He is one of, if not THE, most recognizable heroes in the world. He’s had a number of movies. Decades of comics. He’s relatable in a way a lot of heroes weren’t at the time of his creation. I hear he can even stop bad guys just like flies. You better watch out, because today we are talking about Spider-Man. Or at least, the issue he first appeared in. Join us in the Hypertime as Josh and Allan discuss Amazing Fantasy #15!
Now on to the show notes!
After having created the Fantastic Four and the Hulk, Stan’s publisher Martin Goodman wanted Stan Lee to make another hero. However, he had to find someone who had a power nobody else did. Stan is unsure if it’s true, but he thinks it came about after seeing a fly crawling on the wall and he thought “what if someone could stick to the wall like an insect”. He decided to stick with the name Spider-Man after running through a few “insect”-Man (Fly Man, Mosquito Man) names as he found it “mysterious” and “dramatic”.
According to Ditko, the original plan was to give Peter a ring which would transform him into an adult hero Spider-Man. However, Ditko said it sounded too similar to the Archie Publications character The Fly by Joe Simon.
From there, he added in a few things. He thought it would be fun to give a hero personal problems and make him a teenager, neither of which were very common at the time for superheroes. Mixing them together, he would make Peter a nerd. Wouldn’t have many friends. Make him an orphan. All of these problems we associate with Peter.
Spider-Man almost never happened. When Stan Lee would pitch the character, he would receive a lot of pushback from his publisher and told it was “the worst idea” he had heard. According to him, some of the denials came like this:
“You can’t name him ‘Spider-Man’ because people hate spiders!”
“You can’t feature a teenager as a superhero. Teenagers can only be sidekicks.”
“You can’t give a hero so many problems. Readers won’t think he’s heroic enough.”
Stan Lee and Steve Ditko decided to do it anyways and found that the final issue of Amazing Adult Fantasy #15 – renamed Amazing Fantasy for the final issue in Spring of 1962 (though released in August of that year) would be the perfect way for them to slide the character into the book. It was being discontinued. Nobody would care what was in there.
Or at least, that’s how Stan Lee remembers it. However, in the issue of Amazing Fantasy #15, they include an announcement from the editor on how Amazing is changing for future issues. So it sounds like there was an intention to continue Amazing Fantasy, but decided to cancel it sometime between the creation of the book and finally seeing print. According to Tom Brevoort, he claims that researcher Will Murray believes that there is evidence pointing to Amazing Fantasy #16 being in the works based on story job numbers found on splash pages.
Originally, Spider-Man was to be designed by Jack Kirby with Ditko inking. However, Stan Lee wasn’t feeling Kirby’s approach. Kirby was too used to drawing big strong looking heroes like Captain America. Even his design was similar to Captain America (see a picture of it on VGU.tv). That’s not what Stan was wanting. Plus, King Kirby already had plenty on his plate. So instead, he took it over to Steve Ditko who nailed the character and the stories Stan wanted to tell with Peter. The design of the character itself was all Ditko and would become one of the most recognizable costumes in the history of comics (and dare-say the world).
The design of the character went like this according to Ditko. First off, using a full mask was originally done to hide Peter’s childish features along with create a sense of mystery to the character. This would also allow for people to interpret Peter’s expressions behind the mask or even become Spider-Man in their head. From there, he went over some of what Kirby had provided (a few pages worked up). In this iteration, there was a chest design (though Ditko can’t quite picture what it is – says it was similar to Ant Man) and had many similarities to Captain America (mask covering everything but boots, similar boots, belt, etc.). Kirby also had him using a gun that shot webs.
In Kirby’s workup, Peter still lived with his aunt and uncle. His uncle though was a retired police captain that Ditko compares to Thunderbolt Ross. At the end of the pages was Peter walking towards a scientist’s house who lived in his neighborhood who was currently undergoing an experiment.
