Wednesday, April 03, 2013

The Amazing Spider-Man #16 through #20.

Today, it's issues 16 through 20. Evolution of writer/artist Steve Ditko on his creation, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.

Continued from 11-15.

It was company policy to have stories from time to time that were crossovers. That is, a character from one title would guest-star in another hero's book. When Ditko got the suggestion to do such a story he generally handled it with unique imagination. Since Daredevil and Spider-Man are very similar characters this issue seemed almost natural. Whenever I see this cover, I laugh. One of the stories about the early days of Marvel is that Stan Lee had a thing about illustrations that showed the heroes' asses. He didn't care for it and would demand such illustrations be redrawn so that no one could see the superhero butt cheeks. This one, however, made it past Lee. How? Why? We'll never know.

Ah, the return of the Green Goblin. This story also featured the Human Torch. It seemed that Goodman and Lee had a hard-on trying to turn the Human Torch into a fan favorite. To that end they tried everything; but the fans were having no part of it. Ditko did seem to have a good feel for creating a working chemistry between the two super-powered teenagers, but the public was not impressed enough to make the Human Torch a bankable solo star.

I love this story. Spider-Man seems to "run" from a confrontation with one of his more powerful villains in this story (the Sandman). And he really does high-tail it. But not out of cowardice. It's because he has a personal reason for avoiding the confrontation until a later date. Ditko has Spider-Man acting in a mildly selfish way here, perhaps in a kind of reflection of the influence of the insane writings of the Queen of Selfishness, Ayn Rand.

More Human Torch guest-star stuff. The Enforcers return--they were an early and reliable foil for Spider-Man. And, of course, Spider-Man kicks Sandman's ass to even the score of his apparently cowardly run from the previous issue. On a side note, this is the book that got me back into collecting. For some damned reason I bought this copy at a comic convention and enjoying the reading of it I decided: Fuck it. I'm going to collect all of the Ditko issues.

I've always liked the villain the Scorpion as created and portrayed by Ditko. Gargan/Scorpion is a brutal thug given superpowers for the sole reason to capture Spider-Man. Unfortunately, the process that turns him into a super-villain also drives him mad with power (and insane, too). He has most of Spider-Man's powers and is actually physically stronger. But Spider-Man defeats him by using his wits rather than relying merely on brute strength. He gets his ass all but kicked in the process. The result, later in the book, is that Parker appears in public looking as if he's had his butt whooped (which he of course has). It was Ditko showing that there were consequences to what the character did, just as in reality there are consequences for anyone's actions.


Henry R. Kujawa said...

ASM #16 -- I've never been a fan of The Ringmaster & his Circus of Crime. Maybe it's because he only seems to have ONE scheme, which he tries to pull, over and over, and always fails. Of course, it's especially bizarre when you realize he got his start working for the Nazis against Captain America in WW2!!! (Or... maybe that was this guy's FATHER?)

Took me decades before I realized this story had actually been "adapted"-- VERY LOOSELY-- by Bakshi & Morrow as one of the WEIRDEST episodes of the 1968 cartoon show... "PARDO PRESENTS"!!! Check this out. Strange-looking villain, dressed in green & purple, with a moustache, who lures an audience in to see a show, then HYPNOTIZES them so he can rob them blind. The hero-- sitting in the audience-- is the only one who's able to fight off the hypotism! The differences being, on TV, is's a movie premiere instead of a circus, and it's Peter Parker in the audience who fights off the hypnotic ray, instead of Matt Murdock.

But it got even stranger. The 2nd half of the cartoon starts out in and around a water-tower up on the roof of the building-- JUST like the one seen on the cover of ASM #30-- "The Claws Of The Cat". We even see the water tower get smashed during a fight. Only... in the TV version, Spidey is fighting A GIANT CAT!!!!! Isn't that wild???

ASM #19 -- the pose of Spidey on the cover, I believe, served as the basis for a shot on the cartoon where he swings directly toward the camera.

ASM #20 -- On TV, "Never Step On A Scorpion" was actually adapted from BOTH of Steve Ditko's Scorpion stories TOGETHER! That's like cramming each one into only 5 minutes of film. Crazy! It's also one episode where you can clearly see where they took Ditko panels and animated them. Back in the 80's, MARVEL TALES reprinted the 2nd Scorpion story, for the 1st tme ever. They said the reason was, they discovered there were NO stats or negatives to be found. They hired Owen McCarron to recreate the art from scratch, so they'd have new stats. When I saw some of those panels, I realized it was a very real possibility that the ORIGINAL stats had been "loaned" to Grantray-Lawrence to make the cartoon, then gotten lost when the studio went belly-up.

The pose on that cover somehow reminds me of Bruce Lee from ENTER THE DRAGON, years later!

James Robert Smith said...

That's an interesting premise about the stats for Spider-Man #20! You're probably right.