Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #23

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

This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

Though the last couple issues have been fun, they have had this "treading water" feel. No sub-plots to speak of, no progress in characterization, no decisions made in story advancement. So what do Stan and Steve do about it this issue? They bring back the Green Goblin and pull out all the stops!

In Detail...

"The Goblin and the Gangsters"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #23
Apr 1965 : SMURF 023.500 : 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 #10
 Reprinted In: Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus #1
 Reprinted In: Marvel Comic Annual (UK) 1969
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #161
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #18
 Partially Reprinted In: Pow! #56
 Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #2
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Pocket Book #16
Articles: Aunt May Parker, Betty Brant, The Big Man, Green Goblin I (Norman Osborn), Jameson, J. Jonah, Lucky Lobo

Let's pause to look at another great Ditko cover (Spidey upside down, the Goblin trying to entangle him in his own webs, two pumpkin bombs flying through the air) and note the presence of the little orange square in the lower right corner that shows the Thing pointing a rocky finger at the reader next to the slogan, "The M.M.M.S. Wants You!": the first appearance of the M.M.M.S. cover logo on ASM. Meanwhile, on the splash page, the Green Goblin rides his glider towards the reader, distributing pumpkin bombs and setting off sparks. Spider- Man is behind and to our right, leaping high in the air to take on four onrushing hoodlums. Not one of Ditko's best splashes by a long shot but it definitely makes you want to turn the page and see what the scoop is.

It is the office of mob leader "Lucky" Lobo and the Green Goblin has stopped by for a visit. Seven hoods stand around the large room, smoking, wearing fedoras, taking in the action as Lobo (who is no relation to the Lobo Brothers... at least not yet!) stands behind his desk, a cigar in his mouth, and points a finger at the Goblin who stands with his own finger in the air and his glider hovering a foot off the ground between his legs. The Goblin has shown up to suggest that he take over the gang and Lucky thinks he "must be nuts". He's not going to let anyone take over. "Now hit the road, mister, while you still can!" he says. The Goblin is not ready to give up. He explains that "under my leadership, we could take over every racket in the city" but Lucky isn't listening. He tells his boys to throw the Goblin out. This turns out to be harder than it looks. As one thug lunges with a left- handed punch (he's the one in the green jacket and one of the two that doesn't wear a hat), the Goblin leaps onto his glider, flies up into the air, and eludes him. Gobby then fires a sparkler burst out of his right forefinger at the goon in the blue suit and orange hat. (This is the guy who, when Lobo orders his men to throw Gobby out, says, "It'll be a pleasure, Lucky!" Not so much of a pleasure now, is it, pal?) The Goblin follows up with a toss of a pumpkin bomb that staggers several other gang members but he really doesn't want to harm these men. After all, he wants them in good condition when they are working for him! So, he flies out the window, only turning back to warn Lobo that the next time he visits, he "won't let you off so easy".

A reporter and a cop in the street below see the Goblin fly out of the window and they go up to Lucky Lobo's office to see what's going on. Lucky tells the police officer that he's "clean", that nothing happened, that they got rid of the Goblin and that's that. The reporter (complete with a press badge tucked into the brim of his hat) notices that it looks like a fight took place. "What a story!" he proclaims as he writes, "Green Goblin raids mobsters" in his notes. The cop tells Lucky that they are watching him and that he will slip up sooner or later but Lucky protests that he is "innocent as a new-born babe". As the policeman and reporter leave, one hood tells Lucky that "it's getting' too hot in town" what with the cops "watchin' us like hawks". Lucky snaps his lit cigar in two and blames it on the Goblin. "He's tryin' to cut me out, so he can take over" he says.

And, yes, that's exactly what the Goblin has in mind. As he flies past water towers and a big old full moon, he muses that his plan is working just fine but that he has to speed it up. Taking over Lobo's mob is only the first step, after all. He eventually plans to "control the entire underworld" and gushes over the sound of "The Green Goblin, King of Crime!" And the beauty of it is, "It'll happen sooner than anyone suspects!"

