Thursday, 24 March 2011

Amazing Spider-Man #46. Good? It's a Shocker!

Amazing Spider-Man #46, the first appearance and origin of the ShockerSpider-Man Comics Weekly #40, the first appearance and origin of the Shocker
Back when I started collecting comics - as opposed to reading them then throwing them away - the first issue of Spider-Man Comics Weekly I collected and put in my Big Cardboard Box of Posterity was issue #40, which, all sharp-eyed observers amongst us will spot, reprinted Amazing Spider-Man #46. It featured the debut of the Shocker, surely the only super-villain ever to be inspired by a duvet. That is unless there's such a villain as Duvet Man, with his incredible tog powers.

Arm still in a sling from his fight with the Lizard, Spidey's swinging around town when he comes across brand new super-villain the Shocker committing a robbery. With the usual Spider-Man style, he then proceeds to get knocked out. This is a cue for our hero to return to civilian life and meet up with friends and family.

In one of those happy coincidences that almost make you think these things are planned, he bumps into Harry Osborn who offers him the chance to share a luxury apartment with him, rent free. Then Aunt May tells Peter she's planning on moving in with Anna Watson, meaning PP doesn't have to worry about leaving her alone. Thus begins a whole new phase in the life of Peter Parker.

But it's the same old routine for Spider-Man as he catches up with the Shocker committing yet another robbery and this time defeats him by the simple expedient of webbing his thumbs so he can't fire his vibro-blasters. Exit one villain, enter a swingy new pad.

But still a shadow hangs over Peter Parker. Why can't he shake the feeling that something's wrong?

When I think of Spider-Man, I always think first and foremost of the era when he was sharing a flat with Harry Osborn, so this issue signals the start of what I regard as the real Spider-Man. On top of that, I've always had a soft spot for the Shocker. Despite repeat appearances, he might never have amounted to much - mostly thanks to the fact his weakness was having opposable thumbs - but who cares? He had attitude and that's what I like. Bearing in mind, though, that he developed his ground-breaking vibro-technology in a prison workshop, you do have to wonder just who supplies prison workshop equipment in New York City. Is it SHIELD?

Unlikely penitentiary exploits aside, the thing that strikes me reading this issue is just how wordy it is. It seems like Stan Lee was in a competition to see how many speech balloons, thought bubbles and captions he could pack into every panel.

And you know what?

It's great. None of that fancy modern, "Let the pictures tell the story," nonsense. You were handing over your 12 cents and, Goddammit, Stan Lee was determined to make sure you got your 12 cents worth.

So there you have it. So crammed with things is the tale, there's even time for Fred Foswell to play at being Patch the stool pigeon in an attempt to discover Peter Parker's secret - a bid that fails miserably thanks to the ex-Big Man being the world's most gullible human being.

Maybe I got lucky or maybe I'm biased or maybe nostalgia warps the mind but in hindsight it seems to me that if you're going to start collecting Spider-Man, this is probably as good an issue as you could begin with. Perhaps, as with Peter Parker and Aunt May's simultaneous moves to new homes, there really is a plan to it all.


bliss_infinte said...

I have to say that that period of Stan's writing, with Spidey, FF and Thor, you got your money's worth. You can sit down and read an issue which could take about and hour or so. I hate now-a-days buying a $4 comic (which I actually don't do) and finish it in about 7 minutes. What a waste!

Steve said...

Hello, Bliss. All this talk of wordy comics is starting to give me an urge to read some Killraven.

Wil said...

And looking at the US and UK version of the same covers I now really appreciate how a bit of effort was put into adapting the original artwork for our weeklies.

And another thumbs up for thought bubbles, lots of exposition sound effects and superheroes wisecracking and commenting throughout fights.

Steve said...

I do prefer the UK version of this cover. I've never been a fan of the great mass of grey on the original.

R. W. Watkins said...

Ah, yes! Dear old Shocker! Fondly dismissed as the 'Electric Pineapple'!

Lazarus Lupin said...

I always liked the shocker. He was a blue collar type of super criminal. He was dependable. He wasn't off on some grand plan or had some dire dirt on our hero. He wanted to rob banks. He's the spiderman equivalent of most of the Flash's rogues.

Lazarus Lupin
art and review

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