It was October 1, 2013 when I reviewed Amazing Spider-Man #53, October 1967 and said it was a good time to return to this story seeing as Otto Octavius was now the Superior Spider-Man. Well, it’s been over a year since then and we’ve finally gotten to the “Doc Ock Wins” part of the “Doc Ock Wins” storyline. Only Otto is no longer the Superior Spider-Man. “Time, Run Like a Freight Train,” as Eric Anderson once sang.
This feels like a entirely new story from last issue (as last issue did from the issue before that) united only by Doc Ock’s presence. But there is more uniting these issues than that and Stan starts to pull the strands together.
|John Romita, Sr.
|John Romita, Sr.
|Creepy Worlds (UK) #104
|Marvel Tales #40
|Essential Spider-Man #3
|Spider-Man vs. Doctor Octopus (TPB)
But first, the cover, because it is one of the iconic Spider-Man covers. It’s the second classic cover in the last five issues and just as the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #50, July 1967 has been imitated, so has this cover, by Steve Skroce on Amazing Spider-Man #427,October 1997.What makes this cover so striking, so unsettling? Certainly, the double image of Spidey being attacked by Ock’s tentacles as reflected in Ock’s glasses is the main reason. But once you get past this gimmick effect, you realize that the cover is a big close-up of Dr. Octopus’ face. And that’s what really gives you that unsettled feeling. Look at him closely. His brow is furrowed. His nose flaring with anger. His mouth is in a grimace showing two rows of slightly crooked teeth. You can almost count the hairs in his bowl cut as it hangs over his forehead but his hair then bleeds up into the page, becoming the dark background for the white Spider-Man logo. Most unsettling of all is not that Spidey is reflected twice in the goggles but that these images prevent us from seeing Ock’s eyes. (And note how the two Spidey images show a slightly different view with the difference in the position of the two lenses causing that difference. Brilliant.) Note the shadows, too, falling over Ock’s face, darkening his teeth, his jaw, his cheeks, his brow. Our eyes are first drawn to the double Spidey images to get a hint of peril but it is only after we draw back to look at Ock’s head that we get that real sense of menace. Only then do we notice the text at the bottom, with Stan having the sense to print only three words. “Doc Ock Wins.” Now the menace really begins.
Since the end of last issue, Spider-Man has crisscrossed the city, relying on his spider-sense to track Doctor Octopus. At the start of this issue, he has stumbled on one of the Master Planner hideouts. He rips away the corrugated tin roof and fires webbing in at the masked goons inside. (Note how Spidey’s webbing shoots right past the credits as it snags the gun of one of the henchmen. Note also how a second henchmen looks up at Spidey but seems to be looking at the credits as well. The issue is by Stan (The Man) Lee and John (Ring-A-Ding) Romita. You can’t miss it.) The fight begins, with Spidey demanding to know where Octavius is. (In the first panel of the fight, the wall-crawler takes out three men at once, using both feet and a fist. I’m not sure these men are all in the correct positions to do that but Johnny makes it work.) Stan tells us that Spidey is “goaded by the memory of his Aunt May’s collapse” last issue but neglects to mention that Spidey knows it was his appearance that brought that collapse about. As the wall-crawler easily takes care of the men (leaping over one while shoving that one’s head into a wall and elbowing another in the chest), a gloating voice intones, "Am I to understand you're looking for me?" It is Octopus but not in the flesh. He is doing his crowing from long distance, appearing on a video screen. "There's no place where you can stay hidden from me!" Spidey says as he holds a henchman in each hand. (There appear to only be three henchmen that get hit multiple times.) Otto sneers at Spidey for thinking he is hiding. Instead, he claims, he is gearing up for the "crime of the century" and Spidey is merely "an incidental detail that I can attend to anytime I wish." (Nice of him to inform the web-slinger.) Octopus signs off. An enraged Spider-Man tears the entire hideout apart, declaring, “He’s the only one I’ve never decisively beaten.” (Spidey is being far too hard on himself. Check out Amazing Spider-Man #3, July 1963, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, 1964 and maybe even Amazing Spider-Man #12, May 1964 in spite of Ock’s excuse that he was beaten by the fire.) The three webbed up henchmen (yes, there are three of them) are stunned by Spidey’s destructive tantrum. “That’s the guy we tried to fight?” marvels one. “I wouldn’t wanna be Ock if he ever finds him,” says another.
