It's time to pretend you're that kid in 1965 again; the one who spins the comic rack in the drug store looking for the latest Marvel issues. There's Captain America fighting a giant Nazi robot on the cover of Tales of Suspense #72. There's the FF standing in the foreground as a group called the Inhumans prepare to attack from a towering ruin on the cover of Fantastic Four #45. And here's the latest Spider-Man... but what the heck kind of cover is this anyway? A white stylized spider is draped over a red background, its legs outstretched. In the center of the spider's body is Spider-Man's mask, a little ragged around the edges as if it was painted in. Between the legs of the spider are six scenes from the story. On the left, from top to bottom, a masked man shoots a gas gun, Spidey clings to the bottom of a helicopter, and Spidey swims underwater (along with two fish). On the right, from top to bottom, Spidey confronts four masked men, Spidey struggles against being trapped in a net, and a masked man swims underwater using scuba gear (along with those same two fish!). No obvious super-villain, no clear sense of the story inside. Only a banner positioned above the spider reading, "If This Be My Destiny..." with a message beneath the spider: "Dedicated to YOU, the Great New Marvel Breed of Reader!" There had never been a Spidey cover remotely like it. And why should there be? This was for the NEW Marvel breed of reader who just happened to be YOU! After all, it wasn't Marvel Comics anymore. It was "Marvel Pop Art Productions" (for this one last issue) and this Ditko pop art collage fit the bill. You know you're going to go along for the ride.
|Marvel 75th Anniversary Omnibus #1
|Marvel Masterworks #16
|Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus #1
|The Best Of Marvel Comics Vol. 1 (Hardcover)
|Marvel Tales #170
|Marvel Tales #24
|Marvel Visionaries, Steve Ditko
|Essential Spider-Man #2
|Spider-Man Pocket Book (UK) #20
Nothing fancy on the splash page. Just Spider-Man toughing it out with four of these purple-outfitted masked men who are firing off gas guns down at the waterfront with a ship and a swinging netted cargo behind them. These are the same henchmen who first appeared in ASM #30, November 1965 whom Stan thought were employed by the Cat Burglar. But the police have captured the Cat and these guys are still around. So, what is the deal with them anyway? You get no clue on this page... only a blurb that promises, "A new era in the life of Spider-Man is about to begin, and you shall live it with him!" The "Masterful Script" is credited to Stan; the "Magnificent Artwork" is credited to Steve; and the "Mellifluous Lettering is credited to Sam Rosen. This is the only issue between ASM #25, June 1965 and Ditko's departure in ASM #38, July 1966 with no plot credit for Steve but it's clearly a lapse since this is his plot through and through. How can we tell? Well, for one thing, he knows who the masked men are even if Stan doesn't.
And he has four of them descending a rope on page two into a "plant which produces radioactive devices". (That's a plant as in "factory" not plant as in "vegetable".) The men are on a precise timetable and one tells the others (Mad Thinker-style) "We should be finished within exactly four and a half minutes!" As soon as they hit the ground, they get busy and they still have thirty seconds to spare when two of the men wheel out machines that look like squat little Star Wars droids on dollies.
Okay, I admit it. We're only two panels in and already I'm confused. In the first panel, I was sure that the rope was dangling down from a roof as the men shimmied into a building through a skylight or something. In the second panel, it looks like they're outside and one of the men says, "Give the signal for departure" which seems to imply that the rope is actually attached to the helicopter and the rope dropped them off outside. (Though I don't know how they could have gotten in and out of the correct building in four minutes. I also don't know why you'd give the signal to depart when you're still wheeling the droids in on the dollies.) But the third panel really confuses me. Because now the helicopter is on the ground (or is it on the roof?) and I don't have the slightest idea what happened to the rope (or the droids) at all. Regardless, a guard with his gun drawn spots the four purple men but he is stopped in his tracks when one masked man shoots him in the face with "sleep- gas". The four men climb on board the helicopter (with a fifth, the pilot no doubt, waiting for them) and they take to the air. But it just so happens that the Amazing Spider-Man is in the neighborhood and he gives pursuit. Spidey leaps down onto some metal egg-thing with tubes coming out of it and uses it as a springboard to reach the fleeing helicopter. In moments, the web-slinger kicks in the door of the chopper and starts duking it out with the mystery men.
