Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #19

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

This review was first published on: 2003.

Background...

Last issue, our hero became so concerned over what would happen to his ailing Aunt May if anything ever happened to him that he actually ran and hid from the Sandman. He even got to the point of throwing his Spidey suit into the wastebasket until he received a lecture on hanging tough from tough old Aunt May herself! Retrieving his costume, Peter Parker vowed to rededicate himself to his life as Spider-Man. At this moment, the Sandman is still at large and the Enforcers are soon to join him but not for long as... Spidey Strikes Back!

In Detail...

"Spidey Strikes Back!"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #19
Dec 1964 : SMURF 019.500 : SM Title
Editor:  Stan Lee
Writer:  Stan Lee
Pencils:  Steve Ditko
Inker:  Steve Ditko
Cover Art:  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 #14
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #157
 Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #1
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Megazine #4
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Pocket Book #14
Articles: Aunt May Parker, Betty Brant, Fancy Dan, Flash Thompson, Human Torch, Jameson, J. Jonah, Montana, Leeds, Ned, Ox, Sandman

You want to start with a little taste of the upcoming action in this issue? Steve Ditko gives it to you on the splash page. Spider-Man is leaping over Fancy Dan who is swinging and missing with a left-handed punch. The Ox is jumping onto Spider-Man's back. Montana is behind and to the left of this trio. He has lassoed the Human Torch, who is still trying to fly even though he is trussed up like a calf at branding time. The Sandman turns his hands into big sandy paws and is wrapping them around the tied up Torch. The credits refer to Stan as "Spidey's Godfather", Steve as "Spidey's Big Daddy" and letterer Sam Rosen as "Spidey's second cousin on his uncle's side!". Now let the action begin.

A guy wearing a sandwich board that reads, "Spider-Man Washed Up! Read the Daily Bugle! Editorial on the Spider-Man Myth by J. Jonah Jameson" looks to his left and sees six crooks running out of a Midtown bank with bags of money in their hands. This is the Rock Gimpy gang (yes, that's right, the Rock Gimpy gang... no jokes, please) and their bank job has gone "clean as a whistle". Now all the hoods have to do is make it to their getaway car. They don't. Suddenly, the spider signal shines down at their feet and all of the crooks stop in their tracks. They look up and see Spider-Man leaping down towards them. This surprises them more than a little bit since they have been reading the Daily Bugle along with everyone else. With "Jameson's paper... saying [Spidey's] a phony, a coward" they just naturally assumed the web-slinger "was out of action". "Just imagine what I could do if I wasn't a phony coward" says Spidey as he knocks out two crooks as he lands and then pushes off with his hands to spring into the air once again. The bank robbers decide to rush the web-spinner all at once. Bad idea. In one of those great one-panel Ditko montages, Spidey falls back to earth, clocks a guy in the jaw, pushes off with his left hand, does a mid-air somersault, knocks out two more guys simultaneously with two fists, comes down to earth, and punches two more. (Some of these guys must get back up again because I could have sworn we started with six guys and now we're already up to seven.) Anyway, Spider-Man then runs along a wall clobbering crooks as he goes, which takes care of three more. Finally down to one opponent, the wall-crawler leapfrogs over him and somehow puts him out of commission.

A crowd has gathered and they are all very impressed with the way Spidey "pulverized that gang". Since "no one noticed that [he] was keepin' chickee back here" (No, that's okay. I don't know what it means either.), a tough-looking guy in a green cap slips away. He's got to warn his boss about this right away!

The police arrive so Spider-Man leaves the crooks trussed up on the sidewalk as he climbs up the wall. "If anyone asks what happened to you guys, be sure to spell my name right!" he says, "There's a hyphen in it, remember!"

Just then, at a Manhattan auditorium , J. Jonah Jameson is waiting to give a lecture. A woman with brown hair up in a bun introduces him and announces his subject as "How I proved that Spider-Man is a cowardly fraud". Jonah still has that rigor mortis grin on his face from last issue but just then a fellow appropriately named "Mr. Wormly" taps him on the shoulder and begins to whisper in his ear. Wormly has heard about the gang of bank robbers and he proceeds to relay the info to the publisher. As Wormly whispers, Jonah's face goes from the smile to an unsettled grimace to a combination scowl and frown. The woman with the bun finishes her intro but Jonah has rushed for the exit. She asks Mr. Wormly, "What's wrong?" Wormly explains that Jonah "doesn't feel very well".

