Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #9

 Posted: 2002
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)


There were more classic Spidey villains introduced in the first twenty issues of Amazing Spider-Man than there were in the next one hundred. A clear testament to Steve Ditko's influence in both character design and style. Here's Electro's debut.

John Byrne tried to change it. Mark Bagley calls it "terrible". Cut it out! Both of you guys! Electro's original costume is cool. So is the first story that features him.

Story 'The Man Called Electro!'

Is there any better way to start a Spidey adventure than with a Steve Ditko symbolic splash page? This one uses a web as a background. Our hero is depicted "half and half"... his left side in Spidey costume (with spider-sense warning lines radiating from his head), his right side in Peter Parker clothes. His head is approximately in the center of the page. Above him, like a vengeful God hurling lightning-bolts is Electro... hurling lightning bolts. On our left a head shot of a smiling Betty Brant and a placid Jonah Jameson look upon the Peter Parker half in contrast to a spurning Betty Brant (her back turned and arms crossing her chest) and a finger-pointing angry JJJ on our right side reacting to the Spidey half. An ailing Aunt May is also on the Peter side. She lies in bed and stretches out a hand, pleadingly. Flash and Liz and the other kids are gawking at Peter too. The Spidey side includes a puzzled contemplative cop and four witnesses with expressions ranging from excitement to outrage. Four guns are being fired at Spidey from the lower right corner of the page. Two of them have hoodlums attached to them. One just has a disembodied hand and sleeve. One is just the snub of the weapon. There it is. Everything you need to know. In one symbolic illustration, Ditko spells out the whole story. Stan just uses the other twenty-one pages to elaborate a little bit. Let's get to it.

Spider-Man is in a rush. He leaps past a "startled group of pedestrians" on his way to the rooftops. A few blocks away, two policemen are in a shoot-out with four gunmen who fire away from behind their overturned car. The cops know the odds are not in their favor unless help arrives. Suddenly, Spider-Man swings overhead. The four thugs take one look at him and decide to surrender while they can. They throw down their guns and let the police capture them... only to be surprised by Spidey swinging right by them. The web-slinger is so absorbed in his own business that he never saw the gun battle at all.

Soon after, in Queens, Spidey runs along the sidewalk, putting his Peter Parker clothes on as he goes, since it is "too dark for anyone to see me" except for one startled cat. (Though it can't be that dark when he has just passed a lit lamppost.) By the time he passes through his front door, he is just removing his mask. "Now to rush upstairs", fully-clothed as Peter.

The reason for the haste is worry over the health of his Aunt May. Peter has just gone out to fill a prescription and figured he could do it faster as Spider-Man. ("Because I know how badly you [May] need this medicine." he thinks.) His Aunt, laid up in bed, is surprised at how fast he has been. She takes her medicine then drops off to sleep. Apparently, Peter's worry leads him to carelessness for he sits in a chair by May's bed with his jacket open and revealing his Spidey shirt underneath. He has no shoes on either, revealing his Spidey socks (or whatever those things are). He watches her sleep, not daring to tell her "how ill she really is", and decides to stay put in case she wakes up and needs him.

On the other side of town, a man puts a green and yellow costume on over some wiring he has placed on his chest and torso. He dons a mask that looks like lightning bolts firing off of his face and stands between two dynamos, feeding on the electricity they give off. Now fully charged, he snaps his fingers, giving off an electric spark. He declares himself "ready to try out my new power and the world is about to meet Electro!"

Electro decides to begin his life of crime with an immediate challenge. He watches as an armored car filled with gold pulls up at its destination. When two guards get out, open the back, and start pulling out sacks with dollar signs on them, Electro steps out and tells them he is taking the gold. One guard pulls a gun but Electro fires a lightning bolt from his left forefinger and disarms him. He tosses an electric shock at the other guard that is attracted to the man's metal watchband. Shocked, the guard drops the bag of gold. A third guard comes out of the truck but it makes no difference. Electro simply encircles the three men in a "ring of electricity" where he promises to keep them until they give up the gold. "Do as he says, chum!" says one guard with alacrity, "That guy is a lot more than we can handle." (Do these guys give up in a hurry or what?)

The next morning, worried over his Aunt's condition, Peter calls the doctor. (Back in the days of such things as house calls.) The doctor tells Peter he made the right decision. Aunt May is worse. "We've got to send her to the hospital!" says the doctor. Aunt May doesn't want to go. She's worried about how Peter will take care of himself without her. Pete tells her not to worry about it. "The important thing is for you to get well!" he says.

