Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #26

 Posted: 2004
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)


Stan and Steve's last Green Goblin story is also the first time a story is continued with a cliffhanger, a practice that becomes commonplace as soon as Ditko leaves the book. And while this issue seems to be all about secret identities, the Goblin's true self is still not revealed. In fact, two new mysterious characters come on the scene: the stoolie known as Patch and the mobster called the Crime-Master.

All you have to do is look at the cover to see which mystery man is the focus of the issue. Yes, the Green Goblin hovers in the air on his glider, tantalizing prospective buyers, but he is clearly in the background. The figure in the foreground is dressed in a brown suit, black gloves, red tie, and dark hat. He wears a mask that covers his entire face and seems to cast shadows revealing only his eyes and a strange grimace of a mouth. It is the classic "masked man in a suit" Ditko look that he uses again with the Question and Mr. A. and has used before with the Big Man. In fact, the Big Man was Frederick Foswell who is once again a supporting character in the book. Hmmm. Could it be... ?

The Crime-Master holds a very impressive gun in his left hand and a strange tube in his right. The tube shoots out a gas that envelops Spider-Man who is on the verge of staggering off a rooftop ledge. The only text on the cover reads, "The Man in the Crime-Master's Mask!" Only six words! (If you count "Crime-Master" as one word that is.) That must have thrilled Tim Wise to death! (See ASM #25, June 1965 letter column.) I'm ready if you are.

Story 'The Mystery of the Man in the Crime-Master's Mask!'

Here's an intriguing symbolic Ditko splash page. There is a yellow background that seems to be both wall and floor (it rises up to the top of the page well above the four figures but three of them seem to be standing on it, even casting shadows onto it from above). From left to right are the Crime-Master (turned in half profile, his hands at his sides, the left hand holding that impressive-looking pistol), Frederick Foswell (several paces in front of the other two, standing straight on with his hands at his sides) and the Green Goblin (his hands on his hips, his head tilted up a bit as he laughs). These men occupy the left side of the panel. The right side is dominated by a huge hanging white question mark. Spidey sits in the center of the question mark, with one leg dangling down towards the dot at the bottom and the other leg propped up. His left hand is on his left thigh and his right hand serves as a support for his head. Spidey is clearly trying to puzzle things out since he also has five small question marks circling about his head. In his captions, Stan tells us that "Both the Crime-Master and the Green Goblin know each other's true identities!!" then asks, "But... what strange secret is known only to Frederick Foswell?? Can Spider-Man solve this dark riddle, cloaked within a grim puzzle, hidden beneath the shadows of a deadly enigma??" We have to start reading to find out.

It's the middle of the night at the Parker home and Peter slips out of his bedroom trying not to wake his Aunt May. His mission is to find the Spidey costume which May confiscated last issue. (Peter told her it was "just a disguise" that he was going to use to "fool some people".) He puts his ear to her bedroom door and can hear steady breathing letting him know that May is sound asleep. His first stop is the garbage can outside but the costume isn't in there. This means it must still be somewhere in the house. So, Pete goes through "every closet and cupboard" without success. Then he goes to the attic and looks in a trunk up there. There is only one other place to look and that is in May's bedroom but he can't go in there while she is sleeping. Pete goes back to his bedroom, sits on his bed and puts his hand to his head. "What a pickle to be in!" he thinks, "A Spider-Man without his costume is like a Beatle without his hair!" (I love Stan Lee lines like this.) Restlessly, he lies down and tries to sleep. He can't help but wonder what has happened to his other costume though... the one he left in the clutches of Professor Smythe's robot (also last issue) that is presumably now in J. Jonah Jameson's possession. Deciding to "worry about it tomorrow", Peter finally drops off to sleep.

But others in the city are still awake and creating more worries for Peter. On the waterfront, two men have a late-night meeting, standing out on a dock. Actually, only one of the men is standing on the dock. The other man is hovering about a foot above the dock on his goblin glider. That man, the mysterious Green Goblin, is not at all pleased with the other man, a masked figure known as the Crime-Master. Apparently the Goblin and Crime-Master had an agreement to take over the underworld together. (You'll recall that the Goblin had a mob takeover in mind in his last appearance as well in ASM #23, April 1965 when he tried to snatch away Lucky Lobo's gang.) As part of the deal, they revealed their secret identities to each other. Now, however, the Crime-Master wants to back out. He has decided he can control the rackets on his own. The Goblin is not about to let him get away with this but the Crime- Master threatens to reveal his identity to the world if the Goblin gets in his way. His only offer is for the Goblin to work for him. ("I can always use another flunky!" he says, which is not really the best way to entice someone to be your employee, it seems to me.) Instead, the Goblin flies off in a snit, reminding the Crime-Master that he knows his secret ID as well. "So you haven't heard the last of me!" he says as he glides away. The Crime-Master leaves the dock convinced that the Goblin is bluffing. "He can't expose me any more than I can expose him!" he thinks, "It's a stalemate!"

