Thursday, January 27, 2011

107: Amazing Spider-Man #8

Amazing Spider-Man #8
October 8, 1963

  • Surprisingly, this month we get two stories in Amazing Spider-Man! But it's not like the first couple of issues, when that meant two half-length stories of about 10 pages each (possibly the holdover from a previously intended format). Rather, the main story here is 17 pages instead of the standard 21, followed by a bonus 6-page backup story. As a note of interest, Joseph William Marek's informative Marvel Comics Group 1939-1980 website shows that the comic usually had two pages of house ads, in addition to the letters column; owing to the greater story count, those house ads were omitted this month.

    You can only push a guy so far, Flash ... before he snaps!

  • In the main story, Spider-Man faces the terror of The Living Brain! (Cue the melodrama.) Yes, to go along with our familiar tropes of nuclear paranoia and the Red Scare, we now have another mid-20th century neurosis to add to the mix: Fear of robots. The electronic brain in question, supplied by the I.C.M Corporation (and doesn't that sound familiar?), has been programmed with enough information that it can supposedly answer any question put to it - which forms something of a thematic connection to the Mad Thinker, really. Of course, after two goons bungle an attempt to steal the computer and end up causing a short, the mechanical wonder begins to move on its own.  It's alive...!

    "Why then 'tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or
    bad, but thinking makes it so."

  • Meanwhile, Peter starts to get a bit of a makeover. While never quite mirroring the Clark Kent paradigm of intentionally acting the coward in order to hide his identity, there's always been a divide between the "man of action" he becomes as Spider-Man and his more passive and meek side as Peter Parker. That's changing, though. When Flash Thompson pushes Peter during class, his glasses fall to the ground and shatter; we'll never see them again. And when the arguing between the two reaches its boiling point, their science teacher responds by putting them in the gym's boxing ring to work out their aggression. And rather than act the weakling and let himself get beat about and humiliated some more, Parker takes the opportunity to knock Flash Thompson on his back!

    Unusually for Peter, this issue actually ends in a "win" - and on multiple fronts, at that!

  • Finally, in the backup story we get another pairing of the Human Torch and Spider-Man - and, just like in the Strange Tales Annual, the story is pencilled by Kirby & inked by Ditko. When Spider-Man decides to gate-crash a party thrown by the Torch's girlfriend Dorrie Evans - her first mention outside of Strange Tales - Johnny Storm pushes back in indignation and a fight breaks out. By this point, the Torch and Spidey have mixed it up a few times, and their relationship has calcified: almost-friends, often-rivals. (In other words, it's not too different from the relationship Johnny has with Ben Grimm, the Thing.) It's an inconsequential short, yes, but a fun one too - maybe precisely because it is so short, and doesn't make the mistake of wearing out its welcome.

    I find their near-total rejection of Spider-Man intriguing. 
    Superhero fandom is already divided into cliques!