After penning a hundred issues, Stan Lee turns the reigns over to writer Roy Thomas (at least for a couple of issues) and there’s a perceptible change in the storytelling quality.
Seeking to cure himself of being Spider-Man in order to have a normal life, Peter Parker downs an untested serum, falls into a deep sleep (in which we are treated to a summary of Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s life up to now) and wakes up with six arms. Horrified by what he’s done, Peter scrambles to find a cure all while battling new threat Morbius the vampire and the return of the Lizard.
Another arc centers on Flash Thompson’s return from Vietnam and the fall-out from his attempting to do the right thing for a group of villagers. The arc starts well for Flash but quickly goes in an entirely less than politically correct direction for the remainder of its run.
Then Spidey and company are off to Antartica to find Ka-Zar’s forgotten world and deliver a photo feature that will save circulation at the Daily Bugle. (Interesting to see that newspapers were having issues with circulation back then and not just as we continue to explore the digital age). Gwen Stacey tags along as a model, which complicates things when Peter has to go all Spider-Man to battle Kraven the Hunter as well as various prehistoric beasts that inhabit the area. Continue reading
Stan Lee always wrote his comics as if each issue was someone’s first entry into the universe of that particular hero or team of heroes. So there are times reading any collected edition of his works that you may feel like the story is repeating itself a great deal or going back to reflect on the origin of whatever hero or team he’s chronicling.
And while that happens a bit in this collection of The Amazing Spider-Man, it’s hard to find a few gems from a creative team that was firmly in a grove at this point. Collecting issues 88 to 99 of the original run, Spidey does battles some classic and not-so-classic foes all while Peter Parker’s life is upended by his decision to continue being Spider-Man. The collection includes a couple of pivotal events in the life of Spider-Man from the death of Captain Stacy to the infamous drug addiction storyline that Marvel had the courage to print without the endorsement of the comic code authority. Re-reading this story now, it seems a bit light-weight and a bit like something you’d see on a daytime drama. But looked at through the prism of when it was published, it’s downright revolutionary and hard-hitting. Continue reading
Today’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish) asks us to look at the dark side with our favorite villains. I’ve decided to narrow the focus a bit to my favorite adversaries faced by Spider-Man.
- The Scorpion. Marvel Tales reprinted much of the Stan Lee/Lee Ditko run of early Spider-Man comics when I was actively reading and I loved them. And while the Scorpion isn’t considered in the upper pantheon of Spidey villains by many, I loved his first appearance and the fact that he could go toe-to-toe with Spidey and almost best him.
- Doc Ock. He unmasked Spidey, he married Aunt May….what didn’t Doc Ock do to torment Spider-Man?!? Added bonus: He’s the villain in my favorite superhero movie of all-time Spider-Man 2.
- The Lizard. Spidey is easily one of the most angst ridden of any superheroes and his conflicted emotions about having to battle the Lizard (he was a scientist who was trying to help himself and the Lizard was an unwanted side effect) always put an extra layer on their battles.
- The Green Goblin. Considered by many to be the quintessential adversary for Spidey, the Goblin is fun, interesting and exciting. Like the Lizard, there’s a personal connection to the identity of the Goblin that causes all kinds of angst for Spidey.
- The Hobgoblin. The identity of the Hobgoblin drove much of the on-going back story during the time I read Spidey comics. His unmasking was a pivotal issue and one I remember well.
- The Vulture. Another classic from Lee/Ditko and one I am intrigued to see come to life on the screen in the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming.
- Man-Wolf. A lot of this has to do with the Power Records recording version of this story that I listened to about a billion times growing up. J. Jonah Jameson’s astronaut son picks up a rock on the moon, has it made into a pendant and turns into a werewolf. Typing that I realize it sounds cheesy as all get out, but with the read-along record and sound effects, it made a huge impression on me at the age of six.
- The Spider Slayers.
- The Kingpin
As part of the last Spider-Man reboot, writer Dan Slott takes us back to the early days of Peter Parker’s career as the web slinger and offers us this series that takes place in between the fables stories by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.
Seems that our favorite web-slinger had an early fan — and it wasn’t just Flash Thompson. It’s a fellow science-geek who doesn’t have powers like Peter does but still wants some of the spotlight — or at least to have Spider-Man notice him. To this end, he becomes a villain of sorts called Clash who uses sounds and sonics as his weapons.
There are a few nice moments in this one. Things like Peter having to go to the school counselor to work through his anger and guilt issues (or the perceived ones). The moments of personal exploration of Peter Parker in the early days of his being Spider-Man are well done. It’s just too a shame the rest of the story doesn’t live up to these flashes of fun.
I can see what Slott is trying to do here with Clash and setting up a parallel storyline to what Peter is going through. But a lot of this material falls a bit flat and it begins to lose its impact by the time we reach the end of the story. The title of this storyline is “Learning to Crawl” and, at times, it feels like that is exactly what the story is doing — crawling.
Maybe I’m just not the right audience for Slott. Or maybe my nostalgia for my days of regularly reading Spidey are clouding my judgment.
Being a big fan of Peter David and Spider-Man, you’d think I’d have read the entire original run of Spider-Man 2099. And despite glowing recommendation from friends that I should pick up the books, I never did.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t stop in now that David and Marvel are picking up the series mantel once again.