As the night progresses, five hoods meet in a secret underworld hideout and bemoan their lot. "Since the police have had the heat on us, we haven't been able to pull a caper for weeks!" says the only one not wearing a hat. Another mentions that Spider-Man makes it even harder on them. The guy without the hat sums it all up when he says, "We've got to pull a job soon or disband!" Outside, a rope dangles down from the roof of the building and the Crime-Master climbs down. He has no special powers but he must be one heck of an athlete because he casually hangs onto the rope with one hand while he holds a ball that looks like a shot-put with the other. He flings the ball through the closed window, breaking the glass. (He uses his left hand to throw the ball, which seems to be a clue that he is left-handed, except that he almost always holds his gun with his right.) The hoods inside the room hit the deck. They think someone is throwing a bomb. When the ball hits the floor, however, it doesn't explode. It just breaks in two revealing a note inside. The guy without the hat reads it to the others. "This is your first and last notice!" it reads, "From now on I'm taking over the rackets! Defy me, and it will not be a false alarm next time!" And it is signed, "The Crime-Master!" Now walking the empty streets, the Crime-Master is pleased with this night's work. "Before I'm done," he thinks, "the entire underworld will tremble at the mere mention of the name Crime-Master!"

And he's just begun his work. Minutes later, the phone rings in the bedroom of some other hood, waking him up. (We know he is a hood because he has his gun sitting on his bedside table right next to his telephone.) When he answers the phone, the hood (who appears to be one of the current mob bosses) hears a voice on the line that tells him to "Look out your window at your car". As soon as the hood looks outside, his car blows up. Then the voice on the line introduces himself as the Crime-Master and says, "I'm taking over from now on!"

Before the night is over, all of the gang leaders have been contacted and told that the Crime-Master is their new boss. Some are receptive to it ("Who knows? Maybe he's just what we need!"), some are threatened by it ("I say we should fight 'im! Nobody's takin' over my mob!"), some are worried about the implications of it all ("He must be someone from the rackets! He could even be one of us! But he's dangerous! He knows too much!") and some are men of few words ("Me, I don't like it!") But they're all talking to each other about it.

Meanwhile, "just before dawn", a man pulls the blinds down in his apartment and switches on the light so he can change clothes. He thinks about "the game" he is playing and how dangerous it is. "One error, one miscalculation could mean my very life," he thinks. He opens up his bedroom closet which has a "hollowed- out portion" to hide his "special working clothes" (which we don't get to see, incidentally). Then he gets dressed in his regular clothes and we can see that he is Daily Bugle newspaper reporter Frederick Foswell, who used to be the crime boss known as the Big Man (in ASM #10, March 1964). Could Fred be up to his old tricks again?

Next morning at breakfast, Peter Parker thinks he can get Aunt May to reveal the location of the Spider-Man suit if he brings it up in conversation. "I guess it was silly of me to try to wear a Spider-Man costume to that party, Aunt May," he says. (So much for not lying about it, which he tried to avoid last issue. Now he was going to wear the costume to a party!) "Let's not discuss it any more, Peter dear! We'll consider the matter finished" says Aunt May, putting the kibosh on Peter's little scheme. Pete finishes his breakfast and decides that he'd better concentrate on the costume he left with the Spider-Slayer. He puts his jacket on and tells Aunt May (who is drying dishes) that he is going to the Bugle. May tells him to "come home by bus if it rains".

Now you would think that it must be Saturday again since Pete is heading into the city instead of to school but no, he shows up at school a little later. So, either Pete (and everyone else who works at the Bugle) gets up really early or else school starts at noon or maybe Stan and Steve didn't bother to think much about things like this.

In any event, Peter Parker shows up at the Bugle offices "not long afterwards" and runs into Betty Brant who is still mad at him for urging Jonah to use Professor Smythe's robot to capture Spider-Man last issue. "Hello, Peter!" she says, "Have you any new plans to catch Spider-Man today??" and Pete knows that this morning is not going to be easy. He asks Betty how long she's planning to hold this grudge and Betty denies that the grudge even exists. "After all, if you want to be palsy-walsy with Jonah Jameson, that's your business" she says. This sets Pete over the edge. "Aw rats!" he says (really getting down and dirty), "First you write letters to Ned Leeds because you feel sorry for him! Then you worry about Spider-Man! How about having a good word for Peter Parker!" To give Betty credit, she doesn't bring up the fact that Pete is still carrying a grudge about Ned Leeds. No, she brings up a couple of obsessions of her own. "You mean the Peter Parker who's been dating Liz Allan?? And who has another girl friend whom he's never even mentioned to me? Namely Mary Jane Watson!" she says. Wide-eyed, Peter protests, "But I don't even know Mary Jane Watson!" (And he doesn't. But Liz and Betty met MJ last issue.) Betty doesn't buy this for a second since it was Peter's Aunt May who introduced her to MJ. She leans in with one hand on her hip and the other in Peter's face and asks, "How many more girl friends do you have?" When Pete explains that his Aunt has been trying to hook him up with Mary Jane and that he's never seen her, Betty puts both hands on her hips and says, "Oh no? Well, you ought to open up your eyes, Casanova! She's very hard to miss seeing!" Good old chauvinistic Pete puts a hand on the back of his head and moans, "The only thing worse than a hot-tempered female is a jealous hot- tempered female." Which is when Jonah Jameson comes out of his office and wants to know what all the racket is about.

