Saturday, October 08, 2016

Amazing Spider-Man #10


The Enforcers 


Villains: 

The Big Man, Fancy Dan, The Ox, Montana

Characters: 

J.Jonah Jameson, Aunt May, Flash Thompson, Liz Allen, Betty Brant, Frederick Foswell, Mr and Mrs Abbot, (plus a chorus of doctors, gangsters and hoods.)

Observations

Aunt May’s next door neighbor is called Mrs Abbott (and not, for example, Mrs Watson.)

Stan Lee doesn't re-read old issues, but relies on his memory: he references issue #9 but says it is called The Wrath of Electro, rather than A Man Called Electro.

Following the fight in issue #8, Flash makes two more attempts to be nice to Peter: visiting Aunt May in hospital, and warning him to be careful about speaking of the Big Man in public.

He's got radioactive blood! Peter gives Aunt May a person-to-person blood transfusion, which is massively anachronistic in 1964. Peter has the same blood type as Aunt May, even though they are not blood relatives. This will become hugely significant the next time but one May is at death's door.

On the splash page, Spider-Man "possesses the strength of countless spiders"; on page 21, he "has the proportionate strength of a spider". 

Spins a Web: Any Size: Spider-Man makes a web parachute and (briefly channeling his inner Bruce Wayne) a giant web spider to terrify a bad guy.


If Amazing Spider-Man #9  is a slice of spider-life; then Amazing Spider-Man #10 is as conventional a piece of story-telling as we've seen.  Indeed, it is hardly a Spider-Man story at all: if Parker had just been a photojournalist and the Enforcers had been more conventional hoods, everything would have unfolded in pretty much the same way. And this is no criticism. There is something gloriously surrealist about the way in which a small number of outlandish super-characters wander around a downbeat, realistic urban world and no-one pays much attention to them. 

A big man named the Big Man has taken control of the Syndicate which controls all the Crime in New York. Or possibly America. Or maybe just Forest Hills. Taking over the Syndicate is a pretty simple operation. He just tells his three mildly super-powered hench-people to intimidate seven gang leaders who have kindly assembled in his office in order to be intimidated. They immediately hand The Mob over to him. 

Traditionally, Organized Crime makes its money from illegal gambling, extortion, bootleg booze, ladies of ill repute and even drugs. But Ditko gives us a montage of The Big Man’s men cracking safes, robbing banks at gunpoint and hijacking security vans. Spider-Man's main job is arresting jewel thieves, so it makes sense that one tall man in a mask is in charge of all the jewel thieves in the country. The universe is Manichean conflict between Goodies (Cops) and Baddies (Robbers) and The Big Man has taken over the Thieves Guild. Over the next few months, the Green Goblin and the Crime Master are going to be pretenders to the same throne. One of Stan Lee’s first acts after Ditko’s departure will be to install the Kingpin as Top Crimer.

So: who is the Big Man really? J. Jonah Jameson thinks it is Spider-Man and Spider-Man thinks it is J. Jonah Jameson. If you approach the story as a puzzle, then the solution is almost painfully transparent. Out of the blue, Jameson has acquired a columnist named Frederick Foswell who writes editorials about how awful Spider-Man is at his bosses behest. He is a rather a little man. This is the first time any Bugle Employee, apart from Betty, has been given a name. I suspect I was typical of first-time readers in assuming that he had been mentioned before. Lee’s habit of back-filling means that when we are told that Jameson's top columnist is called Foswell (or that Aunt May's neighbor is called Abbot) we are inclined to say "oh, yes, and he always has been."

It shouldn’t be a great surprise that a brand new character, introduced on page 7 of a “whodunit”— the only person who isn’t part of the regular cast — should turn out to be the masked villain. It works a lot better than it ought. For one thing, it isn’t presented as a riddle-story: there is too much else going on for us to spend much time trying to guess the Big Man’s identity. We are fairly cunningly misdirected — or at any rate watch Peter being misdirected — into thinking that the Big Man is Jameson. We don’t ever get an explanation as to why Jameson is walking past the Big Man’s hide out right after Spider-Man’s first fight with Enforcers: in a proper whodunit, that would count as Cheating, but here we hardly notice. When it comes to the big revelation, we are more interested in Peter — and Jameson’s — reaction then we are with the trick about how Foswell was the Big Man all along. (He was wearing special high heels to make himself look taller. Duh!) 

It really is a very elegant little tale.

The distinctly lackluster cover pitches the story as a straight fight between Spider-Man and the Enforcers. It oversells it quite heavily: apparently, they aren’t merely the most merciless foes Spider-Man has ever come up against, but the most merciless foes that anyone has ever encountered. Doctor Doom might have a word or two to say about that. So might Hitler. The splash page (as well as being a nicer piece of art) sells the story much better, with the main question not being "how can one lone crime-fighter hope to defeat the Enforcers" but “Who is the Big Man?????????????????” (17 question marks in original.) So once again, Ditko offers up a plot heavy, film noir suspense mystery tale, and Stan Lee promotes it as a wrestling match.

The Enforcers are, simply, the Big Man’s enforcers: three heavies who he uses to intimidate all the crime lords of New York and collect unpaid interest from teen-aged secretaries. Teams of villains are a tempting plot device for writers — rather than come up with a single, strong concept (a villain with wings, a villain with robot arms) you can bung three or more mediocre concepts together, and let them spend the issue trading wise cracks. So we have Very Strong Guy; Little Guy Who Knows Judo; and Guy With A Gimmick (a lasso). This leads to some very un-focussed scenes in which the villains take it in turns to describe their powers to Spider-Man. There is a big fight, but no distinct moment when the baddies get defeated. The Enforcers have not yet descended into bickering among themselves (as the Masters of Evil and the Frightful Four do incessantly). Stan Lee must have thought they were a good idea, because they make three return visits (although only as generic crooks to pad out another story.)  At least they aren't as irritating as the Circus of Crime.

