Monday, November 28, 2016

Amazing Spider-Man #14

The Grotesque Adventure of the Green Goblin

The Green Goblin + The Enforcers

Supporting Cast:
J Jonah Jameson, Aunt May, Flash Thompson, Liz Allen, Betty Brant, B.J Cosmo.

Guest Star:
The Hulk!

B.J Cosmo (or another director with the same initials) has previously appeared in Journey into Mystery #92, when he hires Thor to provide special effects for his Viking movie.

“Creature from the Black Lagoon” came out in 1954 and spawned two sequels “Revenge of the Creature” and “The Creature Walks Among us”. Unlike Cosmo’s “The Nameless Thing From the Black Lagoon in the Murky Swamp”, none of them won any awards.

Cosmo doesn’t seem to be aware that Spider-Man had a previous career as a TV performer.

It takes the three Enforcers and the Goblin to move the boulder over the cave entrance: Spider-Man can’t shift it himself, but tricks the Hulk into smashing it. This suggests that Spider-Man’s strength is a bit less than that of four reasonably fit grown men. (So maybe he can bench press 750lbs/340kg?)

The Hulk’s own comic was canceled in March 1963. After various away-fixtures in the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, he returns as Ant Man’s back up feature in Tales to Astonish #59 (September 64), where it is mentioned in passing that he was “last seen in New Mexico”.

Spins a web, any size: Spider-Man uses his web to catapult himself on the the Goblin’s broomstick. He attaches tumbleweed to the end of his web and “whips up a man made dust-storm.”

Peter Parker’s Financial Situation: It appears that both Cosmo and Jameson pay Parker expenses to fly from New York to L.A (about 5 hours), but he chooses to travel back by coach (more like 4 days) to save money. A one way Greyhound from Hollywood to New York would have cost about $50; a flight something around $70, so he’s probably only saving $20. It isn’t clear how he explains the 4 day absence to Jameson, or Aunt May, or Principal Davies; or indeed whether he actually turns in any pictures to J.J.J. 

$50,000 would have been a fairly small fee if B.J really thinks that Spider-Man is as big a star as Tony Curtis, who could command at last $150,000 per appearance.

“A Hollywood director, B.J Cosmo, offers Spider-Man $50,000 to star in a movie about his battle with the Enforcers. Spider-Man (still motivated by honest self-interest rather than altruism) agrees. Having traveled to New Mexico, he realizes that he has walked into a trap: he is not fighting actors playing the Enforcers, but the Enforcers themselves. During the fight, he tries to catch his breath in a cave, but the Enforcers roll a huge stone in front of the entrance to trap him inside. Just as the battle seems to be over, he disturbs an ancient Mayan sarcophagus, causing the mummified remains to come to life. He manages to escape from the cave, but the resurrected mummy, who has been christened The Green Goblin, also gets away, vowing vengeance on Spider-Man.”

This is not, of course, the plot of the Grotesque Adventure of the Green Goblin; it's my conjecture as to what Stan Lee's original pitch for the story might have looked like. In the published comic, the Green Goblin is involved from the beginning: it's him who persuades B.J. to makes 'The Spider-Man Story' and it's him who persuades Spider-Man to start in it. The Goblin isn't a demon, but a gadget powered criminal; and it's a Hulk, not a Goblin, who is discovered in the cave.

So why do we think that Stan Lee's original version was so different? It so happens we are able to compare and contrast two different accounts of the genesis of the story. First, we have Stan Lee’s version, from the opening page of Spider-Man #14:

“The gang at the bullpen said “Let’s give our fans the the greatest 12c worth we can! Let’s get a really different villain…a bunch of colorful henchmen for him…And even add a great guest star!! So we did!! And here’s the result… Another Marvel masterpiece…”

This is vintage Lee. We dreamed the story up in one go. What you have in front of you is what we always intended to put in front of you. The credits still use the despicable “written by Stan Lee, illustrated by Steve Ditko” formula, but this text comes much close to saying that the comic — the “dreaming up” process, at any rate — was a collaborative effort involving not just Stan, but the whole “gang at the bullpen”. (Who else was in that gang? Martin Goodman? Stan’s brother Larry? Kirby himself?) The dreaming up process can't have been all that onerous for the gang: their big idea is that the issue should involve, er, a new villain (like last issue did and next issue will) and that he should have some henchmen, and that there should be a guest star. I suppose that does pinpoint one unique selling point for the episode: the last three issues have had Spider-Man fighting a single bad guy; but this issue he has to fight five at once. 

