Celebrating the Unpopular Arts
 

Amazing Spider-Man Omnibi part 2: Characters

Continued from my previous article on the Spider-Man omnibi.

Peter

Peter Parker’s photography was weird. He kept it secret… until he didn’t. There were so many times he could say ‘I’m off to take pics’ as his excuse for ducking away whenever Spider-Man shows up. The shots are always taken from some odd angle, too – he’d have to be on top of a high building (where he webbed his camera) to get them. He has the perfect alibi! He eventually does start using that excuse (with no transition from his photography being a secret) but it takes him way too long to start.

Try not to think about what happens when the battle moves. I mean, a couple of feet to either side, and suddenly everything is out of shot. What happens when they take the fight to a different building?
He solves this with a belt camera. (I figure it’s a supplement to the one he webs up.) How can he? How could anybody look at a photo taken with a belt camera and not think ‘uh, where was he standing to get this shot? The only way he could is if… wait…’

Forget the webs!
Sometimes, Spider-Man seems to forget he even has web shooters.
How many times could he web crooks before they see him? Maybe not your Doctor Octopus or your Green Goblin, but more than once he sees an ordinary criminal at a bit of a distance, and instead of just shooting a web at him, he swings down to fight him.

Note the caption.
Not this one, the one in the image above.

And here, in the famous ‘lifting the machine’ scene, he keeps thinking how he can’t reach the cannister of Aunt May’s medicine.
He could’ve webbed it. He never even tried.
(It’s irrelevant – and Spider-Man acknowledges this – because if he can get out, he can get the cannister; if he can’t get out, the cannister is of no use. Nonetheless, he still lies there thinking ‘I can’t reach that cannister’ and doesn’t try to use his webs.)

Spider-Man should travel like this more.

The Spider-Man Sense is very inconsistent. Sometimes it warns him of Aunt May being angry, sometimes he doesn’t notice a supervillain sneaking up on him.

Peter is too picked on

Ben and May are too sweet. Amazing Fantasy #15 really overplays the relationship between Peter and his surrogate parents to set up the conflict of Ben’s death.

Contrast with the way overplayed ‘Peter Parker got picked on by a peck of pickled peppers’ thing; everybody else goes out of their way to be mean. Even stupidly so.

From Amazing Fantasy #15: this is how an adult reacts to a teen getting sick! It’s not impossible, but this is a respectable scientist, and it just feels like they’re pushing the ‘nobody cares about Peter’ bit too hard.

They kind of dodge the issue, but a lot of the time, it’s his own fault, too; occasionally, the other teens try to include Peter, but he rejects them.

Sounds great, Peter.

When he tries to hang with them, he insists on them doing his thing, but he won’t do theirs. Even before Spider-Man.
Sometimes, they do invite him to go out with them. The writers forget about trying to make Peter look picked on when it advances the plot.

Pete is too in his head. He ignores everybody around him; like, all the time. Only… the people around him don’t react realistically. Most people, if they can’t get somebody’s attention, think / say ‘mustn’t have heard me’. Everyone in Peter’s life leaps straight to ‘he’s snubbing me’.

These characters never try running up and touching his arm to get his attention; they just assume he’s a snob. (“Never attribute to malice what can easily be explained by stupidity.” That’s Hanlon’s razor, that is. Words to live by.)

Also, bitterness is not a good look.

He took that well.

No communication

Fraser recently mentioned this in one of his articles. This article was already being drafted at the time.

There are so many times and so many ways he could solve problems by just talking to people. For example, one of the times people think he’s being a snob, he could’ve used the excuse ‘sorry; I was thinking about my aunt who raised me like a mother and is currently sick in hospital.’
Thing is, that’s exactly what had happened. It wasn’t even his Spider-Man activities (this time) that were making him ‘snub’ people.
He thinks it, but he doesn’t say it out loud. Despite, as discussed, randomly saying things out loud all the time.

That said, sometimes no communication makes sense!

So, should he tell her he’s Spider-Man?

Other characters obsess over our hero.
Flash Thompson especially gets to me. He’s an obsessive fan of Spider-Man, and an obsessive bully of Peter Parker. It just seems odd that a football star has so little life of his own that all he thinks about Peter Pan and Spider-Man.

While everybody obsesses over Spider-Man in this comic, in others they obsess over the hero of that comic. They forget other supers exist.
It manifests in various ways; one of the most common being ‘Only so-and-so could have done this’ or ‘nobody else has powers like these’ (at which point, we readers are listing in our heads bunches of other Marvel / DC / whatever characters who have powers like those and could, indeed, have done this).

J. Jonah Jameson, I’ll get to you.

Villains

Why does Green Goblin even attack Spider-Man when they first meet,? He’s not the only superhero in town.
It’s like villains just automatically know whose comic they’re in, and who they should be going after.

This character does the same thing; the guy barely knew Spider-Man before this.

Okay, but why are you trying to catch Spider-Man in the first place?

