Sunday, October 21, 2012

Steve Ditko, Stan Lee, Peter Parker and Me!


Friends!

November 14 2012: Please forgive the delay for a new blog!

I live in New York and when Sandy struck it took out my electrical power and heat for two weeks.  Yesterday, I finally got my internet, cable and phone service.

While there was no serious damage to my house, some huge trees fell. That is nothing compared to the people who lost their property, their house, or, tragically their lives or the lives of family members.

 I know people ask you to contribute to their blogs to help keep them running. If you like this blog, PLEASE contribute to the real victims of Sandy by going to the  

 RED CROSS site.

 



One day a man will take you on the high roads; After a time he'll leave you someplace nice
Or tell you where the big boys play. They usually string out their games
In someone's shadow.
----Rod McKuen

Steve Ditko was in no one’s shadow.

It seems that one day a man will ring your doorbell and offer you CELEBRITY!  He will offer you fame and fortune and recognition. He will fight your battles for you and gear up the troops to go after your perceived enemies.

And all you have to do is give him everything you have…your privacy, your intimate moments, your private thoughts, your old artwork, your new artwork and details from events 50 years old.  They want you to show up at conventions and sit and autograph comics that you will sell and sit in on panel after panel examining your work from 50 years ago and dismissing what you are working on now.

Those who take it, love the money and attention, but then complain about the lack of privacy and the wave of criticism.

Those who don’t take it are called eccentric, outsiders, has beens and hard to work with. With their subject out of the limelight, people can write newspaper articles and books saying outrageous things that bring publicity onto themselves knowing their subject will not bother to respond. They will tell you that they tried to get Ditko to cooperate with them, but it is never unconditional. They want something form him: his opinions, his personality and most of all his approval. They’ll lie to you, they have lied to me, and taken my material, said it was theirs, and forgot where it came from. But they will have people who never meet him, write about him, make claims about him and, by keeping him out of it; they seem to validate their own absurd remarks.  This is not journalism; in fact, it is not even common sense.  

They will never understand that some people’s work speaks for itself.

And no one’s work speaks more for itself than Steve Ditko’s.

 Steve Ditko, Stan Lee, Peter Parker and Me!

The Marvel age of comics was built on Jack Kirby’s creativity, Steve Ditko’s ingenuity and Stan Lee’s continuity. Jack Kirby gave wonder to the Marvel Universe. Steve Ditko gave it awe. On a journey to the Infinite Kirby took us to the outer reaches of the universe. On a journey to find Eternity Ditko took us into the minds of the Ancient One and Dr. Strange. Kirby externalized the quest for knowledge, Ditko internalize it. As an example, In Dr. Strange’s first adventure in Strange Tales #110, Ditko introduces us to Nightmare, a villain that personifies an anxiety that we all have. Ditko places us in another dimension, one that exists in all of us, one where the laws of physics are not observed. Soon, this will be developed into the intangible home of Dormammu and all that follow. The Hulk is another great example. When Kirby introduced him, his change was caused by external factors, dusk and dawn and later a machine.  Ditko’s Hulk changed for an internal issue, anger management. This made the character unique and disturbingly compelling. Ditko also changed the Bruce Banner. Kirby’s Banner worked for the government and built bombs, Ditko’s Banner was running away from government and trying to prove himself loyal.

To a child in and of the 1960s, at first glance, the sight of a human looking like an insect walking up walls did not seem unique. Simon and Kirby had presented The Fly, for Archie comics in 1958. To say that Spider-Man was connected in any way to this is silly. But to say that Ditko didn’t learn from reading those stories would be really inaccurate. Some of the poses that Spider-Man has in the early issues are not dissimilar from Kirby’s. The Rawhide Kid, a year earlier, had a similar origin to Spider-Man: A teenager, Johnny Bart, was raised by his Uncle Ben and gained great ability as a marksman. Bad guys kill his uncle and Johnny adopts a new identity, The Rawhide Kid, to track them down. Because he is a vigilante, the good guys as well as the bad go after the new hero. Spider-Man combined all these concepts and added a few more. Heck, without Ditko he could have turned out to be Ant-Man!

