Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Amazing Spider-Man Collection...

Next five issues of my collection of Steve Ditko's THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN:

Continued from 6-10.

Ditko brings back Dr. Octopus. Everyone thinks of the Green Goblin as Spider-Man's arch-enemy. But in fact it was Otto Octavius. He appeared most often as Spider-Man's foe and came the closest most often to defeating him. Octopus was, in fact, a really scary cat with the power and intellect to put Spidey away permanently.

The cover is not misleading, either. Doc Ock really did unmask Parker here. This was the first time that I can recall of any writer on the title using the idea that the flu virus had some kind of ability to cancel out Spider-Man's powers. Thus, when the suffering hero attempts to battle Octopus and is easily beaten and unmasked, everyone assumes that it was just a stupid kid trying to be a hero. Spider-Man's powers return as soon as his immune system fights off the viral infection. (But everyone ends up thinking Peter Parker is an idiot.)

Ditko cutting loose with a really twisted story. In this one, Ditko tackles psychiatry. (Maybe someone had appropriately suggested that he see one.) Scientologists would probably love this issue of the book.

Considered by many to be the most important issue of Ditko's run of his creation. Here we are introduced to The Green Goblin. This villain has no super powers, instead relying on brilliant contraptions and super-science weaponry. This would be the second time Ditko would use the idea of a continuing villain whose identity was secret not only from other characters within the story, but also from the reader! A stroke of brilliance. His character The Chameleon (from the first issue) was also unknown to the reader, but he turned out to be a minor experiment for Ditko and was rarely used again in the book while Ditko was around. This began an underlying story for the book that would continue throughout Ditko's time at Marvel. He never even got to complete the long-running Goblin story arc, walking away from his creations at the company before he could complete the task. (I was able to land this copy because it has tape on the spine, but is otherwise in decent condition. These days this is one of the hardest issues of the book to find and purchase.) Also of note here is the inclusion of The Incredible Hulk. Ditko was handed the character, created wholly by Jack Kirby, when Kirby got angry over interference from his editor (Stan Lee) on the direction Kirby was taking with the Hulk. Kirby walked away from it (it's not like he was stuck for other ideas) and they handed it off to Ditko who wrote and illustrated the character for a while in Tales to Astonish.

Another classic Ditko villain, Kraven the Hunter. Kraven was a dirty Russian, apparently. Obsessed with hunting wild animals, he was based on the character of the crazed Cossack General Zaroff from the 1924 Richard Connell story, "The Most Dangerous Game". Kraven does have super-powers--enhanced strength and heightened senses created by the consumption of a special potion he discovered in his travels. In addition, he keeps a few weapons hidden within his animal-skin costume that he uses against Spider-Man, whom he has chosen to be his ultimate prey. Ditko ended up using Kraven in three stories during his time writing Spider-Man.


Kirk G said...

I recall on Saturday mornings, being bundled off to go bowl in a Saturday morning kid's league, and then to walk home some 9 blocks or so from downtown in our small town.
On the way, I passed several drug stores with spinner racks. In the largest, I would stand and flip through the books I could find interesting. I recall seeing Spidey #8 with the Living Brain,the Doc Oct unveiling in #12, and I might have looked at #14, cause the appearance of the Hulk during the fight was something I recall. But it's not until #18 that I recall an extremely clear interior image of the fight between Green Goblin and Spidey being interupted by the Torch. But I just didn't understand the stories.
Thanks for taking me down memory lane with these covers! (Why do you think 1981 is written on one?)

James Robert Smith said...

I have no idea why someone wrote "1981" on the cover. Could have been a sum...who knows? Comics were throwaway stuff. They were considered disposable in almost every way. Cheap literature for the kids.

That Spidey #8 cover is another favorite of mine.

Kirk G said...

Ditko used Kraven THREE times in his run? I don't recall that. #15, and #34 "The Thrill of the Hunt"... but where was the other time?

James Robert Smith said...

And Annual #1. He was part of the Sinister Six.

Henry R. Kujawa said...


ASM #11 -- "Everyone thinks of the Green Goblin as Spider-Man's arch-enemy. But in fact it was Otto Octavius." F*** YEAH. I knew Ock was Spidey's arch-enemy from the G-L cartoons. Also, the first 2 issues of ASM I ever got were #55-56, parts 3-4 of a 4-parter with Ock. The guy was a MANIAC!!! What was The Goblin but a would-be racketeer with some gimmicks? Yet Romita & Lee played HIM up for sympathy and suspense, while forgetting Ock had been a decent man once buried under all that INSANITY.

