Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #4

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: From The Beginning

This review was first published on: 2001.

Background...

He's beaten a non-super-powered burglar, tackled a master of disguise, bested a man who can fly, encountered an alien disguised as a repairman, and dealt with a man with metallic arms. But how will Spidey fare against an opponent who can change the consistency of his body? Find out in "Nothing Can Stop... the Sandman!"

In Detail...

"Nothing Can Stop the Sandman!"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #4
Sep 1963 : SMURF 004.500 : SM Title
Summary: First Sandman, First Betty Brant
Editor:  Stan Lee
Writer:  Stan Lee
Pencils:  Steve Ditko
Inker:  Steve Ditko
Cover Art:  Steve Ditko
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 Reprinted In: Marvel Collectors Item Classics #2
 Reprinted In: Marvel Dollar Reprints (ASM #3-5 Unmarked)
 Reprinted In: Marvel Masterworks #1
 Reprinted In: Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus #1
 Reprinted In: Pocket Book: Spider-Man Classics (Vol. 1)
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #141
 Partially Reprinted In: Pow! #8
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Classic #1
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Classics #5
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Collectible Series (Newspaper) #8
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Collectible Series (Newspaper) #9
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Doctor Octopus #1
 Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #1
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Pocket Book #7
 Reprinted In: Masterworks: Amazing Spider-Man (TPB)
Articles: Aunt May Parker, Betty Brant, Flash Thompson, Jameson, J. Jonah, Elizabeth (Allan) Osborn, Sandman (1st), Seymour O'Reilly

It begins with a very cool Ditko splash page. The Sandman stands in the center, his arms raised in triumph, his right hand holding up a bag of money with some bills drifting around it. The background is a split-screen. The left side is a street in Manhattan. Police line up by their squad cars and fire their guns ineffectually at the Sandman. The right side is the inside of a Midtown High School classroom. In the background, Flash Thompson, Liz Allan and two other kids watch as Spider-Man attacks the villain; his right arm half buried in the Sandman's chest after an ineffective punch.

And now our story...

Spider-Man is out on the town, hanging upside-down right by a billboard that advertises "The Spider-Man Menace! A New Series by J. Jonah Jameson. Starting today in the Daily Bugle." A big picture of Jonah's sour-looking mug accompanies the text. But then the web-slinger spies something more interesting. "Three punks casin' a jewelry store." He swings over to keep an eye on the situation. Sure enough, as soon as the owner locks up and leaves for the night, the three men sneak back to the store. Before they can actually break in, Spider-Man constructs about a dozens hoops out of webbing and drops them over the men, trapping their arms. "Who...?" asks one hood. "Well, it's not Dr. Kildare" (which was a hit show on TV at the time, starring Richard Chamberlain), replies Spidey. Two of the hoods think they've had it but the third one (Charlie) is smarter than that. He threatens to sue Spidey for assault and battery and he's "got witnesses to prove it!" ("Yeah, that's right!" says one of his two witnesses.) Charlie continues his tirade, stating that there is no law against the three of them walking the street at night. "You're a menace", he says, "just like J. Jonah Jameson says!" Spidey realizes the hood is right. Since he attacked before the men actually did something illegal, he has no evidence that they were doing anything other than taking a stroll.

But it doesn't end there. One of the other punks insults Spidey with, "Don't you feel like a jerk paradin' around in public in that get-up?" while the third one decides to call for a cop so he can "swear out a warrant against Spider-Man". Soon, all three men, facing in different directions are calling for the police. Eventually, a beat cop walks up and one of the hoods reports that Spider-Man "attacked us for no good reason". Spidey realizes it is three against one so he leaps up to the hood of a car, then up onto the wall of a nearby building. The cop tells our hero that he needs to fill out a report with his name and address on it. Charlie yells out, "Get 'im down from there! Shoot the bum!" Spidey must content himself with the knowledge that he did prevent a robbery. With the webhead gone, the three punks laugh it up big time. But the cop tells them to move along. "If I were Spider-Man, I might have tackled you myself 'cause you got larceny written all over you!"