At school that day, Peter is treated to the "usual taunts of his classmates" ("Hi, bookworm! What's new in dullsville?" says Flash. ) but he doesn't even hear them because of his preoccupation with Aunt May's condition. As he leaves school for the day, Flash tries to catch up. He is having second thoughts about Pete. ("Maybe I've been too rough on Parker! He's more of a man than I thought!" he thinks, "I still remember that last fight we had", when Peter clocked Flash in the boxing ring in ASM #8, January 1964.) But Peter doesn't even slow down on his way out of school and this is interpreted as the "cold shoulder" by all the kids who witness it. Flash is angered by this treatment and forgets all about his new attitude. "That's what I get for startin' to soften up!" he says, "Puny Parker always was a big zero and he always will be!"

So, Peter arrives at the hospital where the doctor tells him they are "not quite ready to operate yet". (Operate? Who said anything about an operation?) Peter goes to May's room to visit and finds the visitor's chair already occupied. Betty Brant has come by to give her regards and best wishes. (It seems to me that this is the first time we've actually seen Betty and May meet but it is clear by the dialogue that they know each other. Aunt May says, for example, "Isn't it sweet of Betty, Peter? She came to visit!") Betty asks Peter if he minds and he tells her that, on the contrary, he appreciates it. Betty steps aside while Pete takes May by the hand. May, ever worried about her nephew, tells Pete that he looks pale and asks if he is eating enough. Peter tells her she should just worry about herself.

After visiting hours, Peter and Betty leave the hospital together. On the steps, Pete asks Betty if she minds if he does not see her home. He tells her he has "something important to attend to". Betty says she understands but, after Peter leaves, stops to ponder the situation. Peter is always "so calm and easygoing" but she gets the feeling that "he's like a smoldering volcano inside" and decides, "It's as though he carries a deep secret within him... one which no one can ever share."

Meanwhile, Pete has already changed to his Spidey duds and his scouring the city looking for crimes. The truth is Aunt May's operation will cost more than they have. Pete hopes to be able to take photos and sell them to J. Jonah Jameson "for as much as he'll pay". But then it starts to rain (complete with a nice foreshadowing lightning bolt from the sky) and Spidey must give up the idea since he crummy little camera "isn't good enough to take clear pictures in the rain". He walks along a rooftop ledge, getting soaked, kicking himself for being a lousy super-hero. "I can just see the headlines now!" he thinks, "Spider-Man calls off fight against crime due to rain! Phooey!"

Back home, Peter wrings out his wet costume in the bathroom sink, strings a clothesline up in his bedroom and hangs his red-and-blues on it. Only after he does this does he realize that he has left the shades up, giving the neighbors a chance to see his Spidey suit hanging there. That night, he tries to study but he keeps reading the same page over and over. He can't stop thinking about Aunt May and how they have no money for the operation. And all this just as midterm exams are coming up. "What a life!" Pete says.

The next day, J. Jonah Jameson is at a bank in Forest Hills asking a bank employee for some "figures". The employee tells Jameson he can have those "figures" by tomorrow but JJ insists on having them now. Since Jonah is "one of [their] biggest depositors" the employee promises to do what he can. "That's more like it!" says Jonah, "When I give an order, I expect people to hop!"

Just then, in the same bank, a guard notices lightning flaring up from behind a door in the rear. He immediately deduces that someone is breaking into the bank and he acts quickly... but not quickly enough. At the same time as he touches the alarm, a lightning bolt snakes out and hits the alarm box as well. The jolt knocks the guard out and silences the alarm. Then Electro emerges into the bank, right in the office where JJJ and the employee are having their discussion. (And they appear to be the only other people in the bank aside from Electro and the guard. No one else ever makes an appearance.)

Electro immobilizes the two men with his electric bolts, which hit their tiepins, belt buckles and metal tipped shoelaces. When Jonah tries to protest, Electro calls him by name ("Well, if it isn't J. Jonah Jameson!") and ridicules him. Jonah, who is too dim to realize that he is a public figure, decides that Electro must be someone he knows since "he knew who I was!" Electro goes to the bank vault, circumvents the time lock using his electric powers and fills a bag full of money. (This bag also has a dollar sign on the outside of it.) He leaves the bank, telling the only two men there (JJJ and the employee) not to sound the alarm. The employee cries out that "He's escaping with a fortune!"

