Peter Parker

Random Observations of Amazing Fantasy #15 – The Origin of Spider-Man

Amazing Fantasy #15 by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko (click to read issue at

I closely re-read Amazing Fantasy #15 recently, as reprinted in Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 1 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. This is the very first appearance of the amazing Spider-Man, as he appeared in the final issue of a weird little anthology previously titled Amazing Adult Fantasy.

Cover dated August 1962, the issue was plotted by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, scripted by Stan Lee, illustrated by Steve Ditko, probably colored by Stan Goldberg, and lettered by Art Simek. The cover was illustrated by Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, and colored by Stan Goldberg. In this reprint edition, art and color reconstruction was done by Michael Kelleher and Kellustration.

A lot has been written about this issue but I’d like to just post some of the random thoughts that popped into my head as I was reading this. A lot of it silly and trivial but not all of it and I don’t see many people specifically pointing this stuff out too often. If you’ve got a copy of the issue, follow along at home. It’s a fun issue and a great origin story told in a compact 11 pages. They really don’t make ’em like this anymore. You can buy the Marvel Masterworks reprint on Amazon or read the issue online at

Random Observations:


  • How did I ever not notice those big thick white motion lines on the cover?
  • I always thought it was funny that one of the cover blurbs was announcing a special message from the editor. As though this is an exciting sales pitch to people browsing the comic book section of the newsstands. Never mind the stories, this comic has a letter!

Part 1:

  • Page 1: Spider Man, Spider-Man, Spiderman – which is it?! (YES, IT MATTERS!!!) It would actually take a couple of issues of Amazing Spider-Man before they settled on the middle one.
  • Page 2: “Wheatcakes”? That sounds kinda gross. Or maybe just really bland.
  • Page 3: Scientists are just as obnoxious as the high school cool kids crowd, it turns out.
  • Page 3: The radioactive spider-bite caused Peter’s fingertips to turn yellow for a while?
  • Page 3: His tingling spider-sense does not go off here or in this issue at all.
  • Page 4-5: Crusher Hogan enjoys his work. That is the happiest wrestler I’ve ever seen.
  • Page 5: What is Peter using for his first mask? Fishnets maybe?
  • Page 5-6: Nameless TV producer has an awesome hat.
  • Page 6: Did they really have majors in high school in the early ’60s?
  • Page 6: I’m going to pretend that a prototype for his web fluid was being made in the earlier scene of Peter with a teacher in the school science lab. Because him just whipping it up on his own in an afternoon is too much for me. (And yet I’m totally fine accepting that a spider bite causes someone to stick to walls. I’m not saying these observations make any sense.)
  • Page 6: Maybe Peter also minored in home ec so he could make his costume.

Part 2:

  • Page 7: Quiet on the set, Mr. Camera Man! Geez. And get back behind the camera.
  • Page 7: I’m not real clear what Spider-Man’s stunt is here. Webbing a candle that’s sitting on a pendulum?
  • Page 7: Now the TV producer from the previous scene is yelling cut as though he’s the director?! I assume this isn’t the set of The Ed Sullivan Show, as mentioned on the previous page, because this production is a mess. Is there even an actual director on set?
  • Page 8: Yes that’s right. A high-speed express elevator for a TV studio in the 1960s. Totally standard.
  • Page 8: After being rejected by the kids at high school and his scientist “friends,” Peter declares his sole loyalty to his Uncle Ben and Aunt May, the only people he feels has ever cared about him. “I’ll see to it that they’re always happy, but the rest of the world can go hang for all I care!” This after they give him a new microscope he’s wanted, so maybe a tad materialistic of him but they are very loving elsewhere. He’ll soon discover that this kind of petty isolationism comes with a price.
  • Page 8-9: I wonder if the police officer in the TV studio is related to the police officer outside his house days later. Brother maybe?
  • Page 9: Speaking of that cop, nice tact there. “Bad news, son – your uncle has been shot – murdered!” And then proceeds to tell Peter precisely where to go to exact revenge from the burglar. So fired. (No actually, it looks like he whisks himself off to the warehouse for the story’s climax, where he is revealed to be the captain and commanding officer on the scene. Or the brothers are triplets.)
  • This is really an overall note for the whole issue, but Steve Ditko draws the most awesome and unique faces. Every character, no matter how minor, has their own personality. Even the older police officer and security guard, while similar looking, have different eye brows and profiles.
  • Page 10: Spider-Man’s first night time web-slinging! Whee!
  • Page 11: In times of great stress, Peter Parker’s pupils become so pronounced, they can be seen through his mask. Like the glowing fingers, another side effect of the irradiated spider bite that faded away. Naturally.
  • Page 11: Captain Fired is about to order his men to rush the warehouse, where the burglar would have surely gone down in a blaze of glory, taking as many police officers as he could shoot with him. Interesting that Spider-Man probably saved the lives of several police officers, but with the emotional state he’s in he’s probably never realized that.
  • Page 11: “… with great power there must also come — great responsibility!” This phrase eventually becomes the guiding principle of Peter’s life. It’s later credited to Uncle Ben, but he never actually says it in this story. It’s also worth noting the dash, and the “must also”, both usually left out when quoted today.