      I was introduced to Ditko by his short, five page stories in Amazing Fantasy, Tales of Suspense and other Marvel comics. I learned that it did not bode well for you if you appeared too rich or too greedy and appeared on a Ditko splash page. Ditko took an outline by Stan Lee and created a unique mood, style and story line for one of the greatest characters in fiction. Not just in comic book fiction, popular fiction. Ditko made Spider-Man unique, complex and compelling. It was truly a one of a kind artistic achievement. Similar to Clark Kent, bespectacled Peter Parker worked in a great Metropolitan Newspaper and was interested in a co-worker. Yet, Parker was a character no one had ever seen before. The emotional threads that Ditko wove into the story arcs were powerful and unforgettable and you never, ever thought the stories were similar to Superman… or anything else. The interactions Parker had with the cast of characters Ditko introduced made you identity with him and have complete empathy for the character. That’s right; you rooted for a creation of pen and ink. When things seemed to work out with girlfriend Betty you felt good and when trouble began between them you got concerned. When they broke up, it didn’t just break Peter’s heart, it broke yours too.

I was too young when Dr. Strange debuted in Strange Tales #110 and I didn’t get it. The world was askew and the characters didn’t look right. Then one rainy day I reread all of his the published adventures (midway through to the Eternity saga) and realized it was brilliant. Ditko showed that comics were not just for kids but for adults. Dr. Strange’s powers did not come from cosmic rays or radioactive insects. His power was knowledge and how to use it. He read, he studied and he practiced and his stories were about something. Strange read the book of Vishanti (which was on the New York Times best-seller list for 130 years. (1361-1491) It sold 12 books but they didn’t have printing presses then. It was replaced by the “Joy of Flogging” during the Spanish Inquisition.) In Strange Tales #120 (May 1964), Dr. Strange visits a haunted mansion to eliminate its ghosts. This is the last time a New York City doctor ever made a house call.



As a reader, I saw that Marvel, and Stan Lee, threw nothing out. Just as Ditko had reworked the Hulk and Iron Man, I figured he was reworking the magician idea, one with Asian roots, when Dr. Strange appeared in Strange Tales #110. That fit just right into the Marvel Universe. I just assumed that Ditko wanted to re-work Dr. Droom, the mystic hero that appeared in Amazing Adventures #1, drawn by Jack Kirby and inked by Ditko. However, I was wrong. We know now that Steve plotted and drew it out and then gave it to Stan. Stan Lee wrote (The Comic Reader #16, 1963) “Well, we have a new character in the works for Strange Tales, just a 5-page filler named Dr. Strange. Steve Ditko is gonna draw him. It has sort of a black magic theme. The first story is nothing great, but perhaps we can make something of him. Twas Steve’s idea; I figured we’d give it a chance, although again, we had to rush the first one too much.” The series started off a bit slow, but interesting, as a five page filler. When it grew to ten pages, it allowed stories to become more complex, and characters to be developed as only Ditko could. In fact, the 170 page story (starting in Strange Tales #130) remains a highlight of complexity, emotion and storytelling of the Marvel Age. It became one of the most memorable strips of the era and it helped usher in the concept of longer stories, which evolved into the graphic novel. Dr. Strange was a brilliant character, magical and mystical, with no real history. As his collections have been released in Masterworks and Essentials, I have suggested to people NOT to read Strange Tales #115, the Origin of Dr. Strange, until they have finished the other stories. Unlike many other comics Dr. Strange does not have a back story; no parents, friends, and no baggage. Peter Parker had an uncle and aunt and had lost his parents, Superman came from another planet. Dr. Strange just showed up, just him and The Ancient One. Somehow, this seemed fitting. Dr. Strange graduated from filler to  being the first double feature of the Marvel Age because it was brilliantly done. When the strip went to 10 pages very soon the Hulk and Capt. America completed the other anthology comics. The second features of a Marvel comic were sometimes more interesting than the primary feature and often outlasted it. The Hulk and Dr. Strange outlasted Giant-Man and the Torch.