Back up on the roof, Spidey looks up at the JJJ billboard and decides "it's all his fault". Because of the publisher's editorials "even cheap crooks now think they don't have to fear me anymore!" Angered by the sight of Jonah's mug, Spidey decides to head over to the Daily Bugle and pay a visit. When he gets to Jameson's office window, however, no one is there. He opens the window, enters the room, and leaves "a little souvenir for him to prove I was here".

Soon after, Spidey is standing on the top of a water tower when he sees several police cars racing along below. Watching the action, the wall-crawler sees a man in a green striped shirt and tan pants scaling a ladder on his way to a roof. The web-spinner figures the least he can do is nab this guy for the police, so he shines his spider-beacon on him to shake him up, then leaps down to wrap things up quickly. But while still in mid-leap, he gets a good look at his opponent and is shocked by his decidedly sandy appearance. The green-shirted man introduces himself as the Sandman. Spidey has heard of him (but thought "the reports were just a gag") and knows that the Sandman is "wanted by the police from Maine to Mexico".

The Sandman is uninterested in having this conversation. He pushes Spidey aside, telling him "I got me a couple of banks to rob and I don't wanna work overtime!" The web-slinger refuses to get "the bum's rush" like this so he grabs the criminal from behind but, much to his surprise, the Sandman disintegrates out of his grasp into a pile of sand and regenerates himself a few feet away. Now feeling like showing off, the Sandman holds his ground and lets Spider-Man punch him. Spidey's fist goes right through the Sandman's body and comes out the other side. Spidey realizes the Sandman "isn't flesh and blood" but he tries again with a left hook to the jaw.

This time, however, the Sandman is rock hard and Spidey hurts his fist on Sandy's jaw. Finally, proclaiming "No hands!", the Sandman thrusts his waist out like a battering ram (Spidey notes that "He can change his body as easily as Mister Fantastic" who he met in ASM #1, March 1963) and knocks the wall-crawler over a skylight and onto his back. Spidey is already planning to retaliate with his webbing when he realizes his mask has been torn apart by his hard landing. He looks at it and realizes it will not hide his identity without some serious repair work.

In that instant, he imagines being maskless and capturing the Sandman only to have the villain tell him "Soon as the police grab me, I'll let 'em all know who you really are!" His imagination runs wild, picturing J. Jonah Jameson hounding him with "He must be expelled from school... driven from town" and Aunt May forced to sell shoe laces for ten cents apiece on the street. That does it. Spidey knows he can't stay and fight in this condition. He runs for it from rooftop to rooftop. The Sandman waves a fist and yells at him to come back and fight. "Ya blamed coward!", he calls, "The Amazing Spider-Man! Bah!"

With Spidey gone, the Sandman gets back to business. He jumps off the roof, turning to "small, weightless sand particles" as he falls. When the sand gets down to the sidewalk, he reforms into his human shape and continues on his way. (But what happened to all the police that were following him?) Sandy stops at a nearby bank, uses his ability to change his shape so that his right index finger takes on the shape of a key. He sticks it into the door lock and allows the sand to find the contours of the lock. It opens with a "click!". Inside the bank, Sandy flattens out on the floor, sliding under a steel cage door and avoiding the electric eye alarm. It isn't long before he has arrived at the door of the main vault.

And back at his Forest Hills home, Peter Parker is up in his room, doing his best to stitch up his mask even though he is "all thumbs". He stabs his finger with the needle and wishes he could ask Aunt May to do the sewing for him. Pete is watching TV as he is doing these repairs (Hey look! Pete has a TV in his room!) and a special report comes on that is all about the Sandman. It recounts his history, telling Pete (and us) that the villain, "known as Flint Marko", was "an inmate at Island Prison" just a few months ago. One night "the most incorrigible prisoner at that maximum security jail" escaped by crawling through a drainage tunnel which led to the water. From that point on, he was on the run, guns blazing as he fled, landing at the top of the "F.B.I. list of most wanted criminals". But the police were getting closer so "he hid in the one place where no one would imagine a man would hide - an Atomic Device Testing Center!"

