Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #68

Background

It’s 1969 and it will be another tumultuous year. (It’s probably November 1968 when this issue comes out but play along, okay?) Richard Nixon is about to be inaugurated President. The Vietnam War continues with no end in sight, in spite of the beginnings of peace talks. There are student protests and riots all over the world. At Cal-Berkeley, home of the California Pelican, Governor Ronald Reagan institutes martial law and brings out the police and tear gas to combat protesters who object to dorms being built on People’s Park. (Which seems to be anticipated by this story.) A police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York results in “The Stonewall Rebellion,” a riot that is considered the beginning of the gay rights movement. Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones dies in his swimming pool. Charles Manson’s family members kill actress Sharon Tate and the others in her home. The Woodstock festival takes place. Unfortunately, so does the Altamont Festival several months later. No wonder there’s a “Crisis on the Campus!”

Story 'Crisis on Campus!'

The cover shows Spidey web-swinging over a student protest but it’s an odd image. Only the blonde-haired woman in the lower left corner looks up. The rest don’t seem to notice him at all. This gives the impression that Spidey is not really there but laid over afterward. It has a similar feel to the cover of ASM #38, July 1966, which was cobbled together from different images within the comic because Steve Ditko quit without providing a cover. And this is an interesting coincidence because ASM #38 features the last time Peter Parker ran up against a student protest. Since the scene was crafted by the conservative, objectivist Ditko, Peter has no interest in joining the protesters. “Another student protest! What are they after this time?” Peter says. The protesters are presented as ne’er-do-wells who have no specific reason for protesting. A student replies to Peter with “Didn’t you hear? They’re protesting tonight’s protest meeting!” “It figgers!” says Pete. The protesters snag him and ask him to join but Peter says, “Not me! I haven’t got time! Besides, I’ve nothing to protest about!” “Nothing to protest about?? What are you - - some kinda religious fanatic, or somethin’?” says one protester. “What ‘smatter with you? Aren’t you interested in saving the world?? Anyway, it’s an excuse to cut classes,” says a second. “And maybe get your picture in Newsweek,” says the first. Another protester tells Pete, “C’mon, Parker - - if you join our protest meeting, we’ll join one of yours some time.” “Sure,” says another, “And, if you’ve nothin’ to protest, don’t worry about it! That won’t stop us!” Peter waves them off and says, “Forget it!” The protesters are reduced to insulting Peter and he grimaces while thinking, “I’d better cut out before I give them something to protest about!”

But times have changed. With Ditko gone, Stan and John Romita work on changing Peter’s image, making him more in tune with the times. Part of that is a recognition that college students are a big part of Marvel’s audience. As I condensed it in my review of Esquire #394, September 1966, “Stan ‘drew a bigger audience than President Eisenhower’ at Bard College…’some fifty thousand American college students, paying a dollar a head, belong to Merry Marvel Marching Societies’ and… ‘one Ivy Leaguer told Stan Lee, ‘We think of Marvel Comics as the twentieth-century mythology and you as this generation’s Homer’.” And California Pelican Volume 72 #2 not only lauds Marvel but supports SLATE and the student protests on campus. Peter doesn’t join the protest and still has some words with the protesters but this time we get to know some of the protesters and what their demands are and Peter thinks, “My sympathies are all with the kids down there.”

So, now that we’re all prepared for a student protest, the issue begins with…four and a half pages of the Kingpin. Yes, that’s right, this is the first issue of yet another Kingpin trilogy, the third of four that appear in a 35-issue span. But it is also the start of a storyline that will run for nearly all of 1969 as the Kingpin is given a slide show about “the petrified clay tablet.” (I hate to be picky about this but can clay petrify?) The Kingpin asks a man named Wilson, “why do you claim it’s so valuable” and Wilson replies “Thruout the ages countless men have died for it,” which doesn’t tell us anything about why it’s valuable but that answer is good enough for the Kingpin. “In that case,” he says, “it must be mine!”