As soon as Spidey enters, one of the men orders, "Give him a shot of sleep gas! He has to breathe like anyone else!" Two others fire guns that release the green gas into Spidey's face. A fourth tries to climb on the web-slinger's back as he calls out to the shooters to hurry. "It would take an army to hold him!" he says. The fifth man gets punched halfway out of the panel by the web- spinner who has not been affected by the gas since he heard the original order. Or, as he puts it, "Lucky for me they shouted it out in time for me to take a deep gulp of air!" While one man continues to pour out the gas and another grabs the wall-crawler around the waist, Spidey flattens two others with two punches. "I can hold my breath much longer than they suspect" he thinks, "and the open hatch is sucking out most of the gas anyway!"
But in the rear of the helicopter (which Stan calls a "plane"), two other men continue to work with green wisps of gas passing by them. One of them has received a message from the Master Planner, their mysterious boss. The Planner orders them to "use Emergency Plan G". A third man joins them (and I have officially lost track of how many Master Planner henchmen are on this flight) and he helps the one who didn't receive the message to cover the "stolen devices... in waterproof covers with electronic signaling devices attached". Plan G turns out to be a dumping of the stolen goods into the river from one end of the helicopter as Spidey fights on in the other end, unaware of this disposal. The covered devices settle to the bottom of the river where an underwater building stands. This building looks like a cross between an Aztec pyramid, an observatory, and some giant-size Trivial Pursuit wedges and it is the hideout of the Master Planner. The Planner orders his "Task Force R" to retrieve the booty and a half-dozen frogmen dressed in the same MP henchmen costumes swim out "due east by north-east". The goods are waiting for them "exactly as described".
Back up on the helicopter, the men keep pouring the gas into Spidey's face as they continue to pile on top of him. Spidey punches out a few more but he can't hold his breath any longer. "The fumes are finally making me groggy!" he thinks and soon, "Everything's starting to spin around!" Desperate to end the fight, Spider-Man finds a stray piece of the door, which he shattered upon entering. He attaches some webbing to it and then swings it outside so that it collides with the copter's rotor blades. This sends the whirlybird into free- fall... but first the Master Planner's men punch Spider-Man (too groggy to do anything) right out the open door. The sudden rush of air clears Spidey's head and he sees the helicopter above... "Falling right on top of me!" He fires two strands of webbing at it, hoping to use his momentum to swing away. (First though, the "Two More Triumphs For Marvel..!" page appears with ads for FF #45 featuring the Inhumans and Journey Into Mystery #122 with the Absorbing Man confronting Odin. Marvel at its best.) The plan works. The web- slinger manages to put distance between himself and the helicopter before the whole shebang lands in the drink. The helicopter swiftly sinks but another Master Planner rescue squad is waiting underwater with scuba gear to help the chopper's crew to escape.
Spidey waits for the men to surface. When they don't, he assumes that they are trapped in the helicopter so he swims down to it to check only to find the airship empty. He surfaces and rests one hand on the piling of a dock while he grabs the back of his neck with the other hand. He just doesn't get how all these men could have disappeared. "I thought I was supposed to be the mystery man around here!" he says.
Down under the water, the mysterious building speaks. (All right, all right. I know. It's actually the Master Planner speaking inside the building. Settle down.) "Spider-Man! I never expected that I'd have to contend with him!" the Planner says, "By the purest accident, he almost ruined my plan again!" which is a definite hint that the Planner and Spidey have battled before, except that he could just be referring to the thwarting of the bank robbery by his men in the previous issue. "It is vitally important that none suspect who I am nor what my purpose is until my plans have all been completed", continues the Planner, which certainly implies that he is someone we have seen before. Now, seriously, I mean it. I know it's hard but try to put yourself in the position of someone who is reading this when it is new with no knowledge of the Master Planner's identity. The mysterious figure has an underwater hideout, he seems to be a criminal mastermind, he has been thwarted by Spidey in the past, and he is someone we will recognize. Do you think you would have any ideas?
A turn of the page and a quick jump to the following morning as Peter Parker bids goodbye to Aunt May on his way to his first day of college. (He wears a nifty black shirt and striped yellow vest to make his first impression at Empire State University.) He is off to "report for registration" and May wishes him luck. "I hope you'll be pleased with your schedule," she says. As Peter saunters off, May watches him through the window. She puts her hand up to her throat and thinks about how Pete is "just like his father... cheerful, enthusiastic, and bright!" (Is this the first ever reference to one of Peter's parents?) She muses over how "he's been like a son to me all these years" and, putting her hand to her forehead, she admits to herself that Pete looked so happy that she didn't have the heart to tell him "how very ill I've been feeling".