"Too keyed-up to go home yet," Spidey decides to check out the underwater hideout that Ock used when he called himself the Master Planner. (“As seen in Spidey #31…or #32…wouldja believe #33?” says “Sleepy Stan” in a footnote and the answer, of course, is “all three.”) As Spidey peers down into the flooded hideout he realizes that too is a wash-out. Pete decides to pack it in. But, before going home, he decides to check in on Aunt May.
Meanwhile, in a downtown building, a meeting is underway, led by Colonel John Jameson, regarding the protection of the "nullifier weapon," which Ock tried to steal in ASM #53. (See? Stan knows what he’s doing.) John is in charge of security and he tells the group that the device will be moved to Tony Stark's factory for safekeeping from Doc Ock while final modifications are made on it. (Heck, it's sitting right in the room with these guys. How safe can it be?) When asked if the device is safe from Spider-Man as well, John answers, “I’ve had a few run-ins with Spider-Man in the past and, despite the opinions expressed in my father’s newspaper, I personally feel that he is not, and never has been, in league with Dr. Octopus.” (Can you say “foreshadowing?”) He then outlines the route that the convoy will take in transporting the nullifier. Unfortunately, for John, one of the men at the meeting is a spy for Doc Ock. (He’s the one with the shadow over his face.) All this "secret" information will soon be conveyed to the doctor.
At the Forest Hills home, Anna Watson has cut short her vacation upon learning of May's illness. She is sitting by the bedside as Peter enters with a box of candy for his Aunt. May is worried about the damage to the house. (She says to Anna, “All the damage to your house,” establishing again that they live in Anna’s home, not May’s old home. I think this switches back and forth over the years. For now, it is Anna’s home. Everyone try to remember that!) When Peter pins the blame on Dr. Octopus, May says, "Oh no Peter! He couldn't help himself! That horrible Spider-Man frightened him!" Mary Jane shows up and Peter is not happy to see her. He doesn’t conceal it and MJ remarks, sarcastically, “Wow! Simmer down, son! You don’t want to strain yourself!” MJ wants "Petey-o to show me that groovy broken wall." In the demolished room, MJ comes out with, "Like wow! Just dig that craaaazy keyhole, Tiger! I’ve heard of air-conditioning but this is ridiculous!" so it only serves her right that Gwen shows up in the house (letting herself in, apparently). "Someone must have just stuck a pin in their little MJ doll," MJ says. (During this sequence, prior to Gwen’s arrival, Pete has a strange thought. “Not even Spider-Man has the strength to match a stunt like this,” he thinks, referring to the hole in the wall. Presumably Stan inserted this thought to make Ock more imposing but, really, Peter is underestimating himself. There is ample evidence that Spidey could bust through a wall if he needed.) Gwen says she is checking to see if there is anything she can do to help. “For starters, how about saying good-bye?” says MJ. “Aren’t you ever serious, red?” asks Pete. “Far more often than she’d like you to suspect, Mr. P.!” says Gwen.
“But it’s scene-changing time again,” says the following caption, “before you start thinking that Louisa May Alcott was Stan’s co-author.” (Tying the author of “Little Women” to the “girl talk” here, I presume, though it all seems a little catty for “Little Women.”) In our new scene, Otto is contacted by his meeting-room spy (his face still in shadow) who gives him the whole lowdown on the nullifier route “and the complete timetable.” (The spy is using a transmitter hidden behind some false books in a bookcase. Whose office is he in, anyway?) Ock is already on the move, hiding in the back of a truck disguised as "Power Maintenance." “To the outside world, this is merely an average electrical repair truck,” he brags (if an average electrical repair truck was driven by a guy in a “Master Planner henchman” mask and outfit.) “But I’ve equipped it with every type of electronic device I’ll need in order to execute the crime of the century." (None of which he uses, apparently.)
