Ah, 1967, I remember it well! I was about to turn 10 and I was snapping up every Marvel comic I could find. Which means that this year, I'm about to turn... ulp! Let's move on, shall we? Now, some of you are too young to have read it when it first appeared but I remember it as if it was yesterday. No, not this issue but Editor Jonathan Couper's original Lookback of it in the first year (but second volume) of Spiderfan ten years ago now (Peter Parker's Pad Volume 2 #2, February 1997, to be precise). Still, in my insatiable desire to cover every Spider-Man appearance from the beginning, I am casting Mr. Couper's efforts aside and replacing them with my own. And he's the boss! Catch me if you can!
|Pencils:||John Romita, Sr.|
|Inker:||John Romita, Sr.|
|Cover Art:||John Romita, Sr.|
|Part Reprint In:||John Romita's The Amazing Spider-Man Artifact Edition (IDW)|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Masterworks #22|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Tales #184|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Tales #32|
|Reprinted In:||Essential Spider-Man #3|
|Reprinted In:||Spider-Man Pocket Book #25|
Last issue, you may recall, Stan included an appearance by Dr. Curt Connors as prelude to his appearance as the Lizard which was subtle enough that you may not have guessed that that's what he was setting up... until he blew it by plastering "The Lizard Crawls Again!" in big letters in the "Next Issue" box. This issue we can see why he did it like that. There's no attempt to disguise the Lizard's appearance. He shows up on the cover down in a sewer ripping away the webbing that Spider-Man is shooting at him. The cover blurb is only four words long: "Where Crawls the Lizard!" That also happens to be the title of the story which begins with Curt Connors at Penn Station staring down at his hand which has become the green scaly hand of the Lizard while a symbolic ghost of the Lizard perches above him as if ready to strike. And before you say, "Are you kidding? The Lizard again?" let me remind you that this is only his second appearance, not having been seen since way back in Amazing Spider- Man #6, November 1963 which is pretty remarkable restraint on Stan's part. Unless this is another thing that Stan wanted to do that Steve didn't want to do for which he had to wait for Ditko's departure to do it.
Let's get back to the train station because Peter Parker and his Aunt May are there too. May is taking a vacation, "a few weeks at the sea shore", as ordered by Dr. Bromwell. Even though Peter assures May that "the travel agent said we could send you now and pay later" (which I think is called "using a credit card"), May is worried as usual because Peter "took [his] last thirty dollars for the down payment on this trip". Pete pooh-poohs her worries, promising her, "I'll sell some more news pix to Jolly Jonah and double that amount before you return" but he thinks to himself, "I hope". Doc Connors is nearby waiting for the train on which his wife Martha and son Billy are traveling. (And I think this is the moment where we discover Mrs. Connors' first name.) But even as he waits, for no discernible reason, his hand turns green and scaly as we mentioned before. Sweat breaks out all over his forehead as he watches his hand return to normal. He wonders if he imagined that green, scaly part "in the excitement of waiting for Martha and Billy". (I know I imagine my hand turning green and scaly when I'm excited.) But he also knows he's been feeling strange since he helped Spidey "create a potion to defeat the Rhino" which took place, as you all know, last issue in Amazing Spider-Man #43, December 1966. Don't forget, though, that Gary Friedrich revealed in Incredible Hulk #104, June 1968 that Spidey broke down the Rhino's hide with "an acid" which would hardly turn Curt back into the Lizard but since that story came out more than a year after this one, I think we can blame Gary, not Stan, for that little inconsistency. Because in this issue, Curt thinks about how "the potion was created of certain ingredients which were also used in the formula which years ago turned me into the Lizard". Realizing this, he wonders if "the simple act of handling the potion or inhaling its fumes has actually triggered that dreadful reaction in my body again?" Judging by the cover and the title, I would say "yes".
Elsewhere in the crowd, Peter looks around; sure that he "saw Curt Connors behind that pillar" though he doesn't see him now. Aunt May, that annoying old bat, whines at Peter, "Are you sure you'll be all right with me gone? Will you get to bed early at night and eat plenty of vegetables?" Peter takes this in stride (since he's been beaten down by this kind of suffocating motherliness since the beginning of time) and counters with "As for you, young lady, remember, no football practice or karate lessons! At least not for the first few days!" May is overwhelmed with how well Peter is taking the fact that she is "deserting" him. "You're the most wonderful nephew any woman ever had!" she says as she blows her nose with a "honk". (May, will you get on the train, already? Is she never going to leave?)
At a nearby track, Martha and Billy Connors have arrived. Billy is all blond hair and grins. He hopes his dad will take him to a Jets game. Martha wonders aloud why Curt isn't there to meet them and Billy comes out with, "Maybe he's hiding to surprise us like he used to do when I was little!" Martha doesn't think so. She knows that Curt is never late unless... but she doesn't even want to think about that.
