Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #32
This story is part of a Lookback Series: From The Beginning
This review was first published on: 2005.
It's a new year for Spider-Man. 1966 dawns with our hero in the midst of one of his greatest adventures ever. Last issue left us with a number of questions, you may recall, such as: What is Aunt May's illness? Who is the Mysterious Master Planner? And, will Peter ever find any friends at Empire State University? Some answers are forthcoming. One will be revealed as soon as we turn the first page.
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #32
Jan 1966 : SMURF 032.500 : SM Title
Arc: Part 2 of "If This Be My Destiny,"
Reprinted In: Marvel 75th Anniversary Omnibus #1
Reprinted In: Marvel Masterworks #16
Reprinted In: Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus #1
Reprinted In: The Best Of Marvel Comics Vol. 1 (Hardcover)
Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #171
Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #25
Reprinted In: Marvel Visionaries, Steve Ditko
Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #2
Reprinted In: Spider-Man Pocket Book #20
|Articles: Aunt May Parker, Betty Brant, The Big Man, Doctor Octopus (Otto Octavius), Jameson, J. Jonah, Lizard, Leeds, Ned|
It's no longer Marvel Pop Art Productions. That lasted all of four issues. Instead, it's a return to the Marvel Comics Group logo last seen on the cover of ASM #27, August 1965. This time it's perched above and to the left of a cover drawing of Spider-Man going berserk, ripping a metal staircase off a stone foundation. (I dare you to figure out the exact configuration of that staircase, by the way.) Two men frantically hang on to the destroyed stairway. Another man tries to climb out of a green car tilted on its side and a fourth man runs for his life. Want a hint to the reason for Spidey's hysteria? There's a little circular cameo in the left hand corner of Aunt May in the hospital looking pretty darn sick. But when you open the comic and take a look at the splash page, you are greeted with...
A full-page view of the outside of the Master Planner's underwater hideout. (Featuring those same two fish first introduced last issue!) Stan puts a big pink arrow pointing at the building and provides a caption telling us that we met the Master Planner's men "last ish". Actually we first met them in the "ish" before that but I think Stan is still convinced those were the Cat Burglar's men. Anyway, the Master Planner is inside, grousing about Spider- Man's interference, preventing him from getting a hold of the radioactive material he needs.
This is great! This is one heck of a mystery! The Master Planner! Who he is? How many more clues are we going to get? I mean, the Green Goblin has been around for eighteen issues at this point and still hasn't been revealed! Who knows how long Stan and Steve are willing to go with the Master Planner? So, let's all turn to page two and... ulp! The mystery is answered already!
Inside the Master Planner's hideout, metal tentacles manipulate machinery. The "camera" pulls back to reveal Doctor Octopus as the Master Planner. Doc is monkeying with radiation experiments again. After all, as he puts it, "It was radiation that changed my entire life, that caused me to become what I am today!" (What he doesn't mention is that it was a radioactive screw- up!) He has some wacky notion that he can use his scientific expertise to "control radiation" and if he can do that, "there is no limit to the additional powers I could gain for myself and for any others I may choose!" It's all sort of vague and I don't think Ock really knows what he's doing. But, anyway, he seems to be having great fun contacting his "Deputy Squad Leader" and calling himself "the Master Planner" and ordering his men to "continue to search for any and all atomic equipment for me!" (Which seems to confirm that he's just going about this haphazardly. I mean, really. "Any and all atomic equipment"?) His squad leader is into the game too. "Yes sir!" he snaps back, still wearing his masked costume even though he's probably just hanging out in the underwater break room, "We will continue until you issue new orders! Over and out!"
