Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #27

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This story is part of an Arc: "The Green Goblin vs. the Crime-Master!"
     Part 1 / Part 2

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

This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

Okay, now where were we? Right. Last Goblin story by Ditko and Lee. Added mystery of Crime-Master and Patch. Crime-Master has a meeting in a waterfront warehouse in which he plans to take over all of the city's gangs... only to be interrupted by the Green Goblin who enters carrying the unconscious Spider- Man.

In Detail...

"Bring Back My Goblin To Me!"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #27
Aug 1965 : SMURF 027.500 : SM Title
Arc: Part 2 of "The Green Goblin vs. the Crime-Master!"
Editor:  Stan Lee
Plot/Pencils:  Steve Ditko
Writer:  Stan Lee
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 Tales #165
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #22
 Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #2
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Pocket Book #18
Articles: Aunt May Parker, Betty Brant, The Big Man, Crime-Master, Green Goblin I (Norman Osborn), Jameson, J. Jonah, Seymour O'Reilly

We're not going to dwell on the cover too long this time. It's another great Ditko look (this time of Spidey in chains being pushed around by a circle of hoodlums with the Crime-Master pointing at him from the left and the Green Goblin hovering on his glider and raising a fist on his right) and the "Tim Wise scale of comic excellence as measured by the brevity of cover copy" again weighs in at six words ("Bring back my Goblin to Me") but the scene illustrated here takes place on page three of the story already so why don't we start rolling and get right to it.

The splash page picks up the story where ASM #26, July 1965 left off. The Goblin is on the stage next to the Crime-Master and he drops the unconscious Spider-Man at C-M's feet. Crime-Master is surprised to see Spidey still alive. He thought he killed him in the previous issue. (When he used gas fumes and a whole lot of punches to force Spidey off a rooftop ledge but like all inept villains, didn't stick around to make sure of the murder.) The Goblin relishes the fact that he, and not the Crime-Master, defeated the web- slinger. He tells his rival that "even the Crime-Master shall serve the Green Goblin" then orders some of the men to get up on the stage to take care of the wall-crawler. "I caught Spider-Man" the Green Goblin taunts, "now see if you can hold him!"

(The credits, by the way, refer to "Smilin' Stan Lee" and "Scowlin' Steve Ditko". There's probably nothing to this but I can't help but wonder if the disputes between the two men were raging and Stan, as the credits writer, was getting a little revenge.)

Apparently three men get up on the stage to handle the webhead. (There are definitely three to start with but one of them leaves the stage pretty quickly. He is the one who puts the chains on Spidey's ankles and we only see his hands.) The men truss Spidey up with chains. They wrap some links around his ankles to tie his feet together, tie his hands behind his back with some more and wrap a whole big chunk of chain over his shoulders and around his chest. One hood (in a green suit and looking vaguely like J. Jonah Jameson) tries to unmask the web-spinner but the mask won't come off. (The Green Goblin tried to do this last issue and also failed. This is because our hero has webbed the mask on. Spidey lost his only two costumes when he left one in the hands of Professor Smythe in ASM #25, June 1965 and Aunt May threw the other one out, thinking it was a costume Peter planned to use to "surprise some people". The current costume comes from an actual costume shop and is ill- suited for web-slinging. As the material continues to ride up on him, Spidey webs it back down, which has the fortunate side-effect of preserving his secret identity.) As the men chain Spidey up, the Goblin tells the Crime-Master that this new development "will knock your plans to get control of the mobs into a cocked hat". The Crime-Master says, "I'm not licked yet!" but the Goblin begs to differ. He turns to the hoods in attendance and asks them whom they want for their new boss. Fickle to a man, they all switch allegiance to the Goblin. "Anyone who can capture Spider-Man can boss me around any day!" says one, which seems to pretty much sum up the general feeling. (And what a criterion that is! Can you imagine in your own walk of life thinking that anyone who could capture Spidey could be your boss? Just think of the various idiots who have temporarily captured Spider-Man at one time or another.)

In the midst of a crowd yelling, "Get lost, masked man! You're a has been around here!" at the Crime-Master and "Now that we picked our new boss, let's finish off that webhead!" to no one in particular, the police informer known as Patch slips onto the scene. He mingles with the crowd and wonders if the police got his tip about this meeting. (We already know that the cops got his tip because we saw it last issue. Patch knows, too. The real question should be whether they're going to act on it.)

The Goblin takes center stage (with the stewing Crime-Master off to the side). He orders the men to bring Spider-Man over. He plans to unmask him and then finish him off "for good". The men have gotten Spidey up in a sitting position and they note that he seems to be waking up. They yank him to his feet, confident that the chains will hold him.

Spidey starts to clear the cobwebs out of his head and takes in the situation. (But he must still be somewhat out of it because he thinks, "The gas which knocked me out is finally wearing off" when we know from last issue that he was knocked out by the Goblin conking him on the head with his glider and then creaming him with an exploding pumpkin bomb.) He is led to the Goblin by the two hoods. Gobby puts his hand on the top of Spidey's head and tells the assemblage, "Now let's get this mask off!" (He seems to have forgotten that he tried last issue and couldn't get it done.) Off in his corner, the Crime- Master notices that Spidey is "bracing himself". He tries to warn Blackie of this. (Blackie is either the J. Jonah Jameson look-alike or the other guy who wears a brown suit.) Too bad Blackie doesn't listen. Spidey quickly shifts his weight this way and that and Blackie and his pal get tossed aside. The Jonah Jameson clone collides with the Goblin, knocking him off-balance. But Gobby recovers in a hurry (even as Blackie and friend seem to vanish completely from the stage). He uses both hands to fire Goblin bolts from his fingertips. Across the way, the Crime-Master tries to shoot Spider-Man with his gun. In between, the web-slinger leaps up into the air so the two villains end up shooting at each other. Gobby's blasts zip past the Crime-Master on his right. C-M's bullet nearly grazes Gobby's shoulder before it embeds in the wall.