And I’ll admit that while I may miss some of the nuances of this story, this collection of the first five issues of the new series never made me feel like I was being left behind. In fact, I’d argue that what David is doing here is every bit as enjoyable — maybe even more enjoyable — than what is being done with the flagship title for the Spider-Man universe.
Stuck out of time, our hero is trying to find his way home without messing up the time line too much. Along the way, he’s having some interesting adventures that span not only New York City but also the entire globe. David has always been a writer who can find ways to tell unique, fun stories in a corner of a particular universe that stay true to the universe but also explore some interesting areas and do some nice character work. (I’m looking at you New Frontier.
While I wouldn’t mistake the hero here for Peter Parker, there is enough of that sense of what makes Spidey so much fun to read (at least the way I remember it) that these issues flew by. The only negative is the final issue included which is forced to do some heavy lifting for what I can only assume will be an all-inclusive Spider-verse storyline that is coming up next. At this point, if I never see Morlun on the pages of a Spider-Man comic again, it will be too soon. Quite possibly the most overused or going back to the well one too many times the Spidey-verse has seen since Venom.
Time again for Way Back Wednesday hosted by A Well Read Woman. This meme takes a look back at those book we’ve read that have had a big impact on us or that were memorable from our younger days.
This week, I’m focusing not so much on a book but a comic book. It’s one of my all-time favorites Amazing Spider-Man #20.
While I’m not old enough to have read it when it was first published, I did get my hands on a copy of the a reprint during my comic book collecting days. Marvel Tales was reprinting the Stan Lee/Steve Ditiko era of Spider-Man and I clearly recall getting and reading this issue many, many times.
Issue 20 sees J. Jonah Jameson becoming so frustrated in his attempts to bring down Spider-Man that he invests his own money into creating a foe that is more powerful than Spider-Man and can finally eliminate him from the picture. So, JJJ finds a scientist who turns a seemingly ordinary criminal named Mack Gargan into the Scorpion. (The logic is that the Scorpion is the natural enemy of the spider).
Spidey and the Scorpion have an initial battle and it appears the Scorpion has eliminated Spidey. But the Scorpion starts to have some unintended side effects and blames JJJ for it, breaking off the battle and going after Jameson. Spidey is forced to overcome the Scorpion’s superior strength by using his own wits and understanding of his powers.
I love this issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. I find myself wishing that somehow Sam Raimi had seen fit to include the character in one of his Spider-Man movies (I get why we had Doc Ock and Green Goblin in the first two, but I’d much rather have had Scorpion over Venom in Spider-Man 3). Growing up, I was (and still am) fascinated by putting heroes up against villains who are designed to be the equal or more powerful than the hero and seeing how the villain is defeated. And while the Green Goblin and Doc Ock get more of the press, I still think the Scorpion ranks up there as my favorite Spidey villain. And a lot of it is from this issue — and another annual that I’ll get to at some point for a future installment of this meme.
Re-reading it years later, I can see that there are other, more definitive Spider-Man installments from this era. But yet there’s still not a comic that held my attention and made me want to re-read it many, many times like this one. And that’s just one of the reasons it’s one of my favorites….
Peter Parker returns from the dead (or at least exile inside his own body that was taken over by a dying Doc Ock) from the latest comic book continuity reboot.
In case you missed it, a couple of years ago Marvel killed off Peter Parker by having Doc Ock take over his body. For a little over thirty issues, Ock was in control of Peter’s life and his powers, helping Peter earn his doctorate, start his own company and begin a romantic relationship with Anna-Maria. He also earned a Peter’s alter-ego Spider-Man a new reputation for ruthlessness and efficiency as he went up against some of Spidey’s old foes.
But Peter wasn’t dead — just lurking inside of Ock’s brain waiting for the right moment to reassert himself and take control back. That moment just happened to tie-in with the release of last year’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 because you wouldn’t want movie audiences coming to the comic books to find Doc Ock in control and not Peter Parker. It also gives you the marketing tie-in opportunity of launching (or in this case re-launching) your flag ship title with a first issue and lots (and lots) of variant covers.
All of this brings us to the first collection of the newly rebooted Amazing Spider-Man with Peter once again firmly in control of his body, but trying to pick up the pieces of his life that Ock left behind. Peter has no idea that Ock and Anna Maria are close (even living together) or how to complete the various projects that Ock has put into play at his new company. He’s also had to publicly distance his company from Spider-Man due to the concluding events of The Superior Spider-Man. And somehow the excuses he uses to run off and go into Spidey mode are wearing thin with colleagues who have tied their future and earning potentials to his company.
Reading this collection of six issues, I couldn’t help but wonder where all the fun of reading Spider-Man comics has gone. Re-reading some of the early days of the character, there was always the real-world angst to Peter Parker, but there was also a sense of fun to balance that out. With this latest reboot, it feels like Dan Slott and company have forgotten that comic books can and should be fun and not feel like they’re pushing some corporate agenda (this isn’t helped by the fact that the main foe for this series is Electro, tying in to last summer’s movie.) Slott did some interesting things early on with Ock taking over as Spider-Man, but that fizzled out quickly, ending with a thud as Marvel hit the reset button (yet again!).
This new series stumbles out of the gate, failing to recapture the magic that made me love Spider-Man so much when I first discovered him years ago. Maybe I’m getting too old and too cynical to enjoy the book these days, but I hope that’s not the case.