Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #10

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

This review was first published on: 2002.

Background...

One of the best Spider series of late has been Untold Tales of Spider-Man. (I'm not giving away any secrets here, folks.) Most of the credit for its success must go to writer Kurt Busiek and artist Pat Oliffe but there is more to it than that. The stories brought back a lost time, when Spidey's life may not have been happier but was certainly simpler. No clones, no robot parents, no "I am Spider!". Another charming aspect of the series for the old-timers was the way Busiek deftly intertwined his tales with the early stories told by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Reading Untold Tales makes you want to go back and look at those early tales again. So, that is just what we have done. (And it's a true shame that Untold Tales is getting the axe, though without Busiek to guide it, this may be for the best.)

One of Spidey's greatest, most overlooked foes is actually three foes. Montana, Fancy Dan, and the Ox. Collectively known as the Enforcers. This threesome has taken a lot of flak from fans over the years. They have been seen as dopey, as somehow unworthy to be Spidey villains. While it is true that they are not as flashy as the Green Goblin or the Scorpion, it is also true that they are, as a group, one of the best foils for Spidey's talents. There is nothing like a Ditko action scene of Spidey trying to simultaneously dodge Montana's lariet, Ox's bulk, and Fancy Dan's judo. Unfortunately, time has left the Enforcers behind. The Ox was actually killed off in the ill-conceived Daredevil #86 (April 1972) while the other haven't been seen in quite some time. (Except for in the pages of Untold Tales.)

This issue, Amazing Spider-Man #10, is the first appearance of the Enforcers. It also features the mystery of the Big Man in the underworld leader's only appearance. (Well, almost his only appearance. There is that little matter of... well, let's let that go until later, OK?) This issue's cover also boasts the line, "Learn why J. Jonah Jameson really hates Spider-Man!" Well, what are you waiting for? Let's find out!

In Detail...

"The Enforcers"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #10
Mar 1964 : SMURF 010.500 : SMURF 010.700 : SM Title
Summary: First Enforcers, First Big Man
Editor:  Stan Lee
Writer:  Stan Lee
Pencils:  Steve Ditko
Inker:  Steve Ditko
Cover Art:  Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko
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 Reprinted In: Marvel Masterworks #1
 Reprinted In: Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus #1
 Reprinted In: Pocket Book: Spider-Man Classics (Vol. 2)
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #147
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #7
 Partially Reprinted In: Pow! #22
 Partially Reprinted In: Pow! #23
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Classics #11
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Collectible Series (Newspaper) #21
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Collectible Series (Newspaper) #22
 Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #1
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Pocket Book #9
Articles: Aunt May Parker, Betty Brant, The Big Man, Fancy Dan, Flash Thompson, Flash Thompson, Jameson, J. Jonah, Elizabeth (Allan) Osborn, Elizabeth (Allan) Osborn, Montana, Ox

The splash page informs us that Peter Parker possesses "the power of countless spiders". I'm not sure what it means, but it sounds good.

Our story begins with the villain known as Montana informing his boss, the mysterious masked Big Man, that all is set. Since Spider-Man has been seen heading "this way", it is time to put "operation hi-lift" into practice. Nearby, a burglar with a bag of jewels is evading police by climbing out onto a building's flagpole. He is only waiting for the arrival of our hero.

When Spidey DOES arrive, he makes a grab at the burglar only to see the crook soar into the air. It seems that the bad guy has an invisible cable wrapped around his waist and he is connected to a helicopter which is above him, hidden in the clouds. The Big Man and Montana are riding in that helicopter and, at the proper time, they yank their associate up into the air to join them. (And they don't cut him in half while they're doing it so they MUST be good.)

Spidey, swinging on his web, uses the flagpole to build up steam, then shoots himself up to the hidden chopper. But prepared for his "clumsy attack", the 'copter sprays him in the face with a chemical foam. The Webhead must save himself by fashioning a web parachute. Below him, the crowd scoffs, "He's just a big clown!" Precisely the Big Man's plan: to get the word out about how he made a fool of Spider-Man.

The villains return to their hideout. Waiting for them are all the bosses of the different New York gangs. The Big Man tells them he has called this meeting to let them know that he is taking over ALL the rackets. "From now on, the Big Man is head of the crime syndicate", he says, and to quell any objections, he introduces his trio of Enforcers.