There he stayed, living on the beach, until a nuclear test took place. Suddenly a mushroom cloud bloomed right behind him, but instead of dying Marko discovered that "the molecules of his body merged at that radio-active instant with the molecules of the sand under his feet" turning him into a living pile of sand. The TV report continues but Peter hears Aunt May coming so he clicks off the set, grabs a robe and puts it on to cover up his Spider-Man costume. His Aunt barges right in without knocking, carrying a tray of milk and cookies, but when she sees a startled Peter clutching his robe closed and looking agitated, she jumps to the conclusion that he must have a fever. She feels his forehead to check and Peter decides to roll with the excuse. He tells her "maybe I am a little ill, Aunt May".

In spite of Peter's protests that he'll soon be fine, May runs off for some aspirin and a thermometer. While she's gone, Peter turns the TV on again and sees a live report of the Sandman's departure from the bank. The police have the place surrounded but their bullets do not even faze the villain. Sandy defiantly stands in the bank's doorway holding up one of those big bags with the big dollar sign on it that we know all banks use to carry their currency. But then Aunt May comes back and Peter must go to bed. He holds the blankets up to his chin and thinks about how Spider-Man could stop the Sandman... if only he could get his mask sewed and get away from Aunt May.

Back in the city, the Sandman takes off running, carrying his moneybag, with the police on his heels. He rounds a corner into a vacant lot, out of sight of his pursuers, puts the moneybag on the ground, turns to sand on top of it and waits. All the police see is an innocent mound of sand and they run right by it. The Sandman has made his escape.

The following morning, Aunt May is still pestering poor Peter about his health. She pulls out the thermometer and takes his temperature... which is "perfectly normal". She goes downstairs to fix Peter a good breakfast and pack him off to school. As soon as she leaves, Pete sits up in bed. He has, apparently, stayed in his Spidey suit and robe all night long and, even though he "was up half the night workin' on" it, he still hasn't had time to finish sewing his mask. But now's his chance! He gets it done and decides to wear his costume under his clothes today. (What's this? No shower, Pete?) By the time he's dressed and downstairs, Aunt May has his breakfast ready. She tells him she must go out but wants him to "eat every drop" of his food. And, since it "may rain today", she makes sure that Peter is carrying an umbrella.

At the Daily Bugle/Now Magazine offices, J. Jonah Jameson walks in wondering if there's any connection between Spider-Man and the Sandman. "What a scoop it would be if I proved there is!" He sits in his chair and finds that "little souvenir" that Spidey left the day before. It is a nice chunk of Spidey's adhesive webbing and JJJ finds himself stuck. (Which would be fine but isn't Spidey's webbing supposed to disappear after an hour?) Jonah stands up and the chair comes with him. He orders his "gawking" secretary Betty Brant to fetch another pair of trousers for him.

Jonah's secretary has made one previous appearance in ASM #2 (May 1963), first story, page 8, panel 3. She looks a bit like Betty but somehow older in Ditko's admittedly sketchy illustration. She is also wearing glasses, which Betty Brant does not do. In Untold Tales of Spider-Man #12 (August 1996), Kurt Busiek established that Betty's mother was Jonah's secretary until she was attacked by Blackie Gaxton's thugs who came to her home in search of her son Bennett. (Don't worry, we'll get to the Blackie Gaxton-Bennett Brant stuff in ASM #11, April 1964.) The assault left Mrs. Brant with brain damage and Betty was forced to step in and take her mom's place with JJJ. So can we agree that the woman in the previous appearance is Mrs. Brant and this moment with Jonah webbed to the chair is Betty's very first appearance?

