For years, this issue was primarily known as the lone Silver Age story that somehow never got reprinted. But once it finally showed up in Marvel Tales #168, October 1984, it had to find something new to distinguish it. Maybe that "something" is the last page which starts to set up one of the biggest and best Spidey stories in the Ditko/Lee era.
The Scorpion has never been my favorite villain but Steve seemed to like him. Why else would he bring him back less than a year after introducing him? (Stan, on the other hand, seems less enamored of old Scorpy. He writes Spidey up into the early 70s and never pits him against the Scorpion again.) For the record, the Scorpion is Mac Gargan, a private detective who undergoes an experiment conducted by Dr. Farley Stillwell at the behest of J. Jonah Jameson that turns him into a human scorpion and also unhinges his mind. Jonah's intent is to create a super-being who can defeat Spider-Man but the Scorpion becomes a criminal and Dr. Stillwell dies trying to cure him. The Scorpion then goes after Jameson only to be defeated by Spider-Man. (This all happens in ASM #20, January 1965.) Though currently in prison, the Scorpion still has quite a mad on.
|Cover Art:||Steve Ditko|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Masterworks #10|
|Reprinted In:||Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus #1|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Tales #168|
|Reprinted In:||Essential Spider-Man #2|
The issue begins with another great Ditko cover. This time, Spider-Man and the Scorpion fight in the water. Both men are mostly submerged but the Scorpion's tail lashes out, pulling a spray of water in its wake. Spider-Man stretches back to avoid the tail and his arm brings a stream of water with it as it moves back. The water level is a little more than a third of the way up the page and the background is blue, making the cover look like a self-contained aquarium with two very select specimens inside.
The splash page is a scene from the story, rather than one of those great symbolic covers that Steve so often did. It is Jonah Jameson's office and the place is wrecked. Jonah rests on one knee, his right hand braced against a fractured wall, his left hand shielding his face as he watches Spider-Man wade into the Scorpion with a right cross. Stan seems concerned that Steve has given him a pretty standard super-hero tale as he feels the need to begin with this involved but ultimately self-deprecating caption: "On the surface, this may seem to be a super-hero action thriller! But, if you probe down deep, if you analyze each subtle nuance, if you dissect each philosophical phrase, if you study each non-existentialistic panel, you'll discover that it actually is... a super-hero action-thriller!"
So, Peter Parker gets dressed one morning and discovers that his clothes are getting tight on him. Figuring that he must have gained some weight, he goes to the bank to get money to buy some new clothes. The withdrawal "practically cleans [him] out" so he decides not to "spend it too fast". The Midtown stores seem crowded anyway so Peter postpones his shopping and heads to the Daily Bugle to visit with Betty.
But, over in a nearby jailhouse, a green-gloved hand rips iron bars from a window. It's the Scorpion and he then uses his tail to spring out of his cell far enough to clear the prison wall. And why is the Scorpion still in his costume while in prison? And why does his costume have the tail attached even though Spidey ripped it clean off in their fight back in ASM #20, January 1965? Well, according to the Scorpion (as he talks to himself, clenching his fists and running through the woods surrounding the prison), "After they captured me, I outsmarted them by pretending to crack up! They returned my costume to me in order to calm me down! I had all this time to repair it. And wait for the right time to break out!" So, then, they also gave him the tail when they gave him the costume? And did they give him a needle and thread so he could sew it back on? Or did the authorities graciously do that for him? Well, whatever. Now that he's loose, the Scorpion plans to get his revenge on Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson.
Back at the Daily Bugle (called the "N.Y. Bugle" in Stan's caption), Peter Parker arrives in time to hear Jonah and Fred Foswell discuss "reports about the Cat Burglar... [and] those robberies of scientific equipment". (Neither of which will have anything to do with this issue but keep them in mind for the next one and the one after that.) Pete thinks both items sound interesting. He plans to get more details from Jonah later on. (Note that, in this panel, Peter's eyes are very definitely blue. This becomes a problem over the years as his eye color switches back and forth between blue and brown. MJ even calls him "blue eyes" at some times and "brown eyes" at others. The eye color issue has been compromised into hazel as seen in volume 4 of the Marvel Encyclopedia.)
