So, Spidey’s dead, right? Drowned by Zabu at the end of last issue. Then why is this issue called “To Kill a Spider-Man!”?
This is the other issue often forgotten in the midst of “Spider-Man No More,” “Doc Ock Wins,” and “The Brand of the Brainwasher.” But the first issue (#57) earned five webs. Will this issue do the same?
|Pencils:||Don Heck, John Romita, Sr.|
|Cover Art:||John Romita, Sr.|
It’s an unusual cover. It shows the Spider-Slayer with J. Jonah Jameson’s mug in the face monitor as it tears through a corrugated steel garage door. We know it’s a garage door because it is a scene that takes place on page 15 panel 3 as the Spider-Slayer attacks Spider-Man. (It should be Smythe’s face on the screen at that point but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.) The cover doesn’t show Spider-Man, something that had only happened once before in the series (and that issue, Amazing Spider-Man #22, March 1965, at least shows Spider-Man’s shadow). With Spider-Man apparently dying in the previous issue, his absence makes me very nervous. There are only 8 words of blurb here. A yellow arrow points at the Spider-Slayer with the words “Wow! Look who’s back!” In the lower left corner is a yellow Spider-Signal logo with the title, “To Kill a Spider-Man!” You don’t suppose that title refers to Zabu killing Spider-Man? I don’t know if any of this was supposed to be conveyed by this very simple cover but, planned or not, it worried the heck out of me.
Now, the splash page. Ka-Zar swings on his rope, carrying a limp Spider-Man. The park (Central Park?) recedes behind him while police arrive down below. So, with the title perched right above Ka-Zar, it still looks like Spider-Man is dead. But Stan eases our minds immediately. The initial caption reads, “Anyone else might have thought Spidey was dead when Ka-Zar fished him out of the lake last ish…and so did the savage nobleman…until his jungle-bred instincts revealed…” and Ka-Zar himself says, “The masked man still lives! Now that he is vanquished…I must take him to a place of safety and learn the truth about him!” Well, that’s a relief! Now, let’s get into the story.
On page two, the camera swings around and drops to ground level as we join the police looking up at Ka-Zar swinging away in the background. “I don’t get it,” says one cop, “I thought Ka-Zar was on our side.” Another cop points at the saber-toothed tiger crawling towards them and says, “It’s Zabu! He left ‘im behind!” I wonder whether a policeman would know Zabu’s name. Or even Ka-Zar’s, for that matter. This is Ka-Zar’s first time in this country and he hasn’t exactly had a whole slew of appearances. But he did arrive last issue as if he was a big celebrity so maybe everyone in New York knows about Ka-Zar and Zabu.
Zabu leaps at the three cops, scattering them, but one notes that “His claws are sheathed” and that “He’s not trying to injure us! He’s following Ka-Zar’s orders!” Once Ka-Zar is safely away, Zabu runs off.
Meanwhile, Ka-Zar has brought Spidey to a rooftop. He notes that “Another man with so much water in his lungs would have surely perished!” (So, Spidey has “can survive longer with water in his lungs” powers?) He uses his “jungle knowledge” to bring the wall-crawler around. When Ka-Zar mentions “the man named Jameson,” Spidey leaps up. “So he put you up to attacking me!” he says. Ka-Zar notes that Spidey’s voice is “no longer hesitant, no longer unsure.” That is because Spidey has regained his memory. “My amnesia is gone! The shock of hitting the water must have cured it!” Well, okay. It’s a bit of a lame explanation for ending the amnesia but it was a great plot device for two issues so I’m willing to ride with it.
At the Daily Bugle, Betty Brant informs JJJ that “Professor Smythe is on the phone.” “He’s that nitwit who built a robot to defeat Spider-Man,” says Jonah, “but he failed, like everyone else.” In a footnote, Stan reminds us that that took place in Amazing Spider-Man #25, June 1965 but what he doesn’t mention is that Professor Smythe since appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #28, September 1965 in which he was simply an industrious scientist. Or, as I put it in my ASM #28 review, “Now come with me to those halcyon days when Professor Spencer Smythe was a quiet inventor who created a robot to attack Spider-Man out of scientific curiosity and wasn't a criminal mastermind at all. So, it is not necessary for Pete to track down Smythe's hideout. He just goes over to Smythe's house instead.” Smythe is still that scientist working out of his home but he’s about to make the transition to super-villain.
