I actually own an original copy of this issue. A nice little story goes along with that too. A few years ago, I received a copy of none other than The Amazing Spider-Man #36 and #156. Both were in great condition. I mean slightly off white pages, minor spider cracks, no tears or other signs of damage. I was in comic book heaven, let me tell you.I was looking up prices, checking the books over and over to make sure they were real of course, and to just marvel at them. Well, I also have this dog. He’s the coolest Rat Terrier ever and he goes by the name of Sammie. Great dog. Loves to play, jump. But he also loves comic books. One day as I was heading off to work, I took one more look at my new gems and set them down on my desk. Sammie was only 6 months old at the time so I didn’t figure he could jump or climb that high to get them. Off to work I go and 8 hours later I return to find none other than Sammie laying on my bed with my two comics next to him. He had eaten the entire corner out of issue 156, and with #36, the lower left corner and upper right corners are gone. It was a sad day for comics I can assure you. All of that leads to me actually being able to read it and review it. So I guess we can thank Sammie for that at least.
Comics were written a whole lot differently back in the 60’s than they are today. Whereas now we have hugely complex storylines and majorly in-depth character development, back then – at least it feels this way to me – it was just a whole lot simpler. Quick origin story for the bad guy, crime is committed, good guy comes in and the battle ensues. Good guy wins, bad guy vows revenge, and then we anxiously await the next issue. Bada-bing, bada-boom! So is the case with this issue.
It all starts with Norton G. Fester, a scientist who is out on a hike in the mountains. Here he discovers a fallen meteor which he can now use to prove his theory that meteors do in fact hold living matter. But alas, every fellow scientist or bank he goes to will not lend him the money he needs to study the space rock. Norton takes it on himself to study the rock using the tools he has. As he begins to crack the meteor a gas is released which in turn grants him powers. With his new found powers, Norton Fester can now get all the money he needs by stealing it. The world will be his! But not if Spidey has anything to say about it!
And so begins the story of The Looter. Let me just dive right into the writing of the great Stan Lee. I love the way Stan writes a story. He’s very dramatic, very excited. He doesn’t have to say much to get his point across, escpecially in an origin. Two and a half pages – with the way Stan writes – is all that is really needed to explain the mentality of Norton G. Fester, his motives, and how he gains his powers. Granted, there are a fair number of panels on each page, but still it’s clever. I also enjoyed seeing a different side to the Gwen Stacy I’ve known for so long. Here she’s written as a snob who definitely is not the love of Peter’s life. Instead, she’s very much convinced he’s a coward. I loved this! Another point in this book’s favour is that it gave me a rare glimpse into the past and put me right in the mindset of a teenager eagerly reading each page to see just what was going to happen next. Stan is exceptional at what he does, and this issue is a prime example of that.
As for the art, that also was another joy for me. Just being able to gaze upon what most of today’s artist claim as inspiration was enough for me. Steve Ditko is an amazing artist! Now, I must say that I didn’t really care for the way he drew people’s faces. It seems like they were scrunched up or squished. Aside from that, when he drew Spider-Man and the Looter trading fists at the Space Exhibit or high above the buildings of New York for the epic final battle, that scene is exhilarating! I could feel the action exuding from the panels, and Stan Lee’s dynamic words to accompany the art made it all the more exciting. Ditko’s Spider-Man is one of my favorites and it felt very good to look at it, not just in a reprint, but in the actual issue it was made for.
With an issue like this, yes it’s going to be cheesy in comparison to what today’s comics are, but this is a classic. This is an issue that is a part of history. When these heroes were really young , still trying to discover just who and what they were in a brand new world for us to discover right along with them. Yeah, it may not be flashy or glittery but it helped build the rich back story for these characters. So much so that it was a significant part of a future issue for Spider-Man. In Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #5, the story of Spider-Man’s battle with the Looter is an integral part of the storyline. For me, it was great to see that that issue meant enough to Peter David to craft it into his storyline decades later.
I will always cherish my copy of this issue. It was a gift, it is currently the oldest issue in my collection, and yes, it reminds me to never leave my comics where my dog can get them. It would have been worth a lot of money if it hadn’t been ruined. But now, I think it’s gained more worth to me as something of sentiment. In fact, I think I’m going to go read it again. See you next week!
Parental Concern: Yellow