Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #41

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

This review was first published on: 2006.

Background...

I no longer have the original copy of this issue that I bought off the newsstand. Here is the sad tale of why that is.

I was nine years old when this comic came out in 1966 and at the height of my Spidey-reading interest. Actually I was at the height of my comic-reading interest. I bought anything. Sad Sack, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Herbie, THUNDER Agents, Dr. Solar Man of the Atom, Archie, Mad Magazine, Great Society (with Super-LBJ), anything. But mostly it was Marvels and mainly it was Spider- Man. July was usually the time of year that my family took its annual summer vacation to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. If I could find a Spidey comic at around the same time as we were going to go on that trip... that was heaven. In 1966, I found ASM #41, October 1966 with Spider-Man being overrun by a big lumbering brute in a rhinoceros suit. "The Horns of the Rhino" was all it said on the cover. I didn't need to know any more than that to know what my reading material was going to be on that trip.

The idea of protecting your comic books would have been unthinkable in those days. Put them in a plastic bag with a piece of cardboard behind them to keep them from being bent? Are you kidding me? A comic book was designed to be bent. We used to bend them over and crease them so we could easily hold them in one hand. We used to fold them in two and put them in our back pockets. We'd toss them in sloppy piles that spread out in our bedroom closets; you'd slip and slide on them if you tried to reach something buried far in the back. We'd read them outside in the rain or without drying off after swimming in the public pool or while we were drinking some big glass of milk that was ripe for the spilling. In the car, my sisters and I used to toss them around, going from one to the other, never particularly caring where they landed. On the five hour drive to the beach, the comics would end up stuffed down the car seats, on the floor getting shoeprints, in the back window, sometimes blown out of the window in those cars without air conditioning, just everywhere.

We had a pet in those days; a half-poodle, half-Chihuahua named Nick. Sounds like a ridiculous combination, I know, but he was a great dog. Small enough to pick up and handle. Smart and fast and friendly. A perfect companion for kids. Dogs used to roam freely around our neighborhood and Nick was often out for long stretches, sometimes chasing cars that couldn't seem to outrun him and still maintain the neighborhood speed limit. Nick would get right up by the tire and bark as he ran, which almost made you sure he was going to be squashed underneath but he never got touched. One friend of mine, impressed by Nick's ability, called him "Speedy". So, Nick had an adversarial relationship with the automobile which probably has nothing to do with the fact that, while riding in one, he occasionally got car sick.

You're way ahead of me on this one. At some point in the drive down to Carolina, my copy of ASM #41 ended up on the floor in the back, right behind the driver's seat. At some point, I reached down to pick it up. I no longer remember if I'd read it already or not. What I do remember is that Nick had gotten sick all over it. The Rhino was completely covered in this pink foamy goo. Did I try to read it anyway? Did I immediately throw it out? I have no recollection. But that moment of looking down and seeing it in all its pink detail is something I vividly recall almost 40 years later. And that, my friends, is why the copy of ASM #41 which I am reviewing for you is not my original. It may be one I bought the next day or ten years later or twenty years down the line. I couldn't tell you. I only know it's not the one on which Nicky puked.

In Detail...

"The Horns of the Rhino!"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #41
Oct 1966 : SMURF 041.500 : SM Title
Summary: First Rhino
Editor:  Stan Lee
Writer:  Stan Lee
Pencils:  John Romita, Sr.
Inker:  Mickey Demeo
Cover Art:  John Romita, Sr.
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Issue
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 Reprinted In: John Romita's The Amazing Spider-Man Artifact Edition (IDW)
 Reprinted In: Marvel Masterworks #22
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #180
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #30
 Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #2
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Pocket Book #23
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man: Visionaries - John Romita, Sr. (TPB)
 Reprinted In: ToyBiz: Spider-Man Classics Series 2 #2
Articles: Watson, Anna, Aunt May Parker, Betty Brant, Flash Thompson, Green Goblin II (Harry Osborn), Gwen Stacy, Jameson, J. Jonah, John Jameson (Man-Wolf), Leeds, Ned, Rhino

So, the Green Goblin has finally been disposed of. So, what's next? Let's get back to the cover of this issue again. Nothing that has taken place over the last few years of Spider-Man could ever prepare you for this cover. Look at it. The Rhino dominates it and he's unlike any villain we've seen in Spidey before because he's more than just a guy in a rhinoceros suit. Look at his face in John Romita's cover drawing. Even though he's in that silly subset of "animal mouth" villains (those guys like the Grizzly whose entire real faces can be seen poking out of the mouth of whatever particular animal mask they wear which seems to defeat the whole purpose of wearing a mask), JR makes his face blend in so wonderfully with the costume that it looks strangely natural. Look at his stance in this cover drawing. You can almost feel his ponderousness; you can almost see the flow of his movement. The shards of rock around him show us how powerful his fists are. The eruption under his right foot shows us how heavy his tread is. Meanwhile, Spidey is dwarfed in this picture, looking like he was run over by the Rhino's rampage; right arm outstretched as if he was unsuccessfully trying to fend his opponent off. In all the years since this issue, no one has drawn the Rhino as well as JR does. No one has again managed to make his face look like it belongs in that Rhino suit; make him intimidating rather then chunky; make him regal rather than dopey. Nowadays the Rhino is dealt with as a joke. If you read this issue at the time, it would be impossible to imagine that.

