Sunday, August 24, 2014

Marvels: Amazing Spider-Man #9

"The Man Called Electro!" by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko
(February 1964)

Stan & Steve continue to grow Spidey's impeccable rogues gallery. Electro is actually a pretty great villain, despite his ridiculous costume and his loopy origin. Electrician Max Dillon, who was gifted at his job but refused to perform unless paid extra money, was hit by lightning while working on power lines. Not only did he not die, but electricity was coursing through his body. Now, able to control electric power, he... well, he robs banks, because what else do you do in the Marvel Universe?

Electro only adds to Peter Parker's problems this issue. His first big problem is that Aunt May needs an operation, and Peter needs to scrape to be able to pay for it. His second is that his nascent relationship with Betty Brant is getting rocky. And his third is that J. Jonah Jameson is convinced that Electro is actually Spider-Man, and becomes obsessed with proving it.

This last problem occurs when Electro robs a bank while Jameson is there doing business. Electro calls Jameson by name, which convinces JJ that Electro must be someone he knows, rather than just ascribing it to the fact that Jameson's constantly on television complaining about what a menace Spider-Man is. Jeez, JJ, you can't bludgeon your way into prominence and then become confused when someone recognizes you.

Peter decides to go after Electro in order to collect the reward out for him. But Jameson starts demanding pictures showing Spider-Man changing into Electro, which just makes Peter angry. But--after a brief encounter where Electro almost instantly defeats Spidey with a shock so powerful that Electro is convinced he's killed Spider-Man--Peter is desperate enough to doctor the photos so he can collect the money from JJ and pay for Aunt May's operation. He's ashamed of himself for doing so, but things start to smooth out. Not only does Aunt May get her operation, but Betty Brant has been keeping May company and being very supportive of Peter.

But things get rocky again when Electro tries to initiate a prison break. The police contain the riot, but while all hell is breaking loose, Spider-Man is needed. Peter tries to take off with the excuse that he needs to take photos ("the dangerous pix are the ones Jameson pays the most for!"), but Betty begs him to stay, worried that he's becoming too attracted to danger and excitement. It turns out that Betty was once a classmate of Peter's, but left school early in order to work, but she's never told Peter why. But it has something to do with someone who she once knew... someone else who was attracted to danger... and she's been hurt... And though Peter and Betty only grow closer, he doesn't press her to talk about it.

In the meantime, Spider-Man shows up at the prison, publicly blowing up JJ's theory about Electro and Spidey being the same person. Spider-Man takes the precaution of wearing rubber boots and rubber gloves, and though the fight is exciting and dangerous, Spidey takes out Electro and leave him for the cops.

So, Aunt May made it through her operation, Peter and Betty are falling in love, Electro is behind bars, and Spider-Man has cleared his name. Anything else to clear up?

Ah, yes, the faked pictures of Spider-Man changing into Electro. JJ is angry at being made to look like a fool and screams at Peter, but, in a glorious moment, Peter actually takes command of the situation and tells JJ off, reminding Jameson that he's a freelancer, after all, and is free to sell his pictures wherever he wants... including pictures of Spider-Man fighting Electro.

Leading to this exchange:

And so everything works out. (Great expressions on Jameson.) And this time, Peter gets the girl, too.

The drama continues.

Stray notes:

:: I like that Aunt May's ailment is never actually named. That way it's more universal for the teenage reader who has had a sick relative to sympathize with. For his part, Peter's so torn up about it that he ignores his classmates, including Flash Thompson, who actually tries to be friendly after their boxing match last issue. The misunderstanding leads to this great expression:

Shocked Liz and Flash. I like Spider-Man's big supporting cast. The superhero drama as teenage soap opera is one of the things that really make this work. (Have you ever read the series Mary Jane? It was like a high school drama about Mary Jane, Liz, Flash, Harry Osborn and Gwen Stacy, with Spider-Man sort of going on in the background. I think that'd make an amazing TV series, since I'm ignoring those Andrew Garfield movies.)

Also, shocked Betty:

Ditko's art is just so damn good, and he keeps getting better and better. There are some great Spidey poses in this one. Here, check this one out:

That twist is great. Great artists can really show you a lot about a character through their body language, and Spider-Man's is unique in the Marvel Universe, especially in 1964. So far, the Beast is really the only other character who crouches a lot.

:: It's pretty clear that the police think J. Jonah Jameson is being an idiot in his assertion that Electro and Spider-Man are the same person. They're on Spidey's side. At one point, one cop even says to another: "He'll say anything to smear Spider-Man!"

:: The letters page features a letter from Gordon Flagg. Is this the same Gordon Flagg of Booklist? Stan explains to him that the reason letterers use so many exclamation marks is that periods don't always reproduce cleanly in printing, so exclamation marks cut down on the possibility of confusion.

Most of the letters are pretty complimentary towards the Doctor Doom appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #5. Michael Fallis of Salem, MA, sorta kinda prefigures Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends by urging Stan to include Iceman in the rivalry between Spidey and the Human Torch. Brady Flowers of Le Center, MN, wants a Spider-Man TV show, which Stan thinks is a great idea, but remembering the 1977 TV series that did happen, I'd say be careful what you wish for. Lots of negative comments about Steve Ditko's artwork. Some geniuses aren't recognized at the time, guys.

Another wonderful issue of Amazing Spider-Man, introducing another classic villain.

Next Marvels: Doctor Doom!

No comments: