Strange Tales #115 (12/10/1963)

detailOnce again, this issue of Strange Tales #115 is once again split between a solo Human Torch story and a Dr. Strange tale. As has been the norm up to this point, the solo Human Torch story is wildly inconsistent and poorly written. For one, I just love how the other members of the Fantastic Four are usually too busy to actually fight villains. In Strange Tales #115, for instance, Mr. Fantastic is too busy to assist with the Sandman because of an experiment and the Thing and Invisible Woman are too busy writing a report. Seriously? Over fighting a villain? What kind of superheroes are they?

Another concern with this issue is Lee didn’t even try to come up with a creative way of having the Sandman escape, rather he was just placed in a regular prison cell. That’s just plain lazy writing. The confrontation between Sandman and the Human Torch was okay, but it’s beyond me how the bottom half of the Human Torch gets wet, but his top stays dry when the ceiling sprinklers come on. Luckily for the Human Torch he is now a judo master and is able to toss Sandman around like nothing. Really a poorly thought out story.

Luckily, the Dr. Strange tale is much better, which is the first telling of Dr. Strange’s well-known origin story. The tale opens with Dr. Strange traveling to India to seek the aide of the Ancient One in healing him. It is through the Ancient One’s peering into Dr. Strange’s mind that we learn of his past as an arrogant surgeon and the accident that damaged the nerves in his hands. It’s a very short, but effective story. Now if only the Human Torch stories could get on par with the Dr. Strange ones this series would be much better.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Dick Ayers
  • Inkers: Dick Ayers
  • Colourists:
  • Letterers: Artie Simek
  • Editors: Stan Lee

 

Amazing Spider-Man #7 (12/10/1963)

detailnn.jpgI think that there are two things that the Amazing Spider-Man series does so well compared to other series of this time period. The first one is that the series builds upon previous events, which other series don’t seem to do. Amazing Spider-Man #7 offers a good example of this. While most issues are satisfied with just briefly recapping the last encounter with a villain, the Amazing Spider-Man goes beyond that by incorporating lessons learned form the pervious encounter. For example, Amazing Spider-Man #7 sees the return of the Vulture, an individual that Spider-Man beat in their last encounter pretty handily due to an anti-magnetic device. Thus, this issue sees Spider-Man be over confident due to still having the device.

The other thing that this series does really well is that there are actually consequences to Spider-Man’s actions and encounters. For instance, due to being overconfident in his encounter with the Vulture, Spider-Man comes out of the encounter with a sprained arm. I mean seriously, how many heroes have had an injury up to this point? I can’t think of one. Another thing I’ve always liked about the Spider-Man series is the extensive supporting cast and the important roles they play in the series, such as the dynamics between Peter and Flash, and Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson. When was the last time Don Blake changing into Thor caused him any issues?

Overall, this another solid issue in the series and worth a read. The Vulture, while not one of Spider-Man’s best villains, still is a solid character. In addition, this issue sees further development in the relationship between Betty Brant and Peter. Also, J. Jonah Jameson getting his mouth webbed was just a classic Spider-Man move.

Rating: 3.5/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Steve Ditko
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Steve Ditko
  • Inkers: Steve Ditko
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: Steve Ditko
  • Editors: Stan Lee

Amazing Spider-Man #6 (11/10/1963)

detail.jpgAfter featuring a Fantastic Four villain in the last issue, Amazing Spider-Man #6 features the first appearance of another classic villain, the Lizard. This issue opens with basically the Daily Bugle goading Spider-Man into facing off against the mysterious Lizard who is terrorizing the Everglades. Of course the only problem is that the fact that Spider-Man is really Peter Parker it means that he is too broke to be able to get down to Florida. It’s little problems like this, which cannot be solved with super powers, that make Spider-Man such an interesting series. Eventually, Spider-Man is able to basically beat J. Jonah Jameson at his own game and got him to pay for Peter Parker to photograph the Lizard.

