Saturday, August 5, 2017

Amazing Spider-Man #2 (May 1963)

1963. Spider-Man was just starting out, not just as a superhero, but on his journey to becoming one of Marvel's most popular and beloved characters. This issue depicts his first battle with a supervillain, and in honor of Peter Parker's MCU solo debut, which I reviewed here, I thought it would be nice to review his first battle...with the Vulture.

The Vulture is not only the first of a Rogues Gallery that would rival Batman's in fame, he was one of the very first supervillains that Spider-Man ever fought. And since he was the main villain in Homecoming, I thought it would be cool to take a look at his first appearance: Amazing Spider-Man Number #2!

...I know that I said I'd review a comic focusing on the Incredible Hulk, but I saw Spider-Man: Homecoming, and it inspired me to do this comic instead. I apologize for that, readers. But don't you worry. Ol' Jade Jaws will get his time in the sun in this blog. I promise you that. Anyway, on to Amazing Spider-Man #2!

The cover is...a rather busy one. There's the masthead, the image of Spider-Man tussling with the Vulture, the big blurb, and the side panel of Spidey getting zapped by the Tinkerer. It's a lot to take in. It was kind of the style of covers of the time, though. As such it would not be completely fair to judge it by modern standards. It is a well-drawn cover, and I'm sure at the time, it got people hyped to see what was in it.

"Duel to the Death with the Vulture!"
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko
Letterer: John Duffy

The story begins with Spider-Man and Vulture duking it out in the sky over New York City.

However, this is just a spread. The real story begins with a man walking down the street in the city, an odd-shaped shadow looming over him. Then, the Vulture strikes!

With speed like the wind, the villain swoops down and snatches the man's briefcase. The man screams for help, saying that the suitcase contained a fortune in bonds. No one is able to help him, as the flying man moved to fact to be caught.

J. Jonah Jameson hears about this and demands pictures of the Vulture. He's got a magazine to print, and he wants it dedicated to the strange new supervillain. Yes, JJ published a magazine alongside the Daily Bugle. However, his employees tell him that no one has been able to get any good photos of the Vulture. At a high school, kids are talking about the Vulture. Peter overhears this and figures that his spider-powers may allow him to get said photos. After all, magazines do pay good money for hard-to-get photos...and Peter could use some extra cash.

Luckily, Aunt May had a miniature camera that belonged to Uncle Ben. She lets him have it, and he figures out a way to incorporate the camera into his costume. Meanwhile, in his lair, the Vulture is reading the news.

I am going to kick my iPad's scanner.

He learns that the Park Avenue's jewelry exchange is moving lots of diamonds to their new offices across town. He figures that since he's become more of a public figure, the authorities may be expecting him. Vulture's look here really shows why I love the MCU's take on his costume a lot. In the MCU, the wings aren't attached to his arms, which frees them to use weapons and tools. He also wears a helmet which helps him out twofold. It gives his head protection from the rigors of flight...and it also allows him to conceal his identity. Anyway, he figures out how he can get the diamonds unimpeded, and flies off.

He flies into the city, and Spider-Man spots him. During his flight, he sends some taunting messages to Jameson, the radio network (This was 1963), and the chief of police. He basically just tosses some rocks with notes wrapped around them through the window. Your MCU counterpart laughs at you, Adrian. He spots Spider-Man following him, and takes him out.

Evidently, Peter's Spider-Sense was on a coffee break. Vulture then takes the dazed Spidey and puts him in a water tank. Spider-Man tries to web out, but his web-shooters run dry. He can't climb out, as the walls are too slick. So, he makes a mighty leap and he manages to escape. He retrieves his camera and heads home. He develops his pictures, figuring he'd get a kick out of making the Spidey-hating Jameson pay money for his pictures of him. He also modifies his Spider-Man costume, adding a belt to carry extra cartridges of web fluid, and then modifies the buckle so it can carry his miniature camera. He also gets to work building another gadget, having a theory as to how the Vulture's flight harness works. The next day, Peter sells his photos to Jameson, on the condition that Jameson never asks how he got them. JJ is so happy to get the photos he agrees.

The day of the jewelry transfer arrives. Peter and his schoolmates go to watch it...were teenagers in the 1960s really into watching stuff like this? I think they're hoping the Vulture will show up. Anyway, Peter slips away so he can watch out for the Vulture as Spider-Man. The cops escort the holder of the jewels...until they reach a manhole cover.

Yup, Vulture was hiding in the sewers. He must smell awful. The flying criminal escapes through the sewers...which somehow allows him to fly into the subway system? Weird. Anyway, Spidey manages to catch up to Vulture, and the two tussle in the air for a while. Spider-Man then activates his special gadget. The gadget does its job, shorting out Vulture's wings. The two plummet, and Spidey is able to save himself thanks to his webs, Vulture gliding to the ground. A police helicopter spots the downed Vulture.

