Monday, 9 March 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #53. Dr Octopus

Amazing Spider-Man #53 Dr Octopus
(Cover from October 1967.)

"Enter: Dr Octopus"

Written by Stan Lee
Drawn by John Romita
Inked by Mickey Demeo
Lettered by Artie Simek

It's the same old same old for Spidey as the latest edition of The Bugle makes him out to be a villain. After a quick dose of verbal sparring with J Jonah Jameson, he heads off to ESU where he's spotted arriving, by Gwen and Flash. Flash is still his biggest fan in the whole wide world. Gwen asks how he can be sure Spidey's not someone he wouldn't dislike in real life. Flash says there's not a chance of that. Is this a hint that Gwendolyne knows who Spider-Man really is? Harry, meanwhile, is not Peter Parker's biggest fan. He's getting fed up of his flatmate's disappearing acts.

Oblivious to all this, Spidey sneaks into the gym and changes back into Peter Parker, almost getting caught in the act by Professor Warren. Given what happens a few years down the line, it makes you wonder how it would've changed things had the Professor entered the gym a few moments earlier and caught him red-handed. That, of course, is something we can never know. While he's there, the prof invites Pete to a science exposition that's going on later that night. Pete, of course, would be delighted to go and the good news is he can take a guest.

Amazing Spider-Man #53, john romita, peter parker is almost caught by Professor Warren as he climbs down a rope with his spider mask sticking out the back of his pants

No prizes for guessing who that guest might be as he bumps into Gwen Stacy and invites her along. There's time for a quick argument with Flash, who's understandably peeved about Peter stealing his girl. Peter says she was never his girl. Flash says she was. Peter and Flash threatening each other? It's just like the good old days.

Amazing Spider-Man #53, john romita, gwen stacy and flash thompson talk about spider-man

Amazing Spider-Man #53, john romita, Gwen Stacy, Flash thompson and Harry osborn with peter parker on campus

And then Peter, Gwen and the prof are off to the show. It has to be said these early pages are beautifully drawn by Romita. By this stage in his run, he really has hit his stride and his pencils are complemented perfectly by Mickey Demeo's fluid inking.

The trio arrive at the exposition. It seems the show's centrepiece will be the demonstration of a thing called the "nullifier" which, Gwen explains, works by nullifying the homing signals of enemy missiles. I think this is the first time in the strip that it's been acknowledged that Gwen has an interest in and knowledge of science. She is, after all, meant to be a science student. Their arrival's not good news though because, the moment they get there, Peter's spider-sense starts to tingle.

But why?

Then he gets his answer. As soon as the guest speaker starts to do his spiel, a figure in the audience stands up and starts to lay on the sinister. Peter does what we can't do and recognises that voice.

It's Doc Ock.

And he's after the nullifier!

Amazing Spider-Man #53, john romita, doc oc steals the ultimate nullifier as peter parker watches

Mayhem breaks out. Everyone flees. Ock polishes off some security guards, and then Spidey joins the fray. For some reason, the quality of Demeo's inks deteriorates noticeably during this sequence. But then they take the fight outside and it's normal service resumed from Demeo. Gwen, meanwhile, wants to know what's happened to Pete. So much for the earlier hint that she might know Spider-Man's real identity. Spider-Man, meanwhile, is gunking up Ock's glasses with webbing.

Amazing Spider-Man #53, john romita, spider-man fires webbing at doctor octopus' glasses

But Octopus is no fool. From the roof of the building, he drops the nullifer. If it lands on anyone they'll be killed! Abandoning his scrap with the villain, our hero deals with the machine, catching it with his webbing. But, when he returns to resume his fight with Octopus, the man's gone. Happily, Spidey had time to plant a tracer on him and can catch up with him later.

Back in his Peter Parker guise, our hero reunites himself with Gwendolyne. who's so glad to see him that she doesn't do the usual and demand to know where he disappeared to. He opines, "She's the only girl who's never asked me for explanations." Seemingly, he 's forgotten all about the fact that Mary Jane's never asked him for explanations.

Amazing Spider-Man #53, john romita, gwen stacy is worried about peter parker but then he shows up and, delighted, she gives him a big hug as professor warren watches on

Saying goodbye to Professor Warren, the pair enter the Coffee Bean. It seems that this, and not the Silver spoon, is now the gang's chosen hangout. Aunt May and Anna Watson enter. They've decided to take in a lodger. Pete says it's a great idea. Mary Jane says it's a great idea. That's that sorted then.

Amazing Spider-Man #53, john romita, mary jane watson, flash thompson and harry osborn are sat in the coffee bean when peter parker and gwen stacy arrive

Meanwhile, Octopus has discovered the spider-tracer our hero planted on him and is using it to set a trap. In a waterfront shack, he's created a booby-trapped dummy of himself. In the dark, Spidey'll think it's the real thing and come blundering in, only to be blown to pieces by a bomb planted by the multi-armed menace.

Following the signal from his tracer, Spider-man shows up.

Amazing Spider-Man #53, john romita, spider-man finds his spider-tracer attached to doctor octopus's chair but he gets suspicious and rolls a ball of webbing

But the Dr hadn't counted on one thing. The spider-sense that led him here now warns him of the danger. Playing it safe, Spidey fires a ball of webbing at the figure and, boom, the whole place goes up. Doc Ock's convinced he's killed Spidey and sets out to enact the next part of his heinous plan, finding somewhere to live.

But what's this? In the final panel? Doc Ock and Aunt May?


Could this be the start of a deadly new alliance?

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