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365 Reasons to Love Comics #176

DITKO WEEK, the theme that demands to be put in all caps, swings into Day Two! It’s DITKON TWO out there! Anyway, today it’s the most popular superhero in the world, who Steve Ditko co-created, of course.

I’ll always have archive for you.

6/25/07

176. Spider-Man

Spidey unpubbed.jpg

(Ditko’s original cover for Amazing Fantasy #15, seen above. was better than Kirby’s. Yeah. They should’ve used it.)

I admit it; I’m not a fan of Spider-Man. That’s probably why Spider-Ham showed up before this one did. I liked him when I was a kid, of course, and I love the movies– especially the second one, one of my favorite movies ever (God bless Sam Raimi), but the comics leave me cold. I am, however, a fan of Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man. (By the way, I forgot to mention the Steve Ditko volume of Marvel Visionaries that you should all run out and buy. There are also Amazing Spider-Man and Amazing Fantasy omnibi out there or forthcoming.)

We all know Spider-Man, right? I mean, this is a comics site. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko gave us Peter Parker, bitten by a radioactive spider, proportionate speed and strength and agility, web-shooters (yes, web-shooters, dammit), Uncle Ben dies, with great power comes great responsibility, Aunt May, Mary Jane, all the baddies, etc. Probably the most popular superhero for a few decades running. The hero who could sort of be you.

I tried to read my way through the ’60s Spider-Man comics, but I gave up shortly after Ditko left. Sure, I think John Romita Sr. is a terrific artist and I liked his first few issues, but Ditko’s my preferred Spider-artist. Ditko’s Peter Parker was a weird nerd who fought a succession of bizarre freaks. No one else has been able to capture that feel since. Romita drew Spider-Man as a romance. Ditko drew it as a tragedy, or one of his 50’s sci-fi horror strips.

Spidey 24.jpgSpidey 28.jpg

(I love that Marvel called itself “Marvel Pop Art Productions” for a while– and meant it.)

Peter Parker works as an oppressed figure who can’t catch a break. Spider-Man is the inner hellion yearning to be let free and have a go at the world. He can’t be shat upon all the time, though. I forget who said it, but they were right– it has to work so that when Peter is having a good day, Spider-Man is having a bad one, and vice versa.

The Ditko era set up the world, the supporting cast, the Daily Bugle, and the villains. My God, the villains. Wonderful, frightening, strange villains, a seemingly endless parade of brilliance, all designed by Ditko: Vulture, Dr. Octopus, the Lizard, Mysterio, Kraven, the Scorpion, Electro, Green Goblin, and everyone’s favorite, the Looter. Deranged baddies chewing up the pages with crazy dialogue by Lee and stunning portrayal by Ditko. All of them with stories of their own, all birthed from mad science and thirsty for revenge on a hateful world. Sensational. The first annual, with the Sinister Six, is one of the most joy-inducing comics I’ve ever read.

Spidey 1.jpgSpidey Annual.jpg

So, yeah. I love the Ditko era. I can see the seeds for what would become a beloved character, I can see how he works, I can see his storytelling engine. Wha hoppen?

Under Lee and Ditko, Spidey/Peter grew up, changed, moved on, all in the span of 38 issues and an annual. After that, time started to slow down for him, and his status quo became more and more static. Oh, things changed– Gwen Stacy died and Peter got married and he was gonna have a kid– and I’m all for that. They just took place over longer and longer periods of time. He was almost frozen in Carbonite or whatever.

It also doesn’t help that recent regimes just don’t seem to “get” the character. I mean, if Joe Quesada thinks the Peter/MJ marriage “ruins” Spider-Man, how the hell could he let Spidey become a mystic totem, or let Gwen have adult kids fathered by Norman Osborn, or reveal Spidey’s secret identity to the world? These change the fundamentals of what makes Spider-Man who he is. The marriage is an organic development from the characters and story (so was Aunt May’s death in #400, but don’t get me started). This isn’t about what’s wrong with Spider-Man– that’s enough for some other post at some other time. This column’s above love, remember.

I like to think I “get” Spider-Man– I just find his villains more interesting. I’d love to write a Sinister Six ongoing. But that’s not what this column’s really about, either. Heh. Let’s save that talk for a Villain Week or Month or whatever.

