Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Classics - Amazing Spider-Man #50

      One of the most iconic covers from the entire run of The Amazing Spider-Man has to be this one by John Romita (Sr).

   Peter Parker certainly wasn't the first Marvel hero to quit his super-hero gig - both the Human Torch and the Thing had taken turns "leaving" the Fantastic Four, and all the original Avengers left that title a little over a year into the run (the Hulk left at the end of the second issue) - but as the sole hero in the title, it was shocking to have Spider-Man hanging up his tights.

   (Who was going to take over - Aunt May? Harry Osborn? JJJ?)

   The issue, written by Stan Lee, surprisingly enough doesn't include a full-fledged villain. It starts with an action sequence, as Spidey tackles some generic robbers, but the rest of the issue is given over to activities more typical to a soap opera (which was the genius of the series, of course, as it balanced real-world concerns with super-hero antics).

   Parker was going through a particularly rough patch (and for him, that's saying something). The public didn't trust him, thanks to the unending efforts of J. Jonah Jameson, the publisher of the Daily Bugle newspaper. He was having money problems, and his grades in college were slipping because of his super-heroics. Even worse, his Aunt May was sick - and he had no time to have any romance in his life (and with the beautiful Mary Jane Watson and Gwen Stacy flirting with him, he was ready for some romance)!

   He realized that all those pressures were caused by his Spider-Man identity - so for his own sanity, he decided to hang it up - and he tossed his costume in the trash (visualized by yet another classic Romita image).

   For a while, Parker's life was great - his problems had evaporated.  

   We hate spoilers here, of course, but it will come as no surprise that Spidey's retirement didn't stick - but the sequence that makes him realize the need for Spider-Man (and why he can't just ignore his gifts) is powerful, and his return is truly joyful.

   Lee and Ditko were the most influential creators to work on this title, but Lee and Romita also left their mark on the series - and it was under their creative reign that the title became Marvel's best-seller, and led the resurgence that made Marvel the top comics company for decades.

   Not too shabby!

Grade: A+


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