Betty gets the fresh trousers and runs into Peter on her way back to Jameson. (Now, I don't want to get too picky here but Stan does clearly state that Jonah arrives at work "a few minutes later" than Peter leaves his house. JJ removes his hat and coat, loosens his tie and sits down. Could Peter really have traveled from his home in Queens to the offices in Manhattan in such a short period of time? Erm... no.) Betty asks Peter to take the trousers since Jonah is "in such a bad mood, I hate to face him". Peter, who has forgotten his little present until this moment, is happy to do so. He enters the publisher's office. Jonah is standing behind his desk in his boxer shorts. Peter hands him the fresh pants and JJJ berates Parker for not bringing in any good pictures lately.

When Peter reveals that his reason for visiting is to ask for an advance, Jonah blows a gasket. "What do you do with money, eat it?" he bellows, then chases Peter out, telling him "get me some shots of Spider-Man and don't come back till you do!" Peter, who wanted the money "for new experiments with my webbing" admits defeat and leaves the building. "Once I get those pix of Spider-Man", says Jonah to himself once Peter is already down at the street, "I'll run them next to some pix of Sandman with a caption reading: Are they the same man? What a feature that will make!"

Peter takes a bus to school, still carting his umbrella with him. Flash Thompson is hanging around with Liz Allen on the school grounds and he can't believe that she has agreed to a date tonight with "Puny Parker". "Well, the poor guy has asked me so many times, I just didn't have the heart to refuse him again" says the compassionate Liz.

Liz, by the way, has been around since Amazing Fantasy #15 (August 1962), but I'm pretty sure this is the first time she is actually given a name. Hang on a second and let me look through the back issues to be certain that I am right...... Okay, I'm back and I'm right. Er... yeah, you're right, you caught me, I never went to look at all, I just said that I did. Even so, I'm still pretty sure this is the first time Liz is called "Liz". At this point, her last name still hasn't seen the light of day.

Peter gets off the bus, his mind occupied with his plans to track the Sandman after school, and Liz asks him what time he is going to pick her up. Of course, Peter has forgotten all about his date with Liz. He decides he must break the date but he doesn't dare tell her the real reason why. So, he tells her that he has to "study for tomorrow's exam" (which, come to think of it, Liz should be doing, too) but Liz will have none of it. "You're the top student in the class!" says the spurned Liz, "If you can't spare one evening for a date, then I'm sorry for you! Goodbye!" Flash Thompson has been digging every minute of this. He gets in a last gleeful shot. "Hey, dig the crazy umbrella", he says, "How come you left your galoshes home, skinny?" And in class, Peter gets so absorbed in the troubles of maintaining a secret identity (and wondering if he should have his head examined) that the teacher yells at him to "stop daydreaming in class!" The poor guy just can't win.

Not far away, the Sandman is finding the police to be a little more trouble than he thought. The cops are everywhere, keeping Sandy on the run. One officer leaps at the villain's feet, only to come up empty as the Sandman turns his legs to sand. But more try to grab him. Sandy is forced to assume the shape of a snake in order to evade their clutches. Finally, he finds himself alone but he knows he needs a good place to hide before the cops catch up with him again. There is a High School across the street and the Sandman decides "Nobody'd ever think to look for me in there!" He slips into the nearly empty hallway of the school.

Everyone is in class except for one student who is being punished for not paying attention. The student is Peter Parker, the punishment is to carry some "old bottles from the lab to the boiler room", and I only have two questions to accompany this. First, why doesn't Pete's spider-sense go off with the Sandman standing right behind him? Second, why would you punish someone who is not paying attention in class by sending them on a job that takes them away from the class? Well, there are reasons, my friends, from Stan Lee's viewpoint if not necessarily from the teacher's viewpoint. So, anyway, Peter arrives at the boiler room and the janitor tells Pete to set the bottles down because he's busy adjusting... ahem... "this new king-size vacuum cleaner".

Meanwhile, the Sandman is still creeping around the hallway, looking for an empty classroom in which to hide. But he hears someone coming and decides to duck into the nearest door. And wouldn't you know it? It's the classroom that Peter has just left! The Sandman is disappointed to see that "the blamed room is packed!" Not only that, but Principal Davis has wandered in to say a few words to the students. The Principal recognizes the Sandman right away and, identifying himself, confronts the bad guy. When the Sandman learns that Davis is the Principal, he declares, "I never graduated school! Mebbe this is my chance to get a diploma!"

