Saturday, December 10, 2016

Amazing Spider-Man #16

Duel With Daredevil

The Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime

Supporting Cast:
Aunt May, J. Jonah Jameson, Betty Brant.

Guest Stars:
Matt Murdoch/Daredevil, Foggy Nelson, Karen Page


This is the first issue since #12 that Flash and Liz have not appeared in.

Daredevil identifies Spider-Man as 17 years old; 5ft 10 “and in excellent health.”

Spider-Man says that Ringmaster makes “Thor sound like a teenager”, even though Spider-Man and Thor have never met.

Jameson announces that he is not going to spend so much time attacking Spider-Man from now on. Nothing follows from that in this issue, and next issue he is back to attacking him as usual.

Peter Parker’s financial position: Peter Parker hasn’t sold any pictures to Jameson “for days”

The Ringmaster has a science hat which enables him to mind-control large numbers of people. He refers to it as “hypnotism” but it actually “creates an electronic energy flow which magnifies all the thoughts of the one nearest the hat and projects them outward with irresistible impact.” However, anyone can resist the irresistible impact simply by shutting their eyes. He also has a Circus of Crime, including clowns and human cannonballs and a lady with a big snake. He once tried to capture and exhibit the Hulk, which went about a well as you’d expect. Someone called the Ringmaster of Death had an disagreement with Captain America during the war, but we’re assuming that was his dad. (He had a rather fetching swastika on his purple hat.)

Unlike Doctor Octopus, Mysterio, the Green Goblin and Kraven, the Ringmaster has no particular interest in Spider-Man. Having the power to command huge groups of people to do exactly what he wants, he has very reasonably decided to focus on small-time property crime, and come up with a very practical scheme. He gets lots of people to come to his circus; he uses the Science Hat to send them to sleep; and while they are asleep he steals their wallets. Simples.

Being naughty, the Ringmaster puts up posters saying that Spider-Man will be guest starring in his circus, to ensure a full house, and even claims that the proceeds are going to charity. But “he makes one small miscalculation! He didn’t stop to think what might happen if Spider-Man himself saw the ad”. Duh! Almost as silly as missing out on becoming Supreme Crimer because it didn’t occur to you that a cave in New Mexico might have a big green monster living in it.

Spider-Man does see the ad, and decides that he’ll surprise everyone by putting in an appearance at the charity gig. And who should be in the audience but newish hero Daredevil, still resplendent in his original yellow uniform. Daredevil is, like, blind. Did I mention what you had to do to avoid the power of the Ringmaster’s mind control spirals?

Stan Lee loves to have characters from one comic book appear in another comic book: partly because he wants to weave his titles together into a single Marvel Universe; partly because he wants to promote less popular titles in better selling ones; and partly because it’s fun. Up to now, the guest appearances in Amazing Spider-Man have largely been told from Spider-Man’s own point of view. The Human Torch and the Fantastic Four are less “special guest stars” as occasional members of his supporting cast. The Human Torch presents to us, as he does to Spider-Man, as an arrogant, entitled, rich kid — even if we readers know how brave and heroic he can be in the pages of his own comic. The Hulk is just a monster living in a cave. “You think I’m a brainless fool! If you only knew the truth!” he explains. If you don’t happen to be a reader of the Mighty World of Marvel, then you have no more idea that Spider-Man about what that “truth” might be.

This issue, on the other hand, seems to be have been conceived mainly as a promotional tool: to appraise readers of the Amazing Spider-Man of the unique selling points of Daredevil: The Man Without Fear. We are introduced to Matt Murdoch, his alter-ego Daredevil, and we have his powers carefully explained to us. We get that Matt is blind, but that he can get by because of his super-enhanced other senses. Spider-Man never finds this out. We see quite a bit of Matt’s relationship with Foggy Nelson and Karen Page. But we see proportionately less of Peter Parker: Aunt May nags him for three frames about Mary Jane; Jonah huffs and puffs a bit, and Betty does her Jealous Lady turn. (“If you want to go to the circus without me that’s all right! But you could have told me! I don’t care if you’re taking some other girl…!!” Note that she still says “some other girl” when she met Liz last issue. And why, for flips sake, does Spider-Man have a ticket for the circus when he’s starring in it?)

