Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #1
This story is part of a Lookback Series: From The Beginning
This review was first published on: 2001.
Peter Parker has become Spider-Man, and his reluctance to act has lead to the death of his Uncle Ben. This story follows on from the tale of his origin in Amazing Fantasy #15.
In his bedroom, teenager Peter Parker removes the upper part of his Spider-Man costume (it looks like it is all connected together: the shirt with the gloves with the mask) and throws it against the wall in frustration. His Uncle Ben is dead... "all because I was too late to save him". (Actually, Pete, it's because you couldn't be bothered to stop the Burglar when he ran by you but who's counting?) "My Spiderman costume!", he cries, "I wish there were no such thing!" Then he thinks back to the day he was bitten by a radioactive spider, learned he had gained the spider's powers, put together his costume and went into show business. "But while I was busy showing off, an armed Burglar fired one fatal shot at Uncle Ben when he was surprised robbing our house." (Again no mention of the fact that he could have stopped the Burglar before. Is this out-and-out denial or what?) When he discovered his Uncle's death, he tracked the killer down, caught him and "turned him over to the police". (Need I say yet again that there is no mention of the Burglar running past him at the studio?)
Now dressed in his blue pants, white shirt, black vest, red tie and glasses, Peter Parker comes downstairs in time to hear Aunt May stalling off the landlord by promising to pay the rent next week. (The landlord is another of those bald, mustached Ditko men that all look alike. He could be Spidey's agent or Peter's High School science teacher or any number of others.) Pete knows that, without Uncle Ben, "we've no money to pay our bills" so he tells Aunt May he has to quit school and get a job. But Aunt May won't hear of it. Uncle Ben "always dreamed of you being a scientist some day". She can't let him give up that dream.
Peter tries to think of some way to make money. He knows that, with his spider-powers, he could become a world-class thief, robbing safes by clinging on walls outside windows, hanging on the ceiling unseen while some bald guy (who has a passing resemblance to the landlord) opens a safe, or webbing money bags right out of armored cars. But he also knows, if he is caught, "it would break Aunt May's heart". So, he comes to the conclusion that there is only one solution. He must go back into show business. He decides to call his agent tonight.
"A few days later at school" all of the kids are abuzz with the news that Spider-Man is performing again. The show is that very night and only costs a dollar. All of the teens decide to go except for Peter Parker. While busying himself with test tubes in science class, he tells the others that he can't go. They brush him off. "Aw, who needs that walkin' bookworm anyway?" one student says. But of course Peter Parker can't be in the audience. He is on the stage as Spider-Man putting on a show of web-shooting, wall-crawling, and ceiling-clinging for an astonished crowd. After the show, the agent (who looks like the landlord in a hat) tells Spidey he can't pay him in cash because he needs "a record for taxes". He asks him for his name so he can write a check. Spidey tells him he cannot reveal his real name. "Just make the check out to Spider-Man!", he says. The agent complies but warns the young man "you'll have a mighty tough time cashing it".
And, sure enough, when Spidey brings the check to the bank, the teller asks for some I.D. "What about my costume?", the hero asks. "Anyone can wear a costume", says the teller. He needs a "social security card or a driver's license in the name of Spiderman". Needless to say, our hero doesn't have anything like this.
But things are about to get worse. In a newspaper office, a man with a mustache, thick black eyebrows, and graying hair at the temples sits at his typewriter and writes an article that he hopes will run Spider-Man out of town. The next night, when Spidey shows up to do his act, the agent tells him there will be "no show tonight or any night". He shows the web-slinger a newspaper with the headline "Spiderman Menace". The article has gotten everyone so worked up that the web-slinger is likely to get tossed in jail. This baffles our teen hero. "What have they got against me?", he wonders, "What have I done?"
The writer of the article is Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson and he is not content with running editorials. He gives lectures all over town denouncing Spider-Man for taking the law into his own hands and for being a bad influence on kids who will try to imitate him and make him a hero. Jameson calls for Spidey to be "outlawed". He believes "the youth of the nation" need to "learn to respect real heroes". Not "a masked menace" like Spider-Man "who refuses to even let us know his true identity" but someone like his own son, "John Jameson, the test pilot". And just to emphasize his point, JJJ holds up a headshot photo of his son in his test pilot helmet.