Okay, so that Master Planner mystery is already blown. What else have we got? Well, we've got Peter Parker walking through the press room of the Daily Bugle. Betty Brant spies him and rushes over to have a talk. Peter has been avoiding Betty ever since she told him that Ned Leeds proposed to her (in ASM #30, November 1965) and Pete realized that he could never do the same without giving up being Spider-Man. Peter tries to pretend he doesn't hear Betty (and he is annoyed that she is there at all; he was hoping she'd be at lunch) but she won't let him get away with it. She gets in front of him and demands to know what she has done wrong. Looking away, Peter doesn't answer. He's too busy thinking, "How can I tell her the truth? She thinks she loves me but if she ever found out I'm Spider-Man, she'd drop me like a hot potato!" Just then, Ned Leeds enters and sticks his big nose into the situation. He tells Peter that he is not being fair to Betty; that "she deserves an answer from you". Callously, Peter realizes that this is his chance to be a king- sized jerk and get Betty angry with him. He flares up at Ned, telling him to "Butt out, creep!" (Sounds like Peter's been reading Judge Dredd!) He then goes on to say that he doesn't owe Betty a thing, that "we had a few laughs together" but that he may have outgrown her. (Cold, Pete!) But the truth is Peter is in love with Betty and he's got this cockamamie idea that she would hate him if she knew he is Spidey so he's "got to make her hate me" deciding "a clean break is the best thing for all of us". (Only in comics do people in love decide to treat their loved ones abysmally for their own good. At least, I hope it's only in comics!) Ned puts his hands on Peter's shoulders trying to get him to calm down. Peter puts his finger in Ned's face and tells him, "Hands off, Leeds!" Ned, however, is not ready to back down. He has made his feelings for Betty clear and he wants Peter to step aside. "If you're not interested, why don't you say so", he asks, which seems like sort of a silly question since I think that's what Peter did when he came out with all that "few laughs" and "outgrown her" nonsense. Pete just tells Ned, "I'm sick of people trying to tell me what to do!" and pushes Ned hard against the door to J. Jonah Jameson's office. The "Thump!" is so hard that it knocks books off of Jonah's shelves right on top of him. (The sound effect appears twice... on the right side of the panel showing Ned hitting the door and on the left side of the following panel showing Jonah in his office, giving the whole thing sort of an echo effect.) JJ bellows, "What in blazes is going on out there??" which brings the three participants into his office. Peter apologizes for getting carried away and Jameson, who "never thought of [Peter] as the violent type" (little does he know!) wants to know what Parker is even doing there. Pete tells him he brought some photos and as he hands them over he starts thinking about how Betty must hate him now and how she'll go on to marry Ned and forget about him and how he'll carry a torch for her for the rest of his life. Jameson takes the pix and starts immediately criticizing them. They are only shots of "strikers picketing a department store" and Peter knows he can do much better but he's been out of it ever since Aunt May went into the hospital. Jonah just tosses the photos on the ground and callously announces, "Don't waste my time unless you have something good! Don't just stand there! This isn't visitors' day! Goodbye!"
Pete tries to leave but Betty puts her hand up against a file cabinet and blocks his way. She tells Peter that his act didn't fool her. Again she asks him to tell her what is bothering him and again Peter looks away and decides he can't tell her he's Spider-Man. "Nothing's bothering me!" he says, "I'm happy as a lark!" Then he walks away. As he goes, he considers telling her his secret but he is convinced that he would lose her either way and he'd only be burdening her with his secret. Betty watches him go and finally starts to wonder if she's been wrong all along. "Can it be" she wonders, "that he doesn't care for me??" (And where is Ned in all this? Gone. It looks like he did a fade when Peter gave his photos to Jameson.)
Peter heads over to the hospital where a nurse tells him that his Aunt is "too weak to receive visitors". But the doctor has gotten the tests back and he wants to speak to Peter. So, Pete goes to some room filled with microscopes and Petrie dishes where the doctor tells him that they know what's wrong with May but they can't figure out what could have caused it. It turns out that "Mrs. Parker absorbed a radioactive particle into her blood! And we're unable to get it out!" (Which makes it sound like it's something that they would just extract to heal her if they could, like taking out a bullet.) Horrified, Peter realizes that it is all his fault. He thinks back to the blood he donated when Aunt May needed a transfusion back in ASM #10, March 1964 and deduces that the radioactivity that gives him his spider-powers was spread to May. In her case, however, it is killing her. (Stan doesn't give us the previous issue number, by the way. His footnote reads, "A no-prize to the first Spidey fan who tells us what ish this occurred in!" but since this was all about forty years ago, I don't think we're going to win that no-prize. Still, it's worth noting how unusual this was to pick up a plot thread from two years before. Nowadays it happens all the time but, at this time, Marvel was pioneering this kind of continuity. DC, after all, was still publishing stories without any consequences in the following issue. Makes you wonder if Steve and Stan planned this all along and patiently waited twenty-two issues to spring it on the reader. Seems unlikely when they couldn't even figure out who the Green Goblin was but you never know.) The doctor puts his hand on Peter's shoulder and admits that they don't know how to treat it but promises that they will do everything they can. "Although I cannot hold out much hope", he says.
