Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Marvels: Amazing Spider-Man #14

"The Grotesque Adventure of the Green Goblin" by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko
(July 1964)

The first appearance of the Green Goblin, Spidey's second-best enemy (yeah, I said it, as I've said it before), does not disappoint. In fact, it's packed pretty full, so let's just get to the thing and run through it.

So, we start with Green Goblin, who is unusual among Spider-Man's villains in that we don't actually know who he is. One of the things I dig about The Amazing Spider-Man is that it's kind of a horror comic, and his villains have mainly been people who were transformed by a scientific accident into some kind of monster, the same way Peter Parker was transformed into Spider-Man. We saw, way back in Amazing Fantasy #15, how that kind of sudden surge of power can go to someone's head and turn them into an arrogant creep. Spider-Man's heroism comes from choosing instead to wield his power responsibly rather than for his own gain. In fact, when he does try to use it for his own gain, it never works out... this issue is in that same tradition.

But Spider-Man's villains are often villains because they use their powers for selfish reasons, or to hurt people, or oftentimes just to try to kill Spider-Man. But we're usually privy to their origin stories. When we first see Green Goblin--right away, actually, because Stan's just that excited to get to his new creation--he's in the shadows, but not in his costume. But in the second panel, he's wearing that iconic costume and riding his flying broomstick, all set up and ready to embark on a life of crime. So, obviously, even if you knew nothing else about the Goblin, it's obvious Stan and Steve are setting his identity up to be a big mystery.

Green Goblin's first task it to hire the Enforcers, whom you may recall are not exactly my favorite Spidey villains. Nonetheless, Ox, Montana and Fancy Dan probably are fresh out of jail and looking for some revenge. His muscle secured, Goblin heads off to Hollywood to get in contact with movie producer BJ Cosmos, who is looking for a scary film to follow up his hit The Nameless Thing from the Black Lagoon in the Murky Swamp. BJ Cosmos is an amazing character whom I could only hear in the voice of Roger C. Carmel's Harcourt Fenton Mudd.

When the Green Goblin literally flies in his window telling him that a movie about Spider-Man would be (not in these words, sadly) boffo socko box office, Cosmos immediately envisions dancing girls and Tony Curtis starring as Spider-Man. "Or maybe one of the Beatles!" But Goblin promises to deliver the real Spider-Man, and has Cosmos fly to New York to hear him out.

It doesn't take long for Spider-Man and Green Goblin to meet, and they don't even fight. Goblin just tells him to go to the Ritz Plaza Hotel and meet BJ Cosmos, and Spidey suspects it's a trick but it more or less just like "Yeah, okay, why not?" Cosmos offers Spidey $50,000 to star in a movie where he fights the Green Goblin and the Enforcers. Spidey agrees as long as there are no interviews, no publicity, no visitors on set, and "no phony romance build-ups with starlets!" Cosmos agrees; "but you'll break a million Hollywood hearts!" Consumed by the thought of what $50,000 could do for Aunt May, Spider-Man signs his contract.

Peter gets a lucky break when J. Jonah Jameson sends him to Hollywood to get exclusive photos, but Betty Brant sure isn't happy about it (nor about the attention Liz Allan has been giving him, she adds). In true Marvel girlfriend fashion, she angrily assumes Peter can't wait to go meet Hollywood starlets. And Aunt May actually sheds a tear over Peter leaving, since he's so fragile and all, but lets him go with a rather begrudging, guilt-tinted "I suppose I can't keep you tied to my apron strings forever!" Has anyone ever really talked about how passive-aggressive Aunt May can be sometimes?

Well, we get out to the California desert to shoot the movie, and of course Spider-Man's walked headlong into a trap, and of course the Enforcers immediately attack him, and of course his Spidey- Sense didn't warn him at all that he was being ambushed. That thing is so damn selective.

