Amazing Fantasy #15
November 8, 2010
Does whatever a spider can! ...which is apparently to be mopey and depressed.
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall. And welcome once again to Secret Origins Month!
("Secret Origins Month" title is shown; cut to a shot of the cover of a Spider-Man comic that Linkara reviewed previously)
(Cut to shots of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko)
Linkara (v/o): Reading up on some history, there's actually some confusion over the exact creation of Spider-Man and whose original idea it was. Officially, it was Stan Lee and Steve Ditko...
(Cut to a shot of Jack Kirby, drawn in caricatured comic style)
Linkara (v/o): ...but apparently, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby frequently conference with Stan Lee about ideas concerning the character, throwing around things like a magic ring, a web gun, and other ideas that eventually made it into other superheroes.
(Cut to a shot of a drawing of Spider-Man holding Stan Lee under his arm as he swings around town on his web)
Linkara (v/o): However, since it was Lee and Ditko who drew the issues and basically did everything with it, theirs is the story we're following here.
(Cut to some shots of early Spider-Man comics)
Linkara (v/o): In this case, Marvel was finding success with the Fantastic Four, and Stan Lee saw an upswing in teenagers reading comic books. So he wanted to make a hero that teenagers could identify with. According to an interview with Stan Lee, Marvel's publisher Mark Goodman had numerous reasons why the character would never work, that people hate spiders, that heroes aren't supposed to have real problems, teenagers couldn't be the hero, etc., etc. Still, they were canceling the book, "Amazing Adult Fantasy", renamed "Amazing Fantasy" for the final issue, and decided to give it a try there. And thus, Spider-Man was born, with Steve Ditko creating the iconic costume and look for the character. "Amazing Fantasy #15" was a sales success, prompting Marvel to give the character his own solo series, which has lasted through today.
Linkara: So let's dig into the story that got our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man going: "Amazing Fantasy #15".
(Opening titles play; title card has the theme song from the original Spider-Man cartoon series playing over it; cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): Once again, I remind people that I'm evaluating these issues with modern standards, because I think it's funnier that way. Our cover is, of course, the iconic image Spider-Man carrying this random guy. Huh, I wonder if he's gonna pass Superman carrying Vincent Price in the other direction.
Spider-Man: Though the world may mock Peter Parker, the timid teenager... it will soon marvel at the awesome might of... Spider-Man!
Linkara: (as Spider-Man, pretending to hold up the guy) Anyway, Steve, thanks for listening. Same time tomorrow?
Linkara (v/o): Oh, and by the way, Peter, good job keeping your secret identity a secret and all. I'm sure yelling your name while tons of people watch you, and your carrying another guy, will go over well in the long term.
Linkara: And for those of you at home, today, I actually do have a reprint ready for your enjoyment: (holds it up) "Marvel Tales #137", which reprints not only this Spidey story, but also the origin of Doctor Strange. But we're gonna focus on Spidey today.
Linkara (v/o): We open to the corner of a street, where a bunch of kids are mocking Peter Parker.
Kid 1: Say, gang, we need one more guy for the dance! How about Peter Parker over there?
Linkara: What kind of dance requires a quota?
Kid 2: Are you kiddin'? That bookworm wouldn't know a cha-cha from a waltz!
Linkara: Clearly, they have never seen Peter when he gets his groove on.
(Cut to a clip of Spider-Man 3, where Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) briefly dances and grooves on a city street, while '70s music plays in the background; cut back to the comic again)
Kid 3 (a girl): Peter Parker? He's Midtown High's only professional wallflower!
Linkara (v/o): And of course, Peter is sulking at the corner.
Linkara: (as Peter) Well, better go plan my murderous revenge and then wait for Battlestar Galactica to be invented.
Linkara (v/o): OH, MY GOD, THERE'S A GIANT SPIDER COMING DOWN TO EAT HIM!! AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!! Oh, wait, no, uh... Anyway, there's also some narration.