The title of the episode is not Ruck With the Ringmaster but Duel With Daredevil. It is unthinkable that Daredevil should appear in Spider-Man's comic without the two of them having a fight. With some characters fights are easy to arrange: Spider-Man and the Human Torch are two school boys who scuffle every time they meet; and obviously the Hulk smashes anything he see on general principals. Sometimes, Stan has to work a bit harder to arrange a Big Misunderstanding. In Tales to Astonish #57, Egghead sends a message to Hank Pym via his Ants that Spider-Man is about to attack him. ”He won’t suspect the report is a trap — he’ll believe his ants!…The two them are sure to destroy each other…never dreaming that I am the real enemy!”

There is no problem in getting Spider-Man to tackle Daredevil: indeed one wonders if the reason for using a minor Hulk villain like the Ringmaster as the antagonist was precisely so that he could use his Science Hat to force the Man Without Fear to fight the Web Spinner. But mind control and amnesia are two of the most boring tools in the writerly trick basket. There is a certain amount of fun to be had in watching two heroes leap to the wrong conclusions about each other: but it’s not that much fun to watch Spider-Man hitting Daredevil because the Ringmaster's Hat has reduced him to a spider-zombie.

The two heroes fight for a page or two until Daredevil steals the Science Hat and makes Spider-Man snap out of it. Daredevil then beats a tactful retreat and leaves Spider-Man to fight the other members of the Ringmaster’s circus by himself — well, it is his comic. Neither the fight nor the repartee is as much fun as they usually are

”We’ll beat you! We’re the kings of the high trapeze”
“Well, here’s where you lose your crowns!”

At the beginning of the story, Spider-Man bumps into Matt Murdoch while stopping a burglary (Matt had been planning to stop it himself); Spider-Man notices Matt in the audience of the circus; and Matt even applauds, in Daredevil’s voice, when Spider-Man defeats the Ringmaster's friends. Spider-Man knows that Matt is blind; he knows that Daredevil is the only one unaffected by the mind control; and the only way he knows to remain unaffected is to shut his eyes.

“It all happened so suddenly that only a blind man could have been unaffected” lampshades Spider-Man “Well, naturally that can’t be the answer.”

Oh, deary dear me.

There is nothing actually dreadful about this story, but it feels awfully like a filler between the four “villains” issues and the magisterial triptych with which we are going to wind up our second spider-year.

“If you don't say this is one of the greatest issues you’ve ever read, we may never talk to you again” enthuses Stan on the splash page.

In that case, we’d all better shut up, hadn’t we.

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. 

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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.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Amazing Spider-Man #15

Kraven the Hunter

Kraven the Hunter + The Chameleon

Supporting Cast:
J Jonah Jameson, Aunt May, Betty Brant, Flash Thompson, Liz Allan, Mrs Watson and a chorus of police officers and crooks.

Peter Parker still wearing those red jim-jams. He evidently prefers wet-shaving to electric razors (or else uses an awful lot of soap to wash his face with!)

Peter Parker hates it when Liz and Betty call him "Petey". I wonder if this is because it was the nickname Uncle Ben used for him? (May hasn't used it since Ben died.)

When Spider-Man sees the Chameleon impersonating Kraven he says "my spider sense feels different, as if it isn't sure". The spider-sense doesn't merely alert him to danger: he is consciously using it to track Kraven.

On page 13 Peter Parker says he is going to put a spider-tracer on Kraven, but this idea is never mentioned again.

Peter Parker used to read comic books about superheroes and "dream about how great it would be if he could become one." Marvel Comics were not publishing superhero titles between 1955 and 1959 (the "Atlas" revival having petered out in 1954); but DC's Silver Age revival had got under way in 1956. Marvel's most iconic hero probably grew up reading Flash and Green Lantern.

Kraven's potion makes Spider-Man's hands shake uncontrollably (meaning he can't shoot webbing) but leaves his strength and agility intact, again suggesting that the spider-strength is not a physical ability.

Kraven can lift a fully grown gorilla — which weighs about 300-400 lbs — making him about half as strong as Spider-Man…

Retroactive continuity has made the Chameleon and Kraven half-brothers. This doesn't help.

The Chameleon, a Russian spy, and Kraven, an African, are deported to South America. (In fact, they bribe their way off the boat and come back to America, where Kraven is immediately punched out by Iron Man.)