Jonah takes the phone call but has no patience for Smythe. “Go tell it to City Hall, ya bum!” he says. From his lab, which is filled with spiders behind glass, Smythe tells Jameson, “We now have a chance to completely crush the web-spinner! And this time…it can’t fail!”
Elsewhere, John Jameson says his good-byes to Captain George Stacy. John has new orders and is “headed overseas.” George promises to work on clearing Spider-Man and getting to the bottom of things. At the hospital, Gwen Stacy and Harry Osborn visit Aunt May. Dr. Bromwell stops them. “I’m afraid she can’t see anyone right now,” he says, “The only one she keeps calling for is her nephew…Peter!”
This brings us to the “More Triumphs for Marvel…!” page. Last issue, the whole page was devoted to Marvel Super-Heroes #12, December 1967. This time it returns to two issues but one of them is Marvel Super-Heroes #13, March 1968 with the continuation of the Captain Marvel saga. Marvel is pushing the Captain hard but those early CM stories just aren’t very good. The other issue spotlighted is Fantastic Four #72, March 1968 which is, perhaps, most notable for highlighting the Silver Surfer and the Watcher on the cover with no sign of the FF at all. It’s an average story as FF stories go but it’s much better than the Captain Marvel stuff.
Still at the hospital, Gwen and Harry confer on what has become of Peter. “I know he’s taken off on those mysterious photo assignments before,” says Gwen, “But never this long…never while his Aunt was so ill!” Harry says, “If he was hurt…or worse…someone would have found him by now!” Gwen says, “No! Don’t even say it!” Huh? He said if he was hurt or worse someone would have found him by now. That means he probably isn’t hurt or worse, Gwen!
Back on the rooftop, Spidey tells Ka-Zar that he must have lost his memory in the battle with Doc Ock. (And he seems to remember that “with [his] memory gone…[Ock] tried to convince [him that they] were partners.” Don’t ask me why he would remember that and, apparently, nothing else.) After hearing the story, Ka-Zar believes Spidey. “In the jungle, we learn to sense truth from falsehood,” he says. He tells Spidey that he will help to clear him but he is distracted by “the warning roar of Zabu” and leaps off the building, wielding his rope and grappling hook. In the street, Zabu has caused a panic with people fleeing, police converging, and a car crashing into a fire hydrant, sending water everywhere. (I like the guy who has decided to climb a lamppost.) All Zabu wants to do is find his master.
There are three cops. (The same three from the park?) Two of them have rifles and one has a pistol. Ka-Zar swings down on his rope and snatches one of the rifles away. “Guns against Zabu?? Never!!” he says. The cop with the pistol says “Look out, it’s Ka-Zar! He’s trying to save the tiger. (I would think that Stan is making a cute reference here except the Jack Lemmon film didn’t come out until 1973.) The cop from whom Ka-Zar took the rifle says, “From what? All we wanna do is get ‘im off the streets!” (By shooting him?) Ka-Zar takes the rifle and whacks it against a brick wall, shattering it. “Guns! Ka-Zar hates guns!” says Ka-Zar. He then leaps up, grabs a lamppost and bends it down so that it wraps around the hood of a police car. “No more will Zabu be pursued by cars! Not while Ka-Zar lives! Civilized men..bah! Always fighting..chasing…trying to harm others!” No one tries to stop him. Someone off-panel says, “He doesn’t mean any harm! Besides, his estate in England has enough dough to settle up for all the damages!” So, apparently, Ka-Zar and his affairs are pretty well known after all.
Ka-Zar joins Zabu and declares, “Now clear the way! We would be gone!” As they walk away, one cop rubs the back of his neck and says, “Man! What a corker! I’d rather face that king-size kitty than tackle him when he’s angry!”