(Let's take a moment to give brief descriptions of our resident evil-doers. The Big Man appears to be a husky man in a wide-lapelled green suit. He has a purple ascot wrapped around his neck and wears white kid gloves, a brown fedora, and a stark-white mask which presents a sombre, large featured, statue-like face. Montana is tall and thin with a purple suit, white cowboy hat, and string tie. But his most obvious accoutrement, of course, is his lariat. The Ox is a large man with a bowl haircut. He has a jowly face and beady eyes and he wears a yellow pullover, small black vest, and brown pants. Fancy Dan is short and slight, wearing a purple suit, green tie, and yellow boater. He uses a cigarette holder. Let's face it. Those were the days for the well-dressed, stylish villain. (Compare these outfits to someone like Fortunato and you can't help but admit ol' Fortunato is a slob.)

The mob bosses all decide to give the Big Man the air, but the Enforcers have a little something to say about that. First, Fancy Dan, a black belt in judo, uses his fine footwork and fighting skills to stymie the hoods. Next, the Ox steps up and absorbs all the bosses' blows without flinching. With one blow of his own, he takes out half his opponents. Finally, Montana uses his abilities with a lasso which "resembles a living thing, completely obedient to its master's will", to rope and subdue the rest of the gang men. After the defeat, the Big Man tells the bosses that they will receive instructions soon. Then he callously dismisses them.

Elsewhere, at Forest Hills Hospital, Peter Parker is visiting his Aunt May, who is recovering from the operation she had in Amazing Spider-Man #9. He runs into Flash and Liz there. Liz plans to visit Pete's Aunt but Flash will only admit to tagging along with Liz. An anonymous doctor approaches Peter and tells him his Aunt needs a blood transfusion. He has hopes that Pete and May's blood type will match. Peter, knowing that his powers are derived from irradiated blood, tries to back out, but Liz is enraged at this and Flash is contemptuous. Knowing it is the right thing to do, Peter agrees to the transfusion. He gives his blood more concerned that it will temporarily weaken his Spider-powers than that it will have any negative effect on May. (But it does have a negative effect, big-time, come Amazing Spider-Man #31-33.)

After the transfusion, the doctor tells Pete to take it easy for a few days. Pete hopes Spidey won't be needed during that time. (Hah!)

The transfusion does the trick. In a very short time, Aunt May is well recovered and ready to leave the hospital. Peter tells her that their next-door neighbors the Abbotts are taking a trip to Florida and they want May to accompany them. Though she frets about Peter--"I put your nose drops in the medicine chest", is one of her reminders to her nephew--May agrees to take the trip.

At the same time, a crime wave explodes in the Big Apple. The Big Man has organized the city's mobs into a well-oiled machine which seems "to strike everywhere at once". Using their pooled resources, the mobs pull off elaborate coups such as heisting an entire mail car off a train by lifting it with three synchronized helicopters. Of course, any mobsters not joining the Big Man are persuaded to change their minds by a visit from the Enforcers. As much as Spider-Man patrols the streets, as much as the overworked police manage to catch the "small fry", still "the crime syndicate higher-ups remain in the shadows".

J. Jonah Jameson is patrolling the streets as well, convinced that there is no Big Man and that Spider-Man is behind the whole thing. Back at the Bugle, JJJ calls slight, balding, mousey reporter Frederick Foswell into his office and tells him to write an article claiming Spider-Man is actually the Big Man. Foswell reminds Jonah that he has no proof of this and that he already looks like a fool for claiming that Spider-Man and Electro were one and the same. (Jonah made this claim in ASM #9.) Jameson tells Foswell to do as he says, or "I'll fire you and see to it that no paper ever hires you again." The milquetoast reporter agrees to do as Jonah says.