He sure doesn't. Jonah goes outside and pounds his fists over and over on a brick wall, yelling out "It can't be true! It can't! Not again! I can't be wrong again!" There is only one witness to this event: the Human Torch is flying overhead and takes in the whole thing. But he doesn't have time to stop and puzzle it out. He's trying to reach home before his flame dies completely out. "That last fight I had" he says, "all but exhausted me!" Stan adds a footnote to explain that the fight about which the Torch is talking can be viewed if the reader will but "See Strange Tales #127", which is also cover- dated December 1964. In it, The Thing and the Torch fight the Man in the Mystery Mask who turns out to be (FORTY YEAR OLD SPOILER) Reed Richards in disguise, proving his point that the Fantastic Four need a leader by whipping the pants off his two teammates. And no wonder Johnny is exhausted. He's flying over midtown Manhattan and that fight took place out west in the Utah Salt Flats. Oh, except, in the last panel, Reed, Johnny and Ben all fly back to New York in the pogo plane. So, Stan doesn't know what he's talking about, there's no reason why the Torch's flame should be almost exhausted after the events in Strange Tales #127 and it all looks like a cheap trick to get the reader to run out and buy that particular comic book.

In any event, Johnny is nearly home when he is snared by "an asbestos covered lasso" which somehow manages to coil around him several times all the way from his ankles to his waist. The lassoing is performed by Montana of the Enforcers. His partner, the Ox, uses his strength to tug on the lasso and pull Johnny Storm to the ground. (And Montana seems to know that the Torch has "been flyin' a long distance" and is "too plumb tuckered out to do much with that thar flame of his'n". Maybe Montana read Strange Tales #127. No, wait. I forgot. That wouldn't do him any good since it doesn't explain anything.) The Torch may be weakened but he still has enough power to form a few fireballs and toss them at the two Enforcers. Ox calls for Fancy Dan to step in. Dan runs up carrying a big cylindrical tank on his back (with a hose with a nozzle connected to the tank). Dan points the nozzle at the Torch and sprays a chemical foam that puts the teen hero's flame out instantly. Settling to earth, with only a few wisps of flame rising up on his head, arms, and legs, the Torch learns that the Enforcers have a new ally. The Sandman rises up in his sandy form and completely covers the Torch. In seconds, the sand extinguishes the rest of Johnny's flame. With no flame and no oxygen, the Torch is quickly knocked unconscious.

(Okay, we know the Sandman is on the loose because we saw him last issue. How come the Enforcers are out of jail? Last time we saw them in ASM #14, July 1964, Spidey had them nicely webbed up for the authorities. Maybe it's not against the law to be hired by a movie company and then try to whip up on Spider-Man.)

The Sandman retracts his sand enough for the Ox to grab Johnny by the arm and tote him away. Sandy is just telling the Ox that the Torch is only the first and that "Before we're through, we'll finish off every accursed crimefighter in this area" when the tough guy in the green cap runs up. (But before we get to that, I can't help but wonder... would the Sandman say "accursed"?) As promised, Green Cap is reporting to his boss, the Sandman, that Spider-Man, back in action, has "just collared Rock Gimpy's whole gang". The Sandman tells his flunkey to keep quiet lest the Enforcers hear him. "They only joined forces with me because they figured they wouldn't have to worry about Spider- Man!" he says. But Montana, who is helping the Ox carry the Human Torch into the back of a truck, has overheard part of it and asks what they are saying about Spider-Man. At the hideout, an abandoned warehouse, the Sandman decides he'd better level with his new teammates. (Green Cap has fled the scene and doesn't return again... unless he's one of the thugs who show up later in the issue. It's hard to tell.) Sandy tells Montana and Fancy Dan that the word is out that Spider-Man "busted up some bank robbery gang" but he is quick to reassure the Enforcers that he can handle the web-spinner if he happens to cross their path. Philosophically, Fancy Dan points out, "Anyway, it's too late for us to back out now!" and it sure is, seeing as they have the unconscious Human Torch stuffed in some airtight transparent tube. And then, all of a sudden, the whole group gets cocky. The Ox announces that "Even if Spider-Man is on the loose again, the four of us oughtta be able to beat 'im easy!" The Sandman (with Montana playing with his lasso behind him) casually hitches his leg up on nothing in particular and points out how easily they took care of the Torch. Fancy Dan leans back and blows smoke rings as he proclaims, "Our next task is to learn more about Spider-Man!"

At that same time, Spider-Man is swinging over the city streets, wishing he could have seen J. Jonah Jameson's face when he found out about the foiled bank robbery. Now, though, it is late and he wants to get back to his bedroom before Aunt May notices he is missing. He lands on the outside wall of his Forest Hills home and peeks into his Aunt's bedroom. May is sleeping peacefully and the web-slinger realizes how relieved he is "to know that she isn't dangerously ill any more". Having checked up on May, Spidey swings into the window of his own bedroom, removing his mask even as he gets inside. He has to hurry to bed since "tomorrow's gonna be a big day for me and I wanna be in top condition". (I'm not sure what this means except maybe that Spidey plans to take on as many crooks as he can.)