Narrator: Like costume heroes? Confidentially, we in the comic mag business refer to them as "long underwear characters"!
Linkara: Well, it's not confidential now.
Linkara (v/o): And for some characters, the underwear analogy just doesn't work. Do you know anybody who goes to bed wearing (looks at Spider-Man's attire) this? I mean, besides Stan Lee?
Narrator: And, as you know, they're a dime a dozen! But, we think you may find our Spiderman [sic] just a bit... different!
Linkara: (as narrator) His life is a never-ending spiral of shame and death!
Narrator: As you may have gathered, Peter Parker was far from being the biggest man on campus!
Linkara: (as narrator) That would change after his clinical depression pushed him to Twinkies and Hostess Fruit Pies.
Narrator: But, his Uncle Ben thought he was a pretty special lad...
Linkara (v/o): ...as he creepily stood over him.
Narrator: As for Pete's Aunt May, she thought the sun rose and set on her nephew!
Linkara: Sadly, though, being a million years old kind of made Aunt May think that the toaster was her nephew.
Ben: Don't fatten him up too much, dear! I can hardly out-wrestle him now!
Linkara: (creeped out by what he just read) Uncle Ben, stop being creepy.
Linkara (v/o): Of course, Peter's teachers like him for being a nerd and all, but sadly, he finds rejection with his one true love, Sally... uh, Black-Hair. Sally, however, is attracted to Flash Thompson, resident dickhead. Here's what may be a dumb question, but if the place is called Midtown High, why does Flash's sweater have a big T on it? Is he a member of the Mr. T Army?
(Cut to a clip of Mr. T's Be Somebody or Be Somebody's Fool)
Mr. T: It's cool to express your personality, so express yourself and not someone else. So you take the label and wear your name.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Peter suggests that they go to the new exhibit at the science hall, but sadly, the sensuous allure of SCIENCE does not sway them, and they drive off, calling Peter a bookworm again. Wow, what new depravities will think of next to call their peers?
Peter: Some day I'll show them! Some day they'll be sorry! --Sorry that they laughed at me!
Linkara: (singsong voice) I see a killing spree in his future!
Narrator: And, a few minutes later, Peter Parker forgets the taunts of his classmates as he is transported to another world -- the fascinating world of atomic science!
(Cut to a clip of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang watching Puma Man)
Tom Servo: It's fascinating.
(Cut back to the comic)
Scientist: And now for a demonstration of how we can control radioactive rays here in the laboratory...
Linkara: (as patron) Uh, should we have any kind of protection here? (as scientist, waving dismissively) Nah, we're good. (as patron) Like, I don't know, lead shields or safety goggles or something? (as scientist) Eh, don't worry about it.
Linkara (v/o): And of course, a spider descends in between the two Christmas ornaments and gets a nice, big ol' dose of radiation.
Narrator: Accidentally absorbing a fantastic amount of radioactivity, the dying insect...
Linkara (v/o): Spiders aren't insects.
Narrator: ...in sudden shock, bites the nearest living thing...
Linkara (v/o): "Nearest living thing"? Look at this panel! Peter's all the way in the back! Shouldn't it have gone for the scientists running the device? Peter suddenly feels lightheaded and has to go outside.
Peter: What's happening to me? I feel-- different! As though my entire body is charged with some sort of fantastic energy!
(In the comic, there is the sound of car honking being displayed; the actual sound is played)
Linkara: (as Peter) And now my fingers are honking!
Linkara (v/o): A car almost hits him while turning a corner, but Peter instinctively leaps to a nearby wall.
One person in car: That was one egghead who won't any more daydream any more when he crosses a street!
Another person in car: You can say that again!
Linkara: (as this person in the car; laughs) We almost killed someone.
Linkara (v/o): Peter quickly discovers he can climb the walls of the building, a little kid actually witnessing it.
Kid: Mommy! Look at the man walking up the side of a building!
Kid's mother: That's the last horror movie I take you to, young man!