Passing Jonah and Foswell, Peter sees Betty ahead. She is talking to someone, smiling and laughing, and Pete notes that "it's been a long time since I've seen her in such a good mood". But Peter's pleasure over Betty's good mood fades in a hurry when he sees that Betty is talking to Ned Leeds. Ned had gone off to Europe in ASM #20, January 1965 as a reporter for the Bugle. Now, much to Peter's displeasure, he is back.
But Ned has no inkling of Pete's sour feelings. He turns and gives Pete a big wave with a big smile on his face. "Well, hello there, Parker!" he says, "Long time no see!" Betty tells Peter that Ned is back to stay and didn't even tell her he was coming. "He wanted to surprise me! Wasn't that sweet of him?" she says. "Maybe he just didn't want to spend a postage stamp!" Peter replies. (Which has me wondering... do you spend a postage stamp?)
This cozy threesome is interrupted by the arrival of a policeman who goes up to Jonah Jameson with some information. ("Now look, officer, I put a dime in the parking meter, I can prove it!" says Jonah. "It's nothing to do with parking this time!" says the cop. A cute bit but I'm sort of on a nitpicking expedition so I have to mention two things. First, how do you prove you put a dime in the meter? Second, if it's got nothing to do with parking this time, does that mean it's had to do with parking other times?) Anyway, the cop informs Jameson that the Scorpion has broken jail. He's been authorized to offer Jonah police protection since "the Scorpion's been threatening your life all the time he was in jail!" Now, Peter suspects that JJJ was somehow behind the first appearance of the Scorpion but nobody else does. So, Jonah tries to put up a brave front, declaring, "You must be mistaken! He's got no reason to bother me! I don't need police protection! Ha ha... Not at all!" But all the time he's forcing a smile, the sweat is standing out on his forehead and his hand holding his cigar is shaking. Peter, Betty, and Ned stop their conversation and watch this act. Ned seems particularly interested. He rubs his chin with his hand as he watches.
As Jonah continues to deny that he needs protection, Peter decides to take off. He knows that if the Scorpion shows up, he'd better be available as Spider-Man. As he heads out, he invites Better out to dinner tomorrow. "Oh, I can't, Peter!" she replies, "Ned is taking me to see "Golden Boy" tomorrow night!" ("Golden Boy"? The 1937 play by Clifford Odets? Was there a film version? A Broadway revival? Or was Stan making a point about the way Betty views Ned Leeds?) (Actually, Charles J. Sperling recently informed me that "There was a musical version of 'Golden Boy' in the mid-1960s, which starred Sammy Davis, Jr. I think this is what Betty and Ned planned to see." Thanks, Charles!!!) "Well, goody for you!" thinks our bitter hero. He gives a wave without turning around and goes on his way.
Now alone in his office, Jonah Jameson paces, smokes, and holds his head in despair. He recalls that the Scorpion came to his office once before with the intention of bumping him off and was defeated by Spider-Man. He knows his only hope is for Spider-Man to take on the Scorpion again. "But that masked web- head is my worst enemy!" he thinks, "He'd never do anything to help me! I couldn't ask him!" (Before we turn the page, check out the house ad showing the covers of four 1965 annuals: FF Annual #3, ASM Annual #2, Journey Into Mystery Annual #1 and Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos Annual #1. Very nice.) Jonah figures his only chance is to trick Spidey into helping him. He hits the button on his intercom and tells Betty to prepare the pressroom for an extra edition. Then he stares straight ahead with his cigar in the center of his mouth and the sweat breaking out on his forehead. "And if my plan doesn't work, I'm doomed" he thinks, "Doomed by the very creature I myself unthinkingly helped to create!"