Seeing things start to unravel, all of the gang members leap up on the stage to take things into their own hands. Spidey lands amidst them and several of them leap at him, hanging on his shoulders and tackling him at the ankles. (Which is as close as we're going to get to the cover illustration. Told you we'd get to it pretty fast.) In the midst of all this, Spidey feels a little slack in the chains. He thinks he could use his spider strength to snap them if only the hoodlums would give him a chance. But they don't. They keep piling on, pulling Spider-Man to the ground. Still, the web-spinner manages to knock several of them away. "Don't you boys ever take five for a coffee break or anything?" he asks. This comment seems to demoralize the men more than the fighting does. "We're hittin' him with everything we got, and he keeps jawin' at us!!" says one of them. "It's downright humiliatin'!!" says another.

Then things finally break the wall-crawler's way. Three cops who had been assigned to surveillance of the warehouse as a result of Patch's tip last issue hear the commotion and decide to come in, talking with their fists. The red- haired cop tells all the hoods that they are under arrest. When one character scoffs, "Are you guys kiddin'? There's only three of ya!" the free-swinging cop of the group, whose name is Sam, replies, "We're enough for the likes of you!" Now that they are inside and surrounded by the goons, the black cop of the group notes that they are facing dozens of foes and "can't even make it back to the call box". Sam keeps punching and tells the other two to do the same. "They can't use their guns at such close quarters!" he says, "We'll get the upper hand somehow!"

Now, Stan tells us "that brief interruption by the three brave officers is all the diversion Spidey needs" (though it doesn't seem like the hoods fighting the cops are the same hoods fighting Spider-Man). The web-slinger gets to his feet and shakes four bad guys off of him "like fleas". Finally free of opponents, Spidey expands his chest, flexes his muscles, and snaps the chains off his hands, feet, and torso. ("I feel like Steve Reeves in one of those Italian costume movies!" he says, referring to the wooden-acting muscle man who played Hercules in a whole bunch of cheesy films... which everybody already knew, right?)

Things are really heating up here but I just have to stop for a second to note the next page, which showcases ads for two new Marvel features. The top half announces, "Now starring in Strange Tales! The surprise sensation of the year! Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D". All these years later, this actually sounds perfectly normal to any comic fan but... think about what this was. Stan and Jack took Sgt. Fury from their World War II war mag, gave him an eye patch and a business suit, and mixed him with the James Bond/Man From U.N.C.L.E. super- spy stuff that was riding high back then. Completely ridiculous. But somehow it worked. (The ad features a shot of Fury with his eye patch, which was a completely new look for the character at that point and asks, "Well, who do ya think this is... Tuesday Weld?" And I don't have to identify Tuesday Weld for you, right?)

The bottom ad is the "The most famous, most powerful hero/villain of all time... now appearing monthly in Tales to Astonish! Prince Namor, the Sub- Mariner". This also looks perfectly normal nowadays but Namor had mostly been used as a villain in the Silver Age up to this point. Having him share a book with the Incredible Hulk, another character mostly used as a bad guy, was as ridiculous as combining Sgt. Fury with Napoleon Solo. It worked even better than the S.H.I.E.L.D series did. (This ad features a blurb reading, "The most enthusiastically requested series since Gulliver's Travels!" which makes me wonder if Gulliver's Travels was enthusiastically requested or even if it was a series.)

Back to the action. The Goblin takes to his glider, angry at the arrival of the cops and cursing whomever it was who tipped them off. He notices that Spidey has broken free of the chains and tries to tag him with a bomb. But the wall- crawler dodges by leaping up near the ceiling and Gobby decides to temporarily lose himself in the crowd. Spidey starts to make a move in the Goblin's direction only to find himself the target once again of the Crime-Master's gun. He swings around to another wall to escape the gunfire, and then leaps along the roof's latticework until he is over the mob attacking the police. First, he sets his automatic camera on one of the posts up above, then he dives down to join the fight. And just in time, too. The cops have been backed up against a wall by about a dozen men. "Is this a private fight or can your friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man join the fun?" he asks as he wades into the thugs. Punching left and right, Spidey scatters the crooks. He notices three of them sneaking up behind one of the cops and he webs their feet to the floor. Now that the odds have been evened a bit, two of the cops stand side by side and pound away on the remaining hoods. (We learn that the other white guy's name is Dave but what about the black guy's name?) Soon, Spidey stands between the two cops (Dave's punch is a "wham!" his partner's punch is a "bok!") and shoves unconscious goons into a web net attached to the ceiling. Then the wall- crawler goes back to punching a few more guys. The trouble is that the webbing on his costume wears out and the costume starts riding up on him again. Soon his forearms, calves and abdomen are showing. With bad guys still coming his way, he hasn't got time to fix it.

Except, in the next panel, it looks like he already has. The costume is all back in place just in time for the Goblin to glide in again and fire at Spidey with his finger blast. (The sound effect on his weapon is "zit!" which would strike fear into the heart of any red-blooded teenager.) Spidey leaps up into the air allowing the blast to go by beneath him. When the web-slinger heads down toward the floor again, the Crime-Master takes a shot at him from behind a wooden pillar. Spidey decides to "keep the crowd between us", spoiling the Crime-Master's aim. But the fight is pretty much finished anyway. Most of the hoodlums are webbed up and the cops are taking care of the rest of them. A number of them throw up their hands and surrender. "We can't fight you cops and Spider-Man," says one quitter. "Naturally you punk" says the black cop, "you only outnumbered us ten-to-one".

