The Transparent Fox:
Amazing Spider-Man #1
Issue(s): Amazing Spider-Man #1
Also, his agent is forced to do business more honestly, which means he needs to pay via check, which means Peter can't get paid without revealing his identity.
The Bugle attacks Spider-Man in the papers even after Spidey rescues JJ's astronaut son in a shuttle launch gone wrong. Then Spidey tries to join the Fantastic Four (and here's Reed stretching his neck)....
...but finds that they are essentially a non-profit group (yeah, right!).
As Andres notes in the comments, this is one of the earliest examples of a crossover between Marvel books. It comes out the same month as Fantastic Four #12, which featured the Hulk.
Then the Chameleon takes advantage of Spidey's bad rep by trying to frame him for the crime of stealing missile defense plans.
In the end, Peter runs off sobbing and the FF worry about what would happen if Spidey ever turned to crime.
The story is super compressed and the dialogue is very expositional and a little corny, but overall this is very good for a Silver Age story.
Historical Significance Rating: 9 - Formative Spider-Man story. First Chameleon, J. Jonah Jameson, & John Jameson (later Man-Wolf).
Chronological Placement Considerations: There seems to be a minor step backwards from Amazing Fantasy 16-18 as Parker is once again struggling with the guilt of letting Uncle Ben die, but it stands to reason that he might go through some of the same feelings a second time as he works through it.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Spider-Man Classics #2
Inbound References (10): show
I think Peter Parker is accidentally called "Palmer" in some dialogue balloons here.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 31, 2011 1:26 AM
Similar to the super-man gaffe in Spidey #4. I guess Stan Lee was too preoccupied with co-founding the Marvel Universe to edit as carefully as he needed to.
Posted by: haydn | November 30, 2011 12:14 AM
Sorry, actually #3. I guess I need an editor too.
Posted by: haydn | November 30, 2011 12:31 AM
An article in Amazing Heroes #156 pointed this out: it isn't possible for a space capsule to have an orbit so low that a jet plane could overtake it.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | January 12, 2015 10:53 AM
While the dynamic of Pete working for JJJ of course is a classic one, I'm kind of struck by the Ditko-esque randomness of it all in this first issue (and which in muted forms runs through most of JJJ's appearances): JJJ really really hates Spider-Man. Especially in his first appearance, this is a bit weird because he's so distant; we get a sense that he doesn't like costumed heroes but we don't know why per se. He's never met Spider-Man, Spider-Man basically never interacts with him; in most comics to this point, a crusty old businessman who hated our hero would be proven wrong or turn out to be a sneaky criminal who was a secret gang lord. Jameson is none of those things; he just really hates Spider-Man. The fundamental, stark, random unfairness of it all seems vintage Ditko to me.
Posted by: MikeCheyne | June 24, 2015 5:17 PM
I get where you're coming from Mike but I think that randomness kind of works well for even a modern reader. There's been a ton of great Jameson stories explaining his reasons and origins but even without those there's a life lesson here. Some people really are just unreasonable jack asses.
Posted by: david banes | June 24, 2015 5:26 PM
I think the first panel Fnord provides sets up JJJ perfectly from the beginning: he doesn't like the suspicion of "costumed crime fighters" with secrets to hide that may or may not be for the better of society when there are actual heroes like his astronaut son doing just as good, if not more, to society. It may be random but I think its just a good set-up to show the troubles of Peter in society aside from his problems being both Spider-Man and "the nerd of the high school".
Posted by: Ataru320 | June 24, 2015 7:48 PM
I should clarify that I actually really like the randomness of Jameson's hatred; the idea that someone who is a respected person and not a criminal at all who still hates Our Hero was, at least based on my reading of contemporary comics, pretty innovative.
