Thursday, March 15, 2012


From Comics Buyer’s Guide #1688:

“Peter, sometimes I get the feeling that you’re laughing at a
secret little joke that’s all your own!”

- Betty Brant, Amazing Spider-Man #7 [November 1963]

Our theme this month is Spider-Man 50th anniversary and, for once,
I’m not even going to mock editor Brent Frankenhoff in my opening
remarks.  Created by writer/editor Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko,
Spider-Man was as much a comics game-changer as Superman, Batman,
or the Fantastic Four.  Clark Kent just pretended to be one of us.
Peter Parker was the real deal.

Spider-Man made a guest appearance in 1963's Fantastic Four Annual
#1 - the greatest comic book of all time - but I didn’t really get
to know him until I bought Amazing Spider-Man #9 [February 1964].
I was 12, Peter Parker wasn’t much older.  Yet there he was, just
a teenager dealing with adult situations like making money for his
aunt’s medical bills and falling in love with Betty Brant.  That he
fought super-villains was also pretty cool, but even Robin the Boy
Wonder did that and in short-pants to boot. 

After reading “The Man Called Electro!”, I desperately wanted, nay,
needed every issue of Amazing Spider-Man.  I traded for the issues
I didn’t have with friends, with classmates who didn’t want anyone
to know they still read comics and who practically gave me issues
so I wouldn’t reveal their secret, and even with the neighborhood
barber.  When the local supply dried up, I bought back issues from
a mail-order dealer.  My parents didn’t understand why I would pay
a dollar and more for one comic book, but they went along with it.
They gave me wings; it was up to me to determine the flight path of
my life.

Ditko created a visual world for Peter and Spidey that seemed like
the real deal to me.  He designed one of the all-time great super-
hero costumes.  He designed characters who fit his world perfectly.
He drew fight scenes that exploded with movement and excited me as
no others.  Over in the Fantastic Four and Thor and other Marvels,
Jack Kirby drew gods and heroes in spectacular combat.  Ditko drew
street and skyscraper brawls. 

But it was Lee’s words that sealed the deal and made Spider-Man my
favorite of these new Marvel heroes.  The issue that settled it was
Amazing Spider-Man #7.  It arrived in the mail, it was read before
I did my homework - sorry, Mom - and it was read three or four more
times before I went to bed that night.

The issue featured Spider-Man’s second battle with the Vulture and
much of their fight took place in the hallways, offices, and even
printing plant of the Daily Bugle.  Spidey beats the bad guy, only
to have publisher J. Jonah Jameson get in his face.  Tired of JJJ’s
mouth, Spidey webs it shut.  I’d never seen Robin, Superboy or any
member of the Legion of Super-Heroes doing anything half as cool.
But that wasn’t the clincher for me.

The clincher was the last three panels of the issue.  A cursing JJJ
storms past the desk behind which his secretary Betty, now joined
by Peter, had been hiding during the Spidey/Vulture battle.  When
Peter makes a snarky comment about JJJ, Betty chides him with her
wagging finger, faux-angry smile, and the dialogue you read at the
start of this column.  Without even knowing it, Betty has figured
out an essential part of Peter’s character.

Peter flirts with Betty, which comes as a surprise to her.  Then he
tells Betty to put her head on his shoulder and enjoy the silence.
Then comes this exchange...

Betty: But what will Mr. Jameson say?

Peter: Nothing, baby...for at least an hour!

Every time I read that line that night, I laughed out loud.  When
I read it today, I still smile.

Spider-Man has rarely had it as good as when Lee, Ditko, and then
John Romita were presenting his adventures, but there have been a
lot of great Spider-Man comics over the past half-century.  Those
are the ones I remember and cherish. 

Happy anniversary, Spidey...and keep thy webs untangled!                                                

Spider-Man has two dads and one of them has his very own universe.
Edited by Danny Fingeroth and Roy Thomas, The Stan Lee Universe
[TwoMorrows; $26.95] features a compendium of interviews, mementos,
and rarities from the Stan Lee archives.

The “Wow” factor of this book is as amazing as Lee itself.  There
are interviews from the 1950s and 1960s, including the transcript
of a radio debate with a colleague of Dr. Fredric Wertham.  (Yes,
I’m biased, but I think Stan emerged victorious in that encounter.)
There are articles describing Stan’s encounters with famous movie
directors, musicians, and others.  There are promotional materials
in which Stan promotes various products and his speaking services.
There is remarkable correspondence on possible Marvel projects with
Will Eisner and Richard Corben.  There are rare photographs, tips
for writers, and even a few pages on Stan’s more recent ventures in
comics and beyond.  Like I said: Wow!