The Goblin decides enough is enough. He smashes through a window, shooting back at Spidey with his finger blaster as he goes. He escapes with seconds to spare. The wall-crawler has almost dropped a web net right on top of him.

Spider-Man realizes that he can't hope to catch the Goblin so he turns his attention to the Crime-Master. C-M makes his way to the trap door that leads to the planking underneath the dock. (As seen last issue.) He fires off a shot at Spider-Man's hand, which is sticking around the corner of a wall shooting webbing at him. Both the bullet and the webbing miss.

Up in the warehouse, three more cops have entered, led by Patch who snuck out to get them. Dave mops the sweat off his brow and tells the leader of the new guys, "It was some workout, Joe! Too bad you hadda miss it!" (So, now even a cop who gets one panel gets a name but still no name for the black guy!) Down below, Spidey has found the trap door and is in pursuit of C-M on the planking. C-M turns and shoots from behind one of the dock's pilings. He can't figure out why he can't lose the wall-crawler when "he can't know this underground area as well as I do". (This is an underground area? I thought it was on the river itself!) But what C-M doesn't know is that he can't outrun or evade the old spider-sense. (See, Spidey? It helps when your opponents don't know you have this ability.) One gunshot hits a piling in front of the webster but a second shot comes entirely too close. So, Spidey retaliates with a spray of webbing forcing the Crime-Master to duck. The battle continues with the two men trading shots of bullets and webbing. But eventually the Crime-Master thinks he has given Spider-Man the slip. He makes his way to an oversized sewer pipe and walks right in. Spidey, however, is still on his trail. ("I guess he forgot that us professional Spider-Man can hide on walls and ceilings," thinks the webbed one as he perches near-upside-down on the side of one of the pilings.) He follows the Crime-Master into the pipe.

Up ahead, the Crime-Master rounds a curve in the pipe and is almost through. Just in case he is being followed, he turns and fires a big cloud of nerve gas from a small gun down into the pipe. (This is apparently NOT the gas he used last issue since the implication is that this stuff is lethal and that stuff obviously wasn't. Which begs the question... why didn't C-M use this stuff on Spidey last time?) Crime-Master promises himself that he will get rid of the Green Goblin the same way "when next we meet".

Spider-Man sees the green-tinted gas filling the sewer pipe and heading his way. He knows this is bad news. "Looks like I underestimated that masked murderer!" he thinks. He has to act fast. With the gas almost on top of him, Spidey fashions a helmet out of webbing. (Something like Iron Man's headpiece only with no holes in it and made out of webs.) He clamps this down over his head and holds his breath, then apparently uses his spider-sense to get through the gas and out of the pipe. (Only he thinks, "Ahh! That looks like a grating just ahead!" even though he shouldn't be able to see anything through the webs... for if he can, then the webbing probably isn't doing him much good with the gas.) When he reaches the grating, he pushes on it and knocks it to the ground. (So, did the Crime-Master also knock this grating to the ground to escape... and then put it back up?) He finds himself "in the center of the city's sewer system" and he knows he is beaten. He stands on a ledge with his hands on his hips and tries to figure things out but he knows that C-M "could have fled in any one of a dozen directions and all the onrushing water is too much for [his] spider sense to cope with" and so that is that. "Looks like I lost him", he thinks.

A few minutes later, Spidey peeks out through a manhole and makes it back to the street. He wall-crawls and hoofs it back to the pier, hoping to learn more about the Crime-Master from the scene of the crime. By the time he gets there, the whole thing is mopped up. He watches the last of the police cars drive off and consoles himself with that the fact that "I helped one of the biggest mass arrests in years". Still, this is not good enough. Spidey is determined to "get a line on the Goblin and the Crime-Master" and he snaps his fingers when he gets an idea. "I still think Frederick Foswell is the key!" he says and he decides to "pay a little visit to his place and see if he's there".

Off he goes on a webline and it isn't long before he is again climbing into Frederick Foswell's window. (Fred has just got to start locking that window up.) The apartment is still deserted but Spidey notices that "his hat was on the floor last time and now it's gone" which means, "He must have come here, changed, and gone right out again!" (Fred's hat was on the floor, you'll recall, because Spidey dropped it when shot at by the Crime-Master. Do you think Foswell noticed that the hat wasn't in the same place he left it? Do you think he noticed the fresh bullet hole in his window?) Spidey stoops down and finds his spider tracer on the floor. He had previously tucked it into Foswell's hat and it apparently fell out when Spidey dropped it. With no tracer to track, the web-slinger chooses to have a look around. It doesn't take him long (it's the very next panel!) to find the false compartment in the back of Fred's closet. "It's a perfect place to hide a Goblin costume or a Crime-Master mask!" Spidey thinks, but it is empty now. Still, Spidey is convinced "He's got to be one of them!"

Next stop, the Daily Bugle to see if Foswell is there. Spidey leaps out of Fred's window and, just like last time, the Crime-Master is across the way on the rooftop with his gun drawn. "Bah!" he thinks as the web-spinner exits, "Another second and I'd have had him!"