Steve Ditko remembers things slightly differently:

“Stan's synopsis for the Green Goblin had a movie crew, on location, finding an Egyptian-like sarcophagus. Inside was an ancient, mythological demon, the Green Goblin. He naturally came to life. On my own, I changed Stan's mythological demon into a human villain… I rejected Stan's idea because a mythological demon made the whole Peter Parker/Spider-Man world a place where nothing is metaphysically impossible." 

I don’t think we should automatically accept that every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of Ditko is true and assume that everything Stan says is a fib. But Ditko’s claim here is very specific, not especially self-aggrandizing, and makes sense of what is frankly a very strange issue. Why does this dangerous new villain drag Spider-Man from New York to the West Coast simply to start a fight which could just as well have happened in New York? Does the story of B.J Cosmo and his Spider-Man film serve any purpose except as a lead in to yet another extended fight scene? And why is Spider-Man’s confrontation with the big, exciting new villain interrupted and upstaged by the unexpected appearance of the Incredible Hulk? If Stan's original version had Spider-Man's confrontation with the Enforcers interrupted and upstaged by the unexpected appearance of the Green Goblin everything starts to fit into place. Ditko left Stan's structure in place, but turned the sudden appearance of a green goblin-like mummy into an equally sudden appearance by the equally green Hulk. It is, I suppose, possible that Stan Lee dreamed up the idea of a science powered bad-guy whose gadgets had a supernatural flavour;  but it is much easier to believe that he pitched “a hobgoblin riding a broomstick” to Ditko, and Ditko reconfigured it as “a criminal dressed as a hobgoblin driving a jet pack in the shape of a broomstick.”

Stan Lee dreamed up the story; Steve Ditko pretty much ignored it and came up with a different story of his own; and the result was the most famous of all Spider-Man’s enemies.

That’s collaboration, folks.

The “broomstick” was a step too far for the Comics Code, which still prohibited “scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and were-wolfism”. Presumably they took it for granted that this included allusions to witchcraft; although there is nothing especially witchy about the Goblin. His flying device does have an array of twig like spikes on it, but you could easily fail to realize that they are meant to be the brush of a besom. (The spikes point forward, between the Goblin's legs, which is in line with traditional folklore depictions of witches, but not with popular fairy tale illustrations, or Mr Harry Potter, whose brushes generally point behind them.)

Amazing Spider-Man #14
Spidey remembers a new pow

A Barnum and Bailey circus strongman named Pierre Gasner performed a trick in which he broke break a chain across his own chest, seemingly by expanding his muscles. The back page of Superman #1 famously showed Superman performing the same stunt — an image which became the company trademark of DC comics. Page 10 of this issue contains a clear reference to this iconic image. Montana — the lasso wielding member of the Enforcers — entangles Spider-Man in his ropes, but the hero succeeds in breaking them across his chest. "One thing he didn't count on was my power of CHEST EXPANSION!!" thinks Spider-Man, in a frequently mocked panel. (The “Superdickery” website describes this as “Spider-Man acquiring Superman’s power of making up powers as I need them.”) Now, there is certainly a problem — which will get worse and worse as the years role on — of the heroes and villains feeling the need to provide a running commentary on their every move:

“Surrounding me and beating me are two different things! You can’t throw that lasso fast enough to snare me, Montana!”

“Maybe he can’t. But Fancy Dan can grab you while you’re dodging the rope.”

“And while you turn away to flip Dan over your head, I can follow up with a hay-maker.”