That night, a convoy composed of government cars surrounding a USAF truck carrying the nullifier in a big wooden box gets underway. (Hey look! “Parking $2.00.” Sweet deal!) They do not get far before encountering a "Power Maintenance" truck partially blocking the road. It is next to an uncovered manhole encircled by a makeshift fence. A flashing red light is on a pole next to the manhole. The vehicles all slow down. In the truck, an armed soldier starts to step outside to see what's causing the delay. He doesn't see that the truck is stopped right by another manhole and a mechanical tentacle is lifting the cover.
Suddenly, Dr. Octopus comes out of the manhole and everything seems to happen at once. He yanks the armed soldier out of the back of the truck. He throws smoke grenades to blind the guards while ripping the canvas covering off of the truck. He climbs atop the cars and uses his metal arms to smash their door locks, trapping the occupants within. The bulletproof glass in the cars prevents them from shooting out at Dr. Octopus. Inside the lead car, John Jameson uses the phone to call “Sector A Headquarters” to seal off the area but he is too late. Ock loads the nullifier into his power truck and takes off. He knows that a huge manhunt will be instituted and plans to be in the one place where no one will look for him... "the nearby munitions factory of... Tony Stark!"
Minutes later, J. Jonah Jameson, Ned Leeds, and Robbie Robertson show up on the scene. (How they got there before headquarters could seal off the area is beyond me.) Jonah badgers his son, trying to get an admission that Spider-Man was also involved in the heist. When that doesn't work, he conjectures that "Ock is really Spider-Man in disguise." Robbie won't let that one pass. He has already told Ned to "write the story as is... don't let the boss's bias throw you a curve." Now he tells Jonah, “Come off it, JJ! They’ve been seen together!” “Okay, okay, so I forgot!” says Jonah, then proceeds to call Peter Parker at three AM to get him on the scene. Instead he wakes up a very angry Harry Osborn who tells him, “No, Parker’s not here! I dunno where he is and I couldn’t care less! Good night!”
So, where is Peter? Why, he’s webbing by when he spots the crime scene. He puts two and two together and realizes that Ock has stolen the nullifier. “Wow! They’ve got the Army, the police, the FBI, and probably even SHIELD in on the case!” Spidey thinks, “But they have no leads and time is working against them!” (Impressive how Spidey can look at John Jameson holding a map and talking with some official and determine that “they have no leads.”) Spidey deduces that Ock is going to "the most important factory in the east" because Otto "always does the last thing you'd expect! Instead of hiding, he'll want to flaunt his power!" (Sounds like weird reasoning to me but you can't argue with the results.)
At Stark's factory, two guards observe the approach of an unscheduled service truck. Inside, Ock has made modifications to the nullifier so that he can use it as a hand-held weapon. (Looks like he’s just sticking a screwdriver into an opening in the nullifier…but it is cool the way he holds a portable light with one tentacle so he can see to stick that screwdriver into the opening.) One guard (he gets a name…Murray) prepares to draw his gun at the truck’s approach while the other calls the security office. Ock’s driver henchman pushes a button that activates the hydraulic roof-lift. Doc appears through a hatch in the truck's roof. "By merely directing a silent beam at them," says Otto, "of the weakest intensity, I can prevent any and all devices from operating. It will be as effective against pistols and telephones as against the most sophisticated long-range missile." “A pity there’s no sign of Iron Man!” Ock says, “Even he must realize how helpless he’d be at a time like this!” And Stan footnotes this with, “It’s an even greater pity, as all rabid readers of the current Suspense #96 must know, that the great Golden Gladiator now lies mortally wounded, in another section of the sprawling factory after his titanic battle with the Grey Gargoyle!” Which is an overly-long plug that distracts from the issue at hand just when things are really getting good. It would be inexcusable except it’s a cool advertisement for the way the stories fit together back in the sixties. Just imagining Iron Man helpless elsewhere in the factory at the same time as the upcoming Spidey-Ock fight makes me smile.
