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?
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!