One of my kind-of pet peeves (that I don’t really care that much about) is keeping supervillains in jail in costume. I know why they do it – to make the villain recognisable to readers. It just doesn’t make sense from a criminal justice standpoint.

Especially here, when his costume is easily removed and is the source of his power.
(One of the worst offenders I have is Batman: Shadow Of The Bat #82, about a bunch of Arkham patients who spend the whole issue in costume, then escape. Batman #562 shows the escapees a few seconds later, and they’re in asylum dungarees.)

I’ve probably said this at AJS before, but I’ve noticed that most of the big, famous Spider-Man villains – at least the early ones – have a safari / Africa theme. Vulture. Rhino. Scorpion. Kraven The Hunter. Chameleon. Jackal. Octopus (okay, I’m stretching that one.) I think it’s a good way to tie the villains together with a theme. (Spider-Man ties them with webs, of course.)
Batman has carnival villains, btw: a clown. A catgirl. A two-faced freak. A ventriloquist. A crocodile man. A penguin (also stretching it, but it fits). Even a luchador fits; and so does the Riddler, if you squint just right; he’s like one of those all-knowing carnival animatronics.

A lot of those villains, though, started off very different to how we know them.
Doc Ock was Spider-Man’s big bad in the early years, not Green Goblin. I’m gonna assume that changed with the death of Gwen Stacey.

Rhino was a spy, not a criminal! (See Amazing Spider-Man 2)
The Tinkerer was an alien! Who knew? I always thought of him as just a guy.

We’ve gotten used to the idea of an honourable villain over the years. I think most of the big villains are honourable; but in the beginning it really wasn’t a thing in early Spider-Man; they were all just mean and underhanded. Apart from Kraven; Kraven had honour.

Related, but not the same, Kingpin wasn’t the subtle behind-the-scenes guy he is today. He was more of a standard supervillain. He didn’t have powers, but he used gimmicks; and. at one point, he openly attempted to murder J. Jonah Jameson.

By the way, he didn’t get his civilian name until much later; he even has an offsider named ‘Wilson’.

The Vulture is similar; I didn’t really start looking on this read-through, but I’m pretty sure by the end of these books, Adrian Toomes doesn’t have that name – they always just call him ‘The Vulture’. He’s been in the show since issue 2 and they’ve never given him a name!
And yet, Blackie Drago (the second Vulture) had his civilian name in his first appearance. Most of the villains do.

Speaking of Green Goblin, they kept his identity a mystery for a long time, hiding his face when he was out of costume. They had the same panel three times across several issues to do it.

These pictures are about ten issues apart, or more.

The annoying this is, there were a lot of letters speculating about who it could be – but Norman Osborne (spoiler!) hadn’t even been introduced yet.

In one villain origin, a guy gets electrically shocked and doused with chemicals at the same time. It was surprising because he became super-strong, not super-fast. Don’t they know how this stuff works?

J. Jonah Jameson

J. Jonah Jameson is a stereotype. Sometimes he rises above it (he’s not racist), but not usually. He’s a blow-hard, cheapskate; he thinks too big of himself.
And yet, he’s humble enough to thinks nobody’s heard of him, despite having a high-profile position.

We’re told J. Jonah Jameson is a skinflint who gives Peter half what his pictures are worth – but just how much is that? A single set of photos covers medicine, rent… so much stuff!

If you’ve ever wondered why Peter keeps selling pictures to J. Jonah Jameson in spite of everything, they actually explain it: other editors ask too many questions.

They also explain his obsession, kind of…


… but if this is his attitude to Spider-Man, why not to F4? Cops? Missionaries? Firemen?

Aunt May

(pick one!)

I know what they’re aiming for with Aunt May; it’s ironic. Peter is actually a big, strong superhero, and she thinks he’s a frail little child; we’re supposed to get a chuckle out of it.

That’s what they’re aiming for, I’m sure.

They missed.

Aunt May keeps calling Peter ‘fragile’ and weak. She keeps telling him he depends on her.
It happens so often, and in such a way that what they’ve got is Munchausen by proxy (Am I using that right?) It happens about 1 issue in 3. It’s very concerning.

Also, this:

You cleaned where?!? Did you pick up and move the bookcase yourself?

Behind his bookcase? Does she give him any privacy?

She’s actually pretty toxic to him.

After all that, the old Spider-Mans are very good. They’re enjoyable beyond being a peek into comics history. They have some quirks that make them less than perfect, but they’re still a good read.

14 Comments

  1. tomfitz1

    Le Messor: You said: “Kraven had honour”

    I just watched the 3 min. trailer Sony showed on the upcoming Kraven the Hunter film: Strange sense of honour there. 😮 (After seeing him bite off someone’s nose)

    1. Le Messor

      But was it an honourable nose? 😀

      Actually, that’s weird. Maybe he went from being the only villain with honour to the only one without?

