Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #46
This story is part of a Lookback Series: From The Beginning
This review was first published on: 2007.
Let's look over the shoulder of a hypothetical Stan as he goes through his post- Ditko checklist. "Hmmm. Let's see. Reveal Green Goblin as Norman Osborn. Check. Make Ned Leeds and Harry Osborn chummy with Pete. Check. End the Peter Parker- Betty Brant relationship; announce Betty's engagement to Ned. Check. Reveal Mary Jane's face, have Johnny make her gorgeous. Check. Give Pete a motorcycle and draft Flash into the Army in a continuing effort to move Pete away from the "Puny Parker" persona. Check. Anything else? Yes. Get Pete out of Aunt May's house and into a Manhattan apartment. Coming right up!
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #46
Mar 1967 : SMURF 046.500 : SM Title
Summary: First Shocker
Reprinted In: Marvel Masterworks #22
Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #186
Reprinted In: Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual #8
Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #3
Reprinted In: Spider-Man Pocket Book #26
|Articles: Watson, Anna, Aunt May Parker, The Big Man, Flash Thompson, Green Goblin II (Harry Osborn), Gwen Stacy, Jameson, J. Jonah, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, The Shocker|
The new Marvels have hit the drug stores and are on the spinning racks. What's on the cover of the new Spider-Man? Well, there's a new villain dressed in a brown and yellow costume that covers him head to toe and looks like it was made out of a baffled quilt. Some green and white waves of force project from his fists, which are pointed at Spider-Man who evades them by some fancy web- slinging. The force waves strike a Doric column instead, breaking it into five pieces. (The column, we later discover, is in a bank and the scene takes place on page 14 panel 1). In Johnny's layout, Spider-Man is the central figure; our eyes are first drawn to him. Since he is semi-upside-down, we follow his arms down to his web, which draws our attention to the villain. We then follow the force waves to the column. Since the column pieces are tumbling, we look from the top to the bottom. As we work our way down, we encounter a jagged ball of text that reads, "Who says this isn't the Marvel Age of vile new villains? You and Spidey are about to be jolted by: The Sinister Shocker!" So now we know the name of the new guy. As with many of Johnny's other Spidey covers, the design is simple and uncluttered with the background merging into grayness but the layout is dynamic with Johnny confidently leading our eyes exactly where he wants them to go.
Now, in case you didn't get the name of our new villain from the big cover blurb, the title on the top of the splash page announces, "The Sinister Shocker!" with the last word written with small wiggle lines around each letter to make it appear that it is shaking. And why wouldn't it be? The illustration below shows an upside-down Spidey, still wearing his sling from last issue, losing his grip on a wall because he is also surrounded by wiggle lines signifying, as Spidey puts it, that, "the whole wall... it's vibrating! But why? How?" (Spidey apparently didn't read the title even though he is upside- down and looking right up at it.)
Getting away from the quivering wall, Spidey uses his one good arm to grab a lamppost (also quivering), swing around and perch on it. There is smoke coming out of a second story window so Spidey sets up his automatic camera and swings in to see what's going on. He finds a fellow dressed in a brown and yellow quilt standing in front of an opened walk-in safe. There are packets of money on the floor and in an opened suitcase. When the villain turns and blurts out, "Spider-Man!" the web-slinger replies, "Well, I'm not Hubert Humphrey!" "And who was Hubert Humphrey?" I hear you ask. Well, at this point in time, he was Vice President of the United States. When the bad guy threatens to "ram those wise guy words right down [Spidey's] throat, the webhead says, "Not from over there you won't! Unless you can punch clear across a room!" But the villain makes a fist, clicks a button with his thumb and sends out "violent vibrations" towards the wall-crawler. "This is why they call me... the Shocker!" he brags. (So, let's see. Cover blurb: "You and Spidey are about to be jolted by the Sinister Shocker!" Splash page title: "The Sinister Shocker!" Page 2: "This is why they call me... the Shocker!" So I guess this guy's name is... The Shocker?) Spidey has taken his smart pills today and immediately deduces that this "must be how he opened the safe." In the time it takes the web-slinger to dodge the blast, the Shocker packs up the suitcase and starts to head out. But Spidey leaps down, balances with his good arm and springs up catching the Shocker in the jaw with two kicks. ("Now don't get the feeling I'm mad at you," says the wall crawler, "It's just that I hate anybody to skip around town in a jazzier costume than mine!") The Shocker drops the suitcase, which opens again, disgorging money. He turns and administers "a punch with a trip-hammer vibration shock added" that knocks Spidey backwards. He follows up with a left uppercut, claiming "the vibro-shock unit on my fists makes my blows a dozen times more potent than normal" as he punches. He also tells Spidey, "I'm more interested in my stolen wealth than I am in battling my inferiors!" (That's right! His "inferiors!" Hard to imagine the Shocker saying such things these days since he has mostly been reduced to being a joke)
Spidey hits the deck, his head apparently banging against the wall. As he tries to shake the cobwebs, he realizes that the Shocker is tougher than he thought and that having a "taped-up injured arm" hinders him. But he immediately gets up and headbutts the Shocker right in the gut. He follows that up with a good hard punch but discovers Shocky's "got another built-in gadget that makes him vibrate, deflecting the force of my blow." Before Spidey can follow up, the Shocker hits him with "a double vibro-smash" or, as the Shocker puts it, "my twin punch with the combined force of both my vibro-smashers." Then he actually refers to his "superior power" as he smashes Spidey right through a wall.