At ESU, Peter is dropped into a whirlwind of new experiences. He joins a group for an introductory lecture from the Dean (who is unnamed here but is possibly Dean Corliss, later seen making concessions to student protesters in ASM #70, March 1969), is among a handful of science majors introduced to the labs (by a man in a brown suit who is probably not Professor Warren), fills out a bunch of forms in duplicate and triplicate, and stands in a vanishing point line for registration while thinking "I wonder if they have a course in "how to wait on line?" (Ah, I can relate! I remember the eight hours I spent in line at my freshmen registration... and how we all rebelled when they tried to close registration for the day with hundreds of us still out there... but I digress.) Once he gets his schedule, Pete has "millions" of questions for a blonde bespectacled counselor, picks up a huge stack of books for his classes ("You can pick up the rest of your books tomorrow" says the woman at the "Books" booth. "It would be easier just to move into the library!" Pete replies.), and bumps into Flash Thompson ("Well, well! If it isn't fearless Flash Thompson!" says Pete. "Drop dead!" says Flash.) At the end of the day, Pete settles into a big brown armchair and wipes his brow. School hasn't even started and he's already "bushed". "But it sure was a ball!" he decides.
Now having changed into a yellow pullover sweater for the evening (don't ask me why), Peter prepares to get a good night's sleep before the first day of school. Aunt May promises to be up early to make breakfast but suddenly gets these four miniature glowing suns in front of her face and faints away in mid- sentence. Peter rushes up and grabs her before she can hit the floor but she's like a sack of wheat in his arms. He quickly calls the Doctor who arrives on a house call within a half an hour. (Fantasy as you like it!) May is put to bed and the doctor examines her. He tells Peter that she is "very weak" and that he's "not quite sure what's wrong". He decides to take no chances and to call for an ambulance. The doctor makes a call to the hospital and identifies himself as Dr. Bromwell. (He's appeared off and on since ASM #9, February 1964 but this is the first time we get his name. Actually, he's looked a little different each time... gray hair, no mustache, glasses in ASM #9, gray-brown hair, mustache, glasses in ASM #12, May 1964 and ASM #18, November 1964, brown hair, mustache, no glasses in this issue... so I suppose you could argue that May has had three different doctors and this is Bromwell's first appearance.)
May is taken to the hospital where she regains consciousness in the presence of Peter, a red-haired nurse, and a doctor with heavy eyebrows. (They have given her some unidentified medication, which seems to have helped.) May, predictably, is worried about Peter not getting his rest for his first day of school. Peter tells her that he will be fine. "Just you rest and get your strength back, hear?" he says. May gushes over what a fine young man Peter is and dozes off as she lists all his good traits. But, walking home in the darkness, Peter doesn't feel like such a fine young man. He berates himself for being so caught up in his own problems that he never even noticed May was ill. Still worrying, still kicking himself, Peter sits up at home all night long, all of which puts him in a rather lousy state for his first day of college.
There are a lot of happy faces on the campus of ESU with students making acquaintances but Peter Parker's is not one of them. (Pete, by the way, is now wearing a yellow jacket over a black striped shirt. How many yellow coats and sweaters does he have anyway?) He walks alone, head down, filled with fear that something will happen to Aunt May. (And remember, this is long before May became the immortal oldster that she is today. For all the 1965 reader knew, Steve and Stan were perfectly capable of killing her off in this issue.) A group of students hangs out in the room that will house Pete's first class. There is a fellow with tire tread hair who is wearing a brown suit with a brown bowtie. He stands next to an attractive blonde in a red dress. They are both speaking to our old friend Flash Thompson. The tread head guy tells Flash that he's heard a lot about him and introduces himself as Harry Osborn. He presents the "little lady" next to him as "the ex-beauty queen of Standard High, as if you couldn't tell". The beauty queen takes it on herself to tell Flash that her name is Gwen Stacy. She tells Flash that she's "followed your football career all through High School". Flash is already on the make. "You should have let me know, Gwen!" he says, "I'd have given you all the facts in person!" (Looks like Flash has forgotten Liz Allan already!) When Gwen asks if Flash thinks he'll be as successful playing college football, Flash tells her, "With someone like you watching, I won't even need the other ten players!" (Which gets me wondering... did Flash ever play any college football? Do we ever see him play?)
