Sunday, 24 January 2010

Amazing Spider-Man #6. The Lizard

Amazing Spider-Man #6, Spidey and the Lizard fall down a stone shaft as they fight, first appearance and origin
(Cover from November 1963.)

"Face-To-Face With The Lizard!"

Words by Stan Lee.
Art by Steve Ditko.
Lettering by Artie Simek.

Scientists, will they never learn not to tamper with things that're best left to God, and God alone?

Well, not in the mighty world of Marvel Comics, they won't. And I suppose we should be glad of it or Spider-Man would have a very dull life and we'd have nothing to spend our 12 cents on each month. That's right, pilgrims, this is the issue when out favourite comic book goes monthly and, to celebrate, we get a trip to Florida.

This time out, the scientist who doesn't know to leave things to God and God alone is Dr Curt Connors who, in an attempt to grow back the arm he lost in the war, has drunk some reptile serum and promptly turned into the Lizard, scourge of the swamps and supreme photo opportunity for Peter Parker. Of course, Peter Parker has to survive this particular photo opportunity before he can get his money but what can you do?

I love this story. I love it for two reasons. One, it has the Lizard in it, who's probably my favourite Spider-Man villain. And, two, because of the dialogue.

In fact, the dialogue starts spectacularly badly, with the Lizard uttering the sort of cornball lines that monsters used to utter in the monster stories Marvel produced by the bucketful in the early 1960s. But then we switch to Peter Parker in New York and it's blatantly obvious Stan Lee's hit his stride with his characterisation of our hero, as Peter quips his way through a series of incidents before finally getting to meet his foe.

It's easy to credit Steve Ditko with a huge part of Spider-Man's early success - it is, after all, a visual medium - but I can't help feeling it was Stan Lee's voicing of our hero that was the real secret. Had there ever been a super hero before written quite liked Spider-Man? For me, that's why the strip made such a smooth transition from the Ditko era to the John Romita epoch. The style of art may have been dramatically different but Lee's dialogue stayed true to the spirit of old.

As for Florida, that's when the joking stops and our hero's in a fight for his life.

Like Dr Doom's plan last issue, the Lizard's scheme probably doesn't make any great sense. He wants to give the serum, that turned him into the Lizard, to the reptiles in the Florida swamps, to turn them into what are presumably meant to be an army of Lizard-Men. Except the formula was derived from lizards, so wouldn't it just make them more lizardy?

Happily we never get the chance to find out, as given the chance to administer the formula to all the creatures of the swamp, the Lizard, or Liz to his friends, spends all his time, boasting of how he's going to give the formula to the lizards while never actually doing it. Instead, he spends all his time, trying to squish Spider-Man. Something he very nearly manages. Happily, as is his wont, Spidey's whipped up an antidote in double-quick time and pours it down the Lizard's throat. Cue, one cured scientist and a friendship to last for life.

One friendship that's not on such firm ground is the one between Peter Parker and Liz Allan. Having been rescued from jewel thieves by him, in the museum, she's developed a crush on Spider-Man and has no time at all now for Peter Parker. As Peter Parker says, talking to no one in particular, as he does, "Only a guy with my nutty luck could end up being his own competition." You said it, tiger, but then we wouldn't want it any other way.


Brenton said...

This is quite a run of bad guy introductions. The Vulture, Doc Oc, the Sandman and now the Lizard all in the space of five issues? Madness.

The Cryptic Critic said...

It is genuinely amazing how many classic villains Ditko and Lee managed to introduce in the strip's early days. I've always loved the fact that so many of them were named after animals. It was like someone had taken them for a trip to the zoo before they started.


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