Before we learn the result of that double punch, it's time for another installment of "More Marvel Masterpieces." Three different issues touted this time... all classics. First Fantastic Four #60, March 1967 with the climax of the story of Dr. Doom stealing the Silver Surfer's power. Then Tales to Astonish #89, March 1967 with the Hulk battling the Stranger and Namor taking on Attuma. Finally, Strange Tales #154, March 1967 with Dr. Strange versus Umar and a cool Steranko S.H.I.E.L.D. story. Only 12 cents apiece. Grab 'em fast!
Meanwhile, the wall has been completely demolished. Spidey lies on the rubble in the adjoining room, his feet still dangling on the wall's jagged remains. The Shocker, still on his ego trip, tells the half-conscious web-slinger, "Next time you'll know better than to challenge your superiors!" (He even thinks he is "the most invincible human on Earth." Does he know about "humans" like the Hulk and the Thing?) Then he picks up his suitcase and splits, leaving the wall- crawler to lick his wounds. It is only "seconds later" according to Stan that Spidey recovers but the Shocker is long gone. He gets to one knee and rubs the back of his neck. Then he returns to the window to check on his camera before descending to an alley to change out of his Spidey duds. As he puts a white shirt on over his outfit, Peter muses that his arm is "healing pretty well now!" But deciding to "keep it immobile for a little while longer" he dons a sling and starts walking to the Daily Bugle. Moments later, Harry Osborn pulls up in his convertible and offers Pete a lift. (Does Harry follow Peter around? He keeps showing up to offer Pete a lift in the heart of Manhattan. How does he do it?) Pete tells Harry that he's heading to the Bugle and Harry agrees to take him. Besides, "I've got an offer to make you, son," he tells Peter. Pete climbs in and Harry tells him that he has finally convinced his father that it is too much trouble to drive in to school every day from their home in Westchester. "Don't tell me he's buying you a whirlybird, Harr?" jokes Pete. "Better than that," Harry replies. His dad has gotten him an apartment "just a couple of blocks from campus" and it has two bedrooms. Harry asks Pete to join him as a roommate. When Pete tells him he probably can't afford it, Harry informs him that his dad is "footing the rent bill." Pete tells Harry that he'd "leap at it in a second" but he has to check with Aunt May first. Harry drops him off at the Bugle and Pete muses that, "it's funny the way Harry and I have become real good friends," which mostly happened between issues, didn't it? Let's check. In Amazing Spider-Man #39, August 1966, Harry snaps at Pete, then apologizes, prompting Peter to think "Something must be really bugging him! He's almost acting human!" In Amazing Spider-Man #42, November 1966, Harry defends Pete, telling Flash he's "probably got his reasons" for bowing out of a party. In Amazing Spider-Man #43, December 1966 he tells Flash, "isn't it time that you and Pete buried the hatchet?" In Amazing Spider-Man #44, January 1967, Pete hangs out with Gwen, Flash, and Harry at the Silver Spoon. MJ arrives and Harry is very impressed that Pete knows her. In Amazing Spider-Man #45, February 1967, Harry suggests that Pete could work part-time with his father. And that's about it. Now maybe Harry is just really impressed that Pete is going out with a knockout like Mary Jane but it's a big leap from what we've seen to asking a guy to be your roommate and becoming "real good friends." So, as I said, things must have happened between issues. Meanwhile, Pete further muses over the fact that Harry's father used to be the Green Goblin, a loose end that Peter doesn't seem one bit worried about. Instead, when Harry suggests that "next time you see Mary Jane, lemme know and I'll call Gwen" in order to "make a jazzy double-date," all Pete can think about is that Harry's "sure been seeing a lot of Gwen lately" and wondering why that bothers him. So immersed is Pete in such thoughts that he walks right past Frederick Foswell without responding to his "hello." This suits Foswell just fine because this gives him a chance to change into his Patch disguise and follow Peter in order to learn what connection there is between the college student and the web-slinger. (And Johnny draws Foswell with an evil leer on his face, perhaps foreshadowing the character's slide into crime and his eventual fate. But, er, that's a few months in the future and there's no indication of that as yet.) Meanwhile, Peter heads into JJJ's office with his photos of the Shocker. What transpires over the next five panels is another of Stan's great Jonah-Peter dialogues that deserves to be reprinted in its entirety.
