Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #8

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

This review was first published on: 2002.

Background...

It's "A Spider-Man Surprise Extra!" The six-page back-up to Amazing Spider-Man #8 (January 1964), featuring the last Stan Lee-Jack Kirby-Steve Ditko web-slinger collaboration as... "Spider-Man Tackles the Torch!"

Want to see our hero make a pain-in-the-ass out of himself? Have I got the story for you!

In Detail...

"Spider-Man Tackles the Torch!"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #8 (Story 2)
SMURF 021.600
Writer:  Stan Lee
Pencils:  Jack Kirby
Inker:  Steve Ditko
Lettering:  S. Rosen
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Issue
Review
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #194
 Reprinted In: Marvel Treasury Edition #1
 Reprinted In: Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual #6
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Pocket Book #9
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Annual (UK) 1976

The ol' wall-crawler just happens to be in the neighborhood where Dorrie Evans, girlfriend of the Human Torch, lives and he decides to "pay her a visit and show her what she's missing by not dating Spider-Man!" When he reaches the house (which is presumably in Long Island but looks like something out of a neighborhood in Key Biscayne) he finds a party going on. All the teens are crowded around a brand-new white Stingray sports car being driven by Johnny Storm; old Torchy himself. They are all suitably impressed. One girl turns to her friend and says, "Last week he was driving an XK Jag! And now this! Oh, if only Doris hadn't found him first!" (Ah, the materialism of youth!)

Johnny and his admiring fans head into the house. Spidey peeks in one of the windows and sees the Torch doing fire tricks for the gang. This annoys him so much he can hardly stand it. "It didn't take long for that flaming phony to start showing off!" he thinks. He decides he needs to upstage the Torch by showing the teens just what Spidey can do. Out in the yard, he finds two branches that he can use as a loom and he starts weaving a surprise out of webbing. "It'll keep the party from getting dull!" he thinks.

Spidey can't crash the party fast enough to suit me because inside Torchy is sucking up to the ladies by casting "an infra-red spotlight" on the girl named Sally as she performs an interpretive modern dance. (Hurry, Spidey! I can't stand more than one panel of this!) Just then, a huge bat soars through the window. The other kids recoil in fear and disgust but the Torch is cool enough to realize that "there's something funny about it". He can tell "it isn't real", so he picks up a pillow and swats it. The swipe of the pillow separates the bat into "a mass of some kind of threads" because it is, of course, the little surprise Spidey was weaving outside with his webbing. Now that webbing has fallen over the Torch like a net. With that, the web-slinger crashes the party, by casually hanging out in the threshold of the open front door, making snide remarks and looking extremely cool. But if Spidey thinks his appearance impresses the other kids, he's got another think coming. "How did Spider-Man get here?" whines one girl. "He got some nerve crashing a private party!" says a boy in a green sweater and blue jacket. "Johnny, can't you get rid of him!" says a brunette with way too much lipstick on.

Spidey responds by bowing deeply at the waist in a courtly manner and sarcastically thanking the teens for their "warm welcome". "Being you insist, I'll be glad to join your little party," he says. But Johnny, still webbed, thinks Spidey's "as funny as a rusty crutch" and tells him to "go crawl back under your stone". Spidey asks him if he's related "to another sunshine boy named J. Jonah Jameson". This, somehow, is just enough sarcasm to pop Torchy's cork. He removes his shirt and tie to reveal his blue FF suit underneath and flames on! (I suppose he burns off the webbing but it looks like it just disappears from one panel to the next.) He tells Spidey he's going to "toss you out on your pointy ear". Spidey zings back with "Who writes your dialogue, squirt? Frank Merriwell?" (Does this still mean anything to anyone? The old Frank Merriwell "Dime Novels" that first appeared in the 1890s by Burt L. Standish? Frank and Dick Merriwell? Yeah?) Then he challenges the Torch to a fight outside. Johnny readily accepts and, instantly, the two heroes are up in the air with Johnny flying and Spidey swinging WAY over the rooftops. Johnny's green plaid slacks and brown shoes are left in his wake, falling back to earth far behind.

"And awaaaay we go!" says Spidey in his best Jackie Gleason impression and the battle begins. First, the Torch throws a wad of flame in the shape of an arrow at Spider-Man's webbing. The arrow sheers right through the webs and forces the wall-crawler to weave a small web-parachute in each hand as he sings a verse from the Man on the Flying Trapeze. ("He floats through the air with the greatest of ease!") He lands on a deserted beach. Johnny flies by, declaring that he has taught Spidey "not to mess around with the Human Torch" but the webhead has other ideas. He takes his two parachutes and fills them with sand. As the Torch comes by, Spidey whips his parachutes in the air, showering the flaming superhero with sand. Johnny falls to earth. He is up to his knees in sand. Sand completely covers his head, shoulders, and arms. All of which makes Johnny very mad. "Due to the inner heat generated by his intense anger", the Torch is able to "focus [his] flame on a small plot of ground"... specifically the ground on which he is standing... causing the area to erupt in flaming explosions. Spidey covers his head and ducks but never loses his rapier-like wit. "Watch it, fella!" he says, "A thing like that can give a guy a headache!"

The Torch is ready to administer more than that. Flamed on once again, he creates nearly a dozen buzz saws out of fire and sends them the wall-crawler's way. Spidey is forced to use his great speed to zigzag through the saws. The whole situation is too dangerous to keep up the witticisms. "I notice you're not makin' with the wisecracks now, big man!" says the Torch.