So, the next morning, Peter Parker dressed in his blue pants, white shirt and yellow vest, is still tying his red-striped tie as he enters the kitchen and butters up Aunt May with some of his usual over-the-top flattery. ("Oh, excuse me! I must be in the wrong place! What's a pretty young girl doing here in my Aunt May's kitchen?") May confesses that she does feel much better. "Mostly because" she tells Peter, "you and Mrs. Watson took such good care of me while I was ill!" (And now that we know that Mrs. "Watkins" from last issue is indeed Mrs. Watson, the question comes up again... what ever happened to her husband? You may recall that May tells Peter, in ASM #18 page 13, panel 6 that Anna had to leave because "her niece is away and she had to cook dinner for her husband". Then the poor guy just drops off the face of the earth.) May tells Peter that she is happy to see him in such a good mood and that she was worried about him. Peter puts on his blue jacket as he tells her; "There's no need to worry about me now! I promise you that!"

At school, Peter is amused to see that Flash Thompson is once again the most popular boy in class. Flash, surrounded by his sycophants, declares that he was right about Spidey all along. The fawning kids agree that he was. When Liz Allan walks by, carrying her schoolbooks, Flash breaks away from the crowd and joins her. He assumes that all is well between them now that Spider-Man is back in action. But Liz is not ready to give in so easily. "Unless my memory fails me" she tells him, "I thought you were mad at me!" (And he was, too. You'll recall that Flash dressed up as Spidey last issue and got clobbered by Rocky Roberts and his car thieves. This gave Flash a shiner and put him in a very bad mood. When he found out that Liz ran to Peter to try to help, Flash got miffed at her for telling Puny Parker about his Spidey masquerade.) Flash tells Liz that he now feels too good to be mad at anybody but Liz replies that she is now mad at him! Flash asks her what he did wrong and Liz replies that he "had the unmitigated nerve" to be mad at her! Then she walks off in a huff. Flash, stunned, watches Liz go and wonders if she's just plain nuts. Peter, who has eavesdropped on all of this, steps up and tells Flash "you can't win 'em all". Flash turns on Pete and tells him to "butt out of my affairs, see?" When Peter replies that he couldn't help but hear "with that foghorn voice of yours", Flash closes his hands into fists and threatens to "let you chew on a set of knuckles you bookworm pantywaist". Unfazed, Pete walks away, telling Flash "I heard the whole routine before! I could recite it by heart!" (And I really hate to say it but Flash does have a bit of a point this time. "Foghorn voice" or no, Pete is clearly just hanging about so that he can listen in to the Flash-Liz conversation.)

So, Peter wins the battle but again loses the war when Flash goes back to his toadies leaving our hero all alone. He puts his hands on his hips, looks back at Flash, and thinks, "It burns me up that Spider-Man's biggest fan has to be a weak-witted, muscle-bound lamebrain like him!" then wonders for the umpteenth time how Flash would react if he ever found out who Spidey actually is.

At the end of the school day, Peter marches out into the city, all jazzed up about going out on patrol as Spider-Man again. He doesn't even get a chance to change into his costume when his spider-sense tingles. A man has walked past him dressed in a purple suit with a yellow tie and smoking a cigarette in a holder. Peter recognizes him. It's Fancy Dan of the Enforcers. Pete finds a "dark alley" and quickly changes into his Spidey duds, and then he crawls high up along the side of a building tracking Fancy Dan. It isn't long before Dan enters a building and walks down a hallway. Spidey follows, by skulking along on the ceiling. Unfortunately for the webhead, a door opens behind him and two thugs step out. They see Spidey up on the ceiling and immediately warn Dan that he is being followed. The place is, as Spidey puts it, a "whole nest of criminals" and they start appearing in the hallway in response to the warning. In seconds, at least four goons enter the hall. Montana and the Ox arrive. When Spidey turns to face Montana, the Ox grabs Fancy Dan, picks him up and throws him at the web-slinger. Dan curls into a ball at the moment of impact, smacks Spidey in the back and knocks him off the ceiling. Before the wall-crawler even hits the floor, three goons rush him and try to surround him. But you have to be a lot faster than that to nab the ol' web-spinner. Spidey leaps back up in the air so that the thugs all run into each other which is all well and good except Montana instantly snags him with his lasso. With Spidey tied up, the Ox tries to land a haymaker but the wall-crawler manages to roll away from the punch while in mid-air!. How does he pull that off? "I ate my Wheaties this morning" Spidey explains, "What else?"