Since “change” is cyclical in the Marvel Universe these days, we’ll have Spider-Man rise above all his troubles and pick himself back up and be knocked down and have it all start again and again and again. He’s one of the few indestructible franchises in comics, I think. We’ll always have a few of them around in some fashion, and Spider-Man is one of them. He’s a superhero concept that will never die, because he achieved something no other superhero concept had before him. He was a kid, a regular joe, who happened to have super-powers and believed in doing the right thing. A compelling origin and mantra and an interesting set of powers and a cool supporting cast and a brilliant rogues gallery give Spidey an edge over a lot of other characters. We have Stan Lee and Steve Ditko to thank for that. Now if only the comics could be executed as well as they were back in the day.

Spidey 33.jpgSpidey 33 stuff.jpg

Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can. One of the greatest theme songs ever, of course. I wish I had a personal theme as good.

Don’t forget to visit Spider-Fan, the greatest Spidey website in existence.

Now it’s your turn. Why do you love Spider-Man?

23 Comments

That black Molten Man cover is awesome.

God, I love that molten man cover. I personally think that Ditko was the best spider-man artist ever and no one could ever come up with better villian costumes than him (i love electro’s costume). I especially like that in the first annual, spider-man defeats every every member of the sinister six in their own splash pages that you could just rip out and use as posters.

Yeah, I know who is Spider-Man. Don’t think I’ve read more than a handful of comics about him, i.e Amazing, Spectacular, etc. But i’ve read some minis.

Spider-Man is a reason to love comics.

What is the most essential Spider-Man comic run?

How many cool points do we get if we think up a theme song for you, Bill?

I agree, Bill– the Ditko Spider-Man was vastly different from the Romita one– certainly it was more unique.

Click on my name there to read a short article I posted today touching on this.

I agree, Bill– the Ditko Spider-Man was vastly different from the Romita one– certainly it was more unique.

(plug)Click on my name there to read a short article I posted today touching on this.(/plug)

Spidey’s one of my favorites–always has been, always will be.
The 2 Spidey movies are classics.
At one point in the late80’s/early 90’s he was just about the only Marvel character I followed (plus the Hulk when Peter David wrote it.)

The Ditko issues were great–and he did more of them over at Charllton, except he called them Blue Beetle. (Those who don’t see parallels between the Ted Kord Blue Beetle (as Ditko, and even some others did him) and Spidey (especially as Ditko did him) are just not paying attention.

I even have his autograph. I got it as an adult.

The best theme song someone comes up for Bill Reed will be given FIVE cool points!!!

That Molten Man cover is all kinds of awesome.

I’ve loved Spider-Man since I was 6 years-old and read the daily comic strip in The Toronto Star (back in the days when comic book characters were in the daily comic strips!). I watched the cartoon religiously. I have pictures of me on my 7th Birthday in 1976 with a Spider-Man shirt on, wearing a Spider-Man wrist radio, with a Spider-Man birthday cake (not pictured, the Spider-Man action figure and Spider-Car that I got for Christmas)

But that Spider-Man was action adventure with a cool looking character. In 1978, I bought a paperback reprint of Spider-Man 1-8 and Amazing Fantasy 15 to read on a family trip to Alberta (I was 8 and easily bored)…and it totally changed my life. Ditko’s art was so ugly, especially compared to the Romita Spider-Man I was used to in the newspaper (and in the comic books themselves– they were all about being ‘on model’ back then). But it was so evocative too. Something about it just grabbed me at a visceral, gut level that said to me even as an 8 year-old ‘this is ugly but it’s like life’.

I’ve loved Ditko ever since.

Why I love Spider-Man was the topic of an article I wrote for a church website (it’s a non-religious article though):

http://www.wondercafe.ca/fe_display.php?loadedFrom=Index&id=20

I tried to think of clever turns of phrase and flattering statements to form into verse, but this just kept repeating in my head and I think it’s pretty perfect:

Billbillbillbillbillbillbillbill
Billbillbillbillbillbillbillbill
REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED!

Billbillbillbillbillbillbillbill
Billbillbillbillbillbillbillbill
REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED!

Billbillbillbillbillbillbillbill
Billbillbillbillbillbillbillbill
REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED!

The facebrainlaughfistrockbomb
that you NEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED!

(C, E, C, E, C, E, C, E, C, E, C, E, C, E, C, E, G!!!!!)

Spidey still is one of my favorite heroes and he’s always been. The first hero that’s relatable regular joe getting into wild unbelievable stuff. Definitely a reason to love comics.