Stan seems to sense that a whole new feel is about to permeate the book; in more ways than just the fact that he's in charge of plots again. On the splash page, which is a nice symbolic drawing of the Rhino standing on a web with Spider-Man perched over his left shoulder, Stan announces, "Beginning: a great New Era in the ever-changing life of the world's most amazing web-spinner!" Then, because Stan can't help himself when it comes to hyping an issue, he lists four things that will make this story worth reading. "See the return of Betty Brant and the startling result that follows! See the surprise appearance of J. Jonah Jameson's astronaut son! (Except, now that Stan has announced it, it isn't much of a surprise anymore.) See the most exciting new purchase Petey ever made! See Spidey fight the Rhino - most fearsome villain of all!" That last one isn't as much hype as it appears. As I said, when first faced with Romita's Rhino, the reader just knew this was a serious force to be reckoned with.

And where does all this action begin? With Anna Watson visiting Aunt May. The two ladies sit in matching yellow armchairs. Anna tells May that her niece Mary Jane has taken her own apartment, which gives Anna space in her house. "Why don't you sell this house and move in with me?" she asks May. "Anna May Watson! If you aren't the dearest thing!" says May, giving us Anna Watson's middle name for the first time. (Unless May has just had one of her moments and inserted her own name in the middle of Anna's name.) May tells Anna that she would love to do it but she can't since she can't leave Peter alone with no one to look after him. "But May, he's almost twenty, he's going to college!" says Anna. (This means Peter aged normally from his origin in Amazing Fantasy #15, August 1962 when he was 15 to this issue a little more than four years later. Since then, Peter has aged about 5 years in the last 40... if that much.) But May gives Anna the old "frail and fragile" routine and Anna decides that May probably knows best. But as she leaves the house and thanks May for the tea, she thinks, "If Peter Parker were my nephew, I'd try to make him more independent! But, he's probably the type that likes to be molly-coddled!", which is a nice Stan segue to that "most exciting purchase" we heard about on the splash page as Peter has just told a salesman that he will buy a new motorcycle. (Which, according to the salesman, he's been looking at every day for a month.) Since he needs a loan from the bank to buy it, the salesman asks for a credit reference. Peter is sure that J. Jonah Jameson will vouch for him. The salesman asks Pete to call JJJ right away while he draws up the papers.

So, Pete calls Jonah who is in his office with his son Lt. Colonel John Jameson who has not been seen since... no kidding!... Amazing Spider-Man #1, March 1963. At first, Jonah blows off Pete's request. "You dialed the wrong number, kid! Try lookin' up Santa Claus!" But then he thinks that Peter will have to sell him more photos if he has a debt to pay off, so he changes his mind and agrees to be Pete's reference. "Wow! Great!" says the excited Peter. "Yeah... chortle... great!" thinks the tricky Jameson.