JJJ breaks this spat up in a hurry. He sends Betty back to work and tells Pete to "do your shouting on some street corner" if he doesn't have any photos to sell. Pete puts his hands in his pockets and starts to leave; mad at himself for blowing up and ruining his chance to get his Spidey costume back. As Pete heads out, Jonah yells over to Foswell to come into his office and bring his file on the Green Goblin and the Crime-Master. (An interesting request since no one should even know the Crime-Master exists at this point much less that he and the Goblin have some sort of connection with each other.) Pete overhears this and thinks this may be a chance "to get another line on Foswell". (Pete hasn't trusted Foswell since he got out of jail and came back to work at the Bugle in ASM #23, April 1965.) While Fred talks to Jonah ("So far there's no definite tie-in between the Goblin and that nut who calls himself the Crime-Master, but keep digging away!" says JJ to his crime reporter), Pete sashays over to Foswell's hat which is sitting on top of an orange filing cabinet and slips a spider-tracer into the hatband. That way he can trail Frederick Foswell as Spider-Man... That is, if he ever gets a Spidey costume back again.

Now, according to Stan, it is only "a few minutes later" that Peter goes from midtown Manhattan back to Queens and deigns to go to school. Immediately he runs into Flash Thompson. "Ol' Puny Parker finally got tired to trying to hide from me" Flash says. (You'll recall that Peter ran away from a fight with Flash last issue because the Spider-Slayer had zeroed in on his spider-impulses. Pete had to change into his Spidey suit in a hurry or risk having his secret identity revealed.) Pete is in no mood for Flash and his flunkies today. He calls Flash "loudmouth" and refers to the others as his "gang of grinning hyenas". The kids think Pete is a "regular Bob Hope today" and start yukking it up which turns out to be the last straw. "Okay you brainless baboons! You've laughed at me for the last time" Pete says and he runs up and performs a flying tackle on Flash and three of his pals all at once. Peter's timing is lousy because Principal Davis just happens to look out his window at that moment and sees "Peter Parker deliberately attacked that group of boys". (And we haven't seen Davis since the Sandman invaded the High School way back in ASM #4, September 1963.) Pete has no intention of stopping. There is a heap of teens on the ground with Peter on top and he is raising his fist about to punch Flash's lights out when Liz Allan jumps into the scrum, holds Peter's punch back with both of her arms and orders Pete to "stop it!" Pete, realizing that he is on the verge of using his spider-strength, backs off enough so that everyone gets on their feet again but the battle is far from over. Peter and Flash begin a war of words with Liz standing right in the middle. "It's okay, Liz!" Peter tells her, "Don't worry about me! That birdbrain doesn't scare me!" This is not what Liz wants to hear. "You've become as bad as Flash is!" she tells Pete, "And I thought you were different!" Then overcome by it all, Liz puts a hand to her forehead and runs away vowing, "I'm through with both of you! I never want to see either of you again!"

That still doesn't break up the feud as Flash promises, "Don't worry, Liz! I'll fix it so you won't see Parker any more!" but then the only black kid in the school runs up and tells Peter that "the Principal wants to see you on the double". The group of Flash toadies is thrilled by this news. They realize that the Principal must have seen Peter attack them. "Davis may even expel him!" says one gleeful sycophant. Flash drifts away, telling the group he is going to see if he can get back into Liz' good graces as Peter goes to see the Principal. But Flash actually ends up listening through the door to the conversation between Pete and the Principal and he learns that "Parker took the whole responsibility for himself". Davis tells Peter he will decide on a punishment later. Pete walks off, head down, hands in pockets, telling himself it was all his fault, that he should have known better. But as soon as Peter leaves, Flash approaches the Principal and tells him "I think you better hear the whole story of what happened. Parker really wasn't to blame." The Principal puts his hand on Flash's shoulder and invites him into his office to talk.

Somewhere else in the city, the Crime-Master bursts into a building housing a gang that has decided to defy him. He gets off a gunshot, winging the gang boss before any of the men can do anything about it. "We haven't a chance!" yells one, "He's a crack shot!" Still, the odds are four to one so you'd think that one of the mobsters would try something. But I guess the Crime-Master is right. "None of you have the brains, or the skill, or the nerve to stop me!" he says as he wades into them with his fists. "Will you accept me as the Kingpin of the city's gang's [sic]..." he asks, using the word "Kingpin" for the first time in a Spider-Man comic (I think). The poor slobs readily agree. "Now, with you under my thumb" says C-M, "the others will all fall into line!" (Meaning what? That these guys were the toughest gang in the city? Not that I'm pro-crime or anything but... what a sad thought that is.)