The Amazing Spider-Man is supposed to be set in New York; but it really happens on a very small stage. Peter Parker brags about knowing the Big Man’s identity, and sure enough the Enforcers come along and kidnap him. Betty Brant owes money to a loan shark, and sure enough the Enforcers turn up at the Bugle and bully her — at the exact moment while Peter Parker is in the office. Last time around we learned that J.J.J. had a personal account in a Forest Hills bank, right near where Peter Parker lives — which was, of course, the first bank which Electro robbed! This could be seen as a Dickensian level of coincidence, or just very lazy plotting. But I think that we have to read Spider-Man with a kind of double-vision. At one level, yes, this is Noo Yawk, and Spider-Man’s enemies are the worst enemies in the whole wide world. But at another level, Spider-Man is a local hero who lives in a village, and his enemies, though threatening and scary, are not terribly important in the grand scheme of things. Jameson is editor of a local newspaper and there is a local school and a local college and doubtless a friendly neighborhood grocery store as well. That’s why Jameson cares so much about Spider-Man and so little about, say, Ant Man. Spider-Man is making a big noise in his village and Jameson would like him to get off his lawn. 

Last time, Spider-Man removed Electro’s mask and didn’t find anyone very interesting underneath. "Who is Electro?" was one of the big questions that no-one was really asking.  This time, the question “Who is the Big Man?????????????????” (seventeen question marks) is shouted out on the first page, and to some extent drives the action. We are misdirected into thinking that he is a regular member of the supporting cast; but (in a sort of kind of twist) find out that he is the guy we only met this issue. But if anything, the big twist — the kind of thing that Stan Lee means when he talks about the realism of the comic — is that the hero completely fails to solve the mystery. "Some big brain I am." says Spider-Man "I not only have the proportionate strength of a Spider — I'm just about as dumb too!" 

As we've seen, this was to become a point of contention between Lee and Ditko. Ditko thought that in real life the bad guy never turns out to be old Mr McGrath who runs the funfair. Lee thought that stories needed better payoffs than real life. The same kind of thing will happen in issues 26 and 27. And then... Well, on one account, then there will be a big argument and the partnership will come to and end.

We are getting ahead of ourselves. But spiderphiles who know what I am talking about should take a long hard look at Frederick Foswell’s haircut.  




A Close Reading of the First Great Graphic Novel in American Literature
by
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. 

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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 copywriter holder.

 Please do not feed the troll. 


Saturday, October 01, 2016

Amazing Spider-Man #9

A Man Called Electro


Villain:
Matt Dillon (Electro)


Named Characters:
Flash Thompson, Liz Allan, Aunt May, Betty Brant, J. Jonah Jameson


Observations:

“Although we know so little about Spider-Man, he’s always been on the side of the law”. The idea that there was a federal warrant for his arrest has been completely forgotten.

”I know it’s bad manners to drop in without an invitation, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me this once”. Spider-Man’s banter is notably less irritating this time around.

Spider-Man's red socks are separate from his blue tights. (And they are light enough to slip rubber shoes over!)


If Betty left high school "last year" then she must be around 17. Editorial comments on the letters page suggest that she is slightly younger than Peter.

Aunt May’s first illness! Up to this point, she has been represented as elderly, but not especially sick or infirm.

Guess Aunt May’s Illness! 1: It’s only symptom is fatigue. 2: It is rare  3: It requires medication, and the slightest delay in administering medication might be fatal. 5: It requires a major blood transfusion 6: Surgery returns the patient to full health in a matter of days.

Peter Parker’s Financial Position: Parker sells fake pictures of Spider-Man for $1,000: Jameson says they are really worth $20,000. The $1,000 pays for the specialist surgeon. No other medical fees are mentioned.






He can climb up walls; he has a spider-insignia on his costume; he'll soon have little spider-shaped tracking devices. But there is nothing particularly spidery about Spider-Man. He can indeed spin a web (any size) but real spiders mostly use their webs for trapping flies rather than making swamp shoes and canoes. Spiders aren't know for being strong and agile, and certainly not for having a telepathic radar sense.  If Stan Lee had chosen a different name, most of the stories would have panned out very similarly. Fly-Man or Cockroach-Man might still have spotted that if you are going to touch a villain called Electro, some heavy duty rubber gloves are probably in order.

But at a deeper, thematic level, "spiders" pull these comics together in a way that flies or cockroaches could not have.

We’ve already noted one example. In almost every episode, Spider-Man is defeated in his first confrontation with the bad guy, but comes back and beats the baddie on the second attempt (usually by thinking the situation through more carefully). Sometimes, it's a huge defeat; sometimes, a mere tactical withdrawal: but it always happens. So this month, Spider-Man is knocked out the first time he touches Electro's. The cover screams "the defeat of Spider-Man" but it isn’t that big a deal — he gets a bad shock from the electrically powered bad guy, but he recovers, and before the next battle he nips into a hardware store for some insulation. The moral — the one that the Human Torch hammered home in that school assembly — is "if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again." 

British school kids, at any rate, would instantly associate this maxim with the story of Robert the Bruce who is said to have been hiding out in a dour Scottish cave after having lost a couple of battles. According to the tale, he sees a spider trying to spin a web across the cave. The little arachnid fails twice, but succeeds on the third attempt, inspiring the Scottish King to have one last go at sending proud Edward's army homeward tae think again. 

Amazing Spider-Man #9
The best thing Ditko has contributed to date...
The whole of Spider-Man in a single image?


The splash page of Amazing Spider-Man #9 is more or less the best thing that Steve Ditko has contributed to date, which is to say, more or less as good as comic-book artwork gets. Some Ditko splashes are simply the first frame of the story; some are teasers – showing you a scene that will come later in the story. But what he does best is symbolic splash pages like this; abstract visualizations of the entire episode.

