December 11, 2006

Marvel Tales #163 [1984]

For a year in, this weblog has been surprisingly light on the Spider-Man...

Ditko's run on Spider-Man, complete with the original covers, was reprinted from 1982 to 1985 in MARVEL TALES #137 to #177, for several of the stories the first time they were ever reprinted. This issue has the 20-page "Captured by J. Jonah Jameson" from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #25 [1965], of minor note as the first issue where Ditko got a credit for the plot as well as the art, although it's unlikely it was actually produced in a substantially different way from the previous issues.

The villain this issue is good old J. Jonah Jameson, who never seems to learn, as he's roped into yet another plan to capture Spider-Man, this time with Peter's coaxing, as Peter is understandably sceptical about the goofy looking robot that Doctor Smythe brings in. And that's even before JJJ's face is projected on the robot's screen. Anyway, Jonah tries the robot, which ends up tracking Peter down at his school, where Flash Thompson was waiting to fight Peter for spending time with Liz, which leads to a pretty silly chase as Peter tries to get away to change to Spider-Man. After he changes and fights the robot, Liz, Flash and the gang wind up at Peter's house, where Betty Brant has also come to get Peter to help call off the robot, and that's when Liz and Betty see Mary Jane Watson for the first time, although thanks to a well placed flower the reader does not. Spidey is eventually trapped by the robot, but fortunately while Jonah and Smythe grab a cab down to the scene for the finish is able to escape, leaving his costume posed as him in the robot's clutches to taunt Jonah. When he returns home he finds that Aunt May has found his spare costume, and he has to do some fancy explaining (without, he tells himself, actually lying to May) leaving him without a costume.

There's no question that Ditko's at the top of his game with this run of stories. In particular I like how the Peter Parker segments take up most of the story, and how well developed the supporting cast becomes. The stories also have a lot of visual humour. Looking at the page below, the body language of Peter and Jonah tells quite a story even before you read the dialogue. There's a nice bit later where Betty tries to mess with the controller for the robot to save Spider-Man which has some nice slapstick bits.

As I mentioned above, this run of reprints also included the original covers, although often modified somewhat, as in this case where it's flipped left-to-right.

1 comment:

  1. One of my all time favorite issues. There was a great sense of fun throughout, and it was quite interesting how Ditko made Peter the person responsible for his own situation. As a teenager it showed that he still had a lot to learn and it taught him not to underestimate his opponents (even if they are crackpots like Smythe!)

    Nick Caputo



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