Comics : Strange Tales Annual #2

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

This review was first published on: 2002.

Background...

A Spidey and Torch story written by Stan Lee, drawn by Jack Kirby, and inked by Steve Ditko. What more could you ask for?

In the early 1960s, after the success of the Fantastic Four, Marvel Comics began converting their horror/monster comics over to super-heroes. Amazing Fantasy got Spider-Man, Tales to Astonish got Ant-Man, Tales of Suspense got Iron Man, Journey into Mystery got Thor and Strange Tales got solo tales of the Human Torch. The Torch stories began in #101 (October 1962), were joined by Dr. Strange stories in #110 (July 1963), were turned into Torch/Thing duo stories in #121 (June 1964) and were replaced by Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD in #135 (August 1965).

This second Annual (Strange Tales Annual #1 featured reprints of old Atlas horror tales) appeared when the Torch was still the major star of the magazine, sometime around #113 (October 1963). (An approximation because the indicia of the Annual lists no month; only a year.)

(Actually, the Overstreet Price Guide dates the issue at July 1963 and calls it Spider-Man's fourth appearance, which places it just after ASM #2, May 1963. The best evidence for this is an ad in the Annual for Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #2 which is cover-dated July 1963. I, however, took a look at the pages in Amazing Spider-Man #4, September 1963 and Amazing Spider-Man #5, October 1963 which advertised the Annual and the Special Announcements Section in ASM #5 which promoted it and decided that the story takes place just after those issues. That's why it is appearing here in our chronological "Lookback From the Beginning", just following the battle with Dr. Doom.)

One thing Overstreet and I agree on... This is Spider-Man's first cross-over appearance.

In Detail...

"The Dazzling Human Torch, On the Trail of the Amazing Spider-Man!"
Strange Tales Annual #2
Jul 1963 : SMURF 005.800 : SM Guest
Summary: Spider-Man & Human Torch Team-Up
Editor:  Stan Lee
Writer:  Stan Lee
Pencils:  Jack Kirby
Inker:  Steve Ditko
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Review
 Reprinted In: Essential Human Torch #1
 Reprinted In: Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus #1
 Reprinted In: Giant-Size Spider-Man #1 (Story 2)
Articles: The Fox, Human Torch

he Dazzling Human Torch, on the Trail of the Amazing Spider-Man! The cover features Spider-Man hovering over the Human Torch, who is trapped in a giant web. Spidey is missing the spider insignia on his costume but give Jack a break, huh? He was busy co-creating the Marvel Universe. He couldn't get everything right.

In the back yard of his home, the Human Torch is going through his daily workout, assisted by his sister Sue Storm, the Invisible Girl. (Bet you thought the Fantastic Four only lived in a skyscraper in Manhattan, didn't you? Not in the early days. Johnny and Sue had a home in the suburbs.) He successfully flies through an abstract sculpture that Sue rotates with a crank (sounds vaguely risqué, doesn't it?) to make it difficult to maneuver through. He flies through the tread of a tank without "touching a rivet". (What? Don't you have a tank in your backyard?) Sue warns him about getting overconfident. "Remember the tank wasn't moving.", she says. Then Sue aims a hose at him and Johnny tries to avoid the rushing water. (He gets sprayed a bit and Sue lectures him again. One mistake "could mean your finish in a real battle", she reminds him.) Finally, he kneels in front of a thick steel vault door and shapes his flame into a key that opens the lock. Sue tells! him it is time to knock off for the day.

The siblings enter the "living-dining area of their modern split-level home in Glenville, Long Island" and prepare to settle in for a "lazy leisurely Saturday afternoon". Johnny heads for a nap but the latest issue of "Live" magazine is sitting on the couch and "the whole blamed issue. is devoted to that swell-headed Spider-Man". This burns Johnny up. Why does Spider-Man get so much publicity? Johnny rips the magazine apart, tossing pages all over the room. "When I do somethin' sensational, the Fantastic Four gets the credit", he whines. But Spidey gets all sorts of write-ups for the tiniest things. Johnny's tantrum bugs Sue. She turns invisible and tells him that she'll "simply fade away" if he's going to throw a fit. But Johnny can't stop. He's so annoyed that he "flames on". "I'd give anything", he says of Spidey, "for a chance to prove he ain't so hot!"

