Dec 18, 2019

Spider-Rama: Amazing Spider-Man #55

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.

Colonel John Jameson is tasked to protect America's Nullifier Weapon from Doctor Octopus, by transferring it to where it would be safest — the factory of Tony Stark!


BEN: Villain appearance count:
  • Doctor Octopus: 8
  • Green Goblin: 7
  • Sandman: 4
  • Kraven the Hunter: 5
  • The Vulture: 5
  • Mysterio: 4
  • The Enforcers: 3
  • The Rhino: 3
  • The Lizard: 3
  • The Kingpin: 3
  • The Chameleon: 2
  • Electro: 2
  • The Ringmaster: 2
  • Scorpion: 2
  • Molten Man: 2
DUY: Ock breaks into Stark's factory, and there's a footnote that explains that Tony is recuperating in another part of the factory after fighting the Grey Gargoyle in Tales of Suspense. It may be one of the first examples of "Wait, a reader's gonna ask where Character X is, so let's explain in a footnore", and goes into that shared universe building.


BEN: Robertson’s calm rational demeanor provides the perfect counterbalance to Jameson’s over-the-top bombast.

DUY: I've seen Stan say that he based JJJ on himself and Robbie on Sidney Poitier. I dunno if that's true, but it does seem like JJJ's even more over the top here than usual. Meanwhile, this has aged unintentionally well for 2019: it almost looks like Ock is using a smartphone as a flashlight.


BEN: There's a joke about Louisa May Alcott. I did not get that reference. And  I know we’ve been harping on this, but with the recent movement in Homecoming, Far From Home, and Into the Spider-Verse to make May not only supportive but helpful, this fragile naive version is completely unbearable.

DUY: This isn't really something that "aged badly" or anything, but Romita draws a panel of Spider-Man being angry and the only way to know is because Stan says so in the narration, and it's just one of those "Wow, Ditko really is off the book" moments.


BEN: The way Romita draws Ock’s goggles still looks weird to me.

DUY: It's almost like he's trying his best to not make it into a mask.

BEN: Spider-Man makes a comment about having never decisively beaten Doc Ock, but he did, in their second fight (Amazing Spider-Man #3).


BEN:  I love the “acting” Romita depicts on each face here:

DUY: My "favorite panels" answers for the entirety of Spider-Rama may as well be a clipshow of JJJ:


DUY: My answer will depend on the answer to this question. At this point, is Ock still Spider-Man's number one adversary? Did he ever — up to all 55 issues — actually lose it to the Green Goblin? If Ock is still or has always been Spider-Man's number one foe, then my answer is Ock.

BEN: It’s hard for me to say because he has never been my favorite Spider-Man villain. It’s always been a Goblin.

DUY: I think at this point that it's still Ock, and I don't think he ever really lost it to the Green Goblin. The Goblin's big advantage over Ock is that he's someone who's connected to Peter's best friend, and it could be argued that that one story has higher stakes than any of the Ock stories, but not by much I think. The first Betty Brant/Ock story, putting together the Sinister Six, and now winning over Aunt May still keeps him ahead. I don't think Norman's actually going to take the top spot until much, much later.

BEN: Norman is the most threatening villain.

DUY: They've never actually teamed up, have they?

BEN: There'd be too much arguing about who's in charge.

DUY: That seems like it'd take a lot of restraint on the part of the creators to not put them together.


DUY: Hey, we got a comment last week!.

BEN: As expected, we got some reader “questions” based on our comments about Mary Jane last week, and we felt compelled to respond. Arthur wrote to us with this:
1) Spider-Man is a controversial character unlike Superman.
2) He's not popular with the public.
3) He's disliked by many neutral supporting characters such as Betty Brant, Aunt May, and yes Gwen Stacy.
For Mary Jane to like Spider-Man at a moment when he's unpopular and controversial would negate any sense of her liking of Peter being driven by fame or any such thing.
BEN: I’d like to reiterate what I wrote, which was that there’s no way knowing his identity before they ever met wouldn’t color his opinion of him, which is a fact. I didn’t say it would be negative or positive, just it would inform her opinion of him, which is indisputable.

DUY: Also, women are never attracted to controversial men, ever, apparently. Women are attracted to many different things, just like men.

BEN: As far as fear goes, the majority of the reason people fear Spider-Man is because they don’t know who he is. If Mary Jane knew he was his Aunt’s nerdy next door neighbor, she would not have that fear. That’s not to say definitively she would find it appealing, but in my personal opinion she would, while also being scared to meet him. I’m not trying to claim she was a fame chaser — that’s simplistic — but if superheroes are an allegory for what makes each of us special, she got a clear glimpse of one of the things that makes Peter special. That would be intriguing to her. It would.