The following day is Saturday and Peter Parker takes pleasure in sleeping late. He can smell bacon frying in the kitchen but must go to wash up first. After that, he goes to grab his Spidey suit which he washed late the night before when Aunt May was already sleeping and left to dry in the attic where Aunt May rarely goes. But when he gets there, Peter discovers that the suit is still wet and that he'll have to leave it in the attic for a while. ("Too bad I can't just go into a store and ask for a wash-and-wear Spidey outfit!" he says.) Peter decides that he probably won't need his outfit this morning anyway so he leaves it in the shadows behind an old lamp and other unidentified junk and heads down to breakfast.

He dresses in a black shirt and white jacket, dispensing with the blue jacket, yellow vest and red tie because it's Saturday, I suppose. Still, May notices, as she cooks a couple of fried eggs, that Peter is "dressed to go out". Pete tells her that he is going to the library because he doesn't want "to take any chances on missing out on that science scholarship for State U." (Which, you'll recall, Peter visited in Fantastic Four #35, February 1965). Aunt May sticks a finger in his face and tells him that she doesn't like him staying out too late. If he's delayed, she insists that he call, "not like last time" (which is our only reference to the "cliffhanger" from last issue when May caught Peter sneaking in after his Masters of Menace fight and pronounced herself hurt by his secrecy). Peter assures her that he will call if some situation arises.

On his way to the library, Peter picks up a paper at a newsstand. The headline reads, "Green Goblin Raids Rackets Boss" and Peter wonder if Gobby is "trying to become a hero". He is too curious to directly head to the library so he stops off at the Daily Bugle. Betty, who we've previously established as having to work on Saturdays (in ASM #20, January 1965), is busy jumping through hoops for J. Jonah Jameson and Peter notices that there is a letter on her desk from Europe marked "Personal". He decides it is none of his business but he picks it up anyway. (I mean, why not? It's not like it's marked "Personal" or anything. Oh.) He notices that it is from Ned Leeds, "the reporter who used to date Betty a few months ago". Peter is sorry to see this. He thought, "Things were all over with them". (Purely wishful thinking on Pete's part because the couple clearly parted on very good terms when Ned went to Europe in ASM #20.) But then Peter is distracted by a short, mustached, familiar-looking man who is holding a blue hat in his hands, wearing a blue bow tie and talking to J. Jonah Jameson. The man has asked for a reporter's job back at the Bugle and "soft-hearted" Jonah has given it to him. As the man leaves, Peter recognizes him. It is Frederick Foswell, former Bugle reporter who was revealed to be the crime boss known as The Big Man back in ASM #10, March 1964 and is now out of jail. Peter asks Jonah why he hired Foswell back again and JJ tells him, "Because I believe in forgiveness, charity, and brotherly love!" Then, he takes a puff off a big stogie and reveals his true reason. "And besides" he says, "It'll be good for my public relations! It'll build up my image as a loveable do-gooder." Peter looks at him with a mixture of disgust and admiration. "The old phony!" he thinks, "His smile is as warm and friendly as a rattlesnake!" Rubbing his hands together in anticipation, Jonah asks Peter if he is here because he has some "exciting exclusive news photos". Peter tells JJ that he just stopped by to see Betty (which he hasn't done yet) and this sets Jonah off. "I haven't time to waste talking to every fool teen-ager who comes in off the street!" he bellows and Peter retreats, reassured by this reaction that he has actually been talking to the real J. Jonah Jameson after all.

Soon after, Peter comes upon Betty doing some filing. He invites her to a movie but she turns him down, telling him that the extra editions concerning the Green Goblin are going to keep her working late. Pete wonders why she doesn't mention the letter from Ned Leeds and he tries to draw it out of her by asking, "Anything else new lately?" But Betty disappoints him. "Why, no!" she replies, "I guess I must lead a rather dull life, Peter." So, our hero takes his leave, worried that there must be more between Betty and Ned than he thought if Betty is taking the time to conceal the letter from him. After Peter is gone, Betty realizes that she forgot to mention Ned's letter. She doesn't worry about it too much. She just figures she can mention it another time, little realizing the conclusions to which Peter has already come.

