Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #15

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

This review was first published on: 2003.

Background...

Let's face it. At this point in the history of Spider-Man, things were really clicking. When it came to creating memorable villains, Stan and Steve were on a roll and they knew it. On a great cover showing Spidey tangled in a net, Stan bragged, "So you think there are no new types of super-villains left for ol' Spidey to battle, eh? Well, you've got a surprise coming!! Here's one of the newest and greatest of all." Even granting Stan's usual bombast, this seemed to promise something special. So, did the title of the tale, with Stan dispensing with all the usual excess verbiage. No "Menace of...", no "Grotesque Adventure of...". This one is simply called, "Kraven the Hunter!"

In Detail...

"Kraven the Hunter!"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #15
Aug 1964 : SMURF 015.500 : SMURF 015.550 : SM Title
Summary: First Kraven, First mention of MJ Watson (Not shown)
Editor:  Stan Lee
Writer:  Stan Lee
Pencils:  Steve Ditko
Inker:  Steve Ditko
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 Reprinted In: Marvel Masterworks #5
 Reprinted In: Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus #1
 Reprinted In: Pocket Book: Spider-Man Classics (Vol. 3)
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #10
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #153
 Partially Reprinted In: Pow! #34
 Partially Reprinted In: Pow! #36
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Classics #16
 Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #1
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Origin of the Hunter (Story 2)
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Pocket Book #12
Articles: Watson, Anna (1st), Aunt May Parker, Betty Brant, Chameleon, Flash Thompson, Flash Thompson, Jameson, J. Jonah, Kraven The Hunter (1st), Elizabeth (Allan) Osborn, Elizabeth (Allan) Osborn, Elizabeth (Allan) Osborn, Raymond Warren, Seymour O'Reilly

Four hoodlums are discussing bank robbery plans when Spider-Man, hanging upside-down on his web, peeks in the window and crashes their party. Three of them make for the front door of the apartment but the wall-crawler has planned ahead. He has covered the entire doorway with webbing, blocking the bad guys' exit. He shoots webbing through the window onto the legs of the two men trailing. The hood in front walks smack into the webbing covering the door. But the fourth man heads in the opposite direction. As Spidey is peering into one window, the fourth man leaps out an adjacent one. He lands on an awning below, makes it to the ground and rounds a corner. Once out of sight, he releases a "special chemical gas" that changes the color of his suit from green to brown. He pulls a hat out of his pocket and dons it. He pulls a device out of another pocket that telescopes out and becomes a cane. Then, brashly, he walks back, affecting a limp, right past Spidey who is still perched on the wall above. The web-slinger is certain that there were four men in the room when he crashed it but he can't find a trace of the leader. It looks like he's gotten clean away since, after all, "there's no one below except that old man with a cane". And why was the leader able to make this quick-change escape? Because he's Spidey's old foe the Chameleon, that's why!

Back at his apartment, the Chameleon pulls off his flesh-tone mask, revealing the white noseless one with earmuffs underneath. He thinks back to his first meeting with the web-spinner (back in ASM #1, March 1963) and remembers how dangerous Spidey was even though "he was just beginning his career at that time". Now he has seen that Spidey is more dangerous than ever and will be a threat "so long as he lives".

The Chameleon puts on a yellow smoking jacket (though he leaves the white mask on) as he kicks back in a red armchair with a cigarette and a drink. He reminisces about how he was deported as a spy when first captured and how he "lived in exile all this time". Now, that he has returned and entered the crime game, he knows he must dispose of Spider-Man once and for all. But he also knows that the webhead is "too dangerous for me to tackle" so he tries to think of someone who "would be foolhardy enough to attack him just for my benefit" and it isn't long before he recalls his "old friend" Kraven the Hunter. He is so pleased at the notion of sending a wire for help to "the most dangerous stalker on earth" that even his white mask turns up a bit in a smile.

One week later, J. Jonah Jameson rushes out of his office at the Daily Bugle and orders Betty Brant to "grab your steno book" and to "call Parker" to meet them with his camera. The word is out that Kraven the Hunter is arriving at a New York pier from Africa and JJJ thinks this will be "the biggest story of the year". Betty manages to put on her hat, start to struggle into her jacket, pick up the phone to call Peter and ask who Kraven is all at the same time.

