My first comic book was Amazing Spider-Man #200. It was a double-sized issue and I got it for three quarters out of a spinner rack located in Stump’s drug store. At least I think that was my very first comic. I was a little kid at the time, so cut me a little slack, man, if I’m misremembering.
The point is that the Amazing Spider-man #200 made an indelible impact on me, and when I look back on it, it’s a pretty remarkable issue. As proof, let’s have a quick synopsis, shall we?
The Power of Comics Told Via Amazing Spider-Man #200
Spider-Man is powerless in issue #200 because Mysterio gave him a heavy dose of anti-depressants, which is actually pretty relevant to today if you think about it. The comic gets teenaged angsty when Peter Parker bemoans his life as a super hero, but he can’t worry about that for long as his home is torn asunder.
It turns out that the burglar who killed his Uncle Ben is ransacking his house!
I know! What are the chances, right?
The burglar was looking to interrogate Peter, but with years of hatred built up inside of him, Peter unloads on the burglar. But he is de-powered, remember. So the burglar simply pistol whips him and ties him up.
[Featured at this point in the comic is a Hostess Fruit Pie ad.]
He beats Peter for information, then brings in a frightened Aunt May to “persuade” Peter to give him the information he is looking for.
Peter finally breaks out of his binds. And there has been enough of Peter; it’s time for Spider-man! The burglar’s worst nightmare has come true. But why would Spider-Man would hound him forever over the death of one old man?
Peter drops the bomb: BECAUSE PETER PARKER IS SPIDER-MAN!!!
But we all know that Spider-man would never have sunk to this level, because he is a hero, but the burglar is panicked because he thinks Spider-man will kill him for what he is done, and the result of the panic is that…he dies of a heart attack.
Peter confronts one of the biggest moments in his life and the result of it is he makes a promise to be grateful every day for the gift of his powers.
Finally, Aunt May remembers an old box that the Burglar must have been looking for, but it’s contents had been eaten by bugs. So Peter and Aunt May share a good laugh, as one does at the end of a day like that.
It’s been over three decades of comics for me and I’m still not over the phrase, “With great power must also come great responsibility.” Perhaps that was because I was a little science nerd who had only his single mom to help him grow up right, just as Peter only had his Aunt May.
Peter Parker was a selfless guy back in the 60s, 70s, and into the early 80s comics. Spider-Man helped kids who were being picked on and rescued old women who were having their purses snatched. Spider-Man stopped bank robberies and, of course, fought super villains. But he hadn’t yet joined the Avengers and spent copious time on cosmic crossover adventures.
Throughout all that, Peter asked very little for himself, other than a little dough brought in via taking come pictures of his crime fighting, selling them as “Peter Parker, Mild Mannered Reporter” to the Daily Bugle.
It was that same Daily Bugle where J. Jonah Jameson was writing countless slanderous editorials which criticized Spider-Man and made him out to be a public menace. Still, Peter Parker soldiered on, knowing that with his power came responsibility toward others.
Comics can teach you things. Spider-Man has taught me things, that’s for sure.
Granted, everything Spidey related isn’t roses. I have never forgiven Marvel for a couple things. First, I still haven’t forgiven them for the Clone Saga. No one has. Second, I haven’t forgiven them for wiping away his relationship to Mary Jane, as I think that relationship taught readers things as well. Peter never gave up because Mary Jane was always by his side, helping him to always rise to his better angels.
That is the stuff of a good comic book. Comics can hang you on the edge of your seat or even make you laugh. Comics can make you cry (poor Gwen Stacy…). Comics can teach a nerdy little kid raised by a single mother to aspire to be a hero.
Comics taught me that with great power comes great responsibility, a lesson that lives on to this day, expressed by an understanding that none of us should abuse our privilege, and that we should instead seek to serve and love others in our communities.
Comics can deliver powerful, important messages. Comics can teach us many, many good lessons, just as the Amazing Spider-man taught me a few when I was a kid who picked up a brightly colored floppy book from a corner drug store.
And that is why I love comic books…even to this day.