Out on the street, Peter sees Frederick Foswell talking with "a shady-looking character". Foswell may just be working on a story but, just in case he's not, just in case Fred is planning to take over the rackets again, Peter decides to follow him. He runs into an alley and starts to take his jacket off so he do his trailing as Spider-Man. Only then does he remember that he left his costume in the attic to dry. Ruefully, he smacks himself in the head. He doesn't have his reds-and-blues and he doesn't dare go into action as Peter Parker. "So a golden opportunity wasted because of a wet costume."

Elsewhere in the city, the Green Goblin flies through an open window (in fact, it looks like the window has no glass in it at all, like some portal in a medieval castle) to meet with another shady character; this one wearing a black suit, black hat with yellow hatband, red tie, and white shirt, sporting a pencil-thin mustache with a cigarette sticking out of his mouth. This fellow is one of Lucky Lobo's men and he is double-crossing his boss to the Goblin by supplying the super-villain with "a complete list of the dough [Lucky] made from the joints he owns". Black Suit assures the Goblin that "If the Income Tax Bureau ever sees this, they'll jail [Lucky Lobo] for life!" The Goblin takes the list from the stoolie and gleefully puts his hand up to his face like Jack Benny. He knows exactly what to do with the list. He will make it public and then his rival will be finished.

Now, over to a "swank Midtown Business Executives Club", where J. Jonah Jameson is having a conversation with a fellow named Merriweather who is bald with a fringe of gray hair and is sitting in a yellow armchair. Standing right behind the armchair is a man with strange crinkly red hair and dressed in a purple suit. He can be seen in two panels, is not named, and never says a word but he is unmistakably Norman Osborn. This is his first appearance and he listens carefully to the conversation in which Merriweather tells Jonah that he was "mighty generous" to rehire Frederick Foswell. (Just think of this for a moment, from the perspective of someone reading these stories at the time they were published. The Green Goblin has already been around for nine issues and fans are already trying to guess who he is. The answer turns out to be a character that isn't even part of the series until this issue and doesn't even get a name until just before the revelation of the Goblin's identity. For all the fond memories of this mystery, it was nothing more than a big cheat, really.) Jonah gives Merriweather the same "warm-hearted, generous, good Samaritan" bunk he gave Peter. Just then another bald man with a gray fringe enters the room and tells Jonah that one of his employees needs to speak to him. Jonah goes out into the foyer of the club and is not pleased to find Foswell waiting. "How dare you disturb me here" he barks at the ex-con. Foswell replies that he has info that Jameson will want to see right away. It is "a complete list of Lucky Lobo's secret finances" that Fred claims he got from a stoolie. (At this point in time, Stan and Steve are working hard to convince you, the reader, that Frederick Foswell is the Green Goblin and a lot of fans fell for it. No one should have taken the bait, however, since we all know that Fred was imprisoned in ASM #10 and didn't get out until after the Goblin came upon the scene.) Foswell tells Jonah he is passing this info along to "prove to you that I'm on the up and up now" but JJ doesn't much care for the reasons. All he knows is he has a scoop that will put the Bugle on the map and "cement my reputation as a crusading public-spirited citizen".

And so, J. Jonah Jameson brings the information to the police as the Green Goblin hides behind a billboard across the street from headquarters, gloating over the way he has manipulated events. The cops get on it so fast that Jonah is still there as they make their plans. The Captain (or whatever he is) tells his men to "alert the special forces squad". He wants every place on the list "closed up and all the financial records impounded". Jonah doesn't listen. He's too busy smoking and smiling over the notion that the mayor may give him a citation at City Hall for his services.

Over in Forest Hills, Peter has returned to the attic and picked up his now dry costume. He puts it on and takes to the Manhattan skyline, thrilled over how "clean and sweet-smelling" his costume is. Right away, he spies three police cars with their sirens going. Following them, he comes upon a raid of one of Lucky Lobo's joints. Spidey figures he can get some photos to sell to Jonah but when he settles on a nearby rooftop, he spots a group of goons making a getaway in a sedan through a "concealed emergency exit". Foregoing the building and the photos, he takes off after the automobile instead. But the car doesn't even make it out of the alley before a bomb thrown by the Green Goblin clobbers it. Gobby doesn't want anyone escaping. He wants them all to rat on Lucky Lobo. The front end of the car sags, stranding the men, and Spider-Man witnesses the whole thing. He doesn't understand it. Suddenly the Green Goblin seems to be helping the police and he wants to know why. As the Goblin flies away on his glider, Spidey leaps over to a water tower, concealing himself. His new plan is to follow the Goblin until he learns what is really going on.

