We’ve had the Fantastic Four, then the Incredible Hulk. In our last retrospective, we saw Thor introduced, and not it is time for the most famous of all the Marvel superheroes, the Amazing Spider-Man. As with Thor, Spider-Man makes his introduction in an anthology title, Amazing Fantasy.
The story starts with a group of teenagers talking about an upcoming dance. They need one more gut for the dance, and one of them suggests Peter Parker. The suggestion is laughed at, all within earshot of Peter in the background.
We learn that Peter lives with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May, and they clearly love him very much. Peter is popular at school, but not with his fellow students. Instead, he is thought fondly of by the teachers at Midtown High. Chief amongst the students who tease Peter is Flash Thompson.
Peter notices that there is a new exhibit that evening at the Science Hall and ask his classmates if they would like to go along. They again laugh at him and drive off. Unperturbed, Peter attends the exhibit. He becomes so engrossed in the exhibit that he does not notice a spider land on him. Unknown to Peter, the spider has absorbed a great amount of radioactivity, and Peter certainly notices when the spider bites him. Peter begins to feel strange and leaves the exhibit.
Peter starts to feel strange on his way home, as if his whole body is charged with energy. He is lost in his own thoughts when a car nearly runs him over. He instinctively jumps out of the way, and manages to stick to the wall.
To his amazement, Peter is able to climb the wall, and back down a cable again. Gliding like a spider on a web. Peter realises that the spider must have caused this. Peter then notices a sign for a local wrestling contest.
TO THE MAN WHO CAN STAY IN THE RING THREE MINUTES WITH
Peter is keen to test out his powers more and signs up for the contest, albeit in disguise, with a mask over his head. Peter manages to avoid Crusher Hogan in the ring, and then, to everyone’s amazement, picks up the enormous wrestler and throws him back to the ground. The crowd lap it up and the organiser of the contest is keen to sign up Peter for more bouts. Peter agrees and sets about making a costume when he gets home. That of a spider.
But it’s not just a costume that Peter is working on. He is still the intellectual student from before the spider bite, and decides to use his knowledge to design some web-shooters. Al that’s left is a name, Spider-Man!
The webbing fired from the shooters sticks to walls and is as strong as cement, easily able to hold his weight.
The Spider-Man becomes a sensation, but Peter is keen to avoid the attention. Backstage, he notices a thief running past him, chased by a police officer. The officer asks for help, but Peter is through with being told what to do. He lets the thief escape.
Back home, Peter’s uncle and aunt have a surprise gift for him, a telescope. Peter is so happy and promises to himself to make sure they are always happy. But he couldn’t care less about the rest of the world.
Meanwhile, the Spider-Man continues to generate attention and coverage. One evening, on his way home, Peter notices a police car outside his home. He rushes back, to be told that his Uncle Ben has been shot. Distraught, Peter puts on his costume and goes out to find his uncle’s murderer. He races to the abandoned warehouse that the officer mentioned the suspect was hiding, and manages to capture him. It then suddenly dawns on him, the murderer is the same thief he let pass him by at the wrestling arena.
Peter leaves the murderer tied up in webbing for the police to find, whilst he goes off to deal with his guilt. Peter then realises that, “with great power there must also come — great responsibility!”
And so, a legend is born.
The other stories in this issue (not covered here) are: The Bell Ringer, Man in the Mummy Case and There are Martians Among Us.
A brief but poignant introduction to the most recogniseable Marvel superhero. All the character beats are there from the downtrodden student, the loving uncle and aunt, the spider powers and lastly and perhaps most importantly, the guilt. And all in just 12 pages!
From a powers perspective, we see Peter develop wall-crawling and create his own web-shooters.
Perhaps most surprising of all, is the lack of page time given to Aunt May and Uncle Ben.
Writer – Stan Lee
Artist – Jack Kirby
Cover date – August 1962
Financial and further reading
Cover price – 12c
At the time of publishing, the most expensive listing for Amazing Fantasy 15 on eBay is $27, 995. This is for a restored version.
This issue can be read digitally at Marvel here, and in hardcopy in Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man volume 1 (collecting Amazing Fantasy 15 and Amazing Spider-Man 1-10), available from Amazon here.
Star Wars (1977) 2
Fantastic Four 6
The Incredible Hulk 3
Journey into Mystery 84