I know that this intro will be obsolete shortly but I don’t care because I love the serendipity. Spider-Man: Far From Home was released on July 2, 2019. Its villain is Mysterio. The Spider-Man Newspaper Strip is reprinting the story from Spider-Man Newspaper Strip 17 November 2014- 14 March 2015 featuring Mysterio. There’s nothing serendipitous about that because, once they decided to go reprint after Stan’s death, it made sense to reprint a story with the upcoming film’s villain. But this…this is serendipitous. Mysterio was last seen in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual #4 (Story 1), 1967. He won’t appear again until ASM #141, February 1975 and that appearance isn’t even Quentin Beck. (Quentin doesn’t appear again until ASM #193, June 1979 as Dr. Rinehart.) This issue is only the fifth appearance of the character overall, if you don’t count the retconned Amazing Spider-Man (Vol.1) #2 (Story 2), May 1963. (The others are ASM #13, June 1964, Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual #1 (Story 1), 1964, ASM #24, May 1965 and the above mentioned ASM Annual #4.) And yet here he is, more than 20 years after I started this project, right where he should be…coinciding with his movie. You’ve just got to love it, don’t you?
|Pencils:||Don Heck, John Romita, Sr.|
|Cover Art:||John Romita, Sr.|
Mysterio hasn’t been on the cover, in all his fishbowl glory, since ASM Annual #1 (the silhouettes on the ASM Annual #4 cover don’t count). Even on that one, he’s sort of hidden in the corner. Here he assumes center stage, so to speak, taking up the whole left half of the cover, his dome intruding on the logo, his smoke filling up the bottom of the page. Spidey is left to hang on a web in the small white space below the logo and we don’t really look at him until we look at Mysterio and then follow his pointing finger to Spidey. He looks twice as big as Spidey, which is appropriate, given the story. Next issue, he’s going to look a lot bigger than that. The blurb, written on the Mysterio-created smoke is the same as the title… “The Madness of Mysterio!” You can’t give a villain a better lead-off than this.
Speaking of that title, doesn’t it make it sound as if Mysterio is mad? You know, like The Madness of King George? Shouldn’t it be something more along the lines of “Mysterio Means Madness?” That blurb finally gets used on ASM #142, March 1975 but not as the title itself.
Our story opens with Mysterio, in costume, standing amidst his patented smoke, above a tabletop model of an amusement park. How many times has an ASM story began with the villain leading us off? Quite a lot, actually. It depends on what you want to consider a “villain lead-off” but I count 23 up to this point. Your mileage may vary. The last time it happened was way back in…ASM #63, August 1968 and the next time it happens is way forward in…ASM #68, January 1969.
Anyway, Mysterio spends three and a half pages talking to himself. He says, “The stage is set, the plan is completed, the time has come!” and “Mysterio will have his long-awaited fatal revenge upon the unsuspecting Spider-Man!” Not just “revenge” but “fatal revenge.” Not just “Spider-Man” but “the unsuspecting Spider-Man.” Plus, Mysterio refers to himself in the third person. Plus he poses, with his arm outstretched and his smoke billowing out, when there is no one else around. Well, he was a Hollywood stuntman. He clearly has a bit of the ham about him.
Actually, what he’s doing is providing us with exposition; slightly and intentionally deceptive exposition. He tells himself (and us) “”It may seem to be no more than a table-top model of any typical amusement park…the type of mock-up I designed when I was the greatest special effects man Hollywood has ever known! But, as Spider-Man will soon find out, it’s more than it seems to be!” He removes his helmet and tells himself (and us) “Even my all-concealing helmet contains a new psychedelic power – designed especially for the masked wall-crawler.” He stands in front of his new weapon and tells himself (and us) “And when my newest and my greatest weapon is trained upon him...it’ll be the very last lesson he ever learns!” He thinks back to when Spider-Man last defeated him (in ASM Annual #4) but he seems to have forgotten who his partner was. He refers to him here as “my hapless partner.” John Romita and Don Heck seem to have forgotten, too since their flashback drawing shows Mysterio webbed up with a vague figure with his head bowed. Is there some reason why Stan is being coy about whom Mysterio’s partner was? It was the Wizard, okay? It was the Wizard.
