Thursday, December 11, 2008

Single Issue Review: Amazing Spiderman #71

This was the first issue of Spiderman that I bought on the newsstand. I initially started out with modest collections of Archie in 1965 and Batman in 1966, but I was not focused on back issues, just buying what I could. But in the fall of 1968, I remember getting a haircut and reading a comic--most likely World's Finest #179, an 80-page giant that featured lots of Dick Sprang artwork, and I suddenly got comics fever. So I started buying them at the local candy store. But they only had one spinner rack and stuck mainly to DC and Harvey, so I didn't get exposed to the Marvel magic till around February of the next year.

The town north of mine was Ramsey, New Jersey, and it had a terrific newsstand named Herb & Charlie's near the railroad station, with lots and lots of comics, magazines and newspapers. They had everything, from DC to Marvel to Charlton to Archie to Harvey, and they had it in quantity so there was no question of an issue selling out early. After I discovered it, Herb & Charlie's became my #1 source for comics.

So I bought this issue and started my long-term interest in Spiderman. A few months later I met a guy with lots and lots of back issues of DC that I wanted to get, and he wanted Marvel. So we swapped out, except for Spiderman. I was not going to let those get away.

Nobody can accuse Stan of hiding what Peter Parker was all about; the splash page on this comic:

Wow, the hero expressing self-doubt? That's way different from anything that DC's heroes were doing, and of course it relates well to young teens (as I was back then). We learn that Spidey had taken on the Kingpin over some ancient tablet, and saved it. Meanwhile, Quicksilver has arrived in New York.

Here, Marvel benefited from DC's Flash; because I had been exposed to the DC character, I was willing to accept Marvel's obvious rip. And this panel is a big reason why:

So Quicksilver has something to prove and Spidey's in trouble. As you might expect, it's not long before they were battling:

And in the end, Spidey wins by showing us one way that Quicksilver was different from the Flash:

Comments: This is the Marvel magic at its best. DC comics mostly had a static feel to them at the time; no matter what happened during one particular story, the characters returned to square one at the end. You did not have to read the stories in chronological order and (for the most part) you could miss five straight DC issues and not feel like you were lost if you picked up that sixth issue. With Marvel, you had to read every issue, and the stories were packed with references to earlier tales; in this story alone we hear of events that happened in prior issues of Spiderman, as well as Avengers #53, and Avengers #62.

And the Romita/Mooney art is a real treat as well. In the mid-1960s DC definitely had a stronger stable of artists than Marvel, but that was changing rapidly with Romita, Colan, Buscema, Steranko, Smith and others all landing in the bullpen within a few years of each other.