I’m on holiday and didn’t watch/review anything in advance, so instead, we return to our weekly Spider-Man coverage! We’ve looked at Ultimate, now it’s time for Amazing!
Published by: Marvel Comics
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Steve Ditko
Collects: Amazing Fantasy #15, Amazing Spider-Man #1 – 17 & Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1
Real Name: Peter Benjamin Parker
Affiliation: The Avengers
First Appearance: Amazing Fantasy #15 (August 1962)
A teenage science prodigy bit by a radioactive spider, Peter Parker initially used his newfound powers of strength, speed, agility, wall-crawling and an intuitive ‘spider-sense’ as a showman.
However, after he neglected his responsibility to stop a criminal, that same criminal went on to kill his Uncle Ben during a robbery. This random act of fate taught Peter that he must always use his powers for the good of others, and so he pivoted away from showbusiness, to become a costumed superhero.
Juggling his adventures with caring for his elderly Aunt May, an on-again, off-again relationship with Mary-Jane Watson and trying to hold down a job, Peter strives to take his bad luck in stride and has become one of the most prolific heroes in New York City, using his years of experience, self-made gadgets (like his famous web-shooters) and spectacular abilities as the Amazing Spider-Man!
Although a horde of villains such as the nefarious Green Goblin, the calculating Doctor Octopus and the monstrous Venom plague him at every turn, Peter refuses to give up his web-swinging ways, in the hopes that he can honour his Uncle and live up to his mantra that “with great power, there must also come great responsibility”.
We’ve covered a modernised take on the early adventures of Spider-Man in our reviews of the first few volumes of Ultimate Spider-Man by Brian Bendis, but great as those comics are, they would never have existed without the classic sixties source material to draw from.
This particular collected edition, Great Power, is the first volume of the Spider-Man line of Marvel’s ‘Epic Collections’, covers about half of Peter Parker’s high school years, and sees the debut of not only the amazing Spider-Man himself, but also a host of some of his most memorable foes, and supporting characters that would stick around well into the modern day.
Within these pages are the blue prints for pretty much every adaptation of Spider-Man ever created, and while the stories may also draw from some more contemporary publications, the spirit of Spider-Man can be found here in these early issues!
After being bitten by a radioactive spider, teenage outcast Peter Parker becomes the Amazing Spider-Man!
Encouraged by the death of his Uncle Ben to use his powers for good rather than personal gain, Spider-Man quickly becomes one of New York’s most prolific superheroes.
But he’ll have his work cut out for him on his crime-fighting crusade, as Spider-Man must tangle with a host of adversaries during his early adventures – Chameleon, Tinkerer, Vulture, Doctor Octopus, Sandman, Doctor Doom, Lizard, Living Brain, Electro, the Enforcers, Green Goblin, Kraven and Ringmaster!
And when his most menacing foes grow tired of his interference, Spidey faces his greatest challenge yet in the form of the Sinister Six!
But kooky supervillains aren’t the only things going on in Peter’s life, as he must navigate the trials and tribulations of high school, look after his elderly Aunt May, appease his outspoken new boss, newspaper publisher J. Jonah Jameson and try to fit in alongside other costumed heroes such as Hulk, Daredevil and the Fantastic Four!
As with all classic comics, the first hurdle you have to jump when deciding whether or not this is for you is the rather dated style and rather quirky brand of classic comic book storytelling.
But if you’re a Spider-Man fan (or even a Marvel Comics fan in general) I’d say this Epic Collection is worth your time.
While more modern comics, like Ultimate Spider-Man, deliver more character development, the more drawn out nature of the stories can’t compete with the variety of content you get in these classic tales. Every issue features a fantastical new adventure and a colourful new adversary, cramming the entire story into a (mostly) brisk 22 pages.
And while the characters may not boast as much development, you can clearly see characters like Peter Parker growing into the character we all know and love across the 19 issues contained within. There are some hilarious hiccups, such as when Peter has a rather over-the-top crisis of faith and debates giving up only 4 issues in after a beating at the hands of Doctor Octopus, or when he considers going to therapy after believing the criminal Spider-Man copycat created by Mysterio might actually be him developing a split personality, but that can all be chalked up to Lee and Ditko finding their feet, as well as a sign of the times. For all the goofiness, you’ll rarely find something as whacky as the ridiculous antics characters like Superman got up to in his golden-age years (memory wiping kisses, and the ability to shoot miniature Superman out of his hands, for instance).
Spider-Man’s journey to become a hero is also of note due to the strong focus on his intellect over his powers – Ditko’s fight scenes are often fun and dynamic, but Spidey’s victories usually come down to his quick wit and the creation of his various inspired inventions, which really make him stand out among the likes of early Marvel characters like the Hulk, Daredevil or Thor. It’s especially of note due to the fact that the live-action adaptations rarely cover this aspect of the character (Garfield’s Spider-Man probably nailed this the best, followed by Holland, but even then).
There’s also a great amount of creativity on display here from Lee and Ditko, who churn out numerous memorable characters whose looks and personalities have remained mostly untampered to this day. My personal favourites here (apart from Spider-Man, of course) are perhaps Doctor Octopus, Kraven, Mysterio, the Lizard, and the boisterous J. Jonah Jameson, who is a real treat whenever he shows up each issue. The early relationships between Peter and characters like Betty Brant, Flash Thompson and Liz Allen are also a lot of fun, and their interactions help cement the vibe of Peter Parker’s hectic social life pretty early on.
These interactions, while dated, really help define Peter’s status as a unique teenage superhero, as trying to get a date or make some money often proves just as important as defeating the villain of the month.
I do question however, why the ‘popular kids’ nearly always seem to invite ‘puny Parker’ to things if they don’t like him (beyond making the plot flow more easily), but that’s something that’s remedied about halfway through.
It’s also worth noting that not all the characters, and by extention, the issues, are winners. Chief among these is the Living Brain, a robot who, while still present in modern comics, is probably only really kept around due to writer’s nostalgia for him. In his first appearance, he seems more a gimmick than a worthy foe for Spider-Man, and his presence mostly just takes away from the much anticipated fight between Peter Parker and Flash Thompson which had been brewing since the first issue.
Similarly, while I do appreciate the character and origins of the Lizard, the story really gives no reason why Spider-Man of all people should be the one to tackle him, considering the Lizard lives in Florida, and you’ve got characters like the Fantastic Four ever present.
Still, these are but minor concerns. And overall, hardly detract from the brilliance of these other early-years Spider-Man stories. There’s so much here that it’s easy for any Spider-Man fan to find something to love, and seeing Lee and Ditko instantly strike gold with so many of their stories, character designs and action beats is truly inspiring.
All-in-all, I give Amazing Spider-Man: Great Power a…
Thanks for reading! Who’s your favourite classic Spider-Man character? Let me know in the comments below!
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