Curt is actually, according to Stan, "just a few feet away concealed behind a shadowy arch". His right arm has started tingling just as it did way back when he tried to regrow it "by drinking a serum extracted from experimental lizards", whatever "experimental lizards" may be. He looks at his left hand and it has turned green and scaly again. In his shock, Curt moves from beneath the arch and Billy spots him. He taps his mother on the shoulder and points his dad out. But in the next moment he watches his father run away and disappear into the crowd. Desperate to get away before the change occurs, Curt bulls through the crowd, knocking an orange briefcase out of one guy's hand as he heads for the train tunnel. The change to the Lizard is happening faster and faster but all Jazzy Johnny shows us is that green hand and a black blob where his head should be. As he runs in the tunnel, he first wishes he knew where to find Spider-Man to enlist his help, then realizes that his thinking is "getting hazy, shadowy", then wishes he could have held Martha and Billy in his arms (well, okay, "arm") and then thinks of nothing but escape. One fellow in the left-behind crowd speculates that he is "a fugitive fleeing the law", another yells at him to come back, a third says, "somebody call the police!" Martha, her hand to her mouth, her eyes wide and frightened, knows "there's only one reason why he'd have run away" but she doesn't ever want Billy to know. When her son asks why his dad ran off, Martha tells him, "He didn't, dear! It wasn't your father! We must have been mistaken!"
In the subway tunnel, Curt Connors has grown his right arm back. He has also gone all scaly and grown a tail. "I'm no longer a weak, powerless human," he says. Then he strikes a great pose, like something out of an Aurora plastic model kit (see back cover), with his left arm upraised and his hands clasped into fists and announces, "The Lizard lives again!" (Fortunately, Doc Connors was wearing his white lab coat, black turtleneck, and purple pants so the Lizard can have his official costume on.) Apparently, he already has a master plan, as if a part of Curt's mind has been working on it all along and he tells the tunnel, "I'm the strongest, most dangerous being on Earth!" (I think the Hulk and a few others would probably disagree.) "Before I'm through I'll be the most feared of all!" he adds, raising the bar as high as it will go, "No one can stop me!"
More in a moment but first let's turn the comic sideways and look at the three issues advertised on the "More Marvel Masterpieces..." page. On the right is X-Men(vol.1)Uncanny #27, December 1966 which we reviewed last time. On the left is Marvel Tales #6, January 1967 which we'll look at next time. In the middle is Fantasy Masterpieces #6, December 1966 which is none of our business.
Still deluding himself that he has "unimaginable power", "supreme power", and that "nothing can stand in my way", the Lizard apparently rips up a railroad tie (although the tracks look untouched) and uses it as a battering ram to knock a hole into the tunnel wall big enough to climb through. This leads to the sewer and "a maze of hidden underground pipes" which he finds perfect for his needs. Here he will work on his "perfect plans... for the downfall of the entire human race and especially for the downfall of my greatest enemy (technically his only enemy), the masked Spider-Man!"
Now, I hate to break it to you but Aunt May hasn't gotten on that train yet. She's still busy patting Pete on the cheek and telling him to call Anna Watson if he needs anything and to "drink plenty of milk" and "don't neglect your studies and be sure to get a haircut" and somehow Peter does not haul off and deck her. Finally she gets on the train but the nagging still doesn't stop with May saying, "don't forget to water the plants and turn off the hall light when you go to sleep" and Peter keeping up his increasingly unfunny banter of "no push-ups for the next two weeks" and "go easy on the Watusi" (which refers to the dance, not the African tribe, I think) until, mercifully, the train starts to move and whisks Aunt May away.
As he heads out, Peter tells himself that he had to keep up the lighthearted banter or else May would have never left. "Doc Bromwell said she had to have this vacation because she's so run-down" Pete thinks but she spends all her time worrying about him which he can't convince her to stop doing seeing as she doesn't know he's Spider-Man except that if she did know he was Spider-Man she would certainly worry about that. Walking away, Peter suddenly develops a second face, which is comic book shorthand to signify that he does a double- take when he sees Martha Connors. Recognizing her, Pete realizes that he must have seen Curt as he thought he did. Now seeing Martha in tears, he knows something has to be wrong. (Good thing he was in the station on this day or this story may never have happened.) He tells himself he has to find out what's wrong as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the bottom of the page reminds us to "Watch Marvel Super-Heroes on TV".