Slamming down the phone, Jonah goes into his "The trouble with me is I'm too soft-hearted" routine. (Including such gems as, "I'm just a big bundle of good- natured jelly" and "It just doesn't pay to be a nice guy!") Then he tells John that it's time he "was roasting Spider-Man in an editorial again". This prompts John to wonder what his dad has against the wall-crawler seeing as Spidey saved him "the day when my [space] capsule lost its guidance system packet". Then we get a nice five panel recap of those events from ASM #1 with John Romita doing his versions of Ditko's images from page 11 panel 1, page 11 panel 3 (JR giving us a completely different angle of this one), page 12, panel 1, page 12 panel 3 (another different angle), and page 13 panel 3 of the original work. Stan must have gone back and reread that issue because he used some of the same dialogue. In the first panel of John's flashback, Spidey says the same thing as he stands atop a jet plane and shoots webbing at the runaway space capsule ("This will be my first and last chance! If it doesn't work, look out below!") as he did in the original. Stan changes the dialogue in flashback panel two after Spidey has snagged the capsule and hangs on for dear life. (Original: "I hit it! Mustn't let go!" Flashback: "I did it! Now if I can just hang on!") In flashback panel three, Spidey climbs onto the nosecone to replace the guidance system, and John speaks from the capsule using the same dialogue as the original. ("Capsule under manual control again! Will eject chute and land immediately!") In flashback panel four, Stan decides to give Spidey an all-new thought balloon. ("Boy! The Joe inside this capsule is the real super-hero!") as the capsule parachutes down. In flashback panel five, Spidey runs away from the landed capsule. Instead of giving the whole speech he gives on page 13 panel 3 of the original, he thinks (rather than speaks) only the first line. ("I'd better make myself scarce now!") So, John is well aware of Spider-Man's heroism but he's not able to convince his father. Instead, Jonah tells his son,"that blasted wall-crawler sabotaged your capsule himself in order to make everyone think he's a hero by later saving you!" Then he goes completely off his nut, going from pounding his right fist into his left palm to pulling at his hair, to throwing darts at a picture of Spider-Man on the wall (which is actually a copy of the Spider-Man poster Marvel has sold in previous issues). "Why? Why?" he rants, "Why must I be haunted, hounded, plagued by that sneaky, creepy, rotten, no-good, masked menace all my life?!! Why doesn't someone catch him, defeat him, squash him against a wall, anything, so long as I get him out of my life!! Do you realize that if not for me, and my courageous editorials, people would start making a hero of that low-life?! I have to keep reminding them, in my paper, that he's a cowardly crook, hiding behind a mask to escape justice! And still they doubt me! There are actually lunatics who admire him!" (This is JJJ ranting at its best.) Then he finishes up by remarking that Spidey robbed John of his "full share of glory from that space flight". John tells his dad to calm down. He's had "many flights since then" which brings him to the point of his visit. "A strange thing happened on my last space mission," he says. When an alarmed Jonah says that NASA "didn't release a shred of information about your flight", John ominously replies that "they couldn't" and that "they had to make sure the space spores wouldn't be harmful to Earth, first". This brings John to his second flashback of the sequence, though this is something we have never seen before. He had been orbiting Earth in his latest space capsule and even went out for a space walk. But when he reentered the capsule he discovered that "some mysterious spores", which look like little flickers of light "had drifted inside with me". At the splashdown of the capsule, as he awaited pick- up by a helicopter, John noticed that the spores "clung to my space suit then later to my body". Returned to NASA, John was "subjected to intensive tests for days" but "everything appeared to check out a-okay". The spores "finally just faded away" so it was decided to release him but, concerned that "they may have had an effect upon him that won't show up until later", NASA decided to keep John under guard for "at least six months" because "certain nations would give anything to examine him behind the Iron Curtain". (I'm not sure why since the spores seem to have faded away, but you know those Commies! They want to get their hands on everything!) So, two guards follow John around everywhere and, even now, are stationed outside of Jonah's office door. Meanwhile, perhaps afraid that the idea of the Communists wanting to kidnap John isn't going to fly, Stan adds some more detail to it, having John say, "You see, dad, the space agency medics gained invaluable information by studying those spores and my reactions to them, information that may give us the boost we need in the space race!" (Whatever information that could possibly be.)

So, the idea that the Russians would want to abduct John sounds like a lot of hooey. But not so fast! Because somewhere "at our southernmost border", down by some big rock and a lone cactus, the Rhino stomps his way north. "At last!" he declares, "After all the long months of waiting, preparing, counting every minute and hour, it's finally time... time for the Rhino to strike!" As he nears the border station, two guards come out to stop him. "Looks to me like it's just some nut in a rhinocerus (sic) mask!" says one but he starts to draw his gun anyway. Okay, so in one panel, the guards seem to be on the Rhino's left side with one of the guards even yelling, "He's trying to make it past us!" and calling to the Rhino to "Come back, or we shoot!" In the next panel, the Rhino is heading right for them and the guards shoot him point blank. But the bullets only bounce off his tough hide. Only now does Stan have one guard say, "Look out!! He's changed direction!! He's startin' to charge right towards us!" doing his best damage control. (But, really, where was the Rhino going before heading straight for the guards? Avoiding them? What for? He's the Rhino!) The Rhino picks up speed on his approach. Even though their guns had no effect, the guards actually try to reach out and grab him and get easily knocked aside. Two more guards run up to help but it's too late. The Rhino is already smashing "thru the concrete blockhouse" and stomps his way through a whole lot of nothing. (Only... if he really approached the country at our southernmost border, shouldn't the Rhino have had to cross the Rio Grande?)