Unfortunately, the web-slinger is not as careful as he thinks. The Goblin notices him almost immediately and realizes he has a perfect opportunity to get Spidey to "do my dirty work for me". All he has to do is fly over to Lucky Lobo's place and then duck out. With luck, Spidey and Lucky Lobo will "eliminate each other" allowing Gobby to "return to... gather up the spoils".

Over at Lucky Lobo headquarters, the mood is one of pure panic. Lucky is on the phone to some of his boys who are reporting that the cops are shutting down all their operations. He tells them to close all the gambling joints and to burn all the records. The instant Lucky hangs up the phone, the Goblin flies through an open window and flips a couple of pumpkin bombs to each side of the room. Gobby asks Lobo is he's ready to turn his mob leadership over to him. Lucky yells at his men to "Let 'im have it!" In response, the Goblin releases "some kinda gas" from the exhaust of his glider. Or so it seems. Only Lucky is savvy enough to realize that it isn't gas but rather smoke. He orders one of his goons to turn on the air conditioner to clear out the smoke but the henchman can't see to turn on the "blamed switch". (Note that if Lucky had the air-conditioning running in the first place then the window would have been closed and the Goblin wouldn't have been able to just fly right in.)

Now Spider-Man arrives at this scene of smoke and pumpkin bombs and mayhem. He still thinks that the Goblin may have turned to crime fighting. If so, he can't let Gobby take on an entire mob all by himself. So, he too swings into the window (Lucky, close that window!). By the time Spidey enters the room, the smoke has cleared out and the Goblin has cleared out along with it. Suddenly, the web-slinger finds himself all alone, surrounded by Lucky Lobo and about a half-dozen of his men. And if you think that we're in for another one of those great Ditko fight scenes with Spider-Man taking on a bunch of guys at once, then you are absolutely right.

Lucky tells his men to attack Spider-Man all together. "After we polish him off" he says, "We'll claim it was self-defense!" The Goblin peeks into the window from outside, loving every minute of this. He figures to be the real winner when this battle royale is over. Spider-Man strikes first by firing out some goop from each of his web-shooters. The liquid webbing plugs up the snout of a gun and covers another thug's gun hand completely. Two other men, who are not the same ones who just had their guns plugged up, somehow decide that "we don't need our rods" and choose to rush the web-slinger from behind. Spidey swings his arms out behind him and catches each attacker with a fist in the solar plexus. When two others try to punch him, he leaps up into the air and adheres to the ceiling. ("It's getting kinda stuffy down there!" he says, "Why not join me up here where there's more room?" Great line.) Now, I always like to pass along any names that Stan sees fit to bestow on any minor characters so I must mention that one goon yells out, "Grab 'im, Mike!" to either the guy in the beige suit or the guy in the green suit. (You may not be impressed that one of these thugs is actually given a first name but it's more than Norman Osborn has at this point in the series.)

Spidey stands on the ceiling, hanging down so that he can punch Mike (who I've decided is the guy in the beige suit) and a blue-suited guy in their jaws. Someone throws a lamp at the web-slinger as he does this but it goes between his legs. Spidey bounds down to the floor again and socks the other guy who could be Mike, the guy wearing the green suit. Now things get really confusing so pay attention. Spidey leapfrogs over Mike (in the beige suit) and shoots a glob of web goop on his back. Then he throws him high up against the wall where he sticks, becoming, in the words of the web-slinger "instant wallpaper". But here's the confusing part. In the time between the leapfrogging and the sticking on the wall, his suit has changed from beige to green, meaning he turned from one Mike into the other Mike. So, maybe they're both named Mike after all.

Two other thugs try to rush Spidey but he just turns and shoots more goop at the floor and they step right into it. A guy in a blue suit sneaks up behind with a gun but the wall-crawler's spider-sense warns him of it and he ducks away from the shot just in time, as the bullet hits and shatters a pink lamp with a yellow lampshade. Spidey does a handspring and kicks the blue-suited guy out of the action. This seems to leave him vulnerable to a gun attack by a guy in a brown suit ("You're fast, Spider-Man" he says, "But not fast enough!") but Spidey just leaps clear over him and the guy fires harmlessly at nothing.

