Monday, April 08, 2013

The Final Issues (Amazing Spider-Man #36-#38, Annual #1 and #2.

And here they are, the last of my copies of The Amazing Spider-Man, by Steve Ditko. Although the character as here seen was created by Steve Ditko, written by Steve Ditko, Penciled by Steve Ditko, and inked by Steve Ditko, ownership of this property was stolen by his publisher. Today, it generates--quite literally--billions of dollars in profits. Of that, the character's creator receives virtually nothing. Most people who read the modern comics and see the films starring the character are unaware of who Steve Ditko is, much less that he was the man who created the character they so adore.

Yes, I know that there are greater crimes committed in this world. But this is a crime, and the fact that it goes not only unpunished, but is rewarded only increases the injustice of it.

Continued from #30-#35.

I'm not sure what was going on with the issues directly after the Master Planner storyline. However, it seems relatively clear to me that Ditko was going out of his way not to create much in the way of new characters for Marvel Comics. I will assume that he had decided to take his leave of Goodman and Lee, but may have been hedging his bets and hoping that they would do the right thing. (No chance.) In this story we are yet again greeted by a cookie-cutter villain, the Meteor Man. This guy gets super strength due to his exposure to a pocket of mysterious gas trapped inside a meteor that he is examining in a museum (where he works). He does have an added gadget of a helium balloon in a backpack that he can activate and escape from the scene of a crime. Spider-Man kicks his ass and turns him over to the cops.

Recall what I said about Ditko hedging his bets? Well, with this one he was turning his hand to deepening the mystery of the Green Goblin and was hinting at future developments and giving us more clues as to who he might really be. And the Goblin's genius henchman here has developed some advanced robotics that he uses to try to defeat Spider-Man, including an amoeba-like robot that has to be one of the coolest ever created for comics. But apparently between this issue and the next, the proverbial shit hit the fan and Ditko was ready to walk.

Ditko didn't even deliver a cover for this, his final issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. Or if he did, perhaps Lee rejected it and it was never used. However, I've always thought that this was a pretty darned cool cover and it attracted me like crazy when I saw it on the newsstand at the local drugstore in my neighborhood in Decatur, Georgia. So much so that I bought it instead of waiting to get it for free from my dad's bookstore. They created the cover by taking images and panels from interior Ditko illustrations and putting them on the cover. It works. I did an essay on this book once before, but I may do another one.


This book is pure fun. And it was a really HUGE comic book. The heft of it is impressive when compared to annuals from later years. They really packed it with great material, most of it new. Ditko delivers lots of pinups and various inside information about Spider-Man and Peter Parker. Plus the new story wherein Spider-Man battles six of his most dangerous foes.

Although a brief story, the new one in this annual is one of my favorite Spider-Man yarns. It guest stars Dr. Strange, Ditko's other major creation for Marvel Comics. Even the thief who helped to steal all of Ditko's work at Marvel admits that he had nothing whatsoever to do with the creation of Dr. Strange. And, yet, somehow, his name is all over the character as "co-creator". If you're not disgusted, you're either a moron or without a sense of right and wrong.


Henry R. Kujawa said...

ASM #36 -- even an "average" villain is more creative than just bringing back an existing one. Re-named "The Meteor Man", this guy returned much later in an issue of MARVEL TEAM-UP. I'm not sure he ever came back after that, though.

ASM #38 -- I never realized that the final Ditko issue of STRANGE TALES also had a cover cobbled together from interior panels. As did DAREDEVIL #11, Wally Wood's last issue on that series. Jack Kirby's final FF and THOR issues had AWFUL, HORRIBLE covers done by others (Romita, Adams & Marie Severin).

"Jameson/Lee makes only a very brief appearance and Parker basically flips him off. There is not another peep from the creature. There is only Parker/Spider-Man/Ditko battling against the forces of society and accident, standing strong and true in the face of predicament."

I get VERY tired of heroes being constantly pushed around and downtrodden in their own stories. There's always going to be challenges to be overcome, but over the years, ASM became a really MISERABLE, downbeat, depressing title. After the real world, who the HELL needs that? (Maybe some readers' lives are "too good" and they actually go out of their way looking for mistery??) I'd have enjoyed seeing a Peter Parker who had grown up and was more in control of things going on around him. Sort of like the one in the 1967 Grantray-Lawrence cartoons. (Betty Brant was a lot less miserable on that show, too. ON the cartoons, she was a really NICE girl I'd have liked to have known in real life.)

Henry R. Kujawa said...