Just then, the mournful Peter enters the classroom and Flash can't believe his bad luck. He slaps his hand over his face and complains, "Oh no! Don't tell me I have Puny Parker in this class!" Gwen, on the other hand, is impressed, since she's heard of Peter too. (Gwen is up on all the High School doings, apparently.) "Isn't he the boy who won the science scholarship to ESU?" she asks and adds, "He must be brilliant!" Harry, on the other hand, is not impressed. He gets a boorish look on his face as he declares, "He looks like any other frosh to me!" Flash decides he may as well introduce them to Pete "so you can see how square a guy can be" but when he calls out to Peter, he is ignored. The trio stands and watches Peter walk right by. "Some friend you've got there, Flash!" chides Harry but Flash tells Harry "that creep is no friend of mine". Only Gwen is willing to give Peter the benefit of the doubt. "He seemed nice enough!" she says, "Perhaps he didn't hear you!" (And, of course, he didn't since all Peter was thinking was, "The doctor said I shouldn't call the hospital until mid-morning.") As the class begins, Peter sits right up front with Flash right behind and Gwen behind and to his right. Peter tries to put all his concentration on the prof. Gwen, on the other hand, is concentrating on Pete. "He's not as husky as Flash" she thinks, "but he's brighter and very attractive."
When class ends, Peter runs off to make a phone call. He passes a blonde- haired fellow in the hallway. (The fellow wears an orange sweater with a big white "O" on it.) "There's Peter Parker! I met him registration! A real nice guy!" he says to a black student as Pete races past a bust of some dead bearded white guy. "Hi Pete! How's it goin'?" calls out the blonde guy. But Peter is too worried about his phone call to notice. The blonde guy ends up putting his right hand to the side of his head and wondering how he could think Peter was a nice guy now that he's been given the brush off. Harry is hanging around while this happens and he tells the blonde guy that Pete gave a worse brush off to Flash Thompson "and Flash went all through High School with him!" The black student suggests that maybe Pete's scholarship went to his head.
Peter is unaware of all this judging, of course. He finds a pay phone and calls the hospital, where he is told that there is no change in May's status. Since he has some time between classes, Peter goes to the library, sits at one of the tables, opens a book and tries to study. But all he can think about is Aunt May lying helpless in the hospital. This image becomes so strong that it starts to cover up half of Peter's face (at least to our perspective). Pete gives up trying to study and covers his face with his hand. Aunt May could be dying and "with all my power, with all my spider-strength, there's nothing I can do to help her!" (Well, so it appears in this issue, anyway. But I'm getting ahead of myself.)
Peter's last class of the day is Chem Lab and it looks like Harry and Gwen are in it, too. Peter is off at his own lab table staring at something in a test tube. The only way he can keep getting through the day is to tune everyone around him out. So, he is still completely unaware that the other students think he's a snob. Harry, now with his jacket off and his shirtsleeves rolled up past his wrists, is especially indignant. "If there's one thing Harry Osborn doesn't dig, it's a swell-head who thinks he's better'n anyone else!" he tells the other kids. He has a huddle with Gwen and three other students, suggesting that they play a gag on Peter to "take him down a peg". Gwen thinks they should mind their own business but another of the kids thinks "Parker's been asking for it". Harry assures Gwen that "it won't be anything serious" and Gwen, quickly sensing the mean streak in both boys, replies, "I think I can see why you and Flash Thompson became friends so quickly, Harry!" "Flash and me both hate squares! Nothing's wrong with that!" says Harry (who hates squares but wears a red bowtie). He takes the cap off of a blue bottle with a green label and asks Gwen to distract Peter "while I do the rest".
Gwen "can't help feeling attracted" to Peter but she goes along with Harry's gag. She walks over and starts talking to Peter but the poor sap is so caught up in concerns about his Aunt ("Perhaps I should get Aunt May another doctor... a specialist.") that he doesn't even notice her. Harry eats it up. "This is great!" he tells Gwen as he picks up one of Peter's beakers, "He's in a world of his own! You don't even have to distract him!" Gwen is reduced to yelling at Peter, asking if she can borrow a pen. Pete doesn't even turn around. "If you want my pen, here, take it!" he says, holding it up in the air. Furious over the snubbing, Gwen stalks off, her word balloon dripping icicles as she says, "Thank you very much, Mister Parker, but I changed my mind!" Harry, meanwhile, has moved back to the group and is waiting for his prank to bear fruit. Suddenly, the chemicals in the beaker ignite with a "Poowf!" Peter, still unaware of Harry's chemical addition to the beaker, can't figure out why the whole thing exploded. He's still confused when Professor Warren marches over and tells him "this lab is no place for exhibitions" even if he is a young hotshot with a science scholarship. Peter can no nothing but apologize.