Now, two of the Enforcer's thugs rush in but Spidey slips out of Montana's lasso and vaults over one of the onrushing men. He lands in between the two goons and knocks them both out with simultaneous punches. While Spidey is thus occupied, Fancy Dan jumps up on his back. Spidey lifts Dan up in the air but the Ox steps in and lands a big right hand smack on his jaw. Unfortunately for the Enforcers, the punch doesn't faze Spidey much. He springs away, right through Montana's lariat, singing, "All hail the spider! A hardy breed is he! Tra la la!" To which Montana exclaims, "He done cracked up! Naow he's singin' songs!" until he is shut up by a punch in the jaw from the web-slinger. (God, I love these Spidey-Enforcers free-for-alls as mapped out and drawn by Ditko! Enjoy it while you can, everyone. It's one of the last of its kind.)

All the commotion draws the attention of the police and they enter the building in force. (Hah. In "force". Get it?) Three cops come right inside and start running up the stairs to the scene of the battle. All of the thugs run for it. ("Where are all you party poops running to?" asks Spidey.) The Enforcers slip away unseen. The webhead sees no alternative but to clear out as well. He exits by way of a window and wall-crawls away.

Sometime later, Peter Parker mosies on over to the Daily Bugle. He hopes to find Betty in a friendlier mood than the last couple times he's seen her. (In which she has run away from him and told him they were finished.) But when Peter comes upon Betty, he finds that she is not alone. As our hero puts it, she is "with another fella"... a young man in a green tweed jacket and blue tie. Betty introduces him as Ned Leeds, a new reporter for the Bugle. Peter and Ned shake hands and, very civilly, tell each other how happy they are to meet. (Of course, Peter has seen Betty and Ned together in the previous issue and was devastated by it. Now, however, he is too jacked up about web-slinging again to be particularly upset.) Ned tells Betty he must be getting back to the city desk and tells Peter he is "glad to have met you". With Ned gone, Betty confesses to Peter that she has been "seeing quite a bit" of the young reporter. Peter tells her she doesn't have to explain anything to him. "He seems to be a nice guy!" he says, "Why shouldn't you see him?" Betty is pleased by Peter's attitude and starts to tell him that she feels she has treated him badly when Peter spots J. Jonah Jameson and excuses himself. Betty, who has a PhD in looking at the bad side of things, is impressed with Peter's new confidence and wonders, "Can he have found someone else?"

Elsewhere in the newsroom, a soured and gruff J. Jonah Jameson makes his way through his employees. A bald man with glasses starts to ask, "Mr. Jameson, I wonder if you'd mind...?" only to be cut off by Jonah with a "Shuddup! Go away! Of course I mind!" A guy in a blue shirt tries to present new galleys for Jonah's okay only to be told, "Don't waste my time with that junk! Can't anyone think for himself here? Am I surrounded by incompetents?" (Two employees standing behind Jonah are thrilled to see that "stone face is back to normal again". "I knew his good mood couldn't last," says one with a grin.) So, everyone backs off and let's JJJ puff on his cigar and plow through to his office. Everyone except Peter Parker, that is. Pete tries to have a word with the publisher but he is met with, "Parker! What is it, you pest? Have you any new photos for me?" When Pete admits that he doesn't, Jonah tells him that "I haven't time to waste on every teen-age nobody who comes along!", enters his office, and slams the door in Pete's face. Peter only wanted to tell Jonah that he has seen the Enforcers and to ask if the Bugle wanted some photos of them... something I think Pete could probably answer for himself. In fact, he does just that when he decides, "Oh, well, I'll try to get some photos of them anyway."

Cut to the Sandman's hideout, which is apparently not the same as the building where the Enforcers and their men were hanging out. But the Enforcers have joined the Sandman by now and they decide that Spider-Man must be dealt with on a permanent basis. Sandy figures they have "the perfect bait for our trap... [Spidey's] bratty pal, the Human Torch" but the now-conscious Torch calls the Sandman a fool. "Spider-Man is no pal of mine!" he declares. After asserting his independence, Johnny tries to muster up his flame but there isn't enough air in the transparent tube to allow it. All he can do is "flame on" with his right forefinger. Even this would be enough if he could then use it to burn through the glass but he hasn't enough air for it. He weakens and starts to black out, which forces him to flame off. "They've figured it out too perfectly," he thinks as he tries to catch his breath, "Just enough air for me to breathe! If I use any up to flame on... I... I'll suffocate." (I'm very impressed that this group of crooks managed to figure out the precise amount of air needed to breathe but not flame on. Who came up with this? That genius, the Sandman? Or was it that doctoral candidate the Ox?)

