Posted - July 8, 2014 | Updated : August 26, 2015


Amazing Spider-Man #8
The Terrible Threat of the Living Brain


This issue of Amazing Spider-Man features two things. Wait, no. If you include the extra feature, its about three things: The Living Brain, a fight between Flash and Peter and the Fantastic Four. Let's tackle the fight between Flash and Peter first (pun intended).

We happen upon Peter, Flash and all the other students in a science class and Flash jostles Peter so much he breaks Parker's glasses. The barbs coming from Flash are relentless. It's ok now, because Peter's Spider-Man, but think of all the years Peter had to endure it before that radioactive arachnid bit him. That's why Peter has learned to fire back barbs of his own.


flash and peter trading barbs

This class happens to be the class were The Living Brain is being introduced but even while that is going on, the back and forth between Peter and Flash also keeps going on.


flash and peter still trading barbs

"...give your jaw a rest while you can - - before I fracture it". That's telling him Peter!

It's one of those slightly cliche situations when a teacher comes in and "suggests" they settle their differences in the gym. And to the gym we go. . .


peter knocks out flash

Was there ever any doubt? What is very evident in this whole gym scene is how extremely popular Flash is and how Peter is his polar opposite - the student that nobody sides with and nobody cares for.

Okay, enough of that. Let's take a look at the Living Brain.


the living brain in peter's science class

For the Living Brain's first trick, he's going to CORRECTLY "compute" Spider-Man's secret identity. I'm not kidding. Here is Peter holding a piece of paper identifying him as Spider Man!.


peter holding a piece of paper

Fortunately, the answer is written in mathematical equations not English. Doubly fortunately, Flash decides its a perfect time to continue on ragging on Peter. The fateful paper is never revealed.

The Living Brain is just standing there and he's already made poor Peter sweat.


peter sweating

The Living Brain evidently doesn't have enough smarts to prevent itself from being tampered with. The robot gets its circuits crossed and goes on a rampage.


the living brain goes on a rampage

The machine is strong enough and smart enough to cut through Spidey's web.


living brain breaks out of spider-man's web

Every move that Spider-Man makes is recorded and analyzed and a countermove is devised, so Spider-Man simply can't make the same move twice!


living brain chasing spider-man

I just noticed Peter's costume.


spidey's old costume

Look at the under arm webs Spider-Man sported during the early days.

Time and time again, Spider-Man - no slouch himself - is being out-thought by a well-named opponent.


spider-man vs. the living brain

In the end, Peter manages to reach the Living Brain's control panel.

Now for the bonus section.

Bonus: Spider-Man Tackles the Torch

On this corner: one Johnny Storm.


johnny storm in his corvette stingray

As you can see, he's driving a Corvette Stingray. According to one girl, yesterday, he was driving an XK Jaguar. All the girls love him. All the guys want to be him. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

In the other corner: Our man Peter. The wallflower. The nerd. Always on the outside looking in. Peter, who is also Spider-Man. Peter. Who's not taking it anymore. Peter. The party crasher.


spider-man crashes a party

Most of all, Peter hates Flash right? Because Flash is the bully. But there's also some well, hate is such a strong word, how about envy? Yes, envy at the Mr. Rights, the Mr. Perfects, the Mr. Johnny Storms. Friend or no friend sometimes you just have to let out some steam.


spider-man vs. human torch

My favorite sequence is when Spider-Man dowses the Torch with sand.


spider-man dowses the torch
				with sand

Johnny responds with a beautiful - and dangerous - display of flaming buzz-saws.


human torch unleashes flaming
				buzz-saws

Pretty soon the whole FF gets involved!


spider-man tangles with the ff

Including my absolute favorite - the Thing.


thing carries a rock and spider-man

In the end Peter was just blowing off some steam. Spider-Man departs, but not before a flirty final encounter with Sue Storm.


spider-man and sue storm

Posted - July 9, 2014 | Updated : August 26, 2015


Amazing Spider-Man #21
Where Flies The Beetle


This issue is a smorgasbord, that's right, a smorgasbord of beautiful Ditko art. Starting with the stunning splash page.


spider-man fighting the beetle

I first encountered Ditko, not in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, but in a later work, Blue Beetle from Charlton Comics. Look at how Ditko conveys the point of impact of a punch, that little "asterisk" thing he does. And the dynamic movement displayed here by Spider-Man, signature Ditko - he drew the Blue Beetle the same way. As for the Beetle, that "classic" armor is just a good design (there have been several "marks" since this time just like Iron Man armor). I love the suction cup gloves. He's a fun villain (I remember the awesome way John Byrne drew him) and I'm looking forward to this issue.

