Sep 14, 2020
The Amazing Spider-Man #24 “Spider-Man Goes Mad!”
A new Spider-Man movie is coming out tomorrow, and honestly, I’m not feeling the sort of buzz I experienced years and years ago when Toby Maguire wore the red and blue. Oh, I know Sam Raimi’s films had their flaws, and while Maguire was a bit old for the part and he didn’t quite have the biting wit necessary to be an iconic Spider-Man, it was his Peter Parker that sold it for me. Part of what makes Parker likeable (at least, in his earliest incarnation) is that he’s a hardworking guy trying to make ends meet, take care of his aunt, and use his powers responsibly.
Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, on the other hand, gets a lot of stuff handed to him and his Aunt May seems to be doing just fine (i.e., how many backpacks did she have to buy Peter in the first film again?). As someone online said, he isn’t Spider-Man; he’s Spider-Boy. And I don’t care what color she dyes her hair, Zendaya isn’t the MJ most of us know and love since comic MJ is, you know, likeable.
And on top of that, shouldn’t Peter be in college by now? But enough bitching and complaining about movies; let’s talk comics! This time out I’m going way, way, way back, to a time when the true villain was a yellow journalist who didn’t care at all about accurate reporting but instead used his position to grind his own axe and ignored facts when they were inconvenient… What year am I looking at again?
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Oh, right, I’m going back to May of 1965, when real men wore sweaters under their sports jackets. Our story opens with a delivery man showing up at the Parker residence with a package. Peter finds cash in Aunt May’s cookie jar to pay the man and figures it’s a hat for the tea party that Mrs. Watson is throwing. Mrs. Watson? As in… yes, Mary Jane Watson’s mom. MJ makes her first appearance in issue #25. The real Mary Jane. The sexy one who says “Tiger”. Peter notes to himself how Aunt May can’t seem to save up any money, and I’m thinking maybe she should be buying fewer hats.
But this gives Peter an idea to score some quick cash. He hasn’t sold any pics to J. Jonah Jameson at the Daily Bugle because he’s been too busy studying, which goes to show how hard it can be leading a triple life. So Pete’s idea is to take pics of himself as Spider-Man while he stops a robbery. It’s a slow night, but he hits paydirt after he sets up the camera, and the fun begins.
A reporter that Parker knows shows up and blows it, and it turns out Peter knows the guy, and he’s named Foswell. Peter realizes Foswell will probably notice how Peter wasn’t anywhere in sight when the pics were taken, so it would look suspicious, and so Pete has to trash the film. Who is this Foswell, anyway? It turns out he’s none other than the Big Man, employer of the Enforcers, some of the most underrated bad guys in Marvel history.
Foswell led a double life as a reporter and crime boss and was uncovered by the police. It was a nice touch in two ways: first, in that Spider-Man was sure J. Jonah Jameson was the Big Man, showing even the best heroes can be biased. And second, the police were actually portrayed as being, well, competent. Foswell went to prison and got out, and Jameson gave him his old job back as a PR stunt. What a swell guy.
Pete doesn’t have money for more film, but stops by the Daily Bugle anyway to see if Jameson’s secretary Betty Brant might have a lead for him. It seems the only “lead” Betty has is reporter Ned Leeds, who’s been sending her letters.
Pete’s all jealous and bows out, and honestly, I forgot about how sweet Peter was on Miss Brant. So before MJ and Gwen Stacy, there was Betty, the older woman. Nice.
Meanwhile, J. Jonah reads Foswell’s write-up of the incident where Spider-Man busted those thieves. Jameson decides maybe a better spin would be that Spider-Man brutalized the thieves, and he figures since Spidey helped put Foswell away, the man might be up to writing the story from that angle. Foswell heads off to write the piece the way Jameson wants it, and his expression looks angry, but whether it’s because he hates Spider-Man for taking him down, or Jameson for making him be a yellow journalist, it’s hard to say. Then Jameson gets a “brilliant” idea that instead of writing anti-Spider-Man editorials, he’ll gather other people’s opinions about him. But only the ones that agree with his own. Soon, JJJ’s got a gaggle of people eager to say anything to get their name in his paper, but the reporter taking the testimonials is stopped by none other than Flash Thompson.
Yes, in a weird case of irony, the guy who hates Peter Parker most is also Peter Parker’s greatest fan. And why does Flash hate Parker so much? Because Liz Allen, who Flash has a thing for, are into men with big… minds. The fact that Peter’s no longer afraid of bullies and pretty much trash-talks Flash just makes it worse for the jock. God, we’re only six pages into this comic and they’ve crammed a ton of story into it already. And we haven’t even seen the bad guy yet.
Uh… I mean the bad guy wearing a costume. Jameson posts the opinions of the public and soon his plan bears fruit. People start taking the Bugle seriously, because instead of Jameson’s rants, they’re reading the ill-informed opinions of people like them who are just as hungry for attention. I wonder if any of Twitter’s founders read this comic when they were kids? One person of interest shows up at the Bugle, identifying himself as Dr. Ludwig Rinehart. He claims Spider-Man is headed for a mental breakdown, and of course Jameson is all over this. But JJJ would certainly want to verify the man’s credentials before publishing this interview, right? Of course he would; Jameson is a responsible journalist. I can’t possibly imagine him putting personal prejudice ahead of ethics.