Jonah doesn't have to bother with whatever his plan may be to involve Spider- Man since the wall-crawler is already on the case. Instead of trying to find the Scorpion, he puts on a show of web-slinging around the city hoping to draw the Scorpion to him. (Actually he stays in one general area assuming that Scorpy will hear about his antics and "come running".) As he dips and rises on his webs, he recalls that the Scorpion is stronger than him and thinks, "I oughtta have my head examined for doing this! But I'll never make the super- heroes' hall of fame by hiding under the bed!" A crowd forms below, looking up and pointing at him. A man in an orange jacket wonders what Spidey is up to. An African-American man in a purple jacket says, "I don't know but it's getting on my nerves!" A red-haired man in a yellow cap adds, "If you ask me, he's a professional nut!"
But just around the corner, the Scorpion appears. As he takes in the web- slinger's antics, it initially appears that Spidey's idea has worked. But the Scorpion has no intention of attacking. Instead he thinks, "How considerate of Spider-Man! He's drawing attention away from me! While he's here, my other victim is unprotected! So, I'll finish Jameson off first, and save Spider-Man for my grand finale!" (Ulp! Nice going, Spidey!)
So, the Scorpion leaves the scene. He climbs the wall of a building by digging into the stone with his "pincer-like fingers". When he reaches a ledge, he stands and pushes up against the wall with his tail wound up "as tightly as a spring" behind him. When he lets go of the wall, his tail releases and propels him across to another building (just as he propelled himself across the prison courtyard) where he uses his fingers to grab onto the next wall and so forth. The Scorpion is on his way to the Daily Bugle.
At the same time, J. Jonah Jameson's Daily Bugle Extra has hit the streets. The headline reads, "Spider-Man and Scorpion Are Partners", Says Publisher! with a sub heading of another Jameson quote: "If Spider-Man isn't Scorpion's Partner, Let Him Catch the Scorpion". There are at least five guys on the street who are reading the paper and at least two who are discussing it. "Say! Do you think Jameson can be right?" asks the black guy in the group, "Imagine if Spider-Man and the Scorpion ever teamed up... Hoo boy!" "The only way Spider-Man can prove he's not the Scorpion's ally is if he tackles him again!" replies a blonde-haired guy. This is Jonah's big plan to trick Spidey into battling Scorpy and it seems to be working with the reading public anyway. But what about with the wall-crawler himself?
Actually, Spider-Man is unaware of it but he has started to realize that the Scorpion should have attacked him by now. As he leaps from one rooftop to another, a thought starts to noodle at him. By the time he is perched on a chimney he realizes, "I could just be the prize chump of the year!" He snaps his fingers (either that or he's just bending them in that cool Ditko way) as it completely comes to him. "I might be playing right into Scorpy's hands!" he thinks, "While I'm waltzing around up here, Jameson is alone at his office and the Scorpion probably knows it!"
Across town, the Scorpion has arrived at the Daily Bugle offices. He sneaks into a window that leads to the back stairs. He knows these stairs lead right to a back entrance into Jonah Jameson's office. (Which is awful convenient. It's the first time we've heard of these stairs, I believe.) It only takes Gargan seconds to reach the office. Silently, he opens the door and starts to sneak in unseen by Jonah who has his back to the door and is too busy nervously looking at his front page and hoping it will attract Spider-Man. But then Jonah feels a draft coming from behind. "That's funny," he says. "If it's so funny Jameson, why don't I hear you laughing?" replies the Scorpion.
JJJ turns to see the Scorpion right behind him (and he is so startled that his cigar comes out of his mouth and seems to levitate in mid-air). The Scorpion tells Jonah that "there'll be no Spider-Man to help you" and then wades right into his attack. Actually, he doesn't bother to attack Jameson, which may just have ended his revenge right then and there. Instead he hits Jonah's desk with his tail, sending the lamp and intercom into the air and shattering the desktop into a bunch of dangerous-looking flying shards of wood. Jameson nimbly jumps back and runs right for the front door of his office. He makes it too, though a number of the wooden shards fly out the door right after him.