Outside, Electro scales the wall of a nearby building by "holding on to the iron beams... by means of electric rays, using them like a magnet". In the aftermath, the police interview the employee and the eyewitnesses. The employee describes the robber as "very confident... never seemed to doubt his power". Jonah puts two and two together. He only knows one person who is "so powerful, so confident, who can climb sheer buildings, and who knows me!" That person is Spider-Man and just as Jonah thinks of him, he sees the web-slinger swinging by overhead. That cinches it for JJJ. "Electro is Spider-Man!" he declares, "He hid the money, changed his disguise and he's leaving now!" Immediately, Jameson goes to the investigating officers to tell them his discovery but they want proof. "It can't be anyone but Spider-Man!" says Jonah, "That's proof enough!" One cop starts to waver but the other stands firm. "Don't let Jameson influence you," he tells his partner, "He'd accuse Spider-Man of anything."

And sure enough, the next edition of the Daily Bugle hits the street with the headline, "Electro is Really Spider-Man!" The usual pack of Bugle-reading boneheads falls for the story hook line and sinker. "Holy smoke!" says one, "Do you think the Bugle's accusation is true?" "It must be" says another, "How could they print it if it weren't true?" "Spider-Man must be Electro" says a third, "Why would Jameson's paper print it if it isn't true?" "I've read the paper from front to back," says the only reasonable person on the street, "They still offer no definite proof." A blonde-haired woman in a red outfit and hat doesn't even hear this objection. "If Spider-Man isn't Electro" she says, "why doesn't he catch him?"

Back at the hospital, Peter Parker reads the paper and crumbles it in frustration. Just then a nurse enters and tells him the doctor wants to see him. Pete enters the office. The doctor tells him that they are almost ready to operate, then reminds the teen that "the specialist we had to engage charges a fee of one thousand dollars". (But if Aunt May has Medicare, he charges a fee of fifty thousand dollars. No, no, sorry. I just made that up.) Pete tells him to proceed with the operation. He will get the thousand dollars somehow.

He first stops at the Daily Bugle and asks JJJ for a loan of the money. But when Jonah asks the reason for it, Pete won't say. ("It's a personal matter, Mr. Jameson! But it's very important.") Jonah figures Pete just "saw a hot-rod you want to buy!" He goes on to tell his photographer that he never lends money but "if you can bring me photographic proof that Spider-Man is Electro, I'll gladly give you the money!" This reminds Pete that there is a "big reward for Electro's capture". If he can stop the villain, he'll have plenty of money for the operation.

And so, Spidey prowls the city at night, looking for the master of electricity. Soon after he begins, he notices a person "prowling in the dark" on a rooftop and he swoops down to investigate. But when he gets closer, he sees that it is just "a guy with a telescope, star-gazing". The hours go by as Spidey criss-crosses the city without success. At one point, he notices a light flashing from an otherwise dark building. He clings to the wall and peers in the window only to find "another false alarm... workmen making emergency repairs on a power line". Again, he continues the search until his spider-sense starts to tingle. He follows the direction of the alarm and looks through a window to see Electro in a nearby deserted apartment, "using his electric power like a mine detector". By sending out an electric bolt from each hand, Electro has discovered "a hidden safe". The villain opens the safe and pulls out a pile of jewels and currency. Spidey lets him complete the robbery. He figures to follow Electro to his hideout, defeat him, recover the stolen loot and earn the reward. First, he takes a couple of pictures for the Bugle, which, unfortunately, does him in. For while he is exposing his position by snapping off photos, Electro spots him in a mirror on the wall. When the hotwired heel exits the building, he confronts the web-slinger.

Spidey is standing on top of a water tower when Electro appears and he just barely leaps away from a lightning bolt directed right at him. As he is falling, the wall-crawler shoots his webbing at Electro's face, blinding him. The webhead thinks the battle is already won but Electro's power allows him to burn the webbing right off. When Spidey grabs Electro from behind with the intent of bringing him in, he is shocked right into unconsciousness! Electro looks down at the fallen hero (who still has smoke coming up from him), assumes he is dead, and actually expresses a tiny bit of remorse ("I didn't mean to do that but it was his own fault! He didn't give me a chance to explain the danger of touching me!") before reverting to standard super-villain type ("With him out of the way, no single human is strong enough to challenge me!"). Electro flees the scene not knowing that "Spider-Man's spider-induced strength enables him to survive a shock that can kill an ordinary human". Soon after, Spidey regains consciousness, with a pounding headache. With Electro gone, Spidey is desperate. He sets his camera up on the water tower, takes some pictures of himself, then goes home and superimposes them over pictures of Electro, doctoring them so that it looks like Spider-Man is changing into Electro. (Ah, the depths you can reach when in desperate need of money for an operation!)

