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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!