Back in New York, a happy Peter Parker walks along thinking about his soon-to- be-purchased motorcycle, which he calls "that little two-wheeled tornado". "I'll bet riding it is almost as groovy as web-swinging!" he thinks. (Doesn't he know for sure? Didn't he test-drive it?) Then, purely by chance, he runs into Betty Brant, who has just arrived back in town a few minutes before. (Remember we saw her last issue in the Chicago train station deciding to return to New York. Which means, I suspect, that this issue takes place the day after the last issue. Which also means that Peter has been checking out that motorcycle for the last month without letting us in on it.) The two former lovers are thrilled to see each other but can't really think of anything much to say. Peter suggests getting a cup of coffee and the two go to a café. While there, Peter asks Betty if she had a nice time on the coast and Betty says she did... but I don't think Peter should know where Betty was since she just up and left without telling anyone. Then Betty asks about Aunt May and the Bugle until finally the two sit next to each other with nothing to say. "All these months" thinks Peter, "I thought about her, dreamt about her, longed for her! So, now she's returned and nothingsville! Whatever we had before, whatever there was between us, it's gone!" Just then, Peter is rescued by Ned Leeds who was passing by and, spying Pete, stops in to chat. He now sees Betty and can't believe his eyes. He has so much to talk about with Betty that he doesn't know where to start. Betty seems to feel the same way. Peter decides to leave the two budding lovebirds together. He tells them he has an appointment and must run off. "I'll, eh, give you a ring later on some time, hear?" he tells Betty and she blandly replies, "Yes, Peter! You do that!" That's all Pete needs to hear. "That sinks it!" he thinks, "She feels the same way I do! She didn't even bother to give me her new address!" (But in all fairness to Betty, Pete, if she did just arrive a few minutes ago, she doesn't have a new address yet.) So Betty and Ned go one way; Peter goes another. As he leaves, he realizes, "We never had anything in common! It's just that she was the first girl I ever thought I loved!" But these thoughts are dismissed when Pete sees a television in a shop window that is broadcasting footage of the Rhino. The news reports that "after crashing thru every road block, he appears to be headed directly towards New York!" Two kids also watching the television get into an argument about it. The red-haired kid thinks "the Rhino is the strongest guy in the whole world" while the brown- haired kid thinks, "if he comes here, ol' Spider-Man'll make mince meat outta him". Pete also thinks, "if he does reach the city, I probably will have to pit my spider powers against his own brute strength". (So, now, Spider-Man is suddenly the only super-hero in New York City?)

Now it appears that the TV shop is right next to the Daily Bugle because Pete looks over and sees JJJ coming out to a waiting car with a familiar-looking Colonel, who he then remembers is "his son, the astronaut I rescued a few years ago as Spider-Man". Jonah holds a cigar in his right hand as he puts his left hand on John's back. John carries a briefcase in his left hand and the two of them approach the open car door flanked by the two government bodyguards. Pete runs over to thank Mr. J. for helping him with the bank loan but he is pushed back by one of the guards who also reaches into his jacket, apparently for a gun. "Don't you know federal agents when you see them, Parker?" barks Jonah as John gets into the car and is driven away. Pete wonders about the federal agents but decides to change the subject when Jonah starts ranting about how his son is a bigger hero than "that phony fraud Spider-Man". Pete thanks Jonah again for vouching for him. "Okay, okay you're breakin' my heart" replies Jameson, "Just make sure you get some pix of the Rhino if he comes this way, that's all!"

Peter heads back to Forest Hills with two things on his mind. Why are federal agents guarding John Jameson and "how is Aunt May gonna take the news of my new bike"? As soon as he walks through the door, he announces that he made a down payment on a new motorcycle and May doesn't "even bat an eye". "That's nice, Peter dear!" she says, "I hope you'll drive it carefully." Peter realizes that his Aunt must have something else on her mind and May starts to bring it up by mentioning that she and Anna Watson had a nice chat earlier, continuing with "Well, actually, she wanted to know if I'd..." but that's as far as she can get. "Oh, pshaw!" she says. (Yes. She really says, "pshaw".) "It was just woman talk! It wouldn't interest you!" Peter knows she is concerned about something but he figures she'll tell him in her own good time. He goes up to his room to hang up his blue jacket (since he's still wearing the blue suit with the yellow vest, white shirt and black tie) and starts thinking about how nice it would be to have his own apartment. Except, "how could I leave Aunt May all alone? If only there were someone to look after her!" He looks into his closet where his Spidey suit is nicely hung up on a hanger; with the mask and gloves nicely hung up in there somehow too. (So, Pete is not wearing his suit under his clothes these days and he leaves it just hanging up in his closet where snoopy old Aunt May could stumble on it at any moment.) He would like to go out and do some web-swinging but he has a term paper to write. Try as he might, though, he can't keep his mind on the paper. (Maybe he should try turning on more lights besides the little one at his desk so that he's not sitting in the dark.) Too many thoughts intrude. He can't wait to pick up his bike, he wonders about the federal agents, he wonders if he'll ever have his own apartment, he wonders how he ever thought Betty was the girl for him, and he wonders if the Rhino will reach New York and what he's after.