Jonah runs through the city room of the paper with the Scorpion right behind. Scorpy seems content to smash desks with his tail as he goes along sending papers and more shards flying. Several employees take to their heels when they see the Scorpion approaching. When Jonah wonders, "Why doesn't somebody stop him?" an off-panel employee replies, "Sorry, Mr. Jameson! That's not part of our contract!"
It isn't long before JJ finds himself trapped up against a wall. He tries to get his pursuer to talk it over but the Scorpion isn't listening. Lucky for him, Spider-Man arrives, swinging right into an open window, which looks like it may be right behind Betty Brant's desk. (At least there appears to be a desk there and Betty is standing right by the window when Spidey enters.) The Scorpion isn't worried. "This is only a temporary respite for you" he tells Jameson. Spidey uses a nearby desk as a springboard and leaps right on Scorpy with his fists punching. Jonah is suddenly Spidey's biggest fan, calling on the web-slinger to "Let him have it!" "At ease, prune-face!" replies Spidey, "When I need a cheer-leader I'll let you know!"
Spidey's punches manage to knock Gargan to the ground but he is far from out. He uses his tail to smack Spidey across the room where the web-head collides with a bookcase, knocking it over. Bugle employees are dashing away from the fight and Jonah figures this is also his chance to escape. But the Scorpion gets up and comes after him (taking a chunk out of the wall with his tail) and all Jonah manages to do is get Betty Brant involved by running in her direction. Spidey rejoins the action by vaulting over a toppled file cabinet. He is painfully aware that "Betty is dangerously close to [Scorpy's] swinging tail" so he rushes his next move in order to save her. This puts him off- balance just enough for Scorpion to clip him in the back of the head with his tail even as Spidey is punching Scorpy in the snoot. The "tail-punch" sends Spidey flying across the room. As he sails by he sees Ned Leeds stepping in "making like a hero". Ned takes Betty in his arms (she buries her face in his shoulder) and orders Spidey to stop the Scorpion. ("I'll look out for Miss Brant" he says, "You concentrate on your fight and watch out for that tail of his!") This doesn't sit well with the web-slinger ("First he muscles in on my girl and now he's give me advice...") but he leaps up and runs after the Scorpion. But the closer he gets to his opponent, the angrier he gets. Spidey can see his relationship with Betty slipping away and he sees it as "all the Scorpion's fault". Rashly deciding "I'll pulverize him!" the web-spinner rushes in and gets smacked right back near Ned and Betty again. Ned, still holding Betty, says, "I told you to watch out for his tail!" Spidey, upside down as he smacks into a wall, says, "Aw shuddup!" and even his word balloon is upside down.
Somehow in all of this, neither the Scorpion nor Jameson has gotten very far. In fact they're still in the same room. (Granted, it's a pretty big room.) Spidey leaps over another broken desk and gets back into the act. The Scorpion swishes his tail back and forth as he hunts and Jonah runs for his life, telling the Scorpion, "You can't get me! You mustn't! Get Spider-Man instead!" Ned and Betty stay behind, with Ned assuring Betty that "I'll see to it that nothing happens to you!"
Jonah is a pretty nimble guy, it turns out, but the Scorpion closes the gap. His swinging tail is now only missing Jameson by inches. Before he can connect, however, Spider-Man steps in and lands a right cross to Scorpy's head. (Jonah cowers off to the side and yells out, "Hit him again! Harder! Harder!" like a cheerleader at a football game.) But Peter is still so incensed at the Scorpion's threat to Betty that he gets careless and starts swinging wildly. His punches fail to connect and he leaves himself wide open for a tail to his solar plexus. Gargan then uses his tail to trip Spidey at the same time as he punches him. For the fourth time in the fight, Spidey goes flying across the room. JJ yells at him as he crashes into a desk. "You overrated clown!" he says, "You bumbling incompetent! He's making you look like a bum!" and then he rags on the web-slinger for ruining the desk... "That furniture set me back a fortune!" Spidey ignores the abuse and gets right back into the fight by curling into a ball and rolling into the Scorpion, taking him down like a bowling pin. Jameson hopes to use this moment to escape but just as he is heading for the exit, three policemen arrive and he stays to cheer them on. ("Quick! Shoot them both! Let's get rid of them for good!")
