Thursday, 28 January 2010

Amazing Spider-Man #9. Electro

Amazing Spider-Man #9, Electro makes his debut and knocks Spider-Man out
(Cover from February 1964.)

"The Man Called Electro!"

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

Time to say hello to what would become two familiar enemies. In this tale, we get the first appearance of Max Dillon, AKA Electro, and we get the first appearance of Aunt May's sick bed.

To be honest, it's the arrival of Electro that's most welcome. Maybe if Aunt May's sick bed hadn't turned up in nearly every story from this point on, it would have been more welcome but, as it is, it's a rather ominous arrival for both Peter Parker and for us.

But this tale seems a little odd. It sort of feels like there's been an issue in between the last one and this. One we've not been privy to. All of a sudden Aunt May's at death's door and Betty Brant seems an awful lot closer to Peter Parker than she ever has before - even visiting Aunt May in hospital, although, before now, there's been no indication she's ever even heard of May Parker, let alone met her.

Nice to know there's a psychic available. As Electro climbs up a building - Spider-Man style - an onlooker kindly explains the principle by which he's managing to do it. Clearly that's one clever onlooker.

As with other villains so far in the strip's brief history, Electro's plan makes no real sense. In fairness, at first he doesn't have one. He's happy just to rob people. In fact, in these early pages, he seems quite nice, only giving his victims a mild electric shock that, in all honesty, seems to be doing nothing more than tickling them. He even expresses regret at having to hurt Spider-Man.

But then he decides the best method in the world to avoid being captured and sent to prison is to break into the local prison. His plan? To free the prisoners so they can work for him and protect him from going to prison.

But you're already in prison, you buffoon!

You've just broken in! And now you can't leave because the place is surrounded by cops who'll shoot you like a dog if you try to. And then super villains wonder why they never win.

And of course he doesn't win. Following on in his tradition of defeating seemingly unbeatable opponents in unlikely ways, Spider-Man stops Electro with a hose pipe. First the Sandman with a vacuum cleaner, now this. The super villains union will not be happy.

Some might point out that Electro's powers break the laws of physics in places, his own brand of special electricity seeming not to need to be grounded to work. But, hey, it's a comic book, what can you do? If anyone practised any kind of scientific accuracy there'd be no story. "Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider and then his hair falls out and he dies," probably wouldn't have spawned a strip that's lasted nearly fifty years and launched a clutch of movies.

Electro's debut aside, the issue's main interest comes from the supporting cast, with both Flash Thompson and Betty Brant being fleshed out noticeably. Flash has second thoughts about the way he's been treating Peter Parker and tries to bury the hatchet, only to be ignored by the teenager who has other things on his mind, instantly turning Flash back into being an enemy.

Betty Brant meanwhile reveals she once knew a boy like Peter Parker, who she had to break up with, seemingly because of his love of danger. Keep watching this space, kids. We're clearly being set up for future events.

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