Jonah: A new costumed creep, eh? Calls himself the Shocker?
Pete: And, as far as I know these are the only photos of him anywhere!
Jonah: He looks like a nut but he'll sure sell newspapers!
Pete: That's what I figured! So how about some bread?
Jonah: If you're hungry, go to the downstairs commissary and charge it to me!
Pete: I was referring to scratch, long green, folding stuff, money to you!
Jonah: Money?? Don't you trust me, Parker?
Pete: A question like that can ruin a great relationship, JJ!
Jonah: All right, you young Shylock! I'll have Betty Brant get you a check! Miss Brant! Where in blazes is that girl?
Pete: Isn't this coffee-break time up here?
Jonah: Coffee-break! Big deal! The only thing no one takes is a work break in this place! Blasted gold-brickin' lazy no-goods!
Pete: Pay now, cry later!
Jonah (pounding his fist on his desk): Everyone takes advantage of me! Here, I'll write out your blasted check!
Pete: I'm flattered! I know those things slip through your fingers like glue!
Jonah (on phone): Ver-ry funny! Now take off while I get 'em to stop the presses! GXxx$;;:!!! Even the press room doesn't answer! How long do coffee- breaks last around here, anyway? I ought'a give up publishing and start raisin' coffee beans!
Pete: Thanks for the dough, Mr. Jameson! Keep smilin', sweetie!
They don't write 'em like that anymore.
Peter heads outside, remembering that Aunt May is returning from her vacation and will be at the train station in a few minutes. But now he has a tail. Patch is peaking around a corner at him. He plans to stick with Peter until Spider-Man shows up and then get the evidence that the two of them are working together.
On the other side of town, the Shocker is arriving at his hideout in "an old abandoned loft building." He feels so good about his battle with Spider-Man that he considers finding and destroying the web-slinger "just to show the world how powerful I am." And deluded, Shocker! Don't forget deluded! He arrives in a room so full of scientific equipment, he probably could have lived on Easy Street by just not spending the money to buy all that stuff. He dumps the contents of the suitcase out on a table and glories in the "hundreds and hundreds of greenbacks" that tumble out. "This is what I always dreamed of in the old days," he thinks, which sends him down Memory Lane. He recalls that he was "just a two-bit safe-cracker, bumbling, frightened." Unaware of extra guards at the site of his safe-cracking caper, he is captured when they hear the explosion caused by his nitro. Put to work in the prison tool shop, he spent months designing "a set of tools that can open any safe silently in seconds." One day at the shop, he realized that "a gadget that can shake a safe door loose would be better than anything else" and built a big clunky-looking machine over the succeeding months. Apparently the wall of the tool shop is the only thing separating the Shocker from freedom because he uses his clunky vibrating machine, smashing the wall and escaping from prison. But he "didn't realize that the feedback would be so strong" and it nearly kills him. Still, he gets away and then spends weeks developing a quilt for a costume with "foam- lined fabric and heavy boots" that "will absorb any future shocks" adding a belt with "a lifetime battery for a permanent power pack." He then designs his "vibrashock units" with "metal knuckle plates" that have a button that is "thumb-operated." For some reason, he thinks all of this makes him "unbeatable." So sure is he that he poses menacingly with black lines radiating off him and declares, "From this day on, the Shocker has proven himself supreme! No one that lives can stop me!" Is this guy heading for a fall or what?