Meanwhile, at a train yard outside of the city, a cop named Charlie hears someone moving inside a parked railroad car. "End of the line, Mac!" he calls out. "This ain't a hobo hotel!" In response, the Rhino smashes out of the car. Charlie and his partner shoot at the Rhino to no effect. The partner tells Charlie to call the precinct and Charlie runs off to do so but it's all too late. The Rhino is off and running to complete his mission in the city.

Back to Peter Parker, who, Stan now tells us, is "trying to concentrate on a problem in advanced calculus" (even though Peter told us that he had to write a term paper; maybe he switched to his other homework) when the radio announces a bulletin that "the rampaging Rhino has just been sighted on New York's West Side!" (Well, there's your problem right there. No wonder Peter couldn't concentrate on his homework. He had the radio on!) Knowing that "nobody's safe while [the Rhino's] at large (not to mention that it gets him out of his schoolwork), Peter grabs his Spidey suit from the closet, puts it on, goes out the window, and crawls down the wall of the house. Moments later, he is web- swinging in Manhattan.

Over at a fancy Midtown hotel suite, John Jameson is sitting around with his dad (who must have joined him later) when they hear gunfire and shouts outside the room. Next thing they know, the Rhino smashes his way through the doors with a "skrak!". Both men recoil in terror and John realizes that "He got past the guards! He's after me!" (Too bad Stan and John didn't show us the Rhino's run from the train yards, through Manhattan, into the hotel, and up to the suite. I particularly miss the scene of him taking the elevator.) Not long after this attack, Spidey sees squad cars converging on the hotel and stops to investigate. He peeks in the window of the suite and sees Jonah screaming at two government men about the Rhino taking his son. One of the g-men is on the phone to Washington. The other promises that they will throw "a cordon around the entire city". That's all Spidey needs to know. He web-swings a block or so until he finds the Rhino stomping along, with an unconscious John tossed over his shoulder. And the area is completely deserted. Not a single cop, not a single bystander, absolutely no one at all. In fact, no one else shows up for the next five pages.

Figuring that the police won't show up in time (and he's right), Spidey leaps down and lands on the Rhino's head. This knocks the Rhino down but, letting go of John Jameson, he retaliates with a two fisted punch (WOK!) that staggers Spider-Man. "He not only looks like a Rhino, I feel like I've just been butted by one!" thinks the woozy web-slinger as he leans up against a wall and covers his face with his right hand. "Spider-Man you are a fool!" bellows the onrushing Rhino, who is really much more articulate than he is portrayed in later appearances, "This wasn't your fight! But you brought it on yourself!" Head down, the Rhino charges at Spidey but the wall-crawler manages to leap out of the way. Good thing too, because the Rhino's horns gouge a big hole in the brick wall. Spidey is shocked to see that "He's not even hurt! He just seems madder than ever!" The fight has drifted away from John's unconscious body so Spidey feels that he can really let loose. But the Rhino still doesn't seem to feel his punch. Spidey feels it though. "It darn near broke my hand!" he thinks. As the Rhino takes a swing at him, the web-slinger leaps away onto another nearby wall. He tells "Rhiny" that "your strength can never match my spider-speed! So why don't we talk things over?" The first thing Spidey wants to know is why the Rhino wants Colonel Jameson. The Rhino tells him it's not personal. "But there are other countries who'll pay me a fortune for delivering him!" Then he proves to be faster than Spidey thought as he rushes over and slaps the web-spinner right off the wall. Swiftly, he pounces, trying to pummel Spidey's face with both fists but the webster evades him and all he does is put a couple of big holes in the sidewalk. ("Does your costume itch?" asks Spidey, "Something must be making you so irritable!") The wall-crawler retaliates by kicking Rhino hard enough to knock him back with a "Bok!" right into a lamppost with a "Clang". The lamppost bends from the impact but the Rhino gets right back up and charges. ("I wonder if he was bitten by a radioactive Sherman tank!" thinks Spidey.) Knowing he can't withstand the charge, Spidey jumps out of the way, adhering to the lamppost, as the Rhino runs right into a telephone booth, shredding it. "Hey, Rhiny, wouldn't it have been easier just to drop a dime in the slot?" asks Spidey, even as police sirens fill the air. The Rhino is tired of taking Spidey's guff. "Mock me, will you?" he says, "You'll live to regret that!" As the webhead perches on the lamppost, the Rhino throws the telephone at him. (Which has got to be a first in a super-hero/super-villain fight.) "Nobody has ever made a fool of the Rhino!" he declares. "No?" replies Spidey, "What about the clown who designed those goofy threads of yours?" At this point, Spidey is just trying to keep him busy until the riot squad arrives (or until the five pages are up). He notices the Rhino about to charge and leaps just as Rhiny rams the lamppost, half uprooting it from the sidewalk. ("I'll get you off that perch you stupid smirking stringbean" says the Rhino and it is worth noting again how articulate he is and how lazy later writers were to turn him into just another dim bulb bruiser.)

