The Amazing Spider-Man #2

Posted by Jon Smith 09 July 2015


THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #2 (May 1963) 
'Duel to the Death with the Vulture!' and  
'The Uncanny Threat of the Terrible Tinkerer!
Written and Edited by Stan Lee 
Pencils and Inks by Steve Ditko 
Cover Art by Steve Ditko

Introduction: 
So with his first proper villain nabbed and bagged and the Marvel Universe (in its infantile state here) growing aware, Spider-Man is all set for his next foe and really, his first truly powerful one. Now remember this is still a two for the price of one book at this point so we’re also in for the ‘treat’ of that early Stan Lee trope of putting his heroes against…aliens. Maybe we should just get to it?

Plot:   
'Duel to the Death with the Vulture!’ 
A shadow stalks the skies of New York City as we’re informed that the citizens of the city are in constant fear of attack from the Vulture! An elderly man, dressed like a bright green bird of prey, he has somehow developed the capacity to fly and he’s using his power to steal jewels, bags of cash and generally wreaking a reign of terror. Naturally the public wants to know more about him and media mogul J. Jonah Jameson is hot on the case. But no one can get close enough to photograph the fiend. This is where we shift our narrative to the still broke Peter Parker who figures that with his powers he probably could get close enough to snap photos worth big bucks. So Peter goes to snap some photos dressed as Spider-Man.

Unaware, the Vulture is in the midst of a plot of his own, delivering a threat concerning a shipment of highly guarded diamonds, saying he’ll be stealing them from under the NYPD’s noses. Realising he’s being watched, the Vulture doubles back and displays great cunning and surprising speed, circling around to take down the inexperienced youth. He even traps him in a water tower hoping to suffocate him. Naturally Spidey frees himself, using his brains alongside his brawn, but it’s too late, the old man has escaped. Retreating home, Peter is in a surprisingly upbeat mood – he thinks he’s figured out just what it is that gives the Vulture his power of flight and fiddles with a small gizmo. He also managed to get a few good photos of his nemesis, and so takes them to Jonah. The tobacco loving editor is delighted so much so that he even allows Peter to be printed anonymously and won’t ask how he got the photos.

Meanwhile the Vulture puts his plan into action, leaping out of a sewer to nab the diamonds and retreat from whence he came. After resurfacing, the Vulture has the most unfortuitous luck: yet again bumping into Spider-Man who is scouring the area for his foe. Thinking he’s got the youngster dead-to-rites, the Vulture attempts the same trick as before, circling round to take Spidey from behind. This time though, Spider-Man’s ready and the Vulture’s over confidence costs him. Getting a grip of the big nosed bad guy’s foot, Spidey activates a gizmo, the same one he’d been working on earlier, and the Vulture begins to plummet. 

The Vulture spirals down into the arms of the law while Peter captures a few more photos and reveals that the gizmo disrupted the magnetic power the Vulture used to keep himself in the air. Jonah again pays the big bucks and Peter is able to pay Aunt May’s bills while the Vulture vows revenge in what is our first true happy ending. 

'The Uncanny Threat of the Terrible Tinkerer!'
We begin this second tale with Peter being greeted by his teacher Mr. Warren. Warren introduces Parker to Professor Cobbwell who is in need of an assistant over the weekend to help him with his research and Warren has recommended Peter for the job. Delighted Parker accepts, but Cobbwell needs a favour and asks Peter to pick up an old radio he’s left at a local repair shop. The shop is run by someone who ‘looks like a character straight out of Grimm’s Fairy Tales!’ It’s the Tinkerer and he enters into the bowels of the building where we quickly realise something sinister is afoot. It turns out he’s in league with…aliens! They have hatched a diabolical plan of some sorts but before we discover much, the Tinkerer returns to give Peter the radio.

Throughout the morning Peter’s Spider-Sense is going wild. The Tinkerer, the radio, it all seems to be setting it off. So when Cobbwell takes a lunch break, Spider-Man investigates. Upon returning to the Tinkerer’s lair, his Spider-Sense goes ballistic. Spidey discovers that the Tinkerer and the aliens are spying on their customers, learning about human weaknesses’ and the like. So the web-slinger springs into action, overpowering the aliens easily, but succumbing to a blast from the Tinkerer’s laser gun. Surprised that Spidey is still alive, they lock him into a glass cage until they can figure out what to do with this meddlesome arachnid. Using pinpoint accuracy in combination with his webbing, Spider-Man frees himself. The fight resumes and a fire breaks out.

