Aug 21, 2019

Spider-Rama: Amazing Spider-Man #39

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 John Romita Sr.

The Green Goblin discovers that Peter Parker is Spider-Man!


BEN: Villain appearance count:
  • Green Goblin: 6
  • Doctor Octopus: 5
  • Sandman: 4
  • The Vulture: 3
  • Mysterio: 3
  • The Enforcers: 3
  • Kraven the Hunter: 3
  • The Chameleon: 2
  • Electro: 2
  • The Ringmaster: 2
  • Scorpion: 2
  • Molten Man: 2

BEN: The Green Goblin discovers Spider-Man's secret identity, and is revealed to be Norman Osborn.

DUY: Okay, so a lot has been made about the fact that Norman is Peter's greatest villain because he's his best friend's father, but I think we should note the fact that by the time of the reveal, they're not actually best friends yet. I mean, they might be by default because they had a heart to heart, and Peter has no other friends, but still.

BEN: It's catchier than “the father of a guy I kinda know from school!”


BEN: I suspect this might be where we have our first disagreement, but I find John Romita’s art style to be more aesthetically pleasing than Ditko’s. Ditko is a master of motion and design, and the comic wouldn’t even exist without him, but I believe Spider-Man needed the change in style to go up even another level. Romita’s background as a romance comic artist blended perfectly with his competent superhero action, making him arguably the most ideal artist possible for the character.

DUY: I actually agree with all that, and when I named the five most important Spider-Man artists when I started the Cube, I placed Romita at #1 just because he's the commercial face of the character. He's just not as exciting.

BEN: He may not be as action-packed, but the Peter Parker side of the book is way better under Romita. But there is certainly an argument that Romita immediately peaked with this 2-part story. The only other contender off the top of my head is #50.

DUY: He sets the classic bar with the cast, I just prefer angry Peter. To which, anyone who says art styles don't affect writing should look at how much the personality of both the main character and the book changes between these two.

BEN: I prefer my Peter to be a lover, not a fighter.

DUY: I should also mention that I prefer my Spider-Man to be on the lankier, weirder side. My favorite Spider-Man artists past Ditko are Steve Skroce and Todd McFarlane, who really drove up the weirdness factor, and Steven Butler, who did a pretty good Ditko riff without being a full-on cover. I know Romita is the classic, and most everyone else followed in his model, it's just not my personal preference.

BEN: I guess Romita’s model was burned into my brain, because this is Spider-Man to me.

DUY: It is the Spider-Man. In about twenty issues, we're going to get to a cover with a Spider-Man image that I will always think of as the commercial image of Spider-Man.

BEN: Another subtle difference is the bigger panels Romita uses. Ditko used those smaller panels and everything was crammed in there.

DUY: Yeah, Ditko really gave a sense of constriction.


DUY: So... any chance a rich kid like Harry Osborn actually opens up to someone like Peter at a particularly vulnerable moment?

BEN: It's not so far-fetched considering how upset he might be. It's not like Flash was going to talk it out with him.


BEN:  Surely someone would have noticed a superhero battle in a residential neighborhood.

DUY: May's post-op condition sure seems like another convenient way to remind us that she can never find out about Peter being Spider-Man.

BEN: The shock might kill her! And I have to say, there’s absolutely nothing Spider-Man could be swinging a web from in some of these above the city shots.


DUY: Here is your "Can you imagine being a kid and reading this off the shelf" moment:

BEN: Even seeing the cover, you probably assumed it was another fakeout, but definitely had to find out. Had any villain uncovered a hero’s identity before this? That wasn’t reversed by the end of the story?

DUY: Well, technically this does get reversed next issue. But they do it in a way that they can always re-reverse it back.

BEN: He still knows, it’s just hidden under severe brain damage. It’s different than Superman having Batman dress up as him to fool Lois or whatever.

DUY: Does Green Lantern villain Star Sapphire count? Carol Ferris becomes Star Sapphire, who knows Hal is Green Lantern, but she's not in control of her own mind.

BEN: Similar.


BEN: The Green Goblin vaulted into the spot of top Spider-Man villain after the events of this issue.

DUY: I guess you cold have argued he was already there.

BEN: He definitely took the focus with those crime stories, but I think Ock snatched the top spot back after the Master Planner Saga.

DUY: Even that's arguable, because Ock is barely in the Master Planner Saga.

BEN: But he was the Master Planner Saga.


BEN: Obviously another landmark issue in the history of Spider-Man. The Green Goblin is finally revealed after 25 issues. Peter Parker is unmasked for the first time. John Romita becomes the second full-time penciler on the series.

DUY: And Romita becomes the face of the character for at least the next 25 years at this point.

BEN: As far as merchandising, I’d say that didn’t change until I started seeing Mark Bagley art on stuff during Ultimate Spider-Man.

DUY: And Ultimate was pretty clearly about the different, almost manga-like proportions too. Had to get him being a kid. An "alternative" take.

BEN: To address the theories of Ditko’s departure one last time. As far as the disagreement over the Goblin’s identity, there was clear buildup to Osborn being the reveal referenced in the comic itself.

BEN: Now, it could be Stan wanting to make the connection fit against Ditko’s plans, but it seemed like a perfect setup to Osborn as the Goblin.

DUY: That's the thing. I think after all this time reading comics, we can tell when something is a "fix." But this is actually too neatly tied together.

BEN: Too neat for Stan, no offense to him. I love Stan, but he couldn’t remember some of the characters names from issue to issue. Analyzing the theory of a feud between Martin Goodman and Ditko, Peter is immediately less angry in this story. He’s making nice with Harry Osborn and with Ned Leeds. Gwen is clearly interested in him. Even Flash seems open to giving him a chance. He’s beginning to become a part of the group, instead of the angry loner. Incidentally, his college group is the best supporting cast the character will ever have.

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

BEN: Thank you, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko—

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

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