"Meanwhile, at the newly-constructed Penn Station," (a nice, now historical tidbit from Stan), Aunt May waits for Peter's arrival. She's worrying, as usual, but this time she's concerned about how Pete is "going to take the news I have for him." Pete shows up with his left arm in a sling but May is too preoccupied to make much of a comment on it. They give each other a big hug and both try to bring up their own "important matter." As they exit the station, May blurts out her news. "Mrs. Watson is so lonely since Mary Jane moved away," she says, "and she wants me to come and stay with her! I'd love to do it but it would mean leaving you all alone at home." (When do you suppose Anna and May actually discussed this? Were they having secret chats during May's vacation?) Peter is so wrapped up in his own desire to move out that May's news doesn't register at first. When it does, he tells May "it's time you thought of yourself for a change," then lets her know that he'd like to move in with Harry Osborn. "And that means you can sell the house and have enough money to live comfortably for the next few years!" he says.
Let's pause for a moment because I always thought Anna moved into May's house and May certainly didn't sell her house. She hung on to it until it was destroyed by Charlie Weiderman in Amazing Spider-Man #518, May 2005. Let's monitor this in upcoming issues and see who ends up living where.
Now, apparently Peter and his frail old Aunt walk all the way from midtown Manhattan to Forest Hills, Queens because the next thing we know, they're approaching the Watson house where Anna and MJ are waiting on the front porch. May tells Anna that it is all right with Peter if she moves in while Pete and MJ head "over to the Silver Spoon to celebrate." ("Celebrations are my favorite people, Dad!" says groovy MJ.) They arrive one panel later. Flash and Harry are sharing a table. Flash asks MJ, "Where'd ya dig up the son of Frankenstein?" Ever ready with a quip, MJ replies, "Bela Lugosi rented him to me!" Harry, hip as the rest of them, tells Pete and MJ "We were just getting set to spin a few platters!" (This does not mean they are going to do the old Ed Sullivan plate- spinning-on-a-stick act, for those of you from the CD/iTunes generations, who probably haven't heard of Ed Sullivan for that matter. They are planning to play some 45s on the jukebox. You know, the small records with the big hole in the center. Vinyl.) As they enter the shop, Pete looks over at a "doll dancing" so sensuously that he thinks, "Wow!" and then realizes that it's Gwen Stacy. A slightly jealous Mary Jane comments, "Gwen's not bad, Dad! Not good, maybe, but not bad!" Flash joins Gwen in the dance while Harry tells Pete and MJ that Flash's farewell party is all set. They're going to have it at the Silver Spoon "when he gets his induction notice." "There's something about a male in uniform," says MJ, "It's Wow City!" (Yes, and Mary Jane will continue to talk this way for issues and issues to come.) Some blond-haired guy holding the Daily Bugle (Headline: Shocker Smashes Spider-Man!") tells the crowd that "some nut named the Shocker made a monkey outta Spider-Man" but Flash won't have it. "Far as I'm concerned, nobody can beat the ol' web-slinger!" he says.
Pete offers to buy MJ a soda (or in 1960s Stan-speak: "Ready to dive into a two- scooper with me now MJ?") but she's rather do some dancing (Stan-speak: "Not while the juke is jumpin', Dad!" Hey MJ! Enough with the "Dad!") Pete decides he'd rather go looking for the Shocker anyway. He tells MJ he's going to take off. "Have a happy," she replies. As he heads for the door, Peter tells Harry he's able to be his roommate. "That's the livin' end!" says Harry, "Go home and pack, Jack." Just then, Gwen comes up and asks Harry to dance so Pete heads out. As he walks, he thinks about how gorgeous Gwen is and wonders how he can be unsatisfied "with a bombshell like MJ in the picture." Still, "there's something about Gwen that sinks me," he thinks and he's so lost in thought that he doesn't notice that Patch is still following him. Yes, that's right. Patch followed him to Penn Station then to Forest Hills, then to the Silver Spoon and Pete didn't have a single twinge from his spider-sense. He rounds the corner into an alley, changes into his Spider-Man duds complete with the sling and only then does his spider-sense alert him of anything. Great power you've got there, Pete! Patch peeks around the corner and sees Spidey. Spidey looks back and sees Patch. Spidey knows that Patch "won't haveta be an Einstein to dig my secret" and Patch is already digging it, thinking, "Here I've been wondering where Parker went to and the answer's been staring me in the face all the time!... He didn't go anywhere. Parker is Spider-Man!"
