Tuesday, January 4, 2011

100: Amazing Spider-Man #7

Amazing Spider-Man #7
September 10, 1963

  • In the seventh issue we have our first returning villain for Spidey - and it's the Vulture. Really? Not to argue with any fans of the character, but again: Really? Perhaps it wouldn't seem so surprising had Spidey's other foes been so equally pedestrian, but since their first meeting Peter has gone up against a thief whose body is composed entirely of sand, a man-lizard hybrid who can control all reptiles, and a deranged nuclear scientist in charge of four living, steel tentacles. In such a light, a bad guy who can merely fly seems as anticlimactic as ... well, as a superhero who can merely shrink.

    I love the top-down perspective in that first panel. 
    It's an extra touch I'm not sure many artists would think of!

  • Nevertheless, the Vulture quickly shows Spider-Man that he shouldn't be underestimated, as he craftily banks on Spidey's expectations and subverts them to dangerous effect. Having defeated the Vulture before by cancelling out the magnetic power that kept his wings aloft, Spider-Man easily thinks he can do the same this time - and is thus smacked down when it doesn't work. Falling from the sky, he shoots a web line towards a nearby building to catch himself - but misses! He tries again, but doesn't have time. We share his moment of panic as he continues to plummet to the ground, but by twisting himself and adjust his fall, he barely manages to land upon a nearby roof, his arm taking the brunt of the impact. Pete's shaken, though still alive ... but he has to go around the rest of the issue with his sprained arm in a sling, even when putting the Vulture back behind bars. This kind of injury on the job reminds us that Spider-man is not one of the invincible breed of heroes, and has to deal with the kind of everyday setbacks and problems that the rest of us have to (sans Vultures, of course).

    Injury to arm - and ego.  You really do wonder if Pete is one day going to snap...!

  • Bonus points this issue for making an unusual setting out of a usual one. Having gotten it into his head that the Daily Bugle's payroll would be a great stake to rob, the Vulture flies in through the window to the publisher's office and demands Jameson open his safe. (Does Jonah pay his employees in stacks of cash?) This isn't too unusual, nor is it when the fight with Spider-man spills out into the adjacent newsroom. But the Vulture then flies down the building's stairwell - with a scene of Spider-Man rapidly descending on a web line - before the fight continues in the press room, where the rollers of the printing press become a danger to be avoided while the two combatants trade swings in midair. The fight lasts just a few pages, but those pages show us more of the architecture of the building than we'd ever seen before, and for the first time it seems like it was modeled after a real place, rather than being just a couple of set pieces for the characters to walk in and out of.

    Note that in addition to the architecture, Ditko peppers the scenes with many workers,
    giving the location the sense of a living, breathing place.

  • Finally, the realism continues in the budding romance between Peter Parker and Betty Brant. After the Vulture has been defeated, Pete comes back to find the Bugle still in chaos, with Betty hiding out the action behind a desk. Sitting down on the floor next to her, the two of them laugh at the bizarre circumstances of the day and share a tender moment, only briefly interrupted by a muffled Jameson, whose mouth Spider-Man has webbed shut. Once again, Stan Lee & Steve Ditko have shown they understand what makes people tick, as the most intimate and poignant times are seldom those of complete solitude, but often just a few shared moments away from the din and chaos of real life - grasped fleetingly, whenever we can.

    Note how neatly this contrasts with the dilemma of Clark Kent's absences
    being thought of as cowardly by Lois.  Betty's reaction here is far more realistic!