At the pier, Jonah explains that Kraven is "the greatest hunter of all time" because "he's trapped and defeated every type of beast that lives and always single-handed". Peter shows up and Betty is happy to see him until she sees Liz Allan and Flash Thompson behind. The two Midtown High teens have coincidentally come down to see Kraven as well but Betty reacts like they came along with Peter. Liz comes up to Pete, puts her hand on his chest and says, "Oh, Pete, isn't it thrilling? Kraven the Hunter has never been seen in New York before!" An embarrassed Pete asks Liz if she's met Betty Brant and a frosty Betty disdainfully replies, "No, Peter! We haven't had the pleasure!" J. Jonah Jameson has no patience for this "meeting of the lonely heart's club". Jonah barks at Parker to get his camera ready. Kraven the Hunter is coming off the boat.

And, sure enough, here he comes. In fact, he is the only one coming off the boat and Jonah and his group seem to be the only members of the press there to record his arrival. (Even though this is "the biggest story of the year".) Kraven has black slicked-back hair, a black mustache, and a black goatee. He wears leopard-skin leotards, moccasins, tiger-stripe wristbands, a belt with tiny tusks sticking out of it and a vest that mimics the head of a lion complete with mane that reveals his bare chest. Somehow, in spite of this outfit, the women of the group proclaim "Isn't he handsome?" and "So big, so powerful, so rugged-looking". (Actually, the speakers of these lines are not shown so it's a little bit presumptuous of me to pin them on the women. It could be Flash, Pete, and JJ saying this stuff for all I know.)

As Kraven walks by, JJ tries to buttonhole him, calling for him to "Wait!" and offering money for an exclusive interview. But Kraven brushes him off, stating that he is "not interested". He's not in town to give interviews. He's there "to hunt the most dangerous game of all".

Back at the ship, workers are unloading big crates filled with (no, really!) two gorillas and two cobras when the crane snaps, the cages fall and the animals are released. They immediately go on the rampage and the workers must run for their lives. Peter Parker takes advantage of the confusion to hide behind some crates and get his Spider-Man costume on. Convinced he is the only one around who can help, Spidey leaps up, clings to a wall and gets himself one heck of a surprise. Down below, Kraven the Hunter has already sprung into action. Deftly, he grabs the cobras behind their heads and accurately tosses them into a nearby yellow oil drum. A dockworker puts the lid on the drum to trap the cobras within. Then, Kraven confronts the gorillas. He announces that he was the one who caught them in the wild in the first place. He's certain he can defeat them again. All it takes is "the right blow on just the right nerve center". He apparently accomplishes this with one well-placed punch, then turns to face the other ape. Since he can't get close enough to this one to use his knockout punch, Kraven removes one of the tusks on his belt. It contains a "tranquilizing drug" which will quiet the rampaging gorilla down. (But exactly how is not shown. Does he stab the ape with it? Does he throw it at him? What?)

Up on his perch, Spidey is as stunned as the crowd below him. (Which consists of a dazzled Flash Thompson, a floored Jonah Jameson with a cigar sticking out of his mouth, two cheerful anonymous sorts, and Liz Allan and Betty Brant with their mouths open and their hands up to their faces.) The wall-crawler is so impressed with the way Kraven has handled the animals that he feels "about as necessary as a bouncer at the Policeman's ball". As he watches Kraven lift the huge gorilla over his head, Spidey marvels at the jungle man's strength. "He musta played marbles with barbells when he was a kid!" he thinks.

With everything under control, Spidey sneaks back to the crates, changes back into his Parker clothes, and gets back to Jameson before the publisher notices he is gone. JJ, a big grin on his puss, turns to Peter and tells his photographer that he's going to "plaster your pictures of Kraven battling those escaped animals all over the front page". A shaken Pete has to admit that "in all the excitement" he "clean forgot to snap any" shots. Which leads to one simple, yet remarkable, panel expressing five different emotions. Jameson covers his face with his hands in despair at Peter's news even as Liz cheerily, lovingly straightens Peter's tie causing Betty to cross her arms and frostily comment on Liz's move while Peter resigns himself to being caught in the middle of it all and Flash Thompson clenches his fist and angrily threatens to give Pete a fat lip if Liz doesn't cut it out. Whew!

After extricating himself from that mass of teen angst, Pete trails Jonah trying to apologize. But JJ doesn't even look at him. He waves Pete off, calls him "useless" and approaches Kraven with a question... since there are no wild beasts in Manhattan, what is Kraven planning to hunt? Kraven replies that "the most dangerous game in the world is man" and he plans to "hunt the most dangerous man of all"... Spider-Man! Peter's spider-sense explodes at the news. "I had a feeling I shoulda stayed in bed today", he thinks. Jonah, not yet at the psychotic point when he advocates any attack on the web-slinger, tells Kraven "there are laws against things like that". But Kraven isn't listening. Nor is Pete. He's got the feeling that there is something more to all this than a simple hunt and he is busy wondering what it is.