With that, Ka-Zar seems to have forgotten about Spidey and his promise to help clear Spidey’s name. Spidey seems to have forgotten about Ka-Zar, too. The wall-crawler only has thoughts for Aunt May who “must be worried sick.” He plans to get to May at once but discovers he’s out of web fluid. “I’ll have to travel by wall-crawling!” he thinks, “First, back to the apartment…for my clothes. Easy, Spidey! You’re still kind’a woozy!!” (Okay, I’ll cut it out with the silly links, now.)
“Y’know something?” says Stan in a caption, “It’s hard to kick this scene-changing habit! Like f’rinstance…” JJJ has shown up at Professor Smythe’s door. “I know this is a blinkin’ waste of time,” he says, “So let’s get it over with!” Smythe shows him into his laboratory and presents his new Spider-Slayer. “You will notice that it is far bigger, far more powerful…far more deadly than its first prototype!” he says, “Remember how my first robot came within a hairsbreadth of defeating Spider-Man? Now this one…being many times its superior cannot possibly fail!” Jonah is so impressed that he opens his mouth and his cigar levitates in the air in front of him. “It…looks like it could handle anything…that lives!” he says. Smythe adds, “It shall slay the web-slinger without mercy!” JJJ, his cigar back in his mouth, objects to this. “Nobody’s talking about murdering him,” he says, “I just want him captured, see? I want him behind bars…like forever!”
Jameson sits down at the console. As with the previous Spider-Slayer, he can see on his monitor what the robot is looking at. His face appears in the robot’s faceplate, like last time. “I trust my payment will be the same as before?” asks Smythe. Jonah agrees. (In ASM #25, Jonah offers to buy the robot but Smythe only wants to rent. As I said in that review, “Jonah drapes an arm around Smythe’s shoulder and leads him to his inner office to work out the details.” So we never did learn what Smythe’s payment was. But whatever it was, it is the same this time.)
Smythe opens up the robot’s chestplate to show “how much more sophisticated” his controls are. “He’s twice as sensitive as my first prototype was,” he says. Smythe goes on to explain that the robot can “track down anything that has a spider scent.” Jonah correctly notes that the previous robot had the same feature and Spider-Man still won. “But the first one didn’t have my Spider-Slayer’s invincible strength.” He proves this by placing a spider in a glass globe on the other side of a foot-thick wall. The robot senses the spider, then easily smashes the wall to get to it. “I’m sold! I’m sold!” says Jonah but he should really ask himself two questions.
(I just looked back at my ASM #25 review and saw that I’d written this: “I've also jumped the gun on referring to the robot as a Spider-Slayer. Smythe doesn't use that name for his invention until he presents a new and improved model to Jonah Jameson in ASM #58. The new Slayer was certainly more buff with greater strength and nifty new items like a "destructo-beam" but I think Spencer made a big mistake dispensing with the metal tentacles. Spidey never did figure out a way to break free of those things.” It’s nice to know I’m consistent.)
Back at the Daily Bugle, John Jameson shows up to say good-bye to his Dad. (“I have my orders to ship out within the hour!”) He finds Ned Leeds and Betty Brant flirting. “Don’t work too hard, honey!” says Ned, “Can’t have you yawning at our wedding!” “I’ll try to stay awake during the ceremony, darling!” says Betty. It sounds like the wedding is right around the corner but they don’t actually get hitched until Amazing Spider-Man #156, May 1976, 8 years, 2 months and 98 issues later. (And, yes, it’s already been 2 years, 4 months and 26 issues since Ned proposed in Amazing Spider-Man #30, November 1965.)
With Jonah in absentia, Joe Robertson steps up to shake John’s hand and wish him the best. “Thanks, Mr. Robertson!” says John, “Tell me, do you ever feel like getting back in uniform?” And that is an interesting question because I’m not sure we’ve ever heard anything about Joe Robertson’s military experience. Has that ever been addressed?