At the center of the picture are Peter Parker and Spider-Man: another full-body Gemini-split. This was how we left our hero at the end of issue #8, walking home after his mighty pleasant day. But here he looks panicked, scared. He’s definitely not whistling. He's surrounded by 20 or so faces: like one of those crowd reaction scenes which Ditko was so fond of. But there are not everyman faces but people we recognize: Aunt May, J. Jonah Jameson, Flash Thompson, Betty Brant.

And (although I think I missed this fact for thirty five years) some of them appear twice

That’s the genius of the scene. The faces on the left are looking at the Peter Parker side of the equation: Jameson looking indifferent; Betty smiling; Aunt May reaching out to him; the school kids looking hostile. The faces on the right are looking at the Spider-Man half: J.J.J. angrily denouncing him and (very sad and subtle this) Betty turning her back. There is a rather ambivalent collection of Ditko "men in the street": a woman in a ridiculous hat, obviously disapproving; a kid, obviously excited and an absolutely delightful cop who is stroking his chin, not quite able to make up his mind. In the bottom left (opposite poor Aunt May) shadowy figures representing the underworld are shooting at him. It would be over-egging the pudding to say that the fellow in the hat, who seems to be about 100 year old, more like a goblin than criminal, looks a lot like the Burglar, transformed into a bogeyman in Spider-Man’s imagination.

This isn't merely a symbolic representation of issue nine: it's a visual manifesto for the next dozen episodes of Amazing Spider-Man. Up until now, the Gemini Face has represented an internally divided self: the fact that one guy has somehow to be both shy Peter and arrogant Spider-Man. But Peter has chucked his glasses away and unified the two sides of the face; the stories, from now on, will be less about Parker's state of mind and more about the social world he inhabits; how presenting as two different people affects his human relationships.

I should be inclined to call Amazing Spider-Man #1 - #7 "the celebrity arc"; nearly every story is concerned, to some degree, with fame or notoriety. Amazing Spider-Man #8 - #19 might equally be labelled "the secret identity arc". Virtually every story has double-identities and disguises as a major theme.

Spider-Man now has a fixed supporting cast of five characters: J. Jonah Jameson, Aunt May, Betty Brant, Liz Allan and Flash Thompson. These five characters are increasingly going to form the matrix of the stories — a sophisticated plot-generating engine. Although I don’t think that Ditko ever went quite this far, you could easily imagine the splash from Spider-Man #9 redrawn, with each of the quintet having a different reaction to Parker and Spider-Man. 

J. JONAH JAMESON: Provides meal tickets for Peter. Prints editorials denouncing Spider-Man

AUNT MAY: Coddles Peter. Recoils from Spider-Man

BETTY: Loves Peter. Fears Spider-Man.

LIZ: Looks down on Peter. Has crush on Spider-Man.

FLASH: Despises Peter. Worships Spider-Man. 


"Very probably, Andrew" I can hear you saying "But what does any of this have to with spiders." 

Simply this. If the first moral lesson that school children learn from spiders is perseverance – "if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again", the second is certainly honesty. "Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive." 

Which also comes from a story about Scotsmen, oddly enough. 



Matt Dillon is struck by lightening while fixing electrical cables and finds that the two charges have canceled each other out. As you do. He discovers that he can throw sparks when he puts his hand through a wire coat hanger (what?) and makes himself a mesh suit which he wears under his costume (shades of 50 Shades of Grey!) His body is now a "living electrical generator" but he also seems to use some kind of electrical generator to charge himself up. The Science of all this is more than usually confused.

Despite making himself a natty little yellow and green costume, and imaginatively calling himself "Electro" hes doesn't engage in any electricity themed naughtiness. He robs a bank, and then decides (for no reason at all) to free some criminals from what is quaintly described as the House of Correction in order to "get them to be my flunkies". Stan Lee just takes it for granted that if you get superpowers, then naturally, what you will do is rob banks. Unless you are one of those ones who think it’s your duty to stop other people robbing banks. 

But Electro is really only a sub-plot to this issue. Or, more accurately: Electro is one of three plot threads running side-by-side. Aunt May’s illness is one plot; Peter’s relationship with Betty is another; Electro’s attack on the house of correction is a third. The threads get tangled up, of course — Betty kindly supports Peter during May’s operation; Peter has to go and fight Electro to raise money for May’s operation; Betty is angry that Peter went to photograph the prison riot after she'd asked him not to. But there is no big unifying moment. Electro entirely refrains from causing any power-cuts while Aunt May is plugged into life-support.

I think more than anything else this is what made me fall in love with Spider-Man. There is a six panel sequence (pages 5 - 6) in which Spider-Man goes out looking for criminals (to photograph). He gets caught in the rain; rinses out his wet costume in the sink; and nearly gets spotted by his neighbors when he hangs it out to dry. Nothing comes of this scene: it doesn't lead anywhere – it's just there. I suppose you could summarize the plot if you really wanted to: "Jameson is convinced that Spider-Man is Electro. Peter fakes incriminating pictures to pay for Aunt May’s surgery. Jameson is angry, but forgives him when he supplies better, genuine pictures, but now Betty is angry that he went on such a dangerous assignment." But that doesn’t really convey the tone of the episode at all. It just feels like a mesh or network of events. 

What’s another word for a mesh or a network? Ah yes. A web. 



"Life sure is funny!" say Spider-Man, after spraying Electro with a fire hose because, quote, electricty and water don't mix. "One of the most powerful criminals of all time! And what finally beat him! Just a dousing from a plain, ordinary, water hose.” In the very next panel, he unmasks Electro and complains “If this were a movie, I’d gasp in shock and then I’d say 'good heavens! The butler!'  But this guy I never saw before.” It's never clear whether moments like this should be seen as Stan Lee congratulating himself for being so clever, or Stan Lee ticking off Steve Ditko for being so boring; but it's certainly true that A Man Called Electro doesn't have a big pay-off. 

