Writer: Scott Lobdell
Pencils: James Fry
Inks: Christopher Ivy
Colours: Glynis Oliver
Letters: Michael Heisler
Editor: Terry Kavanagh
Original publication date: August 1992
Welcome back to the podcast where we talk about Excalibur and nothing but Excalibur… except when we talk about Spider-Man! Which we’re doing this week! Comics scholar and Steve Ditko expert Dr. Zack Kruse joins Anna, Mav, and Andrew to discuss Spidey and the unique vision of his complicated co-creator along with some Excalibur #53, “The Litter,” in which Brian tells Meggan a story from his misspent youth, part of which he spent rooming with some uptight nobody named Peter Parker, who’s always spouting snooze-worthy speeches about power and responsibility. Topics include what makes Spidey the heart of the Marvel universe, differences between Ditko’s Objectivism and the contemporary variety, and what you might have expected if you’d been brave enough to knock on Ditko’s door. (Zack did, and lived to tell the tale on this very podcast!)
On Ditko as Spidey:
“Spider-Man isn’t a stand-in for Steve Ditko. But he is a stand-in for Dikto’s ideas about the development of a person—for how a teenage person navigates the world when they realize they’re different.” -Zack
On an iconic scene:
“In the lifting sequence from Amazing Spider-Man #33, the rubble is symbolic of all the weight Peter carries. And the fact Peter causes the building to fall on himself, in effect by being too emotional, is symbolic of things Ditko was working through in his philosophy.” -Zack
More on That Scene:
“I don’t think anyone who read that story didn’t come away with a sense of ‘this is what superheroes are.’ When Peter lifts the rubble, you know for a fact this character is heroic not because of his strength. It’s not the gadgets or the costume. It’s his heart. It’s what’s inside of him.” -Zack
On the appeal of Spider-Man:
“Even if Spider-Man isn’t your absolute number one favourite character—if you like Marvel Comics, you like Spider-Man. He’s the heart of the Marvel Universe.” -Anna
On role reversals:
“Peter is in the Uncle Ben role, teaching this young man, this young hero, that heroism begins with personal responsibility.” -Zack
On Brian's troubled heroism:
“I enjoyed the way linking Brian’s struggle with power and responsibility to Peter’s similar but very different struggle made us sympathize with Brian’s burdens. He never wanted to be a hero. He chose the amulet instead of the sword. But heroism was thrust upon him through that choice.” -Anna
Want more Zack Kruse?
You can find him on Twitter (@zackkruse) and check out his recent book with University Press of Mississippi, Mysterious Travelers: Steve Ditko and the Search for a New Liberal Identity, available wherever fine books are sold!
You can also check out the Pictures Within Pictures Podcast, and the comics studies-themes Prerequisites podcast. Zack also hosts the “Mutant Graveyard” hour, playing music for monsters and mutants at Rockin’ the Suburbs radio!
Plus, iff you’re a comics scholar or anyone who enjoys smart comics talk and interacting with indie creators (and buying some cool indie comics!), you can also check out the Michigan State University Comics Forum!
And as usual:
You can find Andrew on Twitter (@ClaremontRun).