In the origin story, the only time the good Doctor had a history, we see that he was once a skilled but arrogant surgeon who injured his hands. He learns the mystic arts and seeks redemption for his past life and acts. Redemption was a very common theme in most of Stan Lee’s works. Daredevil, Thor, Iron Man and so many others sought redemption. This of course includes Peter Parker. Although Dr. Strange´s origin now sometimes feels like a vestigial organ, I suspect that Stan Lee must have heard from the fans and felt that an origin story was necessary. My only disappointment with Dr. Strange is that the final issue of Ditko´s epic story seemed to have been rushed. Yet, he must have felt that he owed the fans something like a conclusion and could not leave without one.

To a young reader, Ditko seemed to be the “go to” guy at Marvel. Ditko is a very smart man and he was highly aware of what comics were out there and what was working and what was not. It seemed to me that if something wasn’t working right, they brought it to him to fix. Ditko was able to understand the fundamental nature of the character and even if he changed things, Ditko kept its essence. Ditko took Iron Man, a weapons manufacturer in a bulky, almost leaden costume and made him the sleek, colorful jet setting playboy that he is still today.

Ditko’s work on the Incredible Hulk was frankly incredible. Jack Kirby had said that he had modeled the Hulk after Frankenstein. Perhaps in his looks, but I did not see that in his personality until I read the Briefer Frankenstein of the 1950s. published by Prize Comics (Hmmm). The Hulk behaves very much like that incarnation of the monster and is treated very much the same: An Innocent haunted and hunted by people. At first, the Hulk seemed more like the Werewolf because he turned into an uncontrolled creature at night. In his first five issues there was not much consistency. It was also hard to like Bruce Banner because, like Tony Stark, he was a weapons manufacturer, a brilliant bomb maker. Even in The Avengers, his transformation was inconsistent. In Avengers #3, Banner turns into the Hulk when he is calm and sleeping and back to Banner when he gets upset. When Dick Ayers drew the Hulk (in Tales to Astonish #59 the issue preceding the Hulk series) we see that the cause of Banner’s transformation is simply high blood pressure. The heck with gamma rays… had he stayed away from salt he would have been okay. It was Ditko who gave the Incredible Hulk his anger management problems. While Steve Ditko gave no back story to Dr. Strange, he gave one to Bruce Banner. By introducing Major Talbot he not only gave Banner an adversary but he also gave him a motivator. Talbot accuses Banner of being a communist or working with them. To prove that he is not, to prove that he is a loyal American, Banner now continues his research to make more weapons. We don’t feel that he is doing this absent of consequences, but he is doing it to show that he is loyal. Also he is showing himself that while part of him may be destructive, he is also a worthwhile person.

In contrast to Dr. Strange, Spider-Man had a detailed back story. This indicates that Strange’s lack of one was deliberate. Spidey suffered great consequences from not stopping that burglar. He lost his uncle, and his aunt lost her husband. Their finances were destroyed for years. (But now it can be told. Not only did she get Social Security, but Peter was getting survivors benefits too. In 1965 Aunt May was eligible for Medicare)

In the era of Batman and Dick Tracy where villains were misshapen and often looked like their evil names, Ditko took a different more unsettling route. Most of his villains look like normal people. They just wore masks. Some like the Vulture didn’t even wear masks. Most of his villains, The Green Goblin, the Crime Master, Mysterio, Electro, The Sandman and even the Enforcers looked human. So the real villains in Spider-Man’s world could be your neighbors. 

 This is my Russian blue named Ditko! Her sisters are   
named Lee, Kirby and Gussie!




One of my favorite stories is the “Man in the Crime Master’s Mask!” This was a two-part story that had me guessing for 40 pages. It’s a brilliant concept: a high powered villain being someone no one even knew and therefore no one would suspect. Years later when I would hear these strange rumors that Ditko left Marvel over a conflict about the identity of the Green Goblin, I would also be told that Ditko wanted it to be no one we had ever seen. Ditko would never do that. He would never repeat a theme that he had just done a year earlier. I know that this sounds funny but I think some people don’t actually read the comics so clues are easy to ignore or bypass. For example, Norman Osborn, while holding a rifle threatens to go after some people. I think that was a clue.