The question of whether Amazing Spider-Man should be more like a movie ("good heavens! My best friend’s father!") or more like real life ("this guy I never saw before!") is one that Writer Guy and Artist Guy were never going to agree on. But for the next year or so, to read Amazing Spider-Man is to fall into the flow of Peter Parker's life and stay there for a few hours.

Not stories. Life. One thing after another.



A Close Reading of the First Great Graphic Novel in American Literature
by
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, August 17, 2016

Amazing Spider-Man 8 (V): In the Neighbourhood...

In the neighborhood...

"Neighbor" is, of course, a Biblical word (standing for the Greek pl─ôsion) meaning "a member of the community". Loving your neighbor as yourself was said by Jesus to be the whole heart of the Torah. The Old Testament arguably taught that "neighbor" meant only other Jewish people; the New Testament arguably teaches that everyone in the world is everyone else's neighbor.

The word "neighborhood" originally meant simply neighborliness or the state of being neighborly; but by the middle of 19th century it had acquired the present sense of "locality" "home" or "the part of the world where all your friends live".  It wasn't until the late 20th century that the abbreviation 'hood came to mean a specifically black neighborhood – a ghetto.

In 1964 the phrase "your friendly neighborhood" was already a well-worn cliche. Sam’s Market in Glenfield, Los Angeles was advertising itself as "your friendly neighborhood grocer" in 1958; the National Association of Retail Druggists was talking about "your friendly neighborhood drug store" in 1947. The earliest example I could find was a Methodist Church in Wisconsin which claimed to be "your friendly neighborhood church" as far back as 1935. Ed Wood's infamous movie Glen or Glenda refers ironically to "your friendly neighborhood milkman" (he's actually sleeping with the women of the neighborhood while their husbands are at work.)

Back in issue #4, Spider-Man sucked the Sandman into the vacuum cleaner with the words "Here’s the first part of your education courtesy of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man." I suppose the joke is that Spider-Man is unique; every neighborhood doesn’t have one; and that the Bugle still presents him as anything but friendly. Or perhaps "friendly neighborhood Spider-Man" just sound a little like "friendly neighborhood milkman". It's funny: but not very funny. 

On page 2 of the Torch story in issue 8. Spider-Man tries to scare the Human Torch’s guests with a giant bat. (Why a bat, for heaven’s sake? Why not a spider?) The Torch says that it’s made of threads, and Spider-Man replies "Not threads, sonny boy!…Webs! Gen-u-wine Spider-Man webs!…The kind your friendly neighborhood grocer doesn’t sell". "The kind your grocer doesn’t sell" sounds as if it ought to be a well-known advertising slogan, but I can’t track down any example of anyone using it.

Spider-Man’s web is, of course, a secret formula known only to himself. He has spent a lot of photo money developing it in his bedroom.  Obviously, they are completely unique. So it's funny, but not very funny, to claim that you couldn't by similar webs in your local supermarket.

But the joke will run and run. Spider-Man will increasingly use it as a catchphrase. It will be referenced in the lyrics of the Spider-Man TV theme song; and decades later it will be the title of a spin-off comic. And it still won't be very funny.

   
A Close Reading of the First Great Graphic Novel in American Literature
by
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. 

Amazing Spider-Man 8 (IV)

Spider-Man Tackles The Torch

Villain: 
None

Guest Stars: 
The Human Torch, plus Mr Fantastic, The Thing and the Invisible Girl

Named characters: 
Doris Evans

Observations: 
This is the first episode of Spider-Man in which none of the regular supporting cast, including Peter Parker, appears.

Spider-Man briefly met the Torch in issues #1 and #3 and has had an away fixture in the Torch's own comic (Strange Tales Annual #2)

Spins a web, any size: Spider-Man uses his web to a: a bat puppet b: two parachutes, which double as sand scoops; a hung glider; a web heart for the Invisible Girl.


Peter Parker has thrown away his specs, punched Flash Thompson, and resolved to be more like Spider-Man in his dealings with the world from now on. He’s had a mighty pleasant day having a fight with the scientific marvel of the age. So he thinks to himself: “What shall I do next? I know! I shall round the day off by picking a fight with the most famous celebrity on the planet.” He is so far gone that he not only spars with Torch (who is a near contemporary and who he knows a bit): he also tries to web Mr Fantastic’s arms and pick a fight with the Thing.

If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if Stan Lee were allowed to "dream up" a Spider-Man story on his own, without Steve Ditko to flesh it out for him...well, wonder no longer. Here it is. Kirby penciled this story, presumably in his sleep. Ditko is credited as inker. No Peter Parker. No supporting cast. No plot or set up of any kind. A nine page fight scene, without motivation or resolution. Spider-Man turns up at the Torch’s posh house and plays a stupid prank. Reed Richards turns up and tells them to stop. That’s literally it. 

One can't know, of course. But I can imagine Stan going to Jack and saying “Hey, Jack, what if Spider-Man and the Human Torch had a fight? Maybe Spider-Man gate-crashes one of Johnny's parties?” and Jack giving him precisely that: a nine page fight scene. Whereas if Stan had gone to Steve and said “Hey, Steve, what if Spider-Man had a fight with Doctor Doom? Maybe Doctor Doom kidnaps one of his school mates?” Steve would have produced a complicated and funny back story to set up the fight.

Spider-Man with Peter Parker doesn't work. Peter Parker is a wimp, a cry-baby and sometimes a jerk. Spider-Man is an arrogant braggart. And sometimes a jerk. But somewhere in the space between the two of them is a reasonable human being: a hero. Spider-Man’s bravado is bearable because it is offset by thought-balloons in Parker’s voice; Parker’s whining is bearable because the Gemini-mask reminds us that he is also Spider-Man. Take Parker away, and Spider-Man just comes across as an idiot. There is none of the wit and humour that he showed when fighting for his life against the Vulture. It’s just two alleged heroes sneering at each other. 