We’ve come to the centerspread of this issue, which features an ad for America’s Best TV Comics…on Saturdays on ABC. Spidey is on at 10AM, following Casper the Friendly Ghost at 9AM and the FF at 9:30AM. Journey to the Center of the Earth follows at 10:30AM, then King Kong at 11AM, George of the Jungle at 11:30AM and the Beatles at noon. More on this down the line when we review the comic book!
Back to the action. Sure enough, Murray's gun jams while the other guard can't get the phone to work. Otto widens the beam to "immobilize every machine within the entire factory." He orders his driver to enter the factory, passing the helpless guards. And being a card-carrying world-conquering super-villain, he can't resist crying out, "I'm supreme! Supreme!" And where would we be without the mandatory shout of "The world is mine!!"?
Seconds later, Spider-Man arrives on the scene. He sees, in an instant, that he can expect no help from anyone in the factory since Ock has "trapped everyone inside by jamming the electric doors" with the nullifier. (Apparently all they have in the factory is electric doors. Good one, Tony!) Spidey attacks from behind and manages to tie two tentacles together in a knot before Otto knows quite what is happening. The two tumble off the truck. Ock's henchman asks if he should use the nullifier on the web-slinger but Octavius vetoes that idea. He wants to defeat Spider-Man himself. He starts by using the two untied tentacles to boost himself into the air, which allows him to give a two-footed kick to the wall-crawler. With Spidey sprawling, Ock frees his two tied arms. He plunges them into the ground on either side of Spidey's neck... pinning him. The webhead pulls on the arms and frees himself. He then flips Octopus away, and goes on the offensive with his webbing. But Otto parries each shot with his metal arms, then gets a good metal punch in on Spidey's jaw. The webster falls to the ground once again but manages to grab two of Ock's tentacles at the same time. This is too much for Otto. "He's still too powerful for me to take chances with!" he thinks. So, with his two other tentacles, he snags the nullifier off the truck and aims it at Spidey. "I don't know what effect this will have against you, Spider-Man," he says, "But won't it be interesting to find out?" Since it has had no effect on anyone else so far, I’m surprised that Otto even tries it. But Stan covers that by having Ock say, “ If nothing else, there’s always the chance that it’ll immobilize your overrated web-shooters.” He gets a much better result than that. With a feeling "like a thousand needles jabbing at my brain," Spidey reels. Ock turns the power on the nullifier way up. And Spidey collapses... "almost unconscious."
As Doc speculates as to why the nullifier had a greater effect on Spidey than on others ("It must have something to do with his own super-power!" and Stan tells us that "the nullifier has affected the amazing radioactivity in Spidey's blood" which makes no sense but let’s not let that spoil our fun), our hero slowly starts to stand up. But, instead of continuing the battle, he holds his head and mutters, "Who am I? Why am I here? This costume! What is it? Why am I wearing it?" Octopus quickly realizes that "He's not faking it," that Spidey has truly lost his memory. This gives Otto an idea. "No need to worry, my friend," he tells the confused wall-crawler, "You merely had a little accident! It happened while you were helping me commit the crime of the century! The reason for your costume is... you're an arch-criminal in the service of Dr. Octopus!" and Spidey replies, "I can't remember! But, I must believe you! I've no other choice!" Yes, that’s right. As promised, “Doc Ock Wins!” What could be worse? Well, the next issue blurb announces a “Day of Disaster!”