As Foswell leaves Jameson's office, Betty Brant is leaving the building for the day. When she gets out on the street, she pauses, hoping Peter will pass by. In this moment, a stoolie points her out to the Enforcer,s who accost her and tell her she must pay off the rest of the money she owes. Betty protests that she already paid her entire loan off, but Fancy Dan says, "Sure, but you forgot the interest, the Big Man doubled it since yesterday." Peter shows up and steps in to defend Betty but the Ox puts him in a vise grip. "We're too gentlemanly to threaten a female," says Fancy Dan, but the trio is willing to lean on Peter to turn Betty to their point of view. With Pete unwilling to reveal his identity by fighting back, Betty is forced to tell the thugs that she will get the money. The Ox sends Pete sprawling as the Enforcers take their leave. Peter asks Betty how she got involved with them. Betty, afraid to tell her boyfriend that she borrowed money from a loan shark, fearing that Peter will then try to help her and get hurt for his troubles, lies by saying it was a case of mistaken identity. Peter, knowing that is a lie, asks Betty to level with him. Instead, she flees in tears, thinking she can't get "the dearest, most wonderful boy I've ever known" involved. Misunderstanding, Pete thinks, "she can't care for me if she won't confide in me".

Angry and hurt, Peter becomes Spidey and tracks down the stoolie that fingered Betty for the Enforcers. He discovers the man is too frightened of the Big Man to talk. The only way around it, Pete thinks, is to make him more terrified of Spider-Man. He blindfolds the stoolie with webbing. When the hood can see again, he notices he is in a giant spider web with Spidey and a giant gruesome spider waiting behind. What the hood doesn't know is that the spider is a dummy made of webbing and two-by-fours. Terrified, the stoolie spills the Enforcers' address (it's 15 Oak Street, for all you trivia buffs).

Spidey swings over to investigate, but he is lassoed in mid-air by Montana while still outside the building. He is pulled through a window into a room where the Big Man and the Enforcers await. Spidey frees himself and evades Montana's next throw as he hits the Ox in the solar plexus. Fancy Dan, however, avoids Spidey's attack, which allows Montana to rope Spidey's wrist in mid-punch. The Ox lands a haymaker, but Peter leaps back from the blow and flips backwards through Montana's rope. Fancy Dan gets a judo chop in, and Ox another punch, and Spider-Man realizes that he is still weak from the blood transfusion--too weak to continue to fight. So, hurtling Fancy Dan and again jumping through Montana's lasso, Spidey dodges the Ox, then leaps up and knocks out the ceiling light. Using his spider-sense to escape in the darkness, Pete is surprised to see J. Jonah Jameson walking by outside. He follows his boss, wondering if Jonah and the Big Man are one and the same.

Back at home, Peter (who has taken to hanging out in his Spidey suit with Aunt May off in Florida) calls Betty to ask her about JJJ. Betty, concerned that Pete will grill her on her connection to the Enforcers, cuts him off and hangs up on him. She decides right then that she must leave town and Peter; "Never see him again."

The next day at the Bugle, Peter is shocked to learn that Betty is gone. Jonah is his usual gruff self, only seeming to care about the difficulties of training a new secretary. This coldness makes Peter suspect him all the more. Out in the city room, Parker asks Foswell if he really believes that the Big Man and Spider-Man are the same person. Foswell tells him, "I'd say that Peter Rabbit was the Big Man if he (Jameson) told me to! You don't work on this newspaper and argue with ol' prune face."

At home, Peter is so troubled by the notion that JJJ may be the Big Man that he wracks his brain to come up with a plan to discover the mob boss's identity and secret headquarters. He finally decides that the best way to go about it is to allow Peter Parker to be kidnapped by the underworld.

At school the next day, Peter loudly announces to all the kids that he knows the Big Man's identity and is going to tell it to the police. His old enemy, Flash Thompson, of all people, pulls him aside and tells him to be quiet about it. "Your life won't be worth a nickel if the Enforcers find out." But it is already too late. Even as they speak, a crusty-looking, middle-aged mob stoolie (apparently hanging around the schoolyard inconspicuously) plans to relay the information to the Enforcers.

When Montana informs the Big Man that a kid named Parker is bragging about knowing his identity, the crime boss says, "Peter Parker? How did he find out?" Montana asks, "You mean you know him, boss?" and the Big Man, amazingly, replies, "Of course I know him!" The Enforcers are sent out to pick Peter up.