Posted by: MikeCheyne | June 24, 2015 8:45 PM
@MikeCheyne: I'd end the rivalry by having Jonah reveal to Spidey the real reason he hates him so much is due to the fact that he moonlighted one last story for the Bugle before taking full editorship, and it was on how Spider-Man let a burglar go at the television station, only to have that burglar turn up at the house of Ben and May Parker’s to rob and end up killing Ben. That is, the reason Jonah hates Spidey and sees him as a menace, is unlike us he doesn’t know Peter is Spidey, and he can’t abide the fact that Spider-Man is a crime-fighting super-hero when he wouldn’t stop a burglar who ended up killing an old man and leaving his wife a widow, and their orphan nephew without another father figure (which as a previously skilled investigative journalist would have found out upon interviewing May’s neighbours directly following the incident). The real reason Jonah likely employed Peter was because he was directly aware of the circumstance of Ben’s death and that he had done so in an effort to quietly help the family out due to the impact the story he had investigated had had on him, feeling that by doing so he could be a "silent" father figure to Peter, knowing how proud the neighbours told him May was.
Posted by: Nathan Adler | June 25, 2015 5:54 AM
@MikeCheyne: Ditko is really strong on banal evil sometimes, which isn't what you'd necessarily expect from an Objectivist. JJ irrationally hating Spidey DOES sound at least as much Ditko as Lee.
Posted by: BU | June 25, 2015 8:08 AM
Historical Significance Rating:9
Posted by: ANDRES L | January 27, 2016 4:06 PM
Well, it's more of a cameo, and Fantastic Four #12, which was a true crossover, came out slightly earlier (they both have the same cover date but FF #12 was released a little earlier). But i basically agree with you and have upped the rating. It's also the first John Jameson, which would be more notable if it wasn't for all the other things.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 27, 2016 4:18 PM
Unless I'm missing a joke or something, fnord, you really misspelled the team's name, right above the neck stretching panel (Fanastif Cour).
Posted by: Thanos6 | January 27, 2016 7:11 PM
A retelling of the FF scene happened in What If?#1, but the book makes clear that that one bit is actually in continuity rather than part of the main What If? story(it doesn't really add anything to the scene though).
Posted by: Mark Drummond | May 12, 2016 10:46 AM
FF annual #1 also has an extended version of the FF vs. Spidey fight.
Posted by: Benway | June 23, 2016 11:17 PM
According to the story, It was orbiting inside the atmosphere because the missing part kept it from going into space or landing. I know that Busiek showed earlier involvement with Jameson but I just wanted to point out that Stan was still playing with comic conventions here. The Daily Star/Planet loved Superman, most heroes involved with the press had good relations with them. Heck Crimson Avenger and the Green Hornet owned their own newspapers but here the press hates Spider-Man. Also he was the first hero to try to get a salary for being a hero.
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | October 23, 2016 6:22 PM
The Fantastic Four may take their share of the blame for Spider-Man's life becoming so centered on the Daily Bugle. If they've got enough money to buy Johnny a new Stingray, I would think they'd have enough to give Peter "Spider-Man" Parker a decent salary. But no, they didn't want him, his superpowers or his scientific abilities, so he had to find other ways of earning money.
Still, it did keep the Torch in Spider-Man's life for quite a while, and it is fun to watch their relationship grow.
Posted by: ChrisW | October 30, 2016 12:34 AM
The Chameleon contacts Spidey in this issue by sending some sort of radio transmission only his "spider senses" could pick up. I like to think he's using a modified version of Hank Pym's talking-to-insect tech.