As Spidey bounces from the lamppost to the sidewalk, he decides that his only chance is to tire the Rhino out since he can't hurt him. That means he has to keep dodging the Rhino's charges. Coming on all tough, he calls the Rhino out. ("Okay, Rhiny, come 'n get it! I'm thru running now! So, here's where I knock you into the middle of next week!") The Rhino rises to the bait, yelling, "Just stay where you are, Spider-Man! That's all I ask! Just stay where you are!" Of course, that's just what Spidey's not going to do. He sidesteps the Rhino and gives him a two-fisted smack in the back as he runs by. This smashes the Rhino right through another wall but doesn't faze him. Forgetting that Rhiny isn't as slow as he looks, Spidey doesn't react fast enough to the Rhino's retaliatory slap, which sends him to the ground. Spidey counters by covering the Rhino with webbing. While Rhiny tries to extricate himself, Spidey launches himself and headbutts him in the gut. This doesn't even knock the Rhino to the ground and he starts to free himself from the webbing but Spidey is pleased to note that Rhino's next punch, which misses, "was a little slower". "He's finally beginning to tire, I hope!"

When the punch doesn't work, Rhino tries to stomp Spidey with his foot. "Uh uh! No fair! Kickies don't count!" jabs Spidey as he springs away from the blow. Finding Rhino off-balance, Spidey jumps up and gets a scissor hold with his legs around Rhiny's neck. Deciding that "I've got to find out: is he a human powerhouse wearing a nutty costume or is he just some ordinary joe who gets his power from those duds?", Spidey twists his legs so that the Rhino's head is smashed (with a "Phtunk!") right into the sidewalk. "If this doesn't shake you loose from that horned beanie hat of yours, then I may have to find myself a new hobby!" Spidey says.

But the Rhino does get back up, even as Spidey notices John Jameson starting to recover behind the villain. Then, as the Rhino starts to mount another (albeit shaky) charge, the police also arrive behind him... which is how we know that the five pages of battle are over. The cops jump out of their squad cars with their guns drawn but Spidey tells them to save their bullets. The Rhino may be trying to muster up a charge but he doesn't get very far; collapsing unconscious at Spidey's feet.

Jonah Jameson, with the police, runs up to check on his son. Once he finds out that John is okay, he starts barking at the police to "grab that wall- crawler". "On what charge, Mr. Jameson?" asks one detective. "Charge shmarge!" says Jonah, "Cause he's a fink!" With Jonah still trying to get someone to arrest him, Spidey decides to cut out. He climbs a nearby wall (Jonah screaming at him from down below) but one thing still worries him. "How are they gonna keep the Rhino in jail after they get him there?" Spidey's not the only one worrying about that. Once the cops determine that they can't get the Rhino suit off and will have to "lock him up wearing it", an ambulance attendant wonders, "But what happens when he comes to? He might crash right out thru the walls!" Deciding to worry about that when the time comes, the men put the Rhino on a stretcher and get him into the ambulance. Nearby, JJJ still can't get over that "that web-slinging weasel [got] away scot-free". John tells his dad that Spidey "caught the Rhino and probably saved me" but Jonah doesn't buy it. "For all we know that masked menace wanted to grab you away from the Rhino so he himself could capture you" he says, smacking his fist into his hand. John doesn't take any of this seriously. He puts a hand on his father's shoulder and tells him he must return to the Cape. "Try to calm down and forget about Spider-Man" he says. "Spider-Man!" replies JJ, "I never give that low-life a thought! Far as I'm concerned, he doesn't even exist! Spider- Man? Who's he? Never heard of him!" (J. Jonah Jameson, everybody! Isn't he great! That's all of his show for now but he'll be back next ish!)

Still climbing a wall, Spidey continues to worry about the Rhino. He wishes he knew more about him, "his origin, how he got his power, and if he has any weaknesses". Worried that "next time he'll be a lot harder for me to handle", Spidey decides to study the photos he took of the battle... and then realizes he never set up his automatic camera. "That means, no pix!" he says, smacking himself in the forehead.