The next day, J. Jonah Jameson happily writes a thousand dollar check for the purchase of these photographs. Peter is racked with guilt over what he has done. "I've never cheated anyone before!" he thinks, "It feels terrible." As he leaves, Betty Brant asks him why he looks so worried but Pete tells her he's fine... except, he thinks, he's "just feeling awfully ashamed of myself".

The extra edition hits the streets with the headline "Proof That Spider-Man Is Electro", highlighting Peter's phony photos. Again, the idiots on the street buy right into it, except for one guy who wonders "Why should Spider-Man take another identity! Nobody even knows who Spider-Man is!" This appears to be a minority opinion.

Back in his hideout, Electro reads the paper and crows. Not only is Jameson off track about Spidey being Electro but Electro is the only one who knows that the wall-crawler is dead! (He thinks.) All of this spurs Electro to cast his mind back to his origin. He was "an ordinary electric lineman named Max Dillon". And, oh yes, Max was a bit of a jerk. The flashback begins with Max's boss asking him to climb up a "high tension pole" to rescue Harris, a co-worker, because Max is the "best pole man". But Max refuses to do it unless he gets paid extra. He calmly smokes a cigarette as Harris dangles alongside live electric wires until the boss agrees to pay him an extra hundred dollars. So, Max goes up the pole, anchors himself up there, and lowers an unconscious Harris with a rope. The boss thinks "Dillon is a rat" and he would "bounce him in a second" except that he's the best man they have.

Sometime later, Max is working alone up on a high-tension pole when lightning strikes in "a million to one chance". The bolt knocks Max from his perch all the way down to the ground. This should have killed him but "due to the way [he] had been grasping the electric wires, the two bolts of current cancelled each other" and Max survives. His clothes get all torn up but he feels stronger than ever. In fact, he is glowing all over with power.

Back at the company locker room, Max comes in contact with some wire clothes hangers and his fingers begin to spark! He realizes that his body is now charged with electricity and the hangers are serving as a conductor. He hurries home and begins experimenting. He hooks up a wire harness to help conduct the power and starts throwing lightning bolts in his basement. The more he practices, the more accurate his throws. Then, he takes all of his money and uses it to buy "a rundown house and equipped it like an electricity lab". He builds dynamos that he steps into to increase his power. When he runs out of money, he designs a snazzy costume, calls himself Electro and goes out to steal some more.

Now, Electro begins his latest plan. He goes to the West Side House of Detention, a holding tank for prisoners who are waiting to be transferred "to the federal pen". He figures to release the cons and "get them to join me to be my flunkies". Once Max is in, he cannot allow the arriving police to rush in while he's occupied so he sets up an electrical barrier until he can finish the job.

On his way to the hospital, Peter overhears a bulletin coming from a squad car, ordering cops to the detention center to take on Electro. Pete decides to take on the villain but not until he has first visited Aunt May. When he arrives, the doctor tells him that the operation is set to begin soon and that May has been asking for her nephew. She wants Peter to be nearby until the operation is over. Pete realizes that he can't run out on his Aunt. Electro will have to wait.

He goes to see Aunt May in her room and takes her hands in his. He tells her everything will be fine and he promises, "I'll be right here all the time". As the transporters take Aunt May down for surgery, Peter stands in the corner of the room praying that she will come through it all right. Just then, Betty Brant enters the room, telling Peter that she has come to sit with him. Pete realizes that "I haven't many friends but one wonderful one like Betty makes up for all I haven't got!" So, as the operation begins, Betty and Peter sit quietly in the hospital waiting room, "sharing a bond which needs no words to explain".

And over at the House of Detention, J. Jonah Jameson has made the scene. He is reveling in the fact that Spider-Man has not shown up to challenge Electro, proving (He thinks.) that the web-slinger and the electrician are one and the same. Inside the detention center, Electro opens up all the cell doors and the prisoners run for the exits. Electro tries to stop them ("I opened the iron gates for you! I give the orders! You must obey me!") but most of the cons don't pay attention. While one recognizes Electro and thinks that "Maybe he's got a plan", another decides to "Ignore that nut! He must be from the psycho ward". The group that decides to flee walks right into the arms of the police outside. The cops don't even bother with weapons. They just wade into the cons with their fists and take care of them in a hurry.