Peter Parker's Financial Situation: Peter sells Jameson two sets of photos: one of Spider-Man stopping a burglary, and one of the fight with Kraven. The first lot are "not bad"; and although the second lot "deserve a bounus" all Peter gets is one of Jameson's personal bars of chocolate! Shall we say $500 for the first lot and $1,000 for the second?

Another issue: another iconic villain, another lacklustre story-line.

Kraven is a white African with a silly moustache who dresses in lion-skins. He is a big-game hunter who has come to New York to hunt Spider-Man, because he regards him as the ultimate prey. This is an obvious lift from "The Most Dangerous Game". (The hunter in the movie is named Count Zarof: retroactive continuity will decide that Kraven is Count Kravinoff.) In this first episode, Kraven doesn't come across as a particularly noble or honourable adversary — he injects Spider-Man with a potion to weaken him; he lures him under a tree where he has already set up a net-trap and he puts magnetised shackles on his wrist and feet to make it harder for him to run away. Possibly J.Jonah Jameson, or the comics code, had insisted that he did not use more conventional crossbows or blowpipes?

The big hunt in the park is not without its tension or drama. Pages 20-22 are particularly fine: Spider-Man shorts out all the street lights; he can find his way in the dark with his spider sense and Kraven cannot. We get two pages of Kraven running from Spider-Man, with Spider-Man shining his spider signal on him, and eventually trapping him in a web. Rather unnecessarily, Stan Lee points out that the hunter has become the hunted. Spider-Man himself abandons his normal repartee to announce

"And like all those who flee in blind panic…in unreasoning fear and cowardice…the hunter at last is… CAUGHT!!"

Spider-Man thinks that Kraven is "the worst kind of enemy; a nut who fights you just for the sheer fun of it". The idea that a great-white-hunter should want to defeat Spider-Man because he presents a challenge makes a great deal more comic-book sense than Mysterio and the Green Goblin starting their careers by attacking Spider-Man because that's what criminals do. So the addition of a second villain, the Chameleon, seems unnecessary. In issue #1, he was specifically a Commie spy; but he has come back to America to "resume his crime career" and like the Goblin, takes it for granted that you have to kill Spider-Man before you can do any serious criming. So the Chameleon asks Kraven to come to New York and get rid of Spider-Man for him, arguably removing Kraven's Unique Selling Point. I wonder if it was felt that a Zarof figure — motivated by a misplaced sense of honour — was too sympathetic a villain for the Comics Code and some reason had to be found to make him unambiguously a Baddie?

Stan Lee famously defined the Marvel formula as "superheroes with super-problems": and one of his origin myths has Martin Goodman rejecting the Spider-Man character because he didn't think readers would go for a hero who had a lot of personal problems. Over the last few issues – what I am arbitrarily going to call the Villains Trilogy — the idea of "Peter Parker's Problems" as separate and distinct from the main plot line has come to the fore. Stories like "Nothing Can Stop the Sand Man" and "The Terrible Threat of the Living Brain" had skillfully entwined Peter's personal life with Spider-Man's adventures. "The Man Called Electro" had the Parker story and the spider-story as two equally important threads running in parallel. But in the Villains Trilogy it has increasingly felt as if we are cutting away from the main story to look at some scenes from Peter Parker's life. Peter's problems have only minimal impact on his fight with the villain, and the fight with the villain doesn't significantly affect his personal life.

Those "problem" scenes are structured far more like a situation comedy than like soap opera. We are never left wondering what the outcome of some Midtown High crisis is going to be be— who will Peter take to the prom, say, or will Flash make the Quidditch team? Rather, characters cycle through a series of more or less fixed moves. Jameson fumes; Liz flirts; Betty is jealous; Flash threatens and Aunt May nags. 

From issue #12 onward Betty Brant, the sensible office girl who Peter Parker really got on with, has been recast as the trophy female who Peter boasts about taking on dates without necessarily asking her first. Their relationship is permanently on the point of collapse. On page 5 of #13 she complains about Peter's risky job ("Oh, Peter, if only you'd find a different type of work!"). When Peter bites her head off in a typically chauvinistic way, she exclaims "you never spoke to me like that before". In fact, the fight is an almost exact replay of their near break-up in issue #9. ("I'm not Mr Perfect! Sorry to have bothered you" / "I don't tell you how to live your life, don't butt into mine!") She recalls seeing him with Liz and reprimands herself "Oh, stop it Betty Brant! You're becoming jealous" — and from that point on, "jealousy" becomes her only character trait. In #14 when Jonah sends Peter on a photo assignment to Hollywood, Betty makes up a story in her head about him flirting with aspiring actors — and accuses him of cheating before he has even left the room. "I don't claim to be be as glamorous as those starlets…or that blond Liz Allan you've been walking home from school with lately!"

Betty does have some grounds for concern. Since issue #12, virtually all the school scenes have involved Liz Allan — who used to gang up with Flash to bully Peter — flirting with him shamelessly. In issue #14, she goes so far as to call Peter a "dream boat" (which is what the proto-Liz character Sally called Flash in the very first Spider-Man story.) Liz is every bit as unpleasant to Flash as Flash was to Peter. "He's sensitive, intelligent, articulate! You probably don't know what those words mean!"  Her feud with Flash produces one of the funniest moments in the comics — in issue #13, after Peter has vaguely said that Liz's near hairdo is "real nice" Flash does a perfect Ditko double-take and announces "Gosh, Liz, I almost didn't recognize you! You're beautiful now!" to which Liz responds "Really Mister Thompson! And what was I before, pray tell?"

It is worth repeating and underlining once again that, whatever we may believe about the "dreaming up" process, all this great dialogue is written by Stan Lee.

Stan Lee mentions on the letters page that Betty is slightly younger than Peter, that she also went to Midtown High, and that she dropped out of school because she needed a job (and hopes to go back and graduate one of these days). However, it is clear that she doesn't particularly know Flash or Liz: Later Continuity was for once on the right track when it relocated her to Philadelphia. Betty and Liz finally meet in the current issue — Jonah has Betty send for Peter to photograph Kraven's arrival; Flash, Liz and some schoolkids have also come along to watch the celebrity arrive; and Betty Brant automatically assumes that Peter came with Liz.

Betty, Flash, Jonah and Liz in. single scene. 
Note Betty's sarcastic speech bubble
Spider-Man 15
This scene brings four of the five recurrent characters together (only Aunt May is missing) and Lee takes the opportunity to give us several crowded panels of the entire cast speaking their minds about Peter. Liz deliberately flirts with him in front of Betty; calling him "Petey" and straightening his tie (he's had to do a rapid clothes changes after Kraven's animals escape.) Back in the office, Betty calls him "Petey-wetey" and offers to fix his little "tiezy wiezy" leaving Peter wondering "if females were originally intended for another planet."

The current issue adds a new element into the mixture.

Aunt May wants to introduce Peter to the niece of her neighbor. Peter automatically assumes that anyone Aunt May wants to set him up with will be ghastly, but allows her to pressure him into it. This is more fuel for Betty's jealousy: when Peter turns down a chance to go out with her (because he's promised May he'll see go on the blind date) she automatically assumes he's going out with Liz. Of course, the neighbor's niece stands Peter up (she "had a headache") and of course Betty is not amused when Peter phones to say that he does want to go out with her after all.

Aunt May's neighbor is, of course, Mrs Watston (or possibly Mrs Watkins). Her daughter is Mary-Jane. 

In years to come Mary-Jane Watson is going to become a central plank of the Spider-Man mythos. But (as with the Green Goblin) we should try not to read these issue in the light of stuff that is going to happen two decades in the future. At this point, Mary-Jane Watson is a running gag. May nags Peter to meet her; Peter eventually agrees; for some reason the date doesn't come off, leaving Peter looking like a cad in front of Betty or Liz. Repeat endlessly. The joke will come to an almost Wildean punchline in a dozen issues' time. 

We never see Peter and Betty in a social situation — not sharing a coffee or a milk-shake, not going to the movies, nothing. (We see Peter taking Aunt May to the pictures, for goodness sake!) But several episodes end with him saying that he is going on a date with her, or trying to set one up. I wonder if the comics code would have required any dating scene to be so chaste, and so marriage-focused that Lee and Ditko decided it would be better to leave the whole thing to the readers' imaginations?

Actually, in this reader's imagination, Peter's relationship with Betty would have been pretty chaste and pretty marriage-focused. That's the kinds of kids they are.