Across town, J. Jonah Jameson arrives at his "exclusive men's club". One old codger sitting in an armchair reading a newspaper quizzes Jonah about the recent crime activity and, next thing you know, everyone in the room is chiming in. One bald member with an unfortunate comb-over asks Jonah if he has "any idea who the Green Goblin is". A fellow in a blue suit wants to know if the Crime-Master and the Goblin are "the same man". Jonah sits back in a chair and tells his friends to "keep reading the Bugle", promising "I'll have a big expose soon". Of course, Jonah has no clue who the Goblin is since Stan and Steve don't even know at this point but, interestedly, the next person to speak IS the Green Goblin. He still hasn't gotten a name but the man later called Norman Osborn speaks for the first time. "One of your reporters is this fellow Foswell, who used to be a big time criminal himself!" he says, "Is it wise for you to employ such a notorious character?" Which, actually, is a very interesting thing for the Goblin to say if he wanted to employ a little misdirection. Another club member sticks up for Jonah for "giving an ex- convict a second chance". JJ puffs contentedly on a cigar and says, "You know what they say about me, gentlemen... I'm all heart! And besides, Foswell works like a dog!"

Meanwhile, Peter Parker is wandering through the city when he comes upon a costume shop. In the window are three masks with full-length costumes of the Frankenstein Monster and Spider-Man behind. Peter wonders why he didn't think of this before. He goes into the shop and tells the proprietor that he wants the Spidey outfit. The proprietor tries to talk him out of it. "I can let you have it cheap! There's not much call for it lately!" he says, "But, if you want something really popular, why don't you take that Frankenstein suit? They're selling like hotcakes." "Hotcakes I can get in a restaurant" Pete replies. The proprietor wants to know if he should wrap it up and Pete tells him to do so. "I want to give it to my den mother as a housewarming gift" he says. But this is all blarney, of course. As soon as he can get to a roof, Pete puts the phony Spider-suit on. ("Luckily they make these things out of those new stretch fabrics nowadays! So one size fits almost anybody!" He's right! Just ask Mike Fichera!) It may not be his real outfit but Spidey is so happy to be back in action that he lets out with a "Wow-eee!" as he leaps from one rooftop to the next. His plan is to pick up the spider-tracer he put in Foswell's hat and see what the ex-con is up to. But as soon as he gets moving, the costume starts to get too stretched out. The gloves and boots start to sag, revealing his wrists and ankles. The shirt starts to ride up on him, revealing his abdomen. Spidey is forced to stop and use some webbing to hold his gloves, boots, and shirt in place. So intent is he on this that he fails to notice the Green Goblin scooting by on his bat-glider right behind him. The Goblin doesn't notice Spider-Man either.

With his costume all webbed together, Spidey traces the signal to its source. It is an upper floor apartment and, finding no one at home, Spider-Man climbs into the window to investigate. There he sees Foswell's hat sitting on a table. In fact, the clothes Foswell was wearing are there too but Foswell isn't. Spidey pokes around a little bit.

Outside on a roof across the street, the Crime-Master sees a light on in the apartment. He pulls his gun and thinks, "So long as he lives, he'll be a constant threat to me! Unless... unless I eliminate him!" (This is wonderful, confusing stuff. Who is the Crime-Master referring to? Does he know it is Spider-Man in the apartment? Does he think it is Foswell? Is the Crime- Master Foswell himself, coming home and seeing a light on in his apartment that he didn't leave on and therefore knowing Spidey is inside? Is the Crime-Master someone at JJJ's club who has just heard Norman Osborn mention Frederick Foswell and has decided to rub him out? All good possibilities at this point.)

Inside the apartment, Spidey picks up the hat with his left hand while he scratches his head with his right. He wonders if Foswell stopped wearing the hat because he knew the tracer was hidden in it. "Or, was there another reason??" he asks himself, implying that perhaps Foswell took his hat and clothes off to get into the garb of either the Goblin or the Crime-Master. But all such thoughts must wait as the web-slinger's spider-sense starts warning him that "danger is near... very near!!" Just then, with a "thwok!" the Crime- Master fires his gun through the window and Spidey leaps back just in time. ("If not for my spider sense, I'd be wearing a very drafty costume right now!") The hat goes flying one way; the spider-tracer goes flying another way. The bullet ends up lodged in the floor at Spidey's feet.