Meanwhile, Spidey is standing on a ledge, still feeling woozy. He jumps down on the roof of a bus (which reads “Ghren Bus Inc.” on the side, whatever that means) to hitch a ride but he can’t stay long because someone spots him from a building window and yells for the police. He leaps back to the rooftops. At the same time, Smythe and Jameson set the Spider-Slayer going. They follow it in Smythe’s car with Jameson handling the robot’s controls. (JJJ is smoking his usual stogie but Smythe is smoking a cigarette. Do we ever see him with a cigarette again?) Jonah is impressed that the robot has “picked up the trail already.” I’m impressed too because it’s supposed to respond to spiders and there have to be millions of spiders in Manhattan. The robot is capable of walking on walls and it plods along on the side of a bridge, zeroing in on Spider-Man. So, that’s means it not only picked up Spidey amidst all the spiders but picked him up from Queens or Brooklyn or even New Jersey. (Where is Smythe’s lab anyway?)
Spider-Man makes it home. He is happy to see that Harry is not there. He tries to call Aunt May but gets no answer. Exhausted, he starts to take his costume off in order to “get some shut-eye” but his spider-sense starts tingling. Then he notices “that noise…outside my window! It seems crazy…but it sounds like footsteps…walking up the wall!!” To make matters worse, he hears a voice and recognizes it as Jameson’s. “I don’t know what it’s all about…but I’d better put on my mask,” he decides. Just in time, too. He peeks out the window and finds the robot, with JJJ’s face in the faceplate, walking up the wall. “We got him dead to rights…burglarizing someone’s apartment,” says Jonah.
Spidey kicks at the Slayer but doesn’t budge him. The Slayer retaliates by taking a punch at Spidey, knocking a hole in the brick. (Do you think Harry is ever going to wonder about that?) Spidey leaps away.
Now, it turns out that JJJ and Smythe went back to the Daily Bugle. Don’t ask me why. I thought they were going to follow along in the car. Instead, they are making the same mistakes they made last time. Betty Brant, who temporarily sabotaged them in ASM #25 even pokes her head in briefly.
JJJ sends the robot after Spidey but Smythe can’t wait any longer. He tries to fry Spidey with the Slayer’s “destructo-beam.” When Jonah objects (“Take it easy, blast it! We’ve got the wall-crawler trapped…there’s no need to hit him with a deadly ray!”), Smythe shoves him aside and takes over the controls. “But…you promised,” whines Jonah. “Shut up, Jameson!” says Smythe, “You’re in this as deep as I am now! Between the two of us, we’ll finish him!”
Spidey overhears the entire conversation over the robot’s audio. He now knows the score “for all the good it’ll do me.” Fleeing, he finds a steel garage door and slips inside, hoping that the Slayer will pass him by. It doesn’t. It rips the steel door open and attacks with the destructo-beam. This moment is our cover, except that, as mentioned before, Smythe is at the controls instead of Jameson. Spidey dodges the beam, maneuvering Smythe into blasting the main ceiling beam. Spidey escapes as the ceiling falls on the robot. This gives Spidey time to track down a phone booth. Everybody remember phone booths? They used to have phone books in them and everything. Everybody remember phone books? As he heads into the booth and looks in the book, Spidey soliloquizes. “I’ve got to learn where Smythe’s lab is before the robot tackles me again! I’ve seen a zillion crime movies where they knock themselves out trying to find where someone lives…and I always wondered why they didn’t just look ‘em up in the phone book!!! No reason why he wouldn’t be listed! He’s not a fugitive or…” but then the Slayer breaks through a wall and continues his pursuit.
There are a dozen Smythes in the book and Spidey doesn’t know the Profs first name. But Smythe bothered to put “Scientist” after his name, giving Spidey the right address. . (Actually, Spidey should know where Smythe’s lab is…unless he moved. He went there in Amazing Spider-Man #28, September 1965, also as previously mentioned.) Then he just barely leaps out of the phone booth before the robot crushes it in his arms…a great panel that makes it look like Spidey escaped with seconds to spare
JJJ is appalled at the robot’s actions. “You don’t care about him being a menace to mankind!” he tells Smythe, “You just want to kill him…for personal revenge!” Smythe retaliates with “Don’t talk to me about motives, you pious hypocrite! You’ve lied about him in your paper for years!” Has anybody else ever laid it on the line to Jonah like that? It’s about time. Even if it comes from a fledgling super-villain.
