April 1, 2023

Gabbing Geek

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Noteworthy Issues: The Amazing Spider-Man #39 (August, 1966)

Spider-Man and the Green Goblin--both unmasked!

And just like that, Ditko was out, John Romita Sr. was in, and Peter Parker got a new personality.

Issue:  The Amazing Spider-Man #39, August 1966

Writer:  Stan Lee

Artist:  John Romita Sr

The Plot:  Finally, the Green Goblin is unmasked!

Commentary:  As much as Steve Ditko is honored (and rightfully so) for his work in the early issues of The Amazing Spider-Man, it is rather impressive that John Romita Sr. comes in and becomes just as much a distinctive presence on the book as Ditko was.  If anything, for all Ditko did a great job of designing the bad guys, Romita’s take on Peter Parker just looks…right.  Besides, Romita’s first cover is probably one of the all-time famous Spider-Man covers with the triumphant Green Goblin taking a tied up and unmasked Peter Parker off…somewhere.

But for all that Romita’s artwork has its own distinctive look, the other aspect of Ditko’s influence is also gone:  Peter Parker is already a nicer guy.  Ditko may have been more than happy to do stories with protesters with no convictions and Peter being rather cruel to just about everyone, but now that Ditko’s gone, Peter is making nice with people.  He offers condolences and good advice to Harry Osborn given how cruel Norman is to his son, and he even makes up with a repentant Ned Leeds.  As a modern reader, I know Harry and Peter become friends, but you wouldn’t know that if your only exposure to the pair was in Ditko’s issues.  Here, Peter’s offering Harry emotional support actually starts to win his onetime tormentor over.

Heck, Flash Thompson even seems a bit milder, and Peter is starting to think a little better of Flash.  Oh, the two aren’t friends or anything, but their exchange isn’t quite so sharp.

So, already I see a new and more familiar Peter Parker.  This is a Peter that would be easier to follow. You know, because he’s not an asshole.

Oh, and then the rest of the issue kicks in with those Spider-Man standards:  a gang of crooks in suits that won’t stay down, a made-up concoction to dull Spider-Man’s spider-sense despite the fact the Green Goblin shouldn’t know he even has one, and then the final panel of the big unmasking where yes, Peter is shocked to see his classmate’s father is the Green Goblin.

It’s a fun issue, but really, I much prefer Nice Peter to Mean Peter.

Grade:  A

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