Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) 1963 Year In Review

Image taken from Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #1

How Many Issues?

Seven; issues 1-7. The series began on a bi-monthly schedule, but became monthly in September, with issue 4.

Creative Team:

Plotters: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Steve Ditko

Inker: Steve Ditko

Was It Good?

Yes, it was, and it was good right from the start. In 1963, Peter Parker was the only Marvel character (aside from the Thing) with relatable, everyday problems. That alone would make him among the most likable Marvel characters, but his reactions to these problems is what really separated him from the pack. Peter didn’t always have heroic reactions to his troubles; specifically, he fantasizes about harming, or letting harm come to, Flash Thompson on numerous occasions, only to relent and do the right thing. A lot of comic book characters alter-egos at the time (especially those at DC, but also Donald Blake and Henry Pym) were bland and saintly; giving Peter a dark side, even one that is fleeting, worked wonders for this title.

It helps that the creative team (Stan Lee and Steve Ditko) was constant throughout the year. The first two issues were good, but not great —- the shorter stories were clearly intended for publication in Amazing Fantasy before it got cancelled —- but the book really hit its stride when they started publishing full-length stories in #3.

The villains from 1963 were memorable, too, which makes a lot of these stories both fun and historically important. The Chameleon, Doctor Doom, Doctor Octopus, Lizard, Sandman, Tinkerer, and Vulture (twice!) all face-off against Spidey in these issues. There were no stereotypical one-off science fiction monsters in these issues, these would become recurring characters thanks to the depth that they showed in these issues.

What About the Sub-Plots and Continuity?

It can be fun to track the minor story points throughout a year’s worth of comics to see what ideas were developed, which were quietly dropped, and what weird trends emerged.

  • Peter’s late Uncle Ben was the sole breadwinner in the house, so Peter tried to make money as Spider-Man. It didn’t work out, because he wouldn’t reveal his true identity. As a photographer for the Daily Bugle, though, he managed to pay their rent for an entire year with his first paycheck!
  • The Daily Bugle (and Now! magazine, also run by J. Jonah Jameson) are strongly against Spider-Man from the very start. Most of the characters that we see (police, students, etc.) don’t believe the negative press, though.
  • Spider-Man’s Spidey Sense appears for the first time in these issues, although it is usually used as a radar to track bad guys, rather than an instinct.
  • Spider-Man ran out of web fluid twice, but redesigned his uniform so he can carry more web fluid going forward. It’s nice that this plot contrivance was only used a couple of times before the character solved the problem.
  • Two different people (the Chameleon and Flash Thompson) disguised themselves as Spider-Man this year.
  • The Chameleon and Doctor Doom both contacted Spider-Man through special radio waves this year because they both deduced that Spider-Man (and spiders in general!) can sense a particular wavelength.
  • While Peter is unpopular at school, his classmates —- particularly Flash Thompson and Liz Allan —- are big fans of Spider-Man.
  • We have Spidey’s first secret identity scare when his mask rips while fighting the Sandman.
  • For being a total geek, Peter is at least not completely ignored by the opposite sex. He got (and later cancelled) a date with Liz Allan, and has a flirtatious relationship with Betty Brant at the Daily Bugle.

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