Spidey decides to take a breather while he works on just "what the Goblin's game is". He leaps through a doorway, somersaults up so that he is standing on the wall above the door, closes the door, and webs it shut all the way around. Lucky's goons fire bullets through the door but the web-slinger is perched safely above them. Lucky is thrilled by this development. The room has no windows and there's no other way out. "He trapped himself", Lobo declares as three of his men use their shoulders to try to break the door down. But Spider- Man isn't looking for a way out. He's looking for a telephone, which he finds on a desk. After all, he promised Aunt May that he would call if he was going to be late for dinner.

So, with the gangsters pounding away at the door, Spidey lifts his mask away from his mouth, calls Aunt May and tells her he is going to be late. May is glad to hear from Peter as promised. "Now I won't put the potatoes in the oven yet" she says. Then she asks if her fragile nephew is warmly dressed. Spidey sits on the desk with his legs crossed and his right arm resting casually on his knee. He assures his Aunt that "I'm real warm and snug right now" and then he tells her that he has to hang up since, "I think someone else might want to use the phone". After Spidey hangs up, May pauses a moment before replacing the receiver as she gushes over what a "dear boy" her nephew is. "No matter what he's doing, he hardly ever forgets to call his Aunt May" she says. "If only he didn't study so hard! I hope he gets enough exercise!"

It looks like the exercise is about to re-commence because Lucky's men have finally succeeded in breaking down the door. (Note that the webbing doesn't give. It is the wood of the door itself that they break through.) When they enter, they find Spider-Man standing in the center of the room with his arms raised. Lucky thinks this means that the web-slinger has decided to give up but he's in for a surprise. He tells Spidey to put his hands down "real slow... no tricks now" but he doesn't think about looking up at the ceiling where the wall-crawler has already stretched out a big net of webbing. He has arranged it so that the webbing will fall at any time. Lucky and five hoods enter the room with guns drawn but before they can fire the net falls down on top of them. On all but Lucky, that is. He manages to turn aside and avoid it but he is all alone now. All of his henchmen are trapped under the sticky net.

Lucky runs out of the room, warning Spidey to stay back. But the wall-crawler merely shoots some webbing and covers the gun in Lucky's hand. ("You're warning me?" he says, "That's like Mickey Mouse warning King Kong.") Lucky falls to the floor outside the room as Spidey perches in the doorframe, one foot sticking to each side. Frantic, scared, and stammering, Lucky offers to make a deal saying, "I'd rather team up with you than the Goblin". Spidey pulls Lobo to his feet and demands an explanation for this statement. Lucky tells him that the only reason the Goblin is helping the police is because "he wants to take over my mob!" As soon as Spidey hears this, he realizes it must be true. "It's pretty clever of him," thinks Spidey of the Goblin, "The papers write him up like a hero, the police think he's helping them, and he even fooled me!" But not any more. (Actually, I'm not sure the police ever did think the Goblin was helping them or that the papers wrote him up as a hero but I'm not going to get picky about it.)

Just then, sirens announce the arrival of the police. Spidey hangs a web from the ceiling and attaches Lucky Lobo to it. Then he heads for the window. Lucky tries to entice him back by repeating his offer. "It'll be you and me", he says but Spidey tells him, "Please, I just ate!"

As he climbs the wall of the building, Spidey speculates that the Goblin is still nearby since he is sure to be interested in the outcome of his battle with Lobo. Sure enough, when he gets to the roof, he sees the Goblin hovering on his glider about a block away. Gobby tries to jet away as soon as he sees the web-slinger but Spidey swings out on his webbing and lands right on the Green Goblin's back. The glider can't hold the weight of the two men together and it falls like a rock... just as Spidey planned it. The glider crashes right down through a skylight. Now that Spider-Man has the Goblin contained indoors, he jumps off. (Don't ask me why. He should just start whaling away on Gobby's head while he's sitting on his back. Instead he says, "I'll hop off and give you a chance to save yourself" which is really just Stan saying, "I need to write a three page fight scene and then have the Goblin escape".)

