The Spider or the Man?
Written by: Stan Lee
Illustrated by: Gil Kane
Embellished by: F. Giacoia
Letterer: Artie Simek
Originally published: September 1971
Wow, 100 issues of Amazing Spider-Man. That’s pretty sweet. I’m expecting something fantastic in this issue, and hopefully I won’t be too disappointed.
Ok, things don’t start off well – I hate the cover. For one thing, it’s really ugly. Secondly, and most importantly, the whole “100th Anniversary Issue” thing pisses me off. It is not a 100th anniversary – the book has not been out for 100 years, it has been around for 100 issues. I realize sometimes the term “anniversary” in casual/informal speech can mean any kind of milestone date, but for this meaning the type of “anniversary” needs to be specified before the word “anniversary”. For example, “one week anniversary”, “three month anniversary”. For this meaning, the cover would have to say “100th Issue Anniversary” or “100th Issue Anniversary Issue”. But it doesn’t and is, consequently, quite wrong and irritating. Shit, I would even accept “100th Issueversary”.
Alright, sorry for the grammar rant. On with the issue!
We open on Spider-Man swinging around the city, looking for some action. He rounds up some bank robbers, but realizes the whole lifestyle is losing its thrill. He envies all the normal people on the city with their normal lives, and this turns his thoughts towards Gwen. He wants to propose, but he’s pretty worried about the whole “I’m the costumed freak you blame for your father’s death” thing. He resolves to give up being Spider-Man.
How can he avoid the temptation though? He figures there’s only one way – to devise some sort of scientifical experiment that robs him of his powers for good. Apparently he’s been working on this potion for years, just in case the radiation in his blood became dangerous. It is, in fact, all ready to go — but untested. Throwing caution to the wind, Peter drinks down the pee-coloured elixir and instantly goes bonkers, entering a world of bubbles, swirls and sparks. Pete lays down to try to sleep off the feeling.
Pete begins to dream/hallucinate about all sorts of important moments from his past – Uncle Ben’s funeral, losing Betty Brant, Captain Stacy’s death – and he gets super down on himself. Within the dream he hears a cry for help, and – as Spidey – rushes off. On his way towards it he runs into the Vulture, who claims that Spider-Man has no right to harm him, because Spidey only harms those he loves. Ouch. Spidey polishes him off and again rushes off towards the voice, but this time he is stopped by the Lizard. The Lizard calls Spider-Man insane which, though possibly true, isn’t really as hurtful as what the Vulture said (in my opinion). Even so, it hurts Spider-Man, who apparently has questioned his own sanity. Spidey takes care of the Lizard and once again sets out to help the mysterious voice.
Spider-Man’s path is blocked a third time when he encounters the Green Goblin. The Goblin calls Spider-Man a loser and a failure, and again this hits Pete a little too close to home. Spidey quickly beats the Goblin and heads off again to find his calling voice. As he starts out, though, he begins to feel a terrible throbbing pain in his side. Ignoring it, Spidey continues onwards, only to run into Dr. Octopus. (Hasn’t Stan Lee heard of the rule of threes?) Doc Ock questions Spidey’s motives, claiming that he’s a fraud that wanted fame and glory, not to actually help people. Spider-Man defends himself against Ock’s barbs and his tentacles, and takes off once more with his side hurting even worse than before.
Spider-Man begins to realize the voice calling him is that of a man, a familiar voice, though he can’t recognize it. As he struggles to recognize and reach the voice, and to deal with his pain, Spider-Man is confronted by the Kingpin. Kingpin calls Spidey a failure (like the Goblin did – this is getting a wee bit repetitive), but Spidey contends that he is, at least, not a quitter and proves his point with some fisticuffs. As he leaves again, the pain has spread to his other side as well.
At last, Peter finds the source of the voice. It’s a big, giant, floating, glowing Captain Stacy head! The big giant head tells Peter that he knows who Peter really is, even if Peter doesn’t know himself. Stacy tells Pete that he’s done good by his powers and that he must accept his life as Spider-Man, not try to run from it. As Captain Stacy’s head fades away, Pete begins to regain consciousness.
Peter realizes the whole thing was a dream but wonders about Captain Stacy’s voice, which “seemed so real…almost as though it was– more than a dream”. Now awake, Peter realizes his sides are still hurting. As he looks down he sees — FOUR NEW ARMS SPROUTING OUT FROM HIS SIDES!!! Holy cannoli! He’s like a real freaking spider! The potion worked totally wrong!
Ok, I did not know that was coming. I knew at some point that Peter got more arms, but I thought it was much later and I thought it was because of some third-party magic or something, not something he did to himself. Talk about bitchin. What a great turn of events.
This issue was really great, it turns out. The whole dream sequence thing was a cool idea, a good way to do a retrospective without just rehashing shit from old issues. It also gave a nice fresh twist on Pete’s psychology and state of mind, which we hear a lot about and get stale without good writing. My biggest gripes are that the whole running-into-bad-guys section went on a little too long – three bad guys really would have been perfect, not five – and that I wasn’t in love with Gil Kane’s art. Despite these problems, it was still a really fun and interesting issue that lived up to my high expectations for a 100th issue anniversary issue.