The search for the true #0 continues…
[covering Amazing Spider-man #133-137. Which all have awesome Ross Ardru art. I don’t know why this guy never got more fame. The way he arranges his panels without borders reminds me of a Gene Colan, and the sleekness and blankness of his linework lends itself to humor really well. The man really accomplishes some Gene Colan level page composition almost every issue here. And, because the colorist often had little interaction with the penciller and inking team, the best way to read these comics is definitely in the Black and White Essentials reprints. It’s how the Brits fist read American comics, too. Can you believe comics were still 12 pence in the mid seventies in Britain!? And they were at least 48 pages and oversized while reprinting marvel classics with a brand new feature, most often Captain Britain!?!?!
ah, but then you see what color can mean to some things…]
Reading these classic Green Goblins have really got me thinking about what makes Spider-man comics tick. I’ve been an obsessive follower of the character ever since I picked up the Spectacular Spider-man comics with Tombstone that Steven Grant did as a kid, and I’m hard pressed to explain it. As often as I read a stupid batch of comics, I find myself reaching for more, turning the next page.
It certainly isn’t because the comics are particularly unpredictable. Everything in these comics comes with advance warning. Harry Osborn watches Peter obsessively and eventually he sees Spider-man leave his roommate’s window, so he retaliates after page and page depict his rage filled monologues against Spider-man. Mary Jane glides into Peter’s life so casually, and so gradually, that she shifts from being a sympathetic friend to someone afraid to reveal to Harry that she’s started dating Peter, and all without a big kiss moment where their love is finally revealed.
I could go on about the lack of danger in these pages, but it’s fairly clear, and even remarked upon by Peter Parker as he fights Harry Osborn as The Green Goblin. His life is never in real risk. We’ve seen Norman, a professional who intimately knows his equipment, put Peter’s life in so much danger that he’s been able to get out of, and an amateurish and rage blinded Harry in a new costume is not going to be a difficult battle.
Not even his word is as credible as Norman Osborn’s, and his master stroke of vengeance becomes the reason for his incarceration at a mental asylum.
We even get Peter checking early on in an issue and noticing that he’s about to run out of web fluid, so there is no shock and awe when he has to flee a battle scene to get more fluid.
Everything, more or less, feels like it just happens. It’s a rare feeling in Marvel comics built to have a stunning cliffhanger at the end of each 22 page story, to have characters say a battle will not be that tough, and to have the rest of the comic bear that out, that’s a completely new way to write a superhero comic. It’s about the relationships that form, and that’s where the suspense rests.
And it works so well. Because this isn’t a comic about the dangers placed on Peter’s life. It’s a comic about what powers and responsibility do to a well intentioned man’s life, how putting on the costume and having huge muscles must do to a man. The reader gets to see his sense of responsibility rule his life, but also how that sense of responsibility attracts friends and lovers. Mary Jane, someone who self admittedly has to have a party going on and kicks Peter out when he’s being a bummer late at night, eventually finds herself attracted to the dull man who just thinks about his duties all the time. With great power comes great responsibility, which in turn brings greater power and trust with other people.
and it also breeds jealousy.
This is the setting stage for the inevitable Harry Osborn confrontation. There is just no way around it: Harry’s been in his room doing drugs and looking at The Green Goblin costume he pulled off of his father’s dead body, and he’s seen Spider-man leave Peter Parker’s window. Conway brilliantly places the moment, too. When Peter and Mary Jane decide to try spending the “quiet” part of their afternoon at Harry and Peter’s apartment despite any ire Harry might raise, the two unlock the door to the apartment and trigger a bomb that would be the natural fantasy of anyone whose roommate started dating his girlfriend when they had never officially broken up.
Mary Jane’s thrown into a coma, and her entire family sees Peter rush to her side as her partner and his relationship with her is more or less assured.
Not before Peter looks at her resting in the hospital bed, and seeing Gwen in her face. Not before her fall from the Vulture’s arms, and Peter thinks of how Gwen fell in thought balloons and he proceeds to rescue her with a different method than the neck snapping web shot.
As much as this saga is about how science can copy someone, it’s also about how we are all possessed by past, and how we slide our acquaintances into the people of our past that we miss. Harry no longer had his father to hate for his overly plush life where nothing can go wrong and he can’t ever spend time with his father, much less impress him, so he turns to hating Peter for killing his father that he always hated for being distant.
The comics encourage us to question our motivations instead of blindly follow the clones our emotions build within other people. We see The Punisher for the second time, and he finally starts thinking for himself. Instead of whining that he couldn’t kill Spider-man with his own hands, we have him actually assessing the situation and realizing Spider-man is one of the good guys. He does not see someone as a clone of something else, and instead recognizes that although Spider-man is fighting him he does not do so out of a criminal’s fear. This gives him the benefit of his aid, and leads to his life to being saved.
We will see the dangers of cloning through more than Harry’s epic, however. We haven’t even gotten to the real clones, yet!! But this is an epic, y’awll, and it has so much prologue. All will be revealed later, however, when this series reveals its most revelatory revelation!!!! Be sure to not miss it, false disbeliever!!