Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) 1964 Year In Review

image-2448
Image taken from Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1

How Many Issues?

Thirteen. Twelve regular issues (Amazing Spider-Man #8-19) and one giant-sized Annual (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1).

Spidey also appeared in an Avengers issue (Avengers #11), a Giant-Man & Wasp story (Tales to Astonish #57), and a Human Torch story (Strange Tales #119).

Creative Team:

Plotters: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Steve Ditko

Inker: Steve Ditko

Was It Good?

It was pretty fantastic.  Amazing Spider-Man was definitely my favorite Marvel book for 1964.  Steve Ditko’s art played a major part in this — his character designs and facial expressions are consistently good, and his action scenes are a lot of fun — but the true reason for this book working so well is the writing.  The plots are more complex than in other titles, the themes are more mature, and the supporting cast is so good that it isn’t a letdown when an issue is lacking a major villain or beat-em-up scene.

Spidey fought a pretty classic run of opponents in 1964: the Big Man, the Chameleon, the Circus of Crime, Daredevil, Doctor Octopus (three times!), Electro, the Enforcers (also three times!), the Green Goblin, the Hulk, the Human Torch, Kraven the Hunter (twice), the Living Brain, Mysterio (twice), Sandman (three times!), and the Vulture.  Not all of these villains were great (and not all of them were villains), but the variety of foes was good, and some of them are pretty interesting characters.

There were also a lot of guest stars in this title.  The Avengers, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Fantastic Four, the Human Torch (solo on four occasions!), and the X-Men all make appearances.  Clearly, Spider-Man is becoming important and popular enough that Stan Lee is making sure to connect him to as many corners of the Marvel Universe as possible.  I went into these issues expecting Fantastic Four to be the best Marvel title of the Silver Age, but Amazing Spider-Man is my clear favorite thus far.

What About 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 and which were quietly dropped.

  • Apparently, “Marvel time” isn’t a thing yet, because it took a calendar year for the Parkers to have problems paying the mortgage, after Peter paid a year’s worth in 1963.
  • Peter is now a high school senior.
  • The Daily Bugle’s influence seems to be growing. In 1963, most of Peter’s classmates and the general public seemed to dismiss J. Jonah Jameson’s attempts to vilify Spider-Man. This year, the general public seemed to go along with JJJ.
  • Aunt May being deathly ill becomes a trend this year. She is very sick twice — in Amazing Spider-Man #9-10 and again in #17-18.
  • Peter gives Aunt May a blood transfusion, despite worrying that his superhero blood might harm her. That happens in Amazing Spider-Man #10, and isn’t mentioned afterward.
  • Peter begins to have serious money problems this year. Aside from struggling to pay May’s medical bills, Peter is worried about money in Amazing Spider-Man #13-14. That’s nearly half of the year with Peter worrying about money.
  • The dynamic with Flash Thompson is changing. Instead of just being a bully to Peter, Flash offers him advice to stay safe and visits Aunt May when she is sick. He’s also Spider-Man’s biggest fan! It’s also worth pointing out that Peter knocked him the eff out in a boxing match, so that probably contributed to Flash’s toned-down attitude.
  • Flash Thompson starts the first local Spider-Man fan club in Amazing Spider-Man #17.
  • Flash breaks Peter’s glasses in Amazing Spider-Man #8, and Peter never bothers to replace them. I get that the kids at school (if they cared) might assume he has contacts, but why did t this concern Aunt May?
  • Aunt May is trying to set Peter up on a blind date with her neighbor’s niece, Mary Jane Watson. She won’t make her first appearance for a while, but she is mentioned in Amazing Spider-Man #14-17.
  • Peter begins dating Betty Brant.  He likes her enough to consider revealing his secret identity to her, but their relationship doesn’t last long.  By Amazing Spider-Man #19, she has started dating Ned Leeds, and she and Peter appear to be content with friendship.
  • Betty had an eventful year.   In addition to dating Peter, she got harassed by loan sharks, got kidnapped by Doctor Octopus (twice!), saw her brother die, blamed Spidey for her brother’s death, forgave Spidey, more or less broke up with Peter, and started dating Ned Leeds.
  • Liz Allan started openly flirting with Peter in Amazing Spider-Man #12; this bothered Betty while she was dating Pete.  To date, Peter has not gone out on a date with Liz yet.
  • Spidey’s web fluid only runs out once this year!  The reserve cartridges Peter added to his costume have made a big difference.
  • Spider-tracers make their debut this year.
  • Spider-Man’s spider-sense is slowly changing.  It started out as almost like radar, but by the end of 1964 it has started working like more of a danger instinct.
  • We only had one real threat to Spider-Man’s secret identity this year, when Peter was unmasked by Doctor Octopus in Amazing Spider-Man #12.  However, since he was de-powered at the time, no one actually believes that he is the real Spidey.
  • Several people are suspected of secretly being Spider-Man this year.  Flash Thompson (issue #8 and again in #18), Electro (issue #9), the Big Man (issue #10), Mysterio (issue #12), and Peter (issue #12).  Interestingly, it is Liz Allan — who, at this point, is portrayed as a fairly vapid and vain girl — that suspects Peter of being Spidey.
  • Another odd trend: when Peter sees someone advertise that Spider-Man will show up somewhere, he makes sure to appear in costume.  It’s not like there was an arrangement; he just likes doing it for fun.  This happened with the Circus of Crime (Amazing Spider-Man #16) and Flash’s fan club (Amazing Spider-Man #17).
  • Spider-Man being weakened by sickness has also become a recurring theme.  This came up at least three times: issues #12, #15, and Annual #1.
  • The Green Goblin’s identity is being purposefully kept a secret.  This is the first villain with a secret identity in this title.
  • Aunt May and Doctor Octopus get along very well.  When Doc Ock kidnaps her in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, she is very impressed with his manners.
  • The Big Man is the first Daily Bugle employee to become a villain, but he will not be the last.
  • A mysterious man started shadowing Peter Parker in Amazing Spider-Man #19.  He is clearly doing it as an assignment, but we don’t know who hired him at this point.
  • J. Jonah Jameson finally reveals why he hates Spider-Man so much (in issue #10): it is because he is jealous of Spidey’s brave selflessness.
  • The Human Torch and Spider-Man start becoming friendly rivals, after being antagonistic until Amazing Spider-Man #17.
  • The idea of villains teaming up against Spidey becomes popular this year.  Not only does the first iteration of the Sinister Six make its debut this year, but Chameleon and Kraven become a team, and the Green Goblin hires the Enforcers to be his muscle.

 

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