Now he fills us (and himself) in on what happened after that arrest. In prison, he gets himself assigned to the prison pharmacy (not a wise move by the prison) and accumulates the chemicals he needs. Then, somehow, he uses those chemicals to create a bunch of smoke that transports him from his cell to the top of a laundry truck as it leaves the prison. (Since all of his tricks are SFX, I’m not sure how he does this. You can’t fool the bars to your cell. And, really, we didn’t need an explanation as to why Mystie is out of prison. He just is, that’s all.) Now, safely in his hideout, he concocts his plan which must begin with a New York crime “colorful enough to attract the attention of Spider-Man” because his plan is all about destroying Spidey and nothing else. Now, he is ready. And since Mysterio likes to talk in groups of three (remember “The stage is set, the plan is completed, the time has come!” on the splash page?), he says, “I’ve worked too hard – waited too long – planned too well – for anything to go wrong now!”
Finally, on page 4, we get to Spidey. He is landing on the Daily Bugle’s roof to see if he can recover his clothes and his camera that he left there when he snuck off to change to Spidey and fight the Vulture in ASM #63. He finds them hidden by the rubble. (“I’m sure glad they haven’t gotten around to cleaning up this mess yet! Jonah’s probably too cheap to buy a broom!” he says.) His camera is in working order, but he still has plenty of worries. He’s sure that JJJ is “still mad at poor Petey Parker” for disappearing when he was supposed to be snapping pix of the Vulture. He also has “to dream up some excuse to give Aunt May for why I haven’t seen her for days.” That night, in bed, he can’t sleep for his worries. “Then there’s Norman Osborn! Nobody knows what’s happened to him! If he should become the Green Goblin once again – I’m really in the stew! And Gwen still thinks I’m strictly for the birds!” He has a “restless sleepless night” but at least his bruises are quickly healing, due to his spider-power. (We saw those bruises in all their glory last issue, in ASM #65.) He puts on the shirt that he’d left on the Bugle roof and finds a big rip in the shoulder. (The colorist screws up here, showing Peter’s flesh through the hole when we can see in the previous panel that he is wearing his Spidey costume.) He consoles himself, as he rides his motorcycle that at least Aunt May doesn’t do his laundry anymore so he doesn’t have to come up with an explanation. He decides to go see Jameson and “get it over with.” Outside Jonah’s office, Betty Brant tells Peter that JJJ is “fit to be tied” about Peter running off. And, sure enough, Jonah kicks Peter out, telling him, “You always thought you had me over a barrel, because you had the best photos I could buy, huh? Well, not this time, smart guy! While you chickened out on me – I had a staff man snap all the pix I need! So get lost, Parker! You’re finished here!” He then calls Ned Leeds into his office except Betty’s desk is now in there along with a row of filing cabinets so I suppose Jonah stepped out of his office but then why call to Ned to “get in here?” Ned has the photos taken by the staff man. The only trouble is, as Ned puts it, “your shutterbug was so scared when he snapped these, that his hands shook.” The pictures mostly show sky with a bit of the Vulture’s feathers. “Oh, the pain! The pain!” Jonah says.
So, why are we seeing Peter’s motorcycle this issue? Because he’s broke and needs money and so he decides to sell it. He takes it to a guy who offers him “less than half what it cost me – and it’s almost new.” (Is this the same guy he bought it from back in ASM #41, October 1966? Sure looks like it could be.) The guy tells him “I have to make a profit too” and Peter agrees to sell. Money in hand, Peter tells himself to “snap out of it” because he can “always buy another bike.” But he never does.
