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Spider-Man in the 1960s: Dr. Octopus, the Vulture and the Debut of the Kingpin!
Spider-Man's Life Becomes Groovy in the 1960s Under John Romita
Marvel Essential Amazing Spider-Man volume 3 collects issues 44-68 of the original comic book series. All the stories were written by Stan Lee and drawn by John Romita (who got help from Don Heck from issues 57-64).
This was 1967 to 1969, when Spider-Man's alter-ego was in college and he was coming into his own. Romita made Peter Parker fill out, become more handsome and a bit of a ladies' man, with a new prominence given to two females in his life: Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson. Romita gave both these women a wholesome loveliness that made readers envy Peter Parker, the reverse of Spider-Man's life under former artist Steve Ditko!
One treat is the cover art throughout the collection. During this period Marvel Comics didn't junk up the covers with word balloons, so each issue had a great piece of artwork for a cover. Almost each one could stand on its own as a poster.
Following are some highlights of this collection, which has an ISBN of 0785118640. Note that the character's name is Spider-Man, not Spiderman!
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Spider-Man Quits and the Kingpin Arrives on the Scene
The Iconic Cover of Issue No. 50
Issue 50 has one of the Amazing Spider-Man series' most iconic covers, and it's the start of a three-issue tale that begins with Spider-Man questioning whether he should continue to be a superhero. Yes, it's a topic that is revisited many times over in this series, but this is one of the better tales that focus on the character's high sense of responsibility and guilt over his Uncle Ben's death.
The issue also is a landmark because it introduces a bad guy called the Kingpin, who will be a thorn in Spider-Man's side for decades to come -- as well as becoming a top villain in the Daredevil series.
The story ends in No. 52 with the fatal sacrifice of one of the series' supporting characters, an ex-con who had gone straight and was pulled back into the underworld. It's a very well-told story.
Spider-Man Against Kraven the Hunter and the Vulture!
Issue 47-49 are a great example of how writer Stan Lee would always rachet up the crises facing Spider-Man and his alter-ego, Peter Parker.
First he tangles with Kraven the Hunter in issue 47 but the villain gets away. Then a younger version of his old enemy the Vulture terrorizes the city while Spider-Man comes down with the flu in the next issue. The Vulture is able to beat the ill Spider-Man, leaving him unconscious in the snow atop a skyscraper.
In the finale, Spider-Man leaves his sickbed and his forced to take on both the bad guys in a three-way battle.
Nothing dramatically changes in the life of the superhero during the three issues, but it is a fun tale and a good example of Lee and Romita's work from the era. Bonus: For many years issue No. 48 was my oldest issue of Spider-Man. It wasn't until I had a job as a teenager that I could afford to go buy the earlier issues.
Dr. Octopus and Aunt May
As mentioned above, writer Stan Lee just loved to pile problem after problem on Spider-Man and his alter-ego.
Dr. Octopus returns in issue 53, but the trouble escalates in the next issue when the villain hides out by becoming a boarder of Spider-Man's aunt -- who finds the bad guy to be a perfect gentleman! An ensuing battle in the house causes Aunt May to collapse in shock. When Spider-Man pursues Dr. Octopus, the bad guy uses a machine on him that causes the hero to lose his memory!
Dr. Octopus then convinces Spider-Man they are partners and tries to lead him into a life of crime. The tale ends with the bad guy defeated, of course, but it would be a few more issues before he regains his memory with the help of Ka-Zar, a Tarzan-like character who visits New York City from his home in the Savage Land.
The Name of the Dame is ... Medusa
issue No. 62
While I highlighted several of the multi-part tales that I think are the best in this collection, I should point out that writer Stan Lee was also very good about slipping in the occasional one-issue story to give the readers a break.
In issue 62, he has Spider-Man tangle with Medusa of the Inhumans (who were supporting characters of the Fantastic Four). The story is pretty insignificant. Some executives of Heavenly Hair Spray hire Medusa for their advertising campaign, then trick Medusa and Spider-Man into fighting to stir up some publicity. It all backfires in the end, of course. Silly, but a fun read.
The cover also is pretty cool.
Steve Ditko or John Romita? - Choose Spider-Man's Best Artist of the 1960s!
Steve Ditko drew Spider-Man's debut and the first 38 issues of the Amazing Spider-Man. Romita took over with issue 39 and was the main artist through issue 95, solidifying the definitive look of the character.
Each artist had his own vision. Which one do you think was better?
Which Spider-Man artist do you prefer?
For More Information
- John Romita, Sr. - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This is the wikipedia page on John Romita.
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