After highlighting Blackie Drago in a previous Looking Back, it only seemed fair to finally present the original Vulture in a feature of his own. But which story to pick? His first appearance in ASM #2? It only filled up half the issue, sharing space with the tale of the Terrible Tinkerer. The story of the Vulture regaining his youth in ASM #386-388? Puh-leeze. The various one-shots in Spectacular Spider-Man and Web of Spider-Man? Eh. The mysterious appearance in ASM #127-128? It wasn't even really him! ASM #63-64? Great issues, possibly the best the Vulture has ever been in, but... he shares the spotlight with Blackie Drago. (We'll do this one later, OK?)
As you can see, the Vulture may be considered one of Spidey's best villains, but he has actually appeared in very few memorable stories. So, what's a "Looking Back" person to do? How about the SECOND appearance of the Vulture? It's a full-length story. It's got a first-class super-hero battle. And it's got that great Steve Ditko art. Amazing Spider-Man #7.
|Cover Art:||Steve Ditko|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Masterworks #1|
|Reprinted In:||Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus #1|
|Reprinted In:||Pocket Book: Spider-Man Classics (Vol. 2)|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Tales #144|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Tales #4|
|Reprinted In:||Spider-Man Classics #8|
|Reprinted In:||Spider-Man Collectible Series (Newspaper) #14|
|Reprinted In:||Spider-Man Collectible Series (Newspaper) #15|
|Reprinted In:||Essential Spider-Man #1|
|Reprinted In:||Spider-Man Pocket Book (UK) #9|
The cover promises, "Here is Spider-Man as you like him... fighting! Joking! Daring! Challenging the most dangerous foe of all, in this... the Marvel Age of Comics!" Well, I don't know about that "most dangerous foe" stuff but the rest of it sounds good. Shall we?
The story begins with a quick recap of the Vulture's first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #2. Spider-Man only managed to defeat the Vulture when he deduced that the villain's wings "were operated by a unique form of magnetic power". With that knowledge, he created the anti-magnetic inverter. This device knocked out the Vulture's flying ability, causing him to spiral to the ground "into the waiting arms of the police".
Now, months later, the Vulture is a model prisoner at the state prison with access to the Machine Shop. But unbeknownst to the prison guards (and only comic book prison guards are as thick as this), the Vulture is using his privileges to create a new flying device. He secretly tests it in his cell and, on the following day during exercise period in the courtyard, he easily flies over the prison wall to freedom.
Over at Midtown High School, Flash Thompson is taunting Peter Parker by tossing him a volleyball and asking if "you can toss that big, bad heavy ball all the way back to me?" Pete would love to throw it back with all his spider-strength behind it but, before he can do a thing, he hears a radio report (from a passing student with a transistor radio) of the Vulture's escape. He decides he must again feign illness so that he can sneak away and change to Spider-Man, but the timing is terrible. Flash is openly contemptuous and a fuming Peter later proclaims, "This double identity jazz is for the birds! I can't take much more ribbing as Peter Parker! Sooner or later, someone's gonna lose a mouthful of teeth!" (Nope, Spidey's not "joking" yet, kids.)
Before venturing out, Spider-Man checks his equipment. He has his anti-magnetic inverter (which, he thinks, should end the fight quickly), his camera loaded with film and his web-shooters ("the coolest thing I ever dreamed up") filled. He waits twenty minutes in his Forest Hills home until his spider-sense tells him no one is around to see him leave. (Even so, a small boy spots him swinging through the neighborhood, only to be shot down by his smugly superior parents who tell him, "what would Spider-Man be doing here in a quiet residential neighborhood in Forest Hills?".)
Soon, the overly-confident web-slinger reaches the heart of the city. Apparently he doesn't find the Vulture any time soon for the caption in the next panel reads, "While hours later, in another part of the sprawling metropolis..." The Vulture is trying out his "new modified wings" when he is spotted by a police helicopter. The chopper tries to keep up but the Vulture's maneuverability is too much for it. The winged felon quickly zips into an open window, which just happens to lead to a jewelry showroom. Taking advantage of his luck, the Vulture robs the jeweler, then evades police radar by flying low right over the street. The pedestrians are so close, they can almost touch him but they can't do a thing to slow him down. The cops don't dare risk shooting at him for fear of hitting an innocent bystander. There is only one person who can handle the Vulture and his spider-sense at last leads him to his foe.
Spidey moves in to get in range of his anti-magnetic inverter. The Vulture hovers in one spot, letting the webhead get close. Unbeknownst to our hero, the Vulture has changed his flying device so that the inverter will no longer work on him. He allows the webster to get even nearer. Then, Spidey triggers the inverter in his left hand while he snaps a photo with the camera in his right hand. (Why did the Vulture think Spidey was snapping a picture? For his photo album? Couldn't he have figured out by now how Peter Parker gets those shots? Or maybe he was too busy faking the young wall-crawler out to bother to think about it.)