Meanwhile, there's a newly discovered Da Vinci painting at the Museum of Art and two men are thinking about stealing it. The larger man doesn't think it can be done. But the smaller man with the slightly pointed ears and long nose, wearing a monocle in his right eye, smoking a cigarette in a holder, and wearing a brown hat and green jacket is the Fox. He tells his associate that his plans are already made. The painting will belong to him before morning. When his friend warns him that the cops aren't his only problem ("You've still got the Fantastic Four to worry about and maybe even Spider-Man!"), the Fox tells him "I've arranged things so that Spider-Man will help me! Just wait and see!"

Here, now, the plan. That night, outside of the museum, a "master wire" is cut with a pair of wire cutters, cutting off power "within a three-block radius". Inside the museum, the guards realize that the lack of electricity means the lack of burglar alarms. They call the electric company right away for assistance. Minutes later, three "repairmen" in coveralls arrive, carrying tool boxes and spools of wire. The guards show two of the men to the main fuse box while the third stays behind, ostensibly "for additional equipment to arrive". The men fix the power outage and leave in their truck but they take a little something extra with them. Because, as must be obvious, the trio consisted of the Fox and his two men, and while the guards were distracted, the Da Vinci painting was cut from its frame and stolen. But that's not all. The Fox has planted what "looks like part of a giant spider's web" under the frame. When the guards find it, they jump to the conclusion that t! he culprit was Spider-Man.

Within the hour, an extra of the Daily Chronicle is out with the headline, "Spider-Man steals Priceless Painting!" (I guess Jonah Jameson got scooped!) At the Fox's hideout, the three men stretch out the canvas and admire the stolen painting. Then they settle in to "watch Spider-Man lead the police a wild goose chase!"

Elsewhere in the city, perched at the top of a very tall chimney, Spider-Man looks at the newspaper and wonders how he can possibly clear his name this time. He figures his only chance is to catch the real criminal but he has no clues and he doesn't dare go to the police. It occurs to him that the Human Torch is "a teen-ager like me!" Maybe he can convince the Torch of his innocence and the two of them can work together to catch the real thief. Spidey knows that Johnny Storm lives in Glenville, so he hitches a ride on the back of a Long Island Distributors truck and web-swings off again when he arrives at his destination. He pokes around, looking for Johnny's house, and finds it just as Sue is driving off to join Reed Richards and Ben Grimm in the city. Before she goes, she reminds Johnny that his dinner is in the fridge, to put the cat out before bed and to remember to turn off the TV. Feeling henpecked, Johnny is relieved to hear the phone ringing inside so he can g! et away from his sister. Sue drives off. Johnny answers the phone. It is the local chief of police informing him that Spider-Man has stolen the Da Vinci. This conversation takes place just as Spidey peeks in from outside. Johnny hears something over by the window and tells the chief he has to hang up. He looks over and sees a shadow "on the pane". Yelling "Flame On!", Johnny becomes the Human Torch. He notices that the figure outside is starting to open the window. So, he flies out, through the now-opened window, and tries to grab the intruder's legs as he goes by. But he misses, because the "intruder" has spider-speed at his command.

Spidey tells the Torch that he wants to chat but Torchy is too busy attacking. The web-slinger swings up to the roof and swings over the chimney, as the Torch tries to pelt him with flame balls. Spidey tries to reason with him, in his own inimitable style ("You some kinda nut or something?") but Johnny is convinced that the web-slinger was trying to sneak up on him and is up to no good. The webhead attempts to avoid the flame by diving into a nearby swimming pool. (Is this Johnny's pool? Looks very nice.) But the Torch retaliates by shooting flames off his right hand into the water, trying to bring it to a boil.