Linkara: Okay, (holds up index finger) one, what horror movies in 1962 featured guys climbing the side of a building? (holds up two fingers) Two, is that how jaded you are, lady? You won't even look and confirm that your son is lying before you just assume he's making it up?
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, Peter reaches the top and grabs a steel pipe on the roof, crushing it.
Peter: It's the spider! It has to be!
(Cut to a clip of Superman: The Animated Series)
Alfred: And I thought Batman was the detective.
(Cut back to the comic)
Peter: Somehow--in some miraculous way, his bite has transferred his own power-- to me!
Linkara (v/o): Yes, the power of an arachnid, smaller than the palm of your hand that was killed by radiation poisoning that anyone could crush effortlessly. Anyway, Peter realizes he has to think about what to do with this incredible power. Within minutes, he spots a wrestling event: "$100 to the man who can stay in the ring three minutes with..."
(Cut to a clip of the Spider-Man, showing...)
Bonesaw McGraw (Randy Savage): Bonesaw is READY!
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Nah, actually, it's a guy named Crusher Hogan. A little trivia note: they actually gave Crusher Hogan a complex and sympathetic backstory, and had him fighting alongside Spidey for an issue against some thugs at a gym he worked at. Peter quickly puts together a makeshift outfit to wear for the event, even discarding his glasses.
Linkara: I guess he didn't actually need them; you just receive dorky glasses when you become a nerd.
Linkara (v/o): So, yeah, Peter is brought up and manages to evade and use his superior strength to defeat Crusher Hogan.
Peter: It works! I have the speed, the agility, the very strength of a gigantic spider!
Linkara: (as Peter) Let me LOUDLY announce all this to the audience!
Linkara (v/o): A TV producer spots Peter and offers him the chance to make more money on TV doing his act. Naturally, he doesn't ask to see what he looks like under the mask, because it's not like you'd have to sign a contract or something with his real name and proof of identity or something like that. Anyway, later on, we see Peter starting to design his proper costume. He's still loudly narrating to himself, so much so that I'm shocked that Aunt May and Uncle Ben don't hear him immediately as they enter his room.
Peter: Oh, hi, Aunt May!
(Cut to a clip of The Room)
Johnny (Tommy Wiseau): Oh, hi, Denny.
(Back to the comic again)
Aunt May: You looked a little tired, Petey, so we brought you some crackers and milk!
Peter: Crackers and milk! Bless 'em...
(Cut to a clip of the MST3K gang watching a Gumby cartoon: Robot Rumpus)
Tom Servo: Crackers? Wow! Maybe they can have white rice later!
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): We also see Peter create the web-shooters and try on the costume for the first time.
Peter: I'll need a name--well, guess Spiderman [sic] is as good as any!
Linkara: There you have it, folks: the creation of an iconic name for generations to come. It's as good as any.
Peter: (now as Spider-Man) So, they laughed at me for being a bookworm, eh? Well, only a science major could have created a device like this!
Linkara: (as Peter) Suck it, English majors!
Spider-Man: With some strong liquid cement at the end, I can pull myself up anywhere with my little web!
Linkara (v/o): Uh, from the quick research I did, liquid cement is used to fill up cracks in driveways, not to suspend 150-pound humans from ceilings. I don't think it works like that. Oh, and the story is divided into parts, even though it's one continuous story interrupted by one page of advertisements, so now we're in part 2.
Narrator: Now anybody with the intelligence of a seven year old knows that if a man appeared on TV who seemed to be more spider than human, he'd be an overnight sensation!
Linkara: Unless they thought it was special effects or something.
Narrator: Especially when his feats were performed without the help of trick photography!
Linkara: If the TV says that, it must be true!
Linkara (v/o): But yeah, Spidey performs a few tricks and impresses everybody, with tons of people wanting appearances by him or an interview with the like. When he finally gets clear of them, he sees a thief running down the hall, chased by a policeman. Spidey lets him go by and into an express elevator, which, of course, the guy narrates to himself about out loud.