The web-spinner leaps out the window and springs to the building across the way. The Crime-Master is still there except that it now looks like he's hanging out of a window. He takes another shot at Spidey, and now it again looks like he's on a fire escape behind the building. The shot only misses Spidey "by a web hair" and that's only because the webhead spins and tumbles away from it. The Crime-Master calls out, "No matter how fast you move, my bullets can go faster!" (Implying that C-M is not surprised by Spidey's appearance and knew it was the webster in the apartment all the time.) His mask muffles his voice and Spidey doesn't recognize it. He does know it's not the Green Goblin shooting at him and it's not another of his previous foes so he rightly assumes that this new threat must be the Crime-Master. Taking a moment by standing on the side of the building, Spidey then leaps past the Crime- Master's field of vision and clings to the far side of a water tower. C-M takes a shot at Spidey as he goes by and we can now see that the crook is standing on the roof of a building with the Manhattan skyline in the distance, which seems to imply that the nearby building where Foswell lives has just plain disappeared. (I defy anyone to figure out these buildings in these five panels.) While shielded behind the water tower, Spidey tries to snag the Crime- Master with some webbing but the mob boss is standing under some scaffolding and the webbing can't get through to him. The Crime-Master takes another shot at Spidey just before this maneuver. Then, with the web globs dripping off the scaffolding in front of him, C-M shoots again as Spidey goes from the water tower to another rooftop. The shots are getting closer but Spidey has been counting them. The Crime-Master has fired five times. He only has one bullet left. That sixth bullet "pwinng"s off the ledge of the rooftop as Spidey ducks down behind it. That's just what Spidey is waiting for. He leaps down and tackles the Crime-Master before the gunman has a chance to reload.

But C-M doesn't back down at all. "The sight of Spider-Man charging in rage may terrify others," he says, "but not the Crime-Master!" and Spidey wonders what "he's got up his sleeve". Luckily for the web-slinger, it isn't another gun..., which he never seemed to consider. Instead it is a small green tube that the Crime-Master points right in the wall-crawler's face. Gas is released with a "whoosh!" The fumes seem to cling to Spidey's face in a great Ditko cloud (reminiscent of other great Ditko effects like Doctor Strange's spells, the Creeper's cape and Shade the Changing Man's distorted shapes). Choking, suffocating, the web-slinger staggers back, desperate for air. As Spider-Man puts an arm on a nearby chimney to prop himself up, the Crime-Master moves in and slugs him in the ribs. (And he talks big but, inside, he is impressed by Spidey's physique: "Punching him is like punching a stone wall! His body is a mass of lithe, sinewy muscles!") C-M realizes he can't hurt Spider-Man but he hopes that additional punches will drive the web-slinger back, forcing him off the roof. The gas numbs Spidey. His reflexes slow. He is getting groggy. He isn't hurt by the Crime-Master's punches but he can't get a breath. The Crime- Master punches once to stagger Spidey over to the ledge, then punches again to knock him over. Spider-Man topples and the Crime-Master gloats, "I did it! I've defeated Spider-Man!"

As he falls, Spider-Man makes one final effort and wrenches the costume shop mask off of his head. The gas seems to go with it and he can breathe again.

Above, the Crime-Master falls into the same trap villains tumble into time and time again. Without bothering to check for a body, he decides, "Spider-Man will never bother me or anyone ever again!" He struts off to tend to other matters in his scheme to be New York's main mob leader.

With his head clear, it now occurs to the web-spinner that he is falling to his death. In fact, he is dangerously close to the ground. He quickly fires out some webbing that attaches to the side of the building but the whole procedure is so rushed and awkward that Spidey ends up colliding with the wall as he comes to a stop. He stays put for a moment to get all the gas out of his lungs, then puts his mask back on and crawls back up to the roof. The Crime- Master is long gone, of course, and Spidey is left with nothing but a cheap costume that is again riding up on his ankles, wrists, and abdomen. He webs the suit together again as he tries to make sense of his meeting with the Crime- Master. "It could have been Foswell himself!" he muses, "He might have been returning to his room, and then he saw me and decided to finish me off!" (The fact that Spidey hands this possibility to us on a silver platter is a good reason to think it isn't going to be true.) He web-slings around the area but finds no trace of C-M or Foswell. Next stop, then, is the Daily Bugle to see if Foswell has shown up over there.

Soon after, Spidey is hanging upside down, peeking into a window at the Daily Bugle offices. There's no sign of Foswell but he does see Betty walking by with a smile, opening a letter. ("Probably reading another letter from that blamed Ned Leeds!" he thinks.) Climbing around to Jonah's window, Spidey sees that the office is empty. "This is a good time for me to scout around for my authentic Spider-Man costume!" he decides. In he goes for a look-see but the costume is nowhere around. All he can find are "a million clippings about the Green Goblin, the Crime-Master, and that little ol' Spider-Man... me!" Just then, Jonah walks in (turning back to tell Betty to "reserve a table for me at my club for dinner" as he enters). Spidey is temporarily hidden behind the door so Jonah doesn't notice him until the webster steps out and says, "Hi, Cheerful Charlie! You went to so much trouble to find me last time we met, that I thought I'd return the favor now!" (Another reference to last issue, of course.) Jonah puffs on his cigar, turns away and tells Spidey "if you came in to gloat over beating me last time, have your fun and then get lost!" Spidey carefully brings up the costume and Jonah tells him "that crackpot Smythe has it". Spidey knows just where to find the Prof so he leaps to the window and takes his leave quickly. Besides the cheap mask he is wearing is causing him the same problems as the rest of the costume is. Perched on the side of a building, Spidey squirts some web fluid around his neck to hold the mask in place. Then, he decides to head back to Frederick Foswell's place to see if he missed anything.