ASM #13 -- "The Menace Of Mysterio" remains my FAVORITE of all the 52 episodes of the 60's SPIDER-MAN cartoon show. It was the most faithful adaptation, and yet, on re-reading the comic, I find they not only left out more than half of the original story, they also ADDED in quite a few scenes NOT in the comic. This was the long, protracted sequence where the cops are chasing Spidey, and the climactic knock-down drag-out in the TV studio which interrupts the filming of a WESTERN. "THAT's not in the SCRIPT!" "Then I'll just have to IMPROVISE!" It may be blasphemy, but as I've read the comic twice, and seen the cartoon maybe 40 TIMES, I tend to prefer the TV version.

ASM #14 -- "the most important issue of Ditko's run of his creation" Oh, I dunno about that... "The Chameleon (from the first issue) was also unknown to the reader, but he turned out to be a minor experiment for Ditko and was rarely used again in the book while Ditko was around." Oddly enough, on TV, they did 2 episodes featuring a badding known as "The Actor, Charles Cameo", whose schtick was face-masks which allowed him to imitate other people. (I eventually noticed the similarity between "Chameleon" and "Cameo".)

"when Kirby got angry over interference from his editor (Stan Lee) on the direction Kirby was taking with the Hulk"

Several fans who've seen the pages he ripped in half maddeningly continue to INSIST the sequence takes place when The Hulk is under Rick Jones's hypnotic influence, CLEARLY to deflect away from their NOT being "rejected" pages, but pages from HULK #6 which Kirby walked off of. The book was NOT cancelled due to poor sales, but because Kirby left. The only reason we got ONE issue with Ditko was because it MUST have been on the printer's schedule by then. But this was quite a few months before Ditko did SPIDER-MAN or DR. STRANGE, so Stan Lee probably worried he might not be able to carry a hero book. (See how LOGICAL this all is when you simply think it out?)

ASM #15 -- I got a chuckle when someone once pointed out the word "craven" tends to mean "coward". (Cowardly hunter?) For whatever reason, on the TV cartoons, instead of Kraven, we got "Oli Clivendon", a stereotypical AUSTRAYLIAN 'unter (with an ACK-cent), and an ABORIGINE sidekick with a bone through his nose who never spoke a word. The guys at G-L must have dug Oli, because he came back for a sequel which also brought back Dr. Connors, his wife and son Billy (but NO Lizard!).

Clivendon was a real bastard. At one point in the sequel, he tries to KILL an 8-year old kid! (And this was an a Saturday morning cartoon!)

"Just-- what did you have in mind for getting rid of me?"
"Don't WORRY, Spider-Man. It WON'T be a weapon they can trace to me. I can assure you your DEMISE will look like an ACCIDENT!"
"Now that takes a LOAD off my mind!"

James Robert Smith said...

I've never seen any Spider-Man cartoons since I watched the Bakshi versions as a kid. I didn't care for those as a kid and when I've tried to watch them as an adult they're just too painful to sit through.

The "most important" is just what others think. I don't agree--I just go by what I have to pay to get an issue. To me, the most important story Ditko did was the three-issue arc from #31-#33. I like those issues so much that I might do a new essay on them. I am definitely going to do another longer essay on #38, Ditko's last.

I think one reason Lee went to Ditko for Hulk #6 was that Ditko was the only guy around who had the same kind of work ethic and reputation for speed that approached Kirby's. Yeah, I think the book was what we could call today "solicited". Get it to the printer in time or face financial penalties. And Marvel was just getting revved up and you know Lee did not want to go to his uncle and tell him that they were going to be penalized for a late book. So he did what he had to do, and that was to get the only guy fast enough to do a good job: Ditko.

Henry R. Kujawa said...

The 60's SPIDER-MAN tv show was a strange animal. Grantray-Lawrence did 20 episodes (19 for season 1, 1 for season 2) before suddenly going BANKRUPT. I thought for years after reading about that, that it must have been that they spent too much on animation. It looked BETTER than anything Hanna-Barbera had done since JONNY QUEST.

But it turns out, the truth was more ridiculous. June Patterson, wife of one of the producers, was story editor. She had 5 staff writers working for her, and commissioned ALL 5 to submit versions for EACH episode, then she'd pick the best and they'd film it. This was unheard of, and it no doubt is why the writing was so good. BUT... it pushed the already-stretched budget over the limit, and THAT's what sunk the entire company.

A tragedy. I don't think we lost a small animation studio with that much promise again until Ruby-Spears (who Jack Kirby did so much work for in the 80's) went belly-up 2 decades later.