But then his spider-sense tingles. And wouldn’t you know it? Mysterio appears so close to him that when Peter yells out “Mysterio,” Mystie replies to him. He pushes Peter and tells him to “Stand aside! I’ve no time to waste on nobodies!” Mysterio strides away. A shopkeeper tells an arriving policeman “He appeared out of nowhere – in the middle of my store! I figured it was a holdup! I gave him my cash – but he just laughed – threw it aside – as if it was worthless. He scared all my customers right out of the place!” So, this is the “crime” that he concocted to attract Spider-Man? Show up in a store and scare the customers away? When Mystie’s smoke fades, he is gone. A crowd gathers and a cop asks Peter “Did you see where that joker ran off to?” Peter tells him that it looks like “he just faded away,” then he leaves, planning to change to Spider-Man. But then he thinks, “Why am I being such an eager beaver? Even if I nab him – what’ll Peter Parker get out of it? Let the police tackle him! I’m sick of being a fall guy!” Now, in case you think he’s falling into the old “Spider-Man No More” bit again, Pete adds, “I’m not forgetting my oath! If someone’s in danger, I’ll still knock myself out to help! But every time I go tearing out after some nutty costumed creep, the only one who ends up getting it in the neck is me!” So, Peter walks away while Mysterio hides under a sewer grate, disappointed that Spider-Man hasn’t shown up. He says “I can afford to be patient” even though he has only waited a couple of minutes for Spidey as if the web-slinger is right there on Madison Avenue and…I can’t read the other street sign… rather than somewhere else in the city or taking a nap or something. (Of course, he is right there on Madison Avenue but Mysterio doesn’t know that.)
Peter is so distraught that he stops walking and leans on a “bus stop” sign. And now Gwen finds him! (Once, in Central Park, I ran into an actor who was in my play and he said something I’ve always loved and remembered; “New York is a small world.” But this is ridiculous.) Gwen rushes up and hugs him. Peter is surprised. He thought she was through with him. “Dad explained everything,” Gwen says, “How you weren’t to blame for what happened.” (That was in ASM #64.) Peter grabs Gwen by the shoulders and tells her “All this time – I’ve been feeling sorry for myself – unwilling to admit – I was just carrying a king-sized torch – for you!” and Gwen says “It was as though my whole world had come to an end!” They hug again. “Suddenly – with you in my arms again – everything seems right again!” Peter says. “Don’t talk, Mr. Parker!” says Gwen, “Just hold me – so you won’t see me cry!” (There goes Gwen, crying again.) Arm in arm, the couple heads to the Coffee Bean for “some java.” While there, some guy we’ve never seen before but who knows them calls out, “Hey, Parker! Gwen Stacy! Waddaya say? How’s about joinin’ us?” but they ignore him. Instead, they gaze into each other’s eyes. “Do you hear anything, Gwendolyn?” asks Peter. “Only the pitter-patter of my happy heart, joy boy!” says Gwen.
In another restaurant, Joe Robertson and Captain Stacy have lunch and talk about Spider-Man. George tells Joe that Spider-Man “once saved the lives of my daughter Gwen and myself – when we were menaced by the Kingpin!” (That was in ASM #61, June 1968.) Joe replies “he saved Jameson and me, too – when the Vulture almost killed us!” (And that was in ASM #64.) They both then go on to say that their interest is professional. “But I suspect we both feel he’s misunderstood!” says George, and wonders what “Spider-Man’s real motives are.” Robbie hits the nail on the head. “He seems driven – by some strange, inner compulsion,” he says, “Something must have happened in his past.” After the fastest lunch on record, the two men get up and leave, with Joe saying, “Somehow, I can’t escape the nagging feeling that I know him!” (Hmmm. Let’s see, Joe. Someone you know that had something traumatic happen in his past. Ring any bells?) The two agree to keep in touch. “I think we should compare notes more often,” says George. Do they keep in touch? I’ll be paying attention to this from now on.
Meanwhile, Peter, all smiles now that he is back with Gwen, gets off a bus and finds Harry getting into his car. Harry has been searching for his missing father and he has “a feeling – that [he’ll] never see [his] father – again!” Peter tells him they should check his factory so they drive to Osborn Industries where the guard at the gate tells them that he hasn’t seen Norman for days. “We figured he’s on vacation!” As Harry drives away, Norman looks out of his office window and scoffs. “The fools! Did they think Norman Osborn wouldn’t have a dozen ways to enter his own factory without being seen?” (Could he overhear the conversation? All the way in his office?) He is now in his Green Goblin costume, minus the mask, and he wonders why the thought of Harry’s roommate makes his blood boil. “I won’t be in the dark much longer!” he says, “My memory gets clearer with each passing second!” I've always thought that this makes no sense within the context of Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #2, November 1968, but, really, everything works...sort of. More on that in the Spec #2 review. Continuity is a bit squirrelly with Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #1 (Story 1), July 1968 as well, where Richard Raleigh is skulking around in Daredevil #43, August 1968 in what must be before and after the events on “Lo, This Monster.” Let’s hope they get the continuity under better control before we get to Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #3.