But things are looking up for Peter Parker the next day as he picks up his new motorcycle from the salesman (whose name, we now learn, is Mr. Kraft) and drives it right to Empire State University. He starts to buzz past Harry, Gwen, and Flash but Gwen flags him down. As Harry and Flash admire the wheels, Peter and Gwen drift a few yards away and chat. "How do you like 'er, Gwen?" Pete asks, hitching his thumb at the cycle. "A knockout, Pete!" says Gwen. "Just like you are, Gwendolen", thinks Peter, giving us Gwen's full first name for the first time, albeit spelled wrong. "Was I ever so wrapped up in Betty that I couldn't see this living pin-up under my nose!" he continues to himself, "Something tells me my luck is about to change!" (And you know why, Pete? Because Steve Ditko isn't in charge of your fate anymore. It was Steve, not Stan, who always wanted to keep you as a hard-luck case.) Gwen tells Pete that she never took him for a motorcycle type. Pete tells her, "there's a lot you don't know about me! But, stick around, I'm planning to educate you!" "Peter Parker! What on Earth has changed you so?" asks Gwen. "Nothing, Gwen" replies Pete, "Maybe the real me is just beginning to break thru!" And he heads off with a little wave, thinking, "Those eyes! Those lips! She's too much!" Flash asks Gwen what's up with "Mr. Bookworm" and Gwen tells him, "whatever it is... maybe some of it will rub off on you". Then she thinks about "the way Pete looked at me, like he was seeing me for the first time."

Soon, Pete is riding his bike up to the house in Forest Hills. Aunt May and Anna Watson are out on the porch and they join Pete in the driveway to admire his new wheels. "Isn't she a beaut?" asks Pete. "I suppose so, Peter dear!" says May, "It's a real pussywillow!" (This is the first time of many for this routine.) Anna tells May that "the expression is pussycat" and May pats Peter on the cheek and tells him she's glad he got the cycle "if that's what you wanted". "Thanks, Aunt May" says Peter, "you're a real pussywillow". Anna heads back home but reminds May that she and Peter are "coming to my house for dinner Sunday night". May is looking forward to this because she wants Peter to finally meet Mary Jane. Then she sticks a finger in Pete's face and tells him "Poor Mary Jane has been wanting to meet you for months!" and that there'll be no excuses this time. Figuring he'll finally have to get this meeting over with, Pete agrees to be there. Then he gets on his bike and rides into the sunset, thinking of MJ, "wouldn't it be funny if she's a real doll? Aw, c'mon, Mr. Parker, stop daydreaming! You know there isn't a chance!"

Next Issue: (Stan tells us), "We don't have to tell you we'll have a great battle, with more sensational Spidey action - you know all that! So, we'll just tip you off that you're finally about to meet: Mary Jane!"

In this month's Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page ("Newsworthy Notes and Nutty Nonsense From Your Friendly Neighborhood Bullpen!"), Stan announces the arrival of the new Marvel Super-Heroes cartoon TV show. "The characters to be featured will be: Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Sub-Mariner, and the Hulk - all in full color! What's more, we'll use exactly the same art and stories which have made our mags the sensation of the nation!" What Stan doesn't say is that the cartoon will move about as much as the pictures in the comics do. On my local station (WTTG, channel 5 in Washington D.C.), they added the Japanese cartoon 8th Man to the group (I don't know if this was a national thing or not) which was sort of like getting those stripped down "Sixth Sense" episodes in the syndication package of "Night Gallery". Those who know what I'm talking about know what I'm talking about.

Meanwhile, the merchandise page has been reduced; filling up less than half of its former space. On the top of the page is "Another Marvel Masterpiece Now on Sale!" which happens to be Fantastic Four #55, October 1966, with the Thing battling the Silver Surfer. Below that are the 26 M.M.M.S. members for this issue: Susie Kirkpatrick of Fort Worth, Texas; Timothy Barbour of Cincinnati, Ohio; Wayne Killott of Oakland, California; Ray Fowler of Douglasville, Georgia; Timmothy (with two "m"s) Boyle of Pittsburg (without an "h"), Pennsylvania; Gordon Callaghan of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; T.B. Childress of Chicago, Illinois; William Lee of San Francisco, California; James Gaan (not to be confused with James Caan) of San Francisco, California; William Bartels of Rock Island, Illinois; Ronald Amadeo of Pleasantville, New Jersey; Jeffrey Farquhar of Charloroi, Pennsylvania; David Crank of Haynesville, Louisiana; Gary Jorgensen of Colonia, New Jersey; Jan Gustafson of Houston, Texas; Todd Clark of Carmichaels, Pennsylvania; Bill Gavelis of Detroit, Michigan; William Hurley of Gaithersburg, Maryland; Bruce Haas of Baltimore, Maryland; Daniel Cohen of Brooklyn, New York; John Jamieson of Downer's Grove, Illinois; Gil Levey of San Rafael, California; Dick Loo of Vernon, Canada; Henry Corzine of Naples, Florida; Doug Koba of Moses Lake, Washington; and Gary Henderson of Flushing, New York. And so ends my typing lesson for this month.

Below the M.M.M.S., as mentioned, is the merchandise ad, which is down to only selling the Thing "It's Clobbering Time" sweatshirt... with this note: "Positively the last time you will feast your eyes on this breathtaking display of the result of Marvel's sneaky venture into the garment business! Because we won't be advertising it anymore!" For a couple of issues, at any rate.

