Friday, June 12, 2015

Rhino on the Rampage!

For a twenty-page issue, Amazing Spider-Man #43 is crammed with so much action and development you'd think you were getting a heck of a lot for your 12¢. Starting with this gorgeous cover by artist John Romita Sr. coming at you:

It's interesting how a simple tilt of the image gives the illusion of heightened action. The result is a more eye-catching cover than a simple front-and-center format, which might have looked something like this:

Romita had only a few issues of ASM under his belt when this story saw print, but already he was bringing something special to the web-spinner and the book's cast of characters. Writer Stan Lee also seemed to be getting his second wind, loading just about every panel with dialogue that not only paced the story well but made it practically spring off the page.

The issue starts off with a bang--not to mention gunshots and a lot of stomping, as the Rhino breaks out of jail, vowing revenge on Spider-Man. But we also have a couple of central developments taking place. First, Betty Brant is formally severed from being a love interest for Peter Parker, and becomes engaged to Ned Leeds:

But picking up the slack in Peter's life is the vivacious Mary Jane Watson, fresh from her dazzling, stop-the-presses introduction and definitely on her way to hitting it off with Mr. Parker:

(Jeez, maybe Ms. Watson can give the boy a few sensible fashion tips while she's got his undivided attention. We can only hope.)

We're also treated to the origin of the Rhino, a new villain at this point in time but who would go on to have many appearances in the Marvel universe. As we'll see, the Rhino has a rather standard origin tale that only requires a few panels, ending of course with him turning on his benefactors:

But we have to give the Rhino credit for something other than a mad-on, since he at least has the brains to know how to get Spider-Man's attention--by going on a rampage and threatening innocent bystanders. The last time they clashed, Spidey found the good sense to stay out of the brute's way until turning the tables on him--but the Rhino doesn't intend to give him the opportunity this time around.

On the bright side, Peter hasn't had to fumble for the usual excuse to ditch friends or a date while he heads off to confront the Rhino, since Mary Jane is the kind of girl who's eager to tag along and make the scene while Peter dashes off to snap pix for the Daily Bugle. And it turns out she's also apparently a big fan of Peter's alter ego:

An unexpected development of the story happens when Spider-Man is caught off-guard by the Rhino's strike; but, before the Rhino can finish him off, a New York cop rushes into the fray and saves his life.  Particularly in the one title where the main character fights an uphill battle to be accepted, it's the type of scene Lee handles so well--having New Yorkers play a part in the life-or-death battles of their heroes, without a thought to their own safety. It turns out to be one of the most exciting and rewarding sequences of the issue:

And there's still more development to be found in this tale: Peter taking his first steps toward moving out of his childhood home and getting his own apartment--as well as an appearance but Curt Connors, a/k/a the Lizard, who assists Spidey in analyzing a piece of the Rhino's shredded outer covering.

Come on--after such blatant foreshadowing, does anyone believe we're not going to be seeing the Lizard again sometime soon?

Meanwhile, the Rhino, believing Spider-Man to be dead, has headed to the location where Col. John Jameson has been recuperating from exposure to mysterious spores he picked up during a space walk, a condition that might make him valuable to a foreign government--which, now that he's working freelance, the Rhino plans to arrange. But first, he has to get past one stubborn webslinger, who this time is armed with a secret weapon thanks to the assistance of Connors.

It's about as tidy a wrap-up as you'd want, and an uplifting one, in light of Col. Jameson's gratitude in spite of the obvious belligerence of his father. But, regrettably, the word "uplifting" is only used on rare occasion in this book--and its final page yanks Peter Parker back to a state of misery, practically piling on the woe. First, another lesson in "with friends like these...":

Then, his inadvertent neglect of his Aunt May's care:

And, finally, his interest in the new girl in town possibly being a one-way street:

But, surprise! At least the Lizard will want some quality time with him.

Amazing Spider-Man #43

Script: Stan Lee
Pencils and Inks: John Romita
Inks: Frank Giacoia and Dave Hunt
Letterer: Artie Simek


Rick said...

You're definitely right about the dynamics of the cover. Nice post.

Bungalow Bull said...

Wow! Just look at all of the words in those panels. There's more dialogue and exposition in just those few samples that you posted than there are in whole issues of comics these days. Back then, it would take you a good half hour at least to read 20 pages. Now, you can read the whole book in less than five minutes.

Comicsfan said...

Rick, thanks so much. :)

Bull, that's an excellent point, and I'm in full agreement with you. There were certainly times when Stan Lee depended on the artwork to tell the bulk of the story--but there were also times when both he and Roy Thomas would take issues like these and run with them, and a reader could feel he was right on the street (or in the offices of the Daily Bugle) in the thick of the action. You could find a lot of story in Silver Age comics.

Rick said...

I'm inclined to agree with Bull. I've been saying this for years, in exactly the same proportions: half an hour then, 5 minutes now. One of, if not, the major reason I've stopped buying comics. Add to that the astronomical price, and you have a losing proposition.

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