At police headquarters, Spider-Man tells the cops to be on the alert for a signal from him that will reveal the Big Man's secret headquarters. Then, as Peter, he aimlessly wanders through the bad sections of town until the Enforcers drive up to take him for a ride. In the car, Fancy Dan tells him, "So you know who the Big Man is, eh? Well...wise guy...he knows you.", which shocks Pete into suspecting Jameson all the more. The Enforcers drive up to their secret headquarters, "a large indoor auto parking building" and lock Peter in a windowless room. Changing to Spidey, Peter climbs up the wall to reach the air vent in the ceiling. He makes his escape from the room.

Elsewhere in the building, the Big Man is preparing to have a meeting with every racket boss in town. When Spidey arrives on the scene, he is so surprised to see a roomful of criminals that he doesn't heed his spider-sense and allows a thug to sneak up from behind. He ends up in a brawl with every one of the hoods.

Spidey tries to evade all his opponents by leaping into a nearby convertible (it's a parking garage, remember?) but the Ox lifts the back of the car and shakes him out. Spidey then leaps over his foes while the Big Man rolls oil drums down at him to ruin his balance. It takes more than that to spoil our hero's spider-agility. He rides one of the drums like a log-roller right through the heart of the mob. Montana manages to lasso Spidey's left foot, but the Web-Spinner flips in mid-air and shoves the oil drum at the cowboy. The drum strikes Montana allowing Spidey to get free. Peter proceeds to web up a handful of the criminals but the others get the idea to throw tires at him. Using his agility, Spidey dodges around and even through the tires. The Big Man tosses oil on the floor in front of him, but the Webhead glides through it like an ice skater, taking out bad guys as he goes. Fancy Dan attacks with a judo flip but Spidey sticks to the wall and turns the flip back on the black belt.

As the frantic fight continues, Spidey begins to wear out. He needs to signal the police...but how? Taking the Spider-light from his belt, he attaches it to the tip of his web-shooter and fires it outside. It sticks to a wall and the shining signal is spotted by a cop on his beat. The word gets around the precinct station, "It's the Acme garage!" (which must be owned by the same guy whose warehouse was used by the Burglar in Amazing Fantasy #15) and the rest of the police come running. "Give 'er the gas!"

The Big Man can tell Spidey is tiring. Just as the police arrive, the crime boss empties his gun at the wallcrawler but misses with every shot. Still, Spidey is too winded to track down the Big Man before he escapes. The police round up the Enforcers and the mobsters and Spidey realizes that he can still catch the Big Man if the mob leader is really who he thinks he is. "It's gonna be a real pleasure to bring him in!!", he says as he hightails it to the Bugle building.

Spider-Man adheres to the wall right by J. Jonah Jameson's office window. Inside, JJJ is pacing nervously. What Jonah is actually worried about is that his claim of Spider-Man being the Big Man seems to be crumbling before his eyes but Spidey, observing outside, thinks he's nervous because he is the Big Man and his crime ring has been broken up. Just as Spidey is about to enter, Foswell comes in, followed immediately by a policeman. The cop says they have tracked down the Big Man and are ready for the arrest. Spidey can hardly believe that his suspicions have been confirmed. But it isn't Jameson who is the Big Man, but Frederick Foswell. "We found all the evidence we needed in your car", the cop says, "which we saw speeding from the garage." A second cop provides the "special built-up shoes", "oversized padded jacket and a small amplifier to disguise your voice" which turned little Foswell into the Big Man. Foswell immediately confesses, and Spidey can only scratch his head in wonder. As for JJJ, he can't let go. "Spider-Man was in league with you, wasn't he?", he asks Foswell. "Admit it! If he wasn't, I'll be a laughingstock again." Foswell, led away in handcuffs, is unconcerned with Jonah's reputation.

The police leave with their prisoner...Spidey takes his leave from the window...and J. Jonah Jameson is left alone to do some soul-searching. "All my life", he says, "I've been interested in only one thing - making money! And yet Spider-Man risks his life day after day with no thought of reward. If a man like him is good...is a hero...than what am I? I can never respect myself while he lives! Spider-Man represents everything that I'm not! He's brave, powerful, and unselfish! The truth is, I envy him! I, J. Jonah Jameson - millionaire, man of the world, civic leader - I'd give everything I own to be the man that he is! But I can never climb to his level. So all that remains for me is - to try to tear him down - because, heaven help me - I'm jealous of him!"

