Saturday, 6 February 2010

Amazing Spider-Man #16. Daredevil and the Circus of Crime

Amazing Spider-Man #16, Spidey vs Daredevil and the Circus of Crime, first ever meeting(Cover from September 1964.)

"Duel With Daredevil"

Written by Stan Lee.
Drawn by Steve Ditko.
Inked by Steve Ditko.
Lettered by Sam Rosen.


As Mary Jane Watson once said, "Well pierce my ears and call me drafty!" because Spider-Man gets to meet another super hero -- and, for the first time ever, it's not a member of the Fantastic Four.

This time it's Daredevil who gets the privilege, which seems an appropriate choice as there are many parallels between the two heroes: Spider-Man's spider-sense/Daredevil's radar sense; both men's heightened athletic ability; both having lost father figures during their teen years, at the hands of a criminal; both having an on-off romance with a secretary; both with home-made gadgets that fire a line they can swing from. And then there's the fact that, when we first met both of them, they were ridiculed by the other kids for being bookworms. In fact, you have to wonder if the similarities are coincidental or if, knowing he had a hit on his hands with Spider-Man, Stan Lee had decided to repeat the formula with another hero.

Whatever, it's still clearly early days for the man without fear when this tale takes place because he's still wearing his original, short-lived costume, the yellow and black one that some of us have always preferred to the all red version.

But heroes are only half a story and the bad guys of the piece are the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime. I assume that, "Circus of Crime," isn't how they're billed on the posters. It might be somewhat of a giveaway.

Needless to say, like the two-bit crook he is, the Ringmaster's planning on using his hypnotic powers to rob the audience at tonight's show but, just to show the sort of luck the Ringmaster has, both Peter Parker and Matt Murdock are in the audience, which means that, before long , both Spider-Man and Daredevil are stepping in to stop him.

It's a good fun tale and oddly reminiscent of Jack Kirby, in the fun Steve Ditko seems to be having with the non-stop action as, first, Daredevil and Spider-Man go head-to-head before Spider-Man takes on the entire Circus of Crime on his own.

Actually, that's the one disappointing thing about this tale, that, after he's snapped Spider-Man out of his trance, Daredevil decides to leave the rest of the scrap to Web Head and sit in the crowd, as Matt Murdock, "watching." It would've been a lot more fun to see the pair of them team up to take on the circus.

Oh well, what can you do? This is Spider-Man's comic and it seems it's therefore been ordained we have to see Spider-Man - and Spider-Man alone - tackle the pernicious performers.

But the Ringmaster really is an idiot. Not content with wasting his powers of mind control on what's essentially nothing more than glorified pick-pocketing, he comes up with a scheme that practically invites Spider-Man to come along to the show. Why risk attracting the attention of a super hero if you're going to commit a crime?

Then again, why use your awesome powers of mind control just to rob a few punters of a few dollars each when you have it within your abilities to take over an entire nation?

I suppose that explains why the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime never amounted to a hill of beans in the overall scheme of things and why, ultimately, they rarely seemed anything more than a comedy outfit.

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