Now in two wonderfully detailed panels we get a concise summation of the Beetle's recent history.


a brief history of the beetle

The way that Ditko drew the jail in the background, there's no colorist credited, so I'm assuming Ditko did the colors too, and he gave that jail a background of cumulus cloud and blue sky, so the Beetle is getting out of jail on a bright, beautiful day. And in the right panel, a mini-montage of the Beetle suiting up together with a stylized battle with the Torch. Perfect way to start the issue.

The beauty of the Beetle "two-panel" is echoed and enhanced by a Spider-Man "two panel" on the bottom of the same page. It's like two beautiful "braces" one on top of the page, the other on the bottom.


spider-man studying then
				swinging

The panel on the left showing Peter Parker in a situation that all of us can relate to: Working hard, back stiff. Peter Parker is Marvel's "Everyman" and panels like this one really bring that home. And in contrast, the panel to the right shows that "Everyman" is special. We are special. We are Spider-Man - simply and beautifully drawn by Steve Ditko.

One of the popular Silver Age tropes of Marvel is the contrast between the Human Torch and Spider-Man. The Human Torch is the "golden-haired boy" (literally) while Spider-Man is the "hard luck hero". We come back to that again in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #21, these three panels are a good sample.


spider-man and human torch

Looking at the three panel strip above, I think the leftmost panel is very much superior to the other two. Perfectly proportioned Spider-Man poised on the ledge. Behind him, so distant he's almost abstract, the Human Torch flyng low on the New York skyline. Beautiful layout. Again the colors used to convey the clouds. Ditko took the time to detail every brick in this tiny panel. Kudos Mr. Ditko, just beautiful.

Stan Lee starts us off on the action with the Beetle stalking his old foe - the Human Torch.


the beetle stalks the human torch

What?! I always thought of the Beetle as a Spider-Man villain. It turns out he's a Torch villain back from when Johnny was headlining Strange Tales. Ah Johnny. The hapless Johnny. His slot in Strange Tales was eventually shared with Dr. Strange, then Nick Fury took over the Torch's half before the good Doctor inherited the entire Strange Tales franchise. Ant-Man is the poster boy for the failed Silver-Age Marvel hero, but I thnk the second Human Torch isn't far behind. And with the Torch's fall I guess his villains too had to find a more popular hero to be associated with. Thus, Spider-Man would eventually inherit the Beetle. But not yet, these days Johnny Storm is still running strong.

Here's a unique but sensible panel.


spider-man hanging upside down

Basic idea: Spider-Man swings around fights crime. Right? Question: What if there is no crime? What if New York suddenly became Tokyo? Answer: Spider-Man goes around asking people if "he can lend a hand". How many times have I fantasized about super-strength when I'm moving house. Spidey would be a godsend.

I'm pretty sure the Coca-Cola Company didn't pay for this.


peter is offered a coke

It's the unpaid advertising that will keep on paying (specially because of lunatics like me who reprint it).

Just one last detail I'd like to note before we get to the main event. During these days Peter was dating (a very whiny) Betty Brant, no MJ or Gwen in sight.


betty brant is distraught

Enough crying! You want to see what real pain looks like Betty? Let's go. . .

. . . to the main event!

A tricky "web flip" from our hero.


spider-man fighting the
				beetle

The "Clank!" sound effect reminding us that the beetle is armored - even though he looks like he's wearing some kind of jumpsuit.

Heaven forbid that we have Peter and Johnny on the same Silver Age mag and they DON'T have at each other. Torch dishes it out . . .


the torch attacks spider-man

Spidey counters.


spider-man attacks the 
				torch

Did you like those panels? They're up in the sky and Ditko makes us feel we're in the big blue; free and powerful just like them - Steve is really in the zone this issue. But we haven't seen anything yet. Steve Ditko takes us in close and gives us the best page in the whole issue.


spider-man vs. the torch

Wow! Look at the ping-pong paddles Spider-Man created from his web. Look at the Human Torch's flame shield and the Dr. Strange-style fire effects - it almost makes me want to shout "Flames of the Faltine!".

Wait a minute, where's the Beetle?

