Saturday, July 01, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 182: ESU — Phew!

Panels from The Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) #68 (January 1969); plot and layouts by John Romita, Sr.; script by Stan Lee; finishes by Jim Mooney; letters by Sam Rosen

We begin July with one of the earlier "social conscience" stories of the Marvel Age, presenting issues to appeal to the youth of today (or 1969), even if Stan 'n' the Bullpen are a bunch of white guys approaching middle age. This is the well-intended (but ultimately too-easily solved) "Crisis on Campus" storyline, distinguished by coming in the middle of the Romita renaissance of Spider-Man, plopping him firmly into a supporting cast of his college peers (and Gwen Stacy) and having him deal not only with supervillains but the concerns of his fellow students (and Gwen Stacy).

As outlined in this wordy page of lettering love by Sam Rosen, our friendly neighborhood Peter Parker has to deal with both the A-plot and the B-plot (and I'm not certain which is which): an demonstration against Empire State University (home of the Fightin' Spiders) over the availability of affordable on-campus housing (in the middle of Manhattan?!? Pull the other one out of eight!), plus the Saga of That Mysterious Tablet Which Has Some Sort of Writing on It But Nothing Quite So Pithy as "ESU — Whew!"

Ah yes, that pesky tablet. Which means it's time for an ant's eye view of half-naked Kingpin! Who says this isn't the bountiful Bully Age of beefcake?

Also, Wilson Fisk has a henchman also named Wilson. That's likely to get a bit confusing during Secret Santa.

The exhibition of the valuable tablet and the demonstration against the administration clash! And not the good sort of "London Calling" clash, which would not be around for another seven years. In the middle, as always, is Petey, unsure what to do, how to act, and indeed what to think. He's hesitant to become involved, probably because with great power comes great reticence to take part in political and social debate. But what if Gwen Stacy thought you were a chicken, Peter? Buck buck buck buck! A chicken!

Kingpin uses the demo as a distraction to steal the tablet, conveniently forgetting that a Kingpin of Crime sits behind a big mahogany desk and gives orders to expendable underlings and does not get involved in the action himself. Have you learned nothing from the privately published crime treatises of Professor James Moriarty, Mister King?

Oh sure, now Spider-Man makes an appearance, because however morally problematic an insurrection against his school may be, he's not gonna let Fatso there interrupt his lunch at the food hall. Today's lunch is Sloppy Joes, tater tots, and peach cobbler, and I think the Kingpin and Spidey could sit down over that meal and hash things out, but I bet there's just gonna punch each other. Meanwhile, on the left-hand side of the panel, Angel Love's mom contemplates "LSD?!!"

na na na na BIFF na na na na PAK na na na na TWOP

And that's not the end, no way, true believer! The protesters are arrested (including Robbie Robertson's son Randy) and the Kingpin gets away with the tablet, and somehow in the next episode Spidey will wind up IN THE KINGPIN'S CLUTCHES. Don't ask me how I know; it's just a little hunch of mine.

Tomorrow: more pop art protests and the practice of progressive philosophy! And hey, if you want to learn a little bit more about Peter Parker's troubled history with student protests, there's no better place to peep your eye than pal Jim McGrath's excellent and vitally entertaining New York City and the Marvel Universe blog entry about ASM #38 with pretty intelligent reader letters discussing the story! Check it out or forever be labelled a chicken by Gwen Stacy! Buck buck buck buck!

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