“Spider-Man” and “Spider-Man vs. the Chameleon!”
Plotters: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Scripter: Stan Lee
Penciller: Steve Ditko
Inker: Steve Ditko
Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko
What’s Going On?
In “Spider-Man,” Peter Parker is still reeling from the death of his Uncle Ben. He is unable to make money as Spider-Man, and is receiving negative press from the Daily Bugle newspaper.
However, when he observes astronaut John Jameson’s flight malfunction, Peter suits up and manages to save the day as Spider-Man.
In “Spider-Man vs. the Chameleon,” the criminal disguise mastermind, the Chameleon, tries to frame Spider-Man for a crime.
His disguises were no match for Spider-Man’s spider-abilities, though.
Is It Good?
Yes! It’s pretty great, especially for the era. It is just so different from everything else Marvel is publishing at this point. Peter Parker’s life is a series of struggles, and his Everyman troubles are easy to identify with. There are some (relatively) dark moments in this comic, and they still stand the test of time. The art is a refreshing change from Jack Kirby’s, which (especially at this point) could sometimes look rushed; Ditko’s angular characters really stood out, and his inking helped make the characters seem more realistic. I wasn’t sure how much fun it would be to review these early Spidey issues — since Spidey is a street-level hero, maybe they’d be as bad as the Torch’s Strange Tales issues — but I am now very excited for what comes next.
- Uncle Ben was the sole breadwinner in the family, and Aunt May is a struggling to pay the bills. Peter tries to make some money as Spider-Man, but quickly realizes that he can’t cash checks made out to “Spider-Man.”
- Peter briefly considers a life of crime to support Aunt May.
- J. Jonah Jameson attacks Spider-Man, as editor of the Daily Bugle.
- Peter correctly observes that Ant-Man and the Fantastic Four don’t get criticized by JJJ. I don’t know if Jonah’s motives will be uncovered in the Silver Age.
- After saving Jameson’s son, Peter expected some kinder treatment from the Daily Bugle. His expectations were not met.
- Assuming that the Fantastic Four are paid, Spider-Man broke into the Baxter Building to try to impress them in an informal audition. It turns out that the FF are a non-profit organization.
- Spider-Man foils the Chameleon and prevents the Soviets from obtaining secret missile defense plans.
- Nowadays, Marvel is very particular about the hyphen in “Spider-Man.” In this issue, they clearly were not.
- The Daily Bugle’s vicious editorial attacks on Spider-Man’s character begin in this issue.
- This issue contains the first appearance of J. Jonah Jameson, John Jameson, and the Chameleon.
- Is this the very first Silver Age Marvel crossover issue? The Fantastic Four guest-star, so it could be. However, I don’t know the exact date this issue was released. Fantastic Four #12, which had the Hulk guest-star, has the same cover date as Amazing Spider-Man #1, but Marvel Unlimited doesn’t provide accurate release date information for Silver Age comics — all seven superhero comics with the cover date of March 1963 show a release date of March 10, 1963 on Marvel Unlimited, which seems dubious. Either way, this was either the first or second Silver Age crossover issue for Marvel.
- Spider-Man’s strength is enough to impress the Thing.
- This issue marks the first appearance of the “Spidey sense.”
- While he does use his webs to swing a bit, Spider-Man is not “web-slinging” in the classic sense. He gets around the city in a variety of ways.
- Spiders can apparently hear special frequencies. This is common enough knowledge that local criminals both know about it and can create devices to broadcast in that frequency.
- Spider-Man runs out of web fluid for the first time!
Comics Are Goofy:
- If it’s so expensive, Reed, maybe you should use something cheaper as your security system. If someone gets caught, they’re going to try to break out.
- The Fantastic Four are a non-profit? That doesn’t exactly jive with what was implied in Fantastic Four #9, when they made lots of money from Reed’s patents. Plus, non-profit organizations still pay salaries. I think they just didn’t want to change their team name to Fantastic Five.
- Peter who?
- The Chameleon: Soviet agent, master of disguise, and owner of a vest with many pockets. And the bright yellow is so inconspicuous, too!
- I cannot express how much I like it when the Chameleon opts to remove his mask and wear his yellow vest when he is still wearing a disguise. “Well, if I get caught, I should probably make it as easy as possible for people to know that I’m the imposter.”
- Given the love-hate friendship that quickly develops between the two, it’s odd that Human Torch is the FF member with the most faith in Spidey.
Behind the Scenes:
- This issue is made up of two shorter stories. Presumably, these were originally intended to premier in Amazing Fantasy, but that title was cancelled before the sales reports were in. Allegedly (meaning, “per Wikipedia”), the issue sold very well, which helped lead to Spidey getting his solo title.
- In this issue, Lee is credited for the script, and Ditko is credited for the art. While they don’t specifically share story/plot credit, this is the first issue where Stan Lee only took credit for a script; it’s safe to say that the lack of a plotting credit means that, at the very least, Steve Ditko deserves co-plotting credit. Since it’s hard to determine just how much the writers did vs. the artists in Marvel’s early days, I’m splitting the difference and giving plotting co-credits to Lee and Ditko.
- Here’s Steve Ditko’s side of things (taken from Dial B For Blog‘s Spider-Man origin posts). He is less generous with regards to Stan’s contributions (emphasis mine):
According to Ditko, “The book contains two independent stories. They were both credited as Script: Stan Lee/Art: Steve Ditko. There was no Stan Lee script. I worked from two synopsis. And I provided rough panel script — dialogue — for the penciled story panels, plus whatever clarification needed when we went over the penciled panels.” (The Comics V. 12 No. 11, November 2001)