It’s the Marvel Bullpen Bulletin Page! “Instant Info, Insanely Inspired by Irrelevant Items of Incredible Inconsequence!” The first item is a “Best Wishes to Jolly Jack and Roz Kirby on their 25th Wedding Anniversary! We’re beginnin’ to suspect that these two have a good thing going!” That was nice of you, Stan. The second item plugs the new FF and Spidey cartoon shows. The third item announces that “Tales of Asgard” has come to an end in Thor and will be replaced by a short Inhumans feature. That series begins in Thor #146, November 1967 and only lasts to Thor #152, May 1968. With #153, Thor finally gets his whole comic to himself. The fourth item touts Dan Adkins, Jim Steranko, Marie Severin, and John Buscema. The fifth item introduces the honorific “RFO, a Real Frantic One!” given to anyone who “buys at least three Marvel titles per month.” (This was a lot more impressive when there were only nine Marvel titles per month.) Stan finishes this item with the line, “And, like Abu Ben Adam, may your tribe increase!” (I am not going to explain a reference from a Bullpen Bulletin Item. It’s from a poem, all right? Look it up!) The sixth item plugs the “Origin of the X-Men” featurette that begins in X-Men #38, November 1967. This is a reduction of the main X-Men story from 20 to 15 pages and, believe me, those stories were so bad, this is a good thing. Item seven offers a no-prize to anyone “who can guess the off-beat reason why we had to raise the membership price for joining the MMMS back to one dollar again!” This sounds like Stan fishing for a good excuse from the readers but I don’t recall the result of this and I’m not searching for it now. Anybody know? Perhaps it will show up in a future Bulletin. Item eight plugs the upcoming Not Brand Echh which presents “the agonizing adventures of Forbush-Man!” We’ll be looking at that next time. The final item boasts the teaming of Dick Ayers with John Severin on Sgt. Fury. This month’s Stan’s Soapbox is a masterpiece of passive-aggressiveness. After mentioning that “Brand Echh,” otherwise known as DC Comics “are still taking pot-shots at us,” Stan claims that “we really don’t feel any action is warranted” to retaliate. In fact, Stan says “they’re not competition!” And why is that? “You see, they obviously aim for a totally different type of reader than we do. We don’t cater to any special age group, but we do cater to a special intellectual level. Our rollickin’ readers, no matter what their age, have proven to be bright, imaginative, informal, and sophisticated!...So, let them continue catering to the bubble-gum brigade and more power to ‘em. The public needs SOME sort of pablum till it’s grown up to Marvel. Nuff said?” Brilliant.
There’s 26 more MMMS members. Here they are: Rudy McGee of Santa Cruz, California; Hendrick Rojas of Dearborn, Michigan; William Marks of St. Marys, Pennsylvania; John Moran of Woodlynne, New Jersey; Gary Mason of French Forest, Australia (so it is written here, anyway, although it’s actually “Frenchs Forest,” a suburb of Sydney); Richard Randall of Houston, Texas; Mark Ramion of Michigan City, Indiana; Bill Nix of Sacramento, California; Eric Meyer of New York, New York; Tommy Robinson of Alta, Canada (which I suspect is actually short for “Alberta.” They didn’t do too well with the non-USA addresses this time, did they?); Barbi Rosenel of Brooklyn, New York; Robert Meek of Forest Park, Illinois; Mike Manire of Memphis, Tennessee; Jimmy Manire of Memphis, Tennessee (Mike’s brother, no doubt); David Laughlin of Wilmington, Delaware; Carl Riccardi of Brooklyn, New York; James Meek of Forest Park, Illinois (Robert’s brother, no doubt); Stephen Matters of Bronx, New York; Sheldon Oppenheim of Bronx, New York; Robert Mestor of Norwalk, Connecticut; Charles Riley of Porte, Indiana; Michael Roderick of Dartmouth, Massaschusetts; Mike Meubauer of Minot, North Dakota; John Richard of Russelville, Kentucky; Nick Moore of Portland, Oregon; and Renton McEvoy of Sydney, Australia. It’s the standing offer. If you’re one of these people, drop me a line and I will chat about it in an upcoming review.
The “More Marvel Masterpieces” takes up only half a page and features Fantastic Four Special #5 with the Inhumans, the Black Panther and Psycho-Man and Amazing Spider-Man Special #4, which we call Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual #4 and which we’ve already looked at.