In The Spider's Web, Stan has changed the openings of several letters to "Dear Stan and John" even though the letters refer to issues that were plotted and drawn by Ditko. In the letters themselves, Martin Swiatkowski, Jr. of Cleveland, Ohio thinks JJJ's new unnamed secretary, introduced in ASM #37, June 1966 might be Mary Jane. He's wrong, of course, but I rather like this guess. Meanwhile, Bill Fletcher of George Washington University in Washington D.C. doesn't care for the way the protesters were portrayed in ASM #38, July 1966 "It is unfortunately true that there are often a number of clods and politically naïve schlemiels who frequent picket lines and social protest movements as a crutch for their own personal inadequacies. However, this fact does not necessarily detract from whatever issue the picket line is attempting to focus attention upon. The real point is precisely that issue, not the personal appearance or the boorish behavior of the protestors. Much in the manner of some politician who attacks civil rights workers on the basis of their dress and appearance, without speaking to the real issues of why they are there, you have painted a picture of student protest which focuses on the personalities of the picketers, not the reason for their picketing." Stan very graciously refrains from pinning it on Ditko (who was writing plots that were "hard on beatniks" as John Romita put it) claiming that the protesters scene was "a little comedy relief" and "a relatively innocuous sequence". Doug Palmer of Berkeley, California sends a letter that could only be written in Berkeley in the sixties. "Shall Spider-Man share his secret identity with one other person or even several other people? Because the alternative is death!... If you want Peter to live, let him be as other human beings. Is he a man? Is he honest? Does he know his way? Can he love? Look, that's what we're all facing: in this world, can we marry, bring up good children, make a new age? I see this as Spider-Man's potential - vast potential, if you don't stultify him. Let him have vision! Talk to young people, in their early 20's, see how they react to these ideas. Look at Bob Dylan's reach. They say it takes all kinds of people to make a world... Why not let Spider-Man pick up on different villains, trying to get on good terms with them? He might learn a lot from them. Are there real possibilities of deep, deep excitement in learning from... others? A villain, finally, is just somebody else! The question of life: can I make it with somebody else? Can Spider-Man? Let him. Make him. All alone, adventures get pretty cold. Help poor Peter Parker be all warm inside." Uh... far out, Doug. I can dig it. Power to the people, man. All you need is love.

The mop-up:

Poor old Rhino. I'm not sure why the Commies dropped him off in Mexico and made him run all the way to New York when they could have snuck him in on a sub or something. And things only get worse. Eventually, he becomes a victim of the extended appearances syndrome. You know what I mean. The more appearances a villain makes, the harder it is for the writer to come up with novel ways to defeat him so he ends up just getting beaten up by the hero instead. After this happens enough times, the villain gets the reputation of being a joke. In the Rhino's case, he has not only been reduced to being the one page filler until the real villain comes along but turned into a low-IQ has-been used in a "Flowers For Algernon" pastiche. There is just a brief window where the Rhino is truly formidable; intelligent, evil, and nearly unstoppable. So enjoy him while you can. He'll be back briefly next issue.

John Jameson and his outer space spores are also back next time. As are Betty Brant and Ned Leeds and J. Jonah Jameson and Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker's motorcycle. Oh, and, uh, Mary Jane.

In General...

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

  1. Anna Watson's middle name revealed.
  2. Second John Jameson appearance. (First was ASM #1)
  3. First appearance of the Rhino.
  4. Betty Brant returns to New York.
  5. First time Spidey has a phone from a phone booth thrown at him.
  6. First (and only?) appearance of Mr. Kraft.
  7. Gwen's full first name revealed as "Gwendolen".
  8. First time Aunt May calls something (in this case Pete's motorcycle) or someone "a pussywillow".

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

Romita-Demeo/Lee/Simek

  • "The Horns of the Rhino" - Peter gets his cycle. - Origin and first encounter with the Rhino.

    Overall Rating...

    Now that Stan has Ditko and the Goblin out of the way, he can really go to work. In this one issue alone, he brings back John Jameson and Betty Brant, gives Pete a motorcycle, turns the corner on the Peter-Gwen relationship, and introduces a villain who looked like a formidable classic at the time. The fact that a guy in a rhino suit can appear to be a formidable classic is a credit to John Romita's design. In fact, under JR, Peter, Betty and Gwen are looking better than ever. Oh, and who can resist an issue with the villain throwing a phone and Jonah throwing darts at his own Spider-Man poster (purchased from Marvel no doubt)? This is really where Steve's Spider-Man starts to become Stan's Spider-Man and it's looking pretty good.

    Five webs.

    Footnote...

    Next: Expecting to see MJ? Not so fast. First Spidey meets...Superman?