So, Peter runs off to change into his Spidey duds. (Stan tells us, "Finding the nearest phone booth occupied, our hero makes a quick change high above the rafters.") Then he swings down and says, "Welcome to the big town, Mrs. Connors!" Martha and Billy are thrilled to see him. As the crowd in the station looks on, Spidey asks Martha if there's anything he can do. She tells him that Curt was supposed to meet them but didn't. Billy, mouth open wide, excitedly asks, "Do you always swing through Penn Station like this??" "It depends, Billy," responds Spidey, "Sometimes I buzz the bus terminal or zero in on the airport." Martha sends a reluctant Billy away to buy some "soda pop" so she can talk to the web-slinger. Once Billy leaves ("He sure has grown since last time", says Spidey) Martha relates that she and Billy both saw Curt (except that when this happened three pages ago, only Billy saw him) but that "when he saw us, he turned in panic and lost himself in the crowd". Spidey mentions that he also thought he saw Curt. With tears in her eyes, Martha tells Spidey there is only one reason why Curt would flee, if he were becoming the Lizard again. (This, my friends, is known as padding. We already saw Curt turn into the Lizard. We saw Martha speculate that Curt would only flee if he were changing into the Lizard again. And certainly Spidey already knows that Curt could turn into the Lizard again. So why does Stan bother to show us a scene in which Martha tells Spidey something he and we already know?) "You managed to save him once by a miracle" says Martha. (That "miracle" was known as "scientific knowledge".) But she worries that the Lizard will be "wiser, more cautious, more deadly than ever". When Martha tells him that Curt "seemed to be heading for that tunnel", Spidey webswings away in pursuit.
As he reconnoiters in the train tunnel, Spidey thinks back to his first encounter with the Lizard. He remembers going down to Florida "to investigate reports of a man-like Lizard terrorizing the swampland" though he seems to have forgotten that he flew down with J. Jonah Jameson. He recalls the Lizard reaching up out of the swamp, grabbing him by the ankle and dragging him underwater as Johnny Romita channels Steve Ditko from page 8 panels 6 and 7 of Amazing Spider-Man #6, November 1963. He further remembers fighting the Lizard on land as Johnny gives us a more dynamic rendition of the Lizard snapping a tree trunk with his tail than the one Ditko gave us on page 9 panel 2 of the original. (But Spidey's thought balloon is the same in both: "Strange, he doesn't seem to be wearing a disguise! That grotesque form is really him!") His thoughts jump ahead to page 15 panel 5 of the original in which he confronted the Lizard and his alligators at the old Spanish fort but the expository thought and word balloons are all new as Spidey thinks, "He intends to drop his serum in the swamp water! Before the day is out, he'll control an army of millions of deadly giant lizards!" and the Lizard says, "There are more reptiles on Earth than humans! When my army starts multiplying, mankind won't have a chance! The lizards will take over the world!" Then Spidey recalls page 18 panel 4 in which he forced an antidote down the Lizard's throat and page 19 panel 6 in which he helped to steady Curt Connors following the transformation. "And the nightmare was ended forever" thinks Spidey, "or so we thought". (In the world of comics, 38 issues between appearances is almost forever.) Soon after, Spidey comes upon the hole in the cement wall and knows that only someone with the Lizard's strength could have created it. He returns to Martha but gives her "a little white lie", saying, "I couldn't find a thing!" He recommends that she and Billy go to Curt's lab and wait for a call. As Martha and Billy prepare to take a cab in the rain, Spidey promises to keep searching and webswings away. But after an hour of looking, he comes up empty. "The city's too big and he's too crafty" he thinks, deciding he must wait for the Lizard to make the first move. Then he returns to the websack containing his clothes and umbrella, which is attached to a pillar somewhere indoors (which we know because it's not raining on it) except that it doesn't look like the Penn Station rafters where Stan said Pete changed into Spidey. On the other hand, what do I know? I've never been in the Penn Station rafters.
The umbrella, by the way, is not a continuity glitch. Peter is indeed carrying that umbrella as he helps Aunt May catch her train. Now back in the yellow coat he was wearing, he opens the umbrella and steps out into the pouring rain. He heads for the Bugle, hoping to "sell Jonah a special photo feature on the Lizard" in order to "scrape up enough money to pay for Aunt May's trip". This may be difficult because, at this point in time, no one outside of Spidey and the Connors family know the Lizard exists.
At the Bugle, Peter congratulates Betty Brant on her engagement to Ned Leeds (as announced last issue). Betty tells Peter she wants him at the wedding "soon as we set the date". (Don't hold your breath, Pete! There's going to be a nine and a half year wait.) As Pete realizes that Betty is now like a sister to him, J. Jonah Jameson passes by and Peter asks to speak to him. In JJ's office he tells the Bugle publisher that he'd like to do a picture story on the Lizard. "Come off it, Parker! You know there's no such guy!" says Jonah. (He also tells Pete that he thinks he's "lost the ol' pazzazz" which my spellcheck keeps wanting to change to the correct spelling of "pizzazz". Yes, believe it or not, there is a correct spelling for "pizzazz".) Pete tries to interest JJJ in "new pix of Spider-Man" but Jameson is uninterested until Pete suggests "an expose that'll prove he's a menace". That gets Jonah's juices flowing. Now I thought they had moved this conversation to Jameson's office but it looks like they're actually still out in the common room because Fred Foswell wanders by, lighting a cigarette and eavesdropping. He has always wondered how Peter gets all of those Spider-Man photos. Now he thinks it's time he put on his Patch disguise (which hasn't been seen since Amazing Spider-Man #37, June 1966) and tail Parker to find out. As Peter heads out into the rain again, Jonah gets an idea for a profile story. He tells Foswell to "dig up the name of that cop who helped [Spider-Man] during his fight with the Rhino". (This happened last issue and the only we name we got for the policeman was "Joe".) This assignment prevents Foswell from trailing Peter right away.