Back at Fred's apartment, Spidey gives it a thorough going-over but comes up empty. Then he notices a calendar on the wall with a map of Lower Manhattan. A close look reveals that "a small section of the waterfront" has been circled in pen. This may be the clue Spidey is looking for. He decides to "pay a little visit to that area".

At the same time, the various leaders of the underworld are concluding a meeting. They agree to send one representative to hear what the Crime-Master has to say. They choose a stocky fellow with a mustache, green suit, and red tie. He is, in fact, the same mob boss who had his car blown up by the Crime- Master. Before he leaves this meeting, "Stocky" gives his opinion that "I got a hunch we'll be better off if we do let [C-M] lead us" so it shouldn't come as much of a surprise when he meets with the Crime-Master in the next panel and agrees to throw in with him. The Crime-Master tells Stocky to "go back and tell the others to meet me at the waterfront, at the deserted pier in the West Forties." Stocky tells the Crime-Master that they will all be there. This waterfront area is apparently the same spot circled on Foswell's calendar. (Even though Ditko seems to have messed up and put the circle on the East Side.) Does that mean Foswell is the Crime-Master, after all?

And now, at the late "date" of page 16, panel 6, a new character is thrown into the mix. A man with an eyepatch over his left eye, wearing a tan fedora, brown turtleneck and green jacket. Stan tells us that this is the "stool pigeon known only as Patch" and he is in a phone booth giving a tip to the police. (He also holds the phone receiver in his left hand just as the Crime-Master threw the rock with his left. Could this mean that Patch and the Crime- Master are one and the same?) Patch tells the cops that "the mobs are gonna meet at the old deserted pier on the west side. The cops are delighted to hear this. Five officers (all fairly non-descript except that one is black and one has red hair) get briefed on their assignment. They are told to keep the crime bosses under surveillance to see if they can dig up "enough evidence on them to put them away for good".

And so, things come together at the waterfront. Even though the circle that Spidey saw on Foswell's calendar was on the East Side, the web-slinger seems to have shown up at the correct place on the West Side anyway. He watches from a rooftop as various "hard-looking characters" enter a deserted warehouse. The hoods are met at the door by one of the Crime-Master's men who tells them that his boss is not there yet. "He'll show up after everyone's arrived!" he says, "Just go inside and wait with the other guys." (This sounds like a set-up to me but the bosses enter without thinking twice about it.)

And where is the Crime-Master? Well, he's off on yet another rooftop having a chat with the Green Goblin. The Goblin has just found out that the Crime-Master has taken over his plan and is squeezing him out and this tics Gobby off so much that he clenches his hands into fists. The Crime-Master casually leans up against a chimney but he hides a gun in his left hand behind his back. C-M is not afraid of the Goblin's threats. He has the proof of Gobby's identity locked in a safe deposit vault. "If I'm ever found dead, the police will open that vault" he says. "You cheap double-crosser!" replies the Goblin, "The Green Goblin doesn't have to resort to murder! There are other ways...!" And he fires his fingertip sparkles at the Crime-Master. C-M dodges the sparks and reveals the concealed gun. He takes a shot at the Goblin but misses as Gobby flies off on his glider, leaving a trail of "smokey exhaust" as cover. ("Blast you!" cries the Crime-Master, "No matter how tricky you are, a bullet can still get rid of you forever!" The man just has complete faith in his gun, doesn't he?) Hovering at a distance, the Goblin retaliates by throwing pumpkin bombs. But he also misses since his exhaust hides C-M from him as easily as it hides him from C-M. After a couple of tosses, the Goblin decides he'd "better hold off". After all, he doesn't want to accidentally kill the Crime-Master. Then his secret identity would be "made public".

So, the Goblin decides to scoot. The Crime Master gets clear of the smoke and fires off a shot at the departing Goblin. "Hah! You're running away! I scared you off!!" C-M crows. "Sure" replies Gobby, "like a tadpole scares a tiger!" The Goblin has decided to back off for now but he is determined to prevent the Crime-Master from taking over the mobs without him. "There are other ways to stop you" he says, "And the Goblin will use them!"

