The Molten Man returns. The Steve Ditko version of MM is probably my least favorite Spider-Man foe from the first, magical 40-odd issues of The Amazing Spider-Man. Mostly because he’s really just a steel dude with strength. Nothing “molten” about him.
See? I’m not sure what Stan thought the word “molten” meant.
Anyway, the story is a fine done-in-one. Not great by Lee/Ditko standards, but great by most others. I included the sequence above for several reasons: First, in pretty much all the 1960s Marvel books, villains get out of prison. A lot. Even when they’ve done wicked awful shit and caused all kinds of mayhem. In the panels above, we see several lurking messages:
- Judges let criminals get off because they feel sorry for them;
- A compassionate judicial system is “soft” and lets the wrong people go;
- Because Molten Man agrees to pay for the damage he’s caused, he gets out of prison—so money buys justice;
- Rehabilitation is a sham.
Most of these are fairly conservative messages, when most of Marvel’s readers were left-coast or northeastern Americans, college-aged, and enjoying the beginning of the free/drugs, free/love movement of the late 1960s.