Superman logo: a similar trick. 
But this bit of Stanish silliness shouldn’t obscure just how well choreographed the fight scene is. Montana — the lasso guy — ensnares Spidery-Man in his rope; Spider-Man pauses, and physically breaks the ropes (taking Montana out of the fight); the super-strong Ox follows through and punches Spider-Man (knocking him down, but not out) while the other two fall on him. Spider-Man again pauses, thinking “I’ve got to summon all my spider-strength NOW…while they least expect it .. While they’re all confused!!” and then throws all three men off him fairly easily. He uses his web to whip up a dust-storm and runs away into a cave: he does not think he can defeat three bad guys at once. They follow him into the cave, and along with the Goblin, block the entrance with a boulder. (The idea of rolling a stone in front of the entrance to a cave calls to mind Don Blake finding Thor’s hammer in Journey into Mystery #83. And possibly other, even holier, stories.) He picks off Montana (who’s acquired a new lasso) and Fancy Dan (the judo guy) by trapping them from above with his webs; he takes the Ox by surprise and knocks him out with a single punch. Suddenly the Goblin reappears and starts throwing stun bombs at Spider-Man: just as we are expecting a final fight with the main villain, but instead, out of the smoke appears the Hulk.

So, it is fairly clear that when Spider-Man refers to "my power of chest expansion" he is simply saying that Montana hasn't realized that he is strong enough to break ropes with his chest muscles —  not that he has a specific, never-before mentioned ability to alter the size of his ribs and pecs. The interesting thing is that he seems to need to pause and focus his mind before doing the rope-breaking trick. Similarly, having been knocked down fairly easily by the Ox, he has to consciously “summons all of his Spider-Strength” before throwing the three guys off him. This appears to confirm that Spider-Man’s power is a supernatural or psychic force which he has to channel; not a physical enhancement. The Ox specifically says that he is surprised that "such a skinny runt" can be so strong.

In 1964, the Hulk was still as word as any other Stan Lee baddie, saying “My only defense against mankind is my strength and nothing will stop me from using it” rather than “Hulk smash!” It seems to me that Ditko is already drawing a savage, bestial Hulk, but Stan Lee hasn’t worked out what kind of dialogue he should have. This does lead to one of the best of Spider-Man’s one-liners

"Even deep in my hidden caves, you attack me! But no-one can capture the Hulk!"

"Capture you!? Brother, I don’t even wanna share the same planet with you!"

It is perhaps deliberate that we see two punches from the Ox knock Spider-Man down but fail to knock him out. When Spider-Man finally gets a good punch in against the Ox, he renders him instantly unconscious. (Spider-Man uses the rather dubious expression “love-tap”, implying he isn’t hitting him as hard as he could.) But when Spider-Man punches the Hulk, he hardly notices, and Spider-Man actually injures his fist!

The Green Goblin will eventually supplant Doctor Octopus as Spider-Man’s “arch-enemy”; and his whole persona will be subsumed into the single fact that he knows Spider-Man’s secret identity. And of course, everyone knows that the Goblin’s secret identity will turn out to be Norman “my best friend’s father” Osborne. Sam Rami positioned him as a literally Satanic figure, the opponent of Toby Maguire's Christ-in-spandex. But at this point, the Green Goblin isn’t any of these things. Stan Lee himself is a little unsure about the character, admitting on the cover that he may be too cute and funny looking to be a bad guy. And while the cover promises us that he’s “the most dangerous foe Spider-Man has ever fought” it isn’t exactly clear what makes him so threatening. He has a flying broomstick, shoots sparks from his fingers, and throws what are described as “stun bombs” at Spider-Man. The “stun bombs” still look like grenades. (They wont be re-themed as Jack O’Lanterns until the Goblin’s second appearance.)

This Goblin is simply a wannabee gangster. ("It just proves how hard it is to make a career of crime! You can never think of everything!) His ojbjective (revealed in a soliloquy on the final page) is to “organize a world-wide crime syndicate” with the Big Man’s old henchmen as his lieutenants. Why this involves defeating Spider-Man isn’t quite clear. Are we to suppose that Spider-Man is no so adept at catching thieves that there would be no point in setting yourself up as head of the newer, bigger Thieves Guild without first putting him out of action? Or is the idea that the Enforcers want their revenge on Spider-Man, because he sent the to prison for very nearly three months, and the Goblin has told them that he will deliver Spider-Man up to them if they will work for him thereafter? Either way, the Goblins plan is convoluted even by super-villain standards:

1: Persuade Cosmo to make a film about Spider-Man
2: Persuade Cosmo to hire Spider-Man himself to star in the film
3: Persuade Cosmo to hire him, the Green Goblin, to appear in the film as himself.
4: Persaude  Cosmo that the Enforcers are merely actors dressed up to look like the Enforcers.
5: Act as go-between to arrange a meeting between Spider-Man and Cosmo. (The usual method would be to put an advertisement in the Bugle, informing Spider-Man that an honest $50,000 is on offer.)
6: Travel back to Hollywood with Cosmo, Spider-Man and the Enforcers.
7: Wait until everyone has been driven out to New Mexico for the first days shooting.
8: Reveal that the whole thing has been a trick, and allow the Enforcer's to attack Spider-Man
9: Once Spider-Man has been defeated, become Top Criminal

And it would have worked, too, if not for that pesky Hulk...

