"Spider-Man vs Dr Octopus!"
Words by Stan Lee.
Art by Steve Ditko.
Lettering by John Duffy.
If a man's only as old as he feels, a hero's only as good as the villains he defeats. At last, after messing about in the minor leagues for his first few months of existence, Spider-Man gets to move up to the big-time with his first fight against his first major villain.
That villain's Dr Octopus and, just to show how major he is, he beats Spider-Man up on their first meeting and tosses him aside like a scrunched up sheet of notepaper.
But is our hero downhearted?
Too right he is. He's so downhearted he cancels his photographic commitments to the Bugle and wonders if he'll ever dare be Spider-Man again. Happily, a quick pep-talk from the Human Torch, and he's back in action.
After defeating the Vulture with a quickly knocked up gizmo of dubious scientific likelihood, last issue, this time he again whips up something in a hurry - a chemical that fuses two of Dr Octopus' tentacles together - before knocking him out with a sock to the jaw. In this instant are the two faces of Spider-Man unveiled; man of science and slugger. With a combination of talents like that, how could he ever have doubted himself?
It has to be said the Human Torch's excuse for not going to fight Dr Octopus is as lame as you can get. Apparently, he can't fight him because he's been using his flame too much lately and needs to rest it for a few days. So, instead, he gives an annoying lecture to the kids at Peter Parker's high school about how they should work hard at their exams. As I can't remember the Human Torch ever even sitting an exam in his entire life, I'm not sure it's advice then anyone, apart from Peter Parker, is likely to have been listening to.
Happily, by the tale's end, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko have thought better of it and we're told it was actually a virus that was preventing the fiery one from doing his duty.
Having read the tale a number of times now, I'm still not totally sure what Dr Octopus' plan is. He takes over a nuclear facility...
...and then what?
Well, he stands around for a bit, doing nothing much in particular until Spider-Man turns up. Earlier in the tale, Spider-Man was bemoaning the fact he didn't have anyone decent to fight. Maybe Dr Octopus has a similar mentality and prefers to do nothing until there's someone to hit. Oh well, he is an evil madman, after all. Perhaps he doesn't need a rational plan.
Actually, the evil madman thing is what's most interesting about this tale. Over subsequent appearances, the full-on insanity Octavius displays here became dramatically watered down till he could be seen as just bad, rather than mad. Here, it's on display in full-on Technicolor.
Steve Ditko's art in this issue's superb. It's not so much his pencilling that impresses, as his inking. His use of light and shade's astonishing and, from looking at it, I get the feeling it must've been an influence to some degree on Neal Adams. The similarity in the way areas of blackness are used leaps out at you in places.