Holding his breath underwater, Spider-Man creates a big "soggy-wet waterball" out of his webbing. He surfaces and throws the webbing at a surprised Human Torch, then he gets out of the pool and follows up his first attack with a second waterball. But Johnny manages to dodge and fights back by creating four "fire images"; exact duplicates of himself made out of flame. (Johnny used to make all sorts of wacky things out of his flame back in the good ol' days.) The idea is that Spidey will wear himself out trying to figure out which is the real one. But the wall-crawler doesn't fall for such "cornball tricks". He zig zags through all five of them, amazing the Torch. "Holy heat waves!", he thinks, "I never saw anyone move so fast!"

Spidey, realizing that the Torch must have heard about the police blaming him for the theft of the painting, keeps running right through a nearby woods, zig-zagging around all the trees. He arrives at a construction site and plans a little surprise for the Torch "in case he's dumb enough to still be followin'". He grabs a metal pipe and attaches it to the muzzle of a cement mixer. Then, as the Torch flies into view, he spins the mixer with his bare hands "at super-speed", and fires the cement out of the pipe like a cannon shot. With a "Whap!" the cement completely engulfs the Torch. It hardens on him and the FF member falls from the sky. "So long, stupid!", says Spidey as he makes his escape, "By the time you get outta that, maybe you'll have learned better than to fight with Spider-Man!"

Johnny isn't covered for long. Chiding himself for under-estimating his opponent, the Human Torch increases his body heat until the cooked cement crumbles off of him. "I guess I'm the only guy who ever baked himself out of a fix like that", he says. Exhausted from the battle, Johnny flames off and leans up against a dump truck. Then, he starts walking home, nervously aware that the web-slinger could be anywhere "watchin' me with that blasted spider vision of his!!" (Spider-Vision???) And, sure enough, there's Spidey, clinging high on the wall of the building that Johnny walks by. The Torch decides he has rested enough to "flame on" once again. He scouts the area from the air but doesn't see Spider-Man because the webhead has slipped through the window of "Carson Chemical Laboratories".

By a happy coincidence, the lab is deserted and none of its equipment or materials is locked up. Spidey removes his mask (which, in this story, is actually connected to his costume so that it looks like a hood when removed) and sets to work creating a web "which will hold the Torch long enough for me to reason with him". Thanks to the "addition of these ice-cold silicone crystals which I can manipulate under the microscope" (Don't ask me. That's what it says!), Spidey whips up a fresh batch of webbing, loads it into his shooters, and tests it by firing out a stream and hitting it with a hammer! He declares his new invention to be "perfect!" because it is "cold enough to douse Torch's flame" (because it is made with "ice-cold silicone crystals" don'tcha know?) and tough enough "to withstand a hammer blow". Then he puts his hooded mask back on, as shown in a very cool illo by Kirby.

"Exactly one block away", Stan tells us, "at the corner of Madison Avenue and 63rd Street"... (exactly when did they get back to Manhattan from Long Island?), the Torch hangs out with three cops and chats about Harleys. Johnny knows the cops by name (he calls one of them "Pete") and he is friendly enough with them to invite them to his garage later on, so this must still be Glenville, which makes me really confused. Would there really be a corner of Madison and 63rd in little Glenville? Anyway, the chat ends when the spider-signal appears on the side of the building across the street. This startles the cops enough that one of them actually draws his gun. Maybe that's why Spidey (who is standing on the roof of the building across the way) rags Johnny with "S'matter Torch? You need a bodyguard?" This gets Johnny so mad that he flames on, flies up to the roof and calls Spidey a "masked meathead". Spidey shoots out his webbing, does a backflip, and avoids t! he attack. And away we go!

Spider-Man webslings through the town, staying just above the heads of the gawking crowds so that the Torch doesn't dare throw fireballs at him. He runs up the side of a building, which the Torch considers "a corny show-off trick". Johnny has no trouble flying right behind him. Outside of town, Spidey sprints along on the telephone wires, luring the Torch into his trap. The web-slinger has strung up some of his "ice-silicone web" which is so cold it can't be seen with the naked eye (and, apparently, light enough to just hang suspended in the air, as it appears to be attached to nothing.). He leads the unsuspecting Torch right into it. Much as tries to melt his way out, the Torch is trapped long enough for Spidey to talk to him. Spidey explains that he didn't steal the Da Vinci painting. He tells Johnny that he was framed "and no pun intended". He adds that the reason he stopped by Johnny's "pad" was to ask for help. But Johnny isn't buying. "Do ya think I was born! yesterday??" he says.