 There have been many articles and references over the years regarding Steve Ditko and his identification with Spider-Man and  Dr. Strange. Well, he did name Dr. Strange, STEPHEN didn’t he? Many assume that Ditko identified with his heroes. If so, did J. Jonah Jameson represent, as a cheap, penny pinching publisher who insisted that all stories be written from his point of view, Martin Goodman, or Stan Lee or an amalgam of both? J.J.J. went from being comic relief to a direct threat to Spider-Man. Earlier, J.J.J. just worked in the background to encourage “villains” to stop Spidey. But Stan Lee and Steve Ditko stopped talking to each other about one year before Ditko left Marvel. Ditko would just draw the pages and send them over for Lee’s dialogue. This began about issue #25. This was the first time J.J.J. became the actual face of a villain when he manned the Spider-seeking robot. His goal was not to kill off the character but to stop him. Perhaps  he felt that was just what Goodman and Lee were doing.

By issue #35, Peter Parker is deserted by friends, threatened by unseen enemies and isolated. Steve Ditko was plotting the books by himself and soon there is none of Lee’s exuberance or optimism in the character or the stories.

If there was any regret in Spider-Man for me, it was the way his graduation and entrance to college took place. It was common in comics to have change without really having change, to give the appearance that something is new and different but it kind of stays the same. When Parker went to college, it changed the scenery but it really didn’t change his environment. He still had Flash Thompson in his classroom, antagonistic as always and blonde Liz Allen was replaced by blonde Gwen Stacy. Ditko probably did not want this change because he did not want to lose his characters, so he kept them. You see, what was Flash Thompson, in college on an athletic scholarship, doing in the same science and chemistry classes as (science major) Peter Parker? Well, no one held his ear to the ground to sense what the fans were thinking more than Stan Lee. Comic books began losing their adult male audience since 1945, when W.W.II ended. Now on college campuses Marvel was getting them back. Stan Lee wanted to keep his characters relevant and popular in this new market.

Ditko influenced many artists, but none could ever recreate his world. In fact, since Ditko did not allow many guest appearances, in his letter’s columns, Stan Lee often had to convince readers that the very different world of Dr. Strange was actually part of the Marvel Universe. Ditko was an essential, irreplaceable part of the foundation of the Marvel Age. He was able to take a concept or character, new or old and develop it into something completely fresh and different, even unrecognizable from its first germ of an idea.


Try as I might, I could not find a way to fit this picture of Kirby overlooking Nick Caputo in.





Monday, October 15, 2012

Village Voice 1965: The Super-Anti Hero in Forest Hills (Spider-Man)



 Village Voice 1965: The Super-Anti Hero in Forest Hills
An Interview with Stan Lee



In stepping back and looking over the era of the Marvel Age, we can see that Stan, Marvel’s leading promoter, wanted needed and welcomed publicity. In speaking to many comic book artists and writers, you discover that columnists and newspaper writers come to you with their premise or slant that they want to prove or go along with. If you go along with it that write the article, if you don’t they either don’t do the article or don’t include you. So the interviewee learns to go along. Sally Kempton defines the term, or her term “anti-hero” much differently Stan did, demonstrated a year later in an interview with famous editor and writer Ted White that appeared in a publication entitled, “Castle of Frankenstein.”

Ted: Actually, doesn’t this go back to company policy back in the days in the Forties when the Submariner and the Human Torch were fighting with each other?
STAN: Well, the only thing is . . then the Submariner wasn’t that much of a good guy. It was sort of his personality that he would not get along well. They were natural enemies. Fire and water.
Ted: Well, this was pretty unusual. I guess we can say that, in the comics, Marvel pioneered the whole idea of the anti-hero ... the superhero who isn’t really a hero.
STAN: Yes, I think you could say that because I think certainly Submariner is the first one that I . . . that I can remember. Bill Everett did the first SUBMARINER. . . he was sort of a hero-villain. He was really more hero than villain ... but he wasn’t 100% hero in the sense that the heroes are today.