Back in the rain, Peter walks by the Silver Spoon coffee house and decides to drop in. (The Silver Spoon either changes it's name or the kids change their hang-out because the "Coffee Bean Barn" assumes this role in Amazing Spider-Man #53, October 1967.) Inside he finds Gwen at a booth with Harry and Flash. Flash immediately goes into his "puny Parker" jokes but Gwen tells him he's "as funny as a tooth-ache". Since Pete missed lab class in order to take May to the train station, Gwen offers to review it with him. Pete joins them; sitting next to Gwen and putting his arm around her, and is informed that Flash has to report for his draft physical later in the day. A black-haired teen in the next booth leans over and says, "Hey! Doesn't the big brass know we need you on our football team, Thompson?" Then he turns to Pete and says, "Hey, Parker (since everyone in college knows everyone else, right?) maybe we won't miss Thompson after all! We'll just get you to take his place on the team!" "Yeah, they can always use a few laughs during scrimmage", says Flash but Gwen cuts in with "Gentlemen, we're trying to study" since, apparently, she was serious about this "reviewing lab class" thing. Yet another student walks up, holding a newspaper article that features Metro University's star Whitey Mullins. "Now that Flash is being drafted" he says, "they oughtta grab Whitey Mullins, also! What chance'll we have against him when we play Metro U.? Unless Parker is our new secret weapon!" See? He knows Peter, too! (Stan, by the way, did not create Whitey Mullins just for this single panel. He actually appears in Fantastic Four #50-51, May-June 1966 and, as I recall, he's sort of a jerk.) Then all interest in the conversation comes to a halt as the men are dazzled by the entrance of a beautiful woman previously unknown to everybody except one. "Hi, Mary Jane!" says Peter. "Pete knows her?!!" says Harry. MJ walks over to the booth dressed in a green and yellow mini-skirt with white go-go boots and a white jacket. She looks at Gwen sitting with Pete, Harry, and Flash and says, "Three living breathing males to only one gal, eh? Where has this place been all my life?" Flash is so full of hormones that he stands up even though he must be cramped for space way back in his spot in the booth. "She walks! She talks! And I can tell she's been bustin' to meet ol' Flash!" he says, modest as always. Peter offers to introduce MJ to the crowd. Stan skips the introductions (since we already know everyone). Now all are standing except Gwen. Even the black-haired guy from the other booth is on his feet, leaning over the booth to get in on the action. Flash, continuing his humility, says, "Tell me, doll, did you wanna meet me because I'm a football star or because I'm about to become a war hero?" "Neither, dad!" says MJ, "It's your shyness that grabs me!" (By the way, MJ doesn't think that Flash is her father. She's using an expression that, actually, was already a little bit dated; more likely used by Maynard G. Krebs in Dobie Gillis reruns than by anyone in 1967.) MJ then turns to Gwen and tells her that Peter has mentioned her. "How nice" says the disapproving Miss Stacy. "I dunno what Parker has but I'd sure like to get me some!" says the guy from the other booth. MJ pulls Peter aside and tells him to "wave bye-bye to all these nice people". She is taking him with her to "a little spot I know where they've got the grooviest guitarist in town". Flash can't figure it out. "There's only one answer!" he says, "It's a sorority initiation! She's gotta date the most nothing guy in town so she picked Parker!" Harry points out that "she doesn't look as though anyone's twisting her arm". Peter tells Gwen he has to take "a rain check on that science review" then notices, "Gwen certainly froze up fast". He wonders if she could actually be jealous because of him... or is she upset "because Flash made such a fuss over Mary Jane"? After Peter and MJ have left, the other three sit back in the booth. Gwen crosses her arms and snipes, "I don't know what's gotten into Pete! Even a scholarship student like him can't afford to let his studies slide!" Flash slips his arm behind Gwen and says, "That's not what's buggin' you! You didn't like seeing that new chick wrap him around her little finger! But don't worry, kid! Any gal whose taste is that bad can't be any competition for a doll like you!" "Flash, do me a favor" says Gwen, "stop breathing on me!"