In the meantime, Peter has put on his Spider-Man costume and is now web- swinging by some water tower and some building with a very long, thin roof. He is planning to go after the Enforcers but he can't resist stopping off at the Bugle first and giving it to J. Jonah Jameson. So, he clings to the wall outside Jonah's window, peers in and says, "Hi, Smiley! Did you know I was back?" Furious, Jonah shakes his fist at him and vows to "find some way to beat you". "Sure you will, sweetie! But forgive me if I don't hold my breath while I'm waiting" says the web-slinger as he swings away. Jameson leans out his window and snarls, "I'll get you, do you hear?? I'll get you!!" (And this, my friends, is known as foreshadowing to next issue.)

Ah well. Back to business. Spidey needs a lead on the Enforcers so he decides to perch on the side of a building and wait silently for a half an hour. (Wait, wait. It makes sense!) Then, a mug wearing a brown jacket and green cap walks by. It is the same character that initially told the Sandman that Spidey was back in action and we now learn that he is a stoolie named Louie, who must walk by this route every day, which is why Spider-Man waits in that spot for half an hour. (See? I told you it made sense.) Spidey snags him with webbing on each of his shoulders and yanks him up into the air. Then he attaches the webbing to the side of the building and grills Louie for information on the whereabouts of the bad guys. (Except that he tells Louie, "I know that Sandman and the Enforcers are back in town!" and asks, "Where are they holed up?" when Spidey should not know that the Sandman and the Enforcers have teamed up.) Louie informs him that the villains are hiding out "in the old warehouse across from Clancy's gym" and he volunteers the info that "they got the Torch prisoner, too". Hearing this, Spidey web-slings away, leaving Louie to work his way out of his webbed up jacket and to drop down to the ground. Louie has to work fast since he has to call the Sandman and warn him that Spidey is on his way. (Remember Sandy's plan to use the Torch as bait? You've just seen it in action!) Spidey, however, isn't fooled. As he heads toward the warehouse (in the classic Ditko panel showing him web-slinging head-on that is also featured on the cover) the wall-crawler knows that Louie has "talked too fast... too easy" and this convinces him that the baddies are lying in wait for him. In short... "It's a trap!"

At the warehouse, the Sandman gets off the phone and tells the others to be ready. The Enforcers are there (Montana is playing with that lasso again) with at least four other guys. The Torch sits on his haunches and watches from his prison.

As Spidey nears the warehouse, his spider sense starts "tingling a blue streak". He perches on a wall and checks out the scene. The crooks have put lookouts all over the area. This makes it tougher for the web-head to proceed but he can't back down. He still has to rescue the Human Torch.

So, using his spider-sense, his agility, and his wall-crawling ability, Spidey slowly makes his way around the lookouts without them seeing him. "A sentry has about as much chance of spotting me as he'd have of spotting a runaway amoeba," he thinks as he wall-crawls unseen just below a guard on a rooftop. Then he carefully climbs over the head of a thug hiding behind a crate on the waterfront. ("This is almost too easy!" Spidey thinks, "If I wanted to be sporting about it, I'd sneeze or something.") A third sentry complains aloud that "this look-out jazz is a waste of time" since Spidey would "never dare come here", even as Spidey crawls by him in the shadows. The webster makes it to the warehouse without being seen. He climbs through a window and scopes out the scene. All he sees below is the Torch trapped in his tube, except that now there's this big plug on the top that looks a bit like a cork. Before going into action, the webbed one sets up his automatic camera in the rafters, then he lowers himself upside-down on a web so that he is right above the transparent tube. He is just about to "smash that tank with my spider strength" when the plug on the top comes to life. It isn't cork after all, but sand. The Sandman rises up and turns his hands into big spatula-like paws ready to grab the "taken by surprise" web-slinger. But Spidey reacts quickly. "You're a tricky old geezer," he tells the Sandman (Geezer? Doesn't he usually reserve that for the Vulture?), and then jumps right through Sandy's body before the villain can solidify. As Spidey heads for the floor, the Sandman calls out the boys and, next thing you know, the room is filled with the Enforcers and assorted other hoodlums.