So, the party breaks up. Kraven goes his own way with nobody following. Jonah orders Betty to "come along". When Peter tries to explain Liz's behavior, Betty gives him the big brush-off. Flash corners Liz and asks her how she can "waste time on Puny Parker". Liz calls Flash a "muscle-bound goop". (Yes, that's right! A goop! Ouch! Take that, Flash!) Peter is left alone, sitting on the curb, wondering how to turn his luck around. A street-sweeper comes up behind him and tells him to, "Move it, Bub! You're blockin' progress!"

It's too bad that no one with the press decided to follow Kraven because he has just brazenly made his way to the hideout of the Chameleon. The master of disguise has put together a file for Kraven of every report on Spider-Man that he could find. This pleases Kraven. "I want to know everything about my quarry!" he says as he pours a steaming potion from a gourd into a cup, "It will make the hunt that much more interesting."

Kraven takes a seat with his drink and... Oh wait! Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait! Before we go on to the next page, it's my favorite ad again. "Don't let them call you skinny", "Beautiful Young Actress Quinn O'Hara". Just give me a moment here. Sigh!

Okay. Kraven takes a seat with his drink and settles in to read the dossier. The Chameleon warns him to not underestimate the wall-crawler. But Kraven scoffs at him and sneaks in some exposition at the same time. "I possess undreamed-of strength and speed which I obtained by drinking a secret potion, stolen from the witch-doctor of a hidden African tribe! With but one punch, I can stop the charge of a bull elephant", he says. You want an origin? There's your origin! Now let's move on.

Later, the Amazing Spider-Man prowls the city looking for some good crime photos to take "in order to get back in J. Jonah's good graces". He hears a gunshot and swoops down to a rooftop where he finds a tied-up watchman and six hoodlums. He lands on the roof with his arms outstretched and takes out two guys with two simultaneous punches. The other goons (three of whom are "Rocky", "Nails" and "Pee Wee", we are told) try to tackle Spidey all at once. The web-slinger leaps amongst them, turning sideways and balancing himself on one hand while he punches with the other. This move suckers two of the hoods into punching each other.

On a nearby rooftop, Kraven the Hunter observes the action. From his thought balloon, we learn that the Chameleon set up this "midnight burglary" with the intention of drawing in Spider-Man specifically so Kraven can "study [his] prey in action". He puts a hand to his chin, pleased with what he sees. With such "speed, skill, and daring", Spider-Man is sure to be a worthy foe indeed!

Back at the battle, the web-spinner seems pinned up against a parapet wall while five of the burglars attack. In response, he simply adheres his hands to the wall and flips himself up so that he is standing on the wall instead. From that vantage point, he is able to slug away at any of the crooks that approach him. The hoods decide they have had enough and try to run away. But Spidey leaps to the top of the parapet and leaps back down amongst his foes, sending them scattering. Deciding that he has enough photos for Jameson, Spider-Man wraps up the fight with a few well-placed punches. Then, he swings away, happy that something has finally turned out right for him.

But the moment isn't over yet. As he webswings past the nearby rooftop, Spidey's spider-sense goes off and he finds himself in the presence of Kraven. The Hunter, bragging right off the bat that this meeting will "also be [Spidey's] last meeting with anybody", immediately attacks with outstretched arms. The web-slinger leaps up out of the way but he is unprepared for the speed of Kraven the Hunter, who reaches out and grabs Spidey around the ankle while the webster is still in mid-leap. Telling Spidey that he wants to fight because "there were no more goals for me to strive for until I learned of you", Kraven flings our hero across the roof. Spidey lands hard. He is shaken physically and mentally ("Now I'm in for it", he thinks, "He's the worst kind of enemy, a nut who fights you for the sheer fun of it".) but the whole thing disappoints Kraven. "This is what I was afraid of!" he bellows, "You're too easy to defeat!" The letdown doesn't stop Kraven from rushing in for the kill. Even as Spidey gets to his feet, the Hunter smashes him with his nerve punch "that can down a full-grown charging rhino". At the last second, Spidey turns and blocks the punch with his left shoulder, which goes immediately numb. Spidey's left arm hangs uselessly at his side and he knows he can't give Kraven a second chance. So he punches again and again with his right hand. Kraven is shocked to discover that Spidey is stronger than he thought. And not only that but "even with one hand he's beating me!" That's when the Hunter decides he cannot defeat the wall-crawler in a fair fight, which is okay with him because Kraven is not above cheating if he has to. So, he pulls out another of his potion-carrying tusks and scratches Spider-Man with it. The wall-crawler feels woozy from the potion immediately. Realizing what has happened, Spider-Man pushes Kraven away and makes a break for it across the rooftops. The annoyingly smug Kraven doesn't even bother to follow him. "I've won, Spider-Man!" he cries, "My potion will weaken you enough for me to beat you any time I desire! But I'll prolong my enjoyment! I'll finish you off another time!"

