Jan 23, 2019

Spider-Rama: Amazing Spider-Man #3

Welcome to Spider-Rama! Each Wednesday, Ben and Duy will look at a Spider-Man issue from the very beginning, in chronological order, and answer questions for various categories, inspired in large part by one of our favorite podcasts, The Rewatchables by The Ringer. Our goal is to make it to Amazing Spider-Man #200. Will we make it? Grab your Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus or crank up your tablet to Marvel Unlimited, and then tune in every Wednesday to find out!

by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

Spider-Man faces his first major defeat at the many-armed hands of Doctor Octopus, but a pep talk from an unlikely source convinces him to never give up.

BEN: Now, this is the first issue where the Spider-Man we all know and love begins to take form. Not coincidentally, it’s the first full-length story. Spider-Man fights crime, though he still mostly comes off as motivated by money. He loses his first fight with Doctor Octopus, which may have been a first for a costumed hero, to get outright defeated.

DUY: The opening sequence is a trope now. This is how you open an issue for a new reader.


BEN: First appearance of Doctor Octopus.

DUY: First appearance also of the Spider-signal. And also, once again, Spider-Man uses his scientific knowledge to beat an opponent. How was this not a regular thing as Spider-Man evolved?

DUY: The Human Torch has now shown up twice in Spider-Man's first four appearances. He shows up in issue 1 and then again in issue 3, and he's going to show up a lot in the Ditko run. He is indisputably far and away the most common guest star. What makes it interesting for me is that Torch is a Kirby character through and through — the perfect, famous young man who's built to be a superhero. What is it about the Human Torch that makes him the perfect complement and counterpoint to Spider-Man?

BEN: Because he is the complete opposite of Peter. He’s popular and handsome, and unlike Flash Thompson, he’s not a bully. Even his powers are bright and shiny, extroverted. Compared to Peter’s creepy spider powers. Johnny has extreme confidence because he’s on the premiere team of the Marvel universe, so he conducts himself with that ultimate swagger. Peter masks his anxiety through quips. And Peter literally wears a mask while Johnny does not.


DUY: This is impactful.

DUY: But this is my favorite.

BEN: Those four metal arms do make for a great visual. Pop art certainly was the best way to describe this. It’s so quirky and odd, but with bright primary colors.


DUY: Honestly, stuff like this.

DUY: This is kind of cinematic in its framing and pacing. There was a huge stretch in the comics we love where they wouldn't waste time showing aspects of his power like this. I feel like with decompressed storytelling we can see more tiny details. Ditko was very decompressed.

BEN: He gets beaten so badly that he decides he’s probably not cut out for being a hero. Can you imagine, at that time, Superman losing a fight and being like “well, I suck” and giving up. It must have been so damn new, reading about this kid always messing up as a hero.

DUY: He flat-out loses to Ock. Not, the villain gets away.

BEN: No, I got distracted by this, or Hot Rod tried to help. Just a straight up embarrassing asswhupping.

DUY: It's led to this, which is now basically known to everyone as "Act 2 of every superhero origin movie."


BEN: The scenes of Ock’s arms working while he stands behind a tiny pane of glass look pretty ridiculous.

DUY: Yes, I'm pretty sure nuclear radiation doesn't care if you're behind a tiny cube. Also, Ock thinking those mechanical arms and his mind makes him the supreme human being on Earth is kind of ridiculous in a world where Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom and Thor and the Hulk exist.


BEN: I don’t know how pudgy Ock became a thing, because he’s pretty ripped in those panels in the hospital.

DUY: Maybe it's old comic interpretation. Anyone with a square-ish frame is "fat."


BEN: Doctor Octopus is established as a major threat right from the start, and would easily become his arch-nemesis for the Ditko years. You could make an argument for Johnny Storm, as the coolest teenager in history.

DUY: You could make an argument for Johnny, yes, but it's Doctor Octopus, one of the greatest first appearances in comics history.


DUY: We were talking two issues ago about how the narration says that there are people who will believe JJJ, but the panels never actually show anyone who doesn't, and maybe there's a story to be told about the people who don't believe him. Similarly, we're always told Peter was bullied in high school and had no friends... but here's Sally right now, saying hi to him and wondering what's up with him ignoring them

BEN: There was that story they did much later where Flash claims that Peter was the one that was mean to them. Ignoring them and acting superior. They definitely started playing more with Peter being so self-absorbed that it ruined his chances to be more socially accepted.

DUY: It takes me back to his first appearance, and how very "origin of a supervillain" it feels until Uncle Ben dies. That's really the main driver of why he's a hero, which is why it's so weird that it's once again not mentioned here, and won't be mentioned for a while.

BEN: That's it for Spider-Rama this week.

DUY: Thank you, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko—

BEN: —for telling us we aren't the only ones.

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