Peter Parker's financial position:
In order to pay for the ISO-36, Peter Parker pawns science equipment, including his microscope.
But he actually tells Connors that he is going to obtain "expense money"; and the courier who delivers the serum says that Connors is paying a "high premium price for its delivery". So, clearly, the West Coast lab has provided the serum free of charge, the hospital hasn't yet raised a bill, but Peter Parker has come up with $500 cash to charter a private jet to bring the medicine to New York.
The action follows directly on from issue #31. The serum is specifically located on the West Coast, so it can hardly take less than 5 hours to fly it to New York.
?10AM - Parker goes to Bugle and tries to sell the pictures.
?12PM - Parker tracks down Connors and asks him to help. He spends the rest of the day as Spider-Man working with Connors in the lab.
?6PM - The serum arrives in New York and is stolen by the Master Planner. Spider-Man goes to the Bugle to try to enlist Foswell's help, but Foswell has finished work for the day.
?6PM - ?11PM - Spider-Man spends several hours interrogating hoods -- long enough for word to get round the underworld.
?11PM - Spider-Man discovers entrance to base.
?12PM (Midnight) Spider-Man Confronts Doctor Octopus.
This happened in Spider-Man #9, A Man Called Electro. Spider-Man #9 was one of the first issues to bear all the hallmarks of Ditko plotting. It would be pleasing to think that he was setting up issue #32 that far in advance. I wonder if it is too late to claim my no-prize?
Readers of this column have on several occasions asked me whether or not Spider-Man is strong. Well, here is their answer.
"This field" apparently encompasses the study of reptiles, growing arms back on paraplegic servicemen, and radioactivity of the blood.
Serum is a component of blood; blood serum is sometimes used as a medical vaccine or antidote. But in popular language, "serum" often means "universal cure" -- as when we talk about a "beauty serum" or a "truth serum".
Ditko surely intends the microscope which Peter pawns to be the very same one that Uncle Ben gave him as a gift in Amazing Fantasy #15, but Lee doesn't pick up on this. (Peter must retrieve it from the broker, because he will leave it by Uncle Ben's grave in issue #281.) Parker says he has "worked hard" to buy the rest of his science stuff: since he doesn't have a job, this can only refer to money from selling photos. He must have made a lot of sales we don't know about.
Ditko has spent three episodes telling us that the Master Planner is interested in stealing "any and all atomic equipment". He goes to some lengths to establish that Aunt May is ill because there is a "radioactive particle" in her blood. This is clearly a set-up for the McGuffin. Of course the substance which the Master Planner needs for his radiation experiments is the same substance that Connors needs to remove the radiation from May Parker's blood. But Stan Lee spectacularly misses the point and makes the McGuffin a common-or-garden serum. Some readers think that the "ISO" bit implies that it is a radio-active isotope, but there is not a word of this in the text.
Spider-Man's one and only encounter with the Big Man occurred precisely 22 months ago.
Ditko clearly intends panels 3-6 to make one single sequence, but Lee's caption suggest that panels 3 and 4 take place some hours apart.
The use of the word "potion" tends to confirm our theory that the Lizard was an alchemist rather than a scientist. It would be clearly be over-interpreting to say that Doctor Connors and Doctor Bromwell therefore represented the union of magic and science.
Indeed it might. Or, on the other hand, it might not.
This is a colossal cliche. It is hard to find an example of a villain saying "So, we meet again..." which is not a deliberate parody. In an 1855 novel called The Discarded Daughter a wronged maiden makes a speech beginning "So, Pirate, we meet again at last..." (Darth Vader says "We meet again at last.." to Obi-Wan in Star Wars: Lucas is obviously well aware of the cliche.)
- "If he crosses my path again, our next encounter shall be his last" (#31, p20)
- "Am I always to be plagued by that sniveling Spider-Man?" (#32, p1)
- "The world will soon be menaced again by Doctor Octopus!" (p#32, p2)
- "You arrogant fool!...You haven't a chance here, against me!" (#32, p16)
Peter has missed at least three consecutive nights' sleep at this point.
Of course, it is Doctor Octopus.
When he hears that an experimental serum called ISO-36 is being flown into New York, Doctor Octopus exclaims: "What a stroke of luck!...It could be the one vital key to my experiments! And fate is placing it within my grasp!"
When Spider-Man breaks into his Secret Underwater Base to retrieve the serum, he monologues: "A stroke of blind luck has given me the chance to dispose of Spider-Man forever."
And Last issue, after Spider-Man tried to stop the nuclear heist, he soliloquized "Spider-Man!...By the purest accident, he almost ruined my plan again".
Purest accident. Fate. Stroke of luck. Blind luck. It's almost like some force is pulling them together.
Doctor Octopus has no identity or motivation beyond being Spider-Man's worst enemy. Once he knows that Spider-Man is looking for the serum, he literally hangs it on a wire at the end of a corridor and shines a spotlight on it. It's like he consciously knows that it's his job to set up traps for Spider-Man to blunder into. (Last time they met, he set up a treasure hunt with Aunt May as the prize.) Doctor Octopus is a mechanism for removing the McGuffin from Spider-Man's hands. He is the diabolos ex machina who sets Spider-Man up for his supreme test.
He is Doctor Octopus. He does villaining. That's all we need to know.
That is why Ditko reveals that the Master Planner is Doctor Octopus on the very first page of this second installment. Some fans think that the revelation comes too early; that we should have been kept in suspense for a few more pages. Perhaps we should have learned that Doc Ock is the Master Planner at the same moment Spider-Man does, on page 15? But that only makes sense if you think that anyone particularly cares about the Master Planner, and that we are waiting with baited breath to discover his identity. Which may be how Stan Lee thinks, but it's not how Steve Ditko thinks and it's not how this story works. Ditko gets the big reveal out of the way because the big reveal does't make any difference. Now if the Master Planner had turned out to be J. Jonah Jameson or Ned Leeds or Peter Parker's dad, it would have been a different matter.
And so the two halves of the story, the Spider-Man half and the Peter Parker half, have crashed together. Spider-Man leaps out of the window (in one of Ditko's truly great action shots) and for five pages he's punching gangsters, punching minions, smashing staircases, throwing cars around and finally coming face to face with the guy with all the arms. And this is all, arguably, only a set-up for the Great Big Cliffhanger.
If This Be My Destiny...! was static -- as if we were holding our breaths before the big dive. Man On a Rampage! proceeds at break-neck speed. Last issue, Spider-Man swung around a silent city, hoping to find a crime to photograph. This issue he smashes things and beats people up. Last issue we saw Spider-Man looking out over new York and yawning; this issue he has so much energy that we several times feel that he is going to burst out of the page.
And we're still only on page 15.
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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 copyright holder.
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