But Lee and Ditko are clearly setting up the the Goblin as a villain of some importance. He is going to make four more appearances in the Ditko years, far more than any other super villain. A great deal is made of the fact that the Goblin is still at large at the end of the episode, and a great deal is made of the fact that no-one knows who he really is. The first panel of the comic shows the Goblin mask in the foreground, while a shadowy figure puts the finish touches to the code-baiting broomstick; the final panels show him pulling the mask off and, with his face obscured, announcing that “the world hasn’t heard the last of…the Green Goblin.”

It certainly hasn't.
A Close Reading of the First Great Graphic Novel in American Literature
Andrew Rilstone

Andrew Rilstone is a writer and critic from Bristol, England. This essay forms part of his critical study of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's original Spider-Man comic book. 

If you have enjoyed this essay, please consider supporting Andrew on Patreon. 

if you do not want to commit to paying on a monthly basis, please consider leaving a tip via Ko-Fi.

Pledge £1 for each essay. 

Leave a one-off tip

Amazing Spider-Man was written and drawn by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and is copyright Marvel Comics. All quotes and illustrations are use for the purpose of criticism under the principle of fair dealing and fair use, and remain the property of the copywriter holder.

 Please do not feed the troll. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Amazing Spider-Man #13

The Menace of Mysterio


Supporting Cast: 
Flash Thompson, Liz Allan, Aunt May, Betty Brant, J. Jonah Jameson, A Psychiatrist and a chorus of police, newsmen and movie actors.  

Peter Parker is still wearing the slightly-too-short red PJs from last issue. 

This is the first time Spider-Man has been referred to as "Spidey" ("ol'Spidey") in the body of the comic, although the nickname was used on the letter page to issue #12. 

Spins a Web, Any Size: Spider-Man makes an “airtight web helmet” which enables him to hold his breath underwater. Apparently. 

Failure to Communicate: At the bottom of page #3, Peter Parker is soliloquizing in a school classroom. But at the top of page 4 ("minutes later") he is helping Aunt May with the washing up. Either Lee or Ditko has inadvertently conflated two separate scenes.

Peter Parker’s Financial Position: Aunt May’s savings account is almost used up. Jameson pays Peter “almost half” what the pictures of Mysterio are worth. Back in #9, he stated that the pictures of Spider-Man fighting Electro (which he paid $1,000 for) were really worth $20,000, so Peter must have got as much as $10,000 this time. This is a fortune: almost two years salary for the average working man, and enough to pay the rent for years to come. 

Real Estate: Back in issue #1 Aunt May was going to be turned out of her house by her landlord for not paying the rent: this time she is nagging Peter about the mortgage. While someone might use “rent” as a slang term for “mortgage” I don’t think that American banks send sinister men with cigars round to collect mortgage arrears. So we have to assume that at some point between issue #1 and issue #12 Peter and May moved home. The average price of a house in 1963 was about $10,000 so it is possible that Peter Parker decide against blowing that first paycheque on rent and instead put a 20% deposit on a property. (He could buy a house outright with this months cheque!)  

The Vulture, Doctor Octopus, Sandman, the Lizard, Electro, Mysterio, the Green Goblin, Kraven...the first 14 issues of Spider-Man introduce seven of his canonical villains. Ditko's final year would really only add two more characters — the Scorpion and the Molten Man — to the list. (The entire Romita era really only managed two more: — The Kingpin and the Rhino.)