Back on his rooftop, Spider-Man decides to get a look at what's going on inside the warehouse. Or at least that what he says. Actually, as far as I can tell, he just retreats behind a chimney on his rooftop. He must see something from this vantage point because he remarks that "it's like a meeting of the Who's Who of the underworld" and figures he'd "better alert the police". He never gets the chance. The Goblin, flying away from his confrontation with the Crime-Master, sees Spidey and decides to inflict a sneak attack. It turns out he knows all about the spider-sense. (But should he? Let's take a quick look. In ASM #14, July 1964, Spidey blurts out "Why are my spider-sense tingling this way?" in a fight with the Goblin and Enforcers but that's really about it. I don't think, from the evidence, that the Goblin should be aware of this ability. This becomes rather an important point when the Goblin knows enough to suppress Spidey's spider-sense in ASM #39, August 1966 consequently learning his secret identity.) Seeking to avoid triggering the spider-sense, Gobby sneaks all the way around on the other side of the building. At the last instant, he forces his glider straight up and over the chimney, then down on top of Spidey's head before the spider-sense can give off a single tingle. Spidey is clubbed hard on the back of the head and is groggy from the attack. Gobby never hesitates, following up his attack with a pumpkin bomb. Still seeing stars, the web-slinger uses his spider-sense to locate the bomb, webbing it and tossing it away before it can make contact. This saves his life. Unfortunately, he doesn't get the bomb very far away before it explodes and the concussion knocks him unconscious. The Goblin settles his glider down on the rooftop, reaches over to the knocked out web-slinger and tries to unmask him. The mask won't budge because, you'll recall, Spider-Man webbed it to the rest of the costume so that it would stay on. The Goblin decides to get back to the unmasking later. "Right now" he says, "I've something more important to do!"

Under the pier, the Crime-Master walks along a pathway of wooden planks seemingly built right on top of the water. This path takes him to a crudely constructed ladder underneath the warehouse. He climbs the ladder, opens a trap door, and enters a secluded "off-stage" section of the warehouse, which is guarded by two of his men. This section leads to an elevated plywood stage where another of his men is already prepping the mobsters who stand around below. "Hey, pipe down you guys!" his presenter says, "Clam up all of you! The Crime-Master is here! He's gonna tell us about his plans!" The Crime- Master steps out, puts his left fist on his hip, waves his right fist in the air and starts his speech. "The first thing I want to say is from now on, I'm the boss!" he tells those assembled. "The only boss! And, if anyone has any objections, let him speak up now!" And someone does speak up but not anyone in the audience. Instead, a garishly garbed figure steps up on the stage behind the Crime-Master announcing "you're about to have the shortest reign on record". It is the Green Goblin and he makes the most impressive entrance this audience can imagine. He carries the unconscious Spider-Man, draped over his left arm like a sack of potatoes. This prompts one of the hoods in the audience to wonder, "What's gonna happen next??" But we're going to have to wait for the next issue to find out.

"Next Issue" Stan promises, "The secret of Frederick Foswell will be revealed as you thrill to one of the greatest battle royals of all!" Meanwhile, we do have a few more pages to skim on our way to the letters page. The house ad promises "Two more triumphs for Marvel..!" and pushes Daredevil #8 with the introduction of Stilt Man and Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #19 with Nick Fury on the rampage to revenge the death of his girlfriend Pamela Hawley. The MMMS page is emceed by J. Jonah Jameson of all people. "If you haven't joined yet" he says, crooking a thumb at the order form, "here's another chance! We don't want any fan of ours to be an outcast!" Below JJJ is the beginning of the plan to list every MMMS member's name. "Each mighty Marvel mag will feature 25 names and addresses of MMMS members! The names will be different in each title, so we'll actually be printing hundreds of names each month!" And here are the lucky 25 who got their names listed in Amazing Spider-Man. Tom Caine of Louisville, Kentucky. Rick Keitsch of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Jim Hodge of Marion, Indiana. Donald McGregor of W. Warwick, Rhode Island and later comic scripting fame. James Byers of Mukilteo, Washington. Randy Newell of Bellingham, Washington. Sylvia Thomas of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (See, guys? You're not complete geeks. A woman!) Edward Miller of Liverpool, New York. Alan Bradley of Greenville, Ohio. Bob La Riviere of Bellingham, Washington. (Second Bellingham resident, if you're counting.) Doud Moore of Spencer, Iowa. Stuart L. Churchill of good old Ann Arbor, Michigan. Jeff Creeth, also of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Jerry Vasily of Bridgeport, Pennsylvania. Edward Perez of New York, New York. Philip Pulling of Thendara, New York. Danny Woods of Irwin, Pennsylvania. Robert Koenig of Onida, South Dakota. David Bulter of Forest Hills, New York (Just like Pete!) James Buck, Jr. of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Steve Zenuh of W. Mifflin, Pennsylvania. Charles Lorman of Tynsboro, Massachusetts. Jerry Richardson of St. Albans, New York. Tom Gibson of Stockbridge, Massachusetts. (Home of Alice's Restaurant.) And Mike Havery of Royal Oak, Michigan. The bottom of the page promises "Big News!! Coming Next Issue!!" which will be some sort of "special offer for you, the first of many such offerings!" But we're going to have until next time for that, too.