Oh oh, things look bad for our hero. It's time for him to think fast... and come up with one of those dopey tricks that Superman and Batman always used to pull but that you never thought you'd see in a Marvel Comic. With Patch not even looking around the corner anymore for some reason, Pete goes into an act, having a dialogue with himself, playing both Peter Parker and Spider-Man. "Hi Spidey!" he says, "No wonder I couldn't find you hiding up in the shadows like that!" (Never mind that Patch saw Spidey and not Pete so it should be Pete who is hiding up in the shadows.) Changing into his Spidey voice (by lowering his mask over his mouth), Pete says, "Parker, I told you to meet me here because I'm going after the Shocker tonight! Get your camera loaded and wait for my call!" This trick actually works with Patch immediately thinking, "I was wrong!" But, wait, it gets worse. Pete really lays it on thick, having Spidey tell him, "And remember I get 50% of the money you receive for selling the pictures!" Then he uses his spider-speed to quickly change back into his Parker duds while he keeps the dialogue going, hanging his Spidey shirt on the bottom of a fire escape in the process. And Patch still doesn't look around the corner. (Not to mention that Pete is apparently now doing the Spidey voice without putting the mask over his mouth. Further not to mention that I always thought spider-speed had to do with reflexes not the ability to quick-change. What is he now, the Flash?) While Patch obligingly continues to not peek, Pete creates a web-dummy wearing his Spidey suit. "I'll hang it by its own webbing and give it a shove to start it swinging!" he thinks, to which I reply, "huh?" Apparently this means that Pete shoots a webline to the top of the next building and attaches it to the hands of the web-dummy but how would giving it a shove get it to swing up into the air? Well, anyway it works and wouldn't you know? Patch picks this moment to look around the corner again. He sees "Spidey" swinging away while Peter watches from below. Then he quickly walks off before the web-dummy comes swinging back down again presumably. As he leaves, Patch thinks, "How could I have thought a teen-aged nobody like Parker could actually be Spider-Man! Well anyway I found out how the kid gets those exclusive photos! He's got a deal cooking with Spider-Man... It still doesn't sound kosher, though! You'd think a guy like Spider-Man could make all the dough he wants! But why fight it? I saw them and heard 'em with my own ears!" Except, of course, he didn't see them. He didn't bother to look around the corner. And this guy is supposed to be one of the top newspaper reporters in town.
It's interesting that Stan bothers to give us this scene. At first, its purpose seems to be to provide some cheap "almost lost my secret identity" thrills but then its purpose seems to be to create a plausible reason for Peter's Spidey photography. Except that Foswell doesn't ever mention this to anyone else (I don't think) and he himself is gone in seven issues. Still the explanation does crop up on occasion during Stan's run but this scene makes me wonder if he originally had other plans for Foswell and Patch before deciding to dispose of them.
With Patch gone, Pete reclaims his costume, dons it, and dispenses with the sling. ("My arm's still a little sore but what the hey!") He doesn't know where to search for the Shocker so he eavesdrops on a cop using a call box. The cop is reporting to his Sarge that there have been "tremors near the Federal Reserve Bank." The cop thinks, "It might be the Shocker." Spidey agrees. Since Stan knows that this plot gimmick is far too convenient, he uses the old trick of having Spidey know it too. "Boy!" says the web-slinger as he heads to the bank, "If it had happened that easy in a movie, I'd say it was too phony! But, for once, it'll be a pleasure not to waste half the night searching!" And just like that it feels like real life. It even makes us forget how convenient it is that "the Fed Reserve is only a few blocks from here!"