Peter worries that Harry’s dad may be reverting to his Goblin persona and thereby remembering Spider-Man’s identity. He asks Harry to drop him off at Aunt May’s house. As he rings the doorbell, Peter hears Aunt May cry out “Oh no!” Panicked, Peter smashes open the front door and finds his Aunt watching TV. “At first I thought it was just some sort of Science Fiction show,” she says, “But it isn’t! It’s real!” Peter looks at the television and sees Mysterio, looking like a giant standing next to the Brooklyn Bridge. “He’s broken into all the channels,” May said, “He’s making the most awful threats to destroy the entire city.” Peter holds May and assures her that Mysterio is “only using images – special effects.” On the TV, the Brooklyn Bridge collapses and cars tumble into the East River. “The sight you are witnessing is merely a fantasy! But, it could happen! Mysterio has the power to do it,” says Mysterio, referring to himself in the third person, “just as I have the power to pre-empt the TV show you were watching!” So, anyone who can pre-empt your TV shows can also destroy the Brooklyn Bridge? Yeah, that follows. But Mysterio is not going to destroy the bridge yet because he plans to destroy his “greatest enemy” first.
Peter takes this seriously and believes that, because Mysterio is “more sure of himself than ever before,” that must mean, “His power is greater than it was.” (It couldn’t be that it’s all part of his act, Pete?) On the television, Mysterio challenges Spider-Man to meet him “where we had our first battle” but first Peter has to calm down May who is “all pale and trembling.” He puts her on her couch, just as Anna Watson comes in. She wants to know what happened to May. Peter tells her that she’s had “a shock” and suggests Anna call the doctor since he has “something to do that can’t wait.” Anna wonders “What can be so urgent to take you away from your Aunt at a time like this?” (But Anna doesn’t wonder what the heck happened to the front door.) Peter tells her he has no time to explain and he takes off.
Now, I thought the place where they had their first battle was the Brooklyn Bridge (in ASM #13, June 1964 but, apparently, Mysterio means the first place Spidey beat him, which was a “TV movie studio building.” Spidey seems to know this, too, and he heads there, all the time rationalizing that the best thing he can do for May is “to polish off Mysterio” because “If I can make her feel that this city isn’t a jungle - that law abiding people can still live in safety” then maybe she’ll get over her hysterics about things she sees on the television.
Spidey arrives at the “TV movie studio building” which is now an “old studio building” that is “all boarded up.” He tears open a “corrugated steel door” and finds Mysterio standing amidst his smoke on the other side. “So soon, Spider-Man?” says Mystie, surprised at how fast Spidey is “in such a rush – to face your final Waterloo.” But he is standing there, waiting for him. What? Was he planning on just standing around on the other side of that corrugated door all day? Mysterio even conjures up a joke. “[D]o you have to rush because you rent that corny costume by the hour?” he says. Okay, it ain’t much but at least he’s trying.
Spidey wades into him, only to lose him in the smoke. Unseen, Mysterio gets his punches in, wobbling the webhead. (A scene very much like the one in ASM #13.) Spidey escapes by leaping up to the ceiling. Mysterio reveals himself and points out his tabletop amusement park, calling it Spidey’s “final resting place.” Spidey notices him “heading for that nutty-looking gun-gizmo,” the same device that Mysterio called “my newest and my greatest weapon” back on page 2. Spidey leaps on Mysterio but soon finds himself grappling with “an empty cloak.” Tossing the cloak aside, Spidey thinks, “He wanted to delay me long enough for him to reach that deadly-looking gadget! And he’s probably grabbed it by now!” (Note how the gadget went from “nutty-looking” to “deadly-looking” in the space of 4 panels.) And Spidey is right. Mysterio points the gun at Spidey and fires it. It strikes Spidey with an explosion of red and Kirby Krackle and with a loud “ZASK!” Mysterio tells Spidey “You moved so quickly that any other weapon would have missed you! But, fortunately, my weapon doesn’t need to score a direct hit!” (Then why does it have that cool-looking gun sight?) Spidey knows he’s not hurt (a bit of a clue, there?) but still feels like he’s “dying…and being born again – all at the same time!” He seems to fall toward the tabletop amusement park. “The whole world is changing, whirling, going stark, raving mad!” he thinks. Finally, the smoke starts to clear. “There’s no sound!” he thinks, “I never heard such silence before! Why do I feel so strangely different?” Then he looks up and is shocked by what he sees. He appears to be on the tabletop (one of the carnival booths has a sign that says, maliciously, “Fun Fun Fun”) while a giant Mysterio looms over him. “In the few minutes of life which remain for you, you will never really know what has happened to you or why or even how!” Mysterio gloats, “But, it no longer really matters. No one who is only six inches high can save himself from total annihilation at the hands of Mysterio!!” And to make matters worse, the “Next” caption only says, “To Squash a Spider!”