Policeman: What's with you, mister?? All you hadda do was trip him, or hold him just for a minute!
Spider-Man: Sorry, pal! That's your job! I'm thru being pushed around --by anyone!
Linkara: Doesn't that mean he should have pushed the thief, thus displaying his superiority?
Linkara (v/o): And yeah, another "thru" spelled like that, so I guess it was a space-saving thing with word balloons, since this was all done by hand back in the day.
Spider-Man: From now on I just look out for number one --that means--ME!
Policeman: I oughtta run you in--
Spider-Man: Save your breath, buddy! I've got things to do!
Linkara: (as Spider-Man) Haven't you heard? (camera zooms in close to him) I'm a science major!
(Cut briefly to a clip of the opening of C.S.I.: Miami (set to The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again"), before cutting back to the again)
Linkara (v/o): A few hours later, Peter receives a gift from the angelic duo of his aunt and uncle: a microscope that he's always wanted.
Peter: You're the greatest family any fella ever had!
Linkara: (as Peter) I sure hope neither of you dies in a fit of tragic irony!
Linkara (v/o): So, time passes, and Spidey continues to be adored by the people of the world. However, one night, Peter returns home to find a police car in front of his house. The officer explains that a burglar broke in and shot his uncle, but also that they've cornered the burglar at the old Acme warehouse at the waterfront.
Linkara: The Acme warehouse?! My God! He has access to the advanced technology of Wile E. Coyote!
Linkara (v/o): Peter runs into his house and changes into his Spider-Man gear.
Peter: I know the old Acme warehouse! It's been deserted for years! A killer could hold off an army in that gloomy, old place!
Linkara: An old, abandoned warehouse? No army could ever hope to penetrate (holds up fist) such a fortress!
(Cut to the usual clip of Patton)
Patton: (looking out through a pair of binoculars) You magnificent bastard, I READ YOUR BOOK!
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Spidey swings to the warehouse, the police flabbergasted on how to enter without being picked off. Okay, fair enough, SWAT didn't come about until 1968, but you'd think they'd have procedures for this sort of situation. Inside, the burglar plans his escape.
Burglar: All I gotta do is hold 'em off till the moon goes down, then I oughtta be able to slip away in the dark!
Linkara: Yes, escape under the cover of... police siren lights.
Linkara (v/o): Spider-Man comes down from above, webbing up his gun and then punching him out. The blow knocks off the guy's hat and reveals his face. And in this shocking turn of events, it's...
Spider-Man: (shocked) The fugitive who ran past me! The one I didn't stop when I had the chance! (the Shock Horror sting plays) Spidey leaves the burglar on a web outside for the police to grab and goes off to contemplate what has transpired.
Peter: My fault--all my fault! If only I had stopped him when I could have! But I didn't--and now--Uncle Ben--is dead...
Linkara: (as Peter) Oh, my God! My life has become an episode of Tales From the Crypt!
Narrator: And a lean, silent figure slowly fades into the gathering darkness, aware at last that in this world, with great power there must also come--great responsibility!
Linkara: Remember the moral lesson here, kids: never use anything special or unique about yourselves for your own personal gain, or your loved ones will suffer horribly. (smiles)
Linkara (v/o): This story is classic, but of course, the writing is dated. However, it's a damn good origin story, and not much has changed over the years, save for little bits and details added here and there. Overall, the story holds up even after all this time. Not really anything else to say about it.
Linkara: Come back next week, though, when Secret Origins Month continues with even more loved ones dying! (puts down comic, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll to the theme of the original Spider-Man cartoon series)
Yelling "Crushing Hogan is ready" just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?
The fascinating world of atomic science. It's fascinating.
(Stinger: A panel of Peter Parker becoming Spider-Man is shown)
Spider-Man: So, they laughed at me for being a bookworm, eh? Well, only a science major could have created a device like this!
(Cut to a clip of Ghostbusters)
Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray): Back off, man, I'm a scientist.