Posted by: Berend | March 12, 2017 1:36 PM
Both this and the next issue are divided into two chapters or stories. The announcement on the "fan page" in Amazing Fantasy #15 suggested that they might run two Spider-Man stories each issue if readers liked the character, so it's possible ASM #1 and 2 are based on the stories that would have shown up there. That might explain some of the abrupt scene and plot changes here, and the way the FF appearance feels like a shoehorned-in cameo. And it would definitely explain the aliens and the "twist ending" of the Tinkerer story in ASM #2.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | May 5, 2017 4:51 PM
Also, the story isn't written like a conventional super-hero tale in its opening pages: Peter contemplates becoming a criminal early on, and the Jameson part of the story seems like a "twist" too, with Spider-Man, whom Jameson attacked in his editorial, saving Jameson's son, but Jameson just attacks him even more. There's no real villain int he story; it's much more like a serialized version of an Amazing Fantasy story than it is like a superhero story.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | May 5, 2017 4:57 PM
My understanding is that a story each in ASM #1 and #2 were originally prepared for "Amazing Fantasy" #16 and #17, my guess being the ones with the Chameleon and the Tinkerer. The Chameleon story is a somewhat-generic 'fight the commie spy' adventure and the Tinkerer story is just weird and totally unrepresentative of the rest of Lee-Ditko's "Spider-Man" stories.
"Amazing Fantasy" got cancelled, but the stories had already been drawn and paid for, so Martin Goodman probably would have published them sooner or later anyway. Then Spidey became a hit and got his own book, so the old art was pulled out and included with new material that developed what made Spidey a hit. JJJ appeared to make a mockery of Spider-Man's heroism, Peter needed money but couldn't cash a check made out to Spider-Man and the FF appeared as promotion for one Marvel's other books.
The following issue, Peter got Uncle Ben's camera, sold pictures to JJJ, Flash and Liz reappeared and the Vulture was a genuine threat.
Posted by: ChrisW | May 5, 2017 6:35 PM
Makes sense! Good sleuthing!
Posted by: Omar Karindu | May 5, 2017 7:10 PM
I'm assuming "Amazing Fantasy" was bi-monthly. Based on the 'two Spider-Man stories per issue' comment, that suggests Stan and Steve definitely found something interesting in the character right from the start. Even if it was monthly, they could certainly do a book of Spidey stories a month, right? It would explain why Ditko had already finished and been paid for the next two stories.
This is where my sleuthing fails me, because I really don't have a clue why the story in "Amazing Fantasy" #15 struck such a chord in the audience. Lee-Ditko's Spider-Man [reprinted in "Marvel Tales"] is one of the cornerstones of my childhood/life, but I have never seen what so many other people saw in the origin story back in 1962. The randomness of the burglar's reappearance, the novelty of a long-underwear character trying to make money and saying "I just look out for me," that's about it as far as I can see. Peter crying and saying "Someday I'll show them all" as he heads to the radiation experiment?
In a full-length story, I could probably see it, but this was what, eight pages? Six? What a way to introduce a billion-dollar franchise.
Posted by: ChrisW | May 6, 2017 9:40 PM
We know Stan's version, which is that Spider-Man is the kind of character he wanted to introduce but felt he couldn't. And for Ditko I think it was his first chance to likewise have a character who acted in ways Ditko wanted.
Part of the reason the story doesn't have the same impact today is that the "Spider-Man" formula is just part of pop culture DNA now; things that were innovative then are cliches now. Just off the bat, the origin has: super=powers don't immediately make someone pledge themselves to virtue or villainy, but to practicality; the character develops a little even before the big twist, going from "all about me" to "and the only two people who ever cared about me;" the character is mocked for the kinds of things real teenagers are mocked for, not for some kind of impossible personal trait; the scenes of domestic life have some lived-in detail, like Ben joking that he can "barely out-wrassle Peter now;" and high school is portrayed as cliquish and socially stratified.
The cover announces the theme as "teen-age" life with that famous dialogue; this would have drawn readers. Then the story genuinely delivers on that promise
Go back to any superhero story before it -- even the vaunted FF -- and most of these elements are just not what you see. The FF are already a big leap towards "realism," but Johnny Storm isn't a typical teenager even in issue #1, what with getting to go on top-secret rocket missions. And by issue #3 they live in a hi-tech skyscraper.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | May 7, 2017 9:41 AM
Beyond this, consider the way the story *ends*: in a monster-era title, the twist is usually some kind of serious comeuppance, like being kidnapped by aliens, turned into a monster, or forever shrunken. In a superhero origin, the tragedy happens at the beginning of the story and is redeemed by the end when Our Hero pledges himself to virtue and rightness.