On the letters page, Charles Vogel of Florissant, Missouri asks, "Whatever happened to buttons? In issue #52 both good ol' JJJ and Fred Foswell are seen without buttons on their shirts. How do they keep them closed? At first, I figured that Jonah had flexed his muscles but that was a little hard to believe. Then I finally figured it out. JJJ and Foswell must have the same forgetful tailor." Believe it or not, Charles got a no-prize for this observation. Stanley Harrington of Bowden, Georgia suggests, "Those who are interested in preserving their mags can do this - if you have two or more, put glue on the back edge of one, then place the other under it, wait a few more minutes, and then glue the two or more in a folder. Number and name it and place it on your book shelf." Yikes! Still think this is a good idea, Stanley? Martin Rudow, stationed in Vietnam, suggests that, since Stan seems to be “sensitive to the problems of the world,” Marvel show “Negro policeman.” “Your books are always full of cops doing their best, but they’re always white. Surely you’re aware that the presence of more Negro policeman would go a long way toward solving some of the unrest in our cities today.” Stan replies that Marvel has shown Negro policemen but he can’t remember where or when. Can anyone help Stan? (And I wonder if Martin Rudow got home all right. I hope so.) Pham Thai Thu of Saigon, Sud-Vietnam tells Stan that he has become a Marvel fan “from Americans who are my parents’ friends. Those Americans are civil men, and my father a doctor/dentist.” Thu misses lots of issues though and wonders how Spidey did “where he fights against the Lizard man and where he is defeated.” Stan sends Thu some of the issues he has missed, where is very nice. But, again, I wonder how Thu and his family fared. Sure hope they were all right. Finally, Kevin Hancer of Bloomington, Minnesota claims to have a friend who thinks Spidey’s used webbing destroys birds. Kevin has an answer, though. The threatened birds are, most likely, pigeons. “During the time the pigeons are entangled, they have the opportunity to ponder city life, and as such, no doubt will become disillusioned with the city and will leave for the country to remain there forever.” Kevin asks for a no-prize for this and Stan gives it, apparently forgetting that Spidey’s web dissolves after an hour and causes no threat to pigeons after that.
Milestones (Landmark events that take place in this story.)
The 1969 Marvelmania International Spider-Man Portfolio checklist entry for this story. Warts and all:
"Doc Ock Wins" - Doc. Ock finally gets the nullifier and tries to use it on Stark factories, instead he uses it on Spidey and wipes out his memory.
Starting with Johnny’s memorable, disturbing cover, this issue makes all the right moves. And much of this is done without Spidey, who begins the issue with his search for Doc Ock but disappears for about 7 pages in the middle. (He visits Aunt May as Peter Parker for about 2 of those 7 pages.) Instead you have the lurking menace of Ock, which can be felt throughout the issue from his shadowed spy at the nullifier meeting to his hiding in the back of the Power Maintenance truck. The nullifier convoy’s very caution makes it feel doomed from the start and the emergence of Ock’s tentacle from the manhole on page 8 panel 5 almost makes you shout out a warning. Ock’s attack on the convoy and his theft of the nullifier feels swift and vicious, thanks to Johnny’s artwork. It only takes a page and a half to accomplish. Ock has never seemed so formidable. (I love the close-up of the pummeled hood and car grille as Ock’s truck drives off in the background of page 10 panel 4.) The closing fight scene goes on for over five pages with a two panel page (page 16) and a three panel page (page 18) to really open up the action. And the ending is almost as shocking as Fred Foswell’s death in Amazing Spider-Man #52, September 1967 three issues before. This series in on a roll.
Johnny’s art is clean and crisp as usual but there are also lines everywhere. Tear lines when Spidey rips the roof off the hideout, speed lines when Spidey web-swings and the Power truck drives, Spider-Sense lines spiking out of Spidey’s head, wiggle lines around Ock’s tentacles emphasizing their movement, nullifier lines when the machine is shooting out its invisible ray. All add to the frenetic feel of the story. By the time those lines turn into little bubbles and starbursts over the amnesiac Spidey’s head, you know you’ve just read a classic.
Spidey’s lost his memory! Ock tells him he’s an “arch-criminal in the service of Dr. Octopus!” I can’t wait for what’s next! Only…remember Bullpen Bulletins Item #8? The debut of Forbush-Man in Not Brand Echh? It’s next at Not Brand Echh #5 (Story 1).