September 30, 2022

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Noteworthy Issues: The Amazing Spider-Man #21 (February, 1965)

Spider-Man takes on the Beetle! Or the Human Torch! Or both!

Alright!  Here we go!  Another old Spider-Man foe’s first appearance, and it’s the Beetle…wait, this isn’t his first appearance?  And he was originally a Human Torch foe?

Well, it takes all types.

Issue:  The Amazing Spider-Man #21, February 1965

Writer:  Stan Lee

Artist:  Steve Ditko

The Plot:  Spider-Man and the Beetle both decide to make a play for the Human Torch’s girlfriend.

Commentary:  Since the Beetle first appeared in a Torch story, I have no idea if Ditko was the first to design the character or not.  I will say those giant fingers look like something that would make gripping things rather difficult.  But then again, it does appear that in the Marvel Universe, committing costumed crime only gets you a sentence of a couple months in jail, and you have to get all of your super-equipment back upon release.  All that means is Abner “the Beetle” Jenkins was maybe inconvenienced for a little while, and now he can go right back to causing problems for the Human Torch.

However, this is still Spider-Man’s book, so it comes to pass that the Torch’s girlfriend Doris…well, there’s a name you don’t see much anymore…is tired of his showboating ways and says she will dump his superpowered ass unless he can go 24 hours without flaming on.  Jenkins decides Doris is Johnny’s weak point, and after Peter Parker finds and returns Doris’s wallet, she chats with the young man and finds him nice and sweet and everything Johnny Storm isn’t.

That leads to a confrontation where the Torch tells Peter to stay away from his girl.  Peter gets in his face because Peter is kind of a jerk when Steve Ditko was drawing him, and it turns out that Johnny can’t really hit him back because it would be wrong for a superhuman to pick a fight with an ordinary teenager.  Plus the whole “no flame on for 24 hours” thing.  Somehow, Peter’s standing up to Johnny makes everything worse for him.  Flash Thompson realizes the Torch wasn’t really afraid of Peter because of the whole “a superhero shouldn’t pick a fight with a regular kid” thing, and the other kids with too much time on their hands nearby agree.  Betty Brant was walking nearby (because of course she was) and again has a jealous fit of tears under the impression that Peter is seeing some other girl.  You know, besides the fact that I am pretty sure adult women should not be dating high school boys.

Oh, and Peter decides to go over to try to impress Doris…as Spider-Man.

C’mon, Peter.  You know better than that.  Would the Human Torch do that to your girlfriend?  I mean, if Johnny is over 18 (and I don’t think he is, but Doris likewise seems to live on her own so I sure as hell don’t know), maybe he should go out with Betty instead of Peter.

Eh, it doesn’t matter.  It means Spidey arrives at Doris’s house at the same time as the Beetle, and Johnny doesn’t believe Doris right away when she tells him over the phone that there are superhuman menaces in her house.  And when the Torch comes by, he initially thinks Spidey is the problem before the two of them badly screw each other up as they try to bring the Beetle down.  It eventually works, but Johnny kept wondering if Spidey was helping the Beetle by getting in his way.

Um, no.  You two idiots didn’t coordinate anything.  It’s a wonder you didn’t knock each other out.  And you were helping each other against the Sandman and the Enforcers not that long ago…

Well, Peter ends the issue thinking how he’ll never get a break, but really, he should just be glad the Torch doesn’t have better aim.  Or worse aim.  Either probably works.

Grade:  A

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