Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Amazing Spider-Man #2. The Vulture and the Tinkerer

Amazing Spider-Man #2, Spidey battles the Vulture over the skyscrapers of New York City(Cover from May 1963.)

"Duel To The Death With The Vulture!"

Words by Stan Lee.
Art by Steve Ditko.
Lettering by John Duffy.


A super-hero without a super-villain is as much use as a door without a handle; and, so far, Spider-Man's been bereft of any such foe. After all, the Chameleon had unusual abilities but could hardly be called super-powered.

But, at last, in issue #2 of his own title, Spider-Man gets his first outing against a foe of the super variety.

It'd be true to say the Vulture isn't one of the all-time greats but he is a suitably off-beat foe for an off-beat hero and there're none of the problems that'd later surface with the question of how a frail looking old man can take a punch from a man with the proportional strength of a spider. For most of their encounter, Spider-Man simply doesn't land a punch on him and, when they finally do get to grips, Spider-Man doesn't need to use fisticuffs because his brain does the job for him.

Why? Because Peter Parker really is a genius. Not only does he somehow work out that the Vulture flies by means of magnetism - despite the fact he has wings, whose presence would seem redundant in such a circumstance - but, in the space of just a few hours, he invents a device that negates magnetism. All of which poses the obvious question as to why he's always short of money. With talent like that, he should be making a fortune selling patents. Instead, he has to settle for selling photos of Spider-Man to Daily Bugle publisher J Jonah Jameson.

Except, he's not the Daily Bugle publisher.

Not yet.

It's interesting that, at this stage in the strip's history, there's no sign of the Daily Bugle. Instead Jameson's credited with running Now Magazine. It'll be interesting to see at what stage in Spider-Man's personal time-line Now becomes the Bugle.

I've not exactly been effusive about Steve Ditko's art before now, mostly because I think there was still an element of him finding his feet with the strip but this is the issue where his work really starts to come to life. In places, especially his close-ups of the Vulture's hands and face, it's absolutely beautiful.

But it's not all positive. In this story we get to see the first instance of a trend that'd carry on throughout the history of Spider-Man; that of the stupidity of the penal establishment in Marvel Comics' version of New York, as we're shown the Vulture in his prison cell, at the tale's conclusion.

And guess what?

That's right, he's still wearing his Vulture suit - complete with wings. I wonder if he'll just happen to escape at any point?

What am I on about? With prison security like that, you might as well ask will the sun rise tomorrow.

Amazing Spider-Man #2, the Terrible Tinkerer zaps Spider-Man from behind with a ray gun in his underground lair
"The Terrible Tinkerer!"

Words by Stan Lee.
Art by Steve Ditko.
Lettering by Art Simek.


Aliens!

They're here!

And Spider-Man's up against them!

As I've mentioned before, it seemed de rigueur for Marvel Comics' heroes to encounter aliens on their first or second outing. Spider-Man's had to wait for his fifth before meeting them.

And when he does, he meets them with style.

The impression I get is this tale's been pretty much dismissed for years as little more than a bit of silly filler but I love it, mostly because it gives Ditko the chance to make full use of his background in drawing horror, mystery and sci-fi stories and it therefore looks great, easily the best looking tale he's produced so far.

As for the main villain of the piece, the Tinkerer; I wonder if Stan Lee and Steve Ditko had something against senior citizens? No sooner has Spider-Man despatched his first super-villain in the ageing form of the Vulture but now he's up against another old bloke, in the Tinkerer who, gratifyingly, is shown to be one of the aliens. Admittedly, in later appearances, the whole thing was retconned so the aliens in the story aren't really aliens at all, just actors - including Mysterio - pretending. That retcon was a mistake. The story works best when they're seen as the real deal - and so does the oddly Brothers Grimm-esque Tinkerer.

There's some strange science going on here again. How exactly is the air being forced out of Spider-Man's resisto-glass prison? Whatever the method is, it enables him to shoot his webbing through the air holes through which we're told it's being forced and thus make his escape. So, I suppose the world has reason to be grateful for technology that makes no sense.

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