Here he is with a show of strength.


the beetle rips a section
				of wall

The "suction the wall and rip it free" is a Beetle classic and it never grows old. At least not for me.

Those are pretty much the highlights of the battle. Before the issue closes it spends some time on the character of one Peter Parker. First is the "pity party" panel.


peter thinking

Don't mean to sound so schmarmy. I'm a - regretfully - regular denizen of the painful well of self pity myself. It sucks and it's hard to stop, and Peter's fifteen so what's my excuse? Stan Lee presents us with the problem (self-pity) but also gives us a great salve for it: Solitude.


peter on a tower

Posted - July 10, 2014 | Updated : August 26, 2015


Amazing Spider-Man #45
Spidey Smashes Out


"Spidey Smashes Out"? What a disconnected title, doesn't describe the contents at all. Thankfully, we have the cover . This issue concludes a story arc involving the Lizard. Here he is.


the lizard comes in from a 
				window

I've always liked the Lizard. He's very visually striking, and there's something very right about him clambering around in a lab coat, and, as you can see, all green monsters, villain or otherwise, are required to wear purple pants. Power levels are just right for Spider-Man too.

The funny thing about the Lizard is that he is Dr. Curt Connors turned into a human-lizard hybrid. But the Lizard doesn't know that. The Lizard thinks that he has been evolved from a normal reptile into a a human-lizard. He actually thinks Dr. Curt Connors is a totally different person.

So the Lizard breaks into Connors' lab and sits down and he's looking like this.


the lizard reading a book

I'm like: Wow, he inherited Dr. Connors' intelligence.

Wrong.


the lizard wrecking dr.
				connors' lab

Turns out the Lizard doesn't understand all the science stuff, and - taking a page from high-strung kids with tough homeworks - begins to throw a fit. And no, my dear Lizard, you're superhuman strength can't take the place of smarts.

Since the Lizard thinks he's evolved from reptiles he intends to evolve other reptiles to his level. Purportedly to take over mankind. What he really wants is to evolve a hot lizard lady to get it on with.

And here's the main event.


spider-man vs. the lizard

The Lizard managed to damage Peter's arm last issue so the Spider is fighting one-handed. To make things worst, Lizard's tail (and, therefore, Lizard) is too fast for Spider-Man's spider-sense - at least in this particular struggle it was.


the spider-man hits the lizard with his 
				tail

Strength. Toughness. Speed. The Lizard has other resources.


the lizard commanding reptiles to 
				attack spider-man

He can command lesser reptiles. Hmmm. I wonder. If somebody came up with a storyline that has the Lizard wandering the Savage Land. Would he become Lord of the Dinosaurs? How about Stegron ? Can the Lizard control Stegron?


peter parker works in a lab as 
				spider-man

In this story the Lizard reached the end of his brain power and resorted to brawn. In contrast, the whole "Lizard problem" cannot be solved by strength, not even Spider-strength. It is a mind keen enough to invent the miraculous web shooters that is called for - the keen intellect of Peter Parker is employed to create an antidote to the disease known as "Lizard". Notice the erroneous "Scorpion" reference in the first panel? Should have been "Lizard".


spider-man, curt connors and
				family

The battle between Spider-Man and Lizard, as well as the happy aftermath of Peter creating a cure, is the meat of the story, but not all - other aspects of this issue are worth looking into.

First of all, the matter of Peter needing to have his arm on a sling. Because of this we find Spider-Man usually using a web bridge instead of a webline.


spider-man on a web bridge

The sling presents another problem - the secret identity angle. Ergo, Spiderman has a sling, therefore, Peter + sling = Spider-Man. I think its very plausible, but apparently writer Stan Lee doesn't, as the connection between the sling and Peter Parker and Spider-Man isn't made by anybody in the issue.

By the way, Peter is a High Schooler no more. he's began going to the Empire State University.

Also in this issue. Peter is ranting about his being Spider-Man.


peter complaining about being
				spider-man

Let me tell you why you do it Mr. Parker. Because it - for want of a better word - is amazing. Being Spider-Man ended your lonely, wallflower, butt-of-the-joke, victimized days. And there's nothing like swinging through the city. Being that strong, being that agile. If I was Spider-Man, and as a consequence, my life would be messed up, that would be worth it. I notice that I'm not Spider-Man right now and my life is messed up anyway.

Next up is the art. It is by John Romita and there are panels worth showing. Let's begin with John Romita Sr's stunning MJ.


mj

Then let's go to a well-drawn location scene. Yes, its a sewer.


spider-man in a sewer

But a very moodily drawn sewer.