ASM ANNUAL #1 -- The closest we got to this on TV was "TO TRAP A SPIDER", the first half of the 1st season finale. It brought back 4 villains in one story-- The Vulture, Electro, The Green Goblin (who had nothing to do with the version in the comics), and, the ringleader, who broke the other 3 out of jail, "Dr. Noah Boddy" (the invisible man!). It was absurd how all 3 baddies were seen wearing their costumes in their jail cells. But what do we expect from a TV show aimed at kids?

The other half of the episode was "Double Identity", the return of "The Actor, Charles Cameo", in which he impersonated Peter Parker, Jameson, and others, comitting crimes and making them all look guilty of various things.

I was rather blown away by the full-page shots of EACH villain in the ANNUAL. It was clear by this point that Ditko's art was evolving, and Spider-Man was no longer just a skinny kid. He'd been a costumed hero for about 2 years by then, and he was developing muscles. The 2nd half of Ditko's run on the book, the art is MAGNIFICENT. If only I had the originals myself, as every reprint I've seen has looked like CRAP.

ASM ANNUAL #2 -- I wonder why the cover was a production dept. paste-up? (Or was some of it original?) That big pose of Spidey later wound up in the corner-box (until it was replaced with a vastly-inferior version sometime in the 70's-- why do they DO things like that?).

I've always loved Ditko's DR. STRANGE. To me, only Englehart & Brunner ever equalled it, and they didn't stick around that long (especially Brunner, who quit when he "got bored", he said... and regretted it ever since-- there's a serious lack of old-fashioned "professionalism" there, isn't there?).

I recently noticed a panel in this issue that may have inspired a scene in a 3rd-season cartoon-- or maybe not. It was the RRH remake with "Infinata". At one point, the other-dimensional creature decides to get rid of his foe, and the floor opens up, and Spidey begins sinking into it, "like quicksand". The visual was rather similar to when Spidey is being pushed off to another dimension, and decides to grab the "doohickey" the baddie is after, so he'll be forced to come after him.

It was so much FUN seeing Doc and Spidey cross paths, as they're each completely out of their depth in the other's "world". Also, it's great to contrast their dialogue. Doc is so serious, and flowery and poetic, and Spidey's like a late-night comedian. Unlike SO MANY issues of MARVEL TEAM-UP, they're both smart enough so they don't waste half the issue fighting each other before they realize who the real baddie is. I bet story after story that made so many Marvel heroes look like IDIOTS would have pissed off Ditko no end.

"Even the thief who helped to steal all of Ditko's work at Marvel admits that he had nothing whatsoever to do with the creation of Dr. Strange. And, yet, somehow, his name is all over the character as "co-creator". If you're not disgusted, you're either a moron or without a sense of right and wrong."

A few months ago, I made some changes to the Wikipedia DR. STRANGE page. I replaced the "flavor of the month" illo with a STEVE DITKO drawing of Doc. I also changed the wording referring to Stan so there was NO question that he wrote the dialogue and nothing else. I even included a footnote annotation linking to an interview with Ditko from the early-60's where he said, even that far back, that HE created Doc with NO input whatsoever from Lee. Somebody CHANGED that. Those ASSHOLES just can't have anyone "putting down" their "fearless leader".

James Robert Smith said...

Yeah, the last books in the Silver Age that Ditko did for Marvel didn't have Ditko covers, really. They did, but were created by copying interior art and pasting it up to make a cover. And I'm sure Ditko wasn't paid for the covers of either book.

I do remember that the Meteor Man showed up in the 70s or 80s.

Did "Just a Guy Named Joe" ever turn up again? After a while, I didn't pay a whole hell of a lot of detailed attention to Spider-Man comics, so if he did reappear, I don't know about it.

I think the Annual #2 story was Ditko's way of putting his stamp on the fact that he had created both characters and was cementing the fact that they both resided in the same world: Ditko's world.

Kirk G said...

I recall seeing each of these covers show up on the spinner rack in my small town, and flipping through each one...never recognising that it was a continuing series of stories. I especially recall the split cover of #38, and read it while standing at the rack. I recall the mystery of who the elevated shooter at the end could possibly be... and later, realized that as a kid, I had seen all these books. WHY DIDN'T I GET A PAPER ROUTE TO HAVE CASH IN MY POCKET TO BUY THEM?!!!

James Robert Smith said...

Believe me...I realize how lucky I was as a kid. My dad had, literally, hundreds of thousands of old comics in this period because he bought them for his used bookstores. He kept a sign in the window that said: "Buying used comic books, two cents each". He bought so many at such a clip that they piled up by the thousands, far faster than he could sell them (he sold them for ten cents each or 12 for $1).