I didn't get on the Spider-Man bandwagon with AMAZING FANTASY #15 (although I did eventually acquire a copy of that key early Silver Age Marvel comic and yes, I still have it and no, you can't have it, it's not for sale). Instead, my first exposure came with a copy of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #9, in which our hero battled Electro for the first time. That issue came out in November, 1963. I was seven-years-old.
I distinctly remember this comic book for two reasons. One, my dad brought it home to me when he returned from an out-of-town business trip, which made it extra special. Two, it was my first exposure of any kind to the Marvel Comics of the early 1960s. Up until then, my comic book reading consisted primarily of much "tamer" stuff, titles from Harvey Comics, Gold Key, Dell and an occasional DC comic featuring Superman or Batman. I didn't know what to make of this strange looking comic. I had no idea who Stan Lee or Steve Ditko were but I knew that by the time I'd finished reading the comic, I'd read something that was distinctly new and different.
Still, I didn't become a regular buyer of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN or any other Marvel Comic at that time. I didn't have a disposal income to speak off and the spinner racks at the drug stores and convenience stores back then held a multitude of four-color wonders all screaming for my attention. In short, I bought what grabbed my attention at the time.
This meant I bought a lot of comic books with dinosaurs on the covers. Comics like TUROK, SON OF STONE from Gold Key, with American Indians Turok and Andar trapped in Lost Valley, which was full of dinosaurs. I also enjoyed STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES from DC Comics, which featured the series "The War That Time Forgot", in which WWII era troops regularly tangled with dinosaurs. It was a brilliantly conceived series (army guys & dinosaurs!), designed to immediately separate me from my twelve cents.
I picked up a couple of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN issues over the next couple of years. I vividly remember #21 (November 1964) in which Spidey and the Human Torch slugged it out with The Beetle and issue #24 (February 1965), with Spider-Man being driven insane by a mystery villain who was revealed to be Mysterio. Great stories by Stan Lee, great art by Steve Ditko.
I know I bought a few more issues of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN over time but it wasn't until the fateful month of September, 1966, that I decided to not only start buying AMAZING SPIDER-MAN on a regular basis, but all of the Marvel Comics titles that were then being published: FANTASTIC FOUR, AVENGERS, DAREDEVIL, X-MEN, THOR, TALES OF SUSPENSE, TALES TO ASTONISH, STRANGE TALES, SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS and the reprint titles MARVEL COLLECTOR'S ITEM CLASSICS, MARVEL TALES and FANTASY MASTERPIECES.
What a great time to become a card-carrying Marvel Maniac. I was ten-years-old and as the saying goes, everyone's Golden Age is ten. How true. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #43 (September 1966) was the first issue I bought under this new purchasing agenda (although I know I somehow picked up some random back issues from somewhere). In this issue, Spider-Man tangled with The Rhino, a massive, unstoppable villain. Stan Lee was still writing the title but the artwork was now handled by John Romita (Ditko having moved over to DC Comics). I loved Romita's artwork and the run of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN produced by Lee and Romita remain to this day my all-time favorite issues of the title and my second favorite of all-time runs of a Marvel Comic. First place belongs to the 100 issues that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby did of THE FANTASTIC FOUR.
I was really getting into all of the Marvel titles and couldn't wait to see what new treasures would be published each month. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #44 & 45 (October & November, 1966), totally blew my mind. These issues featured the reappearance of The Lizard, a Spidey villain first introduced back in issue #6 (1963). Over the course of these two epic comic book stories, Spider-Man faced off against the reptilian renegade in a series of spectacular battle scenes. To make it even better (for the readers, worse for Spidey), he had to do it with one arm in a sling. Talk about drama! Talk about suspense! I loved those two issues so much that I would often day dream that The Lizard would somehow be found on the roof of my elementary school (Brykerwoods!) and I that I would have to change into my Spider-Man costume, swing up onto the roof and engage him in a fight to the death. Hey, cut me some slack. I was ten.
That's why I was so excited to see The Lizard finally make his big-screen appearance in the new AMAZING SPIDER-MAN movie. Parts of the film took me right back to that autumn of 1966 when Spidey journeyed in the sewers beneath New York City to confront one of his most distinctive and, yes, coolest foes.
And now you know the rest of the story.