Back home, a distraught Peter looks at a photograph of Aunt May with Uncle Ben. (I'm pretty sure this is only the second appearance of Ben since his death in Amazing Fantasy #15, August 1962... the other being the flashback in ASM Annual #1, 1964... but don't worry, they'll be plenty more!) Peter recalls that he "was partly responsible for the death of Uncle Ben, because he was killed by a criminal whom I didn't catch" and now he is going to be responsible for the death of Aunt May. He buries his face in his hand as he realizes that "The two people I've loved most in the world, who were like my own father and mother to me" are being repaid for their love and kindness with nothing but tragedy. Suddenly incensed at this fate, Peter lashes out with his fists and shatters a wooden desk, sending a lamp, a typewriter, and other knickknacks flying. (I wonder what Aunt May ever said about this when she got home... that is, if she pulls through, you know.) Filled with resolve, Peter vows to find some way to save her "no matter what the cost". He remembers Dr. Curt Connors, last seen in ASM #6, November 1963 when he had accidentally turned himself into the Lizard. (Another great use of long-term continuity by Steve and Stan.) Peter races to the phone and calls Florida but "in a frantic, frenzied series" of phone calls, he discovers Connors no longer lives in Florida. In fact, Peter is in luck. Connors has moved to New York City.
First stop for the web-slinger is the hospital lab. There is one Red Cross guy in the room and it looks like he's about ready to light up a bong but I think he's actually just intent on a beaker. Spidey peeks in the window, spies a test tube with Aunt May's blood sample, which is just sitting around, snags it with his webbing and rushes off without being seen. He webslings over to Dr. Connors' Manhattan lab and swings into the window. He actually asks the one- armed man there, "Do you remember me?" Of course Curt does. "Without your aid, I'd still be a creature of the swamps feared and hunted by my fellow men!" he says. (Haven't we all said this at one time or another?) Curt puts his hand on Spidey's shoulder and promises to help in any way he can. The web-slinger passes the blood sample over (explaining that a friend "has been stricken with radioactivity of the blood") and Curt takes a look at it through his microscope. Then, stroking his chin, he recalls reading about a new serum that can combat such things. It is called ISO-36 and was developed on the West Coast. Spidey tells Curt to order some, promising to return with enough money to pay for it and then he leaps out the window. Curt tells Spidey he won't fail him.
Back at home, Peter Parker fills a box with all the scientific equipment he has which may be valuable. (Except it looks like there's still a lot of equipment behind him on the shelf.) Included in the box seems to be Pete's microscope (under glass!) which was given to him by Uncle Ben. (Of course, Peter gets rid of the microscope again when he leaves it at Uncle Ben's grave in ASM #181, June 1978 and then Aunt May accidentally gives it away to the Church bazaar in ASM #290, July 1987. It's like a bad penny. It keeps turning up.) He takes it to a pawnshop and walks away with a wad of bills. As he counts it, Peter figures that this money combined with what he has in the bank should be enough for Dr. Connors... even though Curt never told him how much money he needs.
Spidey races back to Curt's lab with the money. Connors tells him that the ISO- 36 is "being flown out here on a special shipment! All they had in stock!" He is busy heating a beaker of something with a Bunsen burner and Spidey, assuming that Curt is working on the radioactivity problem, I guess, jumps right in and helps. Next thing you know, he's pouring a test tubeful of something into a bubbling brew and he must know what he's doing because Curt looks on admiringly and says, "You handle that apparatus like a pro! I suspect you're not a full- time Spider-Man!" So the two of them get busy pouring and eye-dropping and turning knobs and both seem to be cooking something up that will put Aunt May right back on her feet... but they need the arrival of that ISO-36.