As Spidey runs, he tries to clear his head but ends up "getting dizzier by the minute". He just has time to grab his camera from its perch, cautiously make his way home, and sit on his bed before his hands start to twitch. His shoulder is no longer numb but he can't get rid of the dizziness. He takes off his Spidey-suit and goes to bed, hopeful that a good night's sleep will allow him to recover from the potion.

Back at the hideout, Kraven pours himself another glass of potion and sits on a desktop with a big smile on his face. The Chameleon can't understand it. Here, Kraven has just told him that Spider-Man is "far stronger, far more dangerous" than he expected and yet he's happy about it. Kraven explains, "He's the kind of foe I've always wanted, one to test my mettle to its fullest!... How sweet will be the fruits of victory!" In fact, Kraven wants to plan his "next deadly trap" for Spider-Man right away since he is getting off on the rush of the confrontation. The Chameleon says, "I chose well when I picked you! You're even more merciless, more dangerous than I remembered!"

(Perhaps now would be a good time to mention the somewhat recent retcon that revealed that Kraven and the Chameleon are actually brothers. If you read this original issue with that idea in mind, it's a bit like looking at yourself in a funhouse mirror. Recognizable but a little bit bloated. Comments like the Chameleon's above could certainly be said by one brother to another but it's clear by Stan's writing that that was never the intent. I have no trouble with a good retcon (and turning Chameleon into Kraven's brother is, I think, a good retcon) but I never like to shove the retcon into an earlier story. So, as contradictory as it may sound, I prefer, in a situation like this, to say that "yes, the Chameleon and Kraven are brothers now but back in ASM #15 they definitely were not". How can that be? It's a comic series, that's how it can be!)

The next morning, Peter Parker does a backflip out of his bed, feeling "as nimble as ever". He thinks he has fully recovered from Kraven's potion but when he goes to wash his face (or shave or something like that) his hands start to twitch again and he can't get them to stop. Dressed in his blue pants, white striped shirt, yellow vest, and red tie, Pete comes downstairs and hopes to hide his condition from Aunt May. He discovers that May is at the front door "talking with one of the neighbors". Pete escapes to the kitchen and tries to grab breakfast before his Aunt collars him. But he doesn't make it. As he tries to steady his hand so that he can drink his milk without spilling all over himself, May enters and tells him that she's "arranged a date for you with a lovely girl". Pete hides his shaking hands behind his back as he tries to get out of the arrangement. "A blind date!" he thinks, "Oh, brother! That's all I need!" May goes on to explain that the girl is the "niece of our neighbor Mrs. Watson" and that "she'd just love to meet you, Peter". (And there it is, folks. The very first reference to Mary Jane Watson.) When Pete tries to weasel out, Aunt May refuses to budge. "You'll want a girl who'll make a good housewife," she tells him, "Someone like Mrs. Watson's niece!" (Hah! Good one, May!) Pete promises to talk about it later. Now, though, he has to go to the Daily Bugle. He is thrilled that his Aunt has not noticed his trembling hands. May fires off a parting shot about how Pete better be wearing his "winter weight suit" since "there's still a nip in the air" and how he's fragile and all of that.