The Scorpion is down on one knee and in the midst of swinging his tail (over which Spidey is vaulting) when the cops arrive. Somehow, fighting the web- slinger doesn't bother him but the police scare him away. "I'm not gonna be tossed in stir again" he says (as if the cops could catch him if Spidey can't) and he takes an immediate exit out a window, using his pincers to climb right up the wall. Spider-Man follows. ("As soon as I climb out of range of their guns, I'll wipe you off the face of the earth!" Scorpy tells Spidey, which explains, I suppose, why he's afraid of the cops but I still think he's got his priorities skewed.) Jonah can't resist putting on his heroic act now that the cops are here and the super-guys are gone. He leans out the window, looks up, shakes his fist and yells, "Come back, you cowards! I'm not finished with you yet! You're yellow, both of you!" But once the police are gone, Jonah takes a look around at his smashed offices, stretches his arms out and bemoans the destruction of all the furniture. "It'll cost me an arm and a leg to get this place back to normal again!" he says. But it turns out this is just another act. Even as he is lamenting his fate, he is thinking, "Nobody has to know that I've been wanting to get rid of this old junk for years! Now the insurance will pay for a whole new set-up!"
As Jonah surveys the scene with his hands now on his hips, Ned steps up with Betty (and Betty is still so shaken up that she keeps her face buried in her hands) and tells his boss that he is seeing Betty home. Jameson agrees. After all, he doesn't expect her to keep working after all of this. But, "I'll just deduct it from her pay check at the end of the week!" he adds. As Ned ushers Betty out of the office, the other Bugle employees start to peek in. Jonah bellows at them to "Get to work!" and then he gets an idea. He gets one of the staff photographers in. Then he loosens his tie, rolls up his sleeves, clenches his fists, and clenches his cigar in his mouth as the photographer takes pictures of him amidst the wreckage. He plans to feature the photos with the headline, "Fearless, Courageous Publisher Saves His Employees From Deadly Costumed Killers!" and he really starts to ham it up, feeling every inch the hero, until he overhears one of his employees asking, "What do you think will happen if the Scorpion defeats Spider-Man?" "He'll probably return here to attack Jameson again!" replies another Bugle worker. Just like that, Jonah's good mood vanishes. Once again, sweat breaks out on his brow, a worried looks crosses his face, and he puts that cigar smack in the middle of his mouth. "I wonder if it's time for fearless Jonah to take a long trip?" he thinks.
All of this time, the battle between Spidey and Scorpy is raging. First, they are on a rooftop ledge as Spidey leaps up to avoid Gargan's tail and gets in a left-handed punch to Scorpion's face. Then they are on top of a water tower as Scorpy swings his tail and Spidey adheres to the side of the tower with his hands to avoid it. Then they are on a yellow rooftop as Scorpion punches Spidey hard with a left, sending the wall-crawler tumbling back. And all the while, they are jawing with each other. "I'm just gonna smash you into the middle of next week!" says the Scorpion. "Good!" says Spidey, "There's a T.V. show on then that I've been dying to see!"
They stay on that yellow rooftop for a while. Scorpy stands on the edge of a skylight and tries to smack Spidey with his tail. Spidey dodges and then counters by making a bunch of bolas out of webbing. He swings five in his right hand and holds six more in his left. "Just watch the birdie, son!" he tells the Scorpion. Scorpy is unimpressed until Spidey throws the bolas and they twirl around his legs from his ankles to his hips. They also snag his right hand and keep it held down next to his legs. The entangled Scorpion stumbles back until his coiled tail pushes up against a wall. "You'll never beat me by leaning against the wall that way!" yells Spidey but the Scorpion replies, "That's what you think, Bub!" (Apparently the Scorpion is related to Wolverine.) He uses his tail as a spring and propels himself right into Spidey's chest. The Scorpion thinks he has won because this blow sends Spidey toppling off of the roof but the wall-crawler attaches some webbing to the Scorpion's tail and yanks him right off the roof with him.