He tells the Principal to "write me out a diploma... or else!" but Davis will not back down or give in. "A diploma must be earned!", he says, "Your threats can't make me violate my trust or my duties." The students are all impressed to see the Principal stand up to the Sandman but the Sandman himself just rears back and prepares to punch the guy out. Luckily for Davis, though, Peter Parker has returned from his task, overheard the events inside, and changed into his Spidey duds. Leaping into the classroom "like a tornado", Spider-Man lands a solid haymaker right on the Sandman's jaw. An admiring student declares, "This sure has studying calculus beat all hollow!"

The students crowd around ready to watch the fight. Flash Thompson yells out, "Go get 'im, Spider-Man!" and Spidey wonders if the cheering would continue if they all knew it was "Puny Parker" for whom they are cheering. The Sandman has recovered from the punch. He's ready to take the wall-crawler apart. Spidey is concerned about the well being of his fellow students. He decides he must get the Sandman away from the crowd. First he considers trying to knock the villain out with one punch but his spider-sense tells him that the Sandman has made his body rock-hard. Instead, the web-slinger grabs the Sandman behind the head, before Marko can react and change back to soft sand, then flips Sandy over his head. The villain smashes right through the door and lands out in the hall. (Inside the classroom, Liz wonders where Peter went. Flash replies that "that coward" is "probably hidin' with his head under a desk somewhere". Both seem to have forgotten that Peter was sent out to take the bottles to the boiler room.)

The Sandman recovers quickly and attacks the web-slinger. He turns his hands into big sandy blocks and tries to pound Spidey into mush. The webhead evades these blows. As the students evacuate the building, Spidey springs backwards into a classroom. The Sandman fills the doorway, still using his hands as piledrivers. Spidey knows he needs more space in which to operate and, suddenly... don't ask me how... he goes from the classroom to the gymnasium. Now that he has the extra space he craves, the wall-crawler stands on the top of the basketball backboard and sprays his webbing down so that it completely covers the Sandman. Thinking he has defeated his foe, the web-spinner leaps down to the gym floor but the Sandman escapes by turning to sand and "pouring right thru [the] web". Spidey is "trying to sound confident" but he is running out of ideas.

He grabs a transom and kicks his way out through the double doors. The Sandman expands his hand to gigantic proportions and makes a grab at the web-slinger, aiming too low to succeed. (And it occurs to me that this panel, with the Sandman's distorted hand, looks very much like Ditko's later Shade, the Changing Man (June/July 1977-August/September 1978). What is it with Steve and these distorted figures?) In the very next panel, however, the Sandman has managed to corner the wall-crawler. Again he resorts to the piledriver fists while he loosens up the coherency of his torso so Spidey's punches go right through him without effect. And just when you think the Sandman is too ham-headed to come up with anything new, he adds a wrinkle. While Spidey's arm is thrust all the way through him (and sticking out his back!), he hardens his body. The webster is stuck. While Spidey tries to dislodge his arm, Sandy uses his "rock-hard head" to head-butt him. Spidey goes down on one knee and the Sandman uses his leverage to push the wall-crawler way back. If he didn't have spider-strength, our hero would "be out for the count".

Instead, using the last of his strength, Spider-Man uses the leverage against Marko. He flips Sandy over his head and smashes the bad guy's head into an "iron stairway post". The villain falls apart into "countless grains of sand". (Now, wait a second. Spidey was trapped in a corner. The Sandman was rock-hard. Spidey flipped him over. Suddenly, they're only a couple of feet from a stairway that appears out of nowhere. The post is made of iron, even though it looks like yellow-painted wood. And Sandy's rock-hard body completely disintegrates into sand. Sounds like Spidey got a little help from Stan and Steve.)