Meanwhile, the Lizard emerges from a manhole "within a shadowy culvert at the edge of Central Park". (And, by the way, it has stopped raining.) He plans to return to Florida and resume his scheme to populate the Earth with giant lizards. (Was that his plan? Let's look at ASM #6. Well, on page 15, panel 2, Lizzie says, "Once I spill my serum in the murky waters, nothing will stop the birth of a new race of lizard creatures." I've never understood how a serum that turned a man into a lizard will turn lizards into men or something like that but that's not the point here. No mention of "giant" lizards that I see. Is that what the serum was supposed to do? Maybe Stan was as confused as I am and decided that later on.) First though, he wants to make sure that Spider-Man doesn't interfere with him again, so he scales the wall of a building, smashes through the window of a wholesale jewelry showroom and starts robbing the joint. Liz has thought this one out. As he tears the door off the safe he reasons, "With luck, Spider-Man himself will be accused of this robbery in which case he'll be too busy dodging the law to be able to get in my way again! Or else, he'll learn what I've done and come after me fast, giving me a chance to finish him, once and for all! Either way, the Lizard can't lose!" And sure enough, as he is climbing down the wall after the theft, a police car drives by and sees him. Since he is too high up to identify, the cops figure he's Spidey since "only Spider-Man can climb a wall like that". (Though you would think with all the super-guys around, the police wouldn't jump to such conclusions.) The two officers go up to the showroom, find the window smashed and "a fortune in gems missing". They pass this info along to headquarters and it isn't long before it gets to the press. J. Jonah Jameson gets awakened at dawn by a phone call from his pressroom telling him they put out an extra while he was asleep accusing Spider-Man of stealing the gems. Jonah is wary. He's been burned by such stories in the past and doesn't want to be a laughingstock again. "Hold everything, blast it!" he orders, "I'll be right there!" But it's too late. The edition is out on the street with a headline reading, "Spider-Man Accused in Daring Gem Theft!" which is perfectly true since the cops are indeed accusing him.
Soon after, Peter Parker is still buzzing over his date with MJ ("An evening out with Mary Jane is like a dozen holidays rolled into one!") when he looks at the paper and sees the headline. Immediately, he figures out that the Lizard must be responsible. Covering his mouth with his mask to muffle his voice, he calls Martha Connors and asks if Curt has checked in. Martha has also seen the morning paper and she also suspects the Lizard. Pete promises Martha that he will take care of it but he doesn't know what to do about it. All he knows is he can't afford to miss another day of class. So, he shows up at ESU but his mind is elsewhere. "He never appears in daylight!" Pete thinks of the Lizard, "I'll have to wait till nightfall!" All the while, his professor is trying to get his attention. "Young man, if you won't answer to Parker, what name would you like me to call you?" he says. Gwen, sitting right next to Pete, whispers to him, telling him to "for goodness sake, wake up!"
Outside after the class, Flash Thompson is defending Spider-Man as usual. Harry, who was apparently also in the class, tells Peter, "That Mary Jane must be something! You were day-dreaming about her in class all morning! And who can blame you?" (Harry seems particularly obsessed with MJ, which plays, wonderfully into his eventual ill-fated relationship with her. You don't suppose Stan was planning that right from the start?)
After class, Pete has still more time to kill before it gets dark. He decides to paint his motorcycle red but can't even concentrate on that. (I neglected to mention that when Pete and MJ left the Silver Spoon, he told her he didn't bring his cycle with him. "Oh well, no sweat!" she said, "We can grab a bus! I'd rather wait till you re-paint it, anyway!" And now here he is, two pages later, painting it! Was this something he was going to do anyway or is Flash right that "that new chick [can] wrap [Peter] around her little finger?")
