Alright, here we go. Another classic issue of The Amazing Spider-Man with yet another classic foe from the Lee and Ditko years! Who is it this time?
Who the hell is the Living Brain?
Issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #8, January 1964
Writer: Stan Lee
Artists: Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby
The Plot: Spidey swings into action when the robotic Living Brain goes on a rampage in his school, and then later in a back-up, he has a fight with the Human Torch for some reason.
Commentary: Credit where it’s due: Peter has been saying for a few issues now how he’d like to rip Flash Thompson apart, and he finally got his chance in this issue. There’s a computer demonstration in his science class of the “Living Brain,” some sort of robot that learns through experience, and the class decides to ask the machine who Spider-Man really is. These kids know quite a bit about Spidey’s height and weight from the looks of things, but to preserve his secret identity, Peter has to think fast. Fortunately, being entrusted with the answer in a code that will need to be deciphered later might work if Flash Thompson didn’t insist on holding onto the papers himself. That leads to…a boxing match, where even pulling his punches and doing the bare minimum knocks Flash out of the ring without too much trouble.
Is that fair?
Look, I said before Peter is more of a jerk in the Ditko era, and that holds. I can’t imagine a later Peter Parker doing something like this, even if Flash Thompson of all people deserves it. Granted, the story ends with Peter suggesting Flash is Spider-Man since he also fits the general description. But I suppose Peter’s classmates should have maybe thought twice when they saw Peter in his boxing trunks because he probably has some pretty well-defined musculature for a skinny nerd.
As for the Living Brain…two crooks try to program it to commit crimes and it goes on a rampage. Spider-Man eventually stops it, and the crooks literally trip over Flash not long after he wakes up in the locker room after Peter (accidentally) knocked him out. As opponents go, the Living Brain–who, as a computer, probably isn’t alive, and all brains in working people are living, but never mind–isn’t a particularly interesting foe. He’s a blocky, ridiculous-looking robot that I would think Peter should have beaten far easier than he did. I’ll just chalk it up to Peter being new at the whole superhero thing.
But then there was a back-up story drawn by Jack Kirby. In it, Peter gets into a fight with the Human Torch because…he thinks the Torch’s girlfriend would prefer Spider-Man and crashes a party to say so? Ignoring how outclassed the Torch made Spidey look, Spider-Man is in the wrong here, isn’t he? He crashes a party and acts like a jerk. When the rest of the FF show up, he tosses Mr. Fantastic aside when all Reed did was offer him a helping hand up, and then he makes the Thing look silly. It actually came down to the Invisible Girl to subdue him, and then…well, he just swings off.
Yeah, this issue was kinda just there. It still has a lot of the charm of an issue from this era, but the Living Brain doesn’t have a personality and the FF fight made Peter look like a jerk.