They made the right choice to push forward with the Spider-Man character, because not only did they slip it in and feature him on the cover, but Amazing Fantasy #15 was Marvel’s best selling issue of the year, and it would lead to Spider-Man receiving his own book in The Amazing Spider-Man after their publisher came back to Stan to do it claiming how much they both loved the character. That was in December – just a few months after Amazing Fantasy #15 was on newsstands and Marvel could see the sales come in.
The Creation Controversy:
As most know, Stan Lee receives a ton of credit for his co-creations over the years. Sadly, the co-creators often get lost in history, especially for non-comic connoisseurs. This would be the reason Steve Ditko would grow sour as well. For a long time, especially in articles in the early days, Stan Lee would be the only one credited as the creator of Spider-Man.
Back then, Stan saw himself as the sole creator of Spider-Man. He was the one with the original pitch. He was the one who thought up the character’s powers and name. Steve and Stan would often get into discussions about this because it frustrated Steve. In Steve’s opinion, an idea means nothing until it becomes a physical thing – which is what happens when the artist puts the idea on a page. It basically became an argument of “is the creator the one with the original idea, or the one who made that idea a reality?”.
Ditko would go on in 1999 in a fanzine depicting his “interpretation” of Spider-Man’s creation. One page showed a split of “Stan Lee’s Spider-Man ‘Creation’” and “Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man ‘Creation’”. Under Stan Lee, it would be a blank box with the words “Spider-Man. A 1 or 2 Page synopsis for the artist who must draw 21-24 pages of story/art panels. Dialogue must then be added working from the artist’s rough panel script.). Under Steve Ditko’s section showed the artwork of him going into further detail in one panel than what the original synopsis would have provided under Stan’s section.
Stan would eventually see it meant a lot to Steve, so he promised to tell everyone that they were co-creators. This wasn’t enough for Steve, so Stan then went further and wrote something directly to Steve in August of 1999. This would detail Steve’s involvement in Spider-Man’s creation both as the person who designed the costume and set the visual mood for the book, but also how Steve would contribute more and more as the book grew in popularity including storytelling aspects such as plotting.
Sadly, this still wasn’t good enough for Steve because of the wording that Stan “considered” Steve as a co-creator. At that point, Stan stopped trying to mend the broken bridge and hadn’t spoken to Steve since (at least at the time of the BBC documentary – “In Search of Steve Ditko”.
To make matters even more confusing, Jack Kirby was also taking credit for creating Spider-Man in a way. There were certainly elements taken from his original design, but altered once Ditko got his hands on the character as mentioned previously. It’s hard to say exactly what elements of the story background or origin of the name as Ditko never spoke with Kirby directly regarding Spider-Man, so that would be yet another example of Stan Lee vs Jack Kirby in terms of who made what argument. However, Ditko was adamant that Kirby’s influence was so small in the design aspect (and much of it was rejected/not used) that it’s hard for Kirby to be considered a “creator” in that respect. Stan Lee agrees with this as well.
For the most part, it’s a whole bunch of back and forth. Joe Simon says that he created a character called Silver Spider which would be reworked a bit into The Fly for Archie Publications after it went nowhere with Harvey Comics. This was given to Kirby to make the change to the Fly. So Simon believes that when Stan Lee and Martin Goodman were needing new characters, Kirby proposed a Silver Spider-like character. Simon says he spoke with Ditko about this and that Stan Lee had given him pencils Kirby provided, and Ditko recognized it as The Fly. So Stan told Ditko to make a new costume.
Kirby says he got the idea from a script he kept for the Silver Spider. He claims both he and Joe Simon created Spider-Man for Crestwood Publications which Simon disputes as Kirby misremembering.
