Monday, January 4, 2010

9: Amazing Fantasy #15

Amazing Fantasy #15
June 5, 1962

  • Credit where it's due: Having encountered success with his first innovation (a super-team that doesn't always get along), it would have been easy for Stan Lee to simply repeat that twist again and again - but he keeps coming up with fresh takes on the superhero concept. Case in point: A comic where the teenager isn't the sidekick - he's the protagonist. One where the hero isn't a charming and brawny stud, but a lonely and bookish outcast. One who, far from having everything turn right at the end of every adventure, would be the first superhero to be perpetually down on his luck.

  • In fact, that's largely why this is the first addition to the Marvel canon not to be drawn by Jack Kirby. Stan first gave the assignment to Jack, explaining that this character was to be far more nebbish than strongman ... but as the pages started to churn out, he found that Peter Parker still looked far too godlike and muscle-bound for his liking; after all, figures of power and the idealized form were such hallmarks of Jack Kirby's artwork that they were present even when toned down. So instead he gave the story to Steve Ditko, whose style was grounded in realism, but with an slightly eccentric twist.

  • Still, untangling the history here is more complicated than most. Just as the Fantastic Four was Stan's last-ditch effort at "doing superheroes right", so too does the story hold that Stan's publisher, Martin Goodman, was so appalled by the concept ("People HATE spiders!") that he stonewalled it until declining sales of their anthology comic, Amazing Fantasy, warranted its cancellation - saying Stan could just throw the 11-pager into the final issue if he wanted. But what no one ever brings up is that bit on the cover about "the NEW Amazing!", and that the final page of the comic ends with "Be sure to see the next issue of Amazing Fantasy for the further amazing exploits of America's most DIFFERENT new teen-age idol -- Spiderman!" Maybe they thought if sales were through the roof, they could keep the mag going (which didn't happen). Or they could spin the one feature off into his own comic and leave the anthology mag on the floor (which did). But what is certain is that Stan conceived this as the beginning of a brand-new hero, and not just a done-in-one; compare Spider-Man, who by story's end has origin, costume and super-name, with Henry Pym, who by the end of his 7-page story was never meant to be seen again.

  • Everyone knows the phrase which sums up the Spider-Man concept, supposedly handed down by his uncle Ben - that "With great power there must also come -- great responsibility!" What most readers won't catch is that this isn't spoken by Ben at any time before his murder in this story; it's simply part of the closing narration, retroactively assigned to Ben later on. Of course, given Spider-Man's disregard for the fleeing burglar, a more appropriate phrase might have been: "A moment of arrogance -- a lifetime of regret!" But not only is that not nearly as catchy, as a character slogan it would have been a downer to boot...!


cerebus660 said...

Hey, Don! I've just discovered your blog and I'm lovin' it!

Here in the UK Marvel reprinted their Silver Age superhero classics in the early '70s. So, for comic fans of my age group, we got to experience the Silver and Bronze ages of Marvel at the same time. Which was cool.

Your blog brings back some great memories. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

It's almost certainly a fanciful story by Stan that Kirby was not able to draw a normal guy. As evidence I point to a fantasy story drawn by Kirby that appeared only a few months before AF # 15 "The Bully Boy". It features a very Peter Parker-ish teen who recieves powers and becomes a menace instead of a hero.

AS far as Spider-Man being a continuing series, Stan recollections are probably jumbled. Goodman likely didn't have faith in the character, but let Stan introduce him in AF as a continuing series. Why go through the trouble of changing the title AND anouncing Spider-Man as an ongoing feature unless it was planned as such?
When Goodman saw the poor sales of earlier issues he immediatly cancelled AF. I do wonder if the stories Lee and Ditko produced for ASM # 's 1 & 2 would have eventually been published in the back of a book like Strange Tales if Spidey didn't recieve his own title?

Nick Caputo

Kid said...

I noticed this fact years ago, and got around to writing about it in Comics International in 2002. For my explanation as to why Stan mis-remembered, see An Amazing Fantasy at - forgiv the plug.

Great blog by the way.

Don Alsafi said...

Thanks, Kid! We actually just had somebody add some answers to this mystery just a few days ago - and from Stan himself! Check out the comments section here.

Anonymous said...

Remember the little boy who saw Peter climbing the wall? Well, he doesn't appear again until the third story in MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #120.

Oliver said...


Peter Parker is given the middle name of Benjamin in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #19 (October 1986) and first shows up on his birth certificate.

Flash Thompson's first name, Eugune, is revealed in PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #3 (1983).

Sally Avril is the girl whom Peter asks out at early in the story. She becomes a supporting character in UNTOLD TALES OF SPIDER-MAN (1995-1997), a series as we all know took place during the Lee/Ditko era of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.

Mr. Warren, Peter's science teacher, isn't named in this story until AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #8 (January 1964). It's hinted that he is the brother of Professor Miles Warren in a featurette in UNTOLD TALES OF SPIDER-MAN `96 and it's confirmed in UNTOLD TALES OF SPIDER-MAN #25 (September 1997).

Spider-Man's agent, Maxie Shiffman, isn't named in this story. His first name is given in the second story in PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #60 (November 1981) and last name is given in his next appearance in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #90 (July 1992).

"Looks as though are experiment unnerved young Parker!" The man who says this is named Dr. Eric Schwinner in his next appearance in SPIDER-MAN: THE FINAL ADVENTURE (December 1995). When Peter and MJ moved to Portland, OR, he took a job working for Dr. Schwinner.

Baxter Bigelow, the cop who chases Uncle Ben's killer, at the TV studio, is finally named in DAILY BUGLE CIVIL WAR NEWSPAPER SPECIAL #1
(September 2006). He next appears in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #200 (January 1980).

As stated in the previous post, the little boy who catches Peter climbing the wall actually makes a post-AF appearance in the third story in MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #120 as a teenager.

In AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #240 establishes that this story happens during Peter Parker’s sophomore year in high school. Also, in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: PARALLEL LIVES establishes that Peter Parker is 15 years old when he is bitten by the radioactive spider.

In the original printing of this issue, the spider in the back of Spider-Man's costume was colored blue.

In AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: PARALLEL LIVES, it's established that Mary Jane Watson was next door when she witnessed Peter running into the house after learning of his uncle's murder and coming out the 2nd story window as Spider-Man.

bigcat said...

Just a random thanks for this endlessly cool blog. I tried one of my own on similar subjects and belly flopped, so I appreciate all the work you have put in and how colorful and pithy this blog is. Keep up the great work, I am enjoying the besnozzle out of it!

Fred W. Hill said...

Per an article written by Steve Ditko, the real problem wasn't that Kirby's Spider-Man was too heroic, it was that his version was too similar to a rival company's superhero, The Fly, who was a revision of the Silver Spider, a character Kirby & his previous partner Joe Simon created in the late '50s. It was Ditko who originally pointed out the similarities between the Fly and Spider-Man, as originally conceived, to Lee. Moreover, Kirby's Spider-Man was similar in concept to the original Captain Marvel -- a very young Peter Parker used a magic ring to transform himself into the very adult Spiderman, with a web-shooting gun and a costume more like Captain America's, with the big, swashbuckling boots and a mask that left his eyes, nose, mouth and chin uncovered. There was a lot more to the origins of Marvel Comics than Stan let on his books or interviews.

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