"Unmasked By Doctor Octopus!"
Written by Stan Lee.
Written by Stan Lee.
Drawn by Steve Ditko.
Inked by Steve Ditko.
Lettered by Art Simek.
Expectations, according to that masterful master of words Charles Dickens, they can be great.
But we also know they can lead you astray or, worse than that, they can simply lead you nowhere. Take me. Some stories you find you have a whole kaboodle of things to say about, even when you wouldn't have thought you would, and some tales you find you have next to nothing to say about, even though you know you should.
Issue #12 of the Amazing Spider-Man falls into the latter camp. I mean, here's a tale to build epochs around, isn't it? Our hero's made it to his first dozen issues and we get to see Spider-Man unmasked by Dr Octopus.
So why then do I have so little to say about it?
Is it the artwork?
Is it the writing?
Is it the villain?
Then what is it?
I don't know. Some critic I turned out to be.
So Spider-Man gets his first two parter as, having failed to capture Dr Octopus last time round, he gets another go at him.
And what a sad case Dr Octopus turns out to be, committing a string of crimes around the country purely to force Spider-Man to fight him, before returning to New York to kidnap Betty Brant purely to force Spider-Man to fight him. Not that he's obsessed or anything. But really, what does it say about a super villain when his only motivation for committing crimes is to pick a fight with his arch-enemy?
As with last issue, Spider-Man doesn't actually defeat Dr Octopus, he just gets lucky, which is a pleasing touch. It doesn't pay to make a super hero too successful against the opposition. After all, we might want him always to win but if he always triumphs no matter the odds, what happens to all the tension?
Highlight of the tale has to be Spider-Man and Doc Ock's fight in the sculptor's studio. It doesn't last long, thanks to Octopus getting himself trapped under a falling statue, but it's a pleasingly surreal venue for such a clash.
In fact, this issue's memorable for two things. One, Spider-Man gets to fight a bunch of animals Octopus has released from the zoo and, secondly, as touched on before, it's the tale where Spider-Man's true identity is at last revealed to the world, as, having defeated our flu-weakened hero, Dr Octopus pulls off his mask to reveal the face of Peter Parker beneath.
But there's the twist. No one believes Peter Parker could be Spider-Man and so, although people have seen his face, his identity remains a secret. It's those expectations again. If only Dr Octopus hadn't had expectations about how difficult to beat Spider-Man would be. If only J Jonah Jameson and Betty Brant hadn't had expectations about how puny Peter Parker is, his secret would be out. Maybe, from the viewpoint of our hero, sometimes false expectations are a whole lot better than great expectations.