Here, the tragedy happens at the end, *separate from and after* the character gaining powers. The consequence is not a physical punishment or ironic personal comeuppance, but rather that the death of an innocent person is on Our Hero's shoulders for the rest of his life. Our hero doesn't win some big victory over a menace or restore safety to the world of the story; he discovers how *hollow* his victory is, because it's too little and too late.
Compare, say, the two Batman stories of the late 1940s/early 1950s where Joe Chill and his boss, Lew Moxon, get theirs. Those are played as Bruce Wayne getting some real closure, as triumphs. And while readers had seen Superman *choke* and *sob* over the loss of Krypton or Mon-El having to go to the Phantom Zone or whatever, those weren't really things he felt guilty about, and by next month he was back to pranking Lois Lane or cheerily catching some gangsters or something. In the decades since, Supes and Bats have had their origins "Spideyfied."
This was dark, troubling stuff back in the day. Readers were conditioned to expect other, neater and tidier themes and endings.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | May 7, 2017 9:58 AM
Those are all good points. I don't disagree with any of them. My dislike of "Amazing Fantasy" #15 is entirely personal, that it just doesn't make sense on its own. I'm fairly good at putting myself in the position of the original readers (within reason.) Peter lets a burglar escape, and then literally the next panel is two weeks later when he arrives home to find his uncle dead. No personal growth, no investigation of the guy who robbed the box office, just 'this happens' then 'that happens,' and they happen to be connected in a way that twist-ending comics could have done a better job of setting up.
You make very good points otherwise. I've wondered if Lew Moxxon was an early-Marvel type story, giving the superhero an extended origin, as with the Red Skull killing Peter Parker's Parents. For both Spider-Man and Batman, it comes across as working way too hard to introduce supervillainy. Wasn't there a "Batman Earth-2" story (or something like that) that dealt with his preventing Joe Chill from committing murder, and it was a good story, and then they had to account for Lew Moxxon? Batman and Spider-Man should not be held prisoner to old stories.
Posted by: ChrisW | May 8, 2017 12:34 AM
ChrisW, I largely agree with you that the Amazing Fantasy 15 story is not great, and I think it comes down to the pacing and length. Dug out my reprint last night, and it clocks in at 11 pages -- and a fairly dense 11 pages at that. Compare that to later retellings, whether in other media or comics like Ultimate Spider-Man or Spider-Man: Season One (they are, after all, only slight variations on essentially the same story), and I think most of the other versions of the story work better primarily because they have room to breathe. If that original story had gotten even a full-length issue, I think it would work MUCH better. As it is, I feel like we're expected to care about Uncle Ben, but why should we? He's just barely there, and then he's dead.
Posted by: J-Rod | May 8, 2017 10:54 AM
I don't think "Fantastic Four" #1 is much good either, but I can see where that came from: a "Challengers of the Unknown"-style adventure story, a Marvel Monster story, a space-race against the Commies, and superheroes are snuck through the backdoor, arguing all the way. The introductions of Sue, Johnny and Ben would each have been a ripping-good story. Then they're all brought together by Reed Richards for the first time, "I pray it will be the last." THEN the actual Mole Man story gets started.
The re-tellings are really where the story has room to breathe - I've been lately thinking of rewatching the first "Spider-Man" movie, where Spidey lets the burglar escape, only to find that he carjacked Uncle Ben - but that's what makes "Amazing Fantasy" #15 so frustrating for me, because that's where it all started, and it had none of the frills we've come to expect. At least the movie gave us an Uncle Ben who clearly played an enormous role in his nephew's life. [And, this has nothing to do with anything, Rosemary Harris is my favorite Aunt May ever.]
