“There are so many revolutionary ideas in Spider-Man, and they’re all there from the beginning,” says modern AMAZING SPIDER-MAN writer Dan Slott. “A hero who’s fallible? Who makes mistakes? There are so many things about him that nobody had done before. Before Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, this was all new territory.”
Between his first appearance in 1962 and through the end of the decade, Spidey racked up countless iconic moments. Yesterday we celebrated the first five major turning points, from his origin to his first defeat and first major victory against an enemy. Today we turn to 1964 and Spider-Man’s greatest obstacle yet.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1 - Six Against One
Spidey had very little to celebrate in 1964 when he appeared in his first Annual. Not only did Otto Octavius burst out of prison, he assembled an angry cabal of fellow villains—Mysterio, Kraven the Hunter, Electro, Sandman and the Vulture—to run roughshod over our hero.
“Here [are] all these guys that gave Spider-Man a hard time, and now they’re all together,” laughs Slott. “It’s perfect. It’s everything you want out of comics. And in the mighty Marvel manner, my favorite thing about that Annual is that Spidey can’t take a step without tripping over another Marvel super hero, and none of them help him out on his adventure. They’re all commuting to their own books.”
“The Green Goblin was hiding in the shadows for so long,” recalls Slott. “That was the big secret. Who was the Green Goblin? Who was going to be there when they pulled off that mask? This is where we found out. In true Spider-Man fashion, all the best things hit close to home. It’s your best friend’s dad. Oh my god. It’s Norman Osborn. Whaaaat?”
But the surprise unmasking didn’t stop there.
“It’s the first time someone discovers Spider-Man’s secret identity,” says Slott. “He started off wearing a mask way back in AMAZING FANTASY #15 because it’d help his show business career. It’s part of the mystery. They were selling it as a bonus, all part of the fun. Then when J. Jonah Jameson started rallying everyone against Spider-Man and he was wanted for questioning by the feds, Peter couldn’t afford to take that mask off. That was his safeguard, what kept the world of Spider-Man away from the world of Peter Parker. It protected him and his loved ones. It was invaluable. And now his villain knows.”
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #38 & #39 - Enter: Jazzy Johnny
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #38 also marked Steve Ditko’s final chapter in Spider-lore, a total epoch shift. New artist John Romita Sr. stepped in for a long and storied run, but at the time of the transition, no one could predict such a success. What happened next proved nothing short of miraculous. Slott considers it the most important moment in the Spider-Man franchise.
“Steve Ditko leaves and John Romita Sr. assumes that role,” he says. “It’s the first major art change in Spider-Man. That could’ve been the end of the series if the magic wasn’t there. This is suddenly saying, ‘Sean Connery isn’t James Bond anymore.’ It’s that pivotal. You’re going to have a different look and feel. If anything, the Romita Sr. era of Spider-Man doesn’t just keep the magic going, it reinvigorates the series. It ensured the legacy that we have up through today. We’re looking at 50 years of history, but nothing can compare to that one moment when one of the co-creators of the book was no longer involved with the book, and it’s still awesome.”
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #42 - Face it, Tiger…
“Everyone remembers that panel being bigger,” laughs Slott. “They remember it as a splash page. In reality, it was just one panel on a page. That’s how electric the arrival of Mary Jane Watson truly was.”
Though the girl next door cameo-ed in previous issues, the arguable love of Peter Parker’s life remained largely obscured from view until a show-stopping arrival in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #42. It remains one of the most iconic entrances in Marvel lore.
“Her head was always hidden behind a vase of flowers,” says Slott. “Or under the shadow of a hat. She was always hidden from view. The running joke was that Peter had no interest in being set up, least of all by Aunt May.”
Expectations were high. In an earlier issue drawn by Steve Ditko, a room of Pete’s friends got a glimpse of the infamous Mary Jane and offered a huge reaction. Of course, the reader remained behind the velvet rope, left to imagine just what all the fuss was about.
“We always knew she was going to be pretty,” says Slott, “But we had no idea she was going to be John Romita Sr. drawn level pretty. And not just physically; the attitude, the flavor, the fun. Everything you needed to know about that character was there.”
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #50 - Spider-Man No More!
“Somehow,” says Slott, “We hold our heroes to a higher standard. When they make a vow, we expect them to keep it their whole lives.”
By the late 60’s, Peter Parker found himself in such dire straits and ill regard that he nearly gave up the good fight forever. Convinced he could no longer combat Jameson’s plot to turn everyone against Spider-Man, Peter admits defeat. Both the cover and an interior image—his discarded costume draped unceremoniously over a trashcan—remain oft imitated. We remember AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #50 not as a celebratory milestone, but as the moment when Peter Parker threw in the towel and turned his back on the audience, resigning to put away the toys of his childhood.
“That was the biggest ‘oh my god’ moment of Spider-Man when it comes to great power and great responsibility,” Slott contends. “He was ready to throw it all away.”
Fortunately, Peter changed his mind by issue’s end, and personally conveyed the good news of Spider-Man’s return to Jameson.
Pick up the all-new AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1, on sale next week!
For more on Marvel’s 75th anniversary, visit marvel.com/75 and share your thoughts on Twitter with the hash tag #Marvel75