Monday, 8 March 2010

Amazing Spider-Man #31. The Master Planner

Amazing Spider-Man #31, Dr Octopus, Master Planner, Steve Ditko cover
(Cover from December 1965.)

"If This Be My Destiny...!"

Written by Stan Lee.
Drawn and inked by Steve Ditko.
Lettered by Sam Rosen.

As well as inventing baby powder, Dr Johnson once wrote, "When a man is tired of Spider-Man he is tired of life." Well, OK, he didn't. But, if he hadn't been too busy with the baby powder, I'm sure he would've done.

And, if that analysis is true, I might as well end it all right now because I really can't muster any great enthusiasm for this tale. People tell me it's a classic but, for the most part, it just feels like bog-standard Spider-Man to me. There's a gang going around committing crimes under instruction from a mysterious mastermind called the Master Planner, who, unlike previous would-be masterminds like the Big Man and the Crime-Master, at least has the originality and coolness to have an underwater base. He's also got his act together enough now to realise his name shouldn't be the Cat.

Also on the familiarity breeds contempt front, Aunt May's at death's door again.

The one new element, apart from Spider-Man having the sense to wear a gas mask against foes he knows are carrying gas, is that Peter Parker starts university. And so we get the first appearance of both Gwen Stacy and Harry Osborn who does look remarkably like the Green Goblin in his depiction here.

Could it be Harry and not Norman Osborn that Steve Ditko was at this stage intending to reveal as being the villain? Then again, was wily Steve just toying with us and trying to lead us all up the pixie-garden path with it?

Sadly, given Mr Ditko's lack of enthusiasm for interviews, maybe we'll never find out. The trouble is, the whole Goblin thing aside, while these are new characters in a new setting, they act just like the kids did in high school in the strip's early days so it doesn't feel like the strip's making any kind of move forward. In fact, if anything, it feels like it's going backwards. It does worry me that, as I review these issues, I increasingly find myself longing for the moment we get to the John Romita issues and a fresh new slant on things.

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