Any true Spider-Man fan knows the origin story in Amazing Fantasy #15 from the famous eye dots to the iconic phrase – but what do you know about the other stories in that comic, the history of it, what replaced it, and what led to its resurrection in Amazing Spider-Man?
Amazing Adult Fantasy starts at issue #7. This is because issues #1-6 ran under the name Amazing Adventures. The difference between the two is more than just the title. Amazing Adventures uses Ditko, Kirby, Ayers, and others for artists, while Amazing Adult Fantasy only uses Ditko. On top of that, the AA had stories about monsters and such while AAF focused on sci-fi twist stories. Those early AA stories are pretty fun reads. There are crazy monster names like Manoo and Monsteroso (the most fearful creature of all time!). It’s much like reading the types of movies that MSTK3000 make fun of. Take for instance issue #6 – SSERPO!
A long time ago, some scientist fails at creating a growth formula, so he tosses the vial of it into the ocean. Some crazy sea lizard gets ahold of it and starts growing. It seems that all the formula needed was water in order to work. The lizard grows and grows until it comes up to the surface and is caught by some weird looking white natives who name it. They take it back to their island where it grows so huge that it sinks the island (Hank Johnson was right!). Nothing can stop Sserpo – not even the Australians! He grows so huge, that he can be seen from outer space. Luckily, beings from Jupiter see it and throw down a long rope and hook. And just for a touch of irony, the man who contacted Jupiter just happened to be the great grandson of the scientist who unknowingly started the whole thing a century ago.
The issue also had some Twilight Zone style short stories and mysteries in it. Amazing Adventures created the first Marvel silver age hero:
He’s a monster hunter and detective and uses the supernatural to assist him, sort of a Dr. Strange figure, but just uses tricks and hypnosis rather than actual magic (although he did learn his stuff from a Tibetan lama (no, no llama, although this was early silver age, so I do not fault you for thinking that)).
Dr. Droom sounded too much like Dr. Doom, so when they brought Droom back into the 616 universe, he went by which name:
a. Master Khan
b. Dr. Druid
c. 3-D Man
d. Miracle Man
After issue #6, the series switched titles to Amazing Adult Fantasy (be careful looking that title up online…). I tried to find out what prompted the switch, but nothing I’ve found gives out that information. My best guess is that Stan Lee was getting tired of the monster stories (they already had four other titles of similar stores: Tales of Suspense, Tales to Astonish, Journey into Mystery, and Strange Tales) and thought Twilight Zone-esque stories would be better sellers. Sometimes Lee took ideas from Twilight Zone, but Twilight Zone seemed to take stories from Marvel as well.
The “Adult” in the title was not meant to convey anything remotely in connection with 50 Shades of Jean Grey. Instead, it was a device used to try and gain more readers. Shocking that it did not work. They even put a banner on the cover, “The magazine that respects your intelligence!” My guess is that this had a lot more to do with trying to get away from the juvenile delinquency stigma that Dr. Wertham put on the book rather than trying to promote this for older readers. And respect your intelligence it did! How else can you explain the story that featured Tim Boo Ba?
The stories in Amazing Adult Fantasy were all based on situational irony – that is, there were cutesy little twists in the stories – a hypnotist tries to hypnotize a large crowd so he could rob them, but accidentally hypnotizes himself too and forget to rob anyone – America puts an odd satellite over Russia during the Cold War. They are freaked out by it and eventually, in a panic, completely surrender to the Americans in order to get the strange object removed. Once they have jumped through all the hoops America makes them agree to, the ball splits open to reveal that there is nothing inside (Psych! Stupid commies!) – a con man buys an old house and bills it as haunted in order to bilk the locals out of their money. As it turns out, he is killed by the ghost that haunts the house and passes the job onto him to haunt the house until he can find a replacement. It’s that sort of story over and over – five pages (or less) each, five times an issue. Stan Lee said he would give Ditko a one line plot synopsis and he would be off to draw the five pages.
In Amazing Adult Fantasy #14, we have Marvel’s first mutant story. Yeah, I know people will say that Namor is a mutant, but that was all retcon crap. Tad Carter appears in this issue and is flat out called a mutant. He looks a lot like Peter Parker and people react to him by calling him a menace and running him out of town. This guy can read minds and has telekinetic powers. A mysterious man speaks in his mind and pulls him to a safe place where mutants can wait until human kind has learned to be more tolerant. Thirty years later, he gets his story told in the X-Men comics.
O.K. – Enough of the pre-stuff. Let’s get on with the main event! Issue #15 saw another change in the title as Lee was desperate to keeps sales up on it. He said in a letter to the fans that they removed the word “Adult” from the title because they heard that fans felt uneasy about reading a book that was clearly designated for adults when they were only teens. “We certainly don’t want to embarrass any of our readers.” Yeah, Lee… that’s what made it embarrassing….
We start with the cover story of the new Spider-Man. It is told in two parts because it takes up the space for two regular stories. Maybe we’ll do a whole annotated Amazing Fantasy #15 in a later post if there is any reader interest in it, but for the purposes of this post, we are only interested in the last row of panels.
You can see that while Lee knew the comic was coming close to cancellation, he didn’t think #15 was the last one. Either that, or he was trying to game the system and make Goodman keep it around for a bit (but Martin, we already told the fans there would be another one. The fans, Martin!). In fact, he even had a Spider-Man story already written for the next issue – one that would have to wait a few months before it could be used (good thing he didn’t throw it away!). But once we get to the end of the Spider-Man tale, there is still room for three other short stories (five stories for twelve cents! What a deal! Think about that when we see another $10 comic come around).