Stan saw the anti-hero as part good guy part bad guy. Spider-Man, to Miss Kempton is an "absurd" hero, an anti- hero, as she states in her penultimate paragraph because unlike other superheroes, has never yet saved the human race from annihilation. His battles are unfailingly personal, hand-to-hand combats between’ a young man of precarious courage and the powerful social forces which threaten to destroy his hard-won security. He has no reassuring sense of fighting for a noble purpose, nor has he any outside support.”

Stan was learning that if you want the interview and the publicity, you had to go along with the idea of the interviewer.

Super Anti-Hero in Forest Hills


By Sally Kempton 

(The Village Voice, April 1, 1965)

Cult setting, a branch of the old science of trend spotting, became a national sport in the days of the old American Mercury, when H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan first, made I fashionable the cultivation of ‘- trivia. Mencken and Nathan probably invented Pop as well, but since people had other things to think about in those days, nobody else bothered to record it.

            Today, the press having finally I caught up with Menken and Nathan, both trivia-cultivation; and cult spotting has risen again to public prominence. Their latest manifestation is pop cult spotting, which began- in earnest in 1964 when Time magazine spotted the long-established Harvard Bogart Cult. Since then no trivia-cultist has been safe from the feature writer’s predatory eye.

Realizing that if Time was onto I a trend the trend must, be in its death-throes, other magazines rushed to spot newer pop-cults. The New Yorker came up with the Sunday: Afternoon-Reruns of the-Lone-Ranger-Cult. The Tribune noted that a small cordon of “stay-at-home intellectuals” Was’ watching daytime television. The Times began doing textual analyses of homosexual publications. At this point, the whole thing got out of hand and, in a desperate effort to stay e-step ahead of the in cognoscenti, the press turned to cult-creation. Defining pop as any object of ‘which a normal aesthetic judgment would disapprove’, the press took to, describing the 18th-century painter Fragonard as the object of a pop-cult. And, “Everybody on the social scene is working on pop movies,” crowed Eugenia Sheppard last October, in the Tribune. By “everybody”, she meant the girls in, Andy Warhol’s, “13 Most Beautiful Women” film.

            Master Stroke
But the Tribune made its masterstroke of pop-cult creation a few weeks later when it discovered the Golden Age of Comics and announced that “everybody” is buying old Batman and Superman magazines. Now the Paperbook Gallery has put a six-foot poster of the Phantom in its window, and the. Old Comics Cult is, presumably, fact. Two college girls, passing the window last week, looked reverently at the poster. “That’s the ultimate of pop-art.” One of the exclaimed and with these words delivered fashions’ coup de grace upon the literature of her childhood.

            Real pop art or not the Old Comics Book Cult has to be a fake. Reading old comics’ books is hard world; is it possible to enjoy Batman only when you continually remind yourself that you liked him when you were 12. As for new issues of Batman and Superman they are thin, even by comic book standards, Superman’s only concession to modernity has been a formation of a league of super-heroes, a dubious improvement at best and he is still as addicted to time machines as he was in 1940. Batman has not even his old childhood self. There is a real Comic Books Cult, but it has: nothing to do with the old heroes and it has claims on our attention other than those of nostalgia.

 Three Rules
I realize that in Making the above statement I risk casting My lot with Eugenia Sheppard and the Cult-Spotters Guild: Nonetheless, it must be said, for the Marvel Comics Cult is, under the existing Rules of Pop-Cult Spotting, ripe for exposure: It conforms to the first rule of pop (see above) and-also to rules-two (“Your cult must replace a previous, inferior cult”) and three (“No one else must have publicly spotted your cult”). Furthermore, it is a legitimate cult. College students interpret Marvel Comics. A Cornell physics Professor has pointed them out to his classes. Beatniks read them. Schoolgirls and housewives dream about the Marvel heroes. I myself was deeply in love with a Marvel hero-villain for two whole weeks. The fact is ‘that Marvel Comics are the first comic books in history in which a post-adolescent escapist --can get personally involved. For Marvel Comics are the first comic books to evoke, even metaphorically, the Real World.

