Saturday, 7 March 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #50. Spidey quits

Amazing Spider-Man #50, Spidey quits
(Bright red for a hero feeling blue. From July 1967.)

"Spider-Man No More!"

Written by Stan Lee
Drawn by John Romita
Inked by Mickey Dimeo
Lettered by Sam Rosen

One of the all-time classic tales starts out like it's going to be just another one off the production line, as Spider-Man foils the attempted robbery of an office. Wasting no time at all, he quickly disposes of a group of minor criminals.

Amazing Spider-Man #50, john romita, our hero is attacked by a gang of thugs

But then his real problems start because one of the office workers he's just saved clearly sees him as being as big a danger as the crooks he's just swatted and, when he gets home, Peter discovers his Aunt May's had another of her turns and has had to take to her sick bed. Because of his heroic derring-doings, he wasn't there at the time.

Feeling guilty, our hero goes back home. He's got an exam tomorrow but can't concentrate on revision because of what's happened with his aunt. The next day, Professor Warren gets his first scene of note as Peter miserably fails his exam, prompting the prof to take him aside and remind him he can't let his grades keep sliding forever. Next, Gwen invites him to a party she's throwing. He'd love to go but, with the need to revise and his concern over his aunt, he can't make it. Back home, he switches the TV on, to try and take his mind off his woes. But his woes just leap out of the TV at him, as J Jonah Jameson's indulging in another of his rants about what a menace Spidey is.

So far so normal.

Amazing Spider-Man #50, john romita, his head filled with voices, Peter Parker starts to doubt his sanity

But this is when things suddenly change, because this is where Peter decides that JJ might be right. Maybe he is nuts. Maybe he is a menace to society. Maybe his presence does nothing but make the lives of those around him worse. Walking alone in the rain, trying to gather his thoughts, Peter comes to only one conclusion.

Spider-Man must die.

In a magnificent full-page panel, Peter walks away from a dustbin, his costume hanging discarded from it. The world will never again hear from Spider-Man.

Amazing Spider-Man #50, John Romita, as rain falls, peter parker walks away from the trash can in which he has dumped his costume

It'll hear from his costume though because, the next morning, a child rushes into The Daily Bugle offices. He's found something. It's Spider-Man's costume. J Jonah Jameson's delighted. It can only mean one thing - the end of Spider-Man.

The news soon gets out - mostly because Jameson makes sure it gets out, plastering it all over his newspaper and plugging his scoop all over the networks. And he's not the only one delighted because the criminal underclasses are too - none more so than a mysterious figure stood with his back to us, at a window. Who is he? We don't know but he says his name's the Kingpin and, when it comes to crime, he's ready to take over.

Patch, the informer, is interested. A whole bunch of underworld types are headed for a meeting. He wants in. They want him out and make sure he stays that way. At their meeting, the underworld types discuss whether they should let the Kingpin take over. Elsewhere, the thwarted Patch resumes his true identity of Bugle newshound Fred Foswell and discusses with himself whether he should be the one to take over.

While Foswell thinks, the Kingpin acts. All over town, he's staging a string of robberies to see if Spider-Man deals with them. He doesn't. Now the Kingpin's certain he can take over.

And what of our story's central character? In his own way, he's as delighted as the Kingpin. Freed of his responsibility to save the city from every crook who so much as spits on the pavement, he can concentrate on his studies, he can visit his Aunt May, he can be with his friends. As it happens, Aunt May and his friends don't actually need him but what does he care?

Well, this makes him care. This is when the fickle finger of fate, or rather the fickle finger of Stan Lee, steps in. On his way back to his pad, he spots a security guard being attacked. Given no choice, he discards his shoes, clambers up onto the roof and rescues him, departing before the guard can properly see his face.

But there's something about that guard that's rung a bell.

It takes him some time but at last Peter realises what it was. The guard reminded him of his Uncle Ben, which now brings flashbacks to the string of events that led him to become a battler with evil and it makes him realise that, in the end, he can't dodge his responsibilities. He was given his powers for a reason and that reason was to protect those who can't protect themselves.

Amazing Spider-Man #50, john romita, peter parker sees uncle ben in flashback

Fred Foswell's one of those who can't protect himself. The former criminal's decided that, if anyone's going to be in charge of organised crime in this city, it should be him. Showing the self preservation instinct of a lemming, he goes to the Kingpin's office and tells him he's going to be running things from now on but he's a generous man and would be willing to let the Kingpin be one of his lieutenants.

The Kingpin, about as impressed by this ludicrous offer as anyone would be, fires his cane to disintegrate Foswell's concealed gun and has one of his goons grab the would-be Napoleon of crime. Exactly why Foswell thought he could take over organised crime in the city just by saying he was is anybody's guess but it's easy to see why his previous attempt to do so, back when he was The Big Man, failed so miserably. Frankly, on the strength of this, he hasn't got two brain cells to rub together.

Amazing Spider-Man #50, john romita, the Kingpin fires his cane weapon at Fred Foswell

Across town, Peter Parker scales a wall. It's a wall of The Daily Bugle's offices. He enters the window and retrieves his costume from the glass case JJ's put it in then waits for everybody's favourite publisher to return. When he does, Spider-Man gives him a good taunting, leaps out the window and delares Spidey to be back in action. This really is one of the classic yarns of the era - classic enough to inspire a movie - blessed with a striking cover that demands you buy it, full of memorable imagery and - with Spider-Man only appearing at the very beginning and end of the tale - proof that a super-hero comic doesn't have to just be men with muscles hitting each other, that internal conflict and character can drive such a story as compellingly as a big punch-up. It's a shame more comic book writers didn't learn that lesson.


Brenton said...

That sounds like an awesome story. And what a great cover.

The Cryptic Critic said...

It's a classic all right (both the comic and the cover).


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