Peter reads the article and freaks out and finds out from Betty that yeah, for reals, the guy is a doctor and everything. He’s even foreign, which makes him more legit. Pete heads out to find Rinehart and gets tailed by Flash, but the jock, like my cat, gets easily distracted, and in this case instead of a laser pointer it’s a well-placed Spider Light. Spidey makes it to Jameson’s office, but before he can break in to have a talk with JJJ, he’s ambushed by Doctor Octopus.
But Doc Ock disappears as suddenly as he showed up, not saying a word. Soon, Spider-Man is similarly attacked by the Sandman, who also fades out. Then it’s the Vulture’s turn, and Spidey begins to wonder if Rinehart is right, and that he may be cracking up.
Back home, he gets a good look at his face and sees he looks all freaked out, then hears May’s voice and decides he can’t let her see him like this. He slips out and May is left wondering why Pete won’t confide in her. And as an aside, I love this bit, because part of the reason Pete doesn’t take May into his confidence is he’s afraid the shock will be too much for her, and here we see a woman wanting to take on some of her loved one’s burdens. For all of Pete’s virtues, one of his biggest flaws is underestimating May’s strength. It’s just nice to see how, like a normal person, Peter is comprised of both virtues and imperfections.
Spider-Man heads to Rinehart’s house, because for some reason the address was listed in the newspaper story. That’s kind of dangerous, isn’t it? What if Flash Thompson decided to come over to kick the guy’s ass because he was dissing Spider-Man? Spidey heads in and gets another shock.
Spider-Man runs but finds the foyer’s upside down as well, and he realizes he has to stay and get help before he hurts somebody or himself. He lets Dr. Rinehart sit him on the couch, and suddenly Spidey sees his enemies again. But Rinehart talks him down and assures him they’re not really there, and they need to start treatment immediately.
Back at the Bugle, Foswell tries to talk to Jameson about Rinehart. Hey, you mean somebody at the Bugle maybe did their job and performed a background check on a questionable source? Gasp! Jameson lights out in a hurry and just so happens to run into Flash Thompson, who recognizes JJJ as the clown who keeps running down Spider-Man. Flash tries to give JJJ a piece of his mind, but Jonah’s not interested and he heads into Rinehart’s house. There, Spider-Man is on the verge of revealing his secret identity when Jameson and Flash both burst in. Chaos ensues and Rinehart flees, but not before using his fake hearing aid to trigger a series of illusions. Spidey realizes seeing the illusions isn’t triggering him like before, and he tackles Rinehart, and on an impulse yanks on his hair.
Man, imagine if that impulse had been wrong; Spider-Man would’ve scalped him! It turns out the doc is really Quentin Beck, AKA Mysterio. Beck worked out a master plan to destroy Spider-Man, but had to wait for the right time to trigger it, and he figured the articles Jameson was writing based on those interviews was his big chance. He used a fake cat and bat armed with cameras to project images of Spider-Man’s enemies, then rigged a trick house to further the confusion. And it would’ve worked, too, if Jameson hadn’t barged in. Jonah now has to live with that, while Flash Thompson is giddy with excitement that his idol talked to him. Yeah, okay, sure, Spider-Man called him a fool, but still…
Later, Liz Allen convinces Peter to help her “study” at her place. Pete agrees but checks in on Aunt May, who practically smothers Pete with overprotective worry. Y’know, what I said before seems a bit harsh in regards to Pete not telling May his secret. If she acts like this all the time, I’d be afraid she’d have a stroke too if I told her I was Spider-Man. Our story ends with Pete thinking how jealous he’ll make Betty Brant… and how he still didn’t make any extra cash on May’s behalf. Win some, lose some, stud.
Amazing Spider-Man #24 is certainly a fun read. J. Jonah Jameson comes across as an almost cartoonish figure with an unreasonable hatred for Spider-Man, and really, he’s the least believable character in the whole story. Honestly, when I read this I wondered how he lasted so long as editor of the Bugle. That being said, maybe one of the reasons I didn’t like Spider-Man: Homecoming is his not being there. Jameson is part of Spider-Man’s tapestry and when you start pulling threads from it, the whole thing kind of falls apart.
Jameson too is a more dangerous villain because you can’t just punch him. Much like the Lex Luthor redesign John Byrne was responsible for years later, he’s an antagonist you often have to endure and hope for the occasional break that allows you to get the upper hand.
As for the rest of the cast, I was actually impressed by the way they were fleshed out. Aunt May is strong, only she sucks at being able to convey that strength. Peter is a good person who isn’t very good at relationships with women. Flash Thompson is a tool, but honestly he isn’t all bad, seeing as his role model is a hero he has faith in regardless of the trash people like Jameson write. Foswell actually seems like a person who wants to turn over a new leaf… or does he? His portrayal in this comic made me wonder if he was legit in his desire to be a good reporter, or if he’s playing a long game.
Finally, I loved the fact that Mysterio didn’t appear in costume even once, and he learned from the spanking Spider-Man gave him the first time. When you can’t face up to Spidey physically, you really want to play to your strengths and use misdirection and confusion. From what I know of Mysterio’s other appearances, this might be the most effective use of the character ever. Sadly, Mysterio would go on to see his fair share of ups and downs, with the low point of his career being when he faced off against Power Pack. When you get your ass handed to you by a bunch of preteens it’s really time to hang it up.