he… he knows when I’m thinking dirty thoughts of Jean?”
“Well, we ALL are, so that’s not a tough one.”

Haha, yeah, let’s ALL laugh! Until…

Xavier doesn’t just turn off his power, which we know he can do, but actually ERASES THIS GUY’S MEMORY. So the lesson here is: don’t come at Xavier if you’re also bald. He’ll DEAL WITH YOU.

It’s true, the puns are the worst part of superheroics.

I… was that a quip? I don’t… I don’t even know how to classify this.

… the MUTANT brain, Xavier. For a guy whose whole raison d’etre is helping promote mutant lives, you keep making this mistake.

And that’s X-Men #2! Keep these early stories in mind as we go into Friday, which will see the latest episode of Marvel Retold! In this one Xavier tests Cerebro for the first time… what will he find? Tune in and find out!