Arriving at the Bugle offices, Spidey perches on the wall and peeks in a window at Foswell's desk, which is unoccupied. The webster has reached a dead end. The only thing he can think to do is warn J. Jonah Jameson about Foswell. He may not be all that fond of JJ personally but he knows that "Another crime spree by Foswell could ruin Jameson and the paper" and he can't stand by and let that happen. So, Spidey rounds the corner and leaps into Jonah's office window. Jameson leaps up from his desk as soon as he sees the webhead and threatens to press his alarm button. "Relax you old skinflint!" says Spidey (immediately endearing himself to Jameson), "I'm here to help you!" He proceeds to tell JJJ that Foswell has to be either the Goblin or the Crime- Master. Jameson puts one hand on his desk and the other on his hip as he tells Spidey "You're dead wrong as usual!" He informs the wall-crawler that Fred is "working on a series of crime articles for me" then demands to know Spidey's proof. The web-slinger must admit that he has no proof. Jonah flips on his intercom and orders Betty to send Foswell into his office as soon as he arrives. Betty tells him that Foswell has entered just now. (Hearing Betty's voice reminds Peter that he hasn't talked to her in days. "I wonder if she's angry?" he thinks.)

So, Foswell comes in, with a folder in his hands, looking remarkably unsurprised to see Spidey there. Jonah tells him "that web-headed idiot claims you've turned to crime again". Fred denies it, explaining that "I'm too smart to take a chance of becoming a two-time loser". Spidey leans his left hand up against the wall and wonders what this proves. "Even if he was crooked, he wouldn't admit it," he says. Now with his hands on his hips, Spidey confronts Foswell about where he's been keeping himself when he's not home or at the office. Fred pushes his hat back on his head and asks his boss if he has to answer Spider-Man's questions. "Of course not!" says Jonah, "Now get back to work. I trust you!"

But before Fred can leave the office, the Crime-Master appears on a rooftop across the street. (Amazing how C-M can find these rooftops across the street right at the same level as the windows into which he hopes to shoot. Maybe it's his mutant ability.) He sees Spidey, Jameson, and Foswell together and realizes that this is "a perfect opportunity for me to have my revenge" (though what he's got against Jonah is beyond me... just the crime articles, I guess). He reaches inside his coat pocket with the intention of drawing his gun and picking "all three of them off from here" but before he can, three policemen pop up from behind chimneys on the rooftop and order him to turn around slowly. Someone has tipped off the cops. "I can't let them take me", C-M decides and a gun battle ensues.

From Jameson's office, the three men hear the "Crack!" of gunfire. Spidey wonders what's going on and Fred tells him, "It's the end of the Crime- Master!" When the webster asks how Foswell knows that, Jonah replies "he's been working on a big crime story for me". Fred adds, "You'll learn all about it when everyone else does, Spider-Man!" Jonah notes that the shooting has stopped and the police are standing around. Foswell says, "I knew the Crime- Master wouldn't give up without making a fight of it... the fool!" Spidey just hopes that C-M is still alive to talk.

But he isn't alive for long. C-M is sitting, propped up against a ledge and he is "sinking fast". The cops (who appear to be the same trio from the warehouse) have already removed his hat and his mask and one of them remarks that "He's the one we thought he was!" But we don't get to see his face. No, Steve is going to hang onto this mystery until the bitter end. All we see is C- M's arm as he lifts it and shakes it at the cops after they ask him if there's "anything you want to tell us while you can?" "You bet there is!" Crime-Master replies, "I'll have the last laugh yet! If I cash in, I'll take the Goblin with me! His... his real identity... is... is..." and then he's dead. Even Stan in 1965 knows how melodramatic that scene is, so he has one of the cops say, "Boy! If I saw that happen in a mystery movie, I'd laugh at how corny it was!" which, in using comic book reverse-psychology makes the whole thing a little more believable. So, that's it for the Crime-Master. He's dead, never got the chance to rat on the Goblin and we still don't know who he was!

One of the cops (looks like Sam) goes across the street to the Bugle. Betty Brant ushers him into Jameson's office, telling her boss that "this officer insisted on seeing you". But Sam reveals that he really wants to see Foswell. This is all too much for Spidey. He puts his left hand up to his temple (in the next panel he switches to his right hand) and wonders what's coming up next. A big smile on his face, Sam puts his hand on Fred's shoulder and tells him "You were right about the Crime-Master's identity. I just wanted to thank you for your help." Jonah asks his reporter what he did to help. Foswell pulls a photo out of the folder he is holding and shows it to Jonah. "When I was known as the Big Man," he explains, "before I went straight, I knew all the city's gang leaders and I knew how they worked! Using that knowledge and my own underworld grapevine, it wasn't hard to figure out which racket boss was the Crime-Master! All I had to do was find proof!" Jameson recognizes the photo. It is Nick "Lucky" Lewis... someone we have never heard of before! Spidey reflects on this, thinking, "It's kinda funny, in real life, when a villain is unmasked, he isn't always the butler or the one you suspected! Sometimes he's a man you didn't even know!" which is pretty much what he thought when he unmasked Electro back in ASM #9, February 1964, saying "If this was a movie, I'd gasp in shock and then I'd say: 'Good heavens! The Butler!' But this guy I never saw before!" Foswell explains that Lewis knew he was a threat to his secret identity so "he even shot at someone in my room thinking it was me". (That "someone" being Spidey, of course.) Fred continued to act as bait to aid in the capture of the Crime-Master.

Then, in a thought balloon, Spidey thinks, "Looks like I was mistaken about you, Foswell!" Fred is obviously a mind reader because he replies, "Forget it, Spider-Man! There's no harm done!" (Yeah, I know. It's just a production screw-up. But this way is a lot more fun.) Fred doesn't read Spidey's next thought. "But I still have a feeling he's hiding something! He's clever and tricky just like the Green Goblin."