Spidey tells the Torch to "clam up and listen". Meanwhile, the icy web puts out Johnny's flame, turning it to vapor. Then, the cold temperatures freeze up the vapor and, next thing he knows, Johnny is covered in snow. Spidey knows that it will all soon melt and Torchy will get his flame back, so he talks fast. He tells Johnny to use his head. After all, why would he come looking for the Torch if he really stole the painting? Why wouldn't he "cut out" while he could? Spidey explains that he thought the Torch would "get a kick" out of teaming up but now he's "thru beggin'". Then, deciding "I probably made a mistake comin' to you in the first place! All you care about is headlines! You probably don't wanna share the publicity with me!" Spidey swings away on his web, intending to work alone.

The Torch can hardly believe what he's been hearing. "He called me all the things I was callin' him!" he says. Maybe, he thinks, that means Spidey is innocent after all. He increases his body heat "till it reaches cosmic blast intensity" (I don't know what that is but I'm surprised it doesn't blow up the whole town) and frees himself from the icy web. Then he makes his way to the office of the local police.

In that office, Deputy Police Inspector Rudd is on the phone with his Chief, promising to get a lead on Spider-Man, when a flaming hand reaches out and offers him a light for his cigar. (And I'm confused again because it looks to me like we're back in Manhattan.) Rudd accepts the Torch's offer of a light and explains that the Chief is screaming for his scalp because Spider-Man has stolen another painting. "They found another piece of his web right at the scene of the crime" he says. The Torch now knows for certain that Spider-Man is being framed because, as he tells Rudd, "he was playin' footsie with me a half hour ago". In that case, Rudd decides to take a look at some mug shots (all on little three by five cards in this pre-computer time and neatly filed in a cabinet). "After long minutes" of looking, he comes upon a card of the Fox and he wonders why he didn't think of him before. "This has all the trademarks of one of his capers!" he declares. (The card, by the w! ay, is shone to the reader and it tells us that the Fox's real name is Reynard Slinker... another one of those monikers that seem to have heavily influenced his direction in life... that he is five feet three inches tall and weighs 165 pounds. A veritable gold mine of information for this month's Fox Spotlight Profile. (And, yes, 165 pounds does seem a bit excessive for such a skinny-looking five foot three inch guy, doesn't it?)

That's all the lead the Torch needs. He asks Rudd to have his men "block all the arteries to and from the city" (Um... so are we in Manhattan now or what?) then he creates a huge flaming message in the sky, a la the Wicked Witch's "Surrender Dorothy" in the Wizard of Oz. Torchy's message says, "Spider-Man... Let's work together" (and he even put in the three little dots of the ellipsis!).

Down in the crowd, the Fox and his men see the Torch's message and decide they don't want any part of this team-up. "A wise general knows when to retreat!" the Fox tells his boys. The plan is to "leave town for a while for our, eh, health!"

Soon after, the Human Torch gets his response when the spider-signal is projected in the sky over the Statue of Liberty's torch. He flies out to Liberty Island and finds Spidey waiting for him on top of Lady Liberty's head. They have a short conference in which Johnny explains that the real thief is, most likely, the Fox. He even has a photo of the crook to show Spidey, ("Owww... it's still steamin'" says the webhead.) though who knows where he got such a thing, unless he copped the mug shot from right under Rudd's nose. Torchy further explains that he got a "list of places" from Rudd where the Fox "was seen recently". (Now hold on a second! In one panel, Rudd pulls the mug shot. In the very next panel, the anxious Torch flies out the window, ready to pursue this lead. When did Rudd find the time to give him a list of frequented locales? Did he yell them out the window as the Torch zipped away? Did he wad them up and throw them at Johnny's head? What?) The two he! roes return to the city and check out the first place on the list... a subway station, through which hundreds of thousands of people must pass on a regular basis. But if you think it's pretty unlikely that our heroes will happen to find the Fox in that station at just that time, then you don't know that we're at the bottom of page thirteen in an eighteen page story. (Ur... you did know that, didn't you?) Spidey swings down underground (and I'll bet he didn't pay, either), then webslings along the tunnel, enjoying the gaping looks he gets from the waiting passengers.