From his transparent prison, Johnny Storm yells at Spider-Man to "Look out!" but it's far too late for that. As the Sandman slides off the top of the tube, all three Enforcers attack the web-slinger at once. Montana lassos Spidey's right arm and pulls him off-balance even as Fancy Dan and the Ox get their licks in with punches. But, once again, they underestimate the web-spinner's speed. Spidey leaps toward Montana, loosening the lasso as he goes. From an upside-down position, he smacks Montana in the jaw, knocking him to the ground. Then, turning right side up again, he knocks out two of the approaching henchmen. However, as Spidey does this, the Sandman slithers underneath him in his sand form, and then springs up from behind. He does that thing with his fists, turning them into piledrivers, and uses the left one to punch Spider-Man in the jaw. One punch is not enough to take out the web- slinger, though. He recovers in a hurry, turns, and shoots some webbing right into the Sandman's face. But in the meantime, Montana lassos him around the waist and Fancy Dan jumps onto his back. Saying, "Sorry, Chum, no free rides today! All off!" Spidey flips upside down and shakes Fancy Dan loose. While he is doing this, he grabs Montana's lasso, creating some slack so that he can wriggle free from it once again. This leaves him lying on the floor. Three goons take advantage of this by dog-piling on him. "Now's our chance!" says one of the hoods to which Spidey replies, "It's your chance, all right. Your chance to serve as a genuine Spidey punching bag! So, thanks a heap!" And, sure enough, even on his back, the webster has little trouble punching the three henchmen into the middle of next week.

Still, though, the pressure doesn't ease up. Spidey is just getting back to his feet when the Sandman, curled up into a ball, rolls over and clips him from behind. The Ox steps in and lands a haymaker but the blow still doesn't really connect, because the agile web-slinger uses hand springs to leap out of harm's way. Two goons try to get him but completely miss. Then, two more try to punch him only to have Spidey leap right over them. The wall- crawler lands right in front of the Ox and uses his spider-strength to stop Ox's next blow by simply grabbing his fist. Announcing that "usually I have to pull my punches with other guys but with you I can really let myself go", Spidey socks the Ox in the stomach, and then knocks him off his feet with a blow to the jaw. "Ahhh" he says, "That was like a symphony!"

Still, he can't take a moment to rest. Right away, the Sandman tries to clobber him with one of those flatiron hands even as Montana tries to snag him again with his lasso. Spidey leaps in the air to avoid Sandy and leans backward to avoid the lasso. Then the web-slinger somersaults along the ground as the Sandman tries to keep up, missing over and over with his pile drivers. After all this exertion, the wall-crawler is "starting to get bushed". He decides he can use a little help so he keeps somersaulting (avoiding the Sandman, avoiding Montana) until he smashes right into the glass tube holding the Human Torch. Spidey hits the tube with enough force to shatter it. Instantly, the Torch flames on. "Boy!" he says, "You sure took your own sweet time about freeing me!"

Now the shape of the battle changes as the Torch joins the action. He starts by throwing a couple of fireballs at a couple members of the hired muscle. The Sandman goes for the Torch but Johnny, flying in an arc, evades him. (Spidey, meanwhile, jumps up and socks a thug in the jaw.) One of the goons straps the chemical foam tank on his back and starts spraying the Torch with it. Johnny loses his flame from the waist down and calls out to Spidey for help. "Sure! Anything for an ol' human matchstick" says the wall-crawler as he stops the spray by shooting some webbing over the hose's nozzle. This leaves the Torch free to go after all the henchmen. He rounds them up by encircling them in a wall of flame. Spidey covers them with webbing and that takes care of all of the extraneous bad guys for this issue.

So, now it's just down to the Sandman and the Enforcers. The Sandman grabs the Torch and holds him until Montana can rope him with his asbestos lasso. Fancy Dan and the Ox both jump onto Spider-Man's back. Even in this state, the webhead tells the Torch that he is coming to rescue him. Even in his state, the Torch replies, "No, mother! I wanna do this myself!" Spider-Man, apparently, has built up enough speed running that, even with Dan and Ox on his back, he manages to plow into the Sandman. All of the participants go flying off into all sorts of directions and the Human Torch finds himself free. Fancy Dan and Montana find themselves on the floor side by side. The Torch traps them by encircling them with flame. Spider-Man puts a haymaker of his own on the Ox. This time, the Ox stays down.

With the Enforcers taken out of the fight, the Sandman turns tail to run (which is not so easy when one of your legs is a pile of sand from the knee down). Both heroes go after him at once and only manage to get in each other's way. Spidey shoots his webbing at Sandy only to snag the Torch's left arm instead, just when Torchy was about to put the pinch on the Sandman. Only seconds ago, Spidey was Johnny's best friend for freeing him from the glass tube. Now the Torch refers to him as "you clumsy chowderhead". How soon they forget!

