Amazing Fantasy #15 by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko (click to read issue at Marvel.com)
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 Marvel.com.
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!
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.
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!
Archie Marries... (click to buy from publisher Abrams ComicArts)
Speaking with comics artist Stan Goldberg was an honor, and I’m very grateful for his generosity with his time. I definitely did not expect this to go 45 minutes but he had a lot to share, and it’s worth it to hear him talk about all of this. His love for his work comes across quickly. He really loves what he does. It’s clear that this is a man still enjoying and exploring his craft and the process of storytelling despite already being a master at it.
I was also struck with how unfortunate it is for someone who has lived and breathed the Archie characters for the last 40 years, who has been the artist on their most commercially successful and buzz worthy books (for good reason), now finds himself with some uncertainty. Fortunately he’s still immensely talented. His abilities not only haven’t diminished, but may be stronger than ever. And he remained classy throughout, with not a bad word to say about his former employers. Already plans are in the works for the next phase of his career, and that to me is exciting. With over 60 years in the biz, he still has a lot of creativity to give.
His 40-year career with Archie Comics, characters he clearly loves and respects, and his recent departure from the company.
Creating the color designs for Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four (the Thing is colored like “a wrinkled orange”), the Hulk (his pants were meant to be magenta, not purple), and the rest of the Marvel Comics universe, including the villains like Dr. Doom.
Being asked by Marvel to draw the Fantastic Four 50 years after coloring the first issue in 1961.
His work being reprinted in prestige hard cover books: Archie: The Best of Stan Goldberg [Amazon link] and Archie Marries… [Amazon link]
Being mentored by Stan Lee the art director in the ’50s
Using the Marvel Method for Millie the Model
Creating Kathy the Teenage Tornado (reprint this, Marvel!)
On the comics industry during the Senate hearings of the 1950s and the industry’s response: “It almost destroyed the whole industry.” He says the Comics Code Authority, the industry’s content watchdog, went overboard: “They made some corrections, but I guess they had to show what they were then getting paid for.” Marvel even lost their distributor for a time, which resulted in Stan having to go freelance.
His work on Millie the Model influencing women in fashion design and magazines like Cosmopolitan, McCall’s and others.
Collaborating with Michael Uslan on last year’s “Archie Marries…” story starting in Archie #600, which sold 50% better than Marvel & DC comic books at the time. His pure penciled artwork for the covers of those six issues was reprinted in IDW’s recent Archie: The Best of Stan Goldberg
The story of the surprise debut of Archie Meets Punisher and the plans for a sequel that never came to be.
And perhaps most exciting of all… teasing a future project he’s creating with a writer.
Archie: The Best of Stan Goldberg (click to buy from publisher IDW)
(Also a cameo by my cat Cleo climbing up the back of my chair if you listen carefully. I should also apologize for the volume disparity between his voice and mine. Fortunately once we get started, it’s mostly him. Ah the joys of technology. I’ll try to work that out for the next interview.)
FF #1 variant cover by Goldberg (50th Anniversary of Fantastic Four #1, Marvel Comics)
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?
It wasn’t too long ago that the men and women who gave their blood, sweat and tears to make comic books for you and me weren’t compensated all that well for their time and effort. Aside from a rather stingy page rate, the vast majority of creators had no health insurance, no 401k plan, little to no rights to the work they created, basically no benefits at all. Today it’s a lot better, mostly for those that are lucky enough to work for major publishers. But the truth remains – the artist’s life and the freelancer’s life are risky ones in any industry.
The Hero Initiative, a Los Angeles-based non-profit organization, works to help creators who have fallen on hard times and need some help, whether that be with making rent or covering medical costs. One of their creative fundraising efforts is to work with a publisher to reprint a recently popular comic book with a variant blank cover, and then have comic book artists create one-of-a-kind covers to be auctioned off. An art book of all of the cover sketches is later published. 100% of sales goes to the Hero Initiative to help them maintain safety nets for creators in need.
The awesome image above by Cliff Chiang depicting Archie and the gang as a high school garage band is one of the sketch covers for Archie #600 from Archie Comics. The original version of the issue was published over a year ago as the start of the much-discussed story line by Michael Uslan and Stan Goldberg where Archie finally decides between Betty and Veronica.
To take a look at all 50 covers (they’re all great!), visit HeroInitiative.org. To buy the original artwork and help a good cause, check out the Hero Initiative’s eBay auctions that launched yesterday. Archie Covers: Fifty Times an American Icon collecting and reprinting all 50 covers will be published later in the year.