Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #10. The Human Fly

(Cover from 1976.)

"Step Into My Parlor..."

Plot by Len Wein.
Written by Bill Mantlo.
Pencils by Gil Kane.
Inks by Giacoia/Esposito.
Lettering John Costanza.
Colours by Petra Goldberg.

What possessed them? What possessed them to put Spider-Man up against a foe called the Human Fly? For that matter, what possessed Len Wein to make Amazing Spider-Man Annual #10, a straight rerun of Lee/Ditko's Amazing Spider-Man #20? That story was a classic and one of my favourite Spider-tales ever as our hero first encountered the Scorpion and nearly got killed, not once but twice. This, on the other hand, is just plain stupid.

J Jonah Jameson, out to boost the Daily Bugle's flagging circulation, decides it'd be a great idea to create a brand new super-villain for Spider-Man to fight. Ignoring the fact that super-villains are dangerous, he goes to see the never-before-mentioned brother of Scorpion-creator Farley Stillwell, who just happens to be as loopy as his sibling and for some reason looks like Moe from the Three Stooges.

Given such a task, Stillwell knows exactly what to do. He'll create a fly-man to defeat Spider-Man. After all, he reasons, how could anyone with the powers of a spider possibly triumph against a foe with the powers of a fly? Erm, presumably the same way Crocodile Man could beat Wildebeest Boy, and Great White Shark Man could beat Stoned Surfer Dude. Ignoring the lessons of the food chain, Stillwell does his stuff on a small-time crook who's just dragged himself out of the river and has a grudge against Spider-Man.

Needless to say it all goes wrong. The Human Fly kills Stillwell then kidnaps Jameson to force Spider-Man into fighting him. Spider-Man fights him and clobbers him.

How does he do that?

By beating him up.

I've said this before but I really hate stories where Spider-Man defeats foes by beating them up. I want to see him using wit, ingenuity, cheating or even the odd bit of luck but never just beating people up.

Gil Kane's pencils are as dynamic as ever but the inking of Giacoia and Esposito just doesn't suit his work at all. The writing's competent but it's basically Spider-Man by numbers. There's nothing in this tale we haven't seen before; from Jameson's idiocy to Robbie's bravery to Stillwell's lunacy. And because any super-tale's unlikely to be better than its bad guy, and the Human Fly seems like one of those villains that never appeared outside a Hostess Twinkies ad, like its antagonist this tale would've needed a miracle if it were to succeed.

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