In the Marvel Bullpen Bulletins (“Stop the Presses! Here’s Some Scoops and Scuttlebutt to Knock You Outta Your Teepee!”), Stan says “Notice anything different this ish? There are more letters than ever on our letters pages – ‘cause we’ve been omitting the usual answers. It’s a real ‘first’ for Marvel, and we decided to do it because we thought you yourselves might enjoy answering each other (as well as giving us more time to spend on the yarns themselves!) So, from now on when a frantic one brings up an objection, criticism, or query, we’ll wait till some other frenzied fans retaliate, and award our usual ubiquitous No-Prizes for the best get-the-poor-old-Bullpen-off–the-hook answers. Besides, you’ll get lots more letters per page this way. So, let us know how you like our agonizing new approach, okay?” The majority must not have liked the “agonizing new approach” because the answers return in ASM #70, March 1969.
In another Item, Stan gives us the lowdown on what bullpen members are up to, among them “Rascally Roy Thomas is knockin’ ‘em dead with his new Nehru threads and guru goatee! (We saw Roy depicted with his jacket and goatee in Avengers (Vol. 1) Annual #2 (Story 2).) Groovy Gary Friedrich will be sending us his scripts from Hollywood for the next few months! (But he apparently got no screenplays produced.)…Dashin’ Donnie Heck made his first visit to the Bullpen in months, and didn’t recognize Smilin’ Stan in his nutty new beard!” (A subtle way to let us know that Stan now has a beard.)
In the Soapbox last issue, Stan told us that he would “seek to avoid editorializing about controversial issues.” This issue, he prints a letter from Achille D. DiBacco from Lake Worth, Florida. Achille writes, “In your recent Soapbox column, you asked if Marveldom Assembled wanted you to editorialize more. I vote ‘yes.’ What has separated Marvel from other mags is that you have a definite profound philosophy to express and the way you express it is beautiful. Marvelism is fast becoming a philosophical movement. A prime example of this can be found in the Silver Surfer, one of the most moralistic characters ever created. Marvel Comics are the voice of a new breed of intellectual. Therefore, editorializing is virtually a necessity.” I suspect Stan was just waiting for a letter like this because he declares that he now has “a magniloquent mandate to sock it to ya” (a mandate from a single letter) and declares “Next Ish: What is a bigot?” I can’t wait, Stan!
“The Mighty Marvel Checklist” includes a blurb for “Spectacular Spider-Man #2” (“Stop the presses! Here’s the biggest news of the year! In answer to a zillion desperate demands, our sensational new 35-center is now printed in full, glorious color! And it stars the vile villainy of the Green Goblin! Don’t just sit there, citizen!”) and for “Spider-Man Special #5” (“Here’s where Spidey learns the truth about his long gone parents – in the most off-beat Special of the year!”). Those will be our next two reviews. I’m looking forward to them.
Now for that Spider’s Web with those letters with no answers. Two of those letters are by future comic professionals. Cary Burkett of Angleton, Texas writes, “My happiness in seeing the old Vulture brought back to his rightful place as THE flying man excelled even my happiness at the new problems you have given Peter Parker. The idea of ever doing away with such a character was foolish in the first place. My heart thrilled to see him flying around as in the old days, cunning, crafty, but now seeming even stronger than he used to be,” while Tony Isabella of Cleveland, Ohio says, “Why, o, why must Spider-Man constantly face his foes with a broken arm or a cold or some ailment? I mean, hasn’t the guy got enough problems?” And because of the dictum to eliminate replies, Tony gets no answer.