DUY: She wants to be an actress. I think at least a part of her is a fame-chaser. But even taking Parallel Lives into account (and I choose to ignore it because I don't like the book), at 13/14, MJ has an opinion of Peter: he's cute in a nerdy sort of way. But she admired Spider-Man, and there's no way that doesn't change your opinion of a person. Now this may be hard to believe for some, but lots of girls find lots of guys cute, even nerdy ones (actually, especially nerdy ones), in passing and don't really think much of it. They wouldn't just watch any guy on TV.

BEN:  I really hate Parallel Lives. I’d much prefer she liked Peter without knowing he was Spider-Man. Comics are a weird thing where she didn’t know as those comics were being created, she did like him solely as Peter, but one story can change the context of 20 years of comics.

DUY: Even the favorite MJ moment of a lot of people — when she closes the door and consoles him after Gwen dies, which we'll get to in 67 issues — that moment is more powerful if she doesn't know. That's character growth, as opposed to a retconned explanation as to why she stayed.

BEN: It takes away far more than it adds.

DUY: Arthur further wrote:
And Gwen Stacy was killed because she was unpopular with readers, not because she was serious. And Gerry Conway said that had there been no plan to kill off a major supporting character (for which he nominated Gwen), he would have broken them up anyway. He said this at a 2016 Podcast at Spider-Man Crawlspace. So there was never any Peter-Gwen marriage on the cards.
BEN:  I never meant to imply there were plans, only that the next step in the characters relationship was marriage, which I got from, you guessed it, Gerry Conway!

DUY: Yeah, we weren't clear about it, but it wasn't that they wanted them to get married, so much as the logical next step was marriage and they didn't want to do that. (Which, by the way, read What If...? volume 1 #24, a comic where they did indeed get married, and I quite frankly would have probably found the stories arising from the setup of that issue more interesting than most of the rest of 1970s Spider-Man.)

BEN: In the trade paperback series The 100 Greatest Marvels of All Time, Bob Greenberger recalls a meeting with Gerry Conway when Conway planned to kill off Gwen, and Conway said that "She and Peter are terrific together and make each other happy. But that's not what Spider-Man is about. It's about pain and power and the responsibility that comes with it. There's nowhere to take the relationship without betraying what Spider-Man is all about."

DUY: So he doesn't explicitly say marriage there, but come on, what else could it be? Living in together happily? It's funny because that's what a lot of the anti-Spider-marriage types would say about Mary Jane (not me, I just thought the marriage made both characters boring), but here Conway is saying it about Gwen Stacy.

BEN: Funny how it applies to Gwen but not Mary Jane for them.

DUY: We should probably save the rest of this conversation when we get to #122.

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.

DUY: And hey, Happy Holidays, Cubers! We'll be back on Wednesday, January 8!

Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page. See you in three weeks!


Arthur S. said...

Wow, thank you guys for your response. Totally didn't expect it. And for your reply. It was fair and considerate.

I have issues with the idea of MJ knowing Peter somehow affects her relationship with Peter because it veers into Silver Age Superman-Lois baggage (i.e. the fact that Lois liked Superman over Clark implied she was some lower person, the kind of mentality that Harvey Kurtzman shredded in the '50s itself in Superduperman) and it kind of smacks of M-W Complex in terms of contrasting MJ with Gwen and so on, even if Gwen Stacy showed vastly more skin in Spider-Man comics in the first 200 issues than she did (as will be evident when you cover Roy Thomas' bonkers Savage Land stories).

Let me say, that the first 616 Spider-Man comic I read (the first Spider-Man story I read was the newspaper) was Untold Tales of Spider-Man #16 at a library, by Kurt Busiek and it uses Parallel Lives to explore MJ in Peter's early years. It was a great story well told and I liked it and ultimately on re-reading the stories, it works out well. This will be evident when you guys get to ASM #87 (which sets of the second great stretch of Lee-Romita's years, which lasts until #98) which is probably the most psychologically nuanced story that Lee wrote post-Ditko, in terms of nailing down impostor syndrome and other issues.

And again, the epilogue of ASM#122 works better if she knows since MJ knows fully well what she's getting into by staying with Peter, especially because of Gwen's death. There's a lot of courage there.

Arthur S. said...

As an addendum:

Green Goblin's appearances should be 8, not 7. Green Goblin appeared in ASM #47, so you should tally that up, and correct it. Doc Ock hasn't won yet (and ultimately he would lose...since resurrection, Norman has become the Spidey villain with most appearances, and in overall Marvel villains is behind only Doom and Magneto).

ASM#47 is a kind of proto-"Untold Tale" where Lee retconned Goblin's connections to Kraven in a status-quo where Norman had amnesia. Goblin shows up in the opening splash panel and then the panel after that. Small appearance but it's brand new Goblin material.

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