Monday, September 29, 2014

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #241

"IN THE BEGINNING..."
Scripter: Roger Stern | Artists: John Romita, Jr. & Frank Giacoia
Letterer: Joe Rosen | Colorist: Glynis Wein | Editor: Tom DeFalco
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Spider-Man comes around, still inside the New York Coliseum, then snags a walkie talkie from Lt. Kris Keating and goes in search of a spider-tracer with which he tagged the Vulture during their fight. The police are also in pursuit of the winged villain and his captive, Gregory Bestman, and Spider-Man hitches a ride on a police chopper which chases the Vulture to a wooded area on Staten Island. The Vulture enters the forest and Spider-Man follows, while the police circle overhead.

The Vulture takes Bestman to his "Vulture's Nest", a farmhouse and silo filled with technological gear and, as Spider-Man listens in, recaps his origin as an ex-business partner of Bestman's driven to crime by the other man's underhanded business practices. As the Vulture prepares to finish Bestman, Spider-Man drops in and challenges his old foe. Their fight takes them out into the woods, where Spider-Man uses the close quarters to his advantage and defeats the Vulture.

The web-slinger turns his enemy over to Lt. Keating, who reveals to Bestman that the police overheard the Vulture's entire story and believes the District Attorney may want to hear it as well. Later that day, photos of the Vulture's capture, taken by Spider-Man's automatic camera, grace the front page of the Daily Bugle.

The Sub-Plots: Anna Watson and her niece, Peter's ex-girlfriend Mary Jane, arrive in New York at Pennsylvania Station. Anna will be staying with Aunt May while she visits, while Mary Jane declares that she has "...friends [she] can crash with... Lots of friends." Oh, Mary Jane. You shameless trollop.
As he leaves the Daily Bugle, Peter is finally cornered by Amy Powell, who invites him out for a cup of coffee. Peter reluctantly agrees, while Lance Bannon watches, enraged, from nearby shadows.
Continuity Notes: Lt. Keating calls Spider-Man's abilities into question by reminding him that he couldn't save the Black Cat from being gunned down by Doctor Octopus's men in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #76.

This issue features, for the first time ever, the origin of the Vulture. Turns out Adrian Toomes was an elderly electronics whiz who went into business with Gregory Bestman and invented an electromagnetic harness which both increased his strength and allowed him to defy gravity. But when Toomes learned that Bestman was withholding profits from him, he turned on his partner. Bestman kicked Toomes out of the company, so Toomes became the Vulture and trashed Bestman's offices, stole his money, and turned to a life of crime.

This issue marks the final appearance of Kris Keating in Roger Stern's Spider-Man stories. The character will return a few years later under Tom DeFalco, and eventually become the victim of one of the most asinine and unnecessary pieces of retroactive continuity ever applied to a minor character, courtesy of Peter David.

Uncle Rog Speaks: "One time I was thinking about the Vulture, and I suddenly realized that we really didn't know anything about him. He showed up with his wings one day, but we didn't even know how he got the wings or who he was before he became the Vulture. And how come this old man was strong enough to trade punches with Spider-Man? The Vulture had been around for twenty-something years, and never had an origin." -- COMICS CREATORS ON SPIDER-MAN, Titan Books, 2004

The Spider's Web: It's a whole pageful of letters on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL 16. The new Captain Marvel receives universal praise, with multiple requests for her to headline her own series. But one reader doesn't like the high heels on her costume, and also worries that she may become as powerful as the late Phoenix, from X-MEN.

Also On Sale This Month: The Spidey-Octopus battle reaches its climax in PETER PARKER #79, and the Scarlet Witch intrudes on Spidey's and Vision's "bros' night" in MARVEL TEAM-UP #130.

My Thoughts: It must've been a treat for Roger Stern to realize first that his favorite villain had no real name, and then later that he never even had an origin -- and to eventually be the writer to provide both those tidbits.

The Vulture's origin isn't especially original -- he was driven to a life of crime after being taken advantage of by his embezzling business partner -- but I suppose it's different simply by virtue of the Vulture being an old man. He wasn't young and naive when Bestman used him -- he was an old, apparently meek fellow who was tricked by a younger man. That's something which happens all too often in the real world, and, if not for the fact that the Vulture eventually became a murderous thief, actually makes him quite sympathetic.
John Romita, Jr.'s contribution to this story is his intentional effort to put some black back in Spider-Man's costume. As Tom DeFalco will explain in an upcoming letter column, when Steve Ditko originally designed Spider-Man, his costume was primarily red and black, with blue highlights. But gradually, and in fact fairly quickly, Ditko stopped spotting as much black into the costume and the black parts became bluer and bluer -- and at some point the blue got lighter in color, too -- until Spider-Man's costume was quite definitively and canonically red and blue.

But in 1983, Marvel decided to bring back the black across all the Spider-Man comics. This marks the beginning of that effort in AMAZING, and the results are spectacular. It's really a minor thing, but the black with blue highlights looks so much better than straight blue -- it's a world of difference.
More importantly than either the Vulture's origin or the black costume bits, however, is the fact that this story gives Spider-Man something he really needs right now: a win. After indirectly playing a role in the creation of the Hobgoblin and then letting him get away at the end of their first encounter, Spider-Man captures the Vulture (who had also escaped following their last fight), gets photos of that capture on the Bugle's front page, and even gets the girl (notwithstanding the fact that he's uninterested in her, of course). Things are looking up for our friendly neighborhood web-slinger!

Which of course means something bad is about to happen...

3 comments:

  1. And eventually in the early 90's Erik Larsen pushed it to the other extreme and made Spiderman's costume black and red, with no blue highlights at all.

    It went from black with some blue highlights: http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2014/11/23/year-of-the-artist-day-327-erik-larsen-part-4-amazing-spider-man-335/
    To just solid black:
    http://www.comicsrecommended.com/images/fourteen/spider-man-amazing-338-red-black.jpg
    http://s246.photobucket.com/user/dioszine/media/TheSpectacularSpider-Man158-TheAmazingSpider-Man341.jpg.html


    Reading this, I now wonder if that was a conscious effort to follow Ditko's foot steps.

    Speaking of Ditko and Larsen.
    Larsen once inked some of Ditko's pencils,
    and they work amazingly well together. http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2014/07/10/year-of-the-artist-day-191-steve-ditko-part-10-marvel-comics-presents-83/

    I have never been much of a fan of Ditko's art, but his work looks amazing here while still being Ditko.


    And back to Larsen again, a pin up of the dragon and Spiderman http://www.reaxxion.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/larsen.jpg

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    Replies
    1. Wow, that Ditko/Larsen story is really nice! I wrote about it at some point here, but I've never been a huge fan of Ditko's art. I much prefer the more polished John Romita version of Spider-Man. But Larsen makes Ditko really appealing there. Thanks for sharing!

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    2. I am personally not a huge Ditko fan either.
      There is something about his art, that I don't like but I cant put my finger on it.

      I generally like Romita jr, Ron Frenz, Erik Larsen or Todd McFarlane much better, the 80's in other words.

      But Larsen really makes Ditko's are sing here. Too bad they never had any more collaborations, cause the results are great.

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