— Okay you animated insect! You asked for it! Here I come!

— Mercy me! I’d better prepared a little welcome for such a big, bad, blazing bird-brain.

It is just the sort of thing Flash Thompson might have said. 


Perhaps, like Peter’s bout with Flash, this needs to be looked at in terms of masculine ego; of two guys around 16 or 17 sorting out where they are in the pecking order. Spider-Man deliberately acts like a jerk to give the Torch an excuse to hit him, which gives him an excuse to hit him back. They are so near to being equals in the superhero world, they can’t be friends until they’ve had a fight. We don’t doubt that if a bad guy showed up they’d fight him alongside each other. Johnny and Ben scrap all the time, but Stan Lee assures us that they’d risk their lives for each other without question. Mr Fantastic intervenes before the fight is over, so neither Johnny nor Spider-Man are top dog. The feud continues.  

The fight itself is tolerably watchable, but it relies too heavily on gimmicks. The Torch creates objects with his flames, and Spider-Man creates objects out of web to counter them. It’s a lazy way of writing; too much like one of those Green Lantern stories when the goodie calls up a giant green rolled up newspaper to thwack the baddie, and the baddie calls up a giant green umbrella to shield himself. 

This is not Spider-Man. This is not a tale of sheer fantasy so real you’ll feel it’s happening to you. This is Spider-Man the corporate symbol, wrenched from his context and forced to appear as guest star in a story where he doesn’t belong. One story like this doesn’t do much harm. Next month, the real Peter Parker will be back, fretting about Aunt May’s medical bills. But in a few years this kind of thing will become so prevalent that we'll barely be able to remember when Peter Parker was a character as opposed to a guest-star opportunity.

A Close Reading of the First Great Graphic Novel in American Literature
by
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. 


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Amazing Spider-Man 8 (III): Peter Parker's Glasses as a Clue to the Meaning of the Marvel Universe

Peter Parker's Glasses As A Clue to the Meaning of the Marvel Universe.(*)


"I’ve had it!" thinks the Spider-Man side of the Gemini-Face on the first page of Spider-Man #8. "I’m through pretending to be a pantywaist to conceal my real identity! I don’t need those specs anyway."

This is an astonishing outburst. Parker now thinks of Spider-Man as his real self, and himself as the assumed identity. He sees his glasses as a disguise to make himself appear weak (using the borderline homophobic term "pantywaist"). And he is going to throw away the glasses and abandon the disguise.

But the Peter Parker we met in the first pages of Amazing Fantasy #15 was weak. At any rate, he was shy, studious and non-athletic. This wasn't an assumed role: it was who he was. The mask and the spider-powers may have enabled him to express a different (an not entirely likable) side to his personality. He may choose not to allow Aunt May or his school friends to see that side of himself. But Peter Parker is not a constructed identity, as Clark Kent arguably is. When he says that he is going to stop pretending to be weak, he means that he is going to start integrating the two roles.


That weak, studious Peter Parker certainly wore glasses, and if he wore them he must have needed them. They weren't reading glasses; he wore them all the time. None of his class mates have glasses, neither does Aunt May or Uncle Ben. The only person who does is the elderly Principal Davies. I'm afraid that Lee and Ditko are being rather lazy here; using "specs" as a visual shorthand for intelligence. There is, I think, a buried assumption that athletes can't be good students and good students can't be successful athletes -- an assumption which wouldn't have been understood by Rudyard Kipling or the Boy's Own Paper.



The newly empowered Spider-Man certainly starts leaving his glasses off. He manages without them in his first fight with Crusher Hogan and is several times shown without them when doing science projects in the privacy of his bedroom. It is possible that he wears contact lenses under his mask; or even that the white eye-pieces in the mask are corrective lenses. (A background piece in the first annual claims that they are two-way mirrors, way before mirror-shades were a fashion item.) But the normal line is that the radioactive spider-bite gave him enhanced eyesight as well as enhanced strength; that he initially kept his glasses as a disguise, but doesn’t bother to replace them when they get broken.


But hang on. That's not how eyes work. A non-spectacle-wearer doesn't have better eyes than shortsighted person in the way that a sprinter has better legs than a couch potato. Shortsightedness is a minor physical defect: the sufferer can't focus because his eyeball is slightly the wrong shape. If a normal-sighted person looked through my glasses, they wouldn't be able to see a thing: everything would look blurry and out of focus and they’d get a headache. So how is that Peter can get away with sometimes wearing glasses and sometimes not? Did he go to an optometrist and ask him to make up a set of specs with plain glass in the frames?


Flash Thompson continuously pokes fun at Peter Parker for being puny and skinny. Midtown High does have gymnasium but it appears that senior students don't have to take phys ed or sports classes. (They do have supervised volley ball practice during recess, but they don't change into sports kit for it.) So the last time Flash saw Peter undressed must have been some time before the spider-incident -- when "puny" would have been an accurate (though unkind) description of him. But when the boys strip down to their shorts for the boxing match, no-one says "hey, puny Parker's not so puny after all!" Coach Smith, who is presumably used to assessing young men’s physical condition doesn’t think Peter has any chance in the bout. A pin-up in the first Spider-Man annual has Liz thinking “Flash may be more muscular – but I'll take Peter Parker any day." Not “stronger": more muscular. Peter Parker still looks like the little guy.

Steve Rogers and Bruce Banner are both little guys. When they have their strength boosted, there is an immediate change to their physical shape. They can’t fit into their clothes any more. Peter Parker doesn't undergo any physical change when he becomes Spider-Man: he can jump huge distances and crush metal chimney pots with one hand, but he still fits into his geeky clothes.

So. Spider-Man is super strong even though his muscle mass hasn't altered; and has perfect vision whether he is wearing corrective lenses or not. What is going on?