The aliens make a hasty exit while Spidey goes after the Tinkerer who also manages to get away after the fire becomes too powerful even for our super powered hero. Spotted leaving the scene, locals deduce Spider-Man must have started the fire. A supposed alien aircraft leaves with the aliens stating they’ll never return and Dr. Cobbwell returns to his lab, telling Peter of a strange alien craft in the sky. Young Mr. Parker looks on as Cobbwell rambles, holding a rubber mask of the Tinkerer’s face, believing that he too could be an alien.

Review:
Last time around my major complaint was that everything was very by the numbers – the plot unfolded in a plodding and obvious manner and the threat never seemed all that real. The same can be said of this issue, but things have very much improved. First off the Vulture is far more of a threat here than the Chameleon was. He has a unique ability which allows him to be able to take the fight to Spider-Man and doesn’t simply run away. Legendary Spider-writer Roger Stern noted that the Vulture was always his favourite of the Spider-Man rogue’s gallery because it was age and experience versus youth and exuberance thus the pair were natural foils to one another.

This is very much at the forefront of this story with Lee writing the villain with a great deal of cunning and a willingness to break the rules that makes you want to boo him, even if it is in the most pantomime way. He even beats Spidey in their first encounter and is the first villain to properly try and kill the wallcrawler. I’ve always been fond of the design for the character too: Ditko’s eccentric style works perfectly here with the harsh lines on the main body-suit, jagged edges of the Vulture’s wings, the frilly neck and of course that bald head and hooked nose. On paper the character sounds silly, but in practise he’s far more threatening than you would suppose and it works very, very well. This is a character you want to hate and he has the resume to back it up as seen in this issue.

The Tinkerer was clearly designed in a similar manner. He too is a bald, disturbingly ugly foe. His physical characteristics are emphasised and warped so much that he’s practically a caricature and we shouldn’t be at all surprised by that last page ‘revelation’ when it comes. He also gains credibility by nailing Spider-Man in the back with that death ray and by having the ingenuity to be able to build such marvellous machines of espionage and the like. However he falls short of the mark as a foe for three primary reasons: the Vulture can fight and go toe-to-toe with Spider-Man while the Tinkerer can’t (much like the Chameleon last issue), his physical appearance is so weird that its laughable and thus off putting and there’s the whole alien thing.

Even three issues in, we know where Spider-Man should probably fit into the world and involved with space is not there. The Incredible Hulk’s second issue did a similar thing and while it was laughable then, you can see the potential for the Hulk in space, a concept that has been realised time and time again since. Spidey just doesn’t fit in with the space crowd, though he has had one or two exceptions to this rule. The plot for this second story is so ridiculous and over-the-top that we know not to take it all that seriously, but that of course renders it very tame, continuing the problems from last issue. Still, the Vulture is a villain who manages to bring in action and excitement and so this one’s more of a treat than last month.

On a final note, the supporting cast is fleshed out more this month. Jonah is using NOW Magazine alongside the Daily Bugle to spout his anti-Spider-Man propaganda and now interacts with Peter Parker, giving us the all-time great irony of the Spider-Verse: Peter has been selling Jonah photos of himself the entire time. Aunt May no longer has debt hanging over her head and is free to continue serving wheatcakes (yummy) to her favourite nephew. The most important thing though is Peter’s beginning to be integrated with the Flash Thompson/Liz Allen crew. 

Briefly in the Vulture story he joins up with them to see if the Vulture’s heist will indeed take place. Peter has to slink away to get changed into Spider-Man and he’s accused of being a coward, but it’s nowhere near as bad as before.  He’s finally starting to become integrated in the school’s social hierarchy. In turn Flash’s bullying remains relentless, but Peter’s close to having all he can stand and it’s adding another wrinkle to Peter Parker’s character. Again we feel like this is a fully formed world we are peering into.


Next Time:
As the two part serials come to a close, the rogue’s gallery gets its biggest addition yet as Spider-Man spends his first full length epic going to war with the debuting Otto Octavius, better known as Dr. Octopus! It’s gonna’ be a good un’! Until then…

Thanks for reading!

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