Now, it sure looks like Spidey could go swinging through and never notice anything suspicious but he is hailed by a little gray-haired lady who, you know, actually looks a little bit like the Fox in disguise. (Oh yeah, he's got the granny dress going, the shawl, the hat, the big green satchel, the whole bit!) Wouldn't the smartest thing to do be to play it cool and not blow your cover? Yeah, but then you wouldn't be the Fox! He has other ideas. "Yoo hoo, young man!" he calls out to Spidey, "Would you help a little old lady, please?" And since Spidey was raised right by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, he agrees to help out even though he's "busy right now, ma'am". The "old lady" asks Spidey to hold her green carpetbag while she tries to find her subway tokens. (Spidey never should have fallen for this because they're already at the track past the point where the tokens are necessary.) The webslinger holds out his arms, takes the bag, and finds himself covered in "some sort ! of super-glue" which oozes out of the bag, and ties up his hands. Next thing he knows, the old lady is pulling a gun!

If the Fox had chosen to shoot right away, it is just barely possible that he might have been able to plug the web-slinger. But, no. The Fox must remove his hat and gray-haired wig and introduce himself to his intended victim. By the time all that is done, it's too late. A spout of flame strikes the Fox's gun, "melting it instantly". The Human Torch has arrived on the scene.

Weaponless, the Fox jumps down to the track and runs into the tunnel. The Torch stops and helps Spidey by burning the glue off of his arms. ("Take it easy, Torch! Those are my hands in there!" says the webhead. "Anybody ever tell you that you complain a lot for a super-hero?" says the Torch.) Now freed from the carpetbag, the wall-crawler follows the Fox into the tunnel. He runs on the trestles in between the rails. The Human Torch flies along overhead.

It is the Torch who notices that a train is barreling down on them from behind. He yells, "Move, chowderhead!" at the web-spinner but Spidey is absorbed in something he has noticed on the tracks. Just as the train arrives, Spidey drops down to take a closer look. The train passes over him (scaring the heck out of the Torch), but Spidey barely notices. He has found a trap door. Once the train goes by, he opens it up. "This must be," he tells the Torch, "the entrance to one of the Fox's secret lairs!"

The two heroes take the stairs down from the trap door into "some cozy set-up". Below the subway, the Fox has an office with a desk, wood paneled walls, fine paintings, a lamp, a phone, even a big ashtray. (Which makes you wonder... if the Fox can afford to build a secret hideout like this, why is he bothering with stealing paintings?) Spidey notices that the stolen Da Vinci is not in the room. Nor is the Fox. "But he can't have gotten far!" Still, they have no more clues to follow. So, Spidey tells the Torch that their only option is to rely on his spider-sense. (You mean, that power that didn't work when the "old lady" handed you the green carpetbag, Spidey?) Torchy is agreeable to this and Spidey suggests they "head for the Bowery" since they "might as well start with the crummiest part of town!" (An unimpressed Torch says, "Spider sense! Big deal! I'd have thought of that myself!")

Minutes later, the two heroes walk the streets of the Bowery amongst men who are so down-and-out that the Torch thinks they won't bother to notice "a couple of clowns like us". (Too destitute to notice a guy covered in flame and a guy in a spider suit? I'm still trying to figure out the logic behind that.) They walk around for a half an hour, waiting for the spider-sense to tingle. Finally, they come upon a wooden cigar store Indian, his left hand upraised and holding a tomahawk, his right hand upraised and shading his eyes, standing on a yellow base that says "El Hempo Cigars" on it ("El Hempo", eh? This is just tobacco, isn't it, Stan?). At that very moment, Spidey's senses are triggered.

The Torch can't believe that the wooden Indian can be hiding anything. "The only thing that joker's got is termites!" he says. But Spidey grabs the Indian's right hand and pushes down on it. With a "creakk" the Indian's yellow base slides to the left, revealing an opening under the sidewalk. Then the heroes must dodge hot lead in a hurry. A machine gun pops up out of the hole and starts spraying bullets at them.