Last sample is Romita's Spider-Man. It's not a big battle panel, its one of the smaller, "quieter" panels.


spider-man hangs around

That pose, and the webs trailing upwards from all around him. Just beautiful.

This issue also plays around with dialogue balloons. In some sections, it uses too much of them.


too many dialogue boxes

Then it gives us a panel with totally blank balloons.


blank dialogues

How'd you like that?

Solid issue. It's really hard to go wrong with the enigmatic Lizard, the clean, creative Romita art is also a plus.

Posted - July 11, 2014 | Updated : August 26, 2015


Amazing Spider-Man 73
The Web Closes


The motive force of a thing is that which causes it to move. The motive force of this issue is a mysterious tablet of unknown ability. Everybody seems to be looking for it; "everybody" being Spider-Man and the Maggia.

We start the issue with Peter eavesdropping, oh heck, snooping, no, spying , on the Stacys (Stacies?). I can't begrudge Peter his little "violation of privacy" move because I'm a guy and what guy doesn't want to hear the girl he has a crush on talk about him like Gwen is talking to her father about Peter.


gwen talks about peter

You can just feel Peter smiling through that mask.

Art chores fall to John Buscema. Of the many wonderful panels from this legendary Marvel artist I pick this one to showcase.


spider-man swining with the sky as a backdrop

You can just feel the movement through this panel. The airliner Buscema added overhead enhances the sense of dynamism

Did I insinuate that I was only going to pick just one? Well scratch that, here's another.


spider-man on the windowsill

Look at that layout. Forefront and back are symmetrically centered giving a sense of order. Captain Stacy's hand in front. I keep asking myself why the Spider-Man part of this panel is so appealing. It's the window blinds; you can almost feel Spidey's back pressing against it. And behind the Spider is the city -all those little twinkling lights. This panel just comes together very well for me.

Now we come upon Man Mountain Marko.


man mountain marko

When I first saw Man Mountain Marko on the cover, I was sure I wouldn't like him. But I'm looking at him "in story" and the more I look at him the more memories of all those years watching WWF and WWE come flooding back and suddenly I like this guy. Add a trenchcoat and he's the Undertaker .

Break that loveseat in half Triple-M! Oops here comes Spidey!


man mountain marko breaks a love
				seat in half as spider-man crashes in.

You can do it Triple-M! Even though he has Spider-strength and you're just a very large human being, you can do it!


spider-man grabs triple
				m and smashes him into a wall

No, you can't.

Well that was - wait!


man mountain marko gets up again

Alright, here's the bell for Round Two!

Boom!


spider-man takes a hit from man
				mountain marko

Bam!


triple m kicks and spidey 
				dodges

And down goes the Spider!


triple m smashes spider-man
				into a wall

And the WWE Champion is ... wait!

Round Three.

Boom!


spider-man punches man 
				mountain marko

And that's the match. Super-powers: 1. Potential to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars in pro wrestling: 0.

Let's all sit down a bit and enjoy yet another wonderful John Buscema panel (I have to say 'John' because there's another Buscema, younger brother Sal, who's also a great Spider-Man artist).


ceasar sicero in court

Once again, the layout catches my eye. Objects in the forefront and out back give this panel a sense of depth. The picture is presented in a slant instead of horizontally which just adds to its appeal. Jim Mooney inked this just right, going heavy in just the right places.

We've been enjoying John Buscema's action renditions and layout work but now its time to focus on the writing. Writer Stan Lee has been doing a solid job, pacing is just right and the transitions keep things interesting, but as we go into the "Joe Robertson" panels of the comic, the Man pulls out all the stops and shows us the power of great dialogue.

Here is Stan Lee on "Education".


stan lee on educaion

When I was in college I didn't get it. I did not understand why I had to learn things that I believed would not have any practical value for me in my life (I'm looking at you Trigonometry). I went through college looking at every subject in my course load and asking "What am I going to use you for?". Too often the answer was "I don't know" or "You won't". What an idiot I was. Education is like having this big empty bag and as you go through your schooling you put things in that bag. Things like Biology, Algebra, Economics, Statistics, Anthropology, all sorts of "things". It's wrong to question everything you put into that bag and ask what you're going to used it for. You don't know what will be useful, and in High School and College, you don't have to know you just have to fill up the bag because later on in life you will encounter situations that will have you reaching into this bag called Education and the one thing you don't want is to have nothing in the bag. Or, as Joe Robertson says ". . . without education .. you're a soldier unarmed". The two panels above should be enlarged, framed, and displayed in every High School and University.