Now that the explanations are done, Jonah gets back on his favorite subject. He points at Spidey and orders the cop to "do your duty" and "throw that public menace behind bars". Sam rubs the back of his neck and refuses. "He helped us round up the Crime-Master's gang!" he says, "I've no orders for his arrest!" Then Sam vanishes into thin air and we never see him again.

Jonah shakes his fist in anger, then chooses a different route to get the web- slinger. "I'll splash Foswell's victory all over the front page!" he says, "I'll show how wrong Spider-Man was about him! I'll make a laughing- stock out of that web-head!" Spidey starts to jaw back but then remembers he left his camera back at the warehouse so he heads for the open window instead. ("I hope your blasted webbing snaps in two!" bellows JJJ. "Aw, go juggle beehives, pruneface," says Spidey.) As he reaches the windowsill, his costume starts to ride up on him yet again. This time Spidey decides he "can't spare enough web fluid to hold it together so, as he webslings back to the waterfront, he just keeps tugging at it instead.

Back at the warehouse, he looks up at the roof strut where he set up the camera but he can't see it from down below. He leaps up to the post, proclaiming "I'll leap up to the wood, like a Spider-Man should!" and then chides himself for watching too many commercials. (There once was a time, believe it or not, when cigarettes were advertised on television. Winston cigarettes were known for the slogan; "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should" which is what Spidey is riffing on here.) He gets to the strut (his shirt riding up to reveal his forearms) only to discover that the camera is gone. It must have fallen during the fight but Spidey can't find it on the floor either. Just as he decides that someone must have picked it up, his spider-sense tingles, letting him know that someone else is in the building. (And I don't care what rules you use for the spider-sense; there is no way it should be tingling in this situation.) Rattled by the tingle, Spidey rushes out of the warehouse, determined to "duck under the pier" until he sees what's what. But a rotted plank on the pier snaps when he steps on it and trips him up. Spidey ends up tumbling headfirst into the drink.

When he surfaces, he spots the source of his spider-sense tingle. Three kids stand on the planks under the pier. (Two kids are white, one is black, and one of the white kids has red hair. What's the deal? Are these the three cops' kids or what?) They have the camera and they toss it over to Spidey when he asks for it. ("Gosh! We didn't know it was yours!" says "little Sam". "We couldn't figure out how it worked anyway!" says "little Dave". How it worked? Isn't it just a camera?) Soaking wet, his costume shrinking up around him, Spider-Man climbs up one of the pier's pilings. "I hope you don't want my autograph!" he tells the kids, "The way my luck's been running, I'd probably stick myself with the pencil point and end up with blood poisoning!" The black kid puts his hand up so Spidey can't read his lips and whispers to the red- haired kid, "I haven't got the heart to tell him that we're Human Torch fans, anyway!"

Spidey takes to the webs and starts heading home but his costume shop suit is causing more trouble than ever. The tights are now up to his knees. The sleeves are now up to his elbows. The water from the river has had an effect. The costume is seriously starting to shrink. Not only is it too small now, but it's too tight too. Spidey alights on a rooftop and decides he'd better get out of the suit while he still can. He wrenches the mask off his head and yells in pain. "It feels like I'm pulling half of my scalp off with it!" he says. He pulls the shirt off and throws it down on the rooftop with a "Whap!" That's the last time I ever buy a costume at a rummage sale!" he says. (Rummage sale? It was a costume shop!)

Well, it's a good thing that Spidey has his street clothes hidden on rooftops all over town (yeah, yeah, that's it!) otherwise he'd have nothing to change into. But, in the very next panel, Peter is back in his blue pants, blue jacket, and yellow vest. He holds the costume in a crumpled ball in his hand. (Actually, the last time Pete changed into Spidey was on a rooftop on page 9, panel 3 of last issue and, to be fair, it could have been this very same rooftop.) He decides to take the costume with him in case he comes up with a use for it.

At home in his cellar darkroom (which we've never seen before, have we?), Peter spreads out his photographs and tries to decide on the best ones to sell to J. Jonah Jameson. Then a thought comes to him. "Why should I always sell a no- goodnik like him my best pix?" he wonders. Why not sell his stuff to another newspaper?

So, Peter heads over to the Daily Globe. He approaches a secretary in a red dress (the secretary is in the red dress, not Peter) and asks, "Who's in charge of buying news photos". The secretary points the way to Barney Bushkin "our picture editor". (As Pete speaks to the secretary, a Globe reporter yells out for a copy boy... "Bring this article on the M.M.M.S. to the feature editor! Step on it!" he says.) Peter goes to see Barney Bushkin, who is a chubby man with glasses, a cigarette dangling out of his mouth, a green tie loosened down from his unbuttoned collar and an extremely bad comb-over. Barney loves the photos. A big smile on his face, Barney wants to know "how'd you manage to get pictures of that fight on the docks? Who tipped you off?" Peter, pleased to be dealing with a cheerful editor, tries to use the same brush-off he always uses with J. Jonah Jameson. "Oh, I was just lucky, I guess" he says. But Barney won't settle for that. He ends up cornering Pete against the wall and a green filing cabinet. "You can't kid ol' Barney Bushkin, fella!" he says, "How'd you do it? You know someone in the rackets? Got a friend on the force?" Pete tries to deflect this but Barney keeps pushing. "Aww, c'mon baby! Don't hold out on ol' Bushy! You can tell me! I won't breathe it to a soul!" and "But tell me more about yourself! What kind of camera do you use? Where did you get your experience?" Peter retreats quickly, calling out "I'll write you a letter!" and he is so rattled by the experience that he pulls out a handkerchief and wipes his brow. "Whew! What a nosy guy!" he thinks, "I'll take Jonah any time!" (But he did manage to sell the photos to Barney.)