(This is the first appearance of Professor Miles Warren who has short black hair, a black mustache and glasses at this time of his "life". Actually, the Professor doesn't get the first name of "Miles" until some time after his death.in ASM #149, October 1975. He is only called "Professor Warren" until the Carrion storyline in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #30, May 1979. The fact that he has the same last name as Peter's High School science teacher is probably more a result of either Stan just liking the name or forgetting that he used it rather than any underlying plan. After all, Mr. Warren hadn't appeared since ASM #15, August 1964, when he also berated Peter for messing up a chemistry experiment. Who was possibly going to remember him after all this time, right? It is left to Kurt Busiek, then, in Untold Tales of Spider-Man #25, September 1997 to tie it all together and reveal that the two science Warrens are brothers.)
Harry loves the fact that his gag brought Warren's wrath down on Peter. "This'll take that swellhead down a peg!" he says. Gwen on the other hand is sorry that she helped get Peter in trouble. "Aww, don't lose any sleep over it, Gwen!" says some anonymous kid, "It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy!" Harry, though, is concerned about Gwen's reaction. He calls her "doll" and tells her, "if it'll make you feel better, we'll invite him for a coke after class". Gwen thinks this is a good idea.
But Pete is still so obsessed with Aunt May that he brushes off another kid (which looks like the one who told Gwen not to lose any sleep) who invites him "across the street for some sodas". At least he talks back this time. "Sorry, I can't! I've got to rush now!" he says as he grabs his yellow sweater and books. Harry tells Gwen that "we tried" and Gwen replies, "I just don't understand him". Outside the Science Hall, Flash Thompson hooks up with Harry and Gwen. He has just seen Peter run past. "What happened, did he see a mouse?" he asks. Gwen, who has apparently given up, replies, "Who knows? Maybe someone once told him he's too good for the human race!" Flash, Harry, and Gwen go out to get a coke and get better acquainted.
Peter, still unaware of his bad reputation, heads to the hospital and chats with Aunt May. He is happy to see that she is looking better. May asks him about school. "Did you make any nice new friends?" she asks. "They're a swell bunch of guys and gals!" replies the poor oblivious chump. When visiting hours end, Peter chats with the doctor, a brown-haired fellow dressed in hospital whites who never gets a name. The doctor tells Peter that they still don't know what is wrong with May "but her condition isn't good". All they can do is conduct more tests. The doc adds that "we just can't be too optimistic at this point" but since May "mustn't be allowed to worry" Peter "must try to keep her spirits up at all times." (Look, I know it's just a comic book but put yourself in Peter's place. Eighteen years old, all on his own, trying to start college and faced with all this. Stan and Steve certainly liked to put the poor kid through the wringer.)
So, Peter goes home, gets the mail and finds only bills. As he leafs through them, he considers dropping out of college and getting a job to help pay the medical expenses. But he knows this is a sure way to break May's heart so he abandons that notion. He is aware of another way to make some extra money, however. All it requires is "spending the night away from my studies."
Yup, you got it. He changes into his Spidey duds and starts looking for something to photograph. The hope is to get some quick shots and get home in time to study but the entire city is quiet. Though he webswings all night long, he finds nothing more sinister than an illegally parked car. As the sun comes up, Peter removes his mask, tries to stifle a big yawn and heads home for a few hours of last minute studying. He can barely keep his eyes open to read his lessons and can't really concentrate. And the next thing he knows, it's time to go to class again.
And so, Peter gets back to campus, so sleepy that he is even more oblivious than before. (At least he's switched to a black vest this time.) Little does he know that just about every other student is now talking about what a snooty jerk he is. "That's him!" says one, "Mr. Swelled-Head of 1965!" (Hmmm. We should probably retcon that comment out of existence.) Gwen, however, still has a feeling that Pete's "not a bad sort deep down". This comment gives Flash fits. "Chicks always seem to go for those egg-headed skinny creeps!" he says. (You just gotta love a line like that!)
Over at the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson is pounding his desk and demanding news. Things are too quiet. "Why doesn't something happen?" bellows JJ. Fred Foswell is hanging out in the office and Jonah orders him to get out there and bring in a story. Jameson reminds Fred of "those robberies of scientific equipment" (taking place over the last three issues) and orders him to find that story. Foswell (a cigarette dangling from his lip) decides that Jonah is right. "It's time for Patch the stoolie to make the scene again", he thinks.
