Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Amazing Spider-Man #8. The Living Brain

"The Terrible Threat Of The Living Brain!"
Amazing Spider-Man #8, Living Brain, first appearance and origin
(Cover from January 1964.)

Written by Stan Lee.
Drawn by Steve Ditko.
Inked by Steve Ditko.
Lettered by Artie Simek.

If you're looking for trouble, you've come to the right place. You've come to Peter Parker's high school. Trouble certainly does seem attracted to it. Only four issues back it was hi-jacked by the Sandman and now it's the turn of a homicidal robot.

Meanwhile, no one could ever accuse Stan Lee of lacking commercial nouse or of not knowing his market, and so Amazing Spider-Man #8 finds itself billed as the, "Special, 'Tribute to Teenagers' Issue!!" A matter so important it even gets two exclamation marks.

It has to be said that, when you get inside, this tribute to teenagers is nowhere in sight. I mean, there are teenagers but where the tribute is anybody's guess.

Oh well, what can you do? These are comic books, the medium that used to sell you Sea-Monkeys and X-Ray specs. They're not the place to go if you demand honest advertising.

Instead, we get one of the sillier tales of the era, when Spider-Man find himself up against the Living Brain, an out of control robot that may or may not know his secret identity. He finds time to do this and, in one of the early years' most memorable scenes, have a boxing match with Flash Thompson.

I said it was silly, and it is, as the Living Brain blunders around the school on castors, as poor old Flash becomes comic relief. But that's not to say it doesn't hold a special place in my heart. As with the previous issue, there's a sense of fun here and one that probably works better in this tale, than it did in that.

Slightly odd to discover that Peter Parker's high school teacher's called Mr Warren. Apparently, it was later retconned that this Mr Warren and the later Professor Warren were brothers. I can't say I can see the family resemblance.

In terms of significance, this is the issue where Peter Parker broke his glasses and decided he didn't need them anymore.

"Spider-Man Tackles The Torch!"

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

Fixated with the Fantastic Four?

Stan Lee?

It seems like it. I've lost count of how many times Spider-Man's come up against one or more members of the group in his first few issues but he's at it again, first gatecrashing the Human Torch's party and fighting him for no reason at all other than to fill some comic book pages, and then picking a fight with the rest of the Four, again for no reason whatsoever. I suppose the tale's real importance is that it's drawn by Jack Kirby, the man originally pencilled in (sorry) to draw Spider-Man before the task was given instead to Steve Ditko.

So, What kind of a job does he do?

A pretty good one, though it has to be said the difference is most apparent in the nature of the tale, which, in good old Jack Kirby tradition is one non-stop fight. Kirby's love of gimmicks shows through, with him having Spider-Man make a web bat, two web parachutes, two web scoops, a web heart and a pair of webbed wings - all in the space of just seven pages, which I suppose gives us some insight into what the strip would've been like if, as planned, he'd drawn it.

In the end it's just a throwaway tale - and the reason for Spider-Man and the Torch's antipathy to each other's never explained. They'd shown no sign of it before, though it was to surface over and over again over the years before they finally admitted they were friends.

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