At this point in Spider-Man’s first ongoing series, he’s still setting up what will be his status quo for a very long time, but it did strike me as odd that his two main opponents in this issue appear to be senior citizens.
Issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #2, May 1963
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko
The Plot: Spider-Man takes on the threat of the Vulture and the Tinkerer in these two stories.
Commentary: To start, let’s just say for the sake of honesty that neither the Vulture nor the Tinkerer get much in the way of a backstory here, and it is even implied the Tinkerer isn’t even human. I might have to ask Jimmy Impossible about the Tinkerer sometime because to my knowledge he’s just some guy who makes gadgets and the like for supervillains but was still basically human. I’m not even sure he’s ever even had much of a backstory beyond what I just wrote. In fact, this second, shorter story probably came from the mind of Stan Lee while the longer one with the Vulture may have had more input from Steve Ditko.
I bring that up because, as pointed out on the YouTube channel NerdSync, Spider-Man was kind of a jerk when Ditko was the leading creative mind behind him while Lee’s stories dealt more with alien invasions and things like that. That came as a result of Ditko’s preference for Objectivism and its tenets for “rational selfishness”. Ditko’s Spidey, according to the linked video, was inclined to look out for number one and down his nose at others, and there’s definitely a strong sense of that with the Vulture story. Here is where Peter Parker first got the idea to sell photos he took as Spider-Man to Spider-Man-hating newspaper published J Jonah Jameson. There’s no sense here that Peter is doing that strictly because as a teenager he really doesn’t have a lot of options. He can’t make money as Spider-Man, but he can make money off people’s desire to see more of Spider-Man. Sure, selling photos of Spider-Man’s actions can get him some quick cash from the likes of J. Jonah Jameson makes a lot of sense. But Peter seems outright gleeful about taking Jameson’s money here. Like, he knows he’s being sneaky and perhaps dishonest about the whole thing, and he just plain doesn’t really care. Sure, Peter has had many moments where he takes Jameson’s money over the years, but the way he decides to go into it sure makes him seem a lot more shifty than clever.
As it is, the Tinkerer story, shorter as it is, wasn’t much of a story. Some aliens and the Tinkerer are bugging radios that the Tinkerer repairs for important people for a mere ten cents, something that wasn’t a lot of money even in 1963, but Peter uses his spider-sense to look into it because the spider-sense was an all-purpose thing beyond just something Peter felt whenever he was in danger. Peter defeats the aliens, and he stands there in the end with a rubber mask of the Tinkerer’s face in his hand.
But then there’s the Vulture story, the first time Spider-Man took on a villain with what appears to be actual superpowers. The Chameleon from the first issue was more of a master of disguise wearing masks than anything else. Instead, here’s a guy who could fly very fast and…that was about it really. No real backstory or real name is given to the Vulture. He just wants to prove his superiority to, oh, everybody. Heck, Peter doesn’t even necessarily set out to fight him right away, only really looking to do something when he sees getting photos of the flying thief as a means to make money. That the Vulture then tries to kill him may remind Peter why he has to deal with the guy, or it could just make it personal. Given how much Peter was gleefully taking Jameson’s money, I could honestly see it going either way.
That didn’t mean I didn’t love the issue. Spider-Man issues at this early stage, for me, are just charming and fun. I just read these stories a bit more critically than I did many years ago the first time I read these early issues.