Jonah then turns to Betty Brant and asks about Peter (whom he calls "that weak- kneed boyfriend of yours"). Why hasn't he gotten any crime photos? Betty admits that she hasn't seen much of Peter herself. JJJ tells Betty to give Pete a call but she gets no answer at the Parker residence. (She finds this strange since "his Aunt is usually home at this time".) While Betty is calling, Ned walks up and asks "Do you have an answer for me yet?" (Ned proposed marriage last issue.) Betty tells Ned that she hasn't made up her mind but that she knows she must talk to Peter first. Ned understands but tells her that his feelings won't change, that he'll keep asking until she says "yes". But Betty is sure that Peter is keeping a secret from her and she can't decide until she finds out what it is.
Later, Foswell in his disguise as Patch hangs out at the sleazy bars where the bad guys congregate. Keeping his ears open, Patch catches a snatch of conversation between a sailor and a hood named Foxy Briggs. (Foxy is looking especially sharp in a purple fedora, sunglasses and a pencil-thin mustache.) The sailor tells Foxy "we're loading a cargo of nuclear devices at Pier 6 tonight". Patch knows that Foxy is "only curious about one thing... robbery!" so when Foxy leaves "the waterfront saloon" Patch follows him. Unfortunately, he gets overly cautious and hangs back so that Foxy won't tumble to him. As he turns a corner, he can't find Foxy amongst the crowd. He's lost him. Without more evidence, Patch doesn't know what to do. He can't tell the police, in case it all comes to nothing. "If I ever give them a bum steer, they won't be so trusting of me in the future!"
Back at ESU, Gwen is still stalking Peter. Today she is wearing a red dress that looks like the one she wore yesterday except that this one has leopard- skin lapels. "Peter Parker is the only boy I've met who hasn't given me a tumble," thinks the former beauty queen and she takes this as a challenge. As lab ends, she times her exit so that she can talk to him but he gives her the brush-off again as he plans to get to the hospital even earlier in order to visit longer with May. This time Gwen is so miffed that black spikes shoot out of her head. "Nobody gives Gwen Stacy the brush-off that way!" she declares with her hands on her hips, "You, young man, are going to regret that, I promise!" (Actually, Gwen, you're the one that's ultimately going to regret your determination to get to know Peter in about, oh, ninety issues.)
So, Peter heads back to the hospital where Aunt May worries about whether he's getting enough rest. May thinks she's "getting along fine" but the doctor tells Peter that they still haven't finished the tests and still don't know what's wrong with her (though they're narrowing it down). "Somehow I-I'm almost afraid to hear the final verdict!" says the downcast teenager and he takes his leave...
Only to show up in the city as Spider-Man soon after. This time he must find some action to photograph since his "cash is almost all gone". As he webswings, he sees a flashing light coming from the street. It looks like someone is trying to signal him. Spidey descends on a web to see a man wearing an eyepatch. He's never seen the man before but he notices that the man acts like they know each other. (I was sure that Spidey had encountered Patch before but a quick look through ASM #26-30 reveals that they never have met.) Patch tells Spidey that there's a good chance that a robbery will take place on Pier six this evening. As we know, he doesn't have enough evidence for the police but he hopes that Spidey will check it out. "If my tip is right and you catch 'em, I want some credit!" he says. "Sure! Sure! I'll remember you in my will!" says the web-slinger and then decides he may as well check it out.
That night, four purple clad Master Planner gang members wearing scuba gear rise up out of the river and head for the ship with the cargo of nuclear devices. Two of them have suction cups attached to their hands so they can scale the side of the ship. The other two climb up on the dock. As soon as the two who are scaling the ship make it to the deck they fire their gas guns at the surprised crewmen. It turns out that there is only a skeleton crew (which the Master Planner knew... but don't ask me how... and which turns out to be just two guys as far as I can tell.) There are also three dockworkers and the other two MP men gas them on the dock. They have timed it perfectly. The cargo is just now trussed up in a net and hooked onto a pulley but it is still sitting on the dock. "We'll be gone with our haul before they know it!" says one purple guy but then Spider-Man swoops down out of the sky.