Just then, at the hospital, the doctor enters the waiting room and tells Peter that the operation was a success and that his Aunt is calling for him. (Good old Aunt May. Just out of surgery and already calling for Peter! Did they even anaesthetize her at all?) Pete rushes into his Aunt's room and takes her hand. Knowing that her beloved nephew is with her, May lets the sedatives take effect and dozes off with a smile on her face. The doctor tells Pete that his Aunt will sleep till morning, then tells Pete to go get some rest for himself. Pete agrees to do so but first goes back to the waiting room to talk to Betty. He puts a hand on Betty's shoulder and tells her "Aunt May is going to be all right". (Okay, let's review for a moment. Aunt May can't get out of bed so Peter gets her some medicine. The doctor comes and says she must go to the hospital. The hospital says she must have an operation that can only be done by a specialist who charges one thousand dollars. As soon as the operation is over, the doctors sedate May and declare that she will get better from here on in without any worry of complications. So, just what the heck was wrong with Aunt May to begin with? This wasn't some scam to fleece the Parkers, was it?) Betty tells him she must get back to the office to hold down the fort since JJJ has gone to the House of Detention to cover the riot. Betty begs Peter not to go down to the detention center to take pictures since "it could be dangerous". When Pete protests that the dangerous photos bring him the most money, Betty turns away. "I was afraid of this" she says, "You're beginning to enjoy the danger, the excitement! Just like someone else I once knew".

Soon after, Pete ditches Betty and completely ignores her request. (Not to mention the doctor's order to go get some rest.) He changes into his Spidey suit and heads down to the House of Detention to face off with Electro. First though, he stops at a conveniently deserted store and picks up a few items that he thinks will help him defeat Electro. (And he leaves money on the counter for them, of course! What do you think? He'd do something crooked like... I don't know... sell JJJ some fake photos?) Over at the scene of the riot, old hatchet face himself is nearly swallowing his cigar with glee. Still convinced that Spidey is Electro, JJ deludes himself into thinking that he'll win a Pulitzer for his scoop. "That fool Parker doesn't know it, but I'd have paid twenty thousand dollars for those pictures!" he says. But then a bystander with a funny-looking green hat points up in the sky. Jonah looks up. His cigar falls out of his mouth and his covers his face with his hands, as he sees Spider-Man swinging by. The dream of a Pulitzer fades away. Instead, "I'll be a laughingstock!" he declares, "And all because of Peter Parker!"

Spidey's swing takes him right through a window of the detention house; shattering the glass as he enters. Once inside, he pauses for a moment and pulls out the items he bought at the store. A pair of rubbers (as in galoshes) for his feet and rubber gloves for his hands. Perched in the stairway above the action, he sets up his automatic camera and prepares to enter the fray.

Downstairs, Electro rounds up the remaining convicts. He points out that all the prisoners who fled were swiftly recaptured and he promises to free all the men who agree to work for him. One con speaks for all of them when he says, "We're with you, Electro! Just get us outta here!" But just as Electro begins to outline his plan, he is interrupted by the light from the spider-signal, which casts down right at his feet. Electro can hardly believe it. Spider-Man is dead! He killed him himself! But then the wall-crawler leaps down the stairs and wades into the convicts. Effortlessly, he casts the men aside on his way to Electro. When the master of electricity throws a lightning bolt at him, Spidey pulls out another of his purchases... a handful of metal ball bearings... and tosses them in the air. The bearings attract the electric bolt, taking it away from Spider-Man. The wallcrawler boasts that "anyone with any knowledge of science knows that anything metal can act like a lightning rod" and then proves it by picking up a steel chair (there just happens to be a steel chair lying around) and throws it at Max, deflecting yet another one of his electric bolts. But Electro isn't worried. "My current is inexhaustible," he promises, "and you'll soon run out of things to throw!" Spidey has no intention of sitting around throwing things, however. He takes advantage of the distraction caused by the chair and uses his spider-speed to get right next to Electro before the villain even knows he's there. With rubber gloves on his hands to act as insulation, he is free to punch Electro right in the snoot. But as Electro falls backwards from the blow, he lands on the metal bars of a cell door. The flash of electricity that springs up from this contact temporarily blinds Spider-Man. The blaze of electric current makes Electro feel stronger than ever.