At a newsstand, Peter Parker can't get over it. "How do other superhuman guys like the Fantastic Four and the Ant Man get away with it?", he wonders. They always have money and nobody denounces them. The newsy is no help. He doesn't even believe Spider-Man exists. He thinks it's all a publicity stunt.
Peter buys a paper and combs the want ads. If he can't make money as Spidey, then he needs to find a part-time job. But he runs into nothing but frustration. Then, just after being rejected by an employer who "ain't lookin' for a school kid", Peter spots Aunt May on the street. He follows, spying on her, and sees her go to a pawnshop to pawn her jewelry. He realizes that she is desperate for money but is concealing it from him. "She's doing it all for me!" he thinks "and there's no way I can repay her!" In the midst of this frustration, a newsboy walks by hawking an Extra edition. The big news is that "John Jameson, son of the publisher" is going to orbit the earth in a space capsule. Peter seethes when he sees the paper. It is because of Jameson that he can no longer perform. He pounds on a wall in frustration. He's got to earn money somehow "even if it means the Spiderman will again stalk the city by night!"
But, if Spider-Man does stalk by night, we don't get to see it. The next day, Peter Parker "having nothing better to do" decides to go out to the launch site to see the take-off of John Jameson's rocket. (Apparently, they blast these flights off from the heart of New York City.) J. Jonah Jameson accompanies his son to the capsule, telling John how proud he is. "Minutes later", the rocket is already launched and the capsule is separated. But shortly after that, "a small section of the forward guidance package breaks loose from the capsule and falls into space". Immediately the capsule starts going through erratic loop-de-loops. Inside the craft, John Jameson notices "this flashing red light! It can mean only one thing!" (Does this mean that, after all his training, John has to guess what a flashing red light in his capsule means?) Anyway, the red light and the erratic flight clues John in that his guidance system is shot and he cannot control his flight.
In mission control, a few uniformed bigwigs (and J. Jonah Jameson) figure out that "component 24-3B has broken loose". Without that part, the capsule's orbit will eventually deteriorate and the ship will crash. All the big brains work together to try to come up with a plan that will save John Jameson. What they come up with, believe it or not, is to drop a steel net on a parachute as the capsule flies by and hope that the capsule gets caught in the net. (Fortunately, this doesn't work and the net misses the capsule completely. Otherwise, the capsule probably would have taken the net along for the ride.)
But, luckily for the scientists, Peter Parker has "observed the entire dramatic event". (How? I don't know.) He knows that the only hope for John Jameson is... Spider-Man! The web-slinger tightrope walks on telephone lines and crawls on building walls until he is just outside the window at mission control. He arrives just in time to hear that the bigwigs have a spare guidance unit but have no way to get it to the capsule. Spidey leaps into the room and tells them he will get to the capsule if they give him the guidance unit. The man in charge decides to give it a try, since they have nothing to lose, but J. Jonah Jameson complains that the webhead is "just a publicity-seeking phony" who is "trying to grab a headline". Spidey is so determined to prove Jonah wrong that he races off without taking the guidance unit with him. (No, no, I made that up. He had it in the previous panel and he has it later so he must still have it even though I sure can't see it in this panel.)
The web-slinger's plan involves hitching a ride on a jet plane. He web-slings to "a nearby field". When a sentry calls on him to halt and identify himself, Spidey yells out "No time for that now!" and webs the guy up. Soon after, he has explained the situation to a jet pilot who agrees to take him up. Once in the air, the jet quickly encounters the capsule but the spacecraft is moving to fast to catch. But Spidey doesn't intend the jet to do anything more than get him in position. He climbs out of the cockpit and balances on the top of the plane. He has one shot at this and he has to make it good. As the capsule passes, he shoots a webline at it. The webbing catches the capsule and the great speed of the ship yanks Spidey right off the jet plane. The wind resistance is so great that the webhead can just barely pull himself up by his webbing but eventually he reaches the capsule itself. But he must act fast. "The capsule is losing altitude dangerously." He's not sure he can attach the guidance unit in time.
