Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #64

Background

Let's see. Where were we? Oh yeah. Spidey has an injured arm. The original Vulture has just defeated the Blackie Drago Vulture so thoroughly that Blackie has vowed to never put the wings on again. Last issue's "Next" blurb, the only text on this issue's cover and this issue's title are all the same, "The Vulture's Prey," which doesn't sound too good for Spidey.

Story 'The Vulture's Prey'

It's a deceptively simple cover this time. The background is a black-and-white rendition of New York City, complete with Central Park, like a charcoal sketch. Take a look at the cars or the buildings that fade into the background. It feels realistic but is mostly expressionistic. Now layered on top of it are the Vulture and Spider-Man, in full color and drawn realistically (if you consider super-heroes and villains realistic). That contrast makes them stand out as if they are 3D. The Vulture is hitting Spidey in his bad shoulder and that impact explodes as a starburst that is almost in the very center of the drawing. It all jumps off the page and the comic rack.

This one picks up right where the last one left off. Spider-Man stands on a chimney, holding onto his wounded shoulder, waiting for the Vulture to attack. On the Daily Bugle roof, J. Jonah Jameson is furious because Peter Parker has run out on him. (He snuck off and changed into Spider-Man to rescue a child in ASM #63.) Now Jonah is stuck with a bird's eye view of the upcoming battle with no photographer to immortalize it. "How can this happen to a doll-boy like me?!" he says. But then Joe Robertson shows up with a staff photographer. "Get over here, mister!", yells JJJ, "Start snapping!" Back at the scene, the Vulture can tell by the way Spidey is favoring his arm that something is wrong. He telegraphs his knowledge by saying, "When I'm thru with you, you won't have to worry about that arm...or anything else...ever again!" Spidey knows that this gives the Vulture the advantage but he tries to counter with bravado and a swift two-legged kick, giving it everything he's got. The Vulture takes the brunt of it but is able to use "the air to cushion the impact." The wall-crawler can see that the Vulture is faster than ever. He's in big trouble and he knows it.

But if the Vulture is fast, Spidey's "not exactly a tortoise" himself. When the Vulture swings down with his own two-legged kick, powerful enough to send bricks flying off the chimney, the web-slinger evades the attack. When the Vulture looks back, Spider-Man is gone. "Did he fall to his death?" the Vulture wonders. He flies to the other side of the chimney to find out. This is what Spidey wants. He is clinging to the side of the chimney. When the Vulture arrives, he reaches out with his left arm... his good arm... and snags the Vulture by his wing. But he can't hang on, not without using his other arm. The Vulture breaks free and punches him soundly in the jaw. Spidey responds with a lefty backhand slap, his right arm hanging uselessly at his side. (And over at the Daily Bugle, JJJ is still in raptures over the great photos.) Spidey realizes that "the force of my swing almost made me topple off the wall." He can't keep his balance and fight with one arm. But he has no choice in the matter. The Vulture has recovered from the blow and flies back at him.Rather than attacking, though, the Vulture hovers in front of his foe. This allows Spidey to use his injured arm to shoot webbing around the Vulture's legs. Spidey doesn't expect this to help much but he's got to do something.

Over at the Bugle, the photographer is running out of film plates. (Yep. That's right. Film plates.) "You can't!", says Jonah, "I want shots of Spider-Man's finish!" Joe Robertson points out that it's liable to be their finish. Spidey has managed to switch the webbing over to his good hand but the Vulture has pulled him off the wall. Now, the Vulture flies directly at the Daily Bugle, dragging Spider-Man behind, using the wall-crawler as a deadly bola.

Spidey yells at the men, calling them by name, telling them to get off the roof. The photographer takes his advice. He's out of film anyway. Jonah stays put, yelling that Spidey "doesn't want us to witness his defeat." And in the midst of this chaos, Joe Robertson can't help but notice that Spidey used their names. "Is he someone I know?" he wonders.

But further thoughts are impossible. The Vulture carries out his threat and uses Spidey as a weapon, knocking both Robbie and Jonah to the ground. Spidey realizes that he must let go lest he end up injuring the two men. ("You saw that, Robbie!" bellows Jonah, "Spider-Man tried to kill me!") Spidey lights upon the Daily Bugle sign with a "Thop! and a "Thup!" He is happy to see that his collision with JJJ and Robbie "only grazed them."

