Friday, 18 June 2010

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1. The Sinister Six

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, the Sinister Six(Cover from 1964.)

"The Sinister Six!"

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

In the early 1960s, men were men, women were women, sheep were sheep and money was money. You could get a house for thruppence, a yacht for two-and-six, and the Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 for a mighty twenty five cents. For your money, you got a whopping 72 (BIG) pages of your favourite wall-crawler and none of that reprint rubbish.

That's not all you got. You got a positive epic as Spider-Man takes on not one but a whole clutch of his old foes in the form of the Sinister Six. On top of that, we get cameos from Iron Man, Giant Man, the Wasp, Thor, Dr Strange, the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Captain America, each with a nice little caption beneath telling us we can read their adventures in the appropriate comic. This thing gives us the very definition of the phrase, "Pulling out all the stops."

Escaping from a jail that's conveniently stored his metal arms nearby, Dr Octopus gathers Spider-Man's five other greatest enemies (no Green Goblin) and says that together they can defeat Spider-Man. Then, showing the level of intelligence that got them all defeated in the first place, they decide the best way to beat him is to fight him one at a time!

Gang up on him, you idiots! Gang up on him!

Needless to say, given this tactic, Spidey beats them like he always beats them. I especially like the Sandman defeating himself by locking him and Spidey in an airless room and then passing out from lack of oxygen (Doh!). Aunt May shows her usual stupidity and lays the groundwork for future stupidity by totally failing to realise she's been kidnapped by Dr Octopus, and Betty Brant's in one of her liking Spider-Man moods. We also get the sight of J Jonah Jameson trying to communicate with a spider.

It's difficult to describe how great this is. The sheer level of effort that's gone into this comic's startling and we get some of the best artwork Steve Ditko ever did on the strip, including a splash page for every encounter Spider-Man has with a baddie. We also get the, "Spider-Man loses his powers," thing that got used in the second Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie. Now, as then, it's all psychosomatic and Spidey gets his mojo back once he realises he does want and need to be Spider-Man. If that's not enough, we get a multi-page gallery of Spider-Man's greatest foes, a nine page Secrets of Spider-Man feature, various bits and bobs about Peter Parker's private life and a story showing us how an issue of Spider-Man's put together, in which Stan Lee keeps annoying Steve Ditko by telling him what to do. I make no comment.

My only complaint is I'm a little worried that Spider-Man saves himself from death at the hands of Electro by grounding himself with his webbing. I'm no electrician - and I'm even less a super-hero - but isn't grounding yourself the worst thing you can do when confronted by deadly levels of electricity?


cerebus660 said...

I've read most of the Lee/Ditko issues of Spider-Man, but not this one. It sounds fantastic - I'll have to track down the relevant Essentials volume.

I do seem to remember reading "How Stan Lee And Steve Ditko Create Spider-Man!" in the ol' Spider-Man Comics Weekly. Doesn't it show Ditko working through the night to meet a deadline, but forgetting to ink in Spidey's webs? God knows how I remember this stuff :-)

The Cryptic Critic said...

Hi, cerebus. The annual's reprinted right at the end of Essential Spidey Vol #1 and it is indeed a spectacular. My favourite moment is Flash Thompson's encounter with Dr Strange.

You're right about Ditko forgetting to draw Spider-Man's webbing. I like to think it was his shame at forgetting it that made him quit the strip - although, strangely enough, I've never heard anyone else put that explanation forward. Clearly these people need to learn to think outside the box.

Doug said...

Hey, if giving you that Kreativ Blogger award was all it took to get you back into the reviews, we'd have done it long ago!

Enjoying this,


The Cryptic Critic said...

Thanks, Doug. I have to admit I was always planning to resume at some point but, after ploughing through a zillion issues already, I felt I needed a break. Nice to know it's not wasted effort though. :)

Kid said...

You're right about "grounding" as far as electricity is concerned. When the tale was reprinted in MARVEL TALES in the eighties, this little detail was corrected.

Horace Austin said...

What a treat this issue is. No ads within the 72 pages!

And, I love the appearances of the other super-heroes in the story. Shows how inter-connected the Marvel Universe was even in 1964.

Spectacular issue that oozes Lee/Ditko awesomeness.

The Cryptic Critic said...

It's great value for money, that's for sure. :)


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