We agree, "AF" #15 tells us to care about Uncle Ben, but gives us no reason to care, yet his death is the pivotal point. I don't recall "AF" #15 having "dense" storytelling, but I know Lee/Ditko at their peak did very well in that capacity. Expecting them to do a "Master Planner"-level story for "Amazing Fantasy" #15 would have been like expecting the Beatles to toss off "Sgt. Pepper" on their first recording session.
Posted by: ChrisW | May 8, 2017 9:37 PM
Responding to Bobby's comment, I think JJJ was arguably the most significant introduction to Spider-Man's life and superheroes in general. Keep in mind, Stan Lee never actually liked superheroes. He wrote them when they were selling and he wrote other things when other things were selling. He's said romance comics were his favorite to write, and the influence of romance comics on the early Marvel Age are obvious.
With JJJ, he gets to obey Martin Goodman's orders to write superheroes and he gets the thrill of subverting the genre, even as he finally started writing comics that he himself would want to read.
Back to J-Rod, I think Stan and Steve put an enormous amount of thought into Spider-Man before they had any clue he would be a hit, it's just that none of their effort shows up in the story as we know it today.
Posted by: ChrisW | May 8, 2017 9:57 PM
JJJ is one of my all-time favorite supporting characters ever, in any medium. I love that he's such a versatile character that he can go from total villain trying to arrange for Spider-Man to be killed to someone truly doing the right thing at other times, and usually somewhere in between those things, all while retaining the personality that we all find so entertaining. He had a string of appearances in Uncanny in the mid-90s, toward the start of Operation Zero Tolerance, that really show how great he can be as a denizen of the MU.
Agreed on that last point, ChrisW. I suspect publication pressures of the day are at least partially to blame for that.
[I liked Sally Fields' May best. But I like her in anything. Rosemary Harris was a little too generic old lady, maybe more appropriate for original Aunt May, but Fields brought in some Ultimate May without straying too far from Original May, which I loved.]
Posted by: J-Rod | May 9, 2017 12:57 PM
Actually, I don't much care for most Silver Age stuff because the storytelling just feels so dated. Much of the art is quite clean (Kirby and especially Ditko were talented at striking a balance between detailed and clean), but it's so cramped into small panels, more so than today or even the 70s and 80s, anyway. Plus the scripting, in terms of both dialogue and narration, could be SO hokey and overwrought, not to mention dense at times. They're just harder to read. ASM (Lee with Ditko AND Lee with Romita) is one of the few Silver Age runs I really enjoy reading, but even the earliest of it is a bit tougher.
Posted by: J-Rod | May 9, 2017 1:00 PM
I didn't see Sally Field's Aunt May, so I can't comment about her except I really don't want to see Sally Field as Aunt May. Rosemary Harris, in my opinion, captured the role of Uncle Ben's widow, Peter's surviving parent, and someone who is caught up in Spidey's web but hates Spidey. That early scene in the second movie where she's shoving a handful of bills - that she needs to pay her rent - into Peter's hands because it's his birthday and dammit she wants him to have a happy birthday. That's an Aunt May that my heart goes out for. Later on, when she tries to open a bank account and the cold-hearted banker shoots her down, that's a plucky old gal that you can respect. And then Doc Ock attacks, and the banker thinks he might get away with a gold coin, and Aunt May slaps it out of his hand because it's WRONG! This is the woman who taught Spider-Man right from wrong just by being herself. It's a shame Spidey didn't learn that lesson until it was too late for Uncle Ben. Your mileage may vary, but I prefer Rosemary Harris, and don't even want to see Marissa Tomei in that role. Ewwwww...
Again, we seem to agree. I think the peak Lee-Ditko era "Spider-Man" is where Silver Age comics stopped feeling so dated. The Master Planner trilogy is a gripping read from start to finish. There would be plenty of other dated comics after that, but at least one gets the impression that a significant weight had been lifted and thrown aside when all else was lost.
Posted by: ChrisW | May 9, 2017 9:47 PM
Man, that second Spider-Man movie did a lot right, didn't it? I think it was a little heavy on the cheese at several points, and I didn't like Doc Ock's totally nerfed motivations, but Raimi really nailed Peter and his supporting cast in that one.
