Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #46. The Shocker makes his debut

Amazing Spider-Man #46, first ever appearance of the Shocker, John Romita
(Steve Ditko's Spider-Man Head logo is replaced by a new version drawn by Romita. Cover from March 1967.)

"The Sinister Shocker!"

Written by Stan Lee.
Drawn and inked by John Romita.
Lettered by Sam Rosen.


This tale gets straight down to business, with Spider-Man shaken loose from a wall when it suddenly starts vibrating. Rushing to see what's going on, he comes across a new super-villain engaged in the usual criminality - the Shocker. Time for a fight. Time for Spidey to get the soundest beating he's received from a foe since his first encounter with the Scorpion and it has to be said that John Romita pulls a blinder in this sequence, with a wonderfully dramatic set of panels, fully capturing the dynamism of the action. It hurts just to look at some of the punches the Shocker throws.

Licking his wounds, Peter Parker makes his way home and bumps into Harry Osborn who tells him his millionaire dad Norman has stumped up the cash to pay for him to live in an apartment of his own. The good news is it has two bedrooms and Harry wants Pete to move in with him. The bad news is two words.

Aunt May.

How's she going to take the news that she's about to be abandoned by her only living relative? There's another concern because it also seems Harry's been seeing a lot of Gwen. This is only a few issues after it was hinted that Flash Thompson was seeing a lot of Gwen and only one issue after it seemed Harry was starting to see a lot of MJ. Clearly everyone but Pete is seeing a lot of everyone. But, no doubt about it, although he no longer seems to find MJ "icky" anymore, it's Gwen that PP digs the most.

Little does he know he has better things to worry about because, when he heads off to The Bugle, to sell the snaps he took of the Shocker, he's spotted by Fred Foswell, still at the offices and still obsessing about how Peter gets those photos of his. Time, Foswell decides, to adopt his guise of patch the stool pigeon and to start tailing Mr P. The whole Foswell-as-Patch thing is a little odd. It seems he adopts the disguise so people won't know who he is and he can thus snoop at will but, as everyone seems to know Patch and that he's a stool pigeon, it's sort of hard to believe anyone's going to say anything in front of him that they don't want to be public knowledge anyway. Clearly this has never occurred to the ex-con and he sets off after Parker.

Meanwhile, back at his lair, the Shocker conveniently reveals his origin to us. He was a safe cracker who used to make so much noise cracking safes that he always got caught. Happily, there was just the right equipment in the prison workshop for him to assemble a super-vibro-weapon that he could use to demolish half the prison and allow his escape. You have to hand it to New York, it clearly doesn't believe in skimping when it comes to equipping its prison workshops.

At the station, Pete meets his Aunt May who's back from her vacation of the last few issues. But it seems he's not the only one with news, because Aunt May tells him she's had an offer. Anna Watson's asked her to move in with her but she's worried how Peter might take it. Peter of course takes it like all his Christmases have come at once. This is both their problems solved in one fell swoop. At Mrs Watson's, Pete bumps into MJ and she and he head off to the Silver Spoon together, where Peter's still longing for Gwendolyn. Meanwhile, in case we'd forgotten, Patch is still following him.

And this is where our hero's secret's blown - because Patch sees Pete enter a back alley and, seconds later, sees Spider-Man emerge from it. It doesn't take a brick wall to fall on Patch. He suddenly realises that Peter Parker and Spider-Man must be the same person. Actually, it clearly does take a brick wall to fall on Patch because he's seen Spider-Man with his arm in a sling and he's seen Peter Parker with his arm in a sling and he already knew, from his photographic exploits, that there's an inextricable link between Parker and Spider-Man. You'd have thought it might have occurred to him already that the arm in a sling thing was a mighty big coincidence. But, regardless, the bulb of revelation has now finally lit up above his head.

There's only one problem - Peter's spider-sense. It warns Parker that he's being watched. Peter spots Patch and knows he has to act.

He does.

He ducks back down the alley and starts to talk to himself, to make it sound like there's two people there, then, as he speaks, he whips together a mannequin from webbing, puts it in his spider suit and sets it swinging off up onto a nearby rooftop, to create the impression that he's been in the alley with the strip's titular hero. Amazingly, this works and Patch/Foswell is completely fooled. No wonder his life of crime was so short-lived, with an intelligence level this low.

Within minutes, his arm now free of its sling, Spider-Man's tracked down the Shocker who's doing everything he can to draw attention to himself by robbing the Federal Reserve Bank as dramatically as is humanly possible. He's clearly learned nothing from all those years of being the world's noisiest safe cracker. Hero and villain fight and, deciding Spider-Man's too much of a nuisance, the Shocker concludes there's only one thing for it.

He's going to have to blast Spidey full force.

He takes aim.

Nothing that lives can survive a full force blast from the Shocker.

It's curtains for Spider-Man.

And then?

Spider-Man shoots his webbing at the Shocker's hands, preventing the villain from lowering his thumbs to press the triggers of his vibrating wrist bands. Without those, the Shocker's just a cheap crook and Spidey flattens him with one punch.

Next morning, Peter's full of beans, waking with a lark and hurrying downstairs to pack his bags and set off for his new apartment. Afer a tearful goodbye from Aunt May, he's off and, in the next panel, he's being introduced to his new home for the first time.

But, yet again, this is Spider-Man and the formula demands its hero can never be happy. And so, for no noticeable reason - this time, even he admits he doesn't know why - the tale ends with Peter Parker stood alone at the centre of his dream home, feeling like his best friend just died.

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