Spider-Man is free but the Sandman is already reforming. The top half of his body sits upright on the ground while he oozes the bottom part of his body over Spidey's legs, imitating quicksand. Then, as the web-slinger is occupied with trying to free his feet, Flint stretches up and tries to engulf the web-slinger. Soon Spidey is covered in sand up to his neck, but in spite of his distressing circumstances, he comes up with a plan. Intentionally letting himself get completely engulfed in the sand, Spidey bends down and forms himself into a ball. He finds the basement stairs and rolls down them. The Sandman comes along for the ride, contemptuous of Spidey's escape attempt. ("You're just prolongin' the agony, lamebrain! This ain't gonna help ya!") But when they reach the bottom of the stairs and arrive in the boiler room, they collide with a brick wall and the impact jars the Sandman loose. Sandy coalesces into his human form and springs to the attack. Spidey grabs an electric drill from the janitor's workbench and orders the Sandman to keep his distance. Flint turns to sand and scoffs at him. "That dumb thing can't hurt me", he says. Little does he know he is playing right into the wall-crawler's hands. Spidey shoves the drill right into the Sandman but it goes right through. "How'd a nut like you ever get to be a super-hero, anyhow?", says the floating silhouette of sand. He's about to find out. "Moving with breath-taking speed", Spider-Man drops the drill and grabs the vacuum cleaner that the janitor was adjusting earlier. He turns it on and trains the nozzle on the swirl of sand. In an instant, the Sandman is sucked into the vacuum cleaner and, just like that, the battle is over.

It is only afterwards that Spidey realizes he didn't have time to get pictures for J. Jonah Jameson. And so, with a complete disregard for journalistic integrity, he decides to fake them. He removes his camera from his belt, props it up on a table and sets the timer to automatic. There is a bucket of sand ("For Fire Only") in the boiler room; Spidey grabs a handful and tosses it into the air. He leaps through it and punches it, as if he is fighting the Sandman in his pure sand form. "Since this really happened a few minutes ago, it can't be unethical", says the self-deluded super-hero, "it's like shooting a re-take of a movie!"

Outside the school, the police have thrown up a cordon. And who should barge his way up to the front lines but Jolly Jonah himself. JJJ rags on the police captain, asking, "Why don't you charge in there and overpower the Sandman?" The captain replies that he must make sure all the students are safe before he sends his men in, shooting. And these guys mean business! One panel gives us a nice close-up of a machine-gun in a policeman's hands. Soon, the school is cleared out and Jameson tells the captain to get moving "before [the Sandman] and Spider-Man escape". The captain tells Jonah that he believes Spidey is "helping... to battle Sandman" but JJ sneers at this. "For all we know", he says, "they're planning to loot this entire city together." Seconds after those words are spoken, the spider-signal shines down at JJJ and the captain's feet.

Up on the roof, standing right next to the American flag, Spidey rests his hand on the vacuum cleaner and tells the police that the Sandman is safely trapped inside. Only Jameson doesn't buy it. ("It could be a trick! You've got to capture Spider-Man! Hold him until you find the Sandman!") The captain is on Spidey's side but he still wants the wall-crawler to come down and give a full report. JJJ has questions, too. "My papers want to know more about him! Why is Spider-Man allowed to roam the city at will ... taking the law into his own hands??"

Spidey knows that he can never do anything to satisfy Jameson. He's also afraid that Jonah might incite the crowd into convincing the police to arrest him. He imagines being in the hands of the cops as a satisfied Jonah unmasks him. That's enough to convince him. Instead of joining the crowd, he uses his web to lower the vacuum cleaner. And with Jameson screaming that "As a taxpayer, I demand he be apprehended!" the wall-crawler goes back into the school, uses his spider-powers to quickly get downstairs, find his clothes and change back to Peter Parker. Not a moment too soon. Seconds after re-assuming his civvies, a hand drops on his shoulder. It is Jonah Jameson wanting to know if Parker managed to get any photos of the battle. Peter tells him that he did. He hands over the film, explaining, "I didn't have time to have it developed!" (No d'uh, Pete!) Jameson is cool with that. "I'll take the cost of developing out of your pay", he tells the High Schooler.