"A few minutes later, at the Daily Bugle" (A few minutes? From Queens to Midtown? You can't even do that if you're web-swinging.) Pete approaches Betty Brant, wondering if she's still mad at him. He tells her "you look lovelier than ever today" and Betty replies by standing up, messing with Pete's tie and doing her Liz Allan impression. "Why, hel-lo Petey-wetey!" she says, "Here, let me fix your little tiezy-wiezy, Petey!" When Mr. P tells Betty that he doesn't like being called "Petey", Betty dramatically turns her back to him and says, "I didn't notice you telling that empty-headed blonde schoolgirl not to call you Petey!" Pete tries to explain that he didn't bother to correct Liz because "She doesn't mean anything to me!" but he gets nowhere. (You know what I think, Pete? Screw this noise! Dump her this minute and go out on that date with Mary Jane Watson!) But romantic complications leave Pete's head in a hurry when he sees Kraven the Hunter exiting J. Jonah Jameson's office, promising the publisher that "Spider-Man's days are numbered". Jameson comes to his door and reminds Kraven that "it has to be perfectly legal" but Kraven haughtily replies, "Nobody dictates to me!" Peter doesn't like the look of any of this. He notes that Kraven looks very confident, "as though he has a fool-proof scheme of some sort".

With Kraven gone, Peter presents his latest photos to Jameson. Jonah agrees to buy them but tells Pete he wants pictures of Spider-Man or Kraven next time. (Jonah acts like the photos are only of the rooftop hoodlums but shouldn't Spidey be in those pictures, too?) Pete realizes he must get photos of his next fight with Kraven, "If I manage to live thru it". Distracted, he leaves the Bugle offices. Betty calls after him but is ignored. "He seems to have forgotten all about me!" she thinks, "What can be wrong?" (Gee, I don't know, Betty. Could part of it be that you're acting like a complete jerk, do ya think?)

In science class, Pete's nerves are on edge as he tries to figure out why Kraven is so confident. (How do you like that conscientious Pete? He goes from Queens to Manhattan to see JJJ before school and goes back to Queens again for a full day of High School.) Suddenly, in the middle of his science experiment, Pete's hands start to shake again. He drops his test tube and it shatters on the counter. His hands bump into a beaker and break that too. The other students love every minute of it. "He looks like he's all thumbs," says one. "How clumsy can you be?" says another. The teacher, Mr. Warren, approaches and reproaches Pete for making such a mess. He orders Pete to clean it up immediately. Pete, holding his shaking hands behind his back again, apologizes for the destruction. Off to the side, one of Flash's sycophants whispers in his idol's ear. "Looks like you were right about teacher's pet, Flash!" he says, "He's finally crackin' up!" Smugly, his arms crossed, Flash replies, "Sure! Those egg-heads are all the same! All that studyin' catches up with 'em!" "You tell 'im, Flash!" says a girl in a red dress. The conversation continues with one student suggesting that Pete has been shaky since Flash threatened to "paste 'im" for speaking to Liz. Flash agrees with this theory. "He's real big in the grey-matter department but he wasn't around when they handed out backbones!" he says. Liz objects to this. "Anybody can be a loudmouth like you" she tells Flash, "but it takes brains to be smart". This comment rocks the world of the girl who sucked up to Flash in the last panel. Now she says, "I agree with Liz!"

After school, Flash directs some more threats at Peter and one of his toadies laughs at the way Pete is "tryin' to pretend he doesn't hear". But the truth is, Pete doesn't hear. He's too occupied with the latest edition of the Daily Bugle, which has a headline that reads, "Defeat of Spider-Man Imminent, says Kraven".

That evening, Pete spends all his time studying until Aunt May comes in and tells him it's time to "get a good night's sleep". Pete doesn't tell her he's been spending as much time worrying about what will happen to her if Kraven beats him than he has studying.

After May leaves the room, Pete gets an idea. He pulls out a spider-tracer and decides to attach it to Kraven. "Then I'll always know just where he is, if he's about to attack me!" he says. And so, he changes into his Spidey suit and makes his way to the city. The problem is his hands are still shaking so badly that he can't shoot his webbing accurately. He soon gives up even trying and chooses to leap from building to building instead.

In the hideout, the Chameleon has settled into his chair while Kraven pours himself another glass of his potion. (What is the deal with all this potion? Could whiskey be one of the main ingredients?) Chammy wonders how Kraven is so sure that Spidey will try to track him down. Kraven tells him it is "the law of the jungle... the desire to survive". He has studied Spidey enough to know that "He knows he must stop me in order to save himself". And so, expecting an attack from the web-slinger, Kraven puts his plan into effect.

Meanwhile, Spidey is still jumping from building to building when his spider-sense goes off. He clings to a wall and sees Kraven casually walking into a deserted Central Park. But somehow it all seems too easy to the webhead and his spider-sense "feels different somehow as though it isn't sure". Kicking himself for his uncertainty, Spidey follows into the park, lurking behind trees at a safe distance from Kraven, waiting for a time when he can plant his spider-tracer. But if that is Kraven he is following, who is this stalking the web-slinger from behind. Feeling that his "quarry has made his last fatal mistake", the trailing Kraven moves out from behind a tree, ready to take over the hunt.