I haven't really read Silver Age Spidey in way too long. Maybe I'll have to revisit it, especially the Master Planner saga, soon. I definitely think you're right on that as a turning point for comics. Notable: Fantastic Four 48 was published just a month after ASM 33. Sure seems like a turning point to me.
Posted by: J-Rod | May 10, 2017 10:08 AM
I can see the point that Ock's motivations are pretty weak in the second movie, but I think they're tolerable for the character presented in the movie, and the movie gives us an awesome supervillain. You don't care that Spidey punches Ock in the face and that doesn't end everything, you care that Ock is so overwhelming that Spidey will be lucky to escape, much less win.
I've seen very few of the recent superhero movies, but of the ones I have, "Spider-Man 2" is among the very best.
Posted by: ChrisW | May 10, 2017 9:44 PM
About JJJ, I think he is the single best example of the Marvel Age of Comics. He's a respectable citizen, built up his newspaper/magazine empire, and he despises these people in tights. I never thought it was coincidence that Stan has always said JJJ was the character he wanted to play in the movies.
Right from the start, there's the obvious subversion of the genre. Superman brings Perry White great scoops [as do Lois and Jimmy, with Superman's help] and Perry can't recognize the guy wearing glasses. It's easy to poke realism at Spider-Man's disguise - every single batch of pictures Peter brings in is taken from the exact same angle, not even moving left or right by a centimeter - but Spidey wears a mask, and Perry White was never out to undermine/expose Superman as the fraud he is.
Another point I will give the movies is JK Simmons in the first one. He's not a great publisher, he's been recast to be an editor, and a cheap smarmy little man who flipped a mental coin in his head and it landed on 'tails' so Spidey would be the villain. If it had landed on 'heads,' he'd have loved Spidey as a hero just as much. The later movies just used JJJ for 'cheapskate' jokes.
Posted by: ChrisW | May 10, 2017 9:59 PM
Personally, I still think he's used fantastically in the sequels. Especially Spider-Man 2. Love Simmons/JJJ in that one.
Posted by: J-Rod | May 11, 2017 4:18 PM
Your mileage may vary. I thought his opening scene was good, but his motivations are even worse than Ock's, and he ends the movie with his son John J left at the altar by MJ and his response is to call the caterer and not to open any more caviar? I'm in the vast minority in that I liked the third movie, and JJJ is completely ignorable there. The only person in NYC who doesn't like Spider-Man? That's worth screen time?
If 1000 lawyers pound for 1000 years at 1000 computers, we will have JK Simmons playing JJJ in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that will be a joy to behold.
Posted by: ChrisW | May 13, 2017 11:10 PM
Yes, that would be a true joy. I doubt it happens, and they're gonna have a really hard time recasting him, which is why the ASM movies never had any Daily Bugle stuff and probably why I haven't heard or seen any Daily Bugle stuff connected to Homecoming (though I suppose it's possible I've missed something). But if it happened? That would be spectacular (pun intended).
Posted by: J-Rod | May 15, 2017 9:50 AM
My guess is that it's partially the difficulty of recasting JJJ, and I think Marvel's approach to their movies involves planning for reboots, i.e. 'who will play Iron Man after Robert Downey Jr?' I didn't see the new movies and can't say for certain, but Gwen Stacey was introduced as a minor character in the Tobey Maguire trilogy, and I got the impression she'd be front and center for the reboot, which sounds like what happened. Captain Stacey and Gwen were both prominent, as far as I know, and MJ was nowhere to be seen. I understand Simmons had said he'd show up anytime they wanted JJJ.
Posted by: ChrisW | May 15, 2017 8:48 PM
Yes, Gwen was front and center in the reboots. (I actually never saw the second Amazing Spider-Man, but the first was pretty good.) There was no MJ and no Daily Bugle staff whatsoever.
Posted by: J-Rod | May 16, 2017 11:02 AM
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