Monday, 8 February 2010

Amazing Spider-Man #18. The Sandman's back

Amazing Spider-Man #18, the Sandman returns(Cover from November 1964.)

"The End Of Spider-Man!"

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

Rule books are there to be shredded; and no one seemed more aware of that than Stan Lee. He did it most famously with issue #50 of The Amazing Spider-Man, showing Peter Parker giving up his life as a hero.

But it wasn't without precedent. Why? Because he'd already used the idea here in Amazing Spider-Man #18, in which, having to look after his sick Aunt May, Peter Parker manages to go through the whole issue without having a single fight.

That's not to say we don't get to see Spider-Man but when we do, it's in a distinctly un-heroic light; first managing to fail to get a trading card deal then failing to sell his web formula to a glue factory and then running away from the Sandman rather than risk getting hurt.

Needless to say this has the whole of New York wondering just what's going on as J Jonah Jameson crows about it all.

But, of course, whatever Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's willingness to experiment, The Amazing Spider-Man wouldn't have lasted long had its hero never shown his face again and so, by the end of the tale, fired up by a speech from Aunt May about how the Parkers have never been quitters, Spidey has his costume back on and is ready to show the world what Spider-Man's really all about.

There's lots to love in this tale. Early on we get various villains and heroes ruminating on the, "Spider-Man turns yellow," situation. We get J Jonah Jameson gloating. There's also Spider-Man's inability to make any money despite being a genius. We get Flash Thompson trying to restore Spider-Man's reputation, by passing himself off as the webbed crusader but only getting a hiding from a gang of minor crooks for his trouble. But my favourite scene of the issue has to be where the Human Torch (yes, he's guesting again!), refusing to believe his old sparring partner can have turned yellow, sits atop the Statue of Liberty all night, hoping against hope that Spider-Man will answer his fiery summons and prove himself not to be a coward. The respect the Torch has for a man he always makes out to be an enemy is actually quite touching, and nicely handled by Steve Ditko.

And that's the point. It's the reaction and behaviour of the supporting cast that makes this issue. The effect his withdrawal from the fray has on them's the real reason The Amazing Spider-Man was such a success. The story-telling and characterisation had become so strong by this point that the strip's central character didn't even need to be in it for it to work. And, when you get down to it, how many comic books can you say that about?

1 comment:

Brenton said...

Having only started reading Spider-Man much later, I often wondered where his reputation for being timid came from.


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