Even though it's the Enforcers and I still think they're lame, the fight scene that follows is impressive. Steve Ditko is really flexing his muscles on this one, going for larger panels but always keeping the action clear. It's so exciting watching his skill level rise and rise. Spider-Man's distinctive poses and body language get better and better. The Enforcers are just as hard to fight as they were back in Amazing Spider-Man #10 when they all attack at once, but this time Green Goblin is flying above the action and throwing stun grenades at Spidey. In desperation, Spider-Man uses his webbing to kick up a cloud of dust, using its cover to take shelter in a nearby cave.

Goblin and the Enforcers follow Spider-Man into the cave and roll a gigantic boulder over the cave mouth, trapping them all inside together, but it actually works to Spider-Man's advantage, as he starts picking them off one by one. But the Goblin's stun grenades are really noisy, and that noise awakens... well...

Yes, it's the Hulk, who has been unseen since Avengers #5. This is the first time these two have ever met, and thought Spidey at least tries to reason with the Hulk about what's happening (something neither the Avengers nor the Fantastic Four have ever taken the time to do), Hulk's been burned too many times before and refuses to listen, attacking Spider-Man in his rage.

I guess things were getting too easy in that cave, because now we've got another of those fight scenes where Spider-Man is easily outmatched. The Hulk is simply too powerful and too resilient--at one point, Spidey just punches Hulk right in the face and nearly breaks his own hand--and Hulk can rip through Spidey's webbing like paper. For all of Spider-Man's talk about having the proportionate strength of a spider, he's just marking time until the Hulk finally finishes him. Spider-Man, luckily, is actually faster than the Hulk, but his real advantage is that's smarter. Thinking fast, he uses the Hulk's strength against him, maneuvering the jade giant so that he smashes the boulder that was covering the cave mouth, allowing Spidey to make a hasty escape. He takes one last swing at the Green Goblin before hiding from the Hulk and leaving the Enforcers for the cops.

With the film in ruins, BJ Cosmos instead is excited about trying to get the Hulk to star in his movie, instead, with a hundred dancing girls and Doris Day singing the theme song to The Honey and the Hulk!

As for Peter's $50,000? Sorry, kid. Read your contract next time.

Enjoy your bus ride back to New York, ya bum.

And what of the Green Goblin? He, too, returns to New York City, where he takes of the costume, hiding from the reader in the shadows. He had planned to get Spider-Man out of the way and then set up a worldwide crime syndicate with himself at the top. Now it's time to wait for another opportunity, as he promises us, "the world hasn't heard the last of... The Green Goblin!!"

Stray observations:

:: I've always loved how many of Green Goblin's "powers" are basically Halloween pranks. He's not using pumpkin bombs yet, but he can shoot sparks out of his fingers, which seems more irritating than threatening. It looks like he's just probably got one of those friction dealies like on those old toy spark guns.

:: At school, Liz Allan is still fawning all over Peter, and is worried while he's gone that he hasn't written to his classmates. (Liz, you all treat him like garbage, why the hell would he write?) Flash Thompson, still on the outs with Liz, is pretty angry that Peter's making time with Liz--which he isn't, really, as Betty's still his main squeeze--threatens Peter to back off, leading Peter to taunt "You've got about as much chance with her as Khrushchev has with J. Edgar Hoover!!"

:: Liz goes further when she's alone arguing with Flash and calls Peter "a dreamboat! He's sensitive, intelligent, and articulate!"

:: During their fight, Hulk says to Spider-Man "You think I'm a brainless fool! If only you knew the truth!" Peter finds it intriguing, but is too busy to follow up. I have no idea who the first of the superheroes is to discover the Hulk's real identity, but I'm curious to see who it will be. Reed Richards, probably. Guy's a genius.

:: I like that Steve Ditko doesn't give the Green Goblin an expressive face. Mostly the Goblin's expression is a matter of the angle or the amount of shadows he's in, and I really, really like that. It makes him a little scary. I remember when Sam Raimi's movie came out with the Green Goblin wearing the helmet and so many fanboys crying into their sweaty palms about how they didn't like having a Goblin whose face never moved and thinking, uh, you know that's still just a rubber Halloween mask he's wearing, not elaborate makeup and prosthetics, right?