The whole etiquette of "dating" is pretty weird by today's standards. When Mary-Jane cancels the blind date, Peter calls up Betty and says he can see her after all; when she rebuffs him ("Which Peter?") he calls Liz, who he doesn't even like, to see if she will go out with him instead. He did the same thing in issue #6. This actually veers towards self-destructiveness: if Betty can't bear to see Peter talking to a female school friend, what the hell would she think if she saw them sharing a coffee together? Was there some rule which said that a guy couldn't go to any social event — not to a drugstore or a coffee bar or a skittles alley — without a female escort; so that any lady was better than none, and that just because you were going out with a girl it didn't necessarily follow that you were, so to speak, going out with her? (But if that's the rule, wouldn't Liz and Betty both understand it?)

Astonishingly, Liz can't date Peter either because, a few pages after calling him a "muscle bound goop" she is out dancing with Flash Thompson. Which makes one wonder if the whole crush-on-Peter is a double-bluff to get Flash to notice her. Which in turn makes one wonder if Liz is a bigger shit than Flash ever was.

Peter blames the whole situation on a malevolent force he calls "luck". In the early issues, Peter was apt to physically break down and say "It's not fair; I wish I'd never gotten my powers". Since issue #8, Parker has acquired some of Spider-Man's bravado; but he has internalized the cry-baby. He begins this issue moaning "it's not my day" (when he stupidly goes to a photo shoot and forgets to take any pictures) and "wishes he had stayed in bed" when it turns out that it's Spider-Man who Kraven the Hunter is going to hunt. After Liz flirts with him and Betty storms out in a huff, he sits on the kerb brooding that being a superhero isn't as much fun as he expected; worries that he's become a "walking jinx" and beats up some housebreakers to cheer himself up. He repeats "just my luck" when he can't date Betty because he's promised to see Mary-Jane; and when he has to spend the night at home because neither Liz nor Betty want to see him he asks "who is sticking pins in a Peter Parker doll?" The episode ends with him wishing he was on the same boat as Kraven and the Chameleon, but adding "I am just not that lucky."

It is very unhealthy and unattractive to perceive the ordinary ups and downs of life as personal affronts. None of this month's disappointments have anything to do with his powers or his double life: he's caused them all by his own moral cowardice. He could have said to Aunt May "I am already dating Betty. If I go out with Mary, it will look like cheating, and you raised me to be too much of a gentleman to do that." He could have said to Betty "I am really sorry, but my Aunt has forced me to go on a blind date with a neighbor. Please can I take you for a soda tomorrow and we can have a laugh about how awful it was." He choses not to. As will become clearer and clearer in the next few months, the only person sticking pins into the Peter Parker voodoo doll is Peter Parker.

Next month, everything will be back to normal. May will be nagging Peter to date Mary Jane; Betty will ask Peter out to dinner (as if nothing has happened); and Peter will be forced to turn her down. And the month after that, Peter will be walking Betty home (as if nothing had happened) and they will bump into Liz... It is as if all the characters have been frozen in time, and won't really be defrosted until The Writer and the Artist finally part company.  

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, December 03, 2016

I’m going tell you right wing authoritarian nativists; you may be surprised
The people in this world are getting organized
You're bound to lose: you right wing authoritarian nativists are bound to lose.

All of you right wing authoritarian nativists are bound to lose!
All of you right wing authoritarian nativists are bound to lose!
All of you right wing authoritarian nativists are bound to lose!
You’re bound to lose; you right wing authoritarian nativists are bound to lose!

Race hatred cannot stop us: this one thing we know
Your poll tax and Jim Crow and greed has got to go
You're bound to lose: you right wing authoritarian nativists are bound to lose.

All of you right wing authoritarian nativists are bound to lose!
All of you right wing authoritarian nativists are bound to lose!
All of you right wing authoritarian nativists are bound to lose!
You’re bound to lose: you right wing authoritarian nativists are bound to lose!

People of every color are marching side to side
Marching across the fields where a million right wing authoritarian nativists died
You’re bound to lose; you right wing authoritarian nativistss bound to lose!

All of you right wing authoritarian nativists are bound to lose!
All of you right wing authoritarian nativists are bound to lose!
All of you right wing authoritarian nativists are bound to lose!

You’re bound to lose; you right wing authoritarian nativists are bound to lose!

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. 

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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, 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.