The Vulture has freed his legs and is making a run at Spidey whose spider-sense warns him of the approach. But so does Joe Robertson, who yells out, "Spider-Man - watch it! He's coming for you again!." JJJ is not happy about this. "What are you warning him for?" he yells, "I'm rooting for the Vulture!" Flying down, the Vulture attacks with his feet but Spidey leaps away. "The impact loosened some chunks of the Bugle sign," Spidey thinks and he must have a different definition of "some chunks" than I do because it looks like half the sign is shattered. And that debris is heading right for Robbie and Jameson.

Jonah is too frightened to move so Robbie leaps quickly and knocks him out of the way. Jonah is unhurt but Robbie collapses, wounded by one of the chunks. Jonah, his hatred for Spidey blinding him to the truth, accuses the wall-crawler. A semi-conscious Robertson tries to tell his boss that it wasn't Spidey's fault. (He says, "It wasn't his faul...") Jameson doesn't listen. The Vulture hovers above. Jonah yells at him to "swoop down on [Spidey] now before he escapes," then he grabs Spidey, pinning his arms from behind and yelling to the Vulture to "rid the world of Spider-Man forever!" (JJJ must be faster than I thought. He was about 10 feet away from Spidey in the previous panel.) Spidey can't believe that JJJ is so blind to the situation that he thinks the world would be better off with the Vulture. (He calls Jonah a "biscuit-brained bedbug!" which I guess is pretty bad.) He also can't believe that Jameson thinks he can hold him. When the Vulture swoops down, Spidey flips aside, "as though Jameson is just a feather on his back" but this maneuver makes his arm hurt worse than ever.

The Vulture hangs back, looking for an opening, but JJJ is staging a frontal attack. "I wish you were an official, card-carrying super-villain," says Spidey to the publisher, "Then I'd really have an excuse to lean on you." He settles for covering Jonah with webbing. Spidey checks on Joe Robertson who doesn't seem to have "any bones broken." But before he can do any more, the Vulture starts to attack again.

Elsewhere, in Forest Hills, May Parker answers her door to admit Mary Jane Watson. May doesn't recognize MJ at first because of her "ginchy new hairdo," which is cut short and heavily curled. MJ asks May and Aunt Anna if they've heard from Peter lately and this just gets May worrying. She hasn't heard from her nephew in days and if even Mary Jane hasn't heard from him, then maybe something is wrong.

In another part of town, Gwen Stacy meets up with her father, now recovered from his to-do with the Kingpin (in ASM #59 to ASM #61). He tells Gwen that, with his recovery, his memory has returned. He now knows "that Peter didn't really attack me that day, he was trying to help me." So, that ties up that plot line. Tears of happiness well up in Gwen's eyes and she hugs her father. As they walk together, Gwen tells her dad that Norman Osborn "hasn't been well lately" and that "Harry thinks it might be a nervous breakdown." This conversation is cut short as they approach the Daily Bugle building. A crowd has gathered and Gwen recognizes Betty Brant and Ned Leeds. (Should Gwen know Betty and Ned?) Betty tells Gwen that Spider-Man and the Vulture are battling and that JJJ, Joe Robertson, and Peter are stuck up there. Now the tears in Gwen's eyes are from worry.

Back at the battle, the Vulture bides his time, hamming it up for the crowd. Robbie tells Spidey to run for it but that's never an option. As the Vulture streaks in for the kill, Spidey hits him in the stomach. But, once again, the Vulture uses his wings to roll with the blow. He gets in close and hammers Spidey with two punches of his own. Stunned, the web-slinger falls, and, dazed, grabs onto the wall. His arm is killing him, everything is spinning around, but he hangs on. "Why don't you fall?" screams the Vulture.