Dangling the Scorpion in the air with webbing held in his right hand, Spidey uses his left hand to shoot some webbing onto the head of a building gargoyle. He uses this webbing to swing through a big arc as he wonders aloud "what Ed Sullivan would pay for an act like this". The Scorpion, stuck at the end of the other web and still entangled in the bolas, is not amused. "Get us down from here before we're killed!" he bellows. Spidey swings high, his feet higher than his head, as he snags a rooftop ball ornament of some sort with his web, lets go of that, and fires another web forward to a waterfront building. He uses that web to swing out over the Hudson River. Then he lets go.
"And then, like two careening human meteors" as Stan puts it, "the two super- powered antagonists plummet into the water below". Spidey starts to swim to the surface. The Scorpion shakes free of all the webbing and follows. This brings us to page 17, panel 3, which is an exact duplication of the cover except that the sky is pink and the water splashes aren't quite as extravagant. Spidey dodges Scorpy's tail as they thrash in the water. But while the Scorpion presses his ineffectual, "slowed-by-water" attack, Spider- Man calmly refills his web-shooters and then uses both hands to completely wrap Gargan up in his webs.
The Scorpion tries to fight back but can't free himself from the webbing. Spidey knows that "He can't hold his breath as long as I can". (How does he know this? Don't ask me!) So he dives down and drags the webbed-up Scorpion underwater with him. He stays down until the Scorpion is unconscious. Then, he gets up on a dock and hauls the netted Scorpion out of the water. ("I hope this is the fishing season around here" he says, "Otherwise I might have to throw you back in!" Scorpy doesn't reply, being unconscious, which prompts Spidey to add, "Hmm! Something tells me my little witticisms are wasted on you right now!") He leaves the Scorpion leaning up against a pier piling and exits by climbing a nearby wall. Two cops appear out of nowhere and run toward the Scorpion. "Quick, send for the paddy wagon!" one says and I suppose that is what they do since that's the last we see of the Scorpion in this issue (or in any issue for quite a while).
Pete returns to the roof where he left his clothes (I suppose), takes off his Spidey suit and hangs it up to dry. He wrings out one piece of the costume in his hands and it dumps so much water you'd think it was attached to a spigot. "I sure wish these duds were Wash 'N Wear" says Pete.
He returns to the Daily Bugle to check up on Betty. Instead he finds J. Jonah Jameson who has managed to convince himself that he actually beat Spider-Man and the Scorpion. All smiles, Jonah reads to Peter from his latest edition: "Jonah Jameson proved himself to be as brave as he is handsome", adding, "The best thing about being a publisher is that you can write what you please about yourself". "It's like I always said," thinks Peter, "he's even more unbearable when he's cheerful". Jonah also tells Peter that Ned Leeds took Betty home so, while JJJ is still gloating, our hero sneaks out and heads to a phone booth. There he tries to phone Betty but gets no answer. Now he wonders if Betty is out on a date somewhere with Ned. "I sure wish he was just a creep, so I could really dislike him!" he thinks.
So Peter heads home. As he enters, Aunt May asks him if he was out on a walk and then gives him some advice: "[Y]ou mustn't overdue it, you know! You must be sure to take a little rest every few blocks!" Peter assures her he won't over-tax himself and then beats feet out of there before May can hit him with any more advice. He calls Betty Brant again and this time someone picks up the phone. Assuming it is Betty, Peter immediately starts talking. But it isn't Betty who answers. It is Ned Leeds. He tells Pete that he just brought Betty back from the doctor who prescribed rest. Ned has also brought in one of Betty's girl friends to sit with her. Betty is lying on her orange couch with a compress on her forehead while her unnamed friend sits in a wicker chair and watches over her. The friend wears a blue dress and has auburn hair but we never see her face and she never appears again. Betty realizes that Ned is on the phone and asks if the call is for her. But the friend shuts her right down. "It can't be anything important, Betty!" she says, "Don't disturb yourself! The doctor said you should just rest!"