Why did the flow of villains stop? Did Stan Lee think that eight recurring bad-guys were sufficient; or did his imagination simply run dry? One theory holds that it was actually Jack Kirby who was "dreaming up" the villains and passing them over to Stan and Steve to flesh out. This isn't inherently ridiculous: in later years Jack was paid by animation and toy companies as an ideas man, and the New Gods pantheon seem to have existed as a figures in a portfolio before he had any story to go with them. It would certainly explain why visually charismatic villains like the Green Goblin and Kraven the Hunter had such relatively lackluster debuts. But it's far more likely that Lee was still thinking in terms of providing Spider-Man with a menagerie of wrestling opponents; while Ditko saw antagonists — Brains and Spider-Slayers and Big Men and Crime Masters  — as merely one strand of a story, with little replay value. One can easily imagine Lee saying "Hey! What if Spider-Man's next villain were a great white game hunter...." and leaving Ditko to fill in the details. As Stan progressively handed the reins of the comic over to Steve the villains became less memorable but the actual stories improved.

It is striking that (having introduced Electro in #10 and given us a double helping of Octopus in #11 and #12), #13, #14 and #15 are each pitched to the reader as the “unveiling” of a new enemy. Stan Lee inserts himself onto the cover of all three issues, reminding the reader that the real creative impetus behind each issue was the guy who dreamed up the idea behind the enemy.  "We've created the greatest villain of all for ol'Spidey"; "Only the Merry Marvel Madmen could have dreamed him up.." "So you think there are no new types of villain for Spidey to battle, huh?" All three issues follow the same formula as #12: an eight page narrative set-up which leads into an extended 15 page fight scene. 

If you are inclined to accept my theory that Stan sees Spider-Man as a superhero comic in which the hero wrestles with fabulous villains, and Steve sees Spider-Man as a story about how Peter Parker copes with power and responsibility then these issues belong to Stan Lee. Action, jokes, motive-free villains, fights, fights and more fights. Peter Parker is relegated to a minor sub-plot. Once the rogues gallery is complete, Lee will reward himself with a double-length issues containing not less than six fight scenes. After which, it all goes terribly Ditko.

Despite my massive affection for it, Amazing Spider-Man #13 is one seriously flawed comic book. A fascinating set-up about a villain trying to gaslight Spider-Man into doubting his own sanity is drowned out, after only a few pages, by an extended fight with a gadgeteer in a kerr-azy suit.

The central idea is a fine one. A disgruntled film technician creates special effects which enable him to emulate Spider-Man’s powers, enabling him to frame our hero as a criminal. "I never thought he’d really turn to crime" exclaims a policeman, as "Spider-Man" floats away on a web-parachute after robbing the safe in an office building. 

J. Jonah Jameson is delighted, of course, thinking his hatred of Spider-Man has finally been vindicated. "I want you to find all the old editorials I wrote accusing Spider-Man of being a menace! I want to reprint them so people can see how right I was." It isn’t immediately clear how pictures which appear to show Spider-Man cracking open a safe vindicate Jameson's having printed demonstrable falsehoods about Spider-Man being Electro and the Big Man, but that’s the kind of guy Jameson is. (This is, by the way, the last time J.J.J. is said to be the editor of Now Magazine: from now on, only the Bugle is mentioned.) 

The school kids are shocked, but Flash Thompson continues to believe that Spider-Man is "one of the greatest guys around". This is really the first time Flash has gone from "quite admiring" Spider-Man to having the blind faith of a dedicated fan — a faith which is going to be tested quite severely in the coming months. Betty Brant "can’t believe this of Spider-Man" adding "I still remember how he once saved my life." Actually, he saved her life in two consecutive issues, but Stan Lee’s handling of time means that Turning Point (issue #11) is something which happened a very long time ago. Betty nags Peter about his dangerous job and Peter bites her head off in his usual chauvinistic way. "I don't tell you how to live your life...don't butt into mine."  "You never spoke to me that way before!" exclaims Better, to which the reader can only reply "Oh yes he did!" He seems to have forgotten that her brother was recently murdered; but in fairness, so does she. 

Parker is as sensible and level-headed about Spider-Man's crime-wave as we have come to expect: reading the reports of the robbery, he very naturally thinks "I must be becoming a split personality" as opposed to, say "Some villain must be impersonating me." 

This issue, more than any previous one, establishes Peter Parker as "the guy with a bunch of problems" and "the guy who worries about everything" — witness him dropping Aunt May’s plates and musing "I don’t know what to worry about first! Paying the mortgage or wondering if I’m a sleep walking criminal." 