Ahead, the webster watches Kraven pausing underneath a lamppost. He finds the whole thing strange, as if Kraven knew he was being followed. This worries him. "Everything is too quiet, too calm" for his liking. And not only that, but his spider-sense is trying to warn him of something. But this hesitation comes too late. The trailing Kraven realizes that Spidey is getting suspicious and springs his trap by pulling on a rope hanging down from a tree. This releases a net down upon the web-spinner. Spidey uses his great leaping ability to try to get free but the net is too large and he dives too late. He is shocked to find himself trapped within the net. (But we're not too shocked since we saw this on the cover.) He must fight against panic when the net resists his spider-strength. "What can it be made of" he wonders and the answer seems to be "metal chainlinks". Using his great brain, Spidey tries to think his way out. He knows that "a chain is only as strong as its weakest link". He assumes that a net this large must have a weak link somewhere. Consequently, he exerts pressure in all areas of the net until he finds the link... a spot "which rifles back slightly under the tension, creating an opening". Spidey exploits this tendency, making the opening large enough for him to curl up into a ball and roll free. Stan informs us that, with his quick-thinking and lightning-fast reflexes, Spidey has accomplished all this in "three and one half seconds". Whatta guy!

The wall-crawler stays low and leaps into a clearing but the beating of a jungle drum distracts him. To his left, one Kraven is pounding away on the skins. To his right, the other Kraven takes advantage of Spidey's confusion to attack and attach two metal shackles on the webster's right ankle and right wrist. Then Kraven tries to land a punch but Spidey jumps away, landing on the branch of a tree. It is then that he discovers the shackles are more than they seem. A magnetic force starts to emanate from the two pieces, getting stronger and stronger, relentlessly pulling Spidey's arm and leg closer together. He also notices that the shackles contain a bell "that jingles when I move" allowing Kraven to find him no matter where he may go.

Now, two panels ago, it sure looked like that branch Spidey jumped to was pretty high up in the tree but now it's clear that it's only about ten feet off the ground. Kraven marches right up, a net in his hands, and boldly brags to the web-slinger that "my escape-proof cuffs get stronger every minute" and that "the only key is the one I wear around my neck". (Perhaps we should call him "Kraven the Blabbermouth".) Then, he flings the net up at the branch. Spidey dodges it easily enough by leaping away but it is taking all of his strength to keep his arm and leg apart. He takes to the ground, pushing his right knee back down to the ground with his left hand as he holds his right arm firmly across his chest. But, as the old' blabbermouth reminds him, the bell reveals his location as he runs. Kraven has retrieved his net and is running up right behind. Again, Kraven throws his net at our hero (the corners of the net are now anchored with rocks so the net won't go sailing up in the air as he tosses it) and again Spidey uses his warning sense to evade it. But this time he must leap in such a way that the two shackles meet, clamping his arm and leg together. Hopping on one leg, the science whiz arrives at a lamp post, opens up the circuit box and tears the master wires "a certain way" (that's scientific lingo for "a certain way") so that all the lights go out and the park is "plunged into darkness". Then he hides behind a bush and, ignoring the pain, uses all his strength to pulls his wrist away from his ankle. The trouble is "these blamed bells keep giving [him] away". Kraven hears them and slings his net again. Spidey avoids the net but knows he must silence the bells if he has a chance to win this fight. That's when he realizes he can shoot web fluid into both shackles, gunking them up, and freezing up the bells. Having accomplished that, he pays heed to his spider-sense and realizes that someone is hiding behind the hedges right behind him. He attacks so swiftly that his opponent doesn't stand a chance. But it's not Kraven he has trapped. Rather, it is the second Kraven whom he initially followed, the one that confused his spider-sense. Pulling a Kraven mask off this man, he finds himself face to mask with the Chameleon. (And, amazingly, once the Kraven mask is pulled off, the whole Kraven costume disappears and the Chameleon is revealed to be hanging around in the park in his yellow smoking jacket.) The Chameleon is beaten but unbowed. "Kraven is still hunting for you and nothing that lives can escape him for long" he tells the web-slinger, "I'll have my revenge on you yet!"