Upon arriving down in Florida it’s not long before Spider-Man runs into the Lizard and has his butt promptly handed to him. Luckily, the Lizard isn’t just some generic villain who just wants to take over the world. In fact, the Lizard actually has an interesting backstory, as he is actually Dr. Curt Connors, a former surgeon who took up studying reptiles after he had lost his arm in the war. Unfortunately, Dr. Connors gets caught up in his quest to regrow his arm and takes his untested formula, which at first causes him to grow his arm back, but then comes the side effect of turning him into the Lizard.

Overtime, Dr. Connors begins to lose his humanity and becomes more and more reptilian. The Lizard is definitely a credible physical threat to Spider-Man, with him being stronger than Spider-Man, with a naturally thick hide, and the ability to scale walls as well. However, in addition to that, the Lizard has that extra layer of essentially being a good guy that’s trapped inside of a monster, which just makes the character that much more interesting. In addition, Ditko’s depiction of the Lizard is just fantastic as well. There’s just something about Ditko’s art style that works really well with Spider-Man.

The plot is well-paced and the confrontations with the Lizard actually taking place over three different occurrences, which is a nice break from the one big confrontation that is so common with Silver Age issues. That’s not to say there aren’t some issues with the story, such as gator guards and Spider-Man pontoons, they’re just so minor that they really don’t detract from the overall story. In the end, Amazing Spider-Man #6 is a fantastic read, that adds yet another interesting rouge to Spider-Man’s gallery. In addition, this issue continues to lay the groundwork of the relationship between Betty Brant and Parker.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Steve Ditko
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Steve Ditko
  • Inkers: Steve Ditko
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: Artie Simek
  • Editors: Stan Lee

Strange Tales Annual #2 (10/10/1963)

mm.jpgThis issue demonstrates Lee’s habit of forgetting events from the previous issues. In this case, in the last issue Lee spent the issue trying to show that the Human Torch wasn’t a hot-head and didn’t relish the spotlight. However in this issue we see the Human Torch basically throwing a tantrum and whining about how Spider-Man is getting too much media coverage and is stealing his spotlight. Really, the Human Torch just comes off as bratty. Also, it’s a shame that the Invisible Girl has basically just been turned into the Human Torch’s mother in this series.

Soon after Human Torch’s temper tantrum, the issue turns to an art museum that is displaying a previously unknown Da Vinci work of art and it is here that we are introduced to the story’s villain, the Fox, an art thief. The Fox eventually hatches a plan, which is suitable enough, and steals the not only the painting, but also frames Spider-Man in the process. The rational of doing that just to keep the police off his trail makes sense and is a welcome change of pace in the typical motivations of villains up to this point.

The scene then shifts to a well drawn distant shot of Spider-Man standing on top of a skyscraper overlooking the city. It is here that the story breaks down a little bit, as Spider-Man’s rational for wanting to team-up with the Human Torch basically boils down to him also being a teenager, which is just silly. Anyways, upon seeking out the Human Torch, naturally they end up having to fight each other at first because Lee loves to lean on that very, very tired trope of an encounter between superheroes must always lead to a misunderstanding a fight. Yawn.

Eventually the heroes workout their differences and decide to team up to track down the Fox. Unfortunately the Fox, while a perfectly serviceable, if not generic villain, also represents Lee’s tendency to have his villains really reflect their namesake. Thus the Fox is naturally tricky and has his secret hideouts all underground, basically like a borrow. Although, I did enjoy the exchange between him, as an old lady, and Spider-Man. That was just funny.

In the end, Strange Tales Annual #2 is a perfectly serviceable, well-paced issue that features some nice art and an ultimately forgettable story and villain.

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Jack Kirby
  • Inkers: Steve Ditko
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: Artie Simek
  • Editors:

Amazing Spider-Man #5 (10/10/1963)

detailnThis issue of Amazing Spider-Man is interesting in that it’s the first issue to feature a villain that is not a traditional Spider-Man villain, namely Dr. Doom. In addition, this is an early example of the formation of a broader Marvel Universe, in which the various series are not in isolation from one another. This issue sees Dr. Doom zero in on Spider-Man as a possible ally to help him take down the Fantastic Four, which is a nice departure from a typical villain who wants to take over the city or world motivation. In addition, Dr. Doom’s motivations for targeting Spider-Man makes sense, as watching media it’s unsure if Spider-Man is a good guy or not and he is certainly an outcast.

