Here I am at Steve Ditko’s final issue of Spider-Man.
I have some thoughts.
Issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #38, July 1966
Writer, Sort Of: Stan Lee
And The Rest: Steve Ditko
The Plot: Spider-Man keeps running into this poor guy named Joe.
Commentary: Alright, this is Steve Ditko’s final issue, and the most commonly accepted explanation for why he left was over the issue of who the Green Goblin would be. Supposedly, Stan wanted the Goblin, as yet unrevealed, to be one of Peter’s friend’s father…though calling Harry Osborn one of Peter’s friends at this point is a bit of a stretch. By contrast, Ditko wanted the Goblin to be just some guy, no one special. Stan, as editor and having more clout, obviously won that case since Norman Osborn is unmasked as the Green Goblin not long after this issue.
Yes, I am aware it is the very next issue. I’ll talk about that issue when I get to it.
Except, Ditko was probably far more responsible for what was going on in these issues than Stan was at this point. The comic itself doesn’t even try to hide it that much. Stan is usually only credited with “words” and maybe “editing” while Ditko is credited with “plot”. The accusation against Stan, that he really only wrote dialogue for comics largely written by either Ditko or Jack Kirby, seems to stand here. That leads me to a theory I have heard and like a bit better: Stan and Steve argued over politics. Stan was something of a lefty, big on things like Civil Rights and the like. Steve, as a fan of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, was more conservative, and this particular issue has a really revealing and infamous scene where Peter Parker, walking across campus, is asked to join a protest. What’s being protested? Eh, nothing. The kids there just wanna protest stuff, and they don’t care what.
Yeah, I am sure that is an accurate representation of all those 60s college-aged protesters.
It’s a notorious scene for a reason.
Meanwhile, even if Ditko didn’t want Norman Osborn to be the Green Goblin, he clearly is setting up Norman to be a bad guy, just maybe not a masked one. He spends this issue, wearing a fake beard and glasses, offering a large bounty on Spider-Man’s head. So, more of those random crowds of goons trying to bring Spider-Man down and failing miserably, all while the issue’s villain is literally just a guy named Joe Smith who got hit with electrified chemicals while filming a TV show. Why was there a chemical puddle in a TV studio? How should I know? It makes Joe superstrong and a little crazy, but it wears off, and even the boxers he wanted to be part of decide to try to take down him and/or Spider-Man when Spidey and Joe come to blows in a gym, an action Peter (correctly) suspects is not really Joe’s fault. Why does Peter suspect that? I dunno. Spider-sense or something.
By the by, once Joe gets a movie contract and his powers and crazy wear off, the boxers forget they were trying to bring down Spidey for an amount of money that won’t even buy you a new car today. Inflation is a wonderful thing. I would have guessed all the fighters were deep with the underworld to even know about the bounty, but that’s forgotten about by everyone, even Spidey, and somehow noting on the news that Joe fought Peter to a standstill is somehow embarrassing for Peter.
Plus, Betty Brant didn’t leave with Ned Leeds.
MOVE ON, PETER!
Well, that and another Mary Jane tease is how Ditko’s final issue goes down. I did like it, and I did enjoy Ditko’s artwork. I may rag on these issues, but that’s more out of affection than anything else. Will I feel the same way when I get to my first John Romita Sr issue?
Noteworthy Issues: Punisher #4 (July, 2022)
The X-Files “Born Again”
Weekend Trek “Field Of Fire”