Spidey knows he is helpless. He decides, no matter what, to go out fighting. The Vulture dives in again, and, this time, Spider-Man leaps at him and grabs his legs. The Vulture is unimpressed. "Your grip is weaker than ever!" he gloats, then delivers a flurry of punches to Spidey's unprotected face. The web-slinger can take no more. He slips off the Vulture's legs and falls toward the ground, hearing the Vulture's mocking laughter as he falls. Still dazed from the blows, Spidey has enough sense to realize that he is too far from a building to snag it with his web. So, he quickly forms a web cushion just below him and manages to land on it. It is "just enough to break [his] fall." The Vulture can't tell what has happened but it looks to him as if the wall-crawler landed on something. He flies down to take a look and the by-standers scatter at his approach. Spidey "hasn't moved a muscle" since he landed. The Vulture lands and moves in. He sees the web cushion and wonders why it didn't break Spidey's fall. Just then, Spidey sits up. He has been playing possum, hoping that the Vulture would get close. He reaches his left hand up to the power pack on the Vulture's back and crushes it. "I felt it snap beneath my fingers," Spidey says, and the Vulture knows that, with his power pack short-circuited, he must get away as fast as he can. Unsteadily, the Vulture flies off, with Spidey taunting him with "What's your hurry, Vulch? Aren't you gonna tell me how much stronger you are than a has-been like me?" But Spidey's strength fades. Everything gets hazy. And, though he knows he mustn't, the wall-crawler passes out. The crowd encircles him and comes closer. "He's unconscious", says one crowd member. "This is our chance," says another, "to unmask him, at last!"

The "Next" caption is "The Man Beneath the Mask!" which sure sounds like an upcoming unmasking. I can't wait to find out!

The Bullpen Bulletins ("More Hysterical Hoopla and Hangups From Your Howlin' House of Ideas!") only has three items. The first touts the five writers that are taking some of the workload off of Stan. They are Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich ("our swingin', zingin', folk-song-singin' assistant ed"), Archie Goodwin...and "another two stalwarts who've toiled elsewhere." The item promises "We'll introduce 'em in another ish," but who do we think they are? Arnold Drake and...? Gardner Fox? No, he doesn't write for Marvel until the early 70s. I don't know who the other writer is. Maybe Stan will tell us in a later Bullpen Bulletin.

The second item is the departure of Flo Steinberg "to seek her fortunes in another field of endeavor." According to Wikipedia, "Steinberg left Marvel in 1968. 'I was just tired. The last years were so long because the fan mail was overwhelming. Bags of it would come in, and all the letters had to be acknowledged.' The position itself, even after five years, was not particularly well-paid, and Steinberg quit after not receiving a $5 raise. Marie Severin, recalling the day of Steinberg's going-away party, observed in 2002, 'I think the stupidest thing Marvel ever did was not give her a raise when she asked for it because she would have been such an asset to have around later because she's so honest and decisive. ... I was thinking, 'What the hell is the problem with these people? She's a personality. She knows what she's doing. She handles the fans right. She's loyal to the company. Why the hell won't they give her a decent raise? Dummies'."

The third item reprised the "ranks of Marveldom." These are also on the bottom of the first page of the letter column so we really didn't need them here.

In Stan's Soapbox, he notes that "Country Joe and the Fish just arrived to visit us." Something I'm sure Stan never thought he'd be writing in a Soapbox.

In the Spider's Web, Sam Corkerham of Beattyville, Kentucky writes concerning ASM #61, "What is a vat of Marvel-knows-what doing suspended from the ceiling of a research lab filled with electronic equipment?" Or as I put it in my review, "Why Winkler would have something like that in his lab is beyond me." Sam continues, "I also observed that the vat is beaker-shaped with a lip to facilitate pouring. Now where in Marveldom are you going to pour this stuff? On the floor?!!" Stan replies, "Osborn Laboratories have been working for months on a new plastic coating for automobiles which will prevent rusting or chipping of the paint. The beaker-shape is so that a great deal of the fluid can be poured over the car body, which would normally occupy the space held by Capt. Stacy and Gwen in ish #61. Okay? Now, what we can't explain is why in one panel the vat is filled with pink plastic while in the next it's empty! Just think S.C. - if you'd pointed that out you would've qualified for a no-prize!" Sam didn't point it out but I did. In my review, I wrote, "The crucible is still filled with that dangerous looking pink liquid on page 19 panel 1 but in panel 2, it is suddenly empty. No lethal splashes of molten liquid occur." Do I get a retro-no-prize?

Laura Winkler of Hartford, Connecticut says that "Osborn's adorable lab assistant...was a genius of the first quality, and I was disappointed in his untimely demise." Stan gets it. "We just know your little ol' last name can't have a thing to do with it!" he replies.