Now, you'll have to ask Steve just what this building is. (And he won't talk to you, so forget it.) The skylight leads to a big room filled with pipes and machines that look like something out of a Dr. Strange dimension. I'm assuming this is a maintenance room filled with furnaces and duct work, though what it's doing on the top floor instead of the basement is more than I can say. You know what? I'm not going to assume anything. It's just a room filled with metal and pipes to use as a cool background for the battle scene, that's all.

After Spidey leaps away, the Goblin flies up near the ceiling, turns, and throws a pumpkin bomb at his opponent. Spider-Man leaps clear of the blast and clings to one of those funky-looking machines. The Goblin throws another bomb and Spidey somersaults higher and higher up the machine away from the concussion. By now, we can see that the room is about three stories high. From the top of the machine, Spider-Man launches himself at the Goblin, gabbing all the way. (Gobby complains that Spidey talks so much, "you get me all confused" and Spidey replies, "How about that! I've got a new weapon I didn't even know about! My spider speech!") Unfortunately, it doesn't do him much good. The Goblin just shifts his glider in flight and Spidey falls right past him.

The web-slinger plunges for a couple of stories and then comes upon a convenient pipe stretched across the room. He grabs it like a gymnast and swings around until he is on top of it. Gobby tries to hit him with his finger spark but misses. Then he throws another pumpkin bomb. (How many does he have? And that pouch looks so small, too.) This time, Spidey shoots webbing at the bomb and swings it around the corner (What corner? Trust me, there's a corner.) so it explodes harmlessly. Now, Spidey retaliates by firing his webbing at the Goblin but he doesn't shoot it directly at him where it would probably succeed in capturing his foe. No, he shoots two sprays of webbing up in the air, which allows Gobby to grab the ends of it and then fly around the room with some webbing in each hand. Spidey must flip upside down and wedge himself between machines to avoid being trapped by his own webbing. (And if you don't believe me just take another look at the cover!)

Suddenly, that webbing just up and disappears. Don't ask me how. All I know is that it's gone in the next panel and Gobby is back to firing finger sparks to stop Spidey's fresh spraying of webbing into the air and throwing pumpkin bombs at nothing in particular. ("I don't know your real identity, Gobby" says Spidey, "But I know one thing... you sure aren't an ex-big league baseball pitcher!" "No one will ever know my true identity until I choose to reveal it", replies the Goblin and this turns out to be true.) Finally the Goblin reaches into his pouch and finds it empty. He knows he cannot face Spidey without his bag of tricks so he decides to beat a hasty retreat. Smoke billows out of the exhaust of his glider as he races for the skylight. Spidey has his chance to finally catch the elusive villain except, wouldn't you know it, he is all out of web fluid.

The Goblin makes it to the skylight and heads out into the pink, then yellow, then blue sky. But Spider-Man isn't ready to give up yet. He does a backflip that takes him out of the skylight, then he bounces back and forth between buildings trying to catch up to his flying foe. Finally, he makes a prodigious leap at the Goblin only to miss because, as Gobby puts it, "you forgot that I can always apply an extra burst of speed to my jet glider!" Now Spidey is falling through the air with no webbing to halt his descent. He grabs at a light hanging above a billboard as he passes by but the metal is too flimsy and it snaps right off. It does slow him down enough, though, to grab a flagpole. He swings around on it and propels himself right back up to the top of the building but he puts too much "oomph" into it and is in danger of soaring right past the roof. Fortunately there is a water tower up there and he manages to grab the tower's ladder right up by the very top rung. That close to overshooting the mark, Spidey sits on the top of the water tower, wipes his brow and says, "Hooo boy! A guy's gotta be a mental case to volunteer for this kinda work!"

At the same time, the Green Goblin flies right into the open window of his hideout, which looks like a pretty standard apartment with a yellow couch and a yellow lamp. He goes right over to his radio and turns it on, without even bothering to get out of costume; so anxious is he to hear of Lucky Lobo's capture. But when the news comes on, the Goblin learns that Lobo and his entire gang have been caught. Since Gobby's plan was to take over the gang in Lucky's absence, he realizes that the effort was "all a waste". "I was too successful" he knows, "If the whole gang is in jail, I've nothing to take over! I'm no better off than I was!"