Ah, but underwater in his secret base, Dr. Octopus also hears about the shipment of ISO-36. He thinks it's "just the thing I need to carry out my research... the one vital key to my experiments", though he seems willing to grab any old radioactive thing. He orders his Master Planner Squad Leader to use every available man to grab the serum. His flunkey tells him that the whole thing is arranged and that they "will not fail".
So, the plane arrives after its cross-country flight and deposits one guy in a brown suit and blue hat, carrying the ISO-36 in a metal canister. "Dr. Connors must want this serum pretty bad to pay such a high premium price for its delivery" he thinks (which again gets me wondering if Peter really knows how much this is going to cost) and then he's conked on the head by one MP goon while a second one snatches the canister. (Two guys... this is "every available man"?) Soon after, Curt gets a phone call at his lab telling him the serum was stolen at the airport by the Master Planner's men. Little spiky spider-sense lines radiate out of Spidey's head when he hears this news. He immediately leaps out the window, telling Curt to continue with the preliminary experiments and promising to return with the serum.
As Spidey webswings through town (in a great Ditko panel where it looks like he's going to swing up and out of the frame) he recalls that his last two fights with the Master Planner's men took place at the waterfront (both in ASM #30, December 1965). The web-slinger assumes that the Planner's hideout is somewhere in that vicinity but that's still a big chunk of real estate to investigate so he goes looking for help from Frederick Foswell. First he tries the Daily Bugle and swings right into a window, scaring the bejesus out of Betty Brant, who drops all of the papers she is carrying. "Don't be alarmed", Spidey tells her but Betty still cowers with her back to him. He asks her for the whereabouts of Foswell and she informs him that Fred left "only a few minutes ago". Spidey leaps out the window but looks back at Betty and thinks about how fragile and helpless she looks and how he'd like to take her into his arms.
Outside again, Spidey looks down and sees Foswell walking on the sidewalk. He swoops down out of the sky, snatches Foswell around the waist and quickly carries him up to a rooftop. There, Spidey tells Foswell that, "Even though I fought you years ago when you were a gang boss (ASM #10, March 1964) you've nothing to fear from me now, since you've gone legit as a reporter for the Bugle". He tells Fred that he is looking for the Master Planner. If Fred can use his underworld contacts to help out, Spidey promises "a scoop when I've nabbed him". He swings off, not content to leave it all to Foswell. Next stop: "Every underworld haunt he can find". In one, Spidey smashes the door down and demands info on the Planner. Four hoods try to go for their guns but Spidey punches men and a desk in a flurry that sends hoods and pieces of wood flying everywhere. Finally, Spidey stands on a wall as he grabs one hood by the back of his jacket and hoists him in the air but he gets the same answers he has gotten at all the other underworld haunts. Nobody knows where the Planner's hideout is. "Only his own gang knows."
Back at the hospital, things are looking bleak for Aunt May. A doctor and nurse stand watch over her and the doctor tells the nurse that May has slipped into a coma. "And there is nothing more that we can do for her!" he says. (To prove this, he takes off his stethoscope!) He is impressed with May's will to live but "now her fate is in the hands of a power far greater than ours".
It doesn't seem to be doing him a bit of good but Spidey can't stop his rampage against the bad guys. He stumbles on a hot car ring. What the hell. Maybe the car thieves know something about the Master Planner. He swings through the open window as the crooks take to their heels. Two of them climb into a car and try to drive off. Three more start to run up some stairs. Yelling, "Hold it! Nobody leaves until I say so!! That means nobody!" Spidey lifts up and heaves the car onto its side. He then rips the entire staircase off its moorings, taking the three hoods with it. (This is the scene depicted on the cover and now we can see that it actually takes place inside a garage rather than out on the street as it seems when you first see it.) Spidey throws the staircase, smashing a stone pillar. He orders the goons to drop their guns "before I really get mad!" A crook named Charlie tells the others, "Maybe we better do like he says!" and in minutes the group of thugs are down on the floor amidst the rubble with Spider-Man perched above them. Unfortunately, it's the same deal. "These dime-a-dozen crooks don't know any more about the Master Planner than I do!"