  2. Alaric

    I’ve ALWAYS thought of Dock Ock, rather than the Goblin, as Spidey’s main enemy. And I started reading AFTER Gwen was killed.

    The Tinkerer was an alien in his first appearance. That story was basically the kind of Ditko Strange Tales/Amazing Fantasy story Ditko was doing before Spidey or Dr Strange, but with Spidey thrown in. It was a one shot story, and the Tinkerer wasn’t seen again for over 13 years. At which point, Len Wein completely reinvented him, and explained away the whole “alien” thing as a trick. It even turned out that Quentin Beck (Mysterio) was involved in that trick (before he took on the Mysterio identity, of course).

  3. The idea Norman’s goblin juice gave him super-strength didn’t come up until Hobgoblin used it that way, IIRC.
    I think emphasizing that they’re not showing the Goblin’s face is a legit way to establish he’s someone significant, even if they haven’t introduced his other identity yet.
    In Spider-Man #46, Foswell learns (or thinks he does) that Spider-Man tips Peter off to the action (which doesn’t explain the oddness of the photo angles), then they split the fees for the photos. A much later story has Spidey tell most of Peter’s friends that. Only they promptly forget and start wondering why Peter’s rushing off, how he gets the photos, etc.
    Spider-Sense does whatever a spider can — er, whatever Stan (and later writers) wants it to do.
    I’m less critical of Peter’s interactions with other kids than you are. For one thing, if you start off from the assumption he’s a jerk, it’s easy to assume “well, he’s ignoring us because he’s a jerk.” Though I was struck by one scene in which a girl invites him to a party so she’ll have someone intelligent to talk to and Peter says no because he doesn’t want girls to like him for his brains. WTF?
    The Lee/Ditko run remains one of my favorite Silver Age Marvel runs even so.

  4. Le Messor

    The idea Norman’s goblin juice gave him super-strength didn’t come up until Hobgoblin used it that way, IIRC.
    I didn’t even think about his strength.

    In Spider-Man #46, Foswell learns (or thinks he does) that Spider-Man tips Peter off to the action (which doesn’t explain the oddness of the photo angles), then they split the fees for the photos.

    True!

    A much later story has Spidey tell most of Peter’s friends that.
    I don’t remember that? Was it a retcon even later than #103 (the latest in this run?) or am I just a bad reader and missed a part?
    I assume the latter.

    Peter says no because he doesn’t want girls to like him for his brains.
    That I DO remember, and I’m with you on it. If I’d been talking about individual issues, I’d definitely have brought it up!

    The Lee/Ditko run remains one of my favorite Silver Age Marvel runs even so.
    I haven’t read enough Silver Age to have a favourite run or anything, but it’s definitely a good one.
    I originally bought one of these omnibi just to try it out; I have 3 because that first one was so good.

    1. Alaric

      The story where Peter convinces his friends that he and Spider-Man have an arrangement was in #87. Peter had the flu, and while he wasn’t in his right mind he told his friends he was Spider-Man, even showing them the costume, so to get himself out of the situation he got the Prowler to wear his Spidey suit and come in while all his friends were present and talk about the deal he (“Spider-Man”) and Peter had. “You take the pics, we split the dough”. Or something like that.

  5. Batman’s carnival villains: I picture the Riddler as the resident carny huckster, the one who’s playing “out of the three cups, which one is the ball under?”
    It’s been pointed out many times the animal/creature connection with Spidey’s (early) villains, but your safari one takes it further and enables Kraven for one to be included. I like that.
    If we see Ditko as Spidey/Peter and Lee as Jonah, it explains a lot about JJJ’s character and relationship with Peter (again, it’s been pointed out by others, not my revelation).

      1. Of course, your comment triggered a memory of reading a reprint of 1st Riddler app., IIRC in the ‘…From the 30s to 70s’ collection. Yes, there were panels of young Ed cheating exams or scamming classmates and then Joe Public.

      1. I agree on Doc Ock being the first nemesis, then it switched to Goblin being the main foe.
        When Norman lost his memory (ASM#40), Octopus seemed to be temporarily forgotten (he disappeared roughly two dozen issues between Master Planner/iconic lifting machinery and #53) and Romita/Lee even regurgitated the memory loss thing when Spidey got amnesia while attempting to stop both Octavius’ crime spree return and his squiring of Aunt May.
        Ock was poised to be No.1 during the long drawn-out regaining of Osborn’s memory which took us all the way to the Spidey magazine and ASM #96-on drugs issues. But this time the spotlight switched again, favouring the Kingpin (arcs included: #50’s “..No More” intro; Brainwasher/Capt Stacy; another return before the Tablet saga; the Schemer around #85).
        Octopus’ next big moment had to wait until the death of Capt Stacy arc centering around #90 but he did benefit in terms of Bronze Age exposure from Osborn’s death and Kingpin’s temporary retirement and eventual switch to D.D. arch-enemy!

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