Within seconds, the good guys have avoided being shot, climbed down the stairs into another secret hideout, and taken care of the two occupants of the room. (Spider-Man webs up the machine gunner. The Torch emits a cloud of smoke to "knock the fight outta" the other hood.) The twosome turn out to be our old friends... the guys who helped the Fox steal the paintings. They tell our heroes that the Fox grabbed the paintings and deserted them. Now, they hope that Spidey and the Torch catch "the rat". They volunteer the information that the Fox "high-tailed it for Central Park". The Torch wants more info than that. After all, "Central Park's a mighty big place". But Spidey tells him they don't need more than that. "Did you forget" he asks the Torch, "about my spider sense??"

Off they rush to Central Park, with Spidey webswinging right next to the flying Torch. ("Y'know, you handle those webs of yours pretty smooth for a guy who can't fly" says Johnny. "And you fly pretty good yourself for a guy with no webs" says Pete.) Soon they are soaring above the stone steps leading to Bethesda Fountain. The webslinger tunes into his spider-sense and it leads him to a water fountain, which he deftly twists to the side, revealing another entrance to an underground lair. This one leads to another well-furnished room with bookcases, an armchair, a coffee table, and a vase but it, like the other lairs, is deserted. The twosome scope it out and Spidey comes upon a ladder (which is actually just a pole with footrests) that leads up to the roof. He deduces that this is a "hidden exit". He pushes open a slab of concrete and finds himself emerging from the grass right near one of the Park's pathways. On the path, a short man with a pencil-thin mustache and ! a tan beret stands next to a large telescope bearing the sign "See the Moon and Planets... 10 cents." A cop stands next to the man, telling him he'll have to "take that gadget outta the park" if he doesn't have a license for it. The man starts to comply but Spider-Man tells him to "hold on, Mister!" In response the man leans down and presses a button on the side of his shoe. Tiny wheels pop out on the bottom of each shoe. Tiny jets pop out behind. Instantly, the man takes off like a rocket, vowing that nobody can catch him. But the web-slinger takes off running, around trees, over rocks and right in the man's path. He grabs the skater by the lapels of his jacket and lifts him into the air. (The man is amazed that the webster can move so fast. "They don't call me Spider-Man for nothin', chum!" says our hero in response. Do spiders run fast?) Spidey grabs the man by his nose and pulls and, sure enough, he is wearing a mask. (And what I love about this is that it'! s one of those plastic face-only masks held on with an elastic band ar ound the back of his head like the kind we used to wear as kids on Halloween.) Behind the mask is... surprise!... the Fox! (Why is the Fox hanging around in Central Park pretending to sell views of the moon and planets when he could be well on his way out of the city? You're askin' me?)

The Fox is astonished. No one has ever out tricked him before. Spidey is unimpressed. "You're lucky I don't mop up the place with you" he says.

The web-slinger leads his prisoner back to the scene of his flight. The Torch is there, pulling the eyepiece off the telescope. (But the cop is gone. Where did he run off to?) Johnny has figured out that the telescope is a phony... "just a hollow pipe". And inside, rolled up safely? "The stolen Da Vinci painting!"

Spidey and Torchy each grab the Fox by the back of his jacket and lead him away, bickering as they go. "I needed you like a hole in the head" Spidey says to the Torch. "In your case, kiddo, a hole in the head would be an improvement" the Torch says to Spidey. The Fox can't wait till they get to the cops. "C'mon, lock me up" he says "so I can stop listenin' to you two nuts!"

There are actually 51 more story pages in this 72 page Annual in the form of 10 short stories reprinted from Strange Tales, Strange Worlds, and Worlds of Fantasy. Here they all are with the endings all spoiled (SPOILER WARNING!!) in a couple sentences or less.

I Was the Invisible Man!. A scientist starts a crime wave when he discovers how to run (invisibly) at the speed of light. But the process prematurely ages him and he ends his days sadder but wiser.

I Was a Prisoner on the Planet of Plunder!. Agent Rick Dugan is sent to investigate how the cargos of inter-galactic space ships are getting plundered with the pilots remembering nothing. The culprits use sound waves to do the hypnotizing but Rick captures them anyway... because he's stone-deaf!