When I first knew Spidey , he was already in the black suit. Probably like 1988, when I was in kindergarten. Its funny how much comics I read when I was little. Even used to get my folks to rent the live action series tapes from the video store. Its weird but the issue I always remembered from back then was a Ditko drawn issue where Aunt May is sick and everyone thinks Spidey is a coward plus Sandman and JJJ made him look bad in public. Even Johnny Storm tries to figure out whats going on but all Peter is concerned with is his aunt’s health. Classic Spideyh.

What I really love about Spider-Man is that he teaches you a grown-up lesson to little kids. From Spider-Man, we learn that doing the right thing isn’t always going to make your life better. Sometimes, it’s going to make your life a whole lot worse. But it’s always better to do the right thing and be able to look at yourself in the mirror than it is to get ahead by being selfish.

And the great thing about Ditko’s run on Spider-Man is that all the cool villains came from there. Spider-Man’s rogues gallery is one of the best (heck, probably the best, period) in comics history, and Ditko deserves a full share of credit for that–certainly, very few of the ones created after he left the title merited much attention.

SanctumSanctorumComix

June 26, 2007 at 7:47 am

***Apologies for the length of this reply***

My first exposure to the DITKO Spider-Man was in 1979 and a free comic that was a bonus incentive for ALL Detergent (I still have a copy – although the mail-away magic marker 3-set is long gone).

The story was a reprint of an old issue of Spider-Man where he fights the Human Torch and the Beetle.

The POWER and awesome CLARITY of Ditko’s artwork hit me like a fist.
I immediately began redrawing panels and trying to understand just HOW he made all this frenzied action look so fluid (the Torch’s trail-lines of flame and flame-balls with Spidey upside-down in a loop of fire, shooting web-balls at him just gripped my 12 year old $#!T)!

I had seen Spider-Man long before that (1960’s animated TV show, Electric Company’s “Spidey Super Stories” on TV, the Newspaper strip – that I cut out and saved from every day’s paper and a few issues of Team-Up # 58 w/ Ghost Rider came in one of my first multi-packs I had bought, a few t-shirts I owned), but NOTHING came close to that reprint book with the Ditko art.

Just WOW!

———

As for the character; as a KID, Spidey was IT!

But as I grew up, I became more of a Peter Parker fan, than one of Spider-Man.

Sure, Spider-Man is cool and snarky and wondrous, but Peter Parker IS the HERO.

He’s a constantly put-upon nobody with a heart of gold and do-right attitude.

And you know the first thing he does when he gets super-powers?
Showboats and gets all uppity.

THAT’s REAL.

He realizes that FINALLY he’s on TOP of the food chain and for a brief moment gets caught up in the blitz and glitz and forgets who he is.

And…it bites him on the ass.

HE then rededicates himself to his ideal and never looks back (regrets, feels overburdened and wishes he could stop sometimes, yes. But thinks of abandoning his code, no).

Spidey is the FUN side of the equation.
Sure, he’s always up to his spiderweb armpits (why did they ditch that part of the costume, I thought it was great) in danger, mayhem and madness, but since he is so superior in ability and clean of purpose, he still has fun doing it.

Problem is, they’re like two different people.
Yes, many people have that duality within them (I know I do), but it’s SO drastic with him that tossing on the mask allows Peter some time to “escape” his life for awhile.

If they removed his powers and had a Peter Parker title (real life, warts and all – dedicated child, hard-working student, working a slightly above average dead-end job, and loving boyfriend/husband…) I’d buy it.

I think that’s why Ditko was so adamant about how the character should be handled.
Under his hand, Peter/Spider-Man was very REAL.
As some have said, a tragic but bravely lived life.
A life like many who are put-upon and beaten down, only to pick themselves up and continue on.
Under Lee/Romita (and others) he began to get an air of glamour.

While some good things happening to him now and again is a welcome change, it shouldn’t really be too rosey.

I can honestly say that much of how I live my life and my code of ethics was formed by Peter Parker.
About a 50/50 split with my religious upbringing, maybe more-so, since it’s easier to relate to Peter than to Biblical role models.
——-

On a side note, I was playing Ultimate Alliance on the Wii and found that as written in that game,
Spider-Man = Jerk

Not a well-written representation of him there at all.

It pulls me out of the game every time he gets all adolescent.

Oh well.