Finally, night falls and Spidey takes to the webs. Shortly after midnight (but only one panel later for us), he finds the Lizard strolling along in an alley. Since he is slipping up from behind, he has time to web his automatic camera ("with my widest-angle lens") to the wall before he attacks. He does this by leaping onto the Lizard, yelling, "Okay Liz, this is the end of the line!" The Lizard counters by tossing the web-slinger against a public trashcan with a "keep your city clean" sign on it. As he does so, he blabs on about his plan to take over the world with "super-strong giant lizards". Spidey knows that this means, "He's lost the last vestige of Dr. Connor's [sic] identity. He's totally evil now!" Spidey also knows that he must somehow stop the Lizard without harming him if he wants to restore Curt Connors. "I might as well try a direct frontal attack" he thinks as he gets down in a sprinter's stance. Then he springs up and punches the Lizard right on his scaly snout. Unfortunately, "it's like hitting a stone wall". The Lizard adds insult to injury by bragging, "Bah! You can't hurt me!" Spidey's left hand hurts so much from the punch that he feels like he "fractured every knuckle" and little black lines radiate off of it. He takes a defensive position, standing up on the side of a wall. The Lizard swings his tail at him, which misses but knocks a big chunk of brick off of the wall. Spidey counters by grabbing the tail and yanking on it. This allows him to smack the Lizard's head right into the ground with a "thwop!" He then wraps the tail around the Lizard's chest. But instead of following up his advantage, he tries to reason with the Lizard. He tells him that he is Curtis Connors and has a wife and son. The Lizard ain't buying. "You fool! You think you can save yourself by making up fairy tales?" he says as he swings his tail around, forcing Spidey to hang onto it for dear life. The Lizard manages to smack Spidey against the wall. The web-slinger lets go of the tail and falls at the Lizard's feet. Spidey decides to play possum, hoping to grab his foe when Lizzie reaches for him. But the Lizard, thinking Spider-Man is unconscious, does not move in for the kill. It is enough for him to have beaten the web-slinger. Counting on the police to pick Spidey up, he heads for a manhole instead. As the Lizard climbs down the ladder into the sewers, Spidey leaps after him, flying through the manhole, and grabbing him by the tail. (The old tail move again.) This time he piledrives Lizzie's head into the sewer water with a "splunch!" He doesn't expect to defeat him with this move. Rather, he hopes that this will make the Lizard madder than ever so that "he'll forget about escaping, about going to the Florida swamplands, about everything except making me pay for this". This seems to work. As Spidey perches up on the sewer wall, the Lizard stands below proclaiming, "I'll get you! There's no place you can run that I can't follow!" With that, the wall- crawler leaps back to the street through the manhole. The Lizard follows soon after. Spidey then scales a building. "Have you forgotten so soon?" brays the Lizard, "I can climb walls too!" But Spidey hasn't forgotten. In fact, he's counting on it. Just as he hopes, a crowd gathers below and sees two figures scaling the wall. This makes one bystander realize Spidey's "not the only one who has a power like that". Another crowd member makes the connection Spidey wants. "Then, maybe he didn't pull that robbery!" he says. "It could have been someone else!"
The Lizard must have super reptile hearing or something because he hears all this. By the time he and Spidey reach the roof, Liz knows, "You tricked me! You wanted the crowd below to see me scale that wall!" Spidey takes advantage of the moment to wade into the Lizard with a powerful left-handed punch that sends little black lines flying out all over the place. He follows that with a right that seems to stagger the Lizard except that Liz swings his tail around and catches Spidey right in the solar plexus. The blow knocks the web-spinner off the roof. Shaking a fist in triumph, the Lizard announces, "Even you can't survive such a plunge! So, the Lizard wins at last!" But Liz has forgotten about Spidey's webs, which our hero uses to stop his fall. Shaking the other fist now, the Lizard declares that Spidey has saved himself "by a stroke of luck". (What a sore loser the Lizard is. He can't give Spidey any credit at all.) Really miffed now, Lizzie runs down the wall head first to where Spidey is dangling. (Since Spidey has apparently made the mistake of going from dangling on two webs from two buildings on page 17 panel 6 to hanging upside- down on two webs that are attached to the wall right by the Lizard on page 17 panel 8.) The Lizard uses that handy tail of his again, this time slicing right through Spidey's webbing. (Who ever thought that the Lizard's tail was so darn sharp?) Falling again, Spidey manages to spin a web mattress onto the ground to break his fall. (And why does he do this rather than shoot out a strand of webbing to save himself? Because it now looks like he's only about ten feet off the ground if the trail of his other webbing is any indication. The Lizard however seems to still be four or five stories up.) Even with the web cushion Spidey hits the ground too hard, landing on his left shoulder. He gets to his feet but he can't move his arm. It hangs uselessly at his side. Suddenly a bystander with a little black bag runs up. Identifying himself as a doctor, the man orders Spidey, "Let me see that arm". Up on the side of the building, the Lizard realizes there are too many people below for him to follow up his attack. But he knows he has put Spidey out of action, allowing him to get back to his original plan.
The doctor tells Spidey that nothing is broken but he has a bad sprain. He rips the left sleeve off the wall-crawler's costume and tapes the arm firmly so that Spidey cannot move it "till the swelling goes down". He wants to take the webster to his office but Spidey, afraid that the doc will figure out his identity, beats it out of there instead. (And he's so good at web-swinging that he somehow manages to do it with one arm.) Leaving his camera behind, Spidey goes to Curt Connors' apartment and climbs in the window to speak with Martha Connors. Seeing his injured arm, Martha guesses the truth. Spidey "can't keep it from her any longer" and tells her Curt is the Lizard once more. But, he says, "there's still hope! Far as I know, he's committed no crime yet!" Bwa-ha- ha!!!! Go check out this rave I wrote six years ago entitled Moments from Old Funnybooks #1 of 3 (and, no, I don't know what ever happened to #s 2 and 3) then join me back here for the big finish.