Spidey gets to the bank and, sure enough, the whole building is shaking. He enters the bank through a hole in the wall and finds the Shocker there. To Shocky's cry of "Spider-Man!" the webhead says, "You were expecting maybe the Man From UNCLE?" (I mentioned the ad for the "Amazing Spy Pen" in Amazing Spider-Man #45 that allowed you to "see through walls like Solo and Ilya in the man from U.N.C.L.E." Can you tell that "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." was a big-deal TV show of the time? For those not familiar with it, it starred Robert Vaughn as super-spy Napoleon Solo and David McCallum as associate Ilya Kuriakin with Leo G. Carroll as boss Mr. Waverly. Riffing off of James Bond, the secret agents from U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) fought the bad guys of THRUSH for four seasons from 1964-1968 in increasingly campy stories that employed increasingly ridiculous gadgetry but still retained a charm all their own. The series spawned a spin-off ("The Girl From U.N.C.L.E." starring Stephanie Powers as April Dancer, co-starring Noel Harrison, son of Rex, as Mark Slate), paperback books, comics and take-offs such as Marvel's own "Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." I loved the show back in the 60s when I was a kid but I haven't seen it since then and I suspect it has not aged well. Time Life is selling the "Complete 41 DVD Collection with All 105 Original Episodes" if anyone wants to take a chance. Anyway, the Shocker is not amused. He uses his "twin vibro-shock" to "knock [Spidey] off that perch" which just happens to be a balcony held up by our familiar Doric columns. The columns break into sections (and this is as close as we get to the cover) dropping Spidey to the ground where he stops his fall with a web cushion. As the Shocker advances, Spidey kicks a chunk of column at him but Shocky turns it "into pebbles" before it can touch him. ("Say I'll bet you'd be a scream at a party with a lampshade on your head!" says Spidey, referring to the stereotype of the drunken party bore.) Spidey quickly leaps at the Shocker but the villain gets his fists up and hits the web-slinger with a vibro- magnified power punch. The wall-crawler snags the back of the Shocker's left knee with his right foot and kicks the Shocker in the head with his left foot apparently trying to give him an ACL injury or something. He then grabs the Shocker from behind in a full-nelson grip but the Shocker vibrates his whole body and slips out of the hold. The Shocker tosses Spidey down to the floor below but the webster lands on his hands and springs away before he can be hit by another vibro-blast. The Shocker follows, leaping at Spidey with both fists charged. "Spider-strength or no, I can't take many more of those!" thinks Spidey. (See? The Shocker was a tough guy back then.) He evades the punches by jumping up and clinging to the ceiling. Standing there upside-down, he socks the Shocker as he passes by but again Shocky's vibrations cushion the blow.
The Shocker rises to attack anew but Spidey suddenly has an idea. "If it works," he thinks, "I've finally found a way to beat him!" The Shocker braces himself and prepares to unleash a "deadly full-intensity double shock blast" (sort of like "double secret probation", I think) that will put an end to the wall-crawler for good. But before he can press down on his triggers with his thumbs, Spidey shoots two web streams that snag the Shocker's thumbs and adhere to his upper arms. The webbing freezes his thumbs in place so that he can't press his "crazy control buttons" and just like that, the Shocker is beaten. Spidey deduces that, without his triggers, Shocky can't "cushion this little love-tap" and he smacks his foe in the snoot, immediately knocking him unconscious. He slips the Shocker's vibro-devices off his forearms and renders him powerless. He hangs the Shocker in a web bag, retrieves his camera (that he apparently set up between panels), and takes off, leaving the villain for the police. As he swings away, Spidey reflects that "without his little wrist- shocker set, [the Shocker is] just another cheap hood." He then thinks about what a pleasure it was to catch the bad guy, get photos, and have his arm heal up. "It's Wowville!" he says. (Wouldn't we all?)
The next morning, Peter wakes up before his alarm goes off. "In fact" he says, "I've been waking up all night!" because he's so excited about moving in with Harry. He packs all of his stuff in two suitcases. (Possibly the least believable scene in the whole issue.) When he comes downstairs, he finds Aunt May crying. Anna Watson is there all set to "drive [May] to her house" (but I thought she lived next door) and she is crying too. Peter and May grab each other's chins and gaze into each other's eyes. May says, "Peter dear, promise me you'll phone whenever you can and come to visit when you have time! And take good care of yourself! Be sure to get enough sleep and eat plenty of nourishing food! You know how fragile you are! Remember to wear your sweater when it's chilly and don't get your feet wet! And be careful whom you choose for friends! I don't ever want my Peter to associate with roughnecks." Peter says, "Remember Aunt May, it's not as though we're saying good-bye! We're just changing our addresses, that's all! Just you stay as pretty as you are and don't worry about a thing! And remember no more touch football or karate practice." (Stan, please, enough! I'm going to have to reach for my hanky.)
Then Peter heads out the door as May falls into Anna's arms. Anna tells May it was just the same when Mary Jane moved out. "That's why I'm so happy you're coming to stay with me now!" May says, "I pray he'll be all right, he'll be happy on his own." Peter puts his two suitcases on the back of his motorcycle (he not only has just two suitcases but he has two small suitcases) and rides off thinking about how wonderful Aunt May is. Which leads to him thinking that he must never let her know that he's Spider-Man. (Which is not unusual because everything makes him think that he must never let Aunt May know that he's Spider-Man.)