Elaine Glover of Chicago, Illinois tells Stan she is 16 years old and she thinks Peter is too young to be in love. "I agree that [Gwen] is nice looking but could it also be an infatuation? He just can't be in love! Creeps! The cat is only about 18 or 19, and from what I gather the babe is only 18!" Elaine also asks, "Can you please tell me what kind of language the kids speak in your book? Such terms as daddio, Petey-O, and big daddy are so square that even the cubes are hiding their corners in shame!" Stan addresses both issues, saying, "Petey could be merely infatuated with Gwen, but don't discount the possibility of love...after all, Romeo and Juliet were only teenyboppers themselves when they gained literary immortality! Also, we've gotta admit that sometimes our supposedly swingin' jargon does sound a bit dated, but you've got to realize that at the rate our liltin' lingo changes, we'd be behind the times before the issue we're now writing hit the stands! So we have to keep our vocabulary standard and hope that all you squeegy swingers who read SPIDER-MAN will put up with out semi-squareness."

The "Next" caption at the bottom of the letter page is, "Are Your Nerves Strong Enough to Stand a...Jailbreak?" So, which is it? An unmasking or a jailbreak?

General Comments

The Vulture does one heck of a job hiding out after making his escape because he is not seen again for a very long time. The next "Vulture" in ASM #127, December 1973 is not this Vulture at all but rather, the mutated Dr. Clifton Shallot. This Vulture doesn't appear again until Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #4, March 1977, eight and a half years after this issue. Man, he must have had troubles getting that power pack fixed. Needless to say, Stan didn't care what happened to the Vulture after he limped away. Doesn't look like too many others did either.

I got a great observation from reader Steve after publishing this review. He notes that, "The weird thing about that ASM #127-128 Vulture story is that, in ASM #128, Spider-man finds out that the Adrian Toombes Vuture is 'still in prison.' So either there's an untold Vulture story out there or the police caught him on his way back to his hideout shortly after the end of ASM #64." I don't know if the police caught him, Steve, but you made a great catch with this comment! Actually, why don't we all agree that the police caught the Vulture as he limped away? Sounds good to me. Thanks for letting me know about this, Steve!

And now for those
Milestones (Landmark events that take place in this story.)

  1. Seventh time the Vulture appears but Stan is finished with him. He doesn't appear again for eight and a half years.
  2. Third time Spidey fights while he has an injured arm. (The last time was ASM #45, February 1967.)
  3. Second time Spidey fights the Vulture while he has an injured arm. (The first time was ASM #7, December 1963.
  4. First time Joe Robertson wonders if Spider-Man is someone he knows.
  5. The Vulture uses Spider-Man "like a bola."
  6. Spidey's right foot makes a "Thop!" and his left foot makes a "Thup!" as he lands on the Daily Bugle's sign.
  7. First time Spidey calls Jonah a "biscuit-brained bedbug."
  8. Mary Jane has a "ginchy new hairdo."
  9. Spidey has been left in some pretty touch situations at the end of some issues but this is the first time he is unconscious and at the mercy of a crowd.
  10. But this is the second time he was left lying unconscious at the end of the issue as a result of a battle with a Vulture. (The last was ASM #48, May 1967.)

The 1969 Marvelmania International Spider-Man Portfolio checklist entry for this issue:

Romita-Heck-Demeo/Lee/Rosen
"The Vulture's Prey" - Spidey fights the Old Vulture to a draw but blacks out in the midst of a crowd.

Yeah, that's one way of putting it.

Overall Rating

I'm usually not that hot on all-battle issues but this one is an exception. How can you not love Spidey's valiant struggle to defeat the Vulture and protect JJJ and Robbie all while having an injured arm? He goes through a lot in this issue, including the indignity of Jameson trying to pin his arms behind his back on behalf of the Vulture. In spite of it all, he prevails, driving the Vulture off (for eight and a half years!) even though he leaves himself at the mercy of the crowd. There's plenty of excitement and tension throughout with an ending both triumphant and ominous.

And even though it's a battle book, Stan still manages to include J. Jonah Jameson, Joe Robertson, Aunt May, Anna Watson, MJ, Gwen, Captain Stacy, Betty Brant, and Ned Leeds. The two scenes that cut away from the action actually serve a purpose. The scene with May, Anna, and MJ introduces MJ's new hairstyle and the one with Gwen, Captain Stacy, Betty, and Ned gives us a resolution to Gwen's heartache....not to mention putting Captain Stacy right where he needs to be next issue. Pretty sly, Stan!

The Vulture may be gone but the storyline isn't over. I don't know about you but I'm hooked.

Five webs.

Footnote

Next: How about something completely unexpected? Like Avengers (Vol. 1) Annual #2?