As Martha buries her face into the back of an armchair, Spidey assures her that there "must be some way to change him back to normal" and promises, "I won't fail you". Aware of the Lizard's power, Martha is inconsolable and Spidey beats it out the window because he "can't bear to see a woman cry". (Thanks for the support, Spidey!) He goes back to his clothes and has a terrible time trying to get dressed with one arm. He gets his pants on and his yellow rain slicker but he doesn't bother to cover up his Spidey shirt. "Glad there's no moon tonight" he thinks, "wouldn't want anyone to get a good look at me like this!" Yeah, since New York is so dark at night when there's no moon and everything. Thirty minutes later, he is back home. (And how did he do that? He didn't web-swing. He didn't take public transportation if he wanted to keep hidden. So, did he walk from midtown Manhattan to Forest Hills in half an hour?) As soon as he arrives, the phone rings. It is Aunt May checking in from... uh... where was Aunt May going again? Oh, that's right! The "sea shore". May tells Peter "it was a lovely trip... and everything is just fine" but she thinks his "voice sounds so weak" and she worries that he may not be getting enough sleep. Pete lies (as usual) and tells her he's fine. He gets through that phone call and starts to head for bed when the phone rings again. This time it's MJ. She's reclining on her yellow couch as she tells him "I'm dancing a solo at Performer's School tomorrow night and I can get you a ticket if you play your cards right!" Peter would love to go but he is afraid to go out in public with an injured arm now that people know that Spidey has an injured arm as well. (As if there's only one guy in New York City with an injured arm.) So he regretfully turns MJ down. "It's your loss, Dad!" she breezily says (she doesn't think Peter is her father, either), "See you around!" and she hangs right up. So Peter goes up to his room, sits on his bed, and hangs his head. "What happens next?" he wonders. "I'm afraid to be seen with my arm this way, but I can't stay hidden in the house for days! Mary Jane must be writing me off by now and I left my camera behind where someone may find it! I'm further than ever from the extra money I need for Aunt May or from helping Doc Connors and his family! And to top it all off, the Lizard is still at large, capable of anything while I sit here helpless!" Yep, the boy has plenty of problems but as he sinks into despair and wonders "when I will come to my senses and stop bucking fate and give up being Spider-Man forever?" we've come to the end of this issue. But as Stan tells us in the final panel, "Don't despair, Spidey-Fan! There's more next ish! It's a bombshell!"
(By the way, if you send $3.98 to Precise Publications, you can learn how to "Turn your hands into 'Explosive' defense mechanism!... as a fearless master of oriental fighting arts" in which you will be taught how to "turn 16 parts of your body into a weapon" and find out the "27 vital body points that disable". But remember, when you fill out the coupon, you are signing a contract that states, "I promise to use these secrets only for self-defense, never as an aggressor" which is quite a relief.)
This month's Marvel Bullpen Bulletins ("Pulse-Pounding Pronouncements, Passionately Philosophical, Preposterously Profound, and Particularly Prepared for Permanent Oblivion!" except shouldn't that last word be something like "Purgatory"?) informs us that "readers of the Trinity College magazine, Ivy, are undoubtedly being awed by rapturous reprints of Marvel artifacts in the Sept. ish!" and "in the June '66 ish of The New Guard, published by the Young Americans for Freedom, there was an adroit appraisal of the Marvel Mystique which really set us back on our heels!" Now I know I promised that "From the Beginning" would feature ALL Spider-Man appearances from Amazing Fantasy #15 on but I have to draw the line somewhere. Ivy? The New Guard? Sorry, guys. Not in my collection.
The 26 M.M.M.S. members for this issue are Earnest Garrison of Robbins, Illinois; Marc Greenstein of Flushing, New York; Billy Bennett of Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Terry Keegan of Kokomo, Indiana; Craig Koff of Pennsauken, New Jersey; Richard Hicks of Bronx, New York; David Brown of Collingwood, Canada; Judith Lewis of Boalsburg, Pennsylvania; Eric Klaff of Holliston, Massachusetts; Philip Borowiec of Hamburg, New York; Wayne Finkelstein of Newton Center, Massachusetts; James Friedman of Buffalo, New York; Andrew Ginsberg of New York, New York; George Charles of Allentown, Pennsylvania; Ed Dalrymple of Topeka, Kansas; Larry Gaines of Los Angeles, California; Charles Halliday of Wayne, Michigan; Robert Haver of Newcomerstown, Ohio; Wayne Greenstein of Flushing, New York (Marc's brother, no doubt); Gary Burkett of Angleton, Texas; Mack Hunter of Forest Park, Georgia; Hollis Burridge of Union City, Indiana; Jerry Jones of Little Rock, Arkansas (not the current owner of the Dallas Cowboys, I suspect, though he is from Arkansas); Gordon Bright of Honolulu, Hawaii; Oscar Reely of Windsor, Ontario; and Robert Ristelhueber of Flushing, New York (who possibly palled around with Marc and Wayne.) If you're out there, let's hear from you!