And back at home, Pete has a letter from Aunt May but still no word from Betty. He won't accept that she just wants to break up with him. He fears she's in trouble, if only she would let him help her. And in a small town in Pennsylvania, Betty sits alone in a hotel room, crying, wishing she could get help from Peter but not willing to risk his life. "No one else can help me", she says, "Except someone like Spider-Man...but what chance would I ever have of receiving aid from him?"

In the letters page, James Smith of Lancashire, England says of Amazing Spider-Man #5, "It was the poorest Spider-Man episode to date." (Bet you wouldn't say that now, James!)

Don Foote of Johnstown, New York says, "I have been reading your Marvel line ever since you started including super-heroes. All your efforts are good but Spider-Man is the best. Naturally, I've a run of Spider-Man since Amazing Adult Fantasy #15 and have enjoyed them all. (Ah, but do you still have a complete run, Don?)

John F. Leber of Allentown, Pennsylvania says, "one thing I love about Steve's art is he really gives the fans (the beady-eyed little rascals) something to gawk at! What with Liz and Betty cavorting around in every issue!" (Can you tell this guy hadn't seen John Romita's work yet?)

The letters page closes with Stan saying, "remember, whether you chose our titles, or some of the many fine magazines provided by our competitors, a comic magazine is still your best 12 cent entertainment value!" (Ah...12 cent value! Kinda gets you...right here.)

Finally, let's follow up on that one other appearance by the Big Man. Frederick Foswell never took on the identity again (though he did assume the identity of the stoolie known as Patch for a time). Ultimately, Foswell died a hero, saving J. Jonah Jameson from the Kingpin in Amazing #52. But the Big Man did show up again. It was in Marvel Team-Up #39-40 (November-December 1975) written by Bill Mantlo with art by Sal Buscema, with the Human Torch and the Sons of the Tiger as guest-stars and the Big Man, Enforcers, the Sandman and the Crime Master as the villains. By the end of the story, the Big Man has been gunned down by the Crime Master and revealed to be Janice Foswell, Frederick's previously unmentioned daughter. Her killer reveals himself to be Nick Lewis Jr., the previously unmentioned son of the late original Crime Master. It also turns out that the two had previously fallen in love with each other but their thirsts for vengeance result in tragedy. As Spidey says, "It isn't very pretty". (It isn't very likely either, but there you have it.)

Now, some may think, what with Hammerhead, Fortunato, the Kingpin, and the Rose, that there have been too many mob bosses in Spider-Man books as it is, but wouldn't it be nice to bring back the Big Man and the Crime Master? After all, if someone can assume the identity of the Kangaroo for goshsakes, there must be an enterprising crook out there who would love to wear the padded suit and statue-like mask.

In General...

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

  1. First appearance of the Enforcers (Montana, Fancy Dan, Ox).
  2. First appearance of Frederick Foswell.
  3. First and only appearance of Big Man I.
  4. First gang war.
  5. First blood transfusion to Aunt May.
  6. First giant spider made out of two-by-fours and webbing.
  7. First time Spidey gets lassoed, heaved out of a car, rolls on a barrel and dodges through a tire in a fight.
  8. First time a villain's real identity is used as a mystery.
  9. First time J. Jonah Jameson tells us why he really hates Spider-Man.

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

Ditko/Lee/Rosen

  • "The Enforcers" - First encounter with the Enforcers. - One member, Ox, eventually leaves the group in subsequent issues to appear in the Fellowship of fear and solo.

    Overall Rating...

    Three of the best Spidey battles ever are in the Ditko-drawn issues that feature the Enforcers. Used properly, the Enforcers combine strength, speed, agility, and roping into a coordinated whole that tests Spidey's abilities to their limits. Just because they are treated as a joke now doesn't mean the Enforcers weren't amongst Spidey's greatest villains then. This first appearance is a prime example. How can you be a Spider-Man fan and not thrill to the dodging, twisting, leaping, punching, barrel-rolling, and tire-evading Spidey must perform to handle the Enforcers, the Big Man, and the rest of the mob? Add to that the excitement of Spidey's first gang war, the mystery of the Big Man (and the fact that Spidey is so convinced that the Big Man is Jonah Jameson that he is amazed when he turns out to be Frederick Foswell) and JJJ's confession of jealousy as he explains to himself why he hates Spider-Man, and you have one of the best issues of all time.

    A sure-fire Five Webs.