  Stories Signed
The Marvel Comics Group has been in existence less than five years, and during that time their circulation has risen to about six million a year. As benefits pop literature in a pop-mad world, the Marvel books are highly self-conscious. Their covers announce adventures dedicated: “The New Breed of Comic Reader.” and two pages on the inside of each magazine are given over to advertisements for the Marvel fan club, the Merry Marvel Marching Society. All the stories are signed (“Earth-shaking Script by Stan Lee, Breath-taking’ illustrations by Jack Kirby; Epoch-making delineation by Chick Stone; and the, heroes, who range in style from traditional action types like Captain America to tragic, ambiguous figures like the Hulk, seem continually bemused by the way in which their apparently normal lives keep melting into fantasy. “This is so stupid it could only happen in a comic book” says the wise cracking monster, The Thing as he and his friend the Human Torch flee across a collapsing dam with a deadly iron ball in hot pursuit.

Recognizing that life has begun to imitate fantasy to such a degree that the public is most comfortable with fantasy which imitates life, the creators of Marvel comics have invented superheroes wish discernible personalities and relatively complex emotions. Further, they have given the heroes a recognizable geography.

Real Rulers
Thus, a Marvel Comics reader can get the impression that costumed superheroes form a sizable voting bloc in New York. In fact, one suspects that they are the real rulers of Manhattan. And they have left the citizens quite bewildered.

A New York cop, exercising his stop-and-frisk prerogative, never knows when he may accidentally rip the dark glasses from the powerful eyes of Cyclops. a benign super-mutant whose refractive ‘lenses hide an X-ray vision which will burn through the sidewalk if exposed; And, last year, New Yorkers awoke to find that their city had been take over by the undersea legions of Namor, the ruler of the sub-continent Atlantis. Washington was ‘afraid to bomb the invaders lest the bombs injure innocent citizens. ‘’Wait ‘til the Fantastic Four get here!” murmured a bystander as the submariners marched through Central Park. He was right: the Fantastic Four ultimately drove the undersea legions back into the Hudson.

            Local Landmarks
 There are approximately 15 superheroes in the Marvel Group and nearly all of them live in the New York area. Midtown Manhattan is full of their landmarks. On Madison Avenue the ‘ Baxter Building (“New York’s most” famous skyscraper”) houses the Fantastic Four and their various self-protective devices. Further down Madison Avenue is the flagpole from which Spider-Man swung the day he lost his spider powers. Somewhere in the east 60s the townhouse of playboy industrialist Tony Stark (alias Iron Man) is secret headquarters for the, Avengers, a group of traditional fighters for justice which includes the thunder god Thor. Thor in his human identity Ls the lame doctor Don’ Blake (whose cane ‘turns into a magic hammer when, he puts on his Thor costume) who works surgical miracles in an uptown hospital.

The newspaper run by J. Jonah Jamison, sworn enemy of costumed superheroes, is also in midtown. And “on the outskirts of ‘ Greenwich Village” Dr. Strange, the most bizarre super- hero of all, has his secret retreat. Strange is a master of occult knowledge and often walks around in ectoplasmic form; his creators imply that he lives in the Village because no one there is likely to become alarmed at being jostled by a wraith.

 Intellectual Elite
....In other respects besides geography, the Marvel world Mirrors the real world. Occupationally, of course, it has a heavy concentration of scientists, but then, these characters are supposed to be members of an intellectual elite and one cannot blame comic book writers for, idolizing physicists. Within this larger elite, however, there are subtle gradations. The aristocrats or the Marvel world are the Fantastic Four, four healthy, attractive, and socially prominent young people headed by physicist Reed Richards (who is dull but very dependable and has(great body-stretching powers) and his blonde’ debutante fiancĂ©e Sue Storm (invisibility powers) Sues outside interests are clothes. novel reading, and doing her nails. Her brother, Johnny Storm the Human Torch, races can and seems to have a bit of a death wish, but otherwise we cart take him for the Marvel prototype of a normal adolescent superhero. The Thing, otherwise Ben Grimm, is Reed’s old college roommate. The cosmic rays which gave the F. F. their powers turned Ben into a monster, and-he is a trifle bitter about the whole thing. Still, group loyalty usually prevails over his resentment, and on the whole, the Fantastic Four are quite aggressively well-adjusted. Everybody looks up to them.