In the Spider's Web, Jeff Cecil of Springfield, Ohio wishes "everything in the mag would be brought up to date" to which Stan replies, "If we were any more up to date we'd have to change the name of the strip to Tales of the Future!" (That's right, Dad!) Richard Teeter of Amityville, New York figured out the surprise of Amazing Spider-Man #42, November 1966 after reading Amazing Spider-Man #41, October 1966, writing "I guess I'd best not expect to see Betty around anymore. But that's ok, 'cause it looks like Pete's getting in good with Gwen. This is good as she's a doll since Johnny's been drawing her. Also, Mary Jane Watson will probably be gorgeous, too." Good call, Richard! Dwight Decker of Mt. Vernon, Ohio (later to become a writer for Amazing Heroes and other comic-related publications) says, "Well, judging from Spider-Man #41, it looks like Peter Parker has grown up. His own motorcycle, an apartment in the offing, fewer traumatic problems - he isn't Petey anymore, he's Mr. Parker. I shed a tear to see our neurotic teenager mature so quickly... It's a relief to see him sans ulcers. (Heh. For now, anyway.)... I would suggest you keep Pete away from Gwen - she's a beast of prey. It would be cool if Mary Jane had some sort of super-powers of her own!" Sorry, Dwight! We can't all be clairvoyant like Richard!
The best letter of the issue, however, comes from Allen Almasy of Sewell, New Jersey. Here it is in its entirety. For additional fun, count up the number of items that Allen ridicules that were later used sometime in a Spider-Man mag. "Dear Stan and John, Did you ever sit down after reading an issue of Spider-Man and wonder what a Spidey mag would be like if it were not produced by Marvel? Well, I'll tell you. First of all, Uncle Ben would still be alive. Peter would never have aged, and he'd still be in high school - like forever. He'd have lots of loyal sidekicks, and possibly a pet called Spider-Dog or some such. His dialogue would be exactly the same as every other costumed hero, and he'd flight alien invaders and bug-eyed monsters. JJJ would be very fond of him, because everyone loves a super-hero, and he'd probably belong to a crime- fighting group of some sort. The Parkers would never have any money problems and Aunt May would never be ill. There'd be a new story in each ish, so that they could print any story they want to, any time they want to, in any order - instead of having a thread of continuity which takes lots more thought and hard work, but allows room for a sophisticated, well-rounded plot. The script and art would be less than sensational, and there'd be far less action. And that's why we're lucky that Spidey is produced by Marvel Madmen!"
Hey, don't forget the back cover advertising the "new Aurora Hobby Kits you've been waiting for!" "The Amazing Spider-Man nets a super-villain." (Kraven, if you're wondering) "Spinning his web at your favorite hobby counter now!" The Incredible Hulk and Captain America also available with the Fantastic Four coming soon. Only 98 cents each. "Build them all!" which should only take you a couple of minutes.
Milestones (Landmark events that take place in this story.)
The 1969 Marvelmania International Spider-Man Portfolio checklist entry for this story. Warts and all:
"Where crawls the Lizard" - Lizard transformation again overcomes Dr. Connors and Spidey is injured trying to stop him.
To tell you the truth, I never saw a reason for bringing the Lizard back after ASM #6. By now, over forty years later, the Lizard is really overexposed (and what was done to Martha Connors in Spider-Man: Quality of Life, July-October 2002 was an unnecessary tragedy) but even back in 1967, there was no need to see him again. Yes, he's kinda cool and poses a dilemma for Spidey. Yes, I know that every character comes back eventually. But wouldn't it have been nice to count Doc Connors as one of Spider-Man's successes? To keep him cured of the Lizard from ASM #6 onwards and just leave him as a trusted scientific ally instead? That's why I was disappointed to see the Lizard return in this issue but I'm well over it now so... other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play? Well, not so very much. The moment when MJ meets the gang is the highlight with all the various emotions nicely expressed. I also like the idea of sending Aunt May away and of Foswell tailing Peter. Seeing Mary Jane casually accept Peter's refusal of her invite at the end of the issue was refreshing after all the Sturm und Drang with Betty Brant. But the Lizard battles just didn't do much for me. They seem to ebb and flow to no purpose. Spidey drops Lizzie on his head, Lizzie smacks Spidey with his tail, they go into the sewers, they go up on tall buildings. Even the dramatic moment of Spidey injuring his arm is muted by the way it is accomplished. Can the Lizard really slice Spidey's webbing with his tail? And how far from the ground is the web-slinger when he lands on his shoulder anyway? All things considered, I have to give this one a very mediocre two and a half webs and hope for better in the conclusion.
Next: But before we get to that conclusion, we've got a Marvel Tales to check out.