Not far away, Kraven has gone down on one knee, his net in his hands, taking stock of the situation. He doesn't hear any bells and assumes this means that Spider-Man has stopped moving. This makes him relax his guard. Consequently, he is so startled by the spider-signal shining on him from behind that he drops his net. Then Spider-Man shakes him up even further by tossing a Kraven mask into the light formed by the signal. Now Kraven knows that "he got the Chameleon". He stops long enough to pick up his net but he is so rattled by this turn of events that he abandons the plan and runs for it. Confident that "he'll never find me here in the woods", Kraven goes into the brush and climbs a tall tree. He assumes that "Spider-Man is probably still wandering around in circles down below, trying to guess where I disappeared to" and he is just congratulating himself on that fact when the spider-signal spotlights him up in the tree. "It was just a lucky break", Kraven tells himself. He returns to the ground and runs "at breakneck speed" in the shadow of some shrubbery. (The Great Hunter, reduced to running in the shadows of shrubbery. Sad.) But the spider-signal shines on him again. "Nice try, Kraven" Spidey taunts, "You'd make a real dandy butterfly collector!" (Whatever that means.) Realizing at last how formidable Spidey is, Kraven comes up with one last plan. He leaps over a boulder and hides behind it. He presses up again the rock, "no moving, no breathing" becoming one with the stone. When Spider-Man walks past, Kraven leaps out and strikes!

But, again, the wall-crawler is expecting him. When Kraven tries to land his nerve punch, Spidey does a one-handed handstand and bounds away. And then the greatest indignity of all. As the wall-crawler jumps up and lands a punch to Kraven's jaw, he mocks the jungle man, referring to him as, "Oh great white hunter". Kraven is so wounded by this slight that the net instantly materializes in his hands (he hasn't had it for about a page and a half). He slings it at Spidey but the ol' webhead leaps onto a rock, out of harm's way. "It's not human!" Kraven exclaims of Spidey's speed. "Maybe not" replies the web-spinner, "but it's very definitely spider!"

Kraven knows he is finished. He turns and runs into the brush. ("Where are you going?" Spidey taunts, "The jail is in the other direction!") Kraven is so unnerved that he runs, unheeding, into a giant web strung up between two trees. He can't push through it and he can't get loose of it. "And, like all those who flee in blind panic" says Spidey, "in unreasoning fear and cowardice, the hunter at last is caught!"

First, Spider-Man removes the key from around Kraven's neck and gets rid of the wrist and ankle shackles. Then he informs the trapped hunter that his hand tremors have stopped. "I guess strenuous exercise was the antidote for your potion, eh?" he says. Then, he really rubs it in. He wonders aloud what to do with Kraven. "You're too bad-tempered to keep as a pet and much too old to adopt!" He tells the hunter that he will leave him for the police "if you promise not to try to hunt the first little bunny rabbit or squirrel that comes by". With that, the wall-crawler begins to take his leave. Kraven protests that "you can't leave me like this" but Spidey informs him that the police are already in the vicinity, investigating the blackout in the park. But the web-slinger doesn't go very far. He hides behind a tree and takes pictures of the police leading the Chameleon away. Chammy tries to narc on Kraven saying, "I haven't done anything! Kraven is the one you want! He's been trying to hunt human beings!" The police promise to bring Kraven in as well.

At the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson is thrilled with the photos of the Chameleon since "no one even knew he was back in this country". He promises Peter a bonus, then orders Betty to "open the safe and give Parker one of my own personal bars of milk chocolate!" Betty is thrilled to see Peter in such a good mood. She tells him she's sorry for the way she acted. "I-I'm not doing anything tonight" she adds. Peter would love to take Betty out on the town but he remembers that he promised Aunt May he would "meet that Watson girl tonight" so he tells Betty he "can't make it".

(Before we get to Betty's shattered ego, let's take a look at the timing of all this. Remember that the whole evening began with Aunt May telling Peter to go to bed because he has been studying too hard. Instead of going to bed, Pete decides to put a spider-tracer on Kraven so he goes out looking for him. He is led into the park where the battle takes place. Stan's caption after the fight is, "Later, back at the Daily Bugle building" which seems to indicate that it is still the same night. And now Pete remembers that he is supposed to have a blind date with Mary Jane. So, why the heck did Aunt May send him to bed, then?)

Anyway, Betty is devastated by Pete's refusal. She tells him she understands, that "a girl can always trust her first impressions". Pete realizes that Betty thinks he has a date with Liz. "Poor Betty" he thinks, "If only I could explain..." (Well, why can't you, Pete? Your Aunt fixed you up, what's so hard about that?)