Spidey knows he must keep out of Electro's reach until his sight returns so he pulls out some more ball bearings and drops them on the floor. Electro obligingly steps on them and goes tumbling. But Spidey doesn't get a breather. One of the freed convicts tries to sneak up behind the web-spinner and brain him with a two-fisted punch. This poor slob doesn't reckon with the webhead's spider-sense, however (and Spidey spills the beans about it by saying, "Didn't think anyone would be dumb enough to try to sneak up behind a fella with a spider-sense!"... Wouldn't you think this is an ability that he'd like to keep secret?) and his punch misses the wall-crawler entirely. He doesn't get a second chance. Even though the webster pulls his punch, the convict is still knocked clear into next week.

The other cons, meanwhile, race up the stairs, trying to get to the roof. Spidey leap-frogs over all of them, gets to the top of the stairs first, and disarms the lead convict by kicking the gun out of his hand. The cons take one look at this and run back downstairs again. They know that they are no match for Spider-Man. ("We didn't realize how soft we had it in our nice quiet cells!" one says.) When they get to the bottom of the stairs, they find the police waiting for them. Just like that, all of the cons are rounded up... but Electro is still at large.

Spider-Man finds this out for himself when he is attacked by two bolts of electricity. The webhead uses his great agility to evade the bolts but then is faced with a further complication. Electro has gotten a hold of the gun that Spidey kicked away from the convict. "And now we'll find out whether a bullet or an electric bolt can get you first!" he says. But the web-slinger has no intention of being an easy target. He finds a bucket of sand (set out in case of fire) and kicks it at Electro. The master of electricity fires a bolt at the sand and fuses it into glass. While Electro is distracted, however, Spidey shoots his webbing and clogs up the barrel of the gun. Quickly, Electro retaliates by ripping "some highly charged power wires from the wall". (Yeah, you gotta watch out for those conveniently placed power wires!) He whirls three of them above his head like a trio of lariats. Spidey backs away. He is able to deflect the wires a bit with his rubber gloves but he knows that "if one touches my body, it's curtains for me!" The web-slinger continues to retreat until he bumps up against something. He turns to see what it is and is thrilled to discover that he has encountered "a water main with a fire hose attached!!" (Who says the webster's luck is always bad?) Instantly, Spidey recalls that "water and electricity just don't mix!!!" (Yes, that's right. That statement gets three exclamation points!) He leaps in the air to avoid the power wires, even as he turns the spigot to start the water running. Then, he grabs the fire hose and points it at Electro. As soon as the water hits him, Electro is short-circuited and knocked unconscious. (So does this mean that Electro hasn't bathed since he got his powers?) As the villain lies in the middle of a big puddle of water, Spidey muses over the ironies of life. "Here's one of the most powerful criminals of all time" he says, "And what finally beat him?? Just a dousing from a plain, ordinary water hose!" With that the wall-crawler decides to unmask his opponent to see who he is. He almost expects to reveal a face that is familiar to him and is disappointed to learn that "this guy I never saw before". Still, Spidey is sure that the police, who are on their way in, will identify Electro soon enough. The webhead leaves Electro for the cops and goes to retrieve his hidden camera. If the pictures come out as he hopes, "it'll be the scoop of the year!"

Back at the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson paces his office, worrying over the fool he has made of himself and blaming Peter Parker for it. Just then, Betty Brant enters to tell him that Peter is waiting outside. JJ goes into an immediate rage and orders Betty to let Peter in. "I'll make mince meat of him!" yells JJJ. When Peter cheerfully enters, Jonah threatens to sue him for selling fake pictures before he fires him for fraud. Pete tells JJJ to relax. First, he tells Jonah, he can't be fired because he is a free-lancer. And second, he fans out a whole new set of action photographs. Jameson takes the pictures away from Peter and looks at them. He immediately realizes that these shots of Spidey fighting Electro are "the real thing" and are "worth a fortune!" Suddenly, Jonah is all smiles, putting his hands on Peter's shoulders and pretending that he wasn't actually angry. JJJ offers to take these new pictures from Pete and forgive him for the doctored photos. This is just what Pete wants. Now he can forgive himself for selling the faked shots. He agrees to the deal and crafty ol' Jonah rubs his hands with glee. "I'm robbing him!" he thinks, "I'll make a fortune with his pictures but I deserve it 'cause he's a fool!" And, as soon as Pete leaves the office, Jameson is barking out orders on his intercom. "Send all department heads in here on the double!" he yells. With this new set of photos, he's "going to put out an extra!"