Smythe gets a maniacal look when he realizes that Spidey is heading for his lab. (And where is that lab? Should it be in a Manhattan phone book? Is it also his residence?) “The fool! He doesn’t suspect we’re here, in your office at the Bugle!” says Smythe. “Once he reaches the lab, he’ll be trapped! My robot will never let him escape from there!”
Apparently Smythe leaves open windows at his lab. (Well, it is 1968 and he may not have air conditioning.) Spidey leaps right inside. “If I guessed wrong, I’m finished!” he says. But he hasn’t. “I found what I want!” he thinks, even as the robot approaches. Smythe doesn’t seem to care much for his own lab. First, there’s the open window. Then, he sends the Slayer right through a wall. He prepares to deliver the coup de grace except the robot starts malfunctioning. “I can’t fail now…not when I almost have him!” says Smythe, “I’ll increase the power…give it absolute maximum!” And it turns out that all he has to do to “give it absolute maximum” is flip a switch that gives off a “click!” But doing that causes the Spider-Slayer to explode with a ZPTOWWW!
In the aftermath, Spidey explains what happened to Smythe, even though Smythe can no longer hear him. “I knew your man-shaped rattletrap was activated by spider impulses,” he says, “That’s why he was able to track me down so easily! So, it wasn’t hard to figure out that too many spider impulses might just short circuit him like a fuse box that can’t take an electric overload! All I needed was a place where there’d be enough spiders to do the trick and that’s why I came to your lab, smart guy, not for you, for your spiders! I just heaped them all together for maximum impact…then…blooie!” (And, as we can see on page 19, panel 3, the spiders are all stacked up in their glass cages.)
Back at the Bugle, JJJ rages at Smythe (“If you’d have been satisfied to just capture him like I wanted to, we’d have won!) and kicks him out of his office. Soon after, an exhausted Spidey returns to his apartment. He is relieved to see that Harry is still not home but he is concerned when he calls Aunt May and still gets no answer. Too worried to sleep, Peter heads out into the city. “Maybe she’s too ill to answer the phone,” he thinks, “Or…what if…Dock Ock returned??” (Get with it, Pete! It’s Doc Ock, though Stan did occasionally use the “double ock.”) Peter rounds a corner and stumbles upon Ka-Zar, now in a trench coat and ascot, taking a walk with Zabu. “Do not be alarmed, young man!” Ka-Zar says, “While taking an evening stroll, I thought I sensed a familiar figure…but it seems I was mistaken! Though it is most passing strange…for the aura of Spiderman is not easily forgot!” (Get with it, Ka-Zar! It’s Spider-Man with a hyphen.) Ka-Zar and Zabu walk past into the shadows while Peter casts a shadow on a wall that is symbolically festooned with a spider-web.
Cool ending but there’s a lot to still deal with. Mainly, how is Aunt May? And how will Peter explain his disappearance? Plus, the “Next Issue” box tells us to “Prepare to Meet—the Brain-Washer!” I’m prepared, Stan! I’m prepared!
On the Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page (“More Batty Bulletins to Bewilder, Bewitch, and Bedazzle Thee!”), we learn the “fabulous fourth rank of Marveldom Assembled…the lustrous letters KOF (Keeper of the Flame), to be claimed with pride by any Marvel Madman, anywhere in the free world, who successfully recruits a new disciple into the riotous ranks of Marveldom! Now, whilst you bow your head in silent reverie, we shall take this occasion to reveal next month’s three letters – P.M.M. – the highest rank of all – whose deep, dramatic meaning shall be revealed to thee on this page next ish!” I can hardly stand the suspense!
In another item, Stan prints a letter from Bill Reed of Scarborough, Ontario who writes, “Operation Mailcall Viet Nam is a service by the American Government which gives people a chance to write to members of the American Armed Forces who are overseas. It’s a chance to let them know that they’re not alone – and that someone’s thinking of them.” Stan thanks Bill for the info but, in a postscript that illustrates how divided the country was by this time, adds, “Many of our politically aware readers have divergent opinions about the Viet Nam war – as do the Bullpeners [sic] themselves. This notice is not intended as an endorsement on our part of any specific policy regarding the war. We simply feel that many American boys have been sent into battle far from home – and anything we can do to make ‘em feel that they’re not forgotten is surely a worthwhile deed which transcends mere politics. ‘Nuff said?”
