May 8, 2020

Spider-Rama: Amazing Spider-Man #96

Welcome to Spider-Rama! Every weekday until the end of May, 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, Gil Kane, and John Romita Sr.

In a special three-part non–Comics Code–approved three-part storyline, the Green Goblin and Spider-Man has to deal with the menace of drugs!


BEN: Villain appearance count:
  • The Kingpin: 12
  • Doctor Octopus: 12
  • Green Goblin: 9
  • The Vulture: 7
  • Mysterio: 6
  • The Lizard: 5
  • Kraven the Hunter: 5
  • Sandman: 4
  • Electro: 3
  • The Enforcers: 3
  • The Rhino: 3
  • Professor Smythe/Spider Slayer: 3
  • Man Mountain Marko: 3
  • Silvermane: 3
  • The Chameleon: 3
  • The Schemer/Richard Fisk: 3
  • The Ringmaster: 2
  • Scorpion: 2
  • Molten Man: 2
  • Shocker: 2
  • The Beetle: 2
BEN: Quite simply, a landmark issue in the history of superhero comics. As Stan tells it, he received a letter from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare asking him to publish an anti-drug message in one of their best-selling comics. Stan picked Spider-Man, but when the comic was sent to the Comics Code Authority for approval, they rejected it. By their guidelines, you weren’t allowed to mention drugs, even if it was an anti-drug message. Stan believed in the comic so much he approached publisher Martin Goodman about releasing the comic anyway. He agreed, and the Amazing Spider-Man was published for three months without the Comics Code seal of approval.

DUY: The story was widely praised, and the Comics Code, perhaps realizing how tenuous their authority really was, changed their rules on the inclusion of drugs in comics. Several months later, DC published an issue of Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85 that depicted Speedy as a heroin addict. That was Code-approved.

BEN: It was also around this time that the Code revised their rules on “vampires, ghouls and werewolves” leading to an explosion of horror-themed characters in ‘70s comics. Something that will intersect with the Amazing Spider-Man very soon.

DUY: I hate to say it, but DC's drug story was better.

BEN: Better in which sense?

DUY: Drawn better by Neal Adams, used actual real drugs whereas this one just called them "drugs," drawn better by Neal Adams, calls out the role of the grownups, drawn better by Neal Adams.

BEN: I remember Neal claiming their story was made first, but Stan rushed Marvel’s out to beat them through some convoluted series of events. Neal would take credit for the moon landing, if asked, though.


BEN: That cliffhanger.

DUY: There's a debate here between Osborn saying "I know what's going on and it's not my problem" and Randy Robertson saying "of course it's your problem, you're rich!" and I hate how that's still going on today, and probably always will.

BEN: It’s because they don’t care what happens to us, Duy.

DUY: It's true. Osborn could almost definitely stop the drug problem. But he won't.

BEN: If we’re all too busy working crappy jobs to overpay for heathcare, education, and basic human needs, we won’t notice that only the rich make the laws for us. Drugs and crime only help keep us more distracted.

DUY: Also whenever a CEO says he works really hard, remember that he doesn't clean his own house, do his own laundry, or drive his own car.

BEN: Or cook, or buy his own food...

DUY: But you do all of those things and it's not considered "work."

BEN: I guess the idea behind Mary Jane hitting on Peter would be to add more problems for Harry’s breakdown, but Stan reportedly was committed to Gwen as his girlfriend, so I don’t know what the long-term plan was there. Maybe it was simply to break up that weird pairing.

DUY: Yeah, I'm definitely keeping an eye out for when the official breakup that never leads to them dating again happens.

BEN: How far do you think Harry got with her?

DUY: Definitely not far.

BEN: I need these important questions covered in a MAX series. By Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.

DUY: MAX? That's... dated.

BEN: All creepy jokes aside, it would be very easy to peg Mary Jane as promiscuous, but reading these comics again, I would argue she’s likely all talk. Like if you want to make sense of her characterization here, Harry is getting too close, too attached.

DUY: She definitely is a flirt, but that's about the extent of it.


BEN: Peter's frilly vest:

BEN: And gross.

DUY: Need I remind you that in an alternate Spider-reality, being twenty years older at this point has not stopped him.

BEN: Should we post his sex face?

DUY: No.


DUY: My nitpick is that there isn't any research regarding the drugs whatsoever. It's all just blanketly referred to as "drugs." It wouldn't have taken even a minimal amount of effort.


BEN: This is the iconic image:

DUY: I love this exchange. Tell him, Randy:


BEN: Stan Lee.

DUY: I'm gonna go with Randy Robertson, who calls out big shot Norman Osborn in front of everyone. Norman Osborn has influence. Influence is great power. And with great power...


BEN: I think he’d have to be an idiot to not know.

DUY: Robbie sent Peter to London, and now he comes back with pictures of Spider-Man in London. Peter not even thinking about it is insanely stupid.

BEN: Seriously, we already know he’s been thinking about it, brainstorming with Capt. Stacy. There’s no way he doesn’t see these pictures and know for sure, in that moment.

DUY: Maybe we'll launch into a series of stories where Peter tries throwing Robbie off the trail. Go full 50s Superman.

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.

Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page. See you on Monday!

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