"The Sinister Six!"
Written by Stan Lee.
Drawn by Steve Ditko.
Lettered by Sam Rosen.
In the early 1960s, men were men, women were women, sheep were sheep and money was money. You could get a house for thruppence, a yacht for two-and-six, and the Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 for a mighty twenty five cents. For your money, you got a whopping 72 (BIG) pages of your favourite wall-crawler and none of that reprint rubbish.
That's not all you got. You got a positive epic as Spider-Man takes on not one but a whole clutch of his old foes in the form of the Sinister Six. On top of that, we get cameos from Iron Man, Giant Man, the Wasp, Thor, Dr Strange, the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Captain America, each with a nice little caption beneath telling us we can read their adventures in the appropriate comic. This thing gives us the very definition of the phrase, "Pulling out all the stops."
Escaping from a jail that's conveniently stored his metal arms nearby, Dr Octopus gathers Spider-Man's five other greatest enemies (no Green Goblin) and says that together they can defeat Spider-Man. Then, showing the level of intelligence that got them all defeated in the first place, they decide the best way to beat him is to fight him one at a time!
Gang up on him, you idiots! Gang up on him!
Needless to say, given this tactic, Spidey beats them like he always beats them. I especially like the Sandman defeating himself by locking him and Spidey in an airless room and then passing out from lack of oxygen (Doh!). Aunt May shows her usual stupidity and lays the groundwork for future stupidity by totally failing to realise she's been kidnapped by Dr Octopus, and Betty Brant's in one of her liking Spider-Man moods. We also get the sight of J Jonah Jameson trying to communicate with a spider.
It's difficult to describe how great this is. The sheer level of effort that's gone into this comic's startling and we get some of the best artwork Steve Ditko ever did on the strip, including a splash page for every encounter Spider-Man has with a baddie. We also get the, "Spider-Man loses his powers," thing that got used in the second Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie. Now, as then, it's all psychosomatic and Spidey gets his mojo back once he realises he does want and need to be Spider-Man. If that's not enough, we get a multi-page gallery of Spider-Man's greatest foes, a nine page Secrets of Spider-Man feature, various bits and bobs about Peter Parker's private life and a story showing us how an issue of Spider-Man's put together, in which Stan Lee keeps annoying Steve Ditko by telling him what to do. I make no comment.
My only complaint is I'm a little worried that Spider-Man saves himself from death at the hands of Electro by grounding himself with his webbing. I'm no electrician - and I'm even less a super-hero - but isn't grounding yourself the worst thing you can do when confronted by deadly levels of electricity?