Monday, 22 February 2010

Amazing Spider-Man #24. Mysterio the psychiatrist

Amazing Spider-Man #24, Spider-Man is haunted by phantoms of his greatest ever foes as he goes mad, Steve Ditko
(Cover from May 1965.)

"Spider-Man Goes Mad!"

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

Madness. It can befall the best of us. For a start, here I am trying to review the whole of the first fourteen years of Spider-Man's existence.

But there are those whose grasp on sanity is even more tenuous than that, and there are those who'll tell you that all super-heroes are, at heart, madmen. Batman certainly is. I mean, what kind of billionaire decides the best way to fight crime in your city is to dress up as a bat?

Happily, a case can be made for Spider-Man being more rational than the caped crusader. After all, he has the powers of a spider and therefore good reason to adopt an arachnid identity, Plus, whatever his neuroses, he doesn't literally dress up as a spider.

However, try telling that to the man himself. One interview in the Daily Bugle, from someone claiming to be a renowned psychiatrist, and Peter Parker becomes convinced the psychiatrist (Dr Rinehart) is indeed right about his lack of marbles. Even before he starts to see things, our hero becomes convinced he must be cracking up.

It's a great idea of course, which must be why Gerry Conway recycled it lock, stock and both barrels in issues #141 and 142 of the Amazing Spider-Man. As with that story, it all turns out to be Mysterio's doing. As for his methods of doing so, it's pretty obvious how the projectors hidden inside mechanical animals are meant to work but I'm still not sure exactly how the rooms in Dr Rinehart's house are rotated to stand on their heads without Spider-Man noticing. I suppose he really must have been feeling messed up not to notice that.

I've been vaguely critical of Ditko's artwork post the Scorpion's debut tale, feeling that it seems to have become simpler, flatter and less stylish but I love his artwork here. It seems to have regained all its previous style and elegance. It's good to see Ditko could still turn it on when he was up for it. After two years on the strip, maybe the unconventionality of the tale got the naturally offbeat Ditko's juices flowing in a way that straightforward super-heroics no longer did.

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