Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Unfortunately, if something is shouted loud enough, there are always those who will believe it."
That's the quote which everyone should take from this tome.
It protects us from those with great power and no sense of responsibility other than to themselves: Donald Trump, the Daily Fail and all those Brexiteers lying through their teeth forever and a day, just like Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson who besmirches the reputation of young, altruistic Peter Parker's alias in print long before he's had chance to even do anything. From there Jonah persistently and deliberately misreports everything we witness, successfully creating and sustaining not only the most massive dramatic irony but also readers' sympathetic frustration and so empathy and emotional investment in poor Peter Parker's young plight. It's brilliant!
Top marks to Stan Lee, then, for writing that cautionary line and the extended campaign which reflects so much still at large in more modern scaremongering; minus 5,555 points for taking full advantage of its lamentable truth by shouting his own self-serving lies so very loudly and for so long that so many believe them to this day.
Flick through a copy of MARVEL COMICS: THE UNTOLD STORY (in stock and reviewed at length) then all will become clear including Stan's oh-so-jokey public smear campaign against Spider-Man's co-creator, Steve Ditko. Its author wasn't sued, so you know he's on the money, honey. Brilliantly, at the back of this volume, the 'Meet The Gang In The Merry Marvel Bullpen!" photo gallery is reprinted from which Ditko is pointedly missing.
Hello! Did I tread on your dreams? Sorry etc! Let's try to rekindle your fond memories instead!
This collects AMAZING FANTASY #15, then AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1-17 plus Annual #1, all in full colour and complete with Ditko's spindly, joint-popping which that made it all so genuinely freakish.
You'd demand instant reconstructive surgery if you woke up looking like this. Spider-Man doesn't move so much like a spider, but leaps, clasps and crawls like a tree-climbing frog.
Steve Ditko commands a spectacular sense of space in spite of Lee's incessant, unobservant, ham-fisted and unnecessary interventions, making the most of every panel that he's allowed, bringing you eye-poppingly imaginative and creepy forms.
From the get-go Ditko understood that everything red and webbed which he created for the iconic costume should be left untouched by shadow, leaving Spider-Man's blue calves, thighs, bum, biceps and outer abs to display physical strength. It's not an artist's obvious choice to differentiate between the two areas, but it's one which John Byrne amongst many later picked up on and, while, we're talking about influence, there are two Doctor Octopus panels here which scream Frank Miller's early efforts on DAREDEVIL with their front-lit - nay, spot-lit - faces casting shadow to the hair and either side of the brows.
For those not yet in the know:
Bespectacled high school science nerd Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider, and consequently finds private solace from his public ostracism in being able to climb up walls and fight egomaniacal mop-topped losers with way too many appendages, thereby providing an empathic shot of wish-fulfilment for all boys bullied at school. Hooray!
He dances with Doom (Victor von Esq.), sambas with the Sandman, la cucarachas with the Lizard, thwips Electro therapy-quips, and... I have no idea what pun to make of the Vulture. Definitely not "violates the Vulture". That'd be ewww. Eventually, as the cover suggests, they all gang up on Peter, along with the can-canned Kraven, in order to teach him their own lessons in lambada and give him a right Brazilian biffing.
The Vulture is approximately 99 years old, so you cannot accuse Stan Lee of age-ism. He's as bald, pink and wrinkly-faced as the more turkey-like of vultures, but curiously costumed in cactus-green. He's pretty buff for an OAP but given the limb-twisting acrobatics which Ditko puts the old codger through, you can't help but worry that some ligaments or tendons may start snapping.
Cleverly, none of this changes (poor) Peter's plight on campus so that we sympathise still. Plus the (poor) boy screws up big-time in a fit of pique when he fails to apprehend a thief stealing money from a boxing promoter who'd diddled young Peter out of dosh.*
* WRONG! No dosh was diddled: Peter was paid fair and square. This was a later invention so successful that it's taken as original gospel.
That thief, of course, goes on to kill his doting surrogate father, Uncle Ben. Surely that can't be a spoiler? It's possibly the best sequence in any superhero origin outside of SLEEPER's satirical asides, no matter how many times poor Ma Wayne's pearls get scattered o'er the pavement, coming with a quotation that deserves less repetition in print - because by doing so it's already become an unnecessarily mawkish cliché - but which merits far more observation in real life:
"With great power comes great responsibility".
(Parenthetically WRONG! #2: Uncle Ben never uttered this. He'd been lying on a slab for hours by then.)
Now, consider this: you're the publisher of New York's leading newspapers The Daily Bugle. You not only covertly but overtly introduce your truth-seeking staff to one Mr. Mysterio as the masked man you insist on employing to beat up Spider-Man because, ummm, he wears a mask. Hypocrisies aside, the salient point is this: you are paying a man money in order to breach the peace and cause grievous bodily harm to another, yet you consider it not unwise for your investigative, justice-driven journalists to be tipped off to this premeditated crime by you, J. Jonah Jameson.
But let us attend to Doctor Otto Octopus:
"He's the most brilliant atomic-researcher in our country today!"
Okay, but --
"Let us watch as he conducts a nuclear experiment..."
With test tubes! He's conducting a nuclear experiment with test tubes!
"My artificial extra arms permit me to work safely with volatile chemicals which are far too dangerous to touch without protection! Though others fear radiation, I alone am able to make it my servant!"
... With no radiation shielding whatsoever - just five feet of thin air.
"Sound the alarm!" shrieks a scientist one panel later and I can't say I blame him. Physics and chemistry are two very different disciplines. Thankfully we are told in #11 that Doc Ock serves his "full prison term" for breaking into an Atomic Research Centre causing various bits and bobs to overload and explode. Unfortunately that amounts to six weeks.
What you have to remember is that creating a comic in the Mighty Marvel Manner means Stan shoots off a general story, the artist draws it, then Stan scripts it based on what he perceives on the page.
"Wha --? A plexi-glass cage! Dropped from the ceiling!"
... observes Spider-Man using his Spider-Brain, for the cage is clearly coming out of the walls.
Returning to the ugliest critter in comics outside of Chris Ware's Rusty Brown, (dear) Aunt May announces an early preference for Otto Octavius over her own nephew by declaring:
"So, that's Spider-Man! What a perfectly ghastly outfit! He's so villainous-looking! Not at all as pleasant as that well-mannered Dr. Octopus! I'm sure Dr. Octopus would never have entered that way without knocking!"
Well, no. He'd have probably torn down the walls with his extra appendages. She'll try to marry him in a few years' time, I promise.
And just look at the state of the wizened old bat! What miracle of science could possibly have made (dear) May a 16-year-old's Aunt?! A grandmother at a stretch, though she looks more like my great-grandmother did when I was ten. In the last sixty years Aunt May has grown thirty years younger, plus a good deal hipper and saucier. She was seen relatively recently rolling over for J. Jonah Jameson's father. But then so would I, if you could promise that in 2048 that I would look thirty years younger than I do now. Under those circumstances I might even do Jonah himself if I could gag the bastard and be blind-folded.
"My name is Mephastophilis."
"Do I know you?"
"Hmmm. Back in March 2018 you wrote..."