And it might have been avoided, if Martin Goodman had made his deal direct with G-L, instead of making it with Steven Krantz, who then SUB-CONTRACTED the job to G-L. Wanna bet Krantz got MORE money than the entire animation studio did??? (I worked for some civil engineers once who were doing sub-contracting work. It was painfully clear to all of us that WE knew what were doing MORE than the people who actually passed the job down to us.)

Krantz had already been paid for Season 2, and did not wanna give the money back. So he hired Ralph Bakshi to set up a new studio in a NYC warehouse and crank out episodes for almost no money. Bakshi hired Gray Morrow to do ALL the storyboards, and got "Library" tracks from the KPM and Capitol libraries (supplied him by some 3rd-party distributor, so even he didn't know where they originally came from) to add TONS of new music for the later shows.

So even though NOBODY from Season 1 was involved with Seasons 2-3, the later episodes were a unique hybrid of 2 drastically different styles. The later episodes reused much animation & music, but you also had all this new stuff in a completely different style. Morrow's designs were wonderful, BUT, they didn't have money to animate them properly. And stories that should have been 10 minutes apiece were stretched out to 20 by using lots and lots of swinging, and jazz music.

In the long run, I've come to view the Bakshi-Morrow episodes less as adventure cartoons and more as really strange JAZZ MUSIC VIDEOS. Which is no doubt why I'm in the "SPIDEY-JAZZ" yahoo group.


We currently have 3 CDs worth of music for trading! All better than you can find ANYWHERE else, because they were put together as a labor of love.

None of this takes away from how much FUN the 1st season of the show was. Too bad it didn't last longer.

James Robert Smith said...

I'll be damned. I had no idea that two different studios produced the Spider-Man cartoons.

Sounds like typical rip-off economics. Too bad that kind of crap goes on all of the time.

It's possible that I'm only recalling the Bakshi episodes and none of the ones by G-L.

Henry R. Kujawa said...

I remember watching as a kid. Season 2 started out so promising. Then, after 1 week, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, they did "The Origin Of Spiderman". TOTALLY different style. A real "WTF???" moment. I hoped things would return to before. They DIDN'T. Strangely, the next week, "King Pinned" picked up where the origin had left off, with the newly-minted hero taking a job at the Daily Bugle (as a copy-boy-- WTF???).

It's no wonder many casual fans think the Bakshi episodes came first. NOPE! How's that for confusing continuity???

LOTS of people are more familiar with the later episodes. Bakshi-Morrow did 32 episodes, Grantray-Lawrence only did 20. 52 was considered the magic number back then for a successful syndication package. They JUST--BARELY-- made it to 52. After that, the show ran "forever" in endless reruns. (Just like ULTRA MAN, but that only had 40 episodes.)

The same year Bakshi took over SPIDER-MAN, he also took over ROCKET ROBIN HOOD, for that series' 3rd season. SAME style. Gray Morrow worked on both. WEIRDEST S*** ever seen on TV at the time!!! 2 of those 1968 RRH cartoons actually got remade as 1969 Spidey cartoons. In two scenes, they forgot to redub. "Master! They're coming up the hill toward the castle!" But it was only Spidey in the redo. "The mountain monster is programmed to destroy this entire ASTEROID!" But-- they were on an ISLAND. (Oh, never mind...)

The music was the BEST part of those shows.

When I read (not too many years back) how Martin Goodman had struck HIS deal with Steven Krantz, and read the obvious contempt Krantz had for the animation studios HE hired to do work for him, I began to think he got more money than the studios did. So Krantz made out like a bandit, while Grantray-Lawrence webt belly-up, and TV fans watching those "Krantz Films" cartoons cranked out by Bakshi & Morrow got screwed all around.

It blew my mind when, shortly before he passed away, I suddenly, FINALLY made the real connection in my head that, YES, it was the SAME "Gray Morrow" who'd done ALL those comics I'd seen who worked on those later cartoons. Once you know, you can't miss it. His style is as recognizable as Doug Wildey's was on JONNY QUEST, or Jack Kirby's was on THUNDARR THE BARBARIAN. It made me realize what a tragedy it was, that he was doing these intense designs, and the animation connected with them just SUCKED. Because when you look at the 1st season (1967), MY GOD, that stuff was REALLY F***ING GOOD!!! Totally blew SPACE GHOST and THE HERCULOIDS out of the water.

Henry R. Kujawa said...




James Robert Smith said...

Rocket Robin Hood...that was one I completely missed somehow. If I was aware of it, it must not have appealed to me.