Ned promises that he will tell Betty that Peter called. This so discourages our hero that he begins talking in ellipses as he hangs his head while he hangs up the phone. "Yeah!... Do that little thing...!" he says, "Tell her... I called... !"
In the kitchen, Aunt May is reaching for a drinking glass in the cabinet, preparing to make Peter a "good tonic" since he "looks a little tired today". I can't even imagine what sort of concoction that would be and we never find out because just when May is going to tell us ("I'll just mix him a..."), she suddenly gets so dizzy that four orange flashes appear around her head and she drops the glass, which shatters on the floor. May falls to her knees and holds her head in her right hand. "Ohh... I felt so dizzy for a second! I... I thought I was going to faint...!" she says, also talking in ellipses. But she is sufficiently recovered a few moments later to lie to her nephew. Peter walks into the kitchen and sees May on her knees on the floor. When he asks her, "what's wrong?" she tells him "Oh, nothing dear... I just... dropped a glass!" and she holds up the broken glass as evidence. Peter doesn't quite believe her but May sticks to her guns. She shoos him out of the kitchen so she can start dinner but all the time she's thinking, "I mustn't worry him! It's probably nothing serious! It mustn't be anything serious! For, if something should happen to me, then who would look after that poor, lonely boy...?"
A turn of the page takes us to the "Two More Triumphs For Marvel!" promo and "The Merry Marvel Bullpen Page!" The "triumphs" this month are Fantastic Four #43, October 1965 which concludes the Frightful Four, "Ben Grimm Betrays the FF" trilogy, and Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #22, September 1965, of all things, with Nick Fury's fight with fellow sarge Bull McGiveney. The 25 Merry Marchers have been moved to this page. They are: Richard Scarborough of Richardson, Texas. Marta Bostwick of Forest, California. Marilyn Weisfeld of Lutonia, Michigan. (Can it be? Two females in a row? And should this rather be "Livonia" rather than "Lutonia", Michigan?) James Ogrodowski of Greenfield, Wisconsin. David Carlson of McHenry, Illinois. Rodney Cole of McHenry, Illinois. (These guys had to have signed up together.) Ken Free of Saratoga, California. Eddie Jacobson of Wallego, California. Tim Lashay of Wichita, Kansas. Salvadore Gutierrez of Allegan, Michigan. Mike Walker of San Leandro, California. Chris Kuchler of Lawrence, Kansas. Bill Collins of Matawan, New Jersey. George Kirk of Warren, Ohio. Bill Schubert of Fair Oaks, California. Matt Brady of Frankfort, Germany. Mike Creighton of Staten Island, New York. Randy Olen of Wayne, New Jersey. Larry Peacock of Arlington, Texas. John Irvin of Worth, Illinois. Arnold Sames of St. Louis, Missouri. Larry Byrd (no, not that one) of Costa Mesa, California. Mike McDaniel of Coal Valley, Illinois. Tap King, Esq. (ooh, impressive!) of Jacksonville, Florida. And Philip Cox of Herrion, Illinois.
The Bullpen Page uses Peter Parker to sell the Spidey t-shirt. "The whole country is going t-shirt wild," says Pete, pointing at it. (I hear you, Pete!) Then he reminds you to fill out an order for the Official Swingin' Stationery while you're at it!
Some good stuff in the letters page this issue. Bill Kaghan of Asheville, North Carolina tells us that "The name Spider-Man comes from the element Spidermium, which has the properties of excitement, adventure, and realism" which is kinda cute until Bill goes way overboard on this, telling us, "In its molecular form, Spiderminium is known as Spider-Man. Spiderminium has two nuclei one is great stories by Stan Lee, the other is stupendous artwork by Steve Ditko. The electrons are the readers..." and on and on. Enough, Bill!
