Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Marvels: Amazing Spider-Man #5

"Marked for Destruction by Dr. Doom!" by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko
(October 1963)

Dr. Doom made his first appearance as the Marvel Universe's greatest villain back in Fantastic Four #5. So I guess it's kind of fitting that he's making an appearance here in Spider-Man's fifth issue, too. At first it seems like Doom is too grand and menacing a villain to set against Marvel's wisecracking teen hero, but this issue proves it's a great pairing. I still think the best Spider-Man stories pit him against a villain--like Doctor Octopus or Sandman--who are capable of killing him. Spidey seems to do his best creative thinking when his life is really on the line.

But how did Dr. Doom survive his fall out of the floating lab back in Fantastic Four #17? Easily; he simply got below the clouds, out of sight of the FF, and glided away on his jet-powered flying belt. Doom always has a way out. I like to imagine that Stan never knows how he's going to bring Doom back from seeming death, and has to come up with the answer later. So far, it's never disappointed.

Doom's newest idea is to team up with Spider-Man. He manages to call Spider-Man to him by tapping into the same wavelength spiders use to sense danger, which, why the hell not? I mean, if Ant-Man can tap into the ants, why not this? It works, and Spidey is kind of amused by the offer, but opts out. He escapes Doom (and one of his Doombots, although they're not calling them that yet), and Doom's new plan is to use Spider-Man as bait to draw out the Fantastic Four. And that's when this issue's fun complication sets in.

See, Flash Thompson gets himself a Spider-Man costume and the plan is for him to hide, then jump out and scare Peter Parker on the way home from school. Dr. Doom, meanwhile, has created an instrument that will track Peter's spider-sense (okay) so that he can learn Spider-Man's secret identity; it will take him right to Spider-Man. So, of course, he follows the tracker and sees Flash in the Spidey costume and, assuming he's the real Spider-Man, gasses him and captures him thinking he's captured the real deal. Pete just walks on home, completely unaware of a prank gone wrong.

Dr. Doom immediately takes control of the television airwaves and gives the Fantastic Four one hour to face him before he kills Spider-Man. Peter Parker has no idea what's going on until Liz Allan calls him for help, asking if he's seen Flash and telling him about the planned prank.

Peter's reaction is a typical teenager's reaction.

That is unfettered glee! Ah, Peter. You always do the right thing. You consider not doing the right thing, because that's what happens when you get bullied, but you make the right choice in the end. I get it. It's why I relate.

Peter has to pull the master fuse to get Aunt May to let him out of the house, but he rushes to Flash's aid (using his spider-sense as a sonar again), and there's a great fight between Spidey and Doom. We're talking web columns and lasers and magnetic iron balls and heat rays and electrified floor traps (hey, it turns out Spidey's webbing conducts electricity really well) a Doombot and a disintegrator ray and some kind of blinding metal flakes and then finally just good old-fashioned punching before the Fantasticar shows up and Doom, not ready to face both Spider-Man and the FF, flees the scene.

Spider-Man rushes off, too, and a very scared Flash is left to try and explain something to the Fantastic Four. Doesn't stop him from spinning his own tale about fighting Dr. Doom at school the next day, much to Peter's chagrin.

Ah, don't worry, Peter. Flash is at his peak. He's got a long, unfulfilling life to look forward to.

Great panel. Great story.

Stray observations:

:: J. Jonah Jameson has taken his hatred of Spider-Man back to television, sponsoring an editorial special about Spider-Man and "the menace that he is."

:: Important development: Peter and Jonah's secretary, Betty Brant, are pretty clearly attracted to one another. Let's see where this leads, shall we?

:: I love the banter Spidey keeps up with Doom, which is clearly pissing Doom off the entire time.

Doom: "You didn't expect a trap-door to open beneath your feet, did you?"
Spider-Man: "Say, I'll be you'd be a wow at a Coney Island fun house!"

He also calls Doom "rattle-trap" and, of course, "laughing boy." Even when fighting Dr. freakin' Doom, Spidey keeps it up. I know your mileage may vary on Spidey's wisecracking, but I've always liked it. It's a teenager trying to make light of the situation he's in so that he doesn't feel his terror too deeply and give in to it. Plus, it really irritates a guy like Doom and makes him more prone to making mistakes out of frustration.

:: On page 12, just before Spidey finds where Doom is hiding Flash, Stan admits: "Let's face it! You've struggled through one of the longest introductions you've ever read! But we think you'll find it well worth it, because now the fireworks begin in earnest!" I love the way Stan keeps convincing the reader he's on their side.

I'm afraid I side with the fans who don't care for Ditko's take on the Fantastic Four, but I do really dig his Doom.

:: Dear spell check programs: it is 2014. This comic book came out 50 years ago. There has been a lot of science fiction since then. It is long past time for you to just standardize the spelling of "disintegrator" and recognize it as a word.

:: One of the letters is from Richard Cohen. That's not Richard Cohen from the Washington Post, is it? He's about the right age, and also from New York... be interesting to know that. There's also another letter from Jeddak editor Paul Moslander (his second issue in a row), and another from Steve Perrin, the future creator of RuneQuest; he suggests a love interest for Spidey who is related to J. Jonah Jameson (a daughter). David Coleman wants to start a Spider-Man Fan Club, which Stan gives his blessing to.

The biggest announcement in the letters page is that The Amazing Spider-Man is now a monthly title, which is excellent news. This and Fantastic Four are the ones I look forward to the most, so now I've got both of them monthly. I know I spend a lot of time on each issue, but hey, those comics are special.

(Also, there's an announcement that the next issue, Amazing Spider-Man #6, which is cover-dated November, will be on sale approximately August 8th. So just to give you some idea of the lag time between when the issues are printed and released, and the actual cover dates. So this "October" issue actually seems to have hit the stands in July!)

And speaking of the FF: next Marvels, they go back in time. Again. But to a different time period and of their own volition.

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