Spider-Man’s powers must be derived from a psychic or supernatural source. Some external force is correcting his vision, irrespective of the state of his eyes or his glasses; and that same force is enabling him to lift objects far beyond the power of his actual muscles. This applies to other powers as well. An actual spider can climb a wall because it has millions of little pointy hairs on its eight little feet. This clearly isn't what Peter is doing: the wall-sticking works even when he is wearing gloves and shoes, but he never finds cups and pens and test tubes sticking to his hands in ordinary life. Some kind of magic or alchemy must be making his hands sticky when he needs them to be so.

I would conjecture that what gives a spider-man his power is an energy field created by all living spiders. What the spider-bite did was make Peter Parker sensitive to this force. The little lines around Peter's head are not only warning him of danger and allowing him to telepathically hear radio-transmissions: they are also channeling the spider-force. This explains why he felt that his body was "charged with some sort of fantastic energy" right after the spider-bite. It also explains how his gloopy webbing can magically take on the shape of a bat or a parachute or a boat or anything else that Peter Parker needs it to be at that particular moment.

And the existence of the spider-force explains one other crucial fact about Spider-Man.

When Spider-Man is in a particularly dire situation, he is sometimes able to increase his strength through sheer force of will. It is clear that what Spider-Man was doing, for example during the fight with Doctor Doom, was channeling the spider-force. This is going to become a key part of the story of Spider-Man. His physical strength is as its greatest when he needs it the most.

(*) Do you see what I did there?

A Close Reading of the First Great Graphic Novel in American Literature
by
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. 





Monday, August 15, 2016

The Amazing Spider-Man 8 (II): What is Flash Thompson's Problem With Peter Parker



What is Flash Thompson's Problem With Peter Parker?

In the first few pages of Spider-Man #8, Peter Parker calls Flash Thompson "loud mouth" "dumb clown", "clumsy meat-head", "ugly", and insinuates that he can’t read or write. Flash Thompson calls Peter Parker "puny", "weakling", "scarecrow", "teacher’s pet", and "worm". Parker arguably starts the altercation by priggishly telling Thompson off for calling the experimental computer a "gizmo" when it is actually "one of the scientific marvels of the age."

It is always tempting to see if the names of fictitious characters have any significance, but in these old Marvel Comics it isn’t often profitable. Peter is a rock, of course, but Parker is simply a man who looks after a park. Jameson is the son of James, and his son is John, which gives us a trio of apostles, but that doesn’t take us very far. Peter’s two girl-friends, Betty and Liz, are both presumably Elizabeths, which doesn’t take us much further. Brant is probably derived from Brand which probably means Sword; and Allan might mean little rock. Ben is a Jewish name, but May isn’t.

However, it is hard to believe that, when Stan Lee named Peter Parker’s high school adversary Flash he didn’t have Harry Flashman, the most notorious cad in scholastic fiction, at the back of his mind. Flashman was a pupil at Rugby school, which gave its name to Rugby football, from which American rules football (as opposed to soccer) is indirectly descended. Flash Thompson is a footballer although this never really comes into the story. 

Flash is often said to be a bully; but he never does anything really nasty. There is no stealing lunch money, hiding under-wear or physical cruelty. Flashman arranges to have Tom Brown flogged and tries to roast him alive; Flash merely plays practical jokes on Peter and takes the mickey out of his sprained arm. God knows, verbal bullying can be just as crippling as physical bullying, but the name-calling between Thompson and Parker is a two-way street.

Flash Thompson believes in an obsolescent code of masculine honour. According to this code, and according to his own lights, he generally does the right thing. He believes that, because of his strength and athletic prowess, he should be at the top of the pecking order — literally and figuratively the biggest man on campus. This may also be why he is such a big fan of Spider-Man; he positively wants to defer to any obviously stronger and more heroic male.

The boys treat Flash as leader; the girls regard him as a "he-man" and "dream-boat". He can date whichever one of them he chooses. But he respects the rules of dating as they stood at the time. He is surprised when Liz agrees to go on a sympathy date with Peter (which Peter breaks) but there is no question of him coercing either of them. Liz hasn’t agreed to go steady with him, so she is free to see whomever she chooses.

When I hear the term "school bully" I think of a big guy — or, more likely, a gang of big guys — waiting for a smaller guy in some secluded spot and "duffing them up", either in order to steal money, or, more likely, for simple sadism. Flash Thompson isn't a bully in that sense. I am pretty sure that if some Gripper Stebson had stolen Peter Parker’s lunch money, Flash would have intervened on Peter’s side (as indeed he does on the one occasion when Peter is in trouble with the Principal.) What Flash wants is to fight a duel of honour with Peter.

Flash is bound by a schoolboy version of the gunfighter’s code. He wants to fight Peter to establish that he is top dog. He is quite certain that he would win, and he would certainly respect the result, but first Peter has to agree to the fight. Honour prevents Flash Thompson from hitting a smaller man, hitting a man with glasses, or hitting first. That is what all the taunting is about: if Thompson could make Parker lose his temper, then he would be within his rights to hit back. (And this is why Peter taunts Flash so boldly: he knows that the code of honour means that Flash can’t hit him.) The other males in the pack are supposed to either voluntarily accept Flash’s dominance, or fight him for it. Peter Parker will do neither. Flash's problem with Peter is that he is outside the Code. He will neither kowtow to Flash nor challenge him. He’s basically laughing at the whole thing.

The staff of Midtown High side with Flash Thompson over the Code. When Flash attempts to take the computer print-out which may have Spider-Man’s secret identity on it, Peter, for the first time physically pushes Flash away. Which, according to the Code, gives Flash the right to punch Peter if he wants to; at which point Peter has to either continue the fight or accept Flash’s dominance. Mr Warren, the science teacher, steps in. He correctly identifies what is going on as a feud between two young men (as opposed to a case of big boy picking on a little one) and suggests they "settle it once and for all" in the gym. It seems utterly bizarre to us that a teacher would sanction a fight between two students. When I was at school, "fighting" was one of a small number of offences that could still result in corporal punishment. But the past, as someone once said, is a foreign country. They do thing very differently there.