Again, this all seems like a bunch of people with bits of a similar story where things aren’t being pieced together perfectly over the years. So here’s my best attempt at detailing what happened:
Joe Simon and Jack Kirby had an unused character in Silver Spider. When Stan Lee, Martin Goodman, and Jack Kirby would run down new ideas; Stan Lee proposed the idea of a character who could stick to walls “Spider-Man”. Kirby would be the one to originally draw it, which is where he used the idea of the Silver Spider to mock up some pages for a Spider-Man story. Stan Lee wasn’t liking the approach to how Kirby was drawing it (too heroic for instance) so he took it to Steve Ditko along with the pages Kirby provided. Ditko ran with the idea keeping, maybe, the chest logo from Kirby’s costume and changing the web shooting gun to arm web shooters. Every other design aspect would be Ditko’s. The world built around Peter Parker would probably be mostly from Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, but it’s possible Kirby had some influence as well (such as living with an Aunt and Uncle) though it’s hard to say.
The Name: Spider-Man
When it came to the infamous hyphen, that many still today forget to acknowledge, it really came down to a simple dilemma. Originally, the name was all one word – Spiderman. However, Stan Lee felt it looked too similar to Superman and wanted to make the slight change to avoid any confusion. This came late in the issue after the book was complete which is why there is no hyphen to the name throughout the book.
Another little tid-bit about the name came with the original logo. The logo on the original artwork has a hyphenated clean looking Spider-Man. However, if you peel that away (images on the site), you’ll see a different logo underneath. The logo it reveals is an un-hyphenated “Spiderman” with a different look. The lettering is more jagged with webbing throughout each letter. Stan thought the original design looked “too gingerbready, too busy” and so they switched it out.
Thus, the name “Spider ‘hyphen’ Man” was born. It would start being showcased in his next appearance – The Amazing Spider-Man #1.
The Stories: – All by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Yo, did you know Peter Parker was an unlikable dork? Well, if you didn’t, they really hammer it home here at the beginning. They make sure you understand real quick that his aunt May and uncle Ben love him like a son, no girl wants to be with him when they have a stud like Flash Thompson around, and he really loves science.
It’s at a science exhibit that’s open to the public (and nobody wants to go with him – leaving him saying “They’ll be sorry they laughed at me” – sounds like a supervillain beginning actually) that he sees some testing with radioactivity. It’s here we see a spider come through as they let out some radioactive waves, and in its dying throes, bites a nearby Peter Parker.
Almost instantly, Peter feels different. He feels “as though my entire body is charged with some sort of fantastic energy!”. He almost gets hit by a car but leaps a great distance instinctively out of the way. Of course the people in the car don’t see this astounding leap. Peter also realizes that when he jumped out of the way he stuck to the wall, so he begins scaling this giant building. A kid even sees him, but when he mentions it to his mother, his mom blames the horror movie.
We see Peter remark the speed in which he climbed up the building before crushing a steel pipe and he immediately pieces it together that it must be because of the spider. On his way home, he sees a sign offering $100 for anyone who can stay in the ring for three minutes with Crusher Hogan – a wrestler. Peter takes up the challenge by throwing on an old white sweater and pants, wraps his head in…a web? White pantyhose? Not really sure here…before going back to embarrass Crusher Hogan. A little bit of Stan Lee peeks through with dialogue from one of the onlookers stating “Sensational! Fantastic! And that mask gimmick gives him just the right touch of mystery. He was terrific!”
A TV producer sees this and offers Peter a job (allowing him to keep the mask). Peter goes home feeling pretty good and has cobbled together the iconic Spider-Man costume. He also devises his web slingers and tests out the web strength as well hanging from the ceiling. End of Part 1.
Part 2 enters with Spider-Man in front of the camera and people in awe. As he walks backstage, he is hearing offers left and right of people wanting interviews or putting him in movies. As he leaves them behind, a thief runs by without Peter doing anything. No dialogue or anything between Peter and the thief, but the cop blames Peter for not stopping him in which Peter responds that it was the cops job and from now on, he’s looking out for himself. Back at home, we see his uncle and aunt buy him a microscope and he’s reminded of how great they are.