In his Soapbox, Stan writes, “”1968 will go down in comicdom history as the year of the big changes in the wonderful world of Marvel! We’ve got new titles that will soon be taking you by storm – and new features that’ll make you realize the ol’ House of Ideas is more daring than ever! In fact, we have one new mag now on the drawing board that’s so dramatically different in concept, we confidently predict it will actually usher in the SECOND Marvel Age of Comics – an era ever greater, even more glorious than ever before!” Any guesses as to what that mag was? My guess is Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #1.
Here are “26 More M.M.M.S. members!” (You know, these listings of members have been going on since Amazing Spider-Man #26, July 1965?) Ron Rererich of Bergen, New Jersey; Paul Torres of Los Angeles, California; Dick Rader of Hillsdale, Michigan; Tibor Ulla of Victoria, Australia; Robert Vanderheave of Oneida, New York; Dianne Rodman of Sarasota, Florida; Steve Robnett of Peoria, Illinois; Keith Roy of Jennings, Louisiana; Joe Valasque of Newport, Kentucky (Should there be a “z” at the end of Joe’s last name or is this correct?); Felicia Value of Warren, Rhode Island; Pete Ricciardi of Saddle River, New Jersey; Bill Rizzetti of Mt. Kisco, New York; Bill Lark of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Mike Riley of Seattle, Washington; Jean Reynolds of Palo Alto, California; Bill Rermert of Boca Raton, Florida; Roy Rubinfeld of East Rockaway, New York; Michael Tripp of San Francisco, California (How great is it to live in San Francisco in the 1960s and have the last name of “Tripp?”); George Razo of Fort Worth, Texas; Jim Ray of Annandale, Virginia; Glenn Harris of New York, New York; Florry Tomasulo of Long Beach, New York; Vicky Roberts of Ft. Knox, Kentucky; James Riley of Wallkill, New York; John Ray of Sarasota, Florida; and Joel Ramey of Vancouver, Washington. As usual, if any of you are out there, I’d love to hear from you!
In “The Spider’s Web,” R. Gaede of Bakersfield, California asks, “Why are all the superheroes in the entire world in New York? Other cities have crime problems, too. Why can’t you have a superhero in Los Angeles or San Francisco?… Give the West Coast a piece of the action!!” Stan replies, “Actually, we thought the West Coast had enough happening out there without the added impetus of several superheroes! What with the hippies in San Francisco, not to mention Country Joe and the Fish and about a zillion other top pop recording groups, we figured it best that we keep at least some of the action on this side of the Mississippi! But, if the exodus towards the Pacific keeps growing, one of our heroes just might swing out to see where it’s at! In the meantime, though, may the strobe lights of the Avalon Ballroom flash on!” Wow. “Country Joe.” “The Avalon Ballroom.” Nice name-dropping, Stan! Is it any surprise that fans thought Stan was in his 20s instead of the 45 that he actually was at that time? (Oh, and it was Daredevil who moved out to San Francisco in Daredevil #87, May 1972.)
Jeff Jordan of Pelham, New Hampshire says, “Let Petey show his affections to Gwen before she dies an old maid.” This one just about brings a tear to my eye. He ends with “Stan Lee for President!” Stan is 95 and would make a better President than the one we have now. Happy Birthday, Stan!
And Clay Frost of West Vinn, Oregon writes, “”I don’t see why all these cornball kooks keep writing letters to you howling that you should quit inventing new villains for Spidey to fight. How did the old villains get to be old villains? Simple! They had to be new villains once! By now the Looter is an old villain, and in about five more issues the Shocker will be, too. Just keep inventing new villains, and soon you’ll have a good supply of old villains. Also, although I like Peter Parker’s new image, I do not like his speech. Just once I would like to see him go up to Gwen and Mary Jane and say ‘Hi,’ instead of something like, ‘Who are these wonderful waifs I see wandering by the wayside whilst waving to pink pussycats, Tiger?’ So until the black roots of Gwen’s hair, show, make mine Marvel!” Stan answers, “We will, Clay – ‘cause we happen to know that Gwen’s golden locks are 100% for real! Thanks for your support of our policy of aging our vituperous villains. (Like, we need all the help we can get!) Now, about your little gripe with Petey’s alliterative addresses to the two objects of his affection – we’ve done a little research and have come up with some swingin’ statistics! In the last two issues of SPIDER-MAN, every time Mr. Parker meets Misses Watson and Stacey [sic], he says the word you recommend – ‘Hi!’ How about that? So, let’s compromise -! If you’ll give Petey and his pals a break, we’ll guarantee more of those vintage villains. Deal?” Actually, Stan, I think Clay was asking for more new villains but that’s okay. Clay’s full letter and your full answer are worth the price of admission.
