Monday, January 29, 2018

First Flight Of The Vulture!

In mid-1963, fans of the new Amazing Spider-Man title were greeted with a stunning image of a villain who would become a mainstay in the web-spinner's career--the deadly Vulture, whose crime spree took New York City by storm and whose strange power of flight seemed beyond the capability of conventional police force methods to deal with.

Yet, given time, Spider-Man deduced the secret of the Vulture's technology and developed a mechanism to counter his power to stay aloft--and the adventure would prove to be not only a feather in his own cap, but also a windfall as far as opening the door to bringing in much-needed money for himself and his Aunt May, using the miniature camera belonging to his Uncle Ben to snap exclusive crime photos which could be sold to "The Daily Bugle" for cash.

Yet it would be awhile before we learned of the Vulture in more detail beyond his sudden existence as a super-criminal. How and why did such an aged man come to begin a career in crime at this stage in his life? What was his background in science and invention? Who was the man we would later come to know as Adrian Toomes?

Twenty years later, almost to the month, writer Roger Stern brings the Vulture out of semi-retirement when Toomes happens to note an upcoming electronics expo in the news, and one attendee's name in particular--Gregory Bestman, a name that Toomes remembers all too well from his past, and which fills him with enough rage to make a trip to New York and kidnap this man from the show in broad daylight. As Peter Parker, Spider-Man is present and attempts to prevent the Vulture from getting away with his terrified prey, who obviously recognizes Toomes and realizes he's in danger from his winged captor--and though the Vulture succeeds in evading the police giving chase, Spider-Man tracks the two to the abandoned silo which has served for so long as the Vulture's undiscovered hideout, where he becomes a witness to the details of a long-standing grudge that Bestman had made the mistake of believing had long since run its course.

We learn through a series of flashbacks how Toomes and Bestman went into partnership and began a start-up electronics business, with Toomes responsible for the concepts and groundbreaking technology aimed at putting them on the map. It wasn't surprising to see Toomes' magnetic harness, the device that would of course later gain him infamy, quickly show promise as the device mostly likely to spearhead them to success; but it wasn't long before Toomes discovered that Bestman didn't have his best interests at heart and was unfairly taking advantage of him. The dissolving of their partnership soon followed, though Toomes would find that Bestman was again several steps ahead of him.

Left to his own devices (quite literally), Toomes spent months fine-tuning his harness, which he'd already discovered had enhanced his personal strength well above what would normally have been possible for his physical age. But Toomes' success was redirected toward revenge when he decided to bring to an end any hopes that Bestman might have had toward profiting from the company they'd founded--and "the Vulture" struck for the first time, but not the last. For in laying waste to Bestman's company, Toomes saw the way forward for choosing his own profitable career path--and that night, he indeed went into business for himself, in a manner of speaking.

We don't really know how much time has passed for these men in "real" time, though we can assume their original partnership was struck about a decade ago. Toomes' age, of course, limits the amount of time the Vulture has been on the scene to just a few years; but if we assume Bestman has been out of circulation until now, it's reasonable that he might have noted the absence of the Vulture in the news for awhile and thought that it might have been safe to take another stab at going back into business. Obviously, for Toomes, Bestman failed to understand that the message Toomes had sent to him all those years ago applied for life.

But as the Vulture prepares to strike once more, Spider-Man of course can't stand idly by while an execution takes place. Unfortunately, for the Vulture, things have gone too far--and clearly, the passage of time has done nothing to heal the wounds of betrayal.

With Bestman out of the woods, that's just where Spider-Man must now pursue the fleeing Vulture, a thicket where a flier must cede the advantage to an agile web-spinner who can still track him.

Whatever sympathies Spider-Man and the police might have for the Vulture, there's no real quandary as far as the need to take him into custody, given his hostile intentions toward Bestman--as well as the fact that it's clear the Vulture, still a wanted criminal, has hardly turned over a new leaf. Even so, Bestman finds that, though the clear victim in this encounter, he's still not off the hook with either of his rescuers.


Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or does the Vulture look like the Grinch in this early appearance?

Tiboldt said...

I have to say something about Spider-Man's automated picture taking, not so much in this situation as he chose the location, but in general.

How exactly did he ever get good photos when fighting supervillains or thugs? Even with the best positioning it's unlikely that Spider-Man would actually be centred in the pictures since his natural fighting style involves jumping around a lot - sometimes he wouldn't appear at all or just be represented by an odd in-frame limb. The photos would require a fast shutter speed to keep from blurring him and that would not be helped by fighting at night or in darkened alleyways.

Though he sold prints to the Bugle, which he could have cropped properly at home, on some occasions he just handed over an undeveloped roll of film (presumably getting the negatives back for copyright purposes). Any editor looking at the results would know instantly that the camera's position never changed - their conclusion would likely be 'lucky to be in the right place, but a terrible photographer.'

I know that some pictures are better than no pictures and sometimes he actually took the pictures himself but his portfolio must be a real mixed bag.

Comicsfan said...

Tiboldt, from what I recall, others on the Bugle staff and elsewhere have brought to Peter's attention just the things you mention about the lack of quality of his photography. Unless he chooses to snap the pics himself--say, after he's defeated the villain or thugs--he doesn't appear to have many options, since he can't afford to be seen with the camera in hand for fear of someone making the connection between himself and Spider-Man. He can at least take comfort in the fact that he's likely going to be the only photog around when he confronts the bad guy(s); and he may not even take the time to set up his automatic camera if lighting conditions aren't favorable.

Think of how happy he must have been to finally swap that old camera out for a smart phone.

Jared said...

The Vulture just never quite works for me. I just have a hard time taking him seriously. He looks like he should be on day time tv commercials pushing life insurance or medicine. He is one of the few characters to have been greatly improved by the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

It is a wonder how well the Lee Ditko stories hold up. But of all the villains they introduce, the Vulture can't hold a candle to their Doc Ock, Craven, Mysterio, and especially Green Goblin.

And the Vulture story was frustrating the first time I read the Stern stories because it felt like it interrupted a million interesting things that were going on for a sub par story.

George Chambers said...

I really liked the original Vulture's look, partly because he was much older than the typical supervillain, and also because he didn't look like a condom full of walnuts like your typical musclebound spandex-wearer. He looked, well, vulturine. But then, I always loved Ditko's work.

Iain said...

On the subject of photography I think he instinctively knew where to pose for his final capture shots (perhaps spidey sense helped out) there of course is that famous picture he was bragging he got of spidey vs Doc Ock and they put the best picture on page one, which was a bit of spideys arm and Ock's claw. JJJ was not amused. ^^