Soon Peter arrives at the apartment. Harry opens the door to reveal a room furnished in 60s tacky. "Welcome to the pad, lad!" he says, "It's not the Taj Mahal but it's better than a tent!" Pete is impressed with the size of it but he doesn't get a chance to talk to Harry about it. His new roommate heads right out the door, telling him to "make yourself at home." So Peter stands in the center of the room with his hands in his pockets. It looks like Harry has put in a Spider-Man throw rug but that's just a symbolic spider-signal under Pete's feet. As usual our hero hangs his head and gets morose. "I should be clicking my heels and doing cartwheels right now!" he thinks but instead he wonders "why this letdown feeling? Why this mood of depression that I can't seem to shake?" He further wonders if, in becoming Spider-Man, he "in some strange mysterious way... lost the capacity for happiness!" That may be, Pete, but I think it's more likely the start of an addiction withdrawal from Aunt May's suffocating love and wheatcakes.
"Next," says the yellow blurb box, "More powerful! More dangerous! More deadly than ever! The return of Kraven the Hunter!" That's sounds pretty cool but it's not next for us. We have a couple of other items to take care of first.
On the Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page ("Nutty Notes and Nonsensical Name- Dropping, Featuring Naturally Non-Essential News of the Nation's Top Non- Entities!") there isn't a single item that seems worthy of repeating forty years later. Marie Severin takes over Dr. Strange, Gil Kane takes over the Hulk, Gary Friedrich is hired, that sort of thing. Or am I just getting jaded?
The 26 M.M.M.S. members are: Greg Flothe of Tacoma, Washington; William Bailey of Taylor, Michigan; Mike Bembra of Waban, Massachusetts; George Berman of Waban, Massachusetts (joined at the same time as Mike Bembra, no doubt); Robert Kaesser of Rochester, New York; Howard Luedtke of Augusta, Wisconsin; Larry Cross of Tuscola, Texas; Dean Centanni of Lombard, Illinois; Arnold Glass of Forest Hills, New York (right next door to the Parkers?); Tommy Mishler of Bloomington, Indiana; Jack Elliott of Midwest City, Oklahoma (Not Ramblin' Jack Elliott, I assume.); Harold L. Adams of Bowling Green, Kentucky; Robert Menn of Ottawa, Ontario; Jay Clark of Pontiac, Michigan; Gilbert Kent Johnson of Mr. Vernon, Indiana (our first M.M.M.S. member to use first, middle, and last names, I think); Thomas Kiernam of Elmira, New York; Gordon Smith Johnson of Mt. Vernon, Indiana (Hey! Our second M.M.M.S. member to use first, middle and... Oh never mind. It's Gilbert Kent's brother.); Larry Ream of Augusta, Georgia (not to be confused with Augusta, Wisconsin where Howard Luedtke lives); Ronald Lee of New York, New York (related to Stan?); Hector Acevedo of Brooklyn, New York; Tom Adams of Florette, Pennsylvania; George Fedorke of Houston, Texas; Jeffrey Cebula of Chicago, Illinois; Bruce Emero of Gloucester, Massachusetts; Kenneth Heineman of Maumee, Ohio; and Steven Fritz of Doraville, Georgia.
And look at this! A second "More Marvel Masterpieces" page. I guess Stan's given up trying to sell more t-shirts. This page spotlights Marvel Tales #7, March 1967, which we'll review next time around, Thor #137, February 1967 featuring the Thunder God's battle with Ulik (all of the Thor issues from this time period are worth reading) and Marvel Collector's Item Classics #7, February 1967. Two of the three touted issues are reprint books. Ho-hum. Let's move on.
In the Spider's Web, readers respond to the question, "Should Spider-Man age?" Dave Mitchell of Detroit, Michigan says, "I think we should keep him at a standstill and not allow him to grow up. If we keep him at the age he is now, he would be like a symbol of American Youth, the teen years of life" but Joe Malik of Cleveland, Ohio says, "By all means, have Spidey age. The poor guy has got enough problems without finding out that he'll never grow old. Spidey is a symbol of today's teenage youth and should grow up with today's teenagers." He further recommends, "Have Spidey marry and have a son with spider powers." (Er, you may have gone too far there, Joe. How about a daughter with spider powers?) David McGuigan of New Britain, Pennsylvania says, "You've got to let Spidey grow up. If you don't, it might take away one of the biggest things about Marvel that I like." But Stan declares Lee Vercoe of Elco, Pennsylvania the winner of the debate. Lee argues that, "Marvel time is different than our time. Peter Parker can stay in college for a hundred years our time and still have only been there four years Marvel time." And that's sort of the way things are going now.