Stan Lee isn't done yet. Here's Stan Lee on Racism.


stan lee on racism

I'll let the panels speak for themselves. Stan Lee sometimes dips into real world concerns when writing comics. I don't mind that, I don't mind it at all. Stan is at his best when he gets on his pulpit and the comics gets much needed depth.

I did mention the Maggia was after the tablet right?

Here's Maggia boss Silvermane - a member of a pantheon that includes the Kingpin, Hammerhead and the Owl.


silvermane

It turns out Triple M is Maggia muscle. Specifically, Silvermane muscle. So the Maggia has the tablet but they can't decipher it on their own so- before the issue ends - they kidnap some help. And look who it is.


the lizard

As you can see, the Maggia don't know about Dr. Connors' "little" secret. Whether they find out is something for the future.

Posted - July 12, 2014 | Updated : August 26, 2015


Amazing Spider-Man #98
The Goblin's Last Gasp


The centerpiece is the battle between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin viewed through the beautiful linework of one Gil Kane .

The Goblin is one of only a handful of top-tier Marvel villains. By issue 98 of Amazing he's had quite a lot of appearances, and will have many more, much more. Writers have had ample opportunity to flesh out Norman Osborn and his insane alter ego. Here, Stan Lee gives us a ringside seat on the internal struggle that's going on when Peter Parker confronts the Goblin with a person that he, initially, doesn't recognize - his own son, Harry


green goblin flies off

He'll be back.

Harry, incidentally, has been struck down by drug use, so part of this comic is devoted to an anti-drug message of sorts. When the plot swings towards a confrontation between Peter Parker and some thugs, its an opportunity for a closer glimpse, and appreciation, of Spider-Man's power.


peter parker takes on a thug

Placing spider powers beside the brutality of a street thug provides a lesson in relativity. Namely, Spider-speed can effortlessly swat away a hastily drawn gun - and Peter claims he's still holding back while doing that!

Before we get to the Green Goblin/Spider-Man battle, lets view two great panels from Gil Kane. The first involves plain, old, Peter Parker.


peter parker jumping over a 
				building

Next up is Gil Kane's swinging Spider-Man.


spider-man swinging

The hunched pose gives the impresson that Spider-Man is "leaning" on his webline for a harder swing. The movement is towards the center of the panel where the reader gets a view of the New York skyline from the top down. Very nice panel.

And now, the battle begins as the Goblin launches an attack.


spider-man being attacked

Here's a great angle of Spider-Man as he dodges a glue bomb.


spider-man dodges a green 
				goblin glue bomb

Stun bombs follow then comes a very smoky "special" bomb.


spider-man under heavy attack
				by the green goblin

The smokey bomb negates Peter's ability to cling to walls. Even so, Spider-Man's agility is still something to see.


spider-man swings around a flagpole and over a rooftop

Here's a good shot of the Goblin.


green goblin on his flyer

The Green Goblin has become so ubiquitous that sometimes I'm looking straight at him but I don't see him. I do recall the first time I saw the Green Goblin. I was struck by the Gothic theme he had going with his costume, equipment, and glider. I was delighted because he looked like he stepped right out of a medieval tale. It is so appealing that it was adopted by the Hobgoblin .The glider would have ruined the theme because of its high-tech nature but the stylized bat motif really goes with the Goblin costume. And the smoke, the white smoke coming out of the Goblin Glider forming a trail in the air as the Goblin flies around? That's pre-Industrial Revolution styling - absolutely brilliant! Gil Kane could have done a better rendition of the smoke in this panel though - looks too sketchy.

So how does it all end? Like this.


spider-man catches the
				green goblin

Well, you know, the action ended that way but the story ends with Norman Osborn restored to a tenuous peace. The madness of being the Goblin having been broken by the site of a stricken Harry.

One last thing before we go: Gwen Stacy. Gwen is in London.


gwen in london

But she goes home to Peter because she misses him so much.


peter parker and gwen stacy

All sweetness and light! But later on, this whole "missing you from London" fluff will be retconned by J. Michael Straczynski. Are you ready? Gwen went to London because she's pregnant with twins from her torrid affair with Norman Osborn. Oh man, how wild is that?