But the "Spider-Man turns to crime" plot is over-and-done with in about 8 pages. As soon as Mysterio appears on the scene, it is clear to everyone — with the possible exception of Peter Parker and J. Jonah Jameson — that he’s the one criming in a Spider-Man suit. Mysterio challenges Spider-Man to a fight which, true to formula, Spider-Man loses. (Quite a lot is made of this tactical defeat with a morose Parker musing "This will keep me from ever getting too conceited".) But he places a spider-tracer ("small electronically treated Spider-pin") on Mysterio and tracks him down to a "TV movie studio building." There is another fight, which Spider-Man wins. The whole impostor plot is reduced to a set up to lure Spider-Man into a big fight in a movie studio.

It is easy enough to believe that a special effects guy could convince the general public that  he is Spider-Man. And a supervillain who uses misdirection and illusion to make people think that Spider-Man is a baddie (and to make Spider-Man himself think he is going mad) is a rather original idea. But the second half of his comic dispense with the idea of illusion and misdirection and decide that Mysterio has actually given himself the same powers as Spider-Man -- to the extent that he can hold is own against our hero in a fair fight.

Mysterio’s notes about Spider-Man are quite interesting. By a sketch of Spider-Man’s mask he has written "two way mirror — cannot see in, can see out". (In a few months time, the first Spider-Man Annual will reveal that this is indeed how Spider-Man’s mask works.) When Mysterio sticks to the side of the Brooklyn Bridge, Spider-Man guesses that his boots are magnetized: an interesting hypothesis, considering that the bridge is a stone structure. In fact, Mysterio says that he uses "suction cups" to duplicate Spider-Man's wall-crawling power. It isn’t exactly clear what a "magnetic plate spring" is, but they are what enable him to duplicate Spider-Man’s leaps. Similarly, he dissolves Spider-Man’s web using "specially treated acid" whatever special treatment of an acid amounts to. The one thing, interesting, that Mysterio says he "can’t duplicate" and will have to "imitate" is Spider-Man’s webbing -- does he assume that Spider-Man's web-shooting is a natural ability?

Spider-Man has supernatural strength (next issue, he will come a very strong second in a fight with the Incredible Hulk) but we are asked to believe that Mysterio can fight him on equal terms because -- er -- he has been trained as a stunt-man. (He "knows how to role with a punch" and can outwit Spider-Man by "tossing him over my back through a sudden move.") This obviously makes no sense at all. I think that Spider-Man must rely more heavily on his spider-sense than he lets on: so once Mysterio has worked out how to jam it (with "sonar", obviously) his fighting ability is severely curtailed.

But if Mysterio’s impersonation of Spider-Man is sufficiently good that he can rob banks and jewelry stores with complete impunity why on earth would he walk into Jameson's office in his own identity? 

"My plan seemed perfect! I could commit all sorts of crimes, and you would get the blame! But then I got a still greater idea! I would create a separate identity for myself! And then I’d battle you!! When I defeated you, I’d be a national hero — for no-one would know that Mysterio is both the criminal and the conqueror"

Oh dear. I think Stan Lee just kind of assume that if you are a villain, your job is to fight Spider-Man, and no further explanation is really necessary. 

And that, pretty much, is the story. (Spider-Man punches out the eye-piece which contains the anti-spider-sense sonar, and the punches Mysterio and hands him over to the police.) A weird, atmospheric villain and a nice fight but the story doesn’t live up to its premise.

Just one more thing. 

When the fake Spider-Man is out criming, Peter Parker concludes that he must be going mad — and goes to a psychiatrist. Stan Lee is very proud of this, promoting it on the cover as one of the issues main selling points — but nothing comes of it. A psychiatrist might have been able to deal with a sleep-walking problem by prescribing medication but Spider-Man has actually gone to a psychoanalyst who wants Spider-Man to lie on the coach and say anything which comes into his head classic Freudian free-association. Spider-Man sensibly realizes that he’s in danger of blabbing his secret identity, and swings off. The whole incident is over in four panels.

Wouldn’t it have been far more interesting if this subplot had been developed instead of the fight? If the psychiatrist had told Spider-Man that he was indeed turning into a sleep walking criminal; if getting Spider-Man onto the couch and discovering his secret identity was the whole point of the fake Spider-Man robbery spree...