The men fire their gas guns at Spidey while he is still in mid-air but the gas has no effect on him... even though it is new and improved concentrated gas. Instead the wall-crawler wades into them, knocking one ten feet away. But one of the MP men on the ship gets to the controls of the "cargo boom" and manipulates it so that the netted cargo swings at Spider-Man. It's awful hard to surprise anyone with spider-sense, though, and the wall-crawler notices the load coming. He leaps up and grabs onto it and uses the momentum of the cargo to kick out and flatten the approaching men. (Once again, I've lost track of how many of the Master Planner's men are on the job. It looks like it's still four guys with Spidey clobbering the same two guys over and over. But there just may be continual reinforcements. After all, Spidey does say, "Don't rush, boys! I'll get to all of you!" which I don't think he'd say if he was going after the same duo over and over. But we never do see more than four guys together in the same panel.)
Now, it turns out that the stuff in the net is not the only cargo (if indeed there is any cargo in the net at all). Instead there are two crates and two of the purple goons are trying to dump these crates into the water. Seeing this, Spidey leaves the net, leaps over and webs one of the crates to the dock. One of the men tries the gas gun again and again it has no effect. A second man tells the gas gun wielder to "duck" and suddenly a net drops down from a crane and encircles the web-spinner. ("If I didn't know better, I'd classify your actions as increasingly hostile!" says our hero.) The crane lifts the netted Spidey and swings over to drop him in the drink but the wall-crawler tears the net open, grabs onto the cable and then shoots a web to the top of the crane. Spider-Man swings down on his webbing but he isn't fast enough to stop the crooks who all dive into the water and escape.
Deciding that the gang members would have the advantage over him in the water, Spidey starts to swing away but he stops when he sees a police car and Patch hanging around nearby. A redheaded cop finds one of the gassed dockworkers just coming to. He tells Patch "You were right... there was something going on here!" Patch looks around for Spider-Man, sure that the web-slinger was there, but cannot find him. But Spidey is right above him on a warehouse roof. He looks down at Patch and wonders who he is and how he figures into everything. And that's when Spidey remembers that he never took a photo for the Daily Bugle. "Rats!" he thinks, "this just isn't my week!"
Oh well. At least he stopped the burglary and his device to thwart the gas worked like a champ. He lifts up his mask to reveal a "dry chemical filter" fitting over his nose and mouth that allowed him to breath even when gassed. ("I sure am glad I decided to major in science," he thinks.) He lowers the mask and starts to run up the roof of the warehouse. He is still on a mission to find news photos. "And if I find any" he thinks, "I hope I remember to snap 'em next time!"
Down under the river, that strange looking building is talking again, then the inside of a lab with a cool-looking Ditko atomic energy crackle (similar to the one in AF #15, August 1962 that created the radioactive spider) speaks a bit, then the outside of the building talks again. It's all the voice of the unseen Master Planner, of course. "Spider-Man's interference has caused me to lose precious time!" he says, "I could have used that ship's cargo for my research on radiation effects! If my ray continues to function well and I can unlock the hidden secrets of atomic radiation, I shall be able to rule the world in time! But, I shall tolorate (sic) no further meddling by Spider-Man! Even he has not the power to stop me! Though he and I have met before, if he crosses my path again, our next encounter will be his last!" Okay, that does it for the clues to the Planner's identity. He seems to be an expert on atomic radiation, he wants to rule the world, he doesn't know how to spell "tolerate" and he has met Spidey before. Think you know who he is? Well, yeah, I know you know who he is but do you think you could have figured it out?
Over at the hospital, Aunt May's tests are done and the doctor can't believe it. He insists that the tests be run again just to be sure. "Very well" says the technician, "but the results are sure to be the same! All the evidence points to the same inescapable conclusion. The poor woman can't last much longer!" And poor ol' Spidey, webswinging through the night, is unaware of the death sentence just pronounced on his Aunt.
Let's sail past the "More Triumphs For Marvel" page following the story. It's just plugging some of those same 1965 Annuals we've seen dozens of times before. But the "Marvel Bullpen Bulletins" is starting to take a familiar shape. It has four bullpen items (though they're not yet called "Item!") in a column that goes halfway down the page on the left. Beneath it is this issue's list of M.M.M.S. members. A coy-looking Green Goblin dominates the center column. He is peering at a long tube and wondering, "Can you guess what's in this mysterious mailing tube?" Stan promises to reveal the answer next issue. (He does, too.) "The Mighty Marvel Checklist " takes up the right column and every issue looks like a keeper. And there's still plenty of room to plug the t-shirt and the stationary.