Outside of JJ's office, Betty Brant does her filing, intentionally turning her back on Peter. Angrily, she takes Peter to task for ignoring her request and taking pictures of the riot at the House of Detention. Peter tells her that taking crime photos is his job. "I like you better than any girl I've ever known!" he says, "I wouldn't do anything to hurt you! But you can't stop me from doing what I have to!" Hearing that, Betty hangs her head and decides to come clean. She tells Pete that she quit High School last year to take her job at the Bugle because of "someone I once knew" who reminded her of Pete. "But I don't want to be hurt again!" These obscure comments not only inform the reader that Betty is a teenager even though she is JJJ's secretary (and therefore not too old a love interest for Pete) but also succeed in confusing the hell out of our hero. "Okay, Betty!" he says (completely misinterpreting), "I get the message! So I'm not Mr. Perfect! Sorry to have bothered you!" With that, he turns and walks away, ignoring Betty's call to him to "Wait!"

"Minutes later..." according to the caption (I knew Spider-Man was fast, but not this fast!), Pete has gone from the Bugle to Aunt May's hospital room. May is sitting up in bed, looking very spry. She tells Pete that the doctors will let her go home in a few days. Then she asks where Betty is. "She's such a sweet girl", May says. Pete sloughs this off by saying that Betty is busy today but sends her regards.

And, moments later, as he walks out of the hospital (head down, hands in his pockets), Pete is still thinking about Betty. He admits that he "got more of a shock out of Betty flaring up than I did out of Electro" but he never really meant to walk out on her. Now realizing how much he likes her, Pete decides he must go back and apologize, but it turns out he doesn't have to bother. Betty has come to him. She runs up behind him, apologizing to Pete for what she has said. And, as the streetlights come on in the dusk of Manhattan, Peter and Betty walk side by side, "each groping for the right words to say, each feeling the first pangs of that emotion we call love". (Enjoy it while you can, you two!)

We haven't seen the last of Electro, of course. Or of Aunt May in the hospital. Or of JJJ believing that some villain is Spider-Man in disguise. Electro's first return is outside of the spiderverse in Daredevil #2, June 1964 DD beats him by dropping a huge theatre curtain on him and getting the cops to hose him down to short-circuit him. He joins with the Sinister Six in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 (1964) only a few months later. Aunt May's next hospital stay interrupts Spidey's battle with the Green Goblin in ASM #17 (October 1964). And Jonah accuses Spidey of being the Big Man in the very next issue (ASM #10, March 1964) as already chronicled in a previous lookback. So, not only do they all come back... they all come back in 1964.

The mysterious "someone" who hurt Betty in the past turns out to be her brother Bennett. That story appears in ASM #11, April 1964 and in our installment next month.

General Comments

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

  1. First Aunt May in hospital.
  2. First Electro.
  3. First time J. Jonah Jameson thinks the villain is Spider-Man in disguise.
  4. First time (I think) that Spidey spills the beans about his spider-sense.
  5. First time a villain is defeated with a fire hose.

The 1969 Marvelmania International Spider-Man Portfolio checklist entry for this story. Warts and all:

"The Man Called Electro" - First encounter and origin of Electro. - Aunt May had an operation.

Overall Rating

This issue introduces some classic Spidey touches. The crooks that give up even though the web-slinger doesn't notice them. Spidey getting caught in the rain. Aunt May needing an emergency operation. JJJ publishing an edition declaring, "Electro is Really Spider-Man!" Electro, as drawn by Ditko, is extremely cool, too, what with the garish costume and the spray of lightning bolts that shoot out from his fingers. And, how can you resist a battle in which Spider-Man defeats his foe by using rubber gloves, ball bearings and a fire hose? All great stuff and yet, somehow, when stacked up against the other early classic issues, this one doesn't quite measure up. (Though it's still better than most of what we've gotten over the last dozen years.) Nothing I can really put my finger on but call it four webs, okay?


Here's one I missed when I should have done it...because it's only Spidey's face on a dartboard. Fantastic Four #21 is next!

 Posted: 2002
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)