Back at his lab, Doc Connors is brewing up some amazing flaming concoction in some elaborate glass container. He is worrying that the ISO-36 may not even mesh with his potion should Spider-Man retrieve it. But there's no point in agonizing over that possibility yet so it's back to the web-slinger, as he swings into another criminal hideout. But this one is completely empty and Spidey despairs that he is "rapidly running out of places to search!" Before he can move on, though, his spider-sense starts to tingle. It leads him to a piece of tile on the floor. Spidey touches the tile and his sensitive fingertips sense a release mechanism. The tile is actually some sort of trap door! He lifts it up and finds a staircase leading down amongst city pipelines. Voices drift up from down below and Spider-Man descends to investigate. Soon after, he comes upon a big room filled with masked men in purple outfits. It is the Master Planner's men at last and the wall-crawler leaps down to tackle them... literally! He takes a whole pile of them down to the ground with his leap. Swinging wildly, Spidey demands the whereabouts of the ISO-36. He kicks and punches and lifts and tosses and knocks the whole slew of them about. One of the gang tells the rest to "Rush him together!" but when they do, Spider-Man leaps over and away from them. He stands on the wall punching various purple-suited guys in the snoot. A hidden door opens up to allow reinforcements to join the fight. This gives Spidey ideas. Thinking that the serum may be stashed on the other side of that door, he leaps through before it closes.
The MP men contact Doc Ock and tell him that Spidey "is on his way thru the secret tunnel". Ock considers this a "stroke of blind luck" since he hopes to "dispose of Spider-Man forever". Using his tentacles, he lifts up the vial of ISO-36 and uses it to bait a trap. Meanwhile, Spider-Man makes his way through the tunnel, leading him into the Master Planner hideout at the bottom of the river. He sneaks in by crawling along the ceiling and he is sure that the Planner must be expecting him but his spider-sense detects no one about. He enters a room and finds the vial of ISO-36 sitting in the glare of a spotlight. It looks a little bit too much like a trap so the web-slinger hesitates but this is exactly what the trap wanted him to do. As he waits up on the ceiling, he is hit with a "sharp high-voltage electric shock" which knocks him off his perch. As Spidey falls, a hidden door opens and Doc Ock enters. He grabs the wall-crawler in his tentacles before Spidey can hit the ground. Only now does Spider-Man realize that Otto Octavius is the Master Planner. (And this is where we should have found out, as well. Steve doesn't make too many mistakes in his tenure on plot and art but he certainly made one here, giving us the Planner's I.D. far too early in the game.)
Spidey knows that Ock is one of his toughest foes but he is still filled with the "fighting raging fury" that has fueled his search for the serum. He reaches down and adheres to the floor with his hands. Then he does a flip, yanking Ock head over heels. Doc partially releases Spidey in order to protect himself. This gives Spidey the chance to get to his feet. He grabs one of Otto's metal arms and cracks him like a whip. The impact of the arms fractures another one of those stone pillars that seem to be hanging around but Ock is unhurt and he strikes back, holding Spidey by both arms and the left leg as he uses his final tentacle to punch the webhead in the face. But Spidey breaks free, grabs all four arms, and ties them into a knot. Doc Ock untangles his arms easily but this has given Spidey time to pick up some big blue machine and chuck it at him. Keeping Otto's tentacles busy, the web-spinner yanks up the metal floor, which knocks Ock to the ground. Otto retaliates, splintering yet another stone pillar but Spidey picks up a chunk of the stone and lifts it over his head, preparing to toss it. Doc Ock suddenly realizes that, "There's no way to fight him, no way to stop him! He's like a raging human dreadnaught!" With this realization comes another thought... He's got to escape!
