Saturday, 30 January 2010

Amazing Spider-Man #11. Dr Octopus is back

Spider-Man cowers as Dr Octopus closes in on him, Amazing Spider-Man #11, Steve Ditko
(Cover from April 1964.)

"Turning Point"

Written by Stan Lee.
Drawn by Steve Ditko.
Inked by Steve Ditko.
Lettered by Sam Rosen.

Forget jet packs, ray guns and rocket ships, I sometimes think the invention we need most in this world is the robot from Lost in Space, the one that kept declaring, "Warning! Warning!" while waving its arms around. Certainly, the characters in The Amazing Spider-Man could do with it.

The judges and juries of Marvel Comics' New York city could definitely do with it. Only eight issues after being sent to jail for trying to take over the world - or something - Dr Octopus's sentence is served and he's free to go and look for alternative work. It's hardly surprising New York's crawling with crooks if sentencing in the city's this lax. Still, it does however mean Spider-Man's never short of someone to fight.

Another person in need of a good warning's Betty Brant who, in time-honoured tradition's done a runner. It seems her brother Bennett Brant has got himself mixed up with a crook called Blackie Gaxton who's blackmailing him into aiding his escape from prison. To do so, Gaxton's enlisted the aid of Dr Octopus and so, by the sort of coincidence that only happens in comic book land, Spider-Man's search for Dr Octopus and his search for Betty Brant lead him to the same place.

In fact, it's a slightly disappointing return for Octopus. Established as a major menace on his first appearance, here he's merely working as a lackey for someone we've never heard of before and, to my knowledge, never hear of again. Still, on the plus side, at the tale's climax, Spider-Man merely escapes Dr Octopus, rather than defeating him, thus preserving some of the not-so-good Doctor's menace.

In the first appearances index: we get the debut of the spider-tracer, although the idea that Spider-Man can detect it with his spider-sense has yet to be hit upon and so he uses a portable radio, hung around his neck, to detect it.

Steve Ditko's art goes from strength to strength. It may seem quite dated - and even quaint - these days but it has a simple elegance to it and it's quite surprising to see Betty Brant looking quite so glamorous.

As for Blackie Gaxton, he hangs around long enough to shoot dead Betty Brant's brother, making Betty the first of Peter Parker's girlfriends to lose a relative thanks to her involvement with Spider-Man's other half. Warnings again. If only she'd been able to warn Gwen Stacy what she was getting into. But hindsight, it's a wonderful thing.

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