However the whole hacking into Spider-Man’s spider signal by Dr. Doom as a way to move the plot forward was a bit hockey. This initial encounter between Dr. Doom and Spider-Man was extremely well-done and really highlighted both Dr. Doom’s arrogance and Spider-Man’s tendency for the quip. Also, it pokes at Lee’s overreliance on the trap door as a source of danger for the heroes, which was a nice touch. Spider-Man’s rejection of Doom’s offer for partnership and Doom’s displeasure at being rejected is an effective way to move the plot along, because the fact that Spider-Man is an unwilling pawn and Dr. Doom’s desire to be in control definitely fits his character. Thus Dr. Doom sets to work on a device to track down Spider-Man.

Meanwhile, Flash Thompson decides to dress up like Spider-Man and scare Peter Parker by jumping out at him in costume. Unfortunately for Flash, Dr. Doom tracks down Spider-Man right as he dresses up and Peter Parker is walking by him, which naturally leads Dr. Doom to capture Flash and hold him hostage until the Fantastic Four surrender to him. While not the best plot device, the whole mistaken identity actually works in this case, given the comments made earlier in the issue and is actually a subtle use of foreshadow for once. Although the whole Liz calling Peter to tell him Flash is missing makes absolutely zero sense in regards to the characters’ relationship.

The ensuing encounter between Spider-Man and Dr. Doom is actually even better than the previous one and it really highlights just how dangerous Dr. Doom really is. In addition, the conflict between the two resolves in a way that actually makes sense from a story perspective. Also, this issue does a good job furthering Peter’s relationship with several supporting characters, such as Aunt May and Betty Brant, which has always been a strong point of this series.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Steve Ditko
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Steve Ditko
  • Inkers: Steve Ditko
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: Sam Rosen
  • Editors: Stan Lee

 

Amazing Spider-Man #4 (09/10/1963)

detail.jpgHaving escaped from the maximum security, Island Prison, Flint Marko seeks to escape the pursing FBI by ducking into a nuclear testing site. Unfortunately for Flint, he ends up getting caught in a blast which causes him to change at a molecular level and have the ability to change his body into sand. Naturally, Flint decides to use these newfound powers to enhance his criminal activities and he now has his sites set on New York City. Will Spider-Man be able to stop him?

Amazing Spider-Man 4 is yet another solid issue in the series. Sandman is another classic villain who has an interesting power. In addition, Spider-Man continues to be one of the more relatable superheroes. I mean in this issue he has to end up sewing his own mask, jumps the gun on trying to stop some jewel thieves, which causes them to call the police on him, and having to blow off a date with Liz Allen. In addition, Ditko’s art style fits extremely well with this series and action panels are top notch. I am definitely looking forward to reading more issues in this series.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Steve Ditko
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Steve Ditko
  • Inkers: Steve Ditko
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: Steve Ditko
  • Editors: Stan Lee

 

Amazing Spider-Man #3 (07/10/1963)

detailc.jpgDr. Otto Octavius is the foremost expert in atomic research and to assist him in his research he has designed a two sets of mechanical arms to assist him, which is where he gets the nickname, Dr. Octopus from. Unfortunately and accident occurs and the resulting explosion causes the arms to fuse with his nervous system and basically scars his brain. The result is an extremely brilliant, but quite mad and powerful supervillain and the only one who can stop him is Spider-Man.

Hands down this is the best issue thus far in the series. While many will point to Green Goblin as Spider-Man’s best villain, I’ve always felt that Dr. Octopus is the better villain. I think his origin story and powers are much more interesting. Also, he is the first villain to defeat Spider-Man, basically slapping him and then discarding him like garbage. In addition, Dr. Octopus doesn’t want to take over the world, no he is going against those who conspire against him, which really plays into the madness that underlies the character.

Amazing Spider-Man #3 has a great story, great villain and great artwork. This is a must read issue in the Marvel Universe and probably one of the best issues up to this point.

Rating: 5.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Editor: Stan Lee
  • Cover Artists: Steve Ditko
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Steve Ditko
  • Inkers: Steve Ditko
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: John Duffy