(You didn't think I was going to skip listing the M.M.M.Sers, did you? They are: Jeff Hall of Memphis, Tennessee. Phillip Todd of Detroit, Michigan. Robert Wolowiec of Chicago, Illinois. Kevin Knupp of Westmoreland, New York. Michael Pendleton of Indianapolis, Indiana. Jeffery Schantz of Emmans, Pennsylvania. Bill Kneisel of Brooklyn, New York. John Dubois of Albuquerque, New Mexico. George Baida of Port Jefferson, New York. R. Douglas Snyder of Cincinnati, Ohio. J. Grecco of Baltimore, Maryland. Harvey Freed of Detroit, Michigan. Bob Scymanski of Monte Vista, Colorado. Clifford Van Guilder of Superior, Wisconsin. Jeff Boggess of Fort Worth, Texas. Danny Emerick of Athens, Georgia. Louis Mougin of Kermit, Texas. (Who has gone on to be a fairly prolific comics historian.) Bill Schultz of Hammond, Indiana. Butch Kasper of Hammond, Indiana. Ricky Ward of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Bill Chalfant of Midland, Texas. Edward Ryan of Brooklyn, New York. Daniel Ottaviano of Bronx, New York. Robert Rodriquez of Chicago, Illinois. And Geary Chapoff of San Francisco, California.)
In The Spider's Web, Stanley J. Goldstein of Bronx, New York enjoyed ASM #27 and thinks, "The title itself Bring Back My Goblin to Me! is a thing of beauty and a joy forever." Bill Makuta of Valley Stream, New York says, "I still don't know exactly why I like Spider-Man #27. Maybe it was the title Bring Back My Goblin to Me!" And Donald McGregor (yes, that Don McGregor) of W. Warwick, Rhode Island thinks, "The title was certainly the weirdest. Bring Back My Goblin to Me! was way out, and so far out that I think I like it." So, clearly the title made an impression. Ken Jacobs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, however, felt that "Bring Back My Goblin to Me was definitely not what I expected, for several reasons. 1) The Crime-Master was somebody I don't even know I know this is more realistic, but it's not what I wanted. 2) Why couldn't it be J.J.J.? He hasn't been playing a major role lately a little while in jail would help him. 3) It has been 13 months since the Goblin was introduced and we still don't know who he is." (You've got eight more months to wait, Ken, and then he's going to be someone you, essentially, don't know!) Finally, Nick Bradford of Duncan, Arizona says, "Keep the people hating Spidey and bring back the Vulture, the Terrible Tinkerer, and the Beetle." Seriously. I mean it. The guy asked for the Terrible Tinkerer! He's got a bit of a wait for that one.
So, what's wrong with Aunt May? And who is the Master Planner? Both answers come next issue. It's just too bad that the Master Planner mystery is answered so quickly. His identity is revealed on the second page of ASM #32, January 1966. And, okay, yeah, he's Doctor Octopus which I only mention here now because I want to point out the similarity of the Master Planner in this issue to Will Eisner's character "The Octopus" who first appeared in the Spirit Section of July 14, 1946. Besides having a similar name to Doc Ock, the Octopus always seemed to hang around the waterfront and was never seen. His words balloons would emanate out of the darkness or, like the Planner, out of buildings and Eisner only ever showed us his gloved hands. I have to believe that Ditko, certainly aware of Eisner's work, took advantage of the closeness in bad guy names to create an homage to the Spirit villain. I can't guarantee that this is true, and I've never seen anyone else make this argument, but the comparison seems too close to be accidental.
Milestones (Landmark events that take place in this story.)
The 1969 Marvelmania International Spider-Man Portfolio checklist entry for this story. Warts and all:
"If this be my Destiny" -Introduces the mysterious unseen master planner & his men. Aunt May falls ill.
Tired of those recent Spidey stories where Aunt May and Mary Jane seem to be the only supporting characters? Just look at who all is in this issue! Aunt May, Flash Thompson, Dr. Bromwell, Harry Osborn, Gwen Stacy, Professor Warren, J. Jonah Jameson, Frederick Foswell, Betty Brant, Ned Leeds, Patch, Foxy Briggs, various college students, cops, thugs, and henchmen. And the surprise villain hasn't even been revealed yet! Add to that Pete's unfortunate first impression at college and that last gloomy statement concerning Aunt May in the final panel and you know you must haunt the drug store comic racks until the next issue appears. That impression of this issue has only grown in the forty years since. It's generally considered one of the best "Amazings" ever. With good reason.
We're one issue into one of the classic trilogies of all Spidey-time! But we have to take a little detour and look at an altogether different Doc Ock story. His first appearance, reprinted in Marvel Collectors Item Classics #1.