For an instant, the Torch wonders if he is being unfair to Spidey by flinging so much fire at him but then he remembers that "that guy really gets under my skin" and he decides to go for a big finish. He concocts a fireball that is designed to "spread into a net" (No, I don't know how he does it, either.) and launches it at the web-slinger. Spidey uses his "super-human agility" to "dart through the spaces in the Torch's flame net" but he has second thoughts about the entire battle. "I guess I'd better just call it a draw and cut out here!" he thinks, "I didn't expect that human matchstick to get so angry!"

He hits the sand, spread-eagled on his stomach, after evading the net. There, a blue-gloved hand stretches out and offers him assistance. The hand belongs to Mister Fantastic. He, the Invisible Girl and the Thing (the Torch's three Fantastic Four colleagues) sit on the crest of a small sand dune, watching the action.

Mr. Fantastic's offer of help is genuine but the brash teen-aged wall-crawler thinks the trio is laughing at him. He grabs a rope from somewhere (it sure doesn't look like his webbing), loops it around Mr. Fantastic's arm, loops it further around a boulder and gives it a big tug. Mr. Fantastic goes flying. The Thing gets all riled up by this and joins the fight. ("I'm itchin' to tangle with that clown!" he says.) Spidey doesn't care who wants to join in. He is as mad as he can be. "I don't care how many of you there are!" he yells, "I'll clobber you all! And then I'll go back and settle up with that flaming freak!"

Intending to "knock a little sense into that creep's fat head", the Thing picks up a boulder and raises it over his head. But when he looks around, he cannot find Spider-Man. That's because Spidey is clinging to the other side of the boulder. He reveals his location by razzing the Thing. The Thing responds by tosses the boulder far out into the ocean but Spidey leaps away from it as soon as it leaves the Thing's hands. He creates wings out of his webbing and glides through the air, telling the Thing he is going to "crash-dive down and pulverize you". The Thing squeezes his right hand into a fist and waits for the moment of impact.

But before Spidey reaches the Thing, his web wings are grabbed and pulled by something unseen. The Invisible Girl is breaking up the fight by dragging Spider-Man down to the ground. "This nonsense has gone far enough!" she says as she pulls. Turning visible, she kneels over the fallen Spidey and mollifies him by buttering him up. "You're entirely too clever and adorable to be fighting with us!" she says, "I'll bet you're as handsome as you are muscular under that mask!" "Aw, cut it out, Sue! I just ate!" says the Thing. (And look! Here comes the Torch flying up to the scene. Where the heck has he been for the last eleven panels? Taking a pit stop in the little boy's room?)

The Invisible Girl lets Spider-Man get up, and then suggests to the two teens that they "shake hands like gentlemen and bury the hatchet". "I'd like to bury it, all right" says the Torch as he stands face-to-face with Spidey, "and I'll give you three guesses where!" So much for an end to the feud. Spider-Man tells Johnny to "go on back to your dull party", as he starts to web-sling away. "It's a good thing you've got Mr. Fantastic and the Thing to wet nurse you", he tells the Torch, "and as for your sister Sue, she's the only good thing about the over-rated Fantastic Four!" And with that parting shot, he leaves behind a little gift for Sue.

A Valentine heart made out of webbing.

Let's go to the letters page! Bob Churchill of Seaford, New York notes that "You appear to be starting something between Pete and Jameson's secretary Betty! Keep it going, but don't destroy Spider-Man by giving him a big romance - let it stay the way it is." Kevin R. McDonald of Forest Hills, New York (!), have all five issues of Spider-Man but he is worried about one thing... "You play up radiation too much! Spider-Man got his powers because of it, Dr. Octopus had his false arms attached to his body because of it, Sandman got his power because of it, and who is going to be next?" Stan replies, "We hope fans don't make a big thing of this anti-radiation jazz, Kevin! Heck, how would we write comic mag stories without it??" (And who was next anyway?) Ed Corbett of Glens Falls, New York, declares "We, at the Comic Storehouse, have picked Stan Lee and Steve Ditko as the best writer-artist pair of 1963!"

If you think the Spidey-Torch appearances will slack off from here, you'd better think again. In three months, the web-slinger makes another cameo appearance in the Human Torch's solo mag (Strange Tales #119, April 1964), then Johnny guest-stars again in Spidey's mag six months later (ASM #17, October 1964). The team-ups continue into 1965... and beyond.

In General...

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

  1. First web-bat.
  2. First time Spidey crashes a party.
  3. First time the Human Torch's green plaid slacks go sailing off into space.
  4. First time Spidey comes on to the Invisible Girl.

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

Kirby/Ditko/Lee/Rosen/6 pages

  • "Spider-Man tackles the Torch" - Features the Fantastic Four.

    Overall Rating...

    It's great seeing the Lee-Kirby-Ditko team once again but this story doesn't generate much excitement. Spidey is a complete jerk in his own mag. Are we supposed to root for him over the Torch even though he went out of his way to ruin Dorrie's party? It's hard to work up a whole lot of sympathy. Two webs is all I can muster, mostly on the strength of the artwork and those green plaid slacks that Johnny wears. Combine that with the three and a half webs I gave for the Living Brain story last time and you average out to 2.75 webs for the whole of ASM #8.