Gary Bartlett of Stuart, Florida has a good idea, even if his letter finishes a bit on the obvious side. "I have been reading some of the recent issues of Tales of Suspense and they have been featuring old stories of Captain America and Bucky, so why not have some stories in Spider-Man telling about what happened to Peter Parker's mother and father, because he had to have a mother and father to be born." Stan admits to "stalling for time... to try to figure out what did happen to Spidey's mother and dad". (It takes him until ASM Special #5, November 1968 to work it out.)
H. Doyle Abernathy from Granite City, Illinois spreads some cheer. "I believe that I have finally deduced the reason why Spider-Man is fast becoming the worst of all your mags," he writes. "You are featuring J. Jonah entirely too much... Spider-Man #25 was, thank Asgard, about as far as you could go. I mean, using Jameson as the lone villain made the mag pretty sick. If you value yours truly's loyalty, don't repeat this disaster. And, oh yes, just so Steve won't feel slighted, I must say that Ditko is probably the worst artist ever to hold a job for any noticeable length of time in the Marvel bullpen." Stan replies: "Whew! We sure are glad you wrote that last sentence, Doyle! We thought you were serious until we read it now we know you've gotta be kidding!"
Joseph Silvero of Paterson, New Jersey wants to know, "What ever happened to J. Jonah Jameson's son?" Ricky Romano of Birmingham, Alabama picked up ASM #25 and "As I turned the cover over to the introduction page, there was this goofy- looking robot with J.J.J.'s ugly face on it. I think you could have made a more sensible-looking robot." And Steven Russel of Oxnard Beach, California wants to plug Ditko because, "It is most refreshing to see a non-Lee plot" and because "Steve is my own first name". Stan writes, "Now, if we can just find Lee again! Ever since reading your letter, he's been out searching for a fan whose first name is Stan just to get even!"
Sprinkled throughout the letter pages are "The Mighty Marvel Checklist", and plugs for the five available annuals, the "nutty Marvel T-shirts" and a "wonderful write-up" about Marvel in the Village Voice. Stan also seems particularly concerned that various Marvel clones will suck away his readership since he bothers to write this: "CHEE! Have you noticed the sorry mess of Marvel IMITATIONS making the scene lately? Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery and all that jazz, but we wanna make darn sure no dyed-in-the-wool Marvel madman gets stuck with one of those inferior Brand Echh versions of the real thing! So, lull yourself to sleep each night with these imperishable words: It isn't a Marvel masterpiece unless it SAYS Marvel on the cover trademark! Don't ever settle for less you're too important to us Remember we found you first!"
And, hey, remember this ad on the back page? "Record Riot. 60 smash songs" for $2.98. Look what you get! Baby Love, Leader of the Pack, She Loves You, The Name Game, Chapel of Love, The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena), Under the Boardwalk and more and more! Only... check out this line: "Includes the top rock, rhythm, pop and FOLK HITS". It says nothing about the original artists.
Let's round 'em up:
Jonah doesn't take a "long trip" after all. He's back next issue.
The Cat Burglar that Jonah mentions on page three, panel one appears next time out in ASM #30, November 1965. Jonah also mentions "robberies of scientific equipment" which leads into ASM #31, December 1965.
Aunt May gets dizzy again in ASM #30 but really hits the deck in ASM #31 but we'll get to that when the time comes.
The Scorpion is another of those villains that Stan ignores during the rest of his Spidey run once Ditko departs, though he does bring Mac back in Captain America #122, February 1970. (Cap knocks Scorpy out by braining him with his shield in that issue.) It takes Gerry Conway to return the Scorpion to his rightful spot in ASM #145, June 1975.
Milestones (Landmark events that take place in this story.)
The 1969 Marvelmania International Spider-Man Portfolio checklist entry for this story. Warts and all:
"Never Step on a Scorpion" - The Scorpion escapes to have a rematch with Spidey in JJJ's office.
I love the fight. You can't argue with the fight. It has great Ditko action and some terrific "Lee lines". But there isn't all that much more to this one than that. Always remembering that 2 Webs of Lee/Ditko is equivalent to about 4 Webs of anybody else, I think I have to give this one... 2 Webs.
Next: Not the Black Cat but the Cat! ASM #30.