Not all the letters deal with Spidey's aging. Doug Casey of Adair, Oklahoma is no fan of Steve Ditko, apparently. He says, "The art in your mags has been getting better and better. Looking back to issues #37 to #39, the art wasn't as good, but in #42 Gwen is better looking than ever, even though Mary Jane outclasses her by a mile." Meanwhile, Bob Grimes and Bill Shoemake of Erwin, Tennessee tell Stan "After reading several issues of Spider-Man I have reached the conclusion that there is no possible way for him to escape the ravage of ulcers." And they're right. But he's got a few years yet (it won't happen until Amazing Spider-Man #113, October 1972 and then it gets forgotten pretty quickly). Oh, and by the way the M.M.M.S. order form is sporting J. Jonah Jameson's smiling mug. Do you think that helped to sell more memberships?
Okay, where does this leave us? First, let me say that I like villains whose real names are not revealed. Makes them more mysterious, more fantastic, sometimes more formidable. Once you get so grounded in reality that you start naming everyone, you lose a little bit of the magic. As if sensing this, the writers who started naming unnamed villains tended to give them unusual first names but it didn't make up for losing the original exoticism. So now the Terrible Tinkerer is Phineas Mason, Mysterio is Quentin Beck, the Vulture is Adrian Toomes, and the Kingpin is Wilson Fisk. Ugh. Stan knew when to give a villain a name and when to keep him mysterious (hell, Stan knew how to present characters like the Kangaroo and the Gibbon without turning them into comedians) and Stan wisely chose to leave the Shocker nameless. It was a short ride from giving the Shocker the name of Herman Schultz to stories where he was considered a joke. He may wear a belted quilt for a costume but he's not funny in Stan's stories. I like Stan's way much better.
Stan also knew not to use the Shocker too much. He only pitted him against Spidey one other time, in Amazing Spider-Man #72, May 1969 although he's recently been using him in episodes of the Spider-Man newspaper strip. No one else touched him until Len Wein put him in Amazing Spider-Man #151, December 1975. But in the 30 plus years since, he's been mostly tapped out.
Patch has one last appearance (in Amazing Spider-Man #50, July 1967) but this is the last time Spider-Man ever sees him. Since Peter never learns that Patch was Fred Foswell in disguise, you have to wonder if he ever wonders what became of the stool pigeon. Could be a story in that.
Milestones (Landmark events that take place in this story.)
- First appearance of the Shocker.
- The Shocker's name mentioned three times by page two.
- Penn Station newly-constructed.
- Peter dazzled by Gwen's dancing. MJ not so much.
- Penultimate appearance of Patch. (In which he falls for the oldest trick in the super-hero book.)
- Spider-Man uses a clever gimmick to defeat the Shocker.
- Pete packs everything he needs for his move in two suitcases.
- Aunt May apparently moves in with Anna Watson but all we see is her sobbing in Anna's arms.
- Peter moves in with Harry Osborn but still feels depressed.
The 1969 Marvelmania International Spider-Man Portfolio checklist entry for this story. Warts and all:
"The Sinister Shocker" - Spidey meets the man with the vibro=shocks for the first time. - Shocker's origin told. - Peter gets a pad with Harry Osborn (G.G.'s son)) as a room-mate.
The Shocker has never been one of my favorite villains but I love the way he is presented here. Spider-Man simply can't beat him in a slugfest. His blows vibrate off the villain and he takes a pounding from the Shocker's vibro- smashes. I love issues where Spidey isn't able to out punch the bad guy and must come up with another way to win. This one, using his webbing to keep the Shocker's thumbs off his buttons, is particularly clever and amusing. So the fights are terrific (the issue leads off with a four-page battle and follows it up later with a five-page bout) and it's great to see Peter cut Aunt May's apron strings (with a nice sloppy tear-jerking departure) and move in with Harry Osborn. Yes, the whole sequence with Patch and the web-dummy is inane. Yes, Flash, MJ, and Gwen just stand around (or dance, in Gwen's case). But for a complete-in-one-issue story, it comes off pretty well. Let's give it four webs.
Next: My favorite Spidey story of all time. Well, a reprint of it, anyway.