With the webbing still attached to his arm, the Torch tries to keep flying. He only manages to entangle both he and Spidey in a mass of webbing instead. (Spidey tells the Torch to "quit flying, you lamebrain" but he could take his finger off his web-shooter and stop all that webbing, already!) The Torch decides his only choice is to flame off. Spidey tries to tear the webbing but doesn't have the strength to do it. So, the two teen heroes stand together, snarled up in a big web net. The wall-crawler tells the Torch that they will have to wait until the webbing melts off but Johnny is not the patient type. "Even if it is asbestos-treated, I'll melt it off with a dose of concentrated white-hot flame!!" (Man, back in 1964 everything was asbestos-treated!) So, Torchy channels all of his power into his left hand which becomes so white-hot that Spidey's uniform catches on fire, the web- slinger's face melts and, in seconds, his bones are reduced to powder. "Oops!" says the Torch, "I guess I should have thought out the consequences of that!" Okay, okay, this doesn't really happen, but I can't for the life of me see why not. The Torch is exerting the kind of heat given off by the sun and Spidey is just calmly standing two feet away from it, watching the fun. He even casually asks the Torch why he didn't use the white-hot flame to get out of the glass tube. Johnny explains that there wasn't enough oxygen in the tube to get the job done. Now, though, he can use the intense heat to burn through the webbing without burning off Spider-Man's face.

When all the burning is said and done, it just looks like the two heroes lift the webbing up and off. In fact, I'm not sure why they didn't do that to begin with. They look around and realize that the Sandman is long gone. Spidey is sorry about this. He really wanted to get back at Sandy "after the hard time he gave me last month". Now that the subject has been raised, the Torch asks Spidey "What made you run out on that fight with the Green Goblin, anyway?" but the only answer he gets is, "Anyone ever tell you that you ask too many questions, fella?"

Outside on the docks, two cops spot the Sandman running away and decide to jump him. One goes low around his legs and the other goes high around his shoulders. The Sandman can't believe that he has run into cops after successfully escaping from Spidey and the Torch but he isn't too worried. After all, as he tells the cops, "I'll turn to sand and slip right through you". But the cops are determined to "hang onto you even if we have to scoop you up with a pail and shovel". Sandman starts to turn to sand with a cop hanging off of each arm but he is too worn out to make the effort. The battle with Spider-Man has taken its toll, the strain is too much, and he decides to surrender. (And why not? He probably escapes just as soon as he's rested up and can turn completely to sand again.) He lays face down on the dock as the cops pin his elongated sandy arms behind his back. "I'll go back to jail peacefully!" he declares, "Anything is better than having to face Spider-Man and that flaming freak again!" And, by this statement, the policemen know that the reports are true. Spider-Man is "back in action, fighting crime once more!"

Spidey and the Torch, now outside, watch the end of this capture. The Torch decides that there is "nothing more for us to do" but Spidey replies that "There's still one thing, the thing you always do! You'll try to get all the credit while I take a powder!" And with that, he leaps to a wall and starts crawling away. "So long, junior" he says to Torchy.

The next day at the Daily Bugle, Betty Brant gets off the phone with the latest report for her boss that Spidey and the Torch "captured the Enforcers and chased the Sandman into the arms of the police". JJJ, miserable, his hand to his head and his stogie sticking out of the middle of his mouth, wonders if he's "too old to join the foreign legion". He starts to pace his office, puffing smoke, and wondering how Spidey went from being "public heel #1" to being "more glamorous than ever". But then Peter Parker enters with "a full photographic record of the fight between Spider-Man and the Enforcers" and Jonah perks right up. These pictures will "see an extra half million papers for me". Peter hates to sell them to "the old pirate" but he can use the money. Jonah pours through the whole set and excitedly tells Pete that he'll "buy them all".

So, with Jonah still pouring over the pics, Pete exits the office, pocketing his money. He decides that "this is a real happy ending" since "even Jameson feels good now" until he asks Betty Brant for a date and she turns him down. She already has a date with Ned Leeds for this evening. Pete suggests that he may call her tomorrow and she tells him that that will be fine. Ned shows up at that moment and he and Pete exchange a few friendly words with Pete saying, "Have a nice time tonight, you two!" Then, all smiles, he promises to give Betty a call tomorrow, gives a wave, and runs along. Ned tells Betty "that Parker seems like a nice guy". Betty, however, is a bit dismayed. After all, she was hoping that Peter would be just a little bit jealous and he seems completely unconcerned. "Have I really lost him?" she wonders. (Isn't that what you wanted, Betty?)

Don't you love these little groups of people who hang out on the New York streets, snapping up the latest Bugle editions, standing around and discussing them? This time, four men discuss the "exclusive set of photos showing Spider- Man in action". The guy in the green cap thinks, "Jonah Jameson did it again!" The guy with his back to us is confused. "But, just the other day he was calling Spidey a fraud!" he says. The guy with the bow tie tells him he doesn't understand publicity. He thinks Spidey and JJJ are "both in cahoots". And the guy with the yellow tie agrees. He says, "I wouldn't be at all surprised."

Over at the Baxter Building either Reed or Sue or Ben (the panel only shows the outside of the building so we don't know who's talking) asks Johnny if he ever found out why Spider-Man "seemed to act cowardly". "Getting information out of that web-spinner is like pullin' teeth!" Johnny replies. "I still can't even make up my mind whether to like him or hate 'im!"