The Vulture spirals toward the ground, just as he did when the two met before. "It worked", Spidey says, "I'm almost disappointed! It was too easy." But the Vulture is faking. He allows himself to fall, certain Spidey will follow, until he is out of the wall-crawler's sight. Then, knowing that Spider-Man will walk out over the ledge of a nearby building, he quickly swoops back up. Peter's spider-sense goes off but he is so convinced of victory that he ignores it. This leaves him wide-open for the Vulture's unexpected attack and, as Vultchy says, "Even you cannot ward off a double upper-cut while you're completely off-balance." (Whoosh! Who can?)
Stunned by the attack, Spider-Man is unable to put up any fight at all as the Vulture continues to pummel him. Dazed, beaten, a falling Spidey tries to snag a building with his webbing... but misses. A second try falls short. Desperately, he spins in the air, trying to slow the rate of his descent, then lands hard on the roof of a nearby building. The Vulture flies off, proclaiming "Spider-Man is finished!", without checking the web-slinger's body. (Somehow I remember Blackie Drago doing the exact same thing at the end of ASM #48. Is this just one of the requirements for being the Vulture?) He perches on a flagpole, malevolently gazing down at the horrified crowds. A shaken cop says of Spidey, "He'll sure be missed... whoever he was!"
But, thanks to his spider-strength, Peter is not dead. He struggles to rise before anyone can discover him and feels a sharp pain in his right arm. Although it "feels like it's broken", Spidey is thankful he landed on it, rather than on his head. Holding his injured arm, Peter slips away, eventually making his way home, where he sneaks in a rear window. By this time, he has decided that his arm is not broken but sprained. Still, it continues to hurt and he figures he "won't be able to use it for days". Wearily, in the shelter of his own room, he removes his Spidey mask. But the dangers aren't over yet. Aunt May is just outside his door calling, "Peter, is that you?" and it is clear she hasn't got an ounce of respect for his privacy.
May walks right on in. But Peter is not there. At least, not that she can see. As May talks to herself about her nephew's fragility, the subject of her monologue clings to the ceiling, hoping that his Aunt does not look up. May leaves, allowing Peter to change to his civvies. It takes him nearly a half an hour because of his injured arm. Then, he sneaks out the window again so he can make his entrance as Peter Parker, hoping he can come up with a good excuse about his injury.
He tells Aunt May that he hurt himself in a schoolyard volleyball game and she carts him off to the doctor, who assures all concerned that it is indeed a sprain. He tells Peter and May that all should be fine in a few weeks. But Peter can't wait a few weeks. Not with the Vulture at large in the city.
The next day, at school, Peter, wearing a sling, is ridiculed by Flash. "Well, well!", says the bully, "Where's your purple heart medal, Petey boy? How'd big brave Peter hurt his poor little arm? Did you try to turn too many heavy pages at one time, bookworm? Or did you drop a nasty little test-tube on it in the lab?" Liz Allan laughs along with the gang and says, "Look at Peter blush!" But Peter isn't blushing, he's livid with anger! It takes all of his restraint to keep from clobbering Flash Thompson. (Spidey still isn't joking, yet, gang!)
Meanwhile, in an abandoned farm silo on Staten Island, the Vulture sits back, wingless, having a brew (well, OK, he's drinking something. It could be a beer he's having.), relaxing, saying, "This is the life! No more Spider-Man to worry about!" He's all set to pull off his next heist and he knows just what it will be. "One of the biggest payrolls in New York is at the office of J. Jonah Jameson!", he thinks. "He publishes the Daily Bugle and Now Magazine." (Hey, remember Now Magazine?) The Vulture dons his wings and sets out.
At the Daily Bugle, Peter is flirting with Betty Brant. She can't believe that anyone could sprain their arm playing volleyball and asks for the truth. "Okay", Pete says, "It happened in the air, while I was fighting the Vulture for dear life!" "Oh well", Betty replies, "Ask a silly question!" The conversation is interrupted by JJJ summoning Pete into his office.
Inside, Jonah tells Peter he will only pay ten dollars for his Vulture photograph. Parker only manages to get the cheapskate to go up to $12.50, when the Vulture himself flies through the window. "If you'll pay for a mere photo of me", he says, "what will you give for the Vulture in the flesh?"