We see Spider-Man becoming a huge sensation, but one night coming home, there’s a cop at his place. He finds out his uncle has been murdered and the perpetrator is at an old warehouse – which Peter knows exactly where it is. In a rage, he puts on the Spider-Man outfit and web slings to the warehouse where he surprises the killer. Ditko hides the face for a good chunk of panels before revealing after failed attempts to escape that it’s the same man that Peter let pass him earlier. Peter leaves the crook hanging in midair from a web before walking off feeling guilty of being responsible for Uncle Ben’s death.
The Bell Ringer
The Bell Ringer tells the story of an old man named Pedros. Pedros was the village bell-ringer on a small volcanic island. Every day he would get up and ring that bell each morning to save any boats that may be drifting too near.
Unfortunately, one day, the volcano became active. Everyone in the village were fearful of it erupting, so they ended up leaving. Pedros though couldn’t leave. He had a bell to ring. Even if nobody could hear it with the island deserted, there was a chance SOMEONE could hear it, so he had a job to do. As the volcano erupted and the island would be covered in lava, he did exactly what he set out to do each and every day. He rang that bell.
As his bell-tower is enveloped in fire and lava, a golden shaft of light shines down onto Pedros from the sky. The last panel is him being lifted into the sky as the boats surround the island and word is, some of them saw an old figure being lifted into the clouds through that golden chamber of light.
Man in the Mummy Case
Rocco Rank is a crook on the run from the police. As a officer draws near, he is able to leap in through a window seemingly giving the officer the slip. As he realizes he is in a museum, he realizes he isn’t alone as a mummy speaks to him. The mummy is trying to assist in Rank’s hiding.
Rank is hesitant about listening to this creature that shouldn’t even be alive, but he’s too scared of the cops and decides to take it’s advise. The mummy tells him to hide in the mummy case. He’s hesitant, but the mummy is able to convince him. As the lid closes, the mummy stands beside it as the cops rush in trying to find him. One cop checks the mummy case, but it’s empty. So they decide to move on.
The mummy opens the case again, and with a menacing look, says that Rank will be safe from his pursuers – FOREVER.
We see Rank’s face in horror. As it zooms out, the final panel shows him in ancient Egypt being treated as a slave. Over his shoulder is a rope and at the end of it is a giant block of rock that him and the other slaves are pulling forward with a guard standing nearby to keep him on track with a whip.
There Are Martians Among Us!
An airliner sees a spaceship pass it by and crash nearby. The pilot contacts the news to tell people what it saw, and a search party is sent out to investigate. Upon arriving at the crash site, they notice the ship empty which can only mean one thing – the martians are hostile. Why else would they be in hiding?
As if there was a global pandemic or something, people are still being urged to stay indoors even after a month of no aliens being discovered. A couple are discussing their fear, but the man must leave for…some…reason. We see the search crew nearing the city where this couple lives, so the martians could be close….While he’s gone, the woman realizes they have no coffee in the house, so of course she leaves as well so her husband isn’t angry when he gets home. However, while she’s out, she hears footsteps behind her before the panels start closing in on her face with a looming shadow and suddenly, she’s been taken.
The man returns home to find his wife gone. SHE DISOBEYED HIM! He hurries to the phone and makes a call scared that his wife has been abducted. In the Twilight Zone-esque twist, we see a panel of the man with four arms now claiming his wife ruined everything and the bloodhounds must have found her, and he will be next. Their identity as the martians now exposed.
- Original pages from the artwork of Amazing Fantasy #15 exists within the Library of Congress. It was given by a mysterious donor after Steve Ditko, a man known for criticizing an industry rampant with stolen work, declined to accept the artwork when offered to him. These pages include the original logo being covered up (though it’s peeled back to see), notes from Stan Lee, and more. – see these pages on VGU.tv
- In 2019, Marvel ran a “facsimile” edition of Amazing Fantasy #15. This was a complete reprint of the original issue along with everything that was inside it from the other stories, to ads, and other features.