This story showcases Stan Lee’s complaint that it is difficult to write five quality stories every month. The premise is simple and the twist ending is… not so twisty. There is a little island with a church – but not really. It is an island of fisherman, but the bell ringer is the only non-fisherman who lives there, so there would be no preacher. OK, let’s re-start – we have an island full of heathen fishermen and one bell ringer. When a volcano begins to erupt, everyone with any sense leaves because, you know, lava, fire, smoke, and ash are real bummers to island life (for any life, for that matter). The bell ringer, does not leave. He keeps saying, but someone may hear the bells. Everyone says to get off the island with them, because a. anyone left on the island to hear the bells must be idiots, and b. the job doesn’t pay hazard pay. But he holds to his belief that there may be someone left to the hear the bells. Everyone, being infinitely smarter than our Quasimodo here, then leaves. The lave flows and flames engulf the church while he rings the bells. Twist ending? Someone was listening after all.
So, is this God? No. We here at the Crawlspace are proud to present you this exclusive – the shaft of light and abduction of Pedros was no other than the aliens we saw working with the Tinkerer in Amazing Spider-Man #2! That’s right, folks! You heard it here first!
This one has a bit more of a bang to it. A thief is on the run from the police and ducks into a museum to hide. He is out of options when he hears a voice.
The mummy offers to hide the man from the police and to open the case once they have left. He keeps his promise.
Twist ending? The case is empty and the thief is now…
My understanding is that Slott is going to bring this guy back as a major villain in an upcoming Secret Empire crossover titled “Hail Hydra Says the Pharaoh” Here is the best of the three.
Oh no! An alien ship! It’s Martian season, folks, so be wery, wery qwuiet! But the hunt doesn’t go well and leaves everyone in a state of panic.
We have two characters – the man and the woman. Being a silver age comic, the woman is less than capable of handling herself and the man lays down the rules. Don’t go out. Don’t open the door. He’ll be right back. She is home cooking when she realizes that she needs something from the store, so, not wanting to disappoint her husband with an incomplete meal, she leaves with the expected disastrous consequences.
With these types of stories, it is no wonder that the origin of Spider-Man has that ironic twist to it.
Of course, no analysis would be completed if we didn’t look at some of the ads:
By the way, did you now that you can still read Grit? They continue publishing on the web.
Did you notice the hand grenade for sell?
And then we have this page:
Here’s the actual letter blown up for easier reading:
As you can see from the letter from Lee, they completely expected this title to continue. This is probably why he had Kirby redo the cover. He wanted it to look different than what it had been. Kirby also did the title logo in a different font. I bet that if they had gone with the Martin Goodman did not like the idea of Spider-Man and felt that the readers do not like Spiders and would not pay to read a book about a spider-themed hero. Even though Lee had already written a follow up Spider-Man story, Goodman decided to cancel the series and publish something that might would make more money. The title that replaced Amazing Fantasy?
Funny enough, that title had originally been cancelled to make room for Amazing Adventures. Oh! The irony!
And that should have been the end of it, but reader response came in so quickly (and more importantly, sales were through the roof) that Goodman allowed Lee to bring back Spider-Man in a new title (a literal ‘Because fans demanded it!’). Of course, that meant something had to go. So what paid the ultimate price for our love of Spider-Man?
If you are interested in getting caught up on all these stories, you can buy the Amazing Fantasy Omnibus on Amazon, but you’re going to shell out for it.
You can also find all the issues on Marvel Unlimited.
“Amazing Adventures.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia, 25 May 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazing_Adventures. 27 May 2017.
“Amazing Fantasy.” Wikiwand, www.wikiwand.com/en/Amazing_Fantasy. 23 May 2017.
Booker, M. Keith. Encyclopedia of Comic Books and Graphic Novels. Greenwood, 2010.
Lee, Stan, and Steve Ditko. “Amazing Fantasy #15.” Marvel, 13 Nov. 2007. read.marvel.com/#/book/4746. 26 May 2017.
Nordlie, Tom, and Geoff Boucher. “Spider-Man at 50: The Strange Tale of ‘Amazing Fantasy’.” Hero Complex, Los Anglos Times, 8 July 2012, herocomplex.latimes.com/comics/spider-man-at-50-the-strange-tale-of-amazing-fantasy/. 23 May 2017.
“Tad Carter.” Comic Vine, 12 Aug. 2016, comicvine.gamespot.com/tad-carter/4005-20010/. 27 May 2017.
Wells, John. American Comic Book Chronicles: 1960 – 1964. TwoMorrows Publishing, 2012.
Wells, Rob. “Review – Amazing Fantasy Omnibus – HC.” Comics – On the Ration, Blogger, 1 Mar. 2011, comicsontheration.blogspot.com/2011/03/review-amazing-fantasy-omnibus-hc.html. 27 May 2017.
All scans are from Marvel Unlimited
Those astute readers that make it this far down the post will undoubtedly be happy to see that Cobwebs has updated to the new and improved 8th edition of the MLA Style Guide! Woo hoo!
Also- I ran across a reference to this article while researching for this post. “Amazing Fantasy No. 16 : The Untold Secret Origin of Spider-Man” by Will Murray. If you have any idea what this may have appeared in or if it is a book entire upon itself (doubtful), any extra information that would help me track this down would be great. Help tracking down his contact information would be appreciated as well.