As Ock turns to flee, Spidey throws the piece of pillar. He misses Otto but topples over the main support beam. This is not good. Everything starts collapsing. Spidey tries to leap aside as the "cast iron upper level units" start crashing down but there's nowhere to go. He finds himself trapped at the waist by a huge metal piece that looks like it is made out of gray Legos. He doesn't know what has happened to Doc Ock. All he knows is he's got to get out. Realizing that he is unhurt, Spidey gets ready to extricate himself from the wreckage when he hears "an ominous rumble above him". He looks up to see "the largest iron unit of all" which "must outweigh a locomotive" starting to topple toward him. He knows he can't stop it but he hopes to slow it down with his webbing. This does him no good. As Spidey puts it, "It's like trying to stop a battleship with a slingshot!" He can't free himself in time and is certain he is going to be crushed. But at the last minute he notices that the large unit has a "small hollowed-out area". He twists his body so that he will fit in that open spot which saves him from being crushed but leaves him pinned under a gigantic weight with no way to gain any leverage. He looks across the floor and sees the vial of serum lying on its side but "it might as well be on another planet" for all the good it does him. Then he notices water dripping from the ceiling onto the canister. He realizes that the river is dripping into the room in a slow leak that is getting faster. Knowing that the room will start to flood, Spidey tries to push up against the immense weight bearing him down but he cannot move it an inch. He is exhausted by his rampage, by his days of worry for Aunt May. He puts his head down and tries to rest.
Back at the hospital, Aunt May "sinks deeper and deeper into her coma" and yet, somehow, this doesn't stop her from saying one word aloud. That word is... "Peter". Over in his lab, Dr. Connors worries about Spidey's return. He knows that there is a cut-off time when the ISO-36 will lose its potency. Back in the hideout, the Master Planner's men don't believe Spider-Man can beat their boss. And even if he does, he still has to fight his way through them again.
But Spidey isn't worrying about that right now. He's still trapped by the machinery as the water flows into the room faster and faster. "I've failed" he cries out, "Just now when it counted the most, I've failed!" Which brings us to the end of this month's story.
Can you hear that sound emanating from the mouths of all the kids reading this story back in 1966? "AAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!" There was no greater agony than the realization that another great Spidey comic had come to an end with a cliffhanger... with no guarantee, in those pre-comic shop days, that you would find the next issue on the comic racks. But it was also the sweetest agony you could possibly imagine. Because, my God, you thought about that cliffhanger and how Spidey could possibly save himself all month long. You started hunting the racks weeks ahead of time. And when you found the next issue, it was like finding your lost friend in a crowd.
Some of you, I know, were wondering just what was in that mysterious mailing tube that the Green Goblin asked us about in last month's Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page. (Okay, maybe you weren't wondering. Work with me on this.) Now, "The Mystery is Solved!" The tube is designed to hold a six-foot full-color Spider-Man pin-up featuring the wall-crawler running right at you. It's only $1.99 for anyone who orders anytime before 1967. So go for it, guys!
Here's this month's list of M.M.M.S. members: Steve Beeman of Lavales, Maryland. Bill Smith of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Kerry Johns of Rocky River, Ohio. Douglas Ahrens of Hutchinson, Kansas. Paul Smith of Shreveport, Louisiana. Jesse Medina of Los Angeles, California. Michael W. Walker of Callinaville, Virginia. Dennis Makowski of Detroit, Michigan. John O'Conner of Chicago, Illinois. Jim Half of Roselle Park, New Jersey. Jimmy Glovier of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Mark Brank of Lodi, California. Frank Chadwick of Ottawa, Illinois. Ricci Campo of Trenton, New Jersey. Father Alex J. Rakowski of Chicago, Illinois (!) Thomas O'Dowd of Wilimette, Illinois. John Other of Benton, Arkansas. (A big "hello" to Robert Walis, reading this Lookback in Poland. Did you read all these names to catch this "hello", Robert?) Doug Estridge of Borea, Kentucky. Sally Price of Cottonwood, California. William Holowoka of Rochester, New York. J. Sampsell Jr. of Maryville, Ohio. John J. Stuempfig of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Ted Holdahi of San Francisco, California. John Gregory Sheryl of Atlanta, Georgia. And Bill Sturk of Garden City, Michigan. Okay, I admit it. I've long since run out of clever things to say about these lists but that's not going to stop me! I'm going to keep including them as long as they keep showing up in the issues. Believe me, they'll be around long after Ditko is!
The facing page to the Bulletins contains come-ons for three different items, each with its own ordering coupon. The Marvel stationary, for only $1.00, is "just the thing for writing letters to the White House, Buckingham Palace and even Brand X!" The Spidey t-shirt, for $1.50 is "the greatest fashion sensation since Lady Godiva!" (Down in the corner of the ad, Peter Parker says, "Face Front! You're on your honor not to wear it while reading Brand X!") Finally, it's that life-size Spidey pin-up again which Stan touts as "the greatest work of art since the Edsel!"
