Saturday, 12 March 2016

The Amazing Spider-Man [1963] #38 - Marvel Comics

“Sturdy” Steve Ditko’s last issue as “plotter, penciller and inker for Spider-Man”, this twenty-page periodical arguably demonstrates the best and worst aspects of this “Marvel Comics Group” title during the medium’s Silver Age by featuring an instantly forgettable “off-beat super-villain”, complete with a hokey origin story, as well some incredibly well-drawn action sequences pencilled by the web-spinner’s co-creator. Indeed in many ways it is hard to believe that from such inconsistent beginnings, one in which Peter Parker’s alter-ego is beaten by “the prize pussycat of the year”, emerged “one of the most popular and commercially successful superheroes” of all time.

True “Just A Guy Named Joe!” isn’t simply a magazine-long tale of Webhead battling the “not overly-bright” day-dreamer Smith within “a crowded neighbourhood gym”, as editor Stan Lee somehow manages to still provide plenty of developing dialogue for the likes of Ned Leeds, Gwen Stacey and even the somewhat derisively disguised Norman Osborn. But it is hard to take the “’nuff said” narrative seriously when it revolves around an inept film extra who is inadvertently electrocuted having fallen “in a puddle of spilled chemicals from the previous scene” and miraculously awakes with both the super-strength to snap Spidey’s webbing, as well as an angry obsession to beat up all those who have wronged him in the past; “All I want to do is strike back at everybody!! Make them all sorry they laughed at me!! I’ll show them! I’ll show them all!”

Equally as painful as the Manhattan-born writer’s 'villainous “stumblebum” turns “long-term” actor' central plot are some of the Will Eisner Award Hall of Famer’s cringingly corny interludes. Just how a pair of green glasses and a Diablo-like goatee beard prevents the New York criminal underworld from recognising someone as famous as Harry’s Oscorp-owning father is anyone's guess, especially when the wealthy businessman is willing “to pay handsomely to insure that Spider-Man never interferes with me again!” And just what is the “student protest” at Empire State University’s campus actually about? Lazily explained as a demonstration against “tonight’s protest meeting” it is hard to see why any reader would be interested in a march which is simultaneously about “saving the world”, “cut[ting] classes” and ‘protesting about nothing’.

Disconcertingly Ditko’s artwork for this comic appears a little inconsistent and substandard in certain places too, almost as if Jerry Robinson’s protégé was working himself into a ‘fuming fervour’ before infamously quitting the New York publishing company “for personal reasons.” It’s certainly debatable whether, as has been rumoured, the grinning mannequin “the poor man’s Sir Lancelot” punches at the end of the comic is actually a likeness of Stan Lee, and tragic that this “mildly terrific tale” required it's cover to be composed “of four different images from within the comic itself” on account of its artist’s abrupt departure.
Written & Edited: Stan Lee, Plotted & Drawn: Steve Ditko, and Lettered: Artie Simek

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