Young vs. Old Part I: The Debut of Spider-Man’s Vulture

Nothing I like better than taunting my enemies! – The Vulture.

The Vulture vs. Spider-Man

The Vulture vs. Spider-Man

Journey Into Marvel – Part 82

Extremites, Spider-Man’s age defines him. Most of his early conflicts centre around some disparity with age. This  is clear in this story where Vulture, Spider-Man’s first super powered villain, debuts.

Like Vulture, J. Jonah is out of step with the youth and wants to see their kind erased from the face of New York. His outrageous vendetta against Spider-Man is unexplained; it just is. In last issue Spider-Man saved his son from certain death. He should be grateful to him. Peter Parker decides to sell pictures of Spider-Man to triple J.  Peter Parker is in this game for personal gain.

Spider-Man is the most parodic character in early Marvel’s satire of the work of DC. Not only is he just a normal kid, which has no prior model in DC like many other Marvel characters, he’s also in many ways an anti-Superman. He makes money off of reporting on himself and even attracts the office heartthrob. Clark Kent eat your heart out.

Anyway, the Vulture.

Who is this guy?

His name is Adrian Toomes and he’s 80 years old. No kidding, an octogenarian. This octogenarian uses his ingenuity to harness the power magnetism to fly. Toomes has built magnetic wings to become an arial thief. Pretty ingenious guy and, to rub it all in, he sends threatening letters to everyone to announce his crimes. The Vulture seems like a pretty unbeatable guy. That is until he crosses paths with the opportunist Spider-Man who wants to take pictures of him. Toomes doesn’t like his photographic stalker so he locks Spidey in a water tower. This moment shows just how adept of an artist Steve Ditko is. Unlike other artists of the period Steve does his own inking giving him the chance to determine how colour should be used in his panels. When Spider is locked in the water tower Ditko shades everything with a pinker pen giving everything the look of darkness. This pen is no longer present when Spidey is crawling out of the tower. Ditko’s detail is unlike anyone else at Marvel. These little touches make him the best early Marvel artist. Although, I do wonder why Peter Parker looks similar to a young Stan Lee. Was this Ditko’s idea? Stan Lee’s egotism? Or a happy accident?

Stan Lee gives us his characteristic jabs at DC. When the Vulture is descending on a bag of cash one of the New Yorker’ exclaims “it’s a plane,” but it’s the Vulture. Not only is Superman’s classic line being  used here; it is being used to describe a villain.

Although there are all sorts of neat little touches and firsts in this story it just isn’t very good. There’s tons of uninspired writing. Take a look at this gem note by  the Vulture sent to ‘Now Magazine,’ J. Jonah’s magazine: “I shall steal the diamond shipment.” Not that this is incorrect, as that’s exactly what the Vulture does, it’s just that this is the most boring way to announce a master plan.  The Vulture’s debut is lacklustre and aside from the name ‘Adrian Toomes’ there’s no character development from the writer. All character is established by Steve Ditko. The Vulture really could have been any nameless villain.

Until next time, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds.

Story I Read:Duel to the Death With The Vulture” (Amazing Spider-Man #2 May 1963)

Rating: 2 out of 5

Pros: Steve Ditko’s art is plain fantastic. Spider-Man being described as ‘A secret adventurer’ rather than a superhero is novel and exciting. No one can deny that this story is action packed.

Cons: Adrian Toomes isn’t developed and as a threat he doesn’t stack up. The story is lacklustre and way too easily tied up. It only occupies half of the issue so maybe there wasn’t enough room to make a good story.

Next Review:The Uncanny Threat of the Terrible Tinkerer” (Amazing Spider-Man #2 May 1963)

Last Review:The Painter of a Thousand Perils!” (Strange Tales #108 May 1963)


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 June 21, 2015, in Marvel, Spider-Man, Vulture (Adrian Toomes) and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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