Tuesday, September 11, 2012

That's A Lot Of Deodorant

Marvel 100th Anniversary Issues


Amazing Spider-Man #100

People at times forget that this is Spider-Man's 101st appearance, and that he first appeared in this issue of Amazing Fantasy:

Worth about $220,000 if you've got one in near-mint condition. Just sayin'.

Following Amazing Spider-Man #100, his first anniversary issue for the character, writer Stan Lee would pause his long run as ASM writer while Roy Thomas pitched in on the next four issues. We'd know that even if Thomas went uncredited, because we'd find a sharp spike in "aside" self-quips that Thomas is known for, complete with numerous references to pop culture:
"That's it, Parker--think! You've become a character in a tale by Kafka--and you've gotta give this little saga a happy ending."

(phone rings) "Now who the devil's that? Probably Ed Sullivan--offering me a spot in between the jugglers and the dancing bears."

(answering another call) "Sure, an' this is the vice squad--'tis Sgt. O'Malley yer speakin' to. Oh--h'lo, Mr. Robertson. Yeah, I know. I'm next year's David Frye."

"My Spiro Agnew wrist watch tells me it's nearly dawn..."

" 'Excess members'? Hooo boy--where'd I pick up a mad-doctor phrase like that? Must've been on 'Creature Feature.' Only thing is, right now I feel more like a late-show Frankenstein--than I do like John Carradine!"

(referring to Curt Connors' beach house) "All it needs is Tony Perkins in a fright wig, staring out the window--and Connors could sub-let it to Alfred Hitchcock."

You get the idea.

It's odd dialog for Peter, given the shocking seriousness of what's happened to him. Downing a potion in the hopes of curing his condition so that he can begin a "normal" life with Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker instead discovers that the potion has made him more like a spider than ever--giving him an additional four arms:

Now, Peter is no Reed Richards--he's a young guy, who's just fouled up his one hope to begin a new life with the woman he loves. Worse, since he never developed an antidote, it could mean he'll remain in this mutated condition forever. Yet because of Thomas's scripting, he comes to grips with the problem faster than you can say "limb from limb." How exactly would you react if four extra arms burst from your sides and began flailing about? Probably not like the calm, collected Peter Parker--who in the past has experienced more panic about the loss of his secret identity, but treats his new freakish condition like an embarrassing inconvenience.

Yet this three-part story has a few interesting things going for it. The first appearance of Morbius. The return of Curt Connors, which of course means a return of the Lizard--yet now with Connors' mind, as a strange side-effect to being infected by Morbius. Artwork by Gil Kane, who stepped in for John Romita for a number of issues. And Spider-Man's first confrontation with a vampire, albeit scientifically spawned. As happenstance would have it, Morbius' blood contains an enzyme that, when combined with a serum created by Connors, returns both Connors and Spider-Man to normal. And, as comic book luck would have it, Morbius just happens to be hiding out at Connors' Southhampton house, where Spider-Man has retreated in order to research his condition. So two issues later, presto--the shock ending of Spider-Man #100 is nullified.

But in that 100th issue, Lee takes us through a fever-induced dream where Peter re-lives battles with some of his deadliest foes--while blaming himself at every turn for not only the people he's hurt over the years, but the sorry circumstances of his life. In the final stages of that dream, though, Peter sees Capt. Stacy (Gwen's father), who tells him he always knew Peter was Spider-Man, and advises him to embrace his heroic identity. Stacy, in true Stan Lee fashion, is really talking to the reader at this point--saying that sometimes life can make it very difficult to strive to do the right thing, but that you have to keep going. Indeed, to make the point, every "dream" villain that Spider-Man goes up against derides his failures, and the futility of his struggle--yet Spider-Man battles his way through all of them, voicing the anguish that a lot of readers might easily feel themselves.

It's a fine stepping-off point for Lee--but he returns five issues later (along with artist John Romita one issue after that), and then finally ends his stint on the book with issue #110, where writer Gerry Conway begins his scripting run. Conway, of course, immediately injects his trademark misery into the character, by giving him a painful recurring ulcer. Because after all, Spider-Man's life hasn't been miserable enough without a debilitating health condition. Issue #121 is heralded as a "turning point" for the character--but that point may have been reached in issue #100, where we may have witnessed the end of "Spidey" as we knew him.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love spiderman six arms. I wonder do you have a fetish this one?

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