How about our non-comic pro letter writers? Well, John Johnson, Sergeant in the First Air Commando Wing at England AFB wants to know “what does one have to do to get a subscription to Spider-Man comics?” The Flowerpower League from Yuma, Arizona wants to know “if Peter Parker is as brilliant as he seems, why doesn’t he think of a way to make money honestly which wouldn’t take much time?” And Melvin Payton of Poquason, Virginia wonders “why did [Spidey] fall down? ‘Ha!’ you may say, ‘The webbing is not water-proof! So it didn’t stick to the wall he sought to stick it to!!!’ They [sic] why, oh faithful leader, did said super-hero say, in Spidey #29, that he made it water-proof originally? So! Our witty Spider-Man can shoot webbing underwater (ASM #29) but not in the rain! Stan old boy, only Marvel could make webbing like that. Now would you just explain why it shoots underwater but not in the rain?? Huh? Would you?” None of these writers get answers.
Meanwhile, Michael Malson of Brampton, Ontario reminisces “Yes, it was exactly six years ago this month that the first Spider-Man story was unleashed on the world. The magazine was Amazing Fantasy #15, and I was on hand to buy it, which shows you that I’m no newcomer to the ranks of Marvel. Through high school and college I followed the adventures of our swinging web-slinger (and slinging web-swinger), and now that I am nearing retirement age (21), it’s comforting to know that not only is Spidey still around, but he still has more problems than I do, which I think should earn HIM a no-prize.” And now that you’re really retirement age, Michael, I want to know if you still have that copy of AF #15.
Jeff Jordan at the Webb School in Claremont, California notes that Marvel readers tend to do well in National Merit Scholarships and College Board exams. He also says “Everyone here at Webb agrees that Spidey is the coolest hero you have. The Spider-Man Spectacular (Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #1 (Story 1)) knocked this school out of gear for about a week. I loaned out mine and did not get it back until five days later. The only thing that everyone did not like about it was the lack of color. From talking to the other Marvelites in my school, I can say that all of them would gladly pay more than 35 cents for color.” Spidey would haveto be the favorite at a school called “Webb,” wouldn’t he? And turn the page, Jeff! There’s a full page ad on the last page of this comic for the “2nd Smash Issue” of Spectacular Spider-Man with a full page look at its Spidey/Goblin cover and a blurb along the top that says, “Now in Full Color!” Hope you enjoyed it, Jeff!
Finally, Bill Anderson of Wilmington, Delaware makes a joke you probably can’t get away with these days. He says, “I work at the State Hospital in New Castle and I always take a Marvel comic to work with me. I let my patients read them when I am through with them. My patients are nuts about them.” As far as I can tell, State Hospital is a psychiatric hospital.
The “Next” blurb at the bottom of the page is suitably vague. “The Web and the Wonder!” it says. There is an illustration of the Vulture right above it that it makes it seem as if he will figure into the next issue but that image is just a badly-placed reference to the ASM #63 letters printed here. Don’t worry, Spidey will wrap up with Mysterio next time. But first he has to deal with the Green Goblin in that “2nd Smash Issue” that “is now on sale!”
Milestones (Landmark events that take place in this story.)
The 1969 Marvelmania International Spider-Man Portfolio checklist entry for this issue, exactly as written (not one of its finest hours):
“The Madness of Mysterio” – Mysterio returns. – Spidey finds himself at 6” – a miniture circus against a giant Mysterio.
Stan is really so good with these set-up issues. The meat of the story doesn’t come until next issue but we barely even notice because he keeps us busy with Mysterio’s prison escape, Spidey reclaiming his clothes and camera, JJJ’s failure to procure good Vulture photos, Peter selling his motorcycle, Gwen and Peter making up, George and Joe discussing Spider-Man, Harry’s search for his dad, Aunt May’s trauma at seeing Mysterio on television, and the return of the Green Goblin! Then it ends with one of the coolest cliffhangers yet. It’s got me excited for next issue and for Spectacular #2 which is just what it’s supposed to do. Five webs.
I hate to leave Spidey at six inches high but we’ve got other business to attend to. First, there’s the matter of Norman Osborn walking around in his office in his Green Goblin costume. So, Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #2 is next.