At three in the afternoon, Peter Parker gets out of school. He says good-bye to Liz. "So long, Petey!" she responds. A shady looking character in sunglasses and wearing a purple suit and hat, (real inconspicuous) flicks his cigarette away and consults a piece of paper. "Petey" is the one is he looking for. Now that he has located his quarry, he shadows Pete from a safe distance. (Far enough away to prevent Pete's spider-sense to go off, apparently since, even as he is being followed, our hero is thinking "I haven't a worry in the world now".) The mystery man hangs around outside of Peter's home; standing under a lamppost and having a smoke. A crescent moon has come up over the house and Peter's bedroom light has gone out some time before. The man decides it is safe to phone his employer and report his progress.

In a Manhattan penthouse, a man answers his phone. His face is in shadow. All we can see for sure is that he wears a green robe. He tells the mystery man to get back to his post until relieved. "I want him under surveillance every minute!" he orders. Then, standing by a window, looking out at the New York skyline, the robed man puts his hands behind his back and thinks, "I've got to know for certain! And then, when I'm sure, I'll act!"

There really aren't any letters worth noting in the Spider's Web this issue. (Well, except maybe for Archie L Mayes of Albuquerque, New Mexico who praises comics by saying "It's the only thing that the Russians can't claim they had first!" to which Stan replies "But who said the Russians didn't invent comics first? Didn't you ever hear of the Fantastic Fourovitch or that ever-popular favorite Spider-Manski??") However, the Special Announcements Section that follows reveals that M.M.M.S. stands for the Merry Marvel Marching Society. It is, Stan reveals, a new fan club, adding, "We're designing membership cards, gimmicks, surprises, and all sorts of off-beat goodies for you!" and promising "There'll be more info next ish, natch, so don't miss it!" The Section also reveals that Marvel has moved its offices ("We used to be on the third floor at our old address but now we're on the second floor of another building!") so stop sending those letters to the old address, everyone! And, finally, Stan can't seem to remember whether the next issue is #20 ("You've no excuse for missing Spider-Man #20") or #19 ("And that wraps it up till we all meet the Scorpion next ish in Spider-Man #19!"). Psst! Stan! The next one is #20!

Say "so long" to the Sandman for a little while. He doesn't meet up with Spider-Man again until Marvel Team-Up #1, March 1972. But that doesn't mean he's idle. In fact, he must break jail right away because he turns up as a member of the Frightful Four in Fantastic Four #36, March 1965 only a few short months from now. He makes plenty of appearances in the FF over the next couple of years, both with his group (getting a new costume designed by the Wizard in the process) and on his own (in FF #61, April 1967) before becoming a Hulk villain in The Incredible Hulk #113, March 1969. Lately, he has been almost exclusively a Spider-Man opponent again, appearing most recently in Peter Parker: Spider-Man #56-57 (July-August 2003) discovering his child within and coming to terms with his feminine side.

Wave good-bye to the Enforcers for a good long time. They don't return again until Marvel Team-Up #39 (November 1975) and they never again face the web-slinger in any artwork drawn by Steve Ditko... which means, of course, that they are never really the same villains again.

And what about that mysterious fellow tailing Peter Parker at the end of the story and the guy in the shadows in the robe to whom he reports? Well, if you don't already know who they are, I'm sure not going to tell you. The whole mystery is resolved in Amazing Spider-Man #20, January 1965, so if you just wait patiently, you'll find out all about it here next month.

Actually, I lied. You'll find out all about it in two months. Next month, Spider-Man meets the Avengers! Sort of.

In General...

Milestones:

  1. First time Spider-Man gives up quitting.
  2. First time J. Jonah Jameson goes from grinning to grimacing in the space of three panels.
  3. Third appearance of the Enforcers.
  4. Fourth Spidey appearance for the Sandman.
  5. Yet another Human Torch appearance. (I've lost count! What is it... thirteen appearances with Spider-Man now?)
  6. First appearance of Ned Leeds' name.
  7. Last great Steve Ditko-drawn Spidey-Enforcers battle.
  8. First time Sandman is too tired to get away from a couple of cops.
  9. First appearance of Mac Gargan. (Oops! So much for not giving it away!)

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

Ditko/Lee/Rosen

  • "Spidey Strikes Back" - Vs Sandman and the Enforcers. - Spidey rescues the Human Torch.

    Overall Rating...

    Spidey back in action. J. Jonah Jameson pounding on walls in frustration. Seven pages of Ditko-drawn action featuring Spidey fighting the Enforcers, the Sandman and various henchmen. You know me well enough by now.