Thursday, November 10, 2011

156: Amazing Spider-Man #14

Amazing Spider-Man #14
April 9, 1964

  • Here we have another impressively significant, key issue from the Silver Age - and isn't it amazing how many of those Stan & co. produced, in such an astoundingly short period of time? - with the first appearance of the character who would go on to become Spider-Man's greatest enemy. (Granted, the main and lasting reason for that notoriety wouldn't come about until years later, after Stan was no longer writing the title.) This first appearance particularly plays up the "Halloween goblin" aspect of his character; note not only the high-cheeked grin, but also the fact that he rides around not on the Goblin Glider - that would come later - but on a mechanical flying broomstick.

    In his first appearance, the Goblin looks almost ... cute!

  • And yet the story itself is unmistakably silly. The Goblin wants to take down Spider-Man - so what does he do? What's the most evil and dastardly plan he can think of? Clearly, to approach a movie producer and claim he'll bring him Spider-Man, so the studio can film a story featuring them. WHAT? Spidey takes the pitch - hey, he could certainly use a film star's salary! - and they all fly out to the New Mexico desert. As the camera crew begins to set up, the Green Goblin and the Enforcers tell Spidey they should step away from the cameras to rehearse for a bit ... and that's when they attack in force. Without a doubt, this has to be one of the most convoluted plans for a villain that Stan's come up with yet!

    Uh ... no. I don't think anyone was expecting that!

  • But as goofy as the setup may be, you certainly can't argue with Lee & Ditko packing as much action as possible into the pages - because we get a guest-appearance by the Hulk as well! (And is it truly just coincidence that both the villain and the guest-star are the same emerald shade? It's certainly never mentioned in the dialogue, as you'd expect.) We're just a couple of months away from the Hulk finally getting his shot at an ongoing feature once again, and Ditko will be Stan's partner there - for a while, at least. Was that plan already in place, and this outing was just to test their work on the creature once again, while reminding the readers that the Hulk was still extant? Or was it actually the other way round - with Ditko & Lee's work this issue providing the impetus to make them realize they could give the monster another go?

    Hulking out.

  • So, all in all, the first appearance of the Green Goblin isn't the most impressive of debuts, and could easily have been forgotten - until the final few panels. Through some clever staging and dialogue, Stan & Steve shine a spotlight on the question of just who the goblin is, and as a result the readers' interest is suddenly piqued. We know now, of course - but as with so many of the successes in this era, they were just making it up as they went along (and the actual reveal would be famously controversial). Still, that smallest of decisions did give the readers a bit of a mystery with which to end the tale, and something for Lee & Ditko to follow up on ... and soon!

    The mystery begins!
    (Click to enlarge.)