Danny and Roy - hey, Stan always kept things informal when I worked
for him - have done an outstanding job giving us a look at one of
the most remarkable men in popular culture.  They left me wanting
more.  Say “sequel” with me.

Of course, as I told Stan when I wished him a happy 89th birthday
in December, it’s always been a Stan Lee universe.  The rest of us
are just lucky enough to live in it.

ISBN: 978-1-60549-029-8


On Tuesday, the Akron Beacon Journal printed this week’s Doonesbury
strips (Monday and Tuesday) on its editorial pages while continuing
to run the reprints on its comics pages.  No explanation was given
in the print edition as to why the paper decided to do this a day late
in the game.  I’ll see if I can find out anything. 

While I do that, does anyone know of any other paper running both
the new strips and the reprints?  I’m curious.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella


  1. Nice column Tony -- this issue was the first Spiderman comic I ever saw, and I still have vivid memories of where I was when I read it. Magical!

  2. I agree with you 100% The first 90 issues (and a nice run from 108-115) of the Amazing Spider-man were exceptional! Lee, Ditko and Romita were doing magical comic book book work during that time.
    I wasn't around until issue 148 but, like you, I had great parents who took me around to all the stores and conventions to search out all the back issues.
    I haven't missed an issue since I was six years old in 1976 but most of the freshness of the first ten years of the series is gone. The very essence of Peter Parker as the "every man" has been stripped away. How can any kid today associate with a guy who makes a fortune working at a high-tech science think-tank, has died and been reborn, was once married to MJ (who became a world famous model/actress) before having his past altered by Mephisto and in his spare time is a member of the Avengers? Reading Spidey has become like listening to new Paul McCartney releases hoping to hear flashes of the former greatness.
    Enough, however, of the "things were better back in the old days" and let me get back to agreeing with you and saluting Lee, Ditko and Romita for their amazing accomplishments with Spider-man!

  3. Spider-Man #7 wasn't just the first Spider-Man comic I saw - it was my first comic book, period. I was six years old, and the comic came from a little newsstand/candy store on Belleville Avenue in Belleville, NJ. It lost its cover by 1965, but I still have the rest of it, and always will.

  4. An on-line friend of mine, when I mentioned the idiocy of any storyline depending on Peter Parker making a deal with the devil, said "Yeah, I... I still don't understand how anyone, either in the text or in the editorial process thought that was a good idea."

    I replied:

    It was an idiotic belief that Spidey had moved too far from Stan Lee's original creation. The thinking was, "Stan gave us an unpopular schlub who was a loser in his personal life, struggling with real-world problems, that he could rise above by putting on his mask and swinging above the rooftops. Now he's married to a freakin' supermodel! How are kids supposed to identify with that?"

    What they were overlooking in the process was that Spider-Man was the most popular comic book character on earth through more than 20 years of Peter Parker being married to Mary Jane Watson. Even married to a supermodel, he had real-world problems, and rose above them to web-sling over the city. He was still the courageous, decent, wise-cracking, babyfaced hero we thrilled to.

    But the PTB at Marvel didn't get that, and so we're in the mess we're in now.

    I don't know how to fix this -- probably something involving Doc Strange -- but I hope Marvel figures it out soon.

  5. It has been said that there haven't been any good issues of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN since issue #200, and I'm inclined to agree.

  6. Love the early Amazing Spidey, especially the issues with Lee & Ditko! I wasn't around for them when they first came out, but I've seen the reprints in color & black & white. I actually like the b&w essential tpbs better because Ditko's art looks really great in b&w! Great collections.

    Oh man, now I gotta go re-read these issues again. Great blog entry! :)

  7. Late Night FerengiMarch 15, 2012 at 3:22 PM

    I believe this book was reprinted in Marvel Tresury Edition #1 back in the 70's. It was the first one with the red cover and the Romita Spider-Man on the Cover. The Marvel Tales reprint books also took advange to Spidey's past history. I was heart broken when Ditko left the title. Romita's more realistic style gave the strip a more soap opera quality. I wish there was a way Ditko could have stayed on the title. His work on Blue Beetle for Charlton was very Spidey-like. If you look at some of the Beetle action sequences; it looks like you could easily change the costume and it could just as well be Spidey. I remember purchasing the Charlton line just to see Ditko's art.

    When I think of some of his other titles for DC, like Shade:The Changing Man, I have to wonder how Marvel would have presented them.

  8. Heck, Leviathan, being married to a supermodel often *was* one of his real world problems. Tom Beland did a wonderful one-shot where we found out that all the Avengers like MJ better than they do Peter.

  9. The Los Angeles Times is running the new strip in the editorial pages and the reprint in the comics section

  10. I still have my first Spider-Man comic book, though it's in fair condition now. Amazing Spider-Man #97, one of the non-Code issues from the early 70's.