~P~
P-TOR

The first Spider-Man I ever bought was the death of Gwen Stacy, so I discovered the character through Gerry Conway’s writing and Ross Andru’s art. I started buying Marvel Tales, which was then reprinting John Romita’s issues. And of course there was Marvel Team-Up, with a variety of writers and artists. I saw the rare Ditko reprint, which always seemed fascinatingly strange and very very old to me then.
Through these, I never really GOT Spider-Man. His endless banter grated on me sometimes, and his interminable personal problems always felt contrived. Also I guess the scale of his stories, powers and villains seemed a bit pedestrian compared to the more cosmic scope of the XMen, New Gods or the FF. When I bought my stack of comics each week his books wouldn’t be at the top of my to-read list, unless I really liked the guest star in Team-Up.

Then in 81 or 82 Marvel Tales set its clock back and started reprinting the original issues by Lee and Ditko, and I got it, right away. It was a strange phenomenon, to wait so eagerly each month for a book that had been produced twenty years before. Those were my college years, so running out and just buying the original back issues wasn’t really an option.
I’ve never read anything, before or since, quite like those first few years of Spider-Man. The growth and movement of the character, the stunning and disturbing art, the emotional intensity of it all, the frighteningly freakish and truly nasty villains… It could be genuinely surprising and startling, in a way that the 70s Spidey never was.

One of my favorite comic book runs by anybody ever.

The Kirbydotter

June 26, 2007 at 1:05 pm

Would you believe Bill made it to post # 175 on a subject that ia all about what is fun in comics WITHOUT having mentioned Spider-Man yet!??!

Great choices of cover illustrations here Bill.
The one for # 24 is among my favorite covers of all time!
And the black/Molten Man is a classic!

You could do a full week-long theme just on Ditko’s Spidey villains! (as I suggested a few coloumns ago).

Spider-Man was the first comic book I ever read.
It was during the early Romita run. I’m not sure about the issues’s number. Romita is my god. My first love was his go-go-look Gwen Stacy. I cried when I read her death and stopped buying comics for about 10 years after that. I followed the book throught Romita, Gil Kane and early Ross Andru. Then I stopped and only bought an occasionnal annual, special, I got Peter Parker Spectacular Spider-Man for a time (during the era when they introduced Cloak and Dagger; I think Bill Mantlo was writting and Milgrom was drawing with a Ditko influence style). I bought a few Marvel Team-Up (the original series). I came to Ditko late with the reprints in Marvel Tales. Now I don’t buy anything that has to do with my favorite character. The only thing Spidey I have bought (aside from the Masterworks) is the retro Spider-Man and Human Torch mini-series that came out last year.

I hate everything that has been done to destroy Peter Parker/Spider-man essence. The stupidity of the retroed elements about Gwen Stacy’s affair and kids. It has nothing to do with what the character was all about. I don’t recognize the character I grew up with. It’s okay to update as long as you don’t go against the essence of a character and his mythology.

I strongly echo Kirbydotter on hating what’s been done to destroy the Peter Parker/Spider-Man essence, along with the character of most of the Marvel heroes (the long-lost FF being personally my saddest loss, I loved those guys once).

Hate to say it about a company I once held so dear, but Marvel really sucks.

What I love about Spider-man is that he *gets it*. He made the superhero fanatsy accessible.

There’ve been any number of ‘average Joe gets powers, fights evil’ stories told before and since. But Spidey’s still the only superhero I know of whose base concept is an acute awareness of the realities of being a guy in tights running around fighting crime – problematic, ludicrous, dangerous, strange, thankless…but also really, really *really* cool.

It\’s Thursday, and I thought that you would like to know I really really really liked this article (365 Reasons to Love Comics #176). I wasn\’t really looking for this (I was searching on \’Swings\’), but I\’m glad I found your blog as a result. Keep up the great blogging!! I\’ve bookmarked you.

I have to say (not bragging in any way) but I have the complete run of ASM from #1 to today and the cover of #33 is my all time favorite cover of any comic. I put it on a T-Shirt. I have it on my phone as my main backlite and I have it framed and on my toolbox at work ( with my kids too of course heh). Spiderman is and always will be one of the greatest pure hero’s around.
Oh my #2 favorite cover is Secret Wars #4. ” Beneath one hundred and fifty Billion tons, stands the Hulk…and he’s not HAPPY!

Awsome!

I have all the Ditko Spiderman comics from 3-38. Ditko was the best hands down. The quircky drawings, the somewhat realistic dynamic anatomy (unlike Kirby’s very stylistic balloon arms) was perfect for the character of Spidey. Romita knew how to draw good looking stylized women, Ditko knew how to draw comic hero action. The Amazing Spider-Man run essentially ended with issure #38.

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