This is precisely the plot of Amazing Spider-Man #24, Spider-Man Goes Mad. A psychiatrist uses a variety of tricks and illusions to convince Spider-Man that he is going mad and very nearly learns his secret identity. The fake psychiatrist is eventually revealed to be none other than....Mysterio. 

Is it possible that Ditko’s idea for the first Mysterio story was that the fake Spider-Man gambit would drive our hero into the arms of a fake psychiatrist — that Stan Lee vetoed that plot and replaced it with a Big Fight — and that Ditko told his own, more interesting, but less iconic version of the story a year later?

A Close Reading of the First Great Graphic Novel in American Literature
Andrew Rilstone

Andrew Rilstone is a writer and critic from Bristol, England. This essay forms part of his critical study of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's original Spider-Man comic book. 

If you have enjoyed this essay, please consider supporting Andrew on Patreon. 

if you do not want to commit to paying on a monthly basis, please consider leaving a tip via Ko-Fi.

Pledge £1 for each essay. 

Leave a one-off tip

Amazing Spider-Man was written and drawn by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and is copyright Marvel Comics. All quotes and illustrations are use for the purpose of criticism under the principle of fair dealing and fair use, and remain the property of the copywriter holder.

 Please do not feed the troll. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

First, we warned you about the Daily Mail, but you didn’t listen, because the Daily Mail is only a silly scandal sheet

Then, we warned you about the Daily Express, but you didn’t listen, because the Daily Express is barely even a newspaper nowadays.

Then we warned you about the Sun, but you didn’t listen, because it’s quite snobbish to moan about a working class paper.

We warned you about the myth of political correctness, but you didn’t listen because ha-ha it’s the sort of thing that people like us have a bee in our bonnet about.

We warned you about Katie Hopkins, but you didn’t listen, because the Apprentice is only a silly reality TV show and she obviously doesn’t believe a word of it.

We warned you about Melanie Phillips, but you didn’t listen, because she was obviously mental.

We warned you that that Anders Breivik used the “writings” of Melanie Phillips to justify murder, but you didn’t listen, because it’s not a journalists fault if a criminal borrows their words.

We warned you about Gamergate, and you didn’t listen because it was only some little boys throwing their toys out of the pram over computer games.

We warned you about the Sad Puppies, and you didn’t listen, because if this stuff bothers us so much we should damn well stay off twitter.

Then a fascist became president of the USA, and you all said "Why didn't anyone warn us?"

Sunday, November 13, 2016

1973: A Spider-Odyssey

Part 1: Week ending March 17, 1973

Part 2: Spider-Man Comics Weekly #5

Part 3: The Amazing Spider-Man #13

A Close Reading of the First Great Graphic Novel in American Literature
Andrew Rilstone

Andrew Rilstone is a writer and critic from Bristol, England. This essay forms part of his critical study of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's original Spider-Man comic book. 

If you have enjoyed this essay, please consider supporting Andrew on Patreon. 

if you do not want to commit to paying on a monthly basis, please consider leaving a tip via Ko-Fi.

Pledge £1 for each essay. 

Leave a one-off tip

Amazing Spider-Man was written and drawn by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and is copyright Marvel Comics. All quotes and illustrations are use for the purpose of criticism under the principle of fair dealing and fair use, and remain the property of the copywriter holder.

 Please do not feed the troll. 

Saturday, November 05, 2016

In December 2015, Rilstone published an essay which was so modern and so brilliant that it made absolutely no sense to anybody.

on monday, I placed two apples...

So controversial was it that it led to a widespread boycott of his work, and demands that the author be exiled to Siberia, or, failing that, Bollington.

Today, a critic who loves and reveres Rilstone and his work revisits the controversy and tries to explain: what was all the fuss about. And what was Rilstone trying to say?

Almost as shocking as the original essay, this pamphlet (48 pages, approx 20 pages of new material) is only available to Andrew's financial backers..

To obtain the pamphlet, please go to Patreon and pledge at least $1 a month to Andrew's writing. This will give you immediate access to a PDF version. More generous donors will receive a physical copy of the work. Please do not leave it lying around for your wife or your servant to read.