- Jack Kirby’s heirs tried filing a suit in 2009 claiming Kirby had rights to the Spider-Man character as being one of the original creators. Lee denied this as the biggest influence Kirby had was creating the original cover, and the suit would be settled behind the scenes in 2014. Nothing is known, to my knowledge at least, what came out of it.
- “With great power comes great responsibility” is probably THE biggest phrase from comics. However, in Amazing Fantasy #15, it was never said. It came from a narrative caption in the comic’s last panel stating “…with great power there must also come–great responsibility”. This would be changed in later stories with Ben (who only has a couple lines in Amazing Fantasy 15) being the one to use that phrase. Stan Lee never thought it would become something people would remember or widely use.
- Everyone knows the Jack Kirby cover. However, prior to Jack Kirby drawing it and Steve Ditko inking it, Ditko also drew a cover. It’s similar in that it features Spider-Man carrying a man in his arms, but it’s more of a top-down view so you see the street below. Ditko approached it as being up-close-and-personal with the character like they were in the action. Kirby’s on the other hand was as if the viewer was someone in a crowd seeing this character swinging by. Stan preferred Jack’s cover, so they ultimately went with that one.
- Early in 2020, Amazing Fantasy #15 was sold at an auction for a whopping $795,000 at an auction in Dallas, Texas. It was graded a 9.4 by the CGC, which is just one of six known copies with this grade (there are four known copies with higher grades) breaking the record of previously sold 1960’s comic of $492,937.50
- Although Amazing Fantasy #15 released in 1962, Marvel tried their hand at bridging the gap between that issue and Amazing Spider-Man #1…in 1995. Thanks to editor Danny Fingeroth, this issue would serve as the connector issue showing Peter questioning what to do with his powers, Uncle Ben’s funeral, and more.
- Eventually the return of Amazing Fantasy would also lead to a second volume of the series in 2004. This would feature the introduction of Arana (more widely recognized as Spider-Girl – Ana Sofia Corazon). However, in the NEW Amazing Fantasy #15, they tried to replicate the same success of Spider-Man by introducing many new heroes such as Mastermind Excello (Amadeus Cho), Blackjack, Positron, and Monstro. Even the cover for this issue was a recreation of the original cover but included the new characters watching him.
- Speaking of cover homages, much like we mentioned way back on our Action Comics #1 episode, Amazing Fantasy #15 has been recreated quite a few times over the years. From issues like Deadpool #11, Marvel Zombies #1, Spawn #221, Bongo Comics Free-For All 2010, Simpsons Comics #241, Lockjaw #3, and numerous times in different Spider-Man books.
- Stan’s two favorite characters are Spider-Man and Silver Surfer. The reasons he likes Spidey so much is because:
- He’s the most famous
- Stan relates to him the most – Nothing turns out perfect and things can go wrong
- The suit allows ANYONE to relate to Spidey. Because he’s fully covered, kids from all over the world could imagine they were underneath.
https://youtu.be/75HonYg6dts – Stan Lee on Creating Spider-Man (Full 2000 CNN Interview)
https://youtu.be/3gwDnhMO8is – In Search of Steve Ditko
https://youtu.be/G8UNrVnGhFI – Stan Lee on How the Idea of #Spiderman was Born
https://youtu.be/KEi2bxAyYj4 – Stan Lee – Creating ‘The Hulk’, ‘Spider-Man’ and ‘Daredevil’ (16/42)
https://youtu.be/e9byf6fAac0 – Stan Lee Creating Spider-Man – The Everyman Superhero
Follow the podcast on Twitter: @HypertimePod or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Josh on Twitter: @jmille99
Follow Allan on Twitter: @TheAllanMuir
Intro and Outro Music: “RetroFuture Clean” by Kevin MacLeod
RetroFuture Clean Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License