Thursday, October 28, 2010

85: Amazing Spider-Man #5

Amazing Spider-Man #5
July 9, 1963

  • Spider-Man vs. Doctor Doom. It sounds like a joke. It should be a joke. I mean, the strength of Spider-Man lies in his "everyman" appeal, and his villains often reflected that, usually being simple thieves like the Vulture or the Sandman, rather than cosmic menaces or maniacal dictators. (And it's worth noting that the one appearance of alien invaders in these early issues would later be retconned to a hoax.) But having Spider-Man fight Doctor Doom isn't all that different from (say) pitting Ant-Man against Galactus, or Thor against Egghead; such pairings might prove briefly interesting to highlight the different worlds these characters come from, but it becomes quickly apparent that they just don't belong in the same story. And I'd argue that this is backed up by the fact that the fight scene between the two of them takes up almost the entirety of the second half of the comic - almost as if Lee & Ditko realized, once they were committed to the story, that there wasn't much unique or noteworthy to be gleaned from the mash-up, and so just filled out the pages with the standard superhero fare of trading attacks.

    Not one of Doom's most dignified moments.

  • Still, you can appreciate the impulse behind such a move. Over the last year, Stan Lee had been tentatively drawing the connections between all these new superhero creations, and selling the fiction that they all lived in the same world. The first step in that direction had occurred when the Hulk appeared in the pages of the Fantastic Four not just in passing but as the issue's monster menace du jour, and culminating this same month in the superteam-of-disparate-parts known as the Avengers. So even if Victor Von Doom weren't the most natural of enemies to face off against a high-school kid, you can understand the intention towards a tighter continuity that Stan Lee was going for. In fact, this is most visible when Doom recounts how he last escaped the Fantastic Four; there may not be a footnote directing the reader to FF #17 (as would quickly become the norm), but any readers who were on board for that adventure as well would recognize its ending instantly.

    My favorite part is the mid-air judo kick at the end.
    Is he trying to give gravity a beatdown?

  • But even if the particular choice of super-villain isn't the most successful, the issue still has a lot to enjoy. In addition to inching forward the nascent attraction between Peter Parker and Jameson's secretary, Betty Brant, we get a humorous case of "mistaken identity" shenanigans due to Peter's main high school tormentor, Flash Thompson. See, one of the most inspired ideas in these early days is the fact that even though Flash looks down upon the bookish Parker ... he idolizes Spider-Man! So at one point he decides to have a Spider-costume made up, throws it on, and lies in wait to jump Parker and give him the scare of his life. Of course, this is exactly when Doctor Doom is scouring the city for Spider-Man, and ends up nabbing this fake Spidey in his stead....

    Some might say there's a lesson to be learned here.
    Sadly, Flash Thompson is not one of them.

  • Finally, with this issue we've got another milestone worth marking - as the comic graduates to monthly! All of Marvel's new titles have begun as bimonthly publications, coming out every month, from The Fantastic Four to The Hulk, and even up to such new additions as The Avengers and The X-Men. The FF made the jump to monthly with issue #7, almost a whole year after their first issue had debuted. Their second all-new title, The Hulk, didn't make it past issue six. So it's something of a vote of confidence - or else evidence of pretty spectacular sales - to see that after only four bimonthly issues, The Amazing Spider-Man jumps to monthly status with issue #5. Marvel's star certainly seems to be on the rise!

    Special guest-stars, comedy at Flash's expense, and the first real flirting from Betty.
    In all ways, a fitting denouement!