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for Saturday, July 17, 2004

Amazing Spider-Man 9

My first Marvels.

The first time I saw Spider-Man was in FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #1 [1963]. The six-page vignette had the cash-impaired web-slinger breaking into the FF's headquarters to apply for what he'd thought would be a paying job with the group. Written by Stan Lee, drawn by Jack Kirby, inked by Steve Ditko, this was expanded from a two-page scene in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1.

The next time I saw Spider-Man was in a three-panel sequence in AVENGERS #3. Occupied with a web-full of criminals, he somewhat sarcastically refused Iron Man's request to help the Avengers track down the Hulk. That issue was also drawn by Kirby.

Thus I formed my first impressions of Marvel's flagship super-hero and future star of summer blockbusters:

Spider-Man looked really cool.

Spider-Man had neat powers.

Spider-Man was a smart ass, though, as a good Catholic boy of 12, the phrase "smart ass" was years away from being added to my verbal repertoire.

I didn't realize I had but half the picture.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #9 [February, 1964] was my introduction to the full Spidey. The hero's cockiness masked a personal life that could have come right out of the afternoon soap operas.

Peter Parker was an unpopular kid at school. He was an orphan with a sick aunt. They were always broke. The only way he could make any money was by selling Spider-Man photographs to a newspaper publisher who hated the hero. By comparison, my own problems were trivial, but the mere having of problems gave me a kind of kinship with Spider-Man.

Steve Ditko's artwork and storytelling was also an eye-opener for me. I had pretty much picked up on Kirby setting the standard for the Marvel super-hero comics, but Ditko was just as exciting in a entirely different way.

Ditko's people looked more real to me. His New York City was more intimate than Kirby's, as was his panel-to-panel storytelling. And the way Ditko draw Spidey in action - swinging over the city streets, slugging it out with criminals at close range - pulled me even further into his stories.

"A Man Called Electro" had all the elements I would come to associate with the very best Spider-Man comics in the decades that followed. The hero fighting the fight, even as his private life threatens to overwhelm him. The very people he helps divided over whether he is a hero or a menace. A colorful and ruthless villain. The anticipation of Spidey kicking that villain's behind. And sometimes, maybe, just a brief moment of happiness for Peter Parker and the people he most cares about.

I don't think the trials and triumphs of any super-hero, past or present, resonate as closely with readers as do those of Spider-Man. I think that's why the character has achieved such tremendous success with moviegoers as well.

After reading this story, I decided Spider-Man was my favorite hero, Ditko was my favorite artist, and I would never miss an issue of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.

My tastes grew over the years. Spider-Man is now *one* of my favorite heroes. Ditko is *one* of my favorite artists. I admit, with some small shame, that I have missed issues of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN over the years...including, despite my decision, the very next issue of the title. Indeed, it was missing that issue that spurred me to learn which days the new comics arrived at the store where I bought them (Tuesdays and Thursdays) and got me into the habit of always going to the store on those days.

Spider-Man is part of my life. My spider-sense tingles when danger or telemarketers come a'calling. I strive to do the right thing, even knowing some people will deny or misunderstand my good intentions. I wonder where I'm going to get the money to pay the bills. I sometimes fail the people I love the most. Every now and then, I want to throw the "Tony Isabella" costume into the trash. But...

Someone has to take care of Aunt May, and love Mary Jane, and try to help all the other Peter Parkers out there, and maybe even take down a bad guy or two.

We have met the hero and he is us.

I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 07/16/2004 | 07/17/2004 | 07/18/2004 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Message Board. Also, read Heroes and Villains: Real and Imagined and view my Amazon Wish List.

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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