I Am Robot. A scientist creates a robot and attempts to prove it is not a threat to humans by having the machine take care of his son. When aliens try to kidnap the son, the robot thwarts them, sacrificing himself, though it appears that he attacked the son himself, thereby making the scientist think he has failed.

Worlds Within Worlds!. A scientist tries to prove there are whole universes within a drop of water and, surprise! inside that water drop is the universe that has our Earth!

I Was the Man who Lived Twice!. The black sheep of a gypsy clan lives to middle age as a failure because he refuses to do the things necessary to build a good life. A fountain of youth turns him back into an infant again giving him a second chance to live his life right.

I Fly to the Stars!. An inter-stellar pilot gets a six-month job and tells his fiancée he must break off the wedding plans. He never bothers to tell her that six months in flight equals fifty years passing back on Earth.

Prison 2000 A.D. A prisoner in that strange future year of 2000 A.D. thinks he escapes the dreaded punishment room, steals a space ship, becomes a Robinson Crusoe on a strange planet and eventually teams up with a beautiful woman and other colonists. In reality, he is serving his sentence in the punishment room, scientifically induced to dream he is free.

I Am the Scourge of Atlantis!. The survivors of the destruction of the continent of Atlantis, cut off from the rest of the world for millennia, decide to attack the surface world. They find out that there have been many changes when they learn they are the size of ants and their fearsome weapons would fit on a charm bracelet.

Nightmare Planet. A planet "2000 times larger than our sun" with beings just as large is traveling past the now-demilitarized Earth. Fearing destruction, an army is put together and sent to the planet where they find that the huge beings move at such a slow time rate that they will never notice the Earth at all and the assembled army is unnecessary... but the people back home still feel safer with the military around. (!)

(Check out the full-page ad for Fantastic Four Annual #1 (1963), directly preceding the next story, that promises an appearance by Spider-Man. Hmmm. We may have to look into that.)

I Captured the Abominable Snowman!. A petty crook goes to Tibet to find the Abominable Snowman only to learn that an "Ancient One"-type can transfer the curse of the yeti to anyone he feels is deserving of punishment. The redeemed snowman is changed back to human and the petty crook becomes the yeti in his place.

This is already the fourth time Spider-Man and the Human Torch have shared space in a comic (the others being ASM #1, March 1963, ASM #3, July 1963, and ASM #5, October 1963) in just a little over a year of the wall-crawler's existence. In the following year, the heroes will appear together five more times. (Fantastic Four Annual #1, 1963, Strange Tales #115, December 1963, ASM #8, January 1964, Strange Tales #119, April 1964, ASM #17, October 1964.) Their latest appearance together, as of this writing, is Peter Parker: Spider-Man #37 (January 2002). One of our intrepid editors, Byron, is busy counting up the meetings in between and will soon have a complete report for us.

The Fox has all the makings of a one-shot villain... which he was for over thirty years. But then Tom DeFalco brought him back from oblivion in Spider-Man Unlimited #5 (May 1994) where he was defeated by Spidey and the Human Torch once again. Almost as easily as the first time. Sorry, Reynard!

In General...

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

  1. First time Spider-Man guest-stars in another comic.
  2. First time Spider-Man goes through an entire story without removing his costume.
  3. Fourth time he shares space with the Torch. (After ASM #1, #3, and #5.)
  4. First appearance for Spider-Man on the cover of "Live" magazine.
  5. First appearance of the Fox.
  6. First (and last) appearance of the ice-silicone webbing.
  7. First meeting of the Torch and Spider-Man at the Statue of Liberty.
  8. First time Spidey tells the Torch, "So long, stupid!"

Overall Rating...

These early Spidey-Torch team-ups are always fun with the all the sarcasm and insults and oneupmanship and I love the Kirby-Ditko art team. But the truth is the Fox isn't much of a villain and, once you get past the Spidey-Torch fun, it's not much of a story, either. I would recommend it to anyone who has never had a chance to read it but, when I compare it to the classic early Spidey tales that came out at around the same time, I can't give it a higher rating than three webs.