Brandishing a gun, the Vulture demands all the money in Jameson's safe. But he doesn't reckon with Jonah's legendary stinginess. As Pete puts it (discreetly in a thought balloon), "Jameson is such a skinflint, he'd probably rather get shot than part with his dough!" And Pete is apparently right for Jameson tries every argument in the book to dissaude the Vulture. He even offers to give the villain publicity instead. A frustrated Vulture calls out, "All I want is money, mister!! Your money!" In the midst of this verbal skirmish, unnoticed by the two participants, Peter Parker sneaks out of the room. He changes into his Spidey suit but his arm is still so sore that he has to concoct a subtle, barely visible sling of webbing to support it. He exits the room by the window, walks on the ledge to the adjoining room, then leaps into the fray!
The Vulture is stunned by Spider-Man's appearance. "You're still alive??!!" he cries, then turns his gun on the web-slinger, proclaiming, "Even you can be stopped by a bullet!" But Spidey webs the gun barrel closed. "Bah! Guns aren't my style, anyway!" Vultchy says as he shoves JJJ into Spidey's way, "What does the mighty Vulture need a weapon for! I've got my wings!" "You'll have a harp, too, by the time I get through with you!", Spidey replies. (I think the "joking" part is about to begin, people.)
Using Jameson as a shield, the Vulture blocks Spidey's way, then heads out to the hall (sending Betty Brant scurrying, her work papers flying; in fact papers fly all over the place all through this fight sequence) looking for room to spread his wings. Spidey leap frogs Jonah telling him that it is a "private battle between the Vulture and me". But Jameson is afraid they'll "wreck the place" and he tells Spider-Man to leave it to the police.
Peter decides there's no time to wait. He leaps out of JJJ's office, sending Betty ducking once again (and there go those papers all over the place). Jonah storms out of his office right behind, shaking his fist and screaming for Betty, who has now stationed herself on the floor, behind her desk "where it's safe".
Meanwhile, the Vulture, looking for a window to fly through, is caught in the Daily Bugle's newsroom. He and Spidey tussle some more, resulting in the toppling of a big stack of Jonah's ledgers and files. ("Aw, go slide down a barbed-wire fence", says Spidey to Jameson's whining.) The Vulture finds the stairwell and flies to a lower level (Papers flying everywhere, of course.) and Pete follows by lowering himself on his web. ("Who's chasing who?" says one stairwell denizen. "The place is haunted", says another.)
The Vulture soon makes it to the press room. He has plenty of room to fly amongst the huge machines with their great rolls of newsprint. His confidence returns and he boasts, "I'll destroy Spider-Man forever now, if he's fool enough to follow me here!" But Spidey surprises the villain by leaping onto his back. ("It's you again!" says Vultch. "Well, it sure isn't the Lone Ranger!" Spidey replies. Yes, the "joking" is officially taking place.) The Vulture flies upside down, boasting "I'll shake you off like a dog shakes a flea!" "I think your modesty is what I like best about you!" says the Web-head. (My favorite wisecrack of the fight.) The Vulture responds by trying to fly Spidey into the press rollers. He then, unexpectedly, changes his direction and flies up to the ceiling where Spidey thumps his injured arm. A jolt of pain goes through the Web-spinner causing him to fall off his opponent. He uses his web to snag the ceiling just before falling to his death into the rollers below. But as he is swinging to safety, the Vulture cuts the web, forcing Spidey to take a superhuman leap to escape harm.
Finally, the Vulture finds an open window and flies through it. Spidey is right on his tail but as he leaps through the window, his spider-sense warns him that the Vulture is waiting just above. It's a trap but Spidey decides, "I'll let him spring it".
The Vulture grabs our hero by his good arm and hauls him high up into the sky, bragging all the way. ("Are you sure you were never vaccinated with a phonograph needle?" Spidey asks.) The flying villain admires Spidey's flippancy in the face of certain death but the wallcrawler isn't done yet. He uses his free arm to web the Vulture's wings down. They are pinned to his body leaving him incapable of flight.
With the tables turned, the "fearless" Vulture falls completely to pieces. "I don't want to die!" he moans, "Save me! Sob. Do something!" "I can't", Pete replies, "I'm too busy admiring your tight-lipped courage!" But, of course, Spidey is doing something. Sitting again on the Vulture's back, he spins a parachute out of his webbing. Once they get back to building level, he attaches the parachute to the Vulture's back and leaps off, adhering to a nearby wall. "You haven't heard the last of me, Spider-Man", vows the Vulture. "You mean you're gonna flap your lips till the bitter end?", says Spidey.
Spidey is preparing to leave but J. Jonah Jameson calls out to him from his office window. Thinking he's going to get an apology and a reward (it's only issue #7 so Pete hadn't learned what to always expect from Jameson), he webslings over to chat. But Jameson is only interested in telling him that he is being held responsible for all the damage in the Daily Bugle building. ("Say, what are you?" Spidey says, "A professional nut?") But Jameson is just getting warmed up. "Sooner or later I'll learn who you really are! And when I do, I'll get what's coming to me! In spades!" Pete decides to give him what's coming to him right now. He webs up the lower half of Jameson's face, shutting him up for the next hour.
