Sunday, December 1, 2013

Spider Monday - Amazing Spider-Man #6

Time for yet another Amazing Spider-Man review! Welcome back, everyone. Today, we're taking a look at Amazing Spider-Man #6, which is the first appearance of The Lizard! This issue also takes us out of New York for the first time, letting Peter find his way to the generic Florida Everglades in pursuit of a terrifying menace that only he can stop because, uhm, I'm pretty sure he's the only one that really cares or believes it.

Let's dig into the issue itself, once again brought to us by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko! With only 21 pages of art, it's once again amazing just how much story they manage to pack into it! We're introduced to the menace of the Lizard on the very first page, and in just three panels we learn a lot. First, we learn that he is in the Everglades, and considers the swamp to be his. He can walk and talk, he's bullet proof, and he is strong enough to snap a tree in two. Let me tell you, there is no decompression here! From there, it cuts to Spider-Man out and out webbing an issue of the Daily Bugle to read. In a wonderful little twist, he even webs a quarter down to pay for it! Spider-Man doesn't steal, and neither should you, kids! There, on the front page, is a headline reading that the Bugle is challenging Spider-Man to defeat the Lizard. I like that the Daily Bugle doesn't doubt the existence of a man-sized Lizard in purple pants, and that they don't consider going to the Fantastic Four to get it taken care of. Nope, the best way to take care of a threat like this is to double dog dare Spider-Man! Sad thing is... it works.

It occurs to Peter that he doesn't really have the money for air fare to Florida, so he hits up J. Jonah Jameson, saying that he'll cover the story if Jameson would send him down there. Here, Jameson makes it clear that the headline was just to sell papers and he's not even sure that the Lizard exists. So instead of a gullible newspaper, we have a horribly misleading one. Well, I feel better about that! Whew. He takes a moment to flirt with Liz, who is definitely open to "suggestions" from Peter, and decides to get the most information on lizards that he can, which leads him to the New York Natural History Museum to study dinosaurs. Of course, he also could have used the dinosaur exhibit to research for the Vulture, but no need to get into that here.

The museum teaches him that dinosaurs were bullet proof and stupid, which is something he surely couldn't have figured out on his own. It does give him a chance to have his Spider-Sense tingle, letting him foil a robbery taking place in the middle of the day in a packed museum. While Spider-Man gets dressed, the gunmen manage to pull a gun on the museum guard and grab Liz as a hostage. Oh, right. I think I forgot to mention that Flash Thompson and Liz are at the museum, because of course they are. He knocks out the crooks with an easy punch, saves Liz, and heads on his way, changing back into Peter in time to hear a radio report making fun of Spider-Man for not going after the Lizard.

Eager to salvage his name, Spider-Man goes off to the Daily Bugle and.. sigh.. shines his Spider-Light on Jameson's desk. I've made it clear before, but I truly hate the Spider-Light. It's just idiotic. He webs up Jonah's intercom, then Jonah himself, leaving him dangling from the ceiling. He tells Jameson that he is going to take down the Lizard, and he better send a photographer to cover the story *wink wink*. Jameson crashes back down to the ground as the webbing evaporates, and Peter changes clothes and gets back to the Bugle just in time to be told that he and Jameson are going to the Everglades. A twist! How will he ever change to Spider-Man with Jameson around? Well, without permission from his Evil Overlord Aunt May, he'll never get to find out.

At first, she refuses to let him go, stating that it would be too dangerous with a giant man-sized lizard running around. She lives for crushing his hopes and dreams. Once she discovers that Jameson is going, however, she immediately buckles and lets Peter go on his trip. She really thinks highly of him, too. I wonder if maybe J. Jonah and Aunt May aren't having a few "private meetings" of their own!  Anyway, Peter grabs some research and sees a newspaper talking about Dr. Connors, a reptile expert living near the Everglades and figures this is the best place to start. He makes an excuse about getting some film, and then changes into Spider-Man so that he can fight the.. er.. uhm, actually, he changed just so he could go talk to Dr. Connors. That's a little odd, huh?