In the Spider's Web, Brian M. Bendis of New York, New York says, "First of all - The AVENGERS! We took a vote at school and we decided that Spider-Man belongs in the group." Oops! Sorry! That letter was actually from David W. Banks of Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Bill Hine of North Wilbraham, Massachusetts noticed that, "You used to print the letters in bold type; now you print the replies in bold type. No doubt about it... as you guys get better and better, you get more conceited." Leo U. Renaud of Biloxi, Mississippi tells Stan and Steve that "I'm sort of a part time mask maker and I was fascinated by the way you thought up the idea of the Lizard - he's so original. I decided to make a mask, hands, and feet, and dress up for the Mardi Gras parade which we have down here every year, and I want you to know that the Lizard costume I made won first prize." Leo included a photo that Stan reprinted. It didn't reproduce too well but, from what you can see, Leo's costume looks pretty good. Finally, Betty Ann Lopate of Brooklyn, New York asks, "Have you ever considered the close ideological connection between your "Spider-Man" and the Dadaist-Pop Art movement? The socially and psychologically conscious Spiderman, albeit still somewhat adolescently naïve, who worries about alienation and questions his role as a super-hero, who has financial and emotional problems, who knows and feels his own limitations, and who allows himself subjective thoughts and reactions to the world around him, unlike the unrealistically objective and impervious Brand-X type hero. What better way to advance the message of Dadaism and Pop Art, than through this mock-serious commentary on modern American values and current new breed of Freud-oriented adventure fantasy indulged in by every young person in the country." And she goes on for another half a column! Actually, I don't really see the connection she is trying to establish between Spidey and Dadaism but it sounds so good, who am I to be a party pooper?
The yellow box at the end of the page tells us that the next issue "reintroduces Kraven the Hunter". Whoa! Not so fast, Stan! That's two issues away! First you have to get Spidey out of this deathtrap!
Let's see now... where are we?
Dr. Curtis Connors, who was last seen back in ASM #6, November 1963 will be back next issue.
Doc Ock, who was last seen in a cameo in ASM #18, November 1964 will not be back next issue even though the story isn't done. We won't see him again until ASM #53, October 1967.
Will Spider-Man save himself? Will Aunt May recover? All that's next issue.
Charlie and all these other hoods that Spider-Man fights will never be seen again.
And Empire State University? What happened with that? You know, going to college? We don't need no steeking college!
Milestones (Landmark events that take place in this story.)
- Fifth major appearance of Doctor Octopus (after ASM #3, July 1963, ASM #11, April 1964, ASM #12, May 1964, and ASM Annual #1, 1964).
- Second appearance of Dr. Curtis Connors (after ASM #6, November 1963).
- First appearance of Aunt May on the cover. (Really. First one. I checked this twice.) Her next cover appearance is ASM #54.
- First time Spidey snatches Foswell and promises him a scoop.
- First time Spider-Man yanks a staircase out of the wall.
- The wall-crawler smashes two desks and three pillars in this issue alone.
The 1969 Marvelmania International Spider-Man Portfolio checklist entry for this story. Warts and all:
"Man on a Rampage" - Continues from #31. - Master Planner revealed as Doc Ock. Doc Ock steals Anunt May's serum. - Ends with Spidey pinned under tons of debris with water leaking.
When it comes to action, Ditko is at the top of his game this issue. It's not just the battles with the nameless hoods, the Master Planner's men, and Dr. Octopus. It's also our hero's confrontation with Ned Leeds, smashing the desk at home, swooping down to snatch Fred Foswell, and struggling to escape being pinned under heavy machinery; all powerfully dramatic. But while all of that stuff is first-rate, it seems a shame to completely forget about Empire State University and all the new characters we just met last issue. The whole notion of a single serum that will save Aunt May's life, though a classic comic book device seems a bit too convenient here. And, let's face it; Steve missed his chance for some real drama when he revealed the Master Planner's identity too soon. So, how good is this issue? It's good but it's not five webs. Call it the burden of being the second part of a trilogy and let's move on to the big finish.
Next: The Final Chapter!