There are times in my life when I feel like I’m fighting a giant sand monster armed with only a fly swatter and a paper cup. I am currently living in one of these moments, so it’s totally serendipitous that my “remaining chase” has been narrowed down to just four issues with my recent acquisition of Amazing Spider-Man #4, the first appearance of one of the great Spidey rogues, the Sandman.
Mrs. Chasing Amazing, who has already attained legendary status from my readers for her past purchases of ASM #50 and ASM #2, decided to pad her ridiculously high batting average when it comes to being the “best wife who’s married to a comic book collector,” with the purchase of ASM #4 for my birthday, which was earlier this month.
The story of ASM #4 is pure Stan Lee/Steve Ditko gold. The comic’s very opening page was recently selected by me as my personal favorite Ditko Spider-Man splash page. There’s such style to how Ditko draws Sandman in this illustration (and in every other illustration in the comic, which I’ll get to in a moment). The splash page has a cinematic quality and I have to think it was a huge influence for Sam Raimi’s interpretation of Sandman in Spider-Man 3 (which was probably the only worthwhile part of the movie). As I said in the Ditko splash page post a few months ago, his artwork is definitely something I’m coming to love and admire more and more as I get older. When I was younger, I thought it lacked the “pop” of guys like John Romita, and naturally my generation of artists like Todd McFarlane and Mark Bagley. But Ditko was going for a completely different aesthetic and in some instances, like this splash page, it’s some of the best comic book artwork around.
Beyond Ditko’s art, there’s a classic Spider-Man/J. Jonah Jameson conflict in the very beginning, including the launch of a “new” series by JJJ detailing how Spidey is a public menace (as opposed to the 950 articles and editorials the Daily Bugle ran every other day saying the same exact thing), and an introduction of a very important member of Spider-Man/Peter Parker’s supporting cast in Betty Brant. It’s funny, I talk a ton on this page about Mary Jane, Gwen Stacy and Black Cat as the three big “loves” in Spider-Man’s life, and with good reason, but I very rarely mention Betty (for no good reason). In the early going, she’s a wee bit one-dimensional as a pseudo damsel-in-distress, but the character has survived for nearly 50 years and is note-worthy if only because she was the “first” of Peter’s comic book girlfriends.
Spider-Man’s ultimate confrontation with Sandman is great, and probably warranted more consideration than I gave it for my two-part “top 10” battles list that I wrote for Longbox Graveyard earlier this year, if for no other reason that it might be the most creative resolution to a Spider-Man battle in the character’s history. After struggling to keep pace with Sandman because the guy keeps turning himself into sand any time Spidey throws a punch or kick at him, Spider-Man baits the villain one last time to turn into sand form and then sucks him up with a vacuum cleaner. Not only is this a great example of Spider-Man using his intellect where his brute strength wouldn’t do, it’s just a really quirky way to end a fight and something that is indicative of the “anything can happen” feeling of the Lee/Ditko era.
Meanwhile, as I earlier alluded to, based on recent events I can totally relate to the frantic nature in which Spider-Man struggled against the Sandman throughout this comic. Sandman doesn’t overpower Spidey, but he unquestionably overwhelms him until Spider-Man thinks quickly and grabs that vacuum. For me, after blogging about Spider-Man for more than two years (including a bit of hiatus during the Fall of last year where I was really questioning the quality of my writing and my urge to keep blogging about one comic book character 2-3 times a week for the foreseeable future), things are really taking off for Chasing Amazing in ways that are unexpected, wonderful and dizzying. Traffic is at all-time high as I’m assuming some recent posts I made about Wolverine’s adamantium and Age of Ultron have drawn some traffic due to some unrelated news out of Hollywood, and I just recently appeared on the Nerd of Mouth podcast which is co-hosted by the comedians Mike Lawrence and Jake Young. Meanwhile, I’m negotiating a number of other opportunities to both promote Chasing Amazing and to meet and greet some interesting and important people in our little niche industry.
If that wasn’t enough, I recently had the honor of having one of my guest blogs for Longbox Graveyard “Freshly Pressed” by the WordPress community, which may have benefitted the great Paul O’Connor’s site more than mine. But it is still something to toot my own horn about. The podcast I launched with the phenomenal Spider-Man fan/filmmaker/film critic Dan Govzden, Superior Spider-Talk, is growing in popularity every day (and is probably also responsible for driving people to this site). Then there’s all the other writing I’m doing, like Gimmick or Good? at CBR’s Comics Should Be Good blog, which may be one of the best regular writing gigs I’ve ever secured for myself (a million thanks once again to Brian Cronin), and the series I’m doing at Sequart.org about the Walking Dead, which is giving me an opportunity to really break down and analyze a totally different comic book universe from Spider-Man’s.
If this is coming across like a lot of self-congratulating I apologize, but I really think what I’m experiencing right now is relevant to the focal point of my post. This mixed bag of success, freelancing and overall brand promotion and expansion is totally capable of overwhelming me, but fortunately, like Peter, I have some amazing people in my life (like my wife, my son and my family) who are keeping me grounded and focused on my priorities.
I don’t know if I’ll be able to maintain this pace over the long haul, but I do know that I continually feel inspired to write, whether it’s a review of the newest issue of Superior Spider-Man, or my lookback series on the Original Hobgoblin Saga. That inspiration remains my vacuum cleaner against the Sandman.
For what’s left on my remaining chase, click here.
All images from Amazing Spider-Man #4: Stan Lee & Steve Ditko