Back in — oh 1999 was it? — Dave "Cerebus" Sim challenged Jeff "Bone" Smith to fight him in a boxing ring because he believed that Smith had told a lie about him. Smith declined. I never really understood what such a fight would have achieved. It always seemed to me eminently possible for someone to be weak but honest or strong but a liar. Is the idea that once you have established that you are the stronger man, you are free to tell lies if you want to? Or did Dave literally believe that it would take divine intervention to establish who had given the more accurate account of their house party to the Comics Journal?

But however strange the code of honour may look to us, Flash Thompson tries to obey his own precepts. Flash lost the fight. Peter proved he was a real man after all. So the next time they meet (in issue #9) Flash swallows his pride and tries to be pleasant to him -- and overture Peter entirely rebuffs. In issue #10, he tries again, actually turning up at the hospital to visit Aunt May. He blusters that Liz forced him to go, but Peter sees through this immediately.

Maybe a big man trying to persuade a small man to have a fight is still a form of bullying: like the expert swordsman wandering around taverns hoping that someone will besmirch his honour so he can kill them. Maybe a modern teacher might recognize what Peter is doing to Flash as a form of reverse bullying — the little guy perpetually sniping at the big guy, intending to cry "foul!" when the big guy eventually hits him. But then, one would hope that a modern teacher would also be aware of Peter Parker’s difficult situation — he's had a close family member murdered, for goodness sake! – and cut him some slack. But this honour and dominance scenario accounts for the relationships between Peter Parker and Flash Thompson far better than simply painting Flash as a bully and a sadist.

Later revisionist continuity revealed that Flash Thompson had an alcoholic father who thrashed him, and that his first name was Eugene.

He is now a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy.


A Close Reading of the First Great Graphic Novel in American Literature
by
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. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Amazing Spider-Man 8 (I)

The Terrible Threat of the Living Brain.

Villain
The Living Brain


Named Characters
Flash Thompson, Liz Allan, Mr Warren, Mr Petty,

Observations:
The referee in the boxing match is presumably the aforementioned Coach Smith.

Mr Petty refers to the machine as an "electronic brain"; the term "computer" isn’t quite current.


This is the first issue in which neither Aunt May nor J. Jonah Jameson appear as characters.


Parker’s specialization: The representative from ICM is surprised how much Peter Parker knows about electronic brains.


Spins a web, any size: Spider-Man spins a huge spider-web that blocks a whole doorway.


This issue sticks out like a moderately sore thumb in the first run of Spider-Man stories; almost as if it were a pilot for a reboot that never happened, or a change of direction that never went anywhere. It's set entirely at Peter Parker's school; neither Aunt May nor Jonah Jameson appear. It's shorter than usual, leaving room for a 6 page filler which I suppose we’ll have to talk about in a moment. Lee says on the letter page that it was a "change of pace" and promises to be "back on track" next time.

I wonder if cancellation had been looming again, and Lee was preparing to re-launch Spider-Man in an anthology title? Or did he have the Torch strip lying around and think that it made economic sense to use it? Or was there a scheme for a Spider-Man-at-school spin-off title? I cannot believe that these stories were written with a “tribute to teenagers” special in mind. On the basis of this comic, teenagers mainly call one another names and have fights. Some tribute.

Think of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: objectively the greatest genre TV show which doesn’t have naked people and dragons in it of all time. Buffy spends her first four seasons slaying vampires mainly within the confines of her high school. The weekly battle with a supernatural monster generally ironically reflected whatever personal issue she was dealing with in the same episode, so if she was struggling to see the point of a history exam she might find herself dealing with a monster who was endlessly doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. This kind of thing almost never happens to Spider-Man: in fact, it is surprisingly rare for the threat which he is is facing to impact directly on Peter Parker at all. Certainly, this issue consists of two separate plots, rolling along in parallel, bumping into each other at key moments and leading to a farcical conclusion.


So: in the first plot, Dr Petty from the "International Computing Machine Corporation" demonstrates his "electronic brain" to Peter Parker’s science class. It’s a beautifully Ditkoesque creation, very much the sort of thing which would have appeared in Amazing Adult Fantasy — like a toy robot, but not quite like one. It runs around on ball bearings and has claws exactly like the ones on the end of Doctor Octopus’s arms. Two goons (and can’t Ditko draw a lovely bad guy, the fellow on the left looks more like one of the Mole-man’s troll creatures than an actual human) decide to steal the machine and use it to "figure out horse race winners, elections, anything". While they are trying to steal it they accidentally "bump into the control panel" causing it (and I hope you are keeping up with all the scientific jargon) to "short circuit". The machine runs amok, and there is a big fight, up and down the corridors of the school. The Brain, while not evil, is able to learn Spider-Man’s moves and avoid him. In the end, Spider-Man — or rather, Peter Parker — outwits the machine, removing the control panel and flipping the cut off switch.

In the second plot, Flash Thompson and Peter Parker are trading insults, as usual. When they very nearly come to blows, Mr Warren suggests they have an actual fight in the gym. Everybody else thinks that poor, weak Peter will be creamed by Flash Thompson, but Peter’s main worry is how to avoid killing Flash with his spider-strength. First, Peter pulls one of his punches but still knocks Flash through the wires; then, trying to give him just a little tap, he knocks him clean out. The kids, all routing for Flash, think that Peter cheated; but Flash knows better. Peter Parker is just pleased that he finally got the chance to "wallop" Flash (an oddly juvenile word when applied to two young men having a refereed fight in a boxing ring.)



Some of the world’s silliest jokes involve telling the listener something in the first line, leading them in a completely different direction, and then delivering a punchline which takes them back to where they started. (*). This story is structured exactly like one of those jokes.

