How the Debut of Amazing Spider-Man Signalled a Coming Change At Marvel

Journey Into Marvel – Part 61

The Official First Spider-Man

The Official First Spider-Man

Extremites, up until now — aside from the tangent into 1963 when I couldn’t find the early issues — we’ve been progressing through the Marvel universe chronologically. The Marvel Universe doesn’t work like this. Some issues and stories occur before each other; regardless of date. This is why Amazing Spider-Man #1, which is issued March 1963, happens here even though my last review was issued December 1962.


This is where it truly all begins. I don’t mean just Spider-Man, I mean the beginnings of Earth-616 (main Marvel continuity). This is the issue where Spider-Man takes the flagship position from the Fantastic Four. Peter Parker takes the flame that was started by Stan Lee in Fantastic Four and evolves it to a new place. Unlike Stan’s relationship with Jack Kirby, it has been said by both Lee and Ditko, that they collaborated better than any other team in the Bullpen…. in the beginning.

We meet Pete in the pits of despair. Uncle Ben is dead. Aunt Mae is broke. The Parkers are about to become homeless. We are also introduced to J. Jonah Jameson. Triple J’s reasons behind hating Spider-Man are never investigates. He just hates him. Perhaps, Triple J was a parody of the many critics who claimedMarvel comics were a bad influence on teen readers.

J. Jonah’s paper has such a pull in New York that the entire city is swayed to hate Spider-Man without much provocation. Spider-Man is the first outlaw Superhero presented by Marvel. Yes, the Hulk has been around for about a year by this point, but Hulk was failing and his comics were anything but a ‘superhero’ comic.

Most of the issue is devoted to how Peter Parker can use his powers for gain. He even tries to join the Fantastic Four, surprising them by breaking into their penthouse, but upon hearing that the gig is unpaying he looses interest. This is a great moment because not only is it one of the first crossover cameos — one of the events that cemented all these characters exist in the same universe — when Ben Grimm notices similarity between Spider-Man and Human Torch, Jonny grimaces and claims that Spider-Man is an outlaw. Jonny maybe a rebel, but at the end of the day he follows the rules, Peter Parker doesn’t always. This gives Spider-Man an edge that no character at this point had.

Thing Vs. Spidey

Thing Vs. Spidey

The second half of the issue is Spider-Man’s first confrontation with a costumed villain. The villain is the rather empty Chameleon. Chameleon is a Commie spy who wants to steal a set of missile plans. He dresses up as Spider-Man in an effort to transport blame. This plot reads farcical after the adept character driven drama in the first half. I bet anything this part is Stan’s doing. The campiness and emptiness — did someone say ‘Commie Spy’ — has to be out of the addled brain of Mr. Lee.

I will say this though. Chameleon is the most compelling commie spy who has appeared so far. His struggles to find control and equilibrium with all his many identities is very dark for early Marvel. Spider-Man does not defeat Chameleon, rather he abandons the fight after his name is cleared.

That selfishness is revolutionary.

In the early days of Marvel, Amazing Spider-Man is where the good writing was. Even though some elements fall flat, there is so much depth and colour in this issue that you can see why Spider-Man became an instant hit with the readership. It’s an instant hit with me.

Until next time, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds

Story I Read:Spider-Man/Spider-Man vs. The Chameleon” (Amazing Spider-Man #1 Mar. 1963)

Rating: 3 1/2 of 5

Pros: The depth. The attention to character for Peter Parker. The invention. The cameo from the Fantastic Four is better then some of issues of Fantastic Four. Ditko’s art is stunning. Sue looks human.

Cons: Chameleon. The communist subplot. The way Spider-Man rescues Triple J’s son is charming but in a stupid way.

Next Review:Beauty and the Beast” (The Incredible Hulk #5 Jan 1963)

Last Review:Betrayed by the Ants!!” (Tales to Astonish #38 Dec. 1962)


About Julian Munds

I possess a degree in Theatre and Drama from the University of Toronto. I own my own theatre company called Snobbish Theatre. We focus our work on new versions of classics.

Posted on January 3, 2015, in Marvel, Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

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