Sunday, March 28, 2010

41: Amazing Spider-Man #1

Amazing Spider-Man #1
December 10, 1962

  • Six months after the character's first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15, he graduates to the first issue of his own mag. And boy, is it a doozy! While the origin story had instantly captured the feel and premise of the character, this issue is astonishing for just how many lasting additions to the mythos it introduces all at once, such as: newspaper publisher J. Jonah Jameson and his fear-mongering rants against Spider-Man in the Daily Bugle; the money problems constantly facing Peter and his Aunt May in the wake of his Uncle Ben's death; Peter's desperate need to hide his other life from the dear, fragile aunt who has raised him since he was a boy; and the way that, even when he manages to save the day through tireless effort, he still ends up getting a raw deal. All this and two separate, exciting stories - including his initial brush with The Chameleon, Spider-Man's first costumed foe!

    The Chameleon calls.

  • One might think that Stan would initially keep the connections to other Marvel comics at bay, to prove to the readership that this hero truly had the chops to stand on his own feet. But Stan's a daring guy, and instead draws the threads of the burgeoning Marvel tapestry closer than we've seen to date. The Fantastic Four boldly appear on the cover of his very first issue, and they're prominently showcased in a side story where Spider-Man breaks into their headquarters to appeal for membership in the group. And earlier in the book, Peter is shown wondering about the FF and the Ant-Man - Pym's first mention in any comic outside his own! Combine that with the Hulk's appearance in FF #12 (appearing on the stands the same week as this issue), and you've got all of the Marvel heroes - aside from Thor, and Iron Man (whose first appearance also hit this same week) - finally starting to interact.

    No good deed goes unpunished.

  • In the midst of all this world-building, however, Stan never forgets the elements of pathos and dramatic irony. A rightly famous example from this issue comes when Peter decides that the only way he can help his aunt with their finances is to return to performing, despite how tragically that turned out before. Nothing goes wrong this time, however - until it comes time to collect his payment. The booking agent says he has to pay Peter via check, so there's a record for tax purposes - but Peter can't divulge his secret identity, and naively has him make the check out to "Spider-Man". Of course, when he goes to the bank they refuse to cash the check without any sort of ID, as he could be anyone under that suit!
    By day, acing chemistry.
    By night, fighting the Reds!

  • Hilariously, this issue is not without its own Goofy Silver Age Writing. When J. Jonah Jameson's astronaut son John takes a highly-publicized new rocket up for a test flight, the nation watches with bated breath. But tragedy strikes when a critical guidance component breaks off, sending the rocket veering on an unpredictable course! Who is John Jameson's only hope? No, not the Fantastic Four, with their own rockets and pogo plane - but (somehow, bizarrely) Spider-Man! And so, in short order, Peter picks up a replacement for the guidance widget, immobilizes an air force guard and hijacks a jet plane, has the jet pilot unwisely pull alongside the still-out-of-control rocket ship, climbs outside and stands on top of the jet, and then swings across on a web line so he can finally reinstall the missing component, allowing John to safely land and walk away. And yet, although this snaps any sense of believability far more than the usual gaffes to be found in the many Ant-Man tales, it doesn't detract from our enjoyment, as usually happens there. Perhaps that's because it's so completely bat-crazy from the very beginning of the outlandish sequence, rather than one glaring turn in a sea of plausibility; just like the ludicrous visual of Spider-Man on the jet plane, we find we've little choice but to hang on with all our might and enjoy the ride.

    Fret not, readers! It works.