Mr Petty wants to demonstrate the Brain’s problem solving ability, so the kids challenge it to work out Spider-Man’s real identity. This is set up as the big crisis of the story: Peter is really worried about what will about if the Brain works out that he's Spider-Man. Flash tries to take the print-out from Peter, which is the flash-point for their fight. But the boxing match, and the fight with the robot distracts the reader’s (and all the characters') attention away from the question. At the very end of the story, the two goons run into the locker room and trip over Flash (who is recovering from being punched by Peter) making it appear that Flash overpowered them both. This enables Peter to deliver the punch line — quite obviously, Flash Thompson is Spider-Man. ("If they keep it up, Flash’ll end up believing it himself" grins Peter Parker.)

Many reader’s think of this as a below par issue, but I’m rather a fan: I like the sense of fun and the relative lack of angst; Peter Parker in his natural environment, and the sense that despite the monster and the fight, this is pretty much just "a day in the life" for a superhero.

At the end of last issue, Peter had his arm chastely round Betty’s shoulder, flirting among the filing cabinets. This issue ends with him walking home thinking "All in all, it’s been a mighty pleasant day". Other issues have ended with him crying; this one shows him whistling. A pleasant day involves fighting a dangerous non-human foe and punching another boy, quite hard.

There have been two instances of the Gemini-face in this issue — when Parker decides not to replace his glasses, and when he is about to fight Flash and can’t work out how to avoid killing or injuring him. But this is, I think, the first time we have seen our hero’s whole body split in two, Spider-Man down the left side and Parker down the right. And the message is: Peter is fully at ease with being Spider-Man.


(*) So, a guy is driving down the fast lane of the motorway in his sports-car, when a three legged chicken cruises past him. Not quite able to believe this, the guy sticks his foot down on the accelerator, and chase the bird, which zooms along for a few miles, before exiting the motorway, running along several main roads, then turning off onto a B road, and eventually onto a winding single track country lane before coming to a halt in a the yard of a tiny little farm. “Ooo arr” says the farmer. “How can I be helping you, like?” (Did I mention he was Scottish?) “Well” says the man “I couldn't help noticing that your chicken has three legs.” “Ooo arr, we breeds em like that, me handsome” says the farmer. “You see, come Sunday lunch time, I likes a nice leg of chicken; and the missus, she's partial to a nice leg of chicken, and my strapping your song, he won't go without a leg of chicken either.” “And what does it taste like” says the man. “Dunno” says the farmer “Never caught one yet.”

A Close Reading of the First Great Graphic Novel in American Literature
by
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. 



Thursday, August 11, 2016

Politics



So I went to my first ever political meeting on Tuesday, to decide who Bristol West Labour Party would nominate to be leader of the party. Local constituency nominations have no affect whatsoever on the actual result, but they are a way of boosting one or other candidate's campaign. 

(On Monday night, I heard The Man Himself speaking to a big rally outside "city hall".) 

I don't know what I expected a political meeting to be like: would there be a warm-up act; or would we start with a word of prayer or at the very least a few verses of the Internationales? Remember how Screwtape's patient unconsciously imagines Christians wearing sandals and togas and can't quite get past the fact that the people in his local church dress in normal 20th century clothes? I think I was probably hoping for flat caps and checked shirts and braces and maybe a couple of banners and a brass band. 

I have to say it was a very well organized meeting and an excellent advertisement for local politics. It started ten minutes late to allow everyone to get through the door and have their membership checked; but other than that it was well-chaired, smoothly organized and above all, short. A union man gave a five minute talk in favour of Jeremy Corbyn, an MP gave a five minute talk in favour of the other fella; there was 30 minutes of discussion from the floor (with no-one allowed to speak for more than 2 minutes). The whole thing was dried and dusted in an hour and a half. Everyone was polite and pleasant and there were some very good and fair points made on both sides. People applauded points they agreed with but there wasn't the slightest hint of booing, bullying or name-calling. One chap said "Good speech, by the way" to the previous speaker before putting the contrary point of view. I was, in short, very disappointed indeed. 

I felt that the real split on the floor was between the Hearts and the Heads. The fans of Jeremy Corbyn talked about how they had felt alienated from the Labour Party or from politics in general but had been brought back to the fold because Corbyn seems like a normal human being who says what he means and means what he says. The fans of the other guy claimed that he had more of a clue about leadership and management and had actually thought his proposals through. The union guy talked about values; the MP ran through specific proposals. 

Well. Political engagement, like any other kind of engagement, has to start with, but can't end with, emotion. No-one gets fired up and excited by fiscal prudence and income tax bands: they get fired up by a wish for a better society and the faith that their candidate believes in it too. But then someone has to work out what practical steps they are going to take to move us in that direction. What a pity that we're being faced with an either / or choice; what a pity that Head and Heart are gong to spent the next month beating each other up -- a fight that we already know that Head cannot possibly win --- when Head could have said "Heart, old chap; I want what you want and you want what I want but I think I could suggest four or five practical ways for you to improve your spreadsheet." 

Twelve months ago, Hattersley and Campbell and Blair were lined up to say that Labour must not elect a left-wing leader under any circumstances. (I don't really think that the idea of unionized workplaces and free education and house building programes count as left-wing, particularly, but let's go with the jargon.) Blair went so far as to say that he wouldn't want a left-wing Labour Party to win an election, even if that were possible: ironic, since the argument most frequently thrown at Corbyn is that he cares more about ideological purity than electoral success. Last year's election was between the guy who wanted to nationalize the railways, and the guy who wanted to appeal to the kind of aspirational voter who wished they could afford to buy their groceries at Waitrose.  This year's election is about whether your guy's scheme to re-nationalize the railways is better costed than our guy's scheme to re-nationalize the railways. 

Whatever happens next, Jeremy Corbyn has already won the argument.

The meeting voted by 267 to 64 to nominate Jeremy Corbyn but in a real sense the winner was etc etc etc



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