On his way home, Peter kicks a rock in frustration. He can't bring himself to refuse Aunt May so he ends up "hurting the girl I care about". Not only that but "that Watson gal is probably a refugee from a horror movie". He gets home and Aunt May isn't surprised to find that Peter isn't in bed. (Okay, I give up, it's the next day or something, I know that, but it sure isn't written that way.) May tells Pete she has some bad news. "Mrs. Watson's niece has a headache" and can't go out with him. Overjoyed, Pete makes for the telephone. He calls Betty to tell her that he can go out but the neurotic Miss Brant just hangs up on him. So, Peter calls Liz Allan... only to learn that Liz is out dancing with Flash Thompson. "Boy!" Pete says, "With my luck, I sometimes wonder who's sticking pins in a Peter Parker doll?"

Sometime later, Kraven and the Chameleon board a steamer that is heading for South America. Both men have been deported, rather than given jail time. Kraven vows to "get back in shape hunting in the jungles of the Congo" only to return when he's "more powerful than ever". (Uh, Kravey buddy? The Congo? Your steamer is heading for South America!) Spidey watches from the roof of a waterfront warehouse, as the steamer sails away. He has come to "forget about Betty for a while" and has no idea that the ship contains his enemies. "Gee, I'd like to be on that ship right now", he thinks, "It looks so quiet, so peaceful! But I'm just not that lucky!"

By the way, the "Chameleon and Kraven are brothers" concept isn't the only retcon that reflects back on this issue. The revised concept that Mary Jane Watson already knows Peter is Spidey affects this issue as well. Somewhere along the line (and I just don't care enough to track down the specific issue), someone appended the idea that MJ was faking the headache mentioned here because she was just not ready to meet the man she knew to be Spider-Man. I admit that I've never liked the "MJ knows" retcon but, even if I did, I wouldn't let it mess with my appreciation of what Stan and Steve intended. Trust me, the best way to read these old stories is to imagine that you're reading it at the time it came out without all the excess baggage. Or, as Sigmund Freud might have put it, sometimes a headache is only a headache.

Not a lot worth mentioning in the Spider's Web this time but John F. Lebar of Allentown, Pennsylvania does seem to agree with my assessment of Pete's romantic situation when he writes, "I am mildly disappointed over the fact that Betty Brant, and not Liz Allen, is Spider-Man girlfriend - don't you fellows know that gentlemen prefer blondes and that Peter should have chosen Liz instead of Betty?" and Peter Bieger of DeWitt, New York gets cute when he writes a letter pretending he is Spider-Man's costume. (Okay, Peter, very clever. You got your letter published. Now cut it out!)

So, do Kraven and the Chameleon sail off to South America? Not even close. Just two months later, in Tales of Suspense #58 (October 1964), we learn that they pay off the ship so that they can take a lifeboat and row right back to Long Island. They end up landing near Tony Stark's munitions plant. While the Chameleon skulks in the shadows, Kraven is spotted by Iron Man and easily defeated. (Not that that stops him from returning almost immediately in ASM Annual #1 (1964).) The Chameleon, meanwhile, gets the brilliant idea to impersonate Captain America and manages to convince Iron Man that the real Captain America is the Chameleon in disguise. It takes Giant-Man and the Wasp to step in, put a stop to a Cap-Iron Man slugfest and defeat the Chameleon. Two months later, the Chameleon is back again, this time facing the Hulk in Tales to Astonish #62 (December 1964) but he doesn't meet up with Spider-Man again until ASM #80 (January 1970).

In General...

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

  1. First Kraven the Hunter.
  2. Second Chameleon.
  3. First mention of Mary Jane Watson.
  4. First time Kraven lifts a gorilla in public.
  5. Second Quinn O'Hara advertisement. (Sigh.)

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

Ditko/Lee/Simek

  • "Kraven the Hunter" - Return of the Chameleon. - First encounter and origin of Kraven

    Overall Rating...

    When it comes to classic Spidey battles, this one is hard to beat. Kraven is never as formidable as this again until, perhaps, the Last Hunt. The nerve punch, the potion that makes Spidey's hands shake, the chain link net, the jungle drums, the magnetic ankle and wrist clamps... it's hard to believe that Kraven ever became a laughingstock as a villain when you look at this. Add to this the fact that Peter's love life has been further complicated with this "refugee from a horror movie" Watson gal, and it all comes out for the second issue in a row to be an easy and obvious five webs.