Spidey secretly gets his photos and sells them to Jameson. The story ends with him bringing his money home to a delighted Aunt May, and the Vulture plotting revenge in jail. They let him wear the Vulture costume in jail. That's silly.

This comic also comes with a second story, so let's take a look at that one, shall we? A nice little bonus.

"The Uncanny Threat of the Terrible Tinkerer!"
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciller: Steve Ditko
Letterer: Art Simek

The story begins with Peter Parker working in the science lab at school, and he gets introduced to a man.

The man is Professor Cobbwell, a prominent electronics expert. He has some research he wants to do over the weekend, and he is looking for an assistant. He has heard about Peter's knack for science from his teacher, and wants his help on some experiments. Peter is honored, and happily agrees. He also asks if he can pick up a radio for him from the repair shop.

The next day, Peter goes off on the errand, and meets the radio's repairman: Phineas Mason, aka the Tinkerer.

Kinda funny he doesn't try to hide that he has a supervillain nom-de-guerre. Although to be fair, the general public at the time could play it off as a harmless nickname. Peter's Spider-Sense picks up danger, but he figures that Tinkerer isn't really dangerous, just his equipment making his danger-detecting power go bananas. Tinkerer goes downstairs and gets handed the repaired radio.

Yup, the Tinkerer is working with what appears to be a group of aliens. The aliens have further modified the radio for an unknown purpose, but it is likely not a good one. And they've been doing this with other people's radios, too. Tinkerer hands back the radio, and states it only cost a dime. Peter is shocked at the price, but Tinkerer explains that bargains bring in customers. Peter brings the radio to Cobbwell, who explains the cheap price and good work is why he brought the radio to the Tinkerer in the first place. Peter is suspicious of this, as there's no way Tinkerer could be making a profit repairing radios at such a low price.

He decides to table the issue and concentrate on his work for Cobbwell. His Spider-Sense goes off, picking up the same electronic disturbance at Tinkerer's lab. But the radio is shut off. Cobbwell then leaves to do some errands, and Peter examines the radio. He finds some unusual components in it, and decides to investigate the Tinkerer's shop. He discovers a secret passage and finds...

Yup! The Tinkerer's radios contain special listening devices that allow then to learn about Earth's weaknesses. Wait, what? More on this later. Spider-Man spies on the aliens as they listen in on a colonel, but gets spotted. Spidey tries to fight his way out, but the Tinkerer manages to blast him with an energy beam and send him to the land of unconsciousness.

When Spidey wakes up, he finds himself trapped in a transparent dome. The Tinkerer and his alien allies then start to drain the air out of it, ensuring he will suffocate, and their plans will go unimpeded...or do they? Spidey finds some holes in the dome. He carefully lines up his webshooter with the hole and fires, webbing the button and freeing himself. He punches two of the aliens into the control panel, destroying it. The aliens flee, and abandon Tinkerer. The place is burning down. Spidey tries to save the elderly evil tech whiz, but he's trying to fight off the webhead. Spidey is ultimately forced to flee the building.

The aliens flee in their spaceship, remotely destroying the modified radios, and vowing never to return to Earth, as they fear humanity will be ready for them next time. Peter makes it back to the lab and changes back into his civvies by the time Cobbwell returns. When Cobbwell returns, he claims that he saw a spaceship, but shakes it off. Peter is left thinking about this adventure while holding a mask, hinting the Tinkerer was an alien in disguise.

Yeah, this would be retconned as the aliens actually being a bunch of human criminals in disguise.

This issue is...rather mixed to me. Honestly, I think the Vulture story is the stronger of the two tales in this book. It's a basic "Villain steal stuff, hero stop them" story, which can be done well in a short comic story using half the pages. The Tinkerer story, though? I do feel that it would have needed more pages to breathe. And quite a bit of it made me scratch my head. If Tinkerer's radios were used to spy on Earth's defenses...why was one done for Cobbwell? The story didn't establish that he was doing any important work for the government (If he was, he would not have been able to grab some high school kid to help him with it), so why did they modify his radio, too? Honestly, if this story was given its own separate issue with the full page count, it would be a lot better. Steve Ditko turns in some fine art in this issue.

Do I recommend getting this comic? Well, if you are a Spider-Man fan, get it. It's been reprinted in a couple trades, like Amazing Spider-Man Masterworks, Vol. 1, and Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection Vol. 1: Great Power. You know, I just realized something. Both Vulture and Tinkerer debuted in this comic. And they both were in Homecoming. Yeah, Tinkerer was in Homecoming. Was this comic the inspiration for the movie? It's unlikely, but...that is a neat bit of cosmic serendipity.

Next time, as I promised, we'll take a look at an adventure of the Incredible Hulk...

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