A fine, fine issue of The Amazing Spider-Man; lots of fun and excitement, doesn't take itself too seriously, introduces a wonderful new villain, and it has the Hulk. Can't wait for next time!

But first, since my scheduling on these has been erratic, I missed a milestone. This is my 152nd Marvels post, which means Tales of Suspense #54 was my 150th! So, then, here are my 20 favorite stories from the last 50 issues we discussed (not counting this one because numbers.)

1. "The Hulk vs. the Thing" (Fantastic Four #25)
2. "Captain America Joins... the Avengers!" (Avengers #4)
3. "Unmasked by Doctor Octopus!" (Amazing Spider-Man #12)
4. "Turning Point" (Amazing Spider-Man #11)
5. "The Avengers Take Over!" (Fantastic Four #26)
6. "The Invasion of the Lava Men!" (Avengers #5)
7. "The Avengers Meet Sub-Mariner" (Avengers #3)
8. "The Search for Sub-Mariner!" (Fantastic Four #27)
9. "The Man Called Electro!" (Amazing Spider-Man #9)
10. "The Master Plan of Doctor Doom!" (Fantastic Four #23)
11. "The Fangs of the Desert Fox!" (Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #6)
12. "The Return of the Mole Man!" (Fantastic Four #22)
13. "The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants!" (X-Men #4)
14. "At the Mercy of Baron Strucker" (Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #5)
15. "The Terrible Threat of the Living Brain" (Amazing Spider-Man #8)
16. "Return to the Nightmare World!" (Strange Tales #116)
17. "Trapped: One X-Man" (X-Men #5)
18. "Beyond the Purple Veil!" (Strange Tales #119)
19. "Giants Walk the Earth" (Journey Into Mystery #104)
20. "The Origin of Daredevil" (Daredevil #1)

Eventually, I'll combine these. Probably after another fifty. I'll do a top 50 of the first 200 or something. I don't know. Is anyone even on this journey with me anymore?

Next Marvels: Baron Zemo and the Masters of Evil!


Nik Dirga said...

I do dig this issue but I always thought it was a really weird way to introduce the Goblin, who became Spidey's #2/#1 foe depending on who you ask. The whole 'making a movie and then trying to kill him' plot doesn't make a lick of sense, and then the Hulk kind of comes in from nowhere. Considering what a mastermindy sort of character Norman Osborn later became, it's weird to see him acting like Paste-Pot Pete in terms of his planning skills. Of course, Stan and Steve had no way of imagining at the time what would become of the character, I guess - he could've easily been another Looter or Meteor Man.

Nik Dirga said...

...Compared to Doc Ock, whose introduction in #3 is still one of the best Spidey villain debuts ever - you know this guy is tough, he kicks Spidey's butt so bad Peter practically retires, and the feeling of menace sticks with Doc Ock in his later appearances. I've always felt like Ock was more fully formed though, compared to Goblin, whose character seems to have changed constantly depending on the times (he was never really the Lex Luthorian mastermind they tried to make him since his unwanted resurrection, and don't even get me started on Norman Osborn, leader of SHIELD....)

SamuraiFrog said...

Its nonsensical loopiness is part of why I enjoyed this issue so much--I find it impossible not to love ASM when it becomes basically Archie Comics with superpowers--but yeah, what a strange way to introduce the Goblin. I always sort of write it off in my head of Green Goblin starting small, testing the waters of villainy. That's why it's so unusual to introduce Green Goblin with no origin; we know right off who Electro or Sandman or especially Doc Ock are and what they want. Goblin is kind of like some trickster in his first appearance. I guess it's a test run, but without the intro and the ending, where we see there's possibly something bigger to it, he does feel like a one-off.

bliss_infinte said...

Always checking in to see what's happening here at EC, with, of course, this being my favorite topic!

Roger Owen Green said...

To the question: yes, I'm still following, but usually have nothing to say. Still, since I have the Marvel Masterworks for all the issues discussed so far, I'll look up your reviews when/if I reread the comics.