The police have also entered the building but can find no trace of Spider-Man. The captain isn't worried about it. He has nothing against Spidey anyway. Jonah overhears this and goes on his toot again, declaring that he will write an editorial about the destruction caused by the battle between Spidey and Sandy... damage that would not have occurred "if Spider-Man had let the police handle this" so that "Sandman could have been starved out of there and captured with no fuss, no damage". The captain tells JJJ he can publish what he wants but that "the police appreciate Spider-Man's help".

Peter isn't worried about any of this. He grins from ear to ear. After all, he "polished off Sandman, got the money I needed, and now there's nothing to stop me from dating Liz tonight!" Pete joins up with the gang ("Well, well, look who's here! Mr. Bookworm of 1963" says one student.) He tells Liz that he can take her out tonight after all but a haughty Liz informs him that she has made other plans. "Meaning yours truly punk", says a triumphant Flash Thompson, "Now run along and find your umbrella." For a second, Peter loses his cool. He grabs Flash by the shirt and cocks his fist, declaring "I'm gonna wipe that stupid leer off your face right now!" Flash is unconcerned. In fact, he's been looking forward to this fight. But, in that moment, Peter realizes what he is doing; realizes that he could "pulverize" Flash if he let himself go, so instead he begs off, claiming "I've got more important things to do". "Sure, things like chickening out of fights and hiding whenever there's trouble," says Flash. The rest of the gang thinks Flash is a riot. Liz puts her hand to her mouth, shocked by Peter Parker's cowardice.

Outside the school, the ribbing continues. One wise guy pretends that he is going to help Puny Parker across the street, then is surprised to discover that, under his jacket, Peter has "got muscles like a weight lifter". Liz and the others drive off with Flash in his car. Peter is left standing on the corner, holding his umbrella. When Flash lets go with one last insult ("So long, Brain Wave! Don't let any kindergarten kids run away with your books!"), Liz tells him to lay off. "Women!" Flash replies, "I thought you were mad at 'im!"

So, Peter walks home from school, eavesdropping on the comments of those around him. One man comments on Spidey's capture of the Sandman but others have listened to J. Jonah Jameson. "Who knows when Spider-Man may turn against society?" "What would make a guy wear a goofy costume and run around chasin' crooks?" "He must be a neurotic of some sort! Probably has delusions of grandeur!" Even the kids are against him. One asks, "Don't you wish you were Spider-Man?" while the other replies, "Nah! Give me the Human Torch any day!"

At home, alone in his room, Peter Parker wonders if the people are right. "Am I really some sort of crack-pot wasting my time seeking fame and glory?" he asks. He doesn't know the answer. But he does know he must continue. "No matter how difficult it is, I must remain as Spider-Man! And I pray that some day the world will understand!"

In the letter's page, Gary Anderson of East Northport, New York is confused by something. He read ASM #1 and notes, "In the first half of the book, Spider-Man's secret identity is Peter Parker, but in the second half, his secret identity is Peter Palmer! Which name is right?" He is answered, "Gary, literally hundreds of puzzled fans have called our attention to that king-sized error! We don't know how it happened, but to set the record straight, Spider-Man's real name is Peter Parker, and we're gonna do our best to see that it stays that way!" I mention this letter because of a recent hub-bub in which several readers have written to PPP, concerned that their copies of ASM #1 were reprints because they had the "Peter Palmer" error. This letter should ease everyone's fears once and for all. The original issue HAS the Palmer mistake. Any issues that have "Parker" in the second story are the reprints.