In the Spider's Web, Vincent C. Stuart II of Detroit, Michigan wonders why Steve Ditko's picture wasn't in the Marvel Tales Annual and his voice wasn't on the MMMS record. "Does he have two heads? Or four arms? Or three eyes? Is this why we never see him? Maybe he's from another planet and cannot speak our language well. Is this why we couldn't hear him on that record? Maybe he is a super-intelligent gorilla you found who can draw well? Maybe he is six inches tall? Is this why you have not revealed him to the world? I must say that Ditko is really becoming a mystery! Who is he?? What is he?? Anyway, in closing, I say we want Ditko!!" Stan replies, "Vince, he's even a mystery to the gang in the bullpen! He seems to be an ordinary Joe except for that silly habit of his of walking on the ceiling! So, you say you want him, eh? Well, as far as we're concerned, if you can find him, he's yours!" Let me add that, forty years later, Ditko is still a mystery. And I'll bet Stan's comments about "mystery to the gang in the bullpen" and "if you can find him, he's yours" have more truth in them than he'd like you to believe.

Meanwhile, Joseph M. Pappalardo of Brooklyn, New York thinks "Your best issues to date are FF #s 4, 5, 12, 16, 17, 19, 20 and 21, and Spider-Man #2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 11, and 12. Please do not get me wrong I never miss a single issue of any of your comics, but I still think your competitors are superior to yours. I will expect a sane and serious answer from you on this matter." To which Stan replies, "Aw, c'mon, Joe! How serious can we be with a guy who thinks our competitors' mags are better?" Plus Stan, he thinks Spidey #s 2, 4, 5, and 9 are better than #s 10, 14, 15, 17, 18, and 19. The poor guy is hopeless!

Ty Bizony of New York, New York thinks, "The so-called Masters of Menace were the weakest and most unimpressive group that Spidey has ever fought. The Clown was dull and very uncrafty... The Great Gambonnos were fairly interesting but they, too, were rather unoriginal... Cannonball was not too good because his name implies that he would be shot from a cannon as he was in issue #16... As for Princess Python, all I can say is that she is the most useless, charmless super-villain that I have ever seen in a Marvel comic." He sums this eviscerating up with, "don't let this one mistake get you down" and "Keep up the good work". Thanks, Ty!

Finally, Steve Gerber of St. Louis, Missouri who will go on to create Howard the Duck and become one of the top comics writers of all time writes, "You may think this is a crazy suggestion but it's really just stupid enough to work! For the past three years you've been kidding your teen-age mags and kiddingly saying that Patsy Walker and Millie the Model are the only places you won't find Spidey as a guest star. Well, why make those gals an exception? In this crazy Marvel Age of Comics I can think of nothing wilder than the Torch and Spidey mixing it up with Patsy or Millie! If you don't pull a story like this you're even more insane than I am for suggesting it! See what the other readers think!" Just the sort of suggestion you'd expect from Steve. Too bad Stan never took him up on it.

There's not much in the way of Goblin clues this issue:

  1. Still wants to be the King of Crime.
  2. The Crime-Master knows his identity and doesn't seem particularly impressed by it.
  3. That's about it.

The Crime-Master, Green Goblin and Patch all return next issue. And just what is Frederick Foswell up to? That's revealed next issue as well.

General Comments

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

  1. First appearance of the Crime-Master.
  2. Fourth major appearance of the Green Goblin.
  3. First use of the word "Kingpin" in Spider-Man comics.
  4. Second appearance of Principal Davis.
  5. First time Norman Osborn speaks.
  6. First appearance of Patch.
  7. First issue continued with a cliffhanger.

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

"The Man in the Crime-Master's Mask" - Green Goblin joins forces with a new foe, Crime-Master to subdue Spidey.

Overall Rating

From the cover to the shock ending, this is one of the best issues of Amazing Spider-Man... ever. I'm a sucker for Ditko's masked mob bosses that dress in good suits and fedoras and the Crime-Master is a classic example of that type. The power of the Green Goblin has been trashed ever since Norman Osborn was brought back to life during the Clone Saga but, at this time, he was still the best villain out there. Great looking, devious, ingenious and still a complete mystery! The mystery of Foswell is clever and effective. Don't tell me there weren't thousands of Spidey fans out there who were convinced he was the Crime- Master or the Green Goblin! Pete's struggles with the costume shop costume are fun and work beautifully within the confines of the plot. When the Goblin tries to unmask Spidey and can't because he has had to web his mask on, the scene is beautifully foreshadowed and hits the mark. Side scenes like Pete's argument with Betty, his fight with Flash, and Spidey's chat with J. Jonah Jameson are wonderful too. Give Stan whatever credit is due but this (and all issues up to #38) is Steve's baby all the way in plot, pacing, concept, mysteries, clues, general characterization and artwork. Much as I love John Romita's work, one look at this issue and there is simply no doubt that Ditko's departure was a devastating blow to the book.

Five webs to the fullest extent of the law.


Who is the Crime-Master? Who is the Green Goblin? You'll find out the answer to one of those questions in ASM #27.

 Posted: 2004
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)