Announcement from the Editor:

  • Page 12: The story has always been that Spider-Man appeared in this issue because they knew it was the final issue of Amazing Fantasy, so there wasn’t much risk to try out a new character. But this editorial letter to the readers makes it clear that when this issue went to press, they thought there would be more issues of the series. The new editorial policy, which includes a change of format and a slight title change from Amazing Adult Fantasy, is laid out. And “Spiderman” will appear every month. Stan Lee has told the story that he tells in his introduction to Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 tons of times. He’s also admitted to having a terrible memory and re-telling stories that sound good but may not even be true. Turns out this is one of them.
  • Page 12: It’s also neat that they would have a scorecard of which stories in each issue of Amazing (Adult) Fantasy were most liked. (The comic was an anthology, so multiple stories appeared in each issue.) It’s amazing that they had 300 votes for the favorite story from the previous issue. 300+ fans were involved enough to mail letters and this was a comic on the verge of cancellation. It’s not specified, but the stories are from Amazing Adult Fantasy #12 due to the lag time from mailing and printing.
  • Page 12: If you want to read the scorecard winner, the 3-page story “Something Fantastic” from Amazing Adult Fantasy #12 was included in the 2005 collection Marvel Visionaries: Steve Ditko. [Amazon link]

Have any observations, random or otherwise? Questions about the issue? Post them below!

Happy Valentine’s Day

I’m busy pitching woo with the one I love, so to tide you over here are a bunch of comics or semi-comics pictures celebrating love and the Holiday That Hallmark Built. Enjoy!

Lois Lane debuts with Superman in Action Comics #1 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, June 1938. Clark Kent pines for Lois but she only has eyes for the Man of Steel. And the superhero genre's psychological issues with identity and romance are off and running.

Archie Comics #3, Summer 1942, art by Harry Sahle features one of comics' classic love triangles. Will Archie choose Betty or Veronica?


Mark Millar’s Trouble: Pedophilia the Marvel Way

Some geek scouring of Amazon revealed a listing for a hardcover collection of the 2003 Marvel Comics mini-series Trouble by Mark Millar and Terry Dodson scheduled for release on June 8, 2011. Yup, that’s the cover of the first issue from 2003. Classy, no?

Mark Millar has made a significant name for himself, most notably to the public at large for being the creative mind behind the Hollywood movies Kick-Ass and Wanted, both based on comic book mini-series he wrote (the former with artist John Romita, Jr., and the latter with J. G. Jones). (Terry Dodson is also a pretty popular comics artist, having worked on characters like Spider-Man, Wonder Woman and the X-Men.) So it makes sense for Marvel to mine its back catalog for material with Millar’s name on it. But I have to admit I never thought this comic would ever see the light of day again.

The concept is that Spider-Man’s Aunt May and Uncle Ben, while teenagers and not yet married, go on a double date with Spider-Man’s future parents to a resort in the Hamptons for summer vacation. It’s never explicitly stated that’s who they are (no last names are ever given), but the intent is pretty obvious. The story soon turns into a very special episode dealing with teen pregnancy.

As if that wasn’t blasphemous enough for longtime Spider-Man fans, Marvel inexplicably decided that instead of comics art on the covers, each of the five issues should use uncomfortable pictures of young girls in bathing suits, like the one creeping you out right now. The idea was to have French photographer Phillipe Biabolos mimic the covers of romance novels in an effort to draw in female readers. Idea and execution don’t always stay on the same path.