And speaking of Jonah, he's over at his club, the center of attention, beaming, with a big cigar in his mouth. All of the club members have read Frederick Foswell's big scoop in the Bugle and they congratulate JJJ for it. "You must be very proud of Foswell," says one member. Jonah pulls the cigar out of his mouth and crows, "Foswell? He was just a cog in the wheel! I was the Master Planner! The entire capture of the Crime-Master took place under my personal direction! But my own natural modesty prevents me from bragging about it!" In the midst of this, Norman Osborn (though we still haven't learned his name) steps up (wearing a brown suit and a green tie) and bursts Jonah's balloon. He has a copy of the Daily Globe in hand and he notes, "It's too bad the Daily Globe managed to get those exclusive photos". Jonah brushes this off. ("We could have had those pictures if we'd wanted them! But, you know me, I prefer to run the story straight, no sensationalism!") But inside he is seething. Later, away from his colleagues, he takes a close look at the Globe. "I'd give my eye-teeth for those pix!" he thinks and he notes that they "look like Peter Parker's work". Worried that Peter may be quitting on him, he figures, "I'd better start buttering him up! I'll turn the famous Jonah Jameson charm on him!"

Back at the Forest Hills home, Peter is taking advantage of Aunt May apparently visiting Anna Watson and is looking in a trunk in the attic for his Spider-Man costume. He's convinced that she wouldn't throw it out but he looks in her closet and in various boxes and he can't find it anywhere. There's nothing else for it. Back in his lab in his bedroom, he knows he has "to do the one thing I hate most in the whole wide world. Even the mere thought of it makes me break out in a cold sweat!" He has to sew himself a new costume. Opening his right eye wide, he sizes up a needle and tries to insert a thread to get underway.

Minutes later, however, he hears Aunt May enter the house and he comes down the stairs to take a look. He wonders why his Aunt is home when this is the night she usually spends with Anna Watson. May explains that Anna "had another appointment tonight! So I just took a walk!" (So... May has to make an appointment to visit with Anna Watson?) Peter stands at the foot of the stairs and notices how down-in-the-mouth May seems. He thinks about how lonely her life is and how he is often away "prowling the city as Spider-Man". Immediately he decides to wait on sewing the new costume. He comes up behind May, put his hands on her shoulders and invites her to a movie. May perks right up. "Well, there is a movie I've been dying to see!" she says with a big smile, "It's a remake of an old favorite of mine!" Pete tells her to put on her prettiest hat. "And I'll buy you all the popcorn you can eat!" he says.

Back at the Daily Bugle, Frederick Foswell puts his jacket on. The night shift has come in and Fred is ready to leave for the night. He reflects on how lucky he is that no one has guessed his secret. He leans down and pulls a big white bundle from under his desk. "No one is apt to unmask me now!" he thinks as he puts on his hat and exits the office. "Anyone seeing me would think I'm merely taking a bundle of clothes to the laundry." But instead he goes back to his apartment where, with the Crime-Master dead, he now feels safe. He opens the bundle and looks at his "little disguise", wondering if he will ever use it again. "It would have been too dangerous for Frederick Foswell to mingle with the mobs, gaining information" he says, "But the underworld never guessed that the informer who betrayed them was the character known as Patch!" And Fred holds a mask in his hand; a mask of the stoolie called Patch, who was Fred Foswell all along. (I do have one problem with this. No, it's not the fact that a full-head latex mask actually fools people into thinking it is the real thing. That's a comic book tradition and I can live with that. But I do wonder why the cops would listen to a stoolie who apparently sprang into being just a couple of days ago. Or why the mobsters would let him mingle in the warehouse. There is an implication that Patch has been around for a while but Foswell tells us that he created the informer just for this story. Maybe he spent some time laying the groundwork just in case he would need the disguise in the future.)

Elsewhere, a man in a purple suit and purple tie crumples up a newspaper in his hands. The mask of the Green Goblin rests on a pedestal in the foreground but the man's face is in shadow so we still can't see who he is. (Since we all now know that he is Norman Osborn, I would like to point out that Norman wore a brown suit and green tie when last we saw him. The passing of time is uncertain but it seems to be later in the same evening that he rages at his hideout in a purple suit and tie. So, did Norman change clothes just to hang out alone in a different outfit? Or does he know the reader is watching and he's trying to fake us all out? Or... is it just another in a series of examples that prove Norman wasn't the Goblin yet?) Anyway, the mystery man is plenty honked off at Spider-Man for thwarting his plans once again. He grabs the Goblin mask and holds it high in the air, wearing it on his left hand. He vows to destroy the web-slinger one day. But, in the meantime, "I'll lay low for a while!" he vows. "I'll wait till he's convinced that I've given up my crime career, till he's virtually forgotten about me! And then, when he least expects it, I'll strike!" And this is pretty much what he does about a year down the line.

But Spider-Man isn't worrying about such things right now. As Peter Parker, he has eaten three bags of popcorn and is now heading home from the movies with Aunt May, who thought the film was "delightful" because she adores "a movie that makes me cry". As they wait at the bus stop, Pete tells her that he likes "a good slam-bang, drag-em-out action picture". May tells him that such films are not good for him. "You know how sensitive and high-strung you are", she says. They board the bus and head for home with May harping on the same subject. "It isn't healthy for a boy like you to have too much excitement" she says, "even in a movie". "How true! How true!" Peter replies.