After that little escapade, Spidey sneaks back into the Bugle building, reclaims his clothes, and changes back to Peter Parker. Now back in his glasses and sling (but a black turtleneck with his blue suit instead of a tie!), he comes upon Betty Brant, still hiding behind her desk. Peter asks if he can join her and Betty happily assents. She asks him where he was while the fight was going on and he tells her he was hiding in a closet. "Maybe that's why I like you so much, Peter", she says, "At least you don't pretend to be what you're not."
Just then, JJJ runs by grunting and mumbling and trying to get the webbing off his face. Betty wonders aloud what's wrong with him and Pete replies, "Wrong? It's an improvement." "Peter, sometimes I get the feeling that's you're laughing at a secret little joke that's all you own." "If you keep using that cool perfume, Betty", says Pete, "I may break down and tell you about it some day." A flattered Betty tells Peter "that's the closest thing to a romantic remark I've ever heard you say!" "Gosh", says Pete, putting his arm around her, "I can be more romantic than that! Here, rest your head on my shoulder, blue eyes! And let's enjoy the silence!" "But what will Mr. Jameson say?" Betty asks. "Nothing, baby", Peter replies, "for at least an hour."
A cornucopia of great glimpses of the past in the letter section.:
Joe Finley of Sparta, Tennessee says, "Nothing Can Stop the Sandman" (in ASM #4) was more than a well-written, well-drawn story of a battle between a super-hero and a super-villain. It was, in my humble opinion, the most reasonable account ever written of a day in the life of a super-hero... Other episodes like his problems with the torn mask, J. J. Jameson's hate for him, and his girl troubles all made for the best portrait of a super-hero's life ever written."
Sidney Wright of Worcester, Massachusetts says, "I think Peter Parker should have a girl friend who sticks up for him when he's being bullied; and I don't mean some chick who's homely, wears specs and a sack dress, with black-and-white saddle shoes, or is as science-minded as he is. I mean a doll with a good figure, get-up-and-go, who digs jazz and rock-and-roll. You follow me?" Stan responds, "No, Sid, but we'd sure follow her!
Paul Gambaccini of Westport, Connecticut writes, "Originally, (meaning Amazing Fantasy #15) he (Spidey) was a run-of-the-mill deadbeat, typical of the baleful boredom which sometimes prevailed in your comics. The Ditko art, pitifully primitive, lacked imagination, and made one believe that Steve was a doting, senile old codger who you kept on your staff becasue you didn't have the heart to fire him. But no longer! The plots now ring with originality, and the villains are as vibrant as life. And Ditko - now I picture him as a lively, eager 25 year old!... And it's not the same old Stan Lee either - whose claims of "We're superior! We're different! We're the best! We're too great for words!" were trying to promote his own work (sort of like most of your competitors). I don't know if their stuff has deteriorated or whether you have improved that much, but the competition now seems like echh!" And Stan... who would eventually take Paul's term for the competition and call them Brand Echh... what does he reply? "We don't feel it's fair for you to knock any other group of magazines while boosting ours. After all, it's just a matter of taste."
Larry Rothenberger of Wausau, Wisconsin would like "Spider-Man talking with the spiders like the Ant-Man does with ants, and the Wasp does with the wasps." Stan says, "And we suppose you'd like to see Iron Man talking with pieces of Iron?"
Bob Jennings of Nashville, Tennessee thought issue #2 was "a great surprise to me after reading the sorry mess you had created in #1" but he was disappointed by #3 which he thought looked as if Ditko had done the art "with a rat's tail, blindfolded perhaps", to which Stan replied, "You know we don't draw with rats' tails - they're too expensive!"
Finally, at the end of the section, Stan presented a "difficult announcement": "We want to ask your permission to discontinue this letters section!... Suppose all the mail for all the Marvel Mags is sent to FF? That'll give Spider-Man two extra pages for longer stories, features, or what-have-you! We'll do nothing till we hear from you, so let us know! But, as a special favor, we hope you'll tell us you don't mind." Do you kind of get the feeling that Stan lost this battle, gang?
Milestones (Landmark events that take place in this story.)
The 1969 Marvelmania International Spider-Man Portfolio checklist entry for this story. Warts and all:
"The Return of the Vulture" - The Vulture escapes and Spidey must fight him with an injured arm.
Longer, stronger, funnier, more action-packed, more satisfying than the previous Vulture appearance. Four webs.
A short review for a short appearance. Avengers #3 is next.