You see, this comic was supposed to help resurrect the long stagnant romance genre in comics, which was huge in the late 1940s and early 1950s, bringing in tons of female readers. But in 1954 the comics industry felt pressured to create a self-censorship board following some heated Senate hearings on the dangers of comics to America’s youth. So romance comics became boring and people stopped reading. By the 1970s the genre was dead. Flash forward to 2003, and Marvel Comics realizes that drawing from a demographic consisting of just over half the population could be a pretty good strategy. So they decided to give romance comics a go again. And then proceeded to royally botch it up with creepy covers of possibly under-age girls and an unnecessary connection to Marvel’s superhero mascot.

The series, conceived and written entirely by men who work almost exclusively in the superhero genre, failed to find an audience in comics shops. Many of those stores had very likely never tried to sell a romance comic before. And let’s be honest, they had an uphill battle. I have a hard time imagining someone who would be interested in romance comics feeling comfortable buying something with that cover. It’s got Pedobear written all over it.

As you might expect, it was lambasted by readers and drew a lot of critical ire at the time. In fact, it faired so poorly that the softcover collection of the individual issues, which would have been distributed to bookstores so female readers might actually discover it, was cancelled. Who knows? Maybe book stores took one look at it and refused to carry it. Regardless, the aborted graphic novel seemed to be an unspoken message of “Forget it. It never happened.”

And yet, here it comes again. Has it aged well? I guess we’ll find out. I’d love to hear Mark Millar or Terry Dodson’s thoughts on the comic now with some time passed. Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada and former Marvel publisher Bill Jemas were also heavily involved in the concept and design of the comic, so I’m curious about their thoughts as well. Any regrets? Any realizations that maybe this could’ve been pulled off better? Or did everyone just overreact and misread everything?

(It should be noted that sometimes these super-advanced Amazon listings end up being completely wrong. So it’s entirely possible this never comes out. But it’s a good excuse to revisit this failed attempt at reaching female readers. Quite a few major comics publishers have plenty of examples. And sometimes they even get it right.)

Uh oh. My marriage might be official again.

Over two years ago (!), Marvel Comics had a goofy story in Amazing Spider-Man where a devil-like demon called Mephisto basically erased Peter Parker’s marriage to Mary Jane Watson. They had been married for 20 years and just like that it was gone. Comic geeks across the world were outraged.

Not to be left out of the indignation, in an act of fever-induced inspiration I announced the erasing of my own marriage in protest. Both Spider-Man and I have been web-swinging bachelors ever since. (Yes, I can make webs. What of it?)

Well it looks like the gig might soon be up. Marvel Comics released a publicity image for a Spider-Man story to take place some time this year, and it looks like the marriage might live again. If so, I guess I’ll have to get “re-married”. Bummer. And I was having so much fun with my communicable diseases.

See, this is what’s great about superhero comics. If something stupid happens, just wait a year or so and it’ll be undone. Character arcs are for chumps.

(Click here to look at the enbiggified version at Comic Book Resources)

(Wait a minute, is that a baby in the background? Oh yeah that’s right. In the ’90s, Peter and Mary Jane had a baby who mysteriously vanished in some weird plane hijacking incident. Both parents got over it real quick because Marvel figured superhero fans might get bummed out reading about mourning parents for a few years.)

If Spider-Man is no longer married…

Late last year Marvel Comics released a storyline in their flagship Amazing Spider-Man comic book series that clumsily erased Peter Parker’s 1987 marriage to Mary Jane Watson. All sorts of geek outrage ensued at the time. I guess it sort of still rages. The whole thing was rather silly but hey, them’s comics. But sometimes you don’t really care enough until it effects you personally.

Last week, while lying in bed wishing I was dead from a pretty tough cold, I noticed two red boxes on top of our bedroom bookcase. I had almost forgotten about them. And then it all came falling into place in typical comic book melodrama.

The two red boxes each held one doll (or “action figure” if you prefer) of Spider-Man and Mary Jane from their comic book wedding originally depicted in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21. The dolls were gifts. The occasion for the gifts? My wedding.

And now… looking at the dolls… and knowing that their wedding never really happened… it feels like my own wedding didn’t happen. November 10, 2006 was the happiest day of my life. But now… it just feels like an empty lie.

And that’s why, as of now, I’m single again. That’s right, if Spider-Man is no longer married, then neither am I.

I know this is probably an awkward way for everyone, including my wife – er, my girlfriend – to find out, but I thought it was the best way to get the word out, especially considering the late notice. Technically, this will be retroactively in effect since December 28, 2007, when the offending issue was originally released.

I hope all of the people at Marvel Comics will think long and hard about the next relationship they destroy.

I’d like to thank my flu for helping me see the light before it was too late.