We're barreling along to the letters page. First there's "Two More Triumphs for Marvel!" showing the covers of Journey Into Mystery #118 (July 1965) with the Mighty Thor battling the Destroyer, (This is right around the time Thor got to be a top-notch book and stayed that way for the next forty or fifty issues. If you haven't read these, you owe it to yourself to do so.) and The X-Men #12 (July 1965) with the Origin of Professor X and the coming of the Juggernaut.

Opposite this ad is "The Merry Marvel Bullpen Page!" the first of its kind. It spotlights the Amazing Spider-Man t-shirt (which you could only get in small, medium, and large... both youth and adult... back then but has been reissued in recent years in XL and XXL Sizes..., which either gives us a glimpse of the growth of the population so to speak, or the growth of the average fanboy). Either the image of Spidey on the shirt or the t-shirt itself speaks to us (there's a word balloon pointing at it, at any rate): "Here it is! You'll be the rage of the Marvel Age in your own swingin' t-shirt! You can't be well-dressed without one! If you're unpopular, if you're unsuccessful, these won't help! But they'll make you enjoy being a failure! Order yours today! Tomorrow we have to pay for this ad!" The price of the shirt? One dollar and fifty cents apiece!

Below all this is the next round of twenty-five MMMS members. Ready? Tony Schilz of Hercules, California. Jeff Buckett of Excelsior, Minnesota. (Town named by Stan Lee apparently.) Jim Schack of St. Louis, Missouri. Doug Walter of Wintersville, Ohio. Richard Mastro of Bound Brook, New Jersey. Paul Beavers of Detroit, Michigan. Mike Corte of Phoenix, Arizona. Steve Miner of Los Alamos, New Mexico. Gary Groff of College Park, Maryland. (Home of the Terps!) Richard Mercado of New York, New York. Ricky Hyde of St. Louis, Missouri. Ron Nowosad of Sepulveda, California. Adrian Craig of San Leandro, California. Philip Massey of Boca Raton, Florida. Clifford G. Smithee of St. Louis, Missouri. (That's three for St. Louis this month.) Dan Taylor of Centralia, Washington. Allen J. Statton of Oakland, California. Joe Beury of Charleston, West Virginia. Stephen Sheets of Chesapeake, Ohio. Theodore Du Pont of Hammond, Indiana. Le Roy Sokol of Torrington, Wyoming. Mario Blocker of Los Angeles, California. Christopher Dulgnan of Valley Stream, New York. Chris Matersteck of Peoria, Illinois. And John Daltoria of Pasadena, California.

Down at the bottom of the page, the Green Goblin leans up against a caption box with his arms folded in front of him and says, "So! You didn't join the M.M.M.S. yet, eh?" For some reason, the idea of using the Goblin to sell memberships to the fan club just tickles me to no end.

The Spider's Web begins with Stan's comments about the issue. "Anyway, now that the Crime-Master is kaput" he writes, "we'll try to polish off the Green Goblin for you but it won't be easy because so far he's been too smart for Spidey, and for Stan and Steve as well!" Which probably translates as, "the two creators can't seem to agree". In the letters themselves, Freddy Adams of Montgomery, Alabama thinks it's about time that Spider-Man is recognized as better than the Fantastic Four. He suggests that, "Once a year (starting now) you could take a poll of all your mags to see which one is the most popular. The winner would earn the right to wear the title "THE WORLD'S GREATEST COMIC MAG" for a year... I bet Spidey would win with Daredevil a running a close second." (Interesting thought but... sorry, Freddy. Not going to happen!) Dave Dzubinski of Lansing, Michigan remembers his Spidey history: "Foswell could not be the Goblin because when the Goblin was first introduced Foswell was probably still in jail... One question I have is why does the Goblin use his glider instead of his jet broomstick (ish #14) which could hold more weight?" Stan replies, "It's amazing how our readers seem to know more about our own mags than we do! Was Foswell still in jail when Gobby was introduced? We didn't know? And can Gobby's jet broomstick carry more weight than his jet glider? Nobody told us!"

Are there any Goblin clues this issue? Not really except that the Goblin's street clothes are a purple suit and tie. Does this help us in any way? Well, the Goblin is seen at his hideout in a brown suit both in ASM #17, October 1964 and ASM #14, July 1964 so there's no consistency there. Norman Osborn does wear a purple suit in ASM #23, April 1965 but usually wears a green suit in other appearances. J. Jonah Jameson has a purple suit in ASM #17 so, no, the purple suit clue in this issue really tells us nothing.

Let's tally up:

The Crime-Master is dead but this is not his last appearance. He shows up again in Untold Tales of Spider-Man #20, May 1997, springing the Vulture from jail so he can use him as a hit man in a failed attempt on the life of Wilson Fisk. In Untold Tales of Spider-Man #23, August 1997, he coerces a doctor named Carson to use his "cerebra-chip" to turn men into a mind- controlled super-squad. These stories take place before the events in these 1965 issues, of course. In Untold Tales of Spider-Man #25, October 1997, we learn that the Goblin tricked the Crime-Master when they traded identities, using a mask to make C-M think the Goblin is really J. Jonah Jameson. An unnecessary retcon that doesn't sit too well with me but there it is.

The Crime-Master does appear after Nick "Lucky" Lewis' death in Marvel Team- Up #39-40, November-December 1975, teaming up with the Sandman against the Enforcers and the new Big Man. This Crime-Master turns out to be Nick Lewis, Jr. He kills the new Big Man only to later discover that his victim is Janice Foswell, the daughter of Frederick Foswell, in disguise. Nick Jr. and Janice met at a private school in Europe and fell in love and Nick is so traumatized by his act that he holds Janice's dead body and calls out, "I love you! Why don't you answer me? Why?" Nick Lewis Jr. has never been seen again.