Spider-Man, meanwhile, has gotten off the water tower and is wall-walking back to the alley where his hid his civvies. (Except that he changed into his Spidey suit back home in Forest Hills. Oh well.) Now thoroughly trained, he figures he'd better give Aunt May another call since he wants to stop at the Bugle before going home. He changes back to Peter Parker and finds a phone booth but May's line is busy. Then he walks into Jameson's office just in time to hear Jonah credit Frederick Foswell with the tip that put Lucky Lobo behind bars. Peter wonders if there is some connection between Foswell and Goblin. After all, "Foswell's tip was responsible for the police getting the goods on Lucky! And the Goblin wanted Lucky out of the way!" Swear breaks out on his brow as Pete watches Fred Foswell put on his hat and leave the office. He knows that Foswell is smart and may even tumble to his secret identity. He decides to be "extra careful from now on".

Just then, Jonah notices Peter hanging around. He asks if the teen has any photos for him. Pete tells him he's been too busy to take any and this sets Jonah off on one of his overly dramatic laments. He slaps a hand over his eyes and declares, "The Goblin's flying all over town! Lucky Lobo and his mob were just caught and are awaiting trial! It's been the biggest week for crime news in months! But you're too busy to take any pictures!" "I, eh, never looked at it that way before" says Peter.

So, Peter goes to hang out with Betty. He uses the oblique approach to try to get her to mention Ned Leeds and the "Personal" letter but it doesn't work since she has no idea what he's referring to. Jameson calls Betty away ("Have you nothing better to do than talk to that has-been photographer?") and Peter heads out still obsessed with that letter from Ned Leeds. When he gets outside, he sees Fred Foswell having a smoke. "Why do I get nervous every time I see him?" Pete wonders.

At last, our hero gets home. He enters the front door, announcing to his Aunt that he's "hungry as a bear". But May is nowhere to be found. Peter goes upstairs searching for her but she's not in her room either. So, Peter plops himself down in an orange armchair in his bedroom and worries about where Aunt May can be. A few minutes later, May enters and asks Peter if he saw her note. She went next door to visit Anna Watson and left Pete a TV dinner in the refrigerator. ("Hungry as a bear". Hah!) Foregoing dinner, Pete props his elbow on the arm of the chair and settles his cheek on his fist. "What's come over me?" he thinks, "Why am I so edgy? My school grades are still tops in the class, Aunt May has been feeling fit as a fiddle! Betty probably just forgot to mention Leeds' letter! I would have beaten the Goblin if I hadn't run out of web fluid! And, yet, I have a strange feeling! A feeling of foreboding, as though some terrible danger is waiting, just around the corner!"

And Stan wraps it up by telling us that even though Peter worries even when there's nothing to worry about, "this time, the fears may be justified"! We all have to keep coming back for future issues to find out. And, oh yeah, Stan tells us to "face front and don't wear your costume until it's good and dry".

Between the end of the story and the start of the letter page is "A Marvel Masterwork"; a Ditko pin-up of "Spidey and those who've been caught in his wonderful web." The web-slinger stands half in shadow with his left hand touching a wall to his left. Superimposed over his figure are headshots of Aunt May (top row), Peter Parker with Betty Brant to the left and Liz Allan to the right (middle row) and J. Jonah Jameson next to Flash Thompson (bottom row). Bordering the pin-up on three sides (all but the top) are headshots of nearly all the villains Spidey has fought in ASM and Amazing Fantasy along with silhouettes of Lee and Ditko. Counter-clockwise from top left to top right are: Stan at his typewriter, Dr. Octopus, the Chameleon, the Terrible Tinkerer, one of the Tinkerer's aliens, Dr. Doom, the Lizard, the Burglar, the Vulture, the Sandman, the Living Brain, Electro, Cannonball, the Great Gambonnos, the Clown, Princess Python (with blonde hair), the Ringmaster, the Scorpion, the Beetle, Kraven the Hunter, the Green Goblin, Mysterio, Fancy Dan, Montana, the Ox, the Big Man, and Steve at his drawing table. The only ones missing are Blackie Gaxton and this issue's Lucky Lobo.