Neurotic Superhero
The most popular Marvel hero, however, is much lower on the social scale. He is the maladjusted adolescent Spider-Man, the only overtly neurotic super hero I have ever come across. Spider-Man has a terrible identity problem marked inferiority complex, and a fear of women. He is anti-social, castration.-ridden, racked with Oedipal guilt, and accident-prone.

Spider-Man began life as Peter Parker, a brilliant science student at a Queens high school who lived with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben in a Forest Hills split-level. He had no friends and was plagued by a dominating mother -figure. Then he got bitten by a radioactive spider and took, on the spider’s climbing, jumping, and web-shooting powers. Being a child of the television age, he immediately went on the Ed Sullivan Show (for which he received a check which, having no Spider-Man identification, he was unable to cash). On his way out of the studio, he saw a burglar escaping but, having decided to use his power only for his own benefit, refused to capture him. When he went home, Spidey found his uncle murdered by the same burglar. So, in a fumbling attempt to expiate his guilt, Spider-Man decided to devote his talents to public service.
Cocky Manner

Ill luck has pursued him ever since. His shyness led hint to adopt a cocky manner which so alienated the other superheroes that none of them will have anything to do with him. He is always having trouble maintaining his secret identity. And his powers are so closely allied to his highly problematic virility that they often seem to be on the verge of deserting him. His castration complex is constantly tripping him up. Once, while on the trail of a gang, he was trapped by the sinister villainess Princess Python. “What am I going to do?” he murmured desperately as she caressed his neck. “I can’t hit a girl.” Her presence had evaporated his web-shooting apparatus.

Another time, while standing on a roof surrounded on all sides by phallic-looking skyscraper towers, he began thinking about his Uncle Ben and became so consumed with guilt that he lost his spider-powers entirely. As he crawled home, thinking that now he could devote himself entirely to his Art May (toward whom guilt had made him more sub-missive than ever), he received word that Aunt May had been kidnapped by the evil Doctor Octopus. Eventually the need to act brought back his powers for Spider-Man is nothing if not a functioning neurotic

Needed Care
Spider-Man’s most significant adventure took place when J. Jonah Jamison began writing articles about the hero’s mental, instability. A psychiatrist had told Jamison that Spidey needed immediate psychiatric care, and Spider-Man became so worried by this that he went to the doctor for help. The psychiatrist was finally unmasked as the villain Mysterio, who had been trying to flip Spidey out by pasting his office furniture onto the ceiling and convincing the tormented superhero, that he was hallucinating. So Spider-Man escaped with his interior defenses intact (a psychiatrist can be the functioning neurotic’s greatest enemy, after all) only to fall, in the next issue, into the arms of a robot controlled by J. Jonah.


Spider-Man, unlike other superheroes, has never yet saved the human race from annihilation. His battles are unfailingly personal, hand-to-hand combats between’ a young man of precarious courage and the powerful social forces which threaten to destroy his hard-won security. He has no reassuring sense of fighting for a noble purpose, nor has he any outside support. Even the public which cries up his victories invariably deserts him in the clinches. Spider-Man is, God save us, an absurd hero, fighting with purely defensive weapons against foes he cannot understand. And, in last month’s issue, he I was finally sabotaged at home: Aunt May burned his Spider-Man costume so that he is now unable to venture out of doors.

How can a character as hopelessly healthy as Superman compete with this living symbol of the modern dilemma, this neurotic’s neurotic, Spider-Man, the super-anti-hero of our time.