Thursday, 18 February 2010

Amazing Spider-Man #22. The Circus of Crime are back

Amazing Spider-Man #22, the Circus of Crime return, now led by The Clown
(Cover from March 1965.)

"Preeeeeesenting...
The Clown, And His Masters Of Menace!"

Written by Stan Lee.
Drawn by Steve Ditko.
Inked by Steve Ditko.
Lettered by Artie Simek.


Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.

He's not alone. After being sacked by the Circus of Crime, the Ring-Master knows too. Some people have no gratitude.

Having got rid of their creator, the Circus remodel themselves as the Masters of Menace and decide to rob an art exhibition sponsored by Daily Bugle publisher J Jonah Jameson. But this issue has to be a first. It has to be the first time The Amazing Spider-Man has made us worry about J Jonah Jameson's welfare, as he's rushed to hospital after being headbutted by Cannon-Ball. As such I suppose it's a vital step in humanising our favourite irritant. Needless to say, when he comes out of his coma, he's as cantankerous and self-serving as ever.

J Jonah Jameson's injury aside, it's another of those knockabout tales with Spider-Man yet again up against a set of foes who're blatantly outclassed by him, allowing Steve Ditko to have fun with the action scenes. And, here, the characters of the individual members of the Circus of Evil seem far more individually defined than they've ever been before.

It's definitely a step in the right direction and it's good to see Princess Python get a prominent role, nominating the Clown as new leader of the group, coming up with a new name for them and getting to take Spider-Man on, single-handed, almost managing to unmask him in the process.

Of course, with all this, it's clear the Princess, not the Clown, should be leader of the circus but this was 1965 and maybe the idea of a woman being in charge was too far beyond the pale. I seem to recall a similar situation with the Frightful Four in the Fantastic Four comics where it was obvious Medusa should've been their leader but instead she spent all her time scheming, and manipulating the other members, to get what she wanted. How times have changed.

You have to feel sorry for the Ring-Master. First he gets sacked and then bullied by his colleagues then he gets hypnotised by Spider-Man then he gets arrested for a crime he didn't commit and then he gets re-arrested when he's in the process of handing the stolen paintings in. What else did The Shadow say? Oh yeah; he said that crime doesn't pay. He clearly didn't realise that, in the world of comic books, honesty pays even less.

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