As the capsule rockets along, Spidey climbs to the nose cone and fits the guidance unit in "as smooth as silk". Once John Jameson has manual control, he releases the parachute and cuts the power. The capsule settles back to Earth, apparently landing just outside New York City. Moments before the capsule hits the ground, Spider-Man leaps off and runs away. He's not interested in the "big fuss" that will undoubtedly occur when the crowds arrive to congratulate him.
When he gets home, Peter Parker is feeling pretty smug. After performing such a grand rescue, he assumes he won't have any trouble getting performance gigs. "I'll bet even Mister Jameson himself would hire me!" he crows. But Pete is in for a shock when the next edition of the Daily Bugle appears. (And look! It's only five cents!) The front page reads, "This Newspaper Demands That Spiderman Be Arrested And Prosecuted!, Editorial by J. Jonah Jameson."
And later, on television, JJJ goes on the attack once again, claiming that the whole affair was "a plot by Spiderman to steal the spotlight from my son". He accuses Spidey of sabotaging the guidance unit, he charges Spidey with breaking the law when he "commandeered a plane by force" at the military base, and he blames Spidey for bringing about "a grandstand play" that "caused an important missile test to fail and set our space program back by many weeks!" Jonah's conclusion: "Spiderman is a menace to America!"
All of Jonah's ranting has an effect. With poor Peter Parker eavesdropping, people on the street decide that "Spiderman oughtta be run out of the country." And it isn't too long before a Wanted poster is issued. "Caution: He is dangerous.", it reads. "Reward for his capture. Report him to nearest F.B.I. office."
Of course, Aunt May is sucked into all the hysteria, too. At home in Forest Hills, she tells Peter that she hopes "they find that horrible Spider-Man and lock him up before he can do any harm!", while her traumatized nephew wonders how he can prove he is innocent of the charges. What good are his powers if he can't use them? Will he be "forced to become what they accuse me of being? Must I really become a menace? Perhaps", he decides, "that is the only course left for me!"
And so, we leave Peter Parker for now, "with the fate of society at stake". What will his next move be? "Only time will tell!"
Milestones (Landmark events that take place in this story.)
- First appearance of J. Jonah Jameson.
- First appearance of John Jameson.
- First time Peter worries about money now that Uncle Ben is gone.
- First Daily Bugle headline that reads, "Spider-Man Menace".
- First time gullible old Aunt May gets sucked into complaining about "that horrible Spider-Man".
- Last chance to see Spider-Man live on stage with only a dollar admission.
The 1969 Marvelmania International Spider-Man Portfolio included a checklist covering ASM #1-92 plus Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #1 & 2. They are mimeographs of something someone typed on their typewriter. As such, the descriptions are short, occasionally inaccurate with bad grammar and typos cropping up here and there. I am going to faithfully reproduce each entry (warts and all) for each story. Here's the first one:
Ditko/Lee/Johnny Dee/14 pages
Untitled - Spidey says J. Jonah Jameson's Astronaut son and still earn JJJ as an enemy.
This is a bad start. "Says" should be "saves," of course, and don't get me started on "still earn." But, hey, it's history.
A solid introduction of Spider-Man in his own mag. What makes it all work is not the rescue of John Jameson in his space capsule (though the Ditko drawings of Spider-Man snagging and hanging on to the capsule are first-rate), but the introduction of some key elements of the Spider-Man series: J. Jonah Jameson ruining Spidey's reputation (and show biz career) by publishing "Menace" headlines in the Daily Bugle and the sad sack nature of the character as exemplified by his fruitless attempt to get a check cashed that is made out in the name of "Spiderman". Two other scenes really stand out. 1. Pete spots Aunt May pawning jewelry to pay for the rent and gets so frustrated by his inability to earn money that he pounds on a brick wall in despair. 2. After rescuing John Jameson, Peter is almost giddy about the anticipated change in his reputation only to be shocked by a Jameson editorial demanding the arrest of Spider-Man, which ultimately leads to Spidey being wanted by the F.B.I! The stunned look on Peter's face as he reads the newspaper in the story's final panel perfectly sums up the whirlwind of emotions he has experienced as the good-hearted teenager does the best that he can only to learn that that often makes no difference to others.
So, four and a half webs. Not because the story has any flaws, particularly, but because there are other stories, deserving of five webs, which are just that much better.