Comic Book Throwback Review – The Amazing Spider-Man #16 (Marvel Comics)

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The Amazing Spider-Man #16

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko
Colorist: Bob Sharen
Letterer: S. Rosen
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Maturity Rating: Everyone

The Ringmaster and the Circus of Crime have come to New York City and have a dastardly plan. Spider-Man tries to save the day, but he will need help from the hero known as Daredevil.


Let’s Go to the Circus in The Amazing Spider-Man #16

We are going back to the ’60s in this Comic Book Throwback Review with The Amazing Spider-Man #16. Yes, we are going “OG” Marvel Comics with a Stan Lee and Steve Ditko Spider-Man adventure! It also happens to be the first time Spider-Man and Daredevil cross paths on the comic book page. It also comes with the explicit warning of “If you don’t say this is one of the greatest issues you have ever read, we may never talk to you again!” Pretty big statement there, right on the cover, Stan. Plus it features the Ringmaster and the Circus of Crime; that’s a lofty goal, to make an issue with them the greatest ever.

The Amazing Spider-Man #16 (Marvel Comics) cover by Steve Ditko
The Amazing Spider-Man #16 (Marvel Comics) cover by Steve Ditko

First, we get Daredevil in his original yellow and brown costume, and that thing is terrible. It just looks awkward. Secondly, the issue starts off with Aunt May trying to get Peter Parker to dump his girlfriend and go out with Mary Jane. She legit states to Peter, “You’re not really engaged, or anything!” Dang, Aunt May, a bit pushy there. Which is exactly what Peter thinks, and hops out as Spider-Man.

Circus Time

While Spider-Man is slinging around the city, he conveniently comes upon a crime and stops the bank robbers before they plow over a poor blind man. Who, Lee reminds us, is the death-defying Daredevil. These older comics are packed with words and descriptions and they can be a bit of a hindrance or very redundant at times, but, say what you will, Stan Lee does an incredible job of catching the reader up to speed on who everyone is and where everyone stands. Fits the model of “every comic book is someones first comic book”. A new reader would feel comfortable jumping in with The Amazing Spider-Man #16. Plus, I always like a firm ground of what a superhero’s exact powers are, and Lee gives us firm foundation for both Spider-Man and Daredevil.

Anyway, Matt Murdock makes his way back to the office, where Foggy and Karen are deciding to go to the circus. Matt does not want to go, but then when Foggy says the poster advertises Spider-Man will be there, he changes his mind. What fun for a blind man! Foggy and Karen do try to make it better saying they will describe it to Matt. How exactly would one describe the circus to a blind man is up to you.

This brings us to the Ringmaster dealing out his devilish plan, which is to advertise Spider-Man will be at the circus, everyone comes to see The Spider-Man, hypnotize them and rob the crowd. Pretty solid plan there. Except maybe thinking the actual Spider-Man would see it and be like “hey, I didn’t know I was performing at the circus” and then show up. Big hole in your plan there, Ringmaster. Because that is exactly what happens.

The Show Must Go On

Most of The Amazing Spider-Man #16 happens at the circus, and you know Stan Lee makes it a pretty fun little jaunt. He knows how to make a book fun and enjoyable. Spider-Man’s one-liners at the circus, though very corny, are kind of still funny; you can’t help but grin at some of the stuff. Lee throws a bit of curve-ball in here as well. The Ringmaster apparently has a hypnotize hat, so he hypnotizes Spider-Man, leaving the blind hero Daredevil to try and stop the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime with a mind-controlled Spider-Man attacking him.

It is a nice little jaunt and a good play on Daredevil’s more unique powers. I am sure this was a showcase to get more readers to pick up Daredevil by getting the Spider-Man “rub”, and Lee uses it to his full advantage.

Step Right Up!

Steve Ditko delivers some classic artwork in The Amazing Spider-Man #16. The long, gangly Spider-Man is on full display here and he looks fantastic. Ditko really nailed the look of Spider-Man, and it shows why this classic design has stuck around forever. Ditko also has some wonderful simple anatomy of characters as well. Everyone has a nice design and look to them.

There are a ton of characters in this issue, as well, and Ditko details each one spectacularly well. From the Ringmaster’s minions to the workers at the Daily Bugle, every character has a nice detail to them. There are also a ton of panels in this issue; Ditko lays everything out well and the action has a nice sense of movement to it. Ditko uses the circus setting to his advantage with high flyers like Daredevil and Spider-Man showing some fun action sequences.

The coloring work by Bob Sharen is also very well done. It is sharp and fits the issue perfectly

Big Top Fun

Look, I am not going to tell you The Amazing Spider-Man #16 is “one of the greatest issues I have ever read”. Sorry, Stan. But it is a lot of fun. Obviously it is a book of its time: the silver age, a book geared toward younger readers. A time when any comic book was someone’s first comic book, so it has a lot of pros and cons. But you get to see some of the all-time greats showcased. Lee delivers some classic Spider-Man adventure, maybe a little too redundant and wordy but, man, Stan Lee knew how to make things exciting with just his words. Plus Steve Ditko puts on a master class of comic book artwork, so there is a lot to love here. 4 circus peanuts out of 5.

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