Thursday, August 02, 2012


When I was a kid reading Spider-Man, I knew that there were other fans out there. I saw their names and their comments on the letters page in each issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. But none of my pals at school or in the neighborhood seemed to like the book. As far as I knew, I was the only kid at Oakhurst Elementary School who liked Spider-Man. I had met one kid who lived down the block whose older brother enjoyed the book—he even had a copy of #4 that he was proud of owning. That didn’t impress me, since my dad had them all (a stunning 35 issues up to the point I saw that kid’s issue of #4).

Even though I got all of the comics I could possibly want to read at my dad’s bookstore, I would always walk down to the end of the block to take a look at the new comics on the shelves of the local drug store. The guy who owned that drug store had a really cool shop and he knew how to display his comic books and what to keep in stock. There were always a host of titles for sale on those wooden racks. He didn’t put them on spinners, but displayed them flat on lighted shelves. So I would always go there to check out the latest comics that I was digging at the time--Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Star Spangled War Stories, etc..

So the first time I saw The Amazing Spider-Man #37 was in that corner shop. My dad only had used comics, so I knew I wouldn’t get to read it for a few weeks unless I took a look at the book in the drug store. My dad also did not like for me to buy comics new off the shelf since I could get them from him for free, so I was forbidden to purchase new comics. But I had to read that one! So I picked it from the shelf and started to read it.

I liked everything about that issue when I was a kid. The cover was a two-image split that intrigued me. One of the robots battling Spider-Man looked like a huge, green amoeba. But it was a robot! I’d never heard of anyone concocting a robot that was so organic! What a great concept! And the story contained the same mysterious twists and turns that I had come to expect from the hand of Steve Ditko. Of course in those days I still believed the lies that Stan Lee was writing the stories and that Ditko was just the illustrator. I was just a kid, after all.

Even the splash page blew me away. It’s one of the best splash pages Ditko ever illustrated for that comic. Packed with symbolism and humor. But the story beyond that splash was deadly serious. I knew that we were getting close to knowing the secret identity of the Green Goblin and I was looking forward to seeing what would happen next.

Alas, this was to be the last truly great issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. Ditko must have known as he illustrated this issue that he was moving on, leaving Marvel so that he could go elsewhere. By the time issue #38 rolled around the mystery of the Green Goblin seemed to have been forgotten and the story in that issue was rather bland and disappointing. It was fun in its way, but the importance of it did not hit home for me until many, many years later. Indeed, it has been said that Ditko didn’t even deliver a cover for #38 and one had to be cobbled together from interior panels copied and pasted together to create what may have been the last old-style multi-paneled cover ever done for that title.

This was to be, in essence, the last Amazing Spider-Man cover by Steve Ditko. His art appeared on the next cover, but history dictates that it was pieced together by photographing panel art to create a cover by the editors.

This splash page amazed me as a kid. It imprinted itself on me young brain and never went away. "Edited and Written by Stan Lee". Well, the editing part was the truth.


Kirk G said...

How funny! I actually picked up this book off the rack when it came out, and read it while standing there. The floating head splitting the two robot fighting scenes grabbed my attention. Too bad I didn't buy it at the time too! I would pick it up used with most of the Spiderman issues from #25 forward in a used comic sale at school that spring!
What surprises me is how much of the imagry I recall... the organic, ameboa robot... the death of Mendal Strom... the villany of Norman Osborn... and the mystery of the assailant! I just re-read it last night again after 40 years, and picked up on a few things too!

HemlockMan said...

That splash page made a HUGE impression on me when I was a kid in Decatur, GA. When I first saw it all I could do was stand in the drug store and stare at that page. It still amazes me.