In the Spider's Web, James Shooter of Bethel Park, Pennsylvania (yes, THAT James Shooter) has three suggestions to improve Spidey: "1) Lately you have been making him too powerful. Make him lose sometimes... 2) Since you have made him popular with the public, things have been a little too rosy for my hero... Do you know Spidey is wanted by the FBI, has been charged with arson twice, is wanted on several damages charges and is suspected of springing Blackie Barker!... 3) Keep his life as Peter Parker an important part of each book." Stan replies, "You've got a better memory than ol' Stan! He's busy hunting for sunny Stevey Ditko to ask him if he remembers who the dickens Blackie Barker is?" Which I suspect is just a polite way of saying, "his name was Blackie Gaxton, Shooter, you idiot!" (But Jim's points are well-taken, especially number 3. Are you listening, Paul Jenkins and JMS?)

In the Special Announcements Section, Stan talks about the identity of the Green Goblin: "We've received a zillion letters about who the Green Goblin really is! And, after the yarn you've just read in this ish, we're sure to be receiving zillions more! Well, we're not about to reveal Gobby's true identity for quite a while, but we'll give you a little hint-Stan and Steve are much too tricky to let him turn out to be anyone that you'd easily suspect! There! Chew on that for a while!" (Unless, that is, you decide to pick the guy in the background at the club who doesn't speak and isn't given a name and is only appearing for the first time in this issue! Did anyone pick that guy? No, I didn't think so.)

The Goblin clues this issue are:

  1. Wants to be the King of Crime.
  2. NOT an ex-big league baseball pitcher.
  3. Hideout is an apartment with a yellow couch and yellow lamp.

For a moment, though, it looks like the biggest clue is that the Goblin knows to send the list of Lucky Lobo's finances to a stoolie who will give it to Frederick Foswell. Since Foswell is just out of prison, not many people know that he is back working for Jonah Jameson but the Green Goblin knows because, as Norman Osborn, he is hanging around in the Business Executive Club listening in when Merriweather mentions that JJ hired Foswell back. Unfortunately, Foswell shows up with the list just seconds after Jonah's conversation with Merriweather so Norman simply hasn't the time to put this information into effect. Too bad. It would have been a cool, if inadvertent, clue to the Goblin's identity.

Let's settle up:

The Green Goblin is back in Amazing Spider-Man #26, July 1965.

Lucky Lobo was a one-shot villain for a whole lot of years, before he turned up in Untold Tales of Spider-Man #18, February 1997 in a story that actually takes place before this one. After serving his term in prison, he appears in ASM Annual '97 trying to entice the man known as Sundown to join him in crime. Instead Sundown teams up with Spider-Man and Lucky is led away by the police once again.

Frederick Foswell becomes a regular supporting character until his death in ASM #52, September 1967. (Nobody needed a Spoiler Warning there, did they?) Along the way, he is considered to be one of the Green Goblin suspects. Even though this is logistically impossible, I can't help but wonder what the spider-verse would have been like if Foswell had indeed turned out to be the Goblin. It may have been more interesting than the Osborn mess we have now.

In General...

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

  1. First appearance of the M.M.M.S. Cover Logo.
  2. First appearance of "Lucky" Lobo.
  3. Third major appearance of the Green Goblin. (After ASM #14 and #17 and not counting the one panel in #18)
  4. First time Peter Parker snoops on Betty Brant's mail from Europe that is clearly marked "Personal".
  5. First appearance of Merriweather.
  6. First unnamed, non-speaking, two panel appearance by Norman Osborn.
  7. First use of the "spider speech".
  8. Out of web fluid again. (I've lost track. Anyone want to pass along the number of times this has happened?)

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

Ditko/Lee/Simek

  • "The Goblin and the Gangsters" - GG returns as the head of a mob.

    Overall Rating...

    Well, let's see. The return of the Green Goblin. Frederick Foswell back working at the Daily Bugle. Spidey fighting gangsters (and giving Aunt May a call in the middle of it). A three-page battle with the Goblin amidst all sorts of pipes and stuff. A letter from Ned Leeds that Peter Parker can't stop thinking about. You need more than that? Not me! This is Stan and Steve back at the top of their form. The first of a short string of all-time great issues.

    Five webs.