Elsewhere in the Spider's Web, Arthur Davis Jr. of Roanoke, Virginia wants to know whatever happened to Amazing Adult Fantasy. The answer: "Judging by your mail, those who read the mag LOVED it... but, judging by our sales, not enough readers BOUGHT A.A.F.! So, just for kicks, we decided to create a new super character (SPIDER-MAN) and throw away all the rules, making him as original and as different as we could. We planned to present him in the final issue of AMAZING ADULT FANTASY, just to satisfy ourselves. But, the rest is history! His surprise appearance jolted readers everywhere, and we were deluged with letters demanding that he be given his own magazine. So there you are... AMAZING ADULT FANTASY has now become AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and a new super hero sensation has joined the Marvel galaxy of stars!"

Rick Wood of Memphis, Tennessee likes Spidey just fine but thinks, "Such quotes as, 'My spider instincts sense danger behind me!', 'That tingle I feel, my quarry is close,' 'I can still sense him in the dark" - all imply some vague power which has no reasonable explanation, and which is unnecessary to the story. Most super-heroes have such unexplained instincts which save the writer the trouble of thinking up a more reasonable and clever way out of plot difficulties, but I just hope you keep Spider-Man out of this rut!" (Stan's reply: "Aw, come on now, Rick! WHAT rut? How many OTHER super heroes do you know with spider instincts?)

And Bill Schmuck of Victoria, British Columbia says... well, who cares what he says? I just mentioned him because I want to make fun of his last name! (Sorry, Bill!)

Finally, in the "Special Announcements Section", Stan proudly proclaims that "effective with this issue, the Amazing Spider-Man will be published MONTHLY!" and suggests that, "due to the unusually large demand for Spider-Man", the readers reserve their copies in advance. The section concludes with, "Yours till Peter Parker picks a peck of pickled peppers!"

The Sandman was judged popular enough to re-appear only a few months later, in Strange Tales #115 (December 1963) versus the Human Torch. Spidey had a one-panel appearance in that issue. Check out a quick recap in the "Spider-Man Cameos" section. Flint Marko joins the Sinister Six to challenge Spidey in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 (1964) and pops up again in ASM #18-19 (November-December 1964), but after that he disappears from Spidey's life for over seven years, becoming a member of the Frightful Four and battling the Fantastic Four and the Incredible Hulk instead. He meets Spidey again in Marvel Team-Up #1 (March 1972), but doesn't face off solo against the webhead until four years later (ASM #154, March 1976). He has made occasional appearances in the wall-crawler's mags since then. In his most recent appearances, Sandy has a chunk of his body eaten up by Venom and is slowly dissolving as a result of this attack. He resorts to eating bags of cement to try to keep himself together only to end up (in Peter Parker: Spider-Man Vol.2, #22, October 2000) merging with a Long Island beach. I have no doubt that the Sandman will, one day, appear again.

In General...

Milestones (Landmark events that take place in this story.)

  1. First appearance of the Sandman.
  2. First appearance of Betty Brant.
  3. First appearance of Liz Allan's first name.
  4. First appearance of Principal Davis.
  5. First time Peter blows off a date because he plans to go out as Spider-Man.
  6. First torn mask.
  7. First pricked finger trying to stitch up torn mask.
  8. First prank on J. Jonah Jameson.
  9. First time (in comics history?) that a villain is defeated with a vacuum cleaner.
  10. First time Peter violates his journalistic integrity by taking pictures of a simulated fight after the actual battle is over.

The 1969 Marvelmania International Spider-Man Portfolio checklist entry for this story. Warts and all:

Ditko/Lee

  • "Nothing Can Stop the Sandman" - The first encounter and origin of the Sandman.

    Overall Rating...

    The Sandman is pretty cool and Ditko's drawings of the different shapes he assumes are great but the issue doesn't quite reach the heights of other first-time villain appearances, such as Doc Ock, the Green Goblin, and Kraven the Hunter. Even with the great torn mask scene, the defeat of the Sandman with a vacuum cleaner, and Spidey's simulated fight with actual sand, I can't give this issue more than four webs.

    Footnote...

    As later revealed in the second story in Amazing Spider-Man #601, Jessica Jones makes her first appearance here as a face in the crowd of Midtown High students. You can find her on page 12, panel 7, in the lower right corner.