Barney Bushkin reappears in the Sons of the Tiger/White Tiger series in Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu #22, March 1976 of all places when he shows up at the Daily Bugle to taunt J. Jonah Jameson with the Globe's full-color pictures of the White Tiger fighting the Prowler. He shows up again in Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu #30, November 1976 in which the Jack of Hearts confronts him over a Daily Globe story concerning the death of his father Phillip Hart. (These Bill Mantlo "Tiger" stories are great fun, by the way. If you haven't read them, you should seek them out.) Spidey sees him again in Marvel Team-Up #56, April 1977 when Electro and Blizzard capture Bushkin and Jameson and stick them together in the same room. For a time (from approximately ASM #190, March 1979 to ASM #210, November 1980) Bushkin becomes a fairly regular character in the Spider-books, as Peter Parker quits his job at the Bugle and starts to work at the Globe. But by the end of ASM #210, scandals have caused the Globe to suspend publication and Barney Bushkin hasn't been seen since.

Norman Osborn is next seen in ASM #37, June 1966, in which he finally gets a name but the Green Goblin isn't seen again until ASM #39, August 1966 which is Stan's first issue without Steve Ditko. Which warrants a little discussion, I think.

It is probably no coincidence that Stan reveals the Green Goblin's identity the instant he does a Spidey book without Ditko. Clearly there was a difference of opinion between the two men about the identity of the Goblin. (You can infer that from Stan's letter column comment about Gobby being too smart "for Stan and Steve as well" as quoted above.) The decades-old rumors say that Ditko so disagreed with Stan on the issue of the Goblin that he left the book as a result. This seems unlikely though it was undoubtedly one of the factors in Ditko's decision. Unfortunately, rumors will probably remain rumors because Stan claims he still doesn't know why Ditko left and Steve won't talk about it.

The rumors go on to say that Steve wanted the Green Goblin to be a complete stranger while Stan thought this to be a bit of a cheat. (Of course, making Norman Osborn the Goblin was just as much of a cheat considering his paltry appearances.) This seems unlikely since this is the exact bit that Ditko uses for the Crime-Master, though it's certainly possible that a frustrated Ditko used his Goblin idea on the Crime-Master instead and then vowed to never use the Green Goblin again.

What contradicts this speculation is a comment from Ditko himself who did talk about the Goblin to Robin Snyder in his "The Comics" but which I lifted from "Starlog's Spider-Man and Other Comics Heroes" (July 2002). "Stan's synopsis for the Green Goblin had a movie crew, on location, finding an Egyptian-like sarcophagus", Steve said. "Inside was an ancient, mythological demon, the Green Goblin. He naturally came to life. On my own, I changed Stan's mythological demon into a human villain. So I had to have some definite ideas: who he was, his profession and how he fit into the Spider-Man story world. I was even going to use an earlier, planted character associated with J. Jonah Jameson; he [was to] be [revealed as] the Green Goblin. It was like a subplot working its way [into the stories] until it was ready to play an active role." Who could this "earlier, planted character associated with J. Jonah Jameson" be? Frederick Foswell? Well, Steve eliminated as a suspect in this issue. Ned Leeds? John Jameson? Unfortunately all these years later, Steve still refuses to say whom he had in mind. If the above description is accurate and Steve really did turn Stan's demon into a mysterious masked villain, it is too bad that the true creator of the Green Goblin wasn't able to finish the job. As I mentioned above, I've always thought of the Norman Osborn solution as a cheat. Think of how the Spidey world could be turned upside-down if Ditko was allowed to retcon the Goblin's identity to somebody else. Just like Roger Stern with "Hobgoblin lives". When you look at what a mess the whole Green Goblin/Norman Osborn persona is these days, I for one would love to chuck it and reveal the Goblin as somebody else.

Oh, and as for Steve's reasons for leaving Marvel? Here's what he says... "I know why I left Marvel, but no one else in this universe knew or knows why. It may be of mild interest to realize that Stan Lee chose not to know, to hear why I left."

In General...

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

  1. Death of the first Crime-Master, but not his last appearance.
  2. First time Spidey's costume shrinks while he's wearing it. (This is also happening to Spider-Girl in recent issues.)
  3. First appearance of the cellar darkroom?
  4. First appearance of Barney Bushkin.
  5. Frederick Foswell revealed as Patch.
  6. Last Green Goblin appearance under Ditko.
  7. First Merry Marvel Bullpen Page.

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

Ditko/Lee/Simek

  • "Bring Back my Goblin to Me" - Picks up where #26 left off - Spidey escapes -Crime-Master dies.

    Overall Rating...

    It's kind of a strange structure for a comic book story: nine pages of action followed by eleven pages of denouement but it all somehow works because of Steve's artwork and all the many surprises. We go from Spidey accusing Foswell of being either the Crime-Master or the Goblin to the real Crime-Master being gunned down by police on a rooftop across from the Bugle to the revelation that the Crime-Master was someone of whom we've never heard to Spidey trying to retrieve his camera only to fall into the river to the web-slinger abandoning his wet costume because it has started to shrink to Pete selling photos to the Daily Globe instead to the revelation that Foswell is secretly Patch to the Green Goblin, still in shadow, vowing to lay low for a while. And need I add that the first nine action pages are Spidey at his best. You know how I love his battles with gangs of ordinary criminals. Mix the Goblin and the Crime- Master into the stew and you just can't beat it. It's another five webs for this one in spite of a number of strange gaffes that seem to demonstrate that Stan and Steve were no longer communicating. You're not surprised are you?