The Lizard sees him coming and ambushes him as he walks through the swamp, leading to their first tango. Spider-Man manages to avoid getting drowned,  and Lizard threatens to doom Spider-Man. Even Spidey has to laugh at that threat, which is a great quip. He then grabs onto the Lizard's tail, thinking that it would be a good idea, which it turns out isn't so much. He gets flung across the swamp half a mile and manages to  break his fall with a tree, handily landing right next to Dr. Connors' house.
He comes across a crying woman, who turns out to be the wife of Dr. Connors. She explains that her husband, who occasionally looks a lot like J.F.K., was trying to regrow his arm with an experimental serum, and decides that using if on himself is a great idea, because you know.. comic book science. He does grow the arm back, but then continues to change and becomes a full-grown lizard, but with Dr. Connors' mind. So, uhm, I guess his rampaging and terrorizing the citizens of Florida was just 'roid rage? Who knows. He terrifies his son, and Spider-Man swoops in, saving son Billy from a snake and getting into a second tussle with the Lizard. When the wife speaks, Lizard runs off leaving the family behind.

As a high school science student, he decides to do what a world-renowned chemist couldn't and devise an antidote in about five minutes, determining that it was done correctly since the color changed. Yeah, okay. Anyway, the Lizard shows back up again and picks another fight with Spider-Man. Lizard taunts Spidey that he is stronger and better, and bats around Spider-Man for a bit. He decides that he has to feed his serum to other lizards, crocodiles, and alligators. I guess, uhm, he wants to make them more lizardy? Seems like that would be more effective on humans, but what do I know? Either way, SpiderMan takes exception to the plan and goes after the Lizard, building some spider-web swamp shoes and making his way through the swamp. It's.. a really unique use of webbing. He then ends up at a Spanish fort and climbs up, ready to stop the Lizard.

Unfortunately, the pillar that Spidey is crawling on crumbles, attracting Lizard's attention, who then sics his alligators on him.  Why do they obey him? Uhm, comic books. He and the Lizard then tussle a third time, in several pages of really awesome fight panels. I mean this, folks. There is a reason why artists today are still influenced by how Ditko drew Spider-Man fighting. It's really dynamic and exciting. At the last moment of the fight, when all seems lost, Lizard managed to turn back into a grinning J.F.K. again. Spider-Man webs down the alligators and the now one-armed doctor gets reunited with his wife and sleeping son.

This just leaves Jameson to be taken care of. Peter Parker handles that easily enough, showing pictures that he took of the Lizard, and suddenly Jameson forgets all about Peter disappearing for 24 hours. Good to see that Evil Overlord May's faith in Jameson was well placed. Unfortunately, Jameson sees the pictures and decides there is no such thing as a giant lizard and tears up the photos he was willing to fly down the East Coast to get pictures of. That's some logic right there! 

Pete heads home and relaxes on their bright yellow easy chair, only to have Evil Overlord May tell him that he needs to get up and get the chores done. Now, that's some sympathy right there! Peter says he will after calling up Betty for a date. Realizing that she was working late, he instead calls up Liz for a date. Wow, he's a playah. Just hate the game, guys. Liz shoots him down, saying she is waiting for Spider-Man to call, while Jameson gets a letter in the mail from Spider-Man taunting him. With the story done, the last panel is a teaser for the next issue, featuring the return of the Vulture! Swoon!

That ends the sixth issue of Spider-Man and the character is still going strong. At this point, Lee and Ditko know that they have a hit, and are starting to build their stable of characters rather than just introducing something new every time. That's not to say that there still aren't many ideas that Stan Lee and Ditko will bring to life, but returning villains are going to become more common. Still, this is a good introduction of the Lizard, who I suspect we might be hearing from again in the future. Having recently made his first big screen appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man, it's interesting to see the origin and just how much that movie actually pulled from the origin story here. I loved this issue, and we're back to five spiders on this one.


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