Bye, Bye, Baby, Goodbye:
Ka-Zar’s next appearance is his first starring appearance, in Marvel Super-Heroes #19, March 1969. He gets his own regular series in Astonishing Tales #1, August 1970 which lasts until #20, October 1973. He next meets Spidey in Amazing Spider-Man #103, December 1971.
Zabu is in those issues, too.
This is Professor Smythe’s third appearance. The last one was Amazing Spider-Man #28, September 1965 when he wasn’t even considered a bad guy. His next appearance is in Amazing Spider-Man #105, February 1972 where he becomes a full-fledged super-villain.
Professor Smythe gives up on the two-legged man-like Spider-Slayer with this issue but Marla Madison makes one for JJJ that appears in Amazing Spider-Man #167, April 1977.
Milestones (Landmark events that take place in this story.)
The 1969 Marvelmania International Spider-Man Portfolio checklist entry for this issue. In all its glory:
“To Kill a Spider-Man” – Spideys memory returns & Ka-zar releases him. JJJ resorts to a robot as he did in #25 – only this one is more powerful.
In my ASM #57 review, I noted that that that issue and this issue are “easy to forget, surrounded as they are by these other great stories.” I ended up giving #57 five webs. This one doesn’t quite reach those heights but it is still a very solid underrated issue. First of all, even though the Spider-Slayer has taken over the cover, this issue is as much a Ka-Zar issue as a Slayer one. In the first half of the story, he brings Spidey back to life, saves Zabu from the authorities and then disappears on page 7 panel 3. But Stan knows what he’s doing and after a short stint with JJJ, Smythe, and the Slayer (which really only lasts 12 pages during which it converts Smythe from an inquisitive scientist to a full-fledged super-villain), he brings Ka-Zar back at the end to tie it all into a neat little bow.
With the continuation of Ka-Zar and Spidey’s amnesia into this story and the introduction of the Spider-Slayer halfway through, the issue starts to feel like those Hulk Tales to Astonish stories which were constructed like movie serials as they moved from one plot to another in mid-episode to leave you hanging at the end. The only disappointment here is that, after establishing that tone, Stan does wrap it up in that neat little bow here.
I shouldn’t rush through Smythe’s transition either. Note how he briefly hovers in the twilight zone of motivation. In a two-panel sequence on page 8 he first talks about slaying the web-slinger, then asks if his pay will be the same. By the time the story ends, though, all pay is forgotten and he is full fledged for murder. The next time we see him, he is so “all in” to kill Spidey that his mania eventually leads to his own death. All of that is nicely set up right here.
At first, the defeat of the Spider-Slayer feels like a bit of a cheat. I mean, come on. Spidey gets the Slayer to explode because of “too many spider impulses?” But after consideration I give this credit for being one of those creative Spidey/Stan solutions like trapping the Lizard in a boxcar freezer in ASM #45 or John Jameson using the nullifier against Doc Ock to disable his arms. I much prefer these endings to a slugfest where Spidey simply knocks out his opponent. Plus, confusing a robot into destruction is in the great 1960s tradition.
So, let’s give this one four webs. It’s good but I have a feeling there are some better issues coming along in 1968.
Let’s face it. Go-Go #6 is a pretty crummy comic and would have been completely forgotten if I hadn’t read Roy Thomas’ review of Not Brand Echh #6 in Alter Ego #95. But you know what they say; once you see it, you can’t unsee it. So, I’m afraid it’s next.