Monday, 2 March 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #42. Let's face it, Tiger. You just hit the jackpot!

Amazing Spider-Man #42, John Jameson on the rampage, John Romita cover
(Cover from November 1966.)

"The Birth Of A Super-Hero!"

Written by Stan Lee.
Drawn and inked by John Romita.
Lettered by Sam Rosen.

It's surprising that one of the most momentous events in the history of Spider-Man is built on the foundations of what is at heart an ordinary tale. Don't get me wrong. That's not to say it's a bad tale. It's not. It's just that this isn't an issue involving one of Spider-Man's great enemies. In fact it doesn't involve one of his enemies at all.

But that can be dealt with later.

The tale starts with the always penniless Spider-Man seemingly having finally embraced pragmatism by turning to the forces of darkness. Swinging on his web, he makes off with a bag of money he's just snatched from a bank. Things are never that simple though in Spider-Man-Land and, moments later, he drops the bag into the river, leaving us - and everyone in the story - none the wiser as to what's going on. Sadly, it's par for the course. Communicating his motivations with others was always the source of most of our hero's problems in life.

Meanwhile, across town, J Jonah Jameson's renuited with his son John. But John Jameson's no ordinary son. If Peter Parker thought he was unlucky, he should have tried being in John Jameson's space boots. In the first ever issue of The Amazing Spider-Man, he was trapped in a space capsule that was about to crash into the Earth. Later on in his career, he'd find himself turned into a werewolf. And, in this story, things are again going wrong for him. It seems he's been infected by spores from outer space and, within a few panels of his first appearance in this tale, he's suddenly grown dramatically and gained super-strength. But this isn't good super-strength, the type that Superman has. This is bad super-strength, the sort that could burn out his system and leave him dead.

If Jameson's to survive, he's going to need to wear a special suit and lead boots, so he can function in the normal world. Jonah sees his chance. If his beloved son can defeat the bank-robbing Spider-Man then the Bugle publisher can bask in the reflected glory. And so, convinced by his father that Spider-Man must be stopped, John sets off to capture the wall-crawler.

In fact Spider-Man deals with him fairly easily, shooting him in the face with webbing then leaving while the rogue astronaut's blinded. Time for a switch back to Peter Parker and, after years of being a social pariah, suddenly Peter Parker's in demand. The luscious Gwen Stacy is inviting him to a party at her place. He 'd love to go. But, doh, there goes the old Parker luck. He can't make it.


Ah, now that, and not John Jameson, is the whole point of this issue. He can't make it because he's been press-ganged, by his Aunt May, into having dinner with her best friend's niece Mary Jane Watson. Of course, Peter knows that - because he's Charlie Brown with super-powers - this fabled niece is going to be a worse date than the Hulk. Still, what can a man do? He's already given his word to go and so he has to turn down Gwen Stacy. Yet again, Peter Parker's in the doghouse. Yet again Peter Parker's a socal pariah.

Like he should care. He has better things to worry about because, even though Spider-Man's been cleared of the bank job - it's turned out he stole the bag because he knew it had a bomb in it - John Jameson, now uninged by the spores that made him super-human, is out for revenge -- and only the death of old Web-Head can placate him.

Mary Jane Watson. Let's face it, tiger, you just hit the jackpot
Yet again they meet - and yet again Spider-Man wins, this time by flinging him onto an electrical generator that burns the spores from him and leaves the now-unconscious astronaut restored to normality.

Not that J Jonah Jameson cares that this act has saved his son's life. Somehow, he convinces himself that this proves what a menace Spider-Man really is.

As for Spidey, it's back home, back into his civvies and back home for his encounter with the nightmare that is Mary Jane Watson.

Except, when he pulls the door open to meet her, what stands there before him? Well, Telly Savalas might have been right, and a picture might be worth a thousand words but, in this case, that picture can probably best be summed up by just eight words...

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