Two things here before we proceed. Notice how the slide of the tablet is the light source for the splash page, putting the Kingpin, Wilson, and a henchman in shadow. Not only that but the Kingpin and Wilson have their backs to us. It’s clear where our focus lies on this page. It’s not with the Kingpin, it’s with the petrified tablet. Second, this seems like a nice time to quote Jazzy Johnny from Comics Creators on Spider-Man on his creation of the Kingpin. (I should have done it long ago.) “When Stan asked me to design the Kingpin of Crime, the last thing I wanted to do was to make him look like all the criminals we’ve seen in a thousand movies. I didn’t want to do the standard guy with a moustache and scar so I made him look like the furthest thing from that. I made him four hundred pounds so that he’d blot out the sun. Instead of being fat and flabby like Sidney Greenstreet, I made him look powerful. I made him look like a tycoon with a morning coat, a stickpin and a cravat. Facially, I patterned him after two actors.

Edward Arnold, an overweight guy with a big wide face and a hooked nose, who was a huge star in the thirties and forties, and another guy named

Robert Middleton, who was bald. I took those two guys and put them together. I usually had actors in mind when I designed a new character.

Captain Stacy was based on Charles Bickford, one of my favorite actors of all time. He was a powerful-looking actor with white hair and a wonderful growling voice.” Huh. I never thought of Captain Stacy as having a growling voice. And I don’t doubt anything Johnny says here but I still think part of the Kingpin’s look has to come from a bowling pin.

Whew. I think we can finally move on to page two. Wilson says the tablet is “older than the priceless Dead Sea Scrolls” and that “the man who can decipher it may learn the greatest secrets of all time!” (Two panels in and he’s pretty much right.) But the Kingpin isn’t interested in any of that. He only wants to know where it is so he can steal it. And it turns out it just happens to be on display at good old Empire State University. When Wilson mentions Spider-Man, the Kingpin gets all huffy. “It was only thru the sheerest luck that he managed to escape me in the past,” he says. (That’s not how I remember it. In both ASM #52, September 1967 and ASM #61, June 1968, Kingy ran off with his tail between his legs. But I wouldn’t tell him that.) Getting a little sensitive about the subject, the Kingpin whips off his red robe. It looked like he had an ascot on underneath but it’s now nowhere to be found and his cigarette and holder just disappear. Bare-chested, he wades into six of his men (including “Crusher” and a black belt in karate), declaring, “I’ll show you how easily the Kingpin can crush a dozen Spider-Men.” (One of his men says, “it’ll be six versus one” but we never see more than five guys.) The fight lasts for two pages but it is no contest. Through it all, the Kingpin keeps carrying on about how “My greatest asset has always been the fact that the world mistakes my massive muscles for mere blubbery fat” and “my speed is far greater than anyone would believe!” (Sensitive about it, isn’t he?) Soon enough, all six men are on the floor. (Okay, five.) “You’re fired, all of you,” says Kingy, “I told you I wanted a workout. You didn’t even give me a chance to work up a sweat. Get dressesd and get out! I can’t stomach losers!” The six (or five) men are only too happy to do that.

Back in his robe and with his cigarette and holder back in his mouth, the Kingpin orders Wilson to “Round up a new crew for my next workout! And next time get twice as many to give me some competition!” Wilson tells Kingy he was “like a human bulldozer in there” but then brings up Spider-Man again…just to stick it to him, it seems to me. The Kingpin again takes the bait. “Every time I think of him, my blood begins to boil!” he says, “Only he was ever thwarted me! But, after I steal the priceless clay tablet from its resting place at E.S.U…then he and I will have… our final reckoning!”

That’s our cue to switch over to the web-slinger who is heading home while lamenting that he didn’t get any photos of his battle with Mysterio. But since he was ambushed and made to think he was six inches tall in that battle, it’s hardly surprising. Don’t be so down on yourself, Pete! Spidey gets to his bedroom window only to find that Harry has locked it. Fortunately, Harry has not locked his own window and he isn’t home so Spidey sneaks in through Harry’s room. (It seems a bit odd that Harry would go into Peter’s room to lock his window but leave his own open but I don’t care. I always enjoy these little roadblocks that Stan throws in front of Spidey.)

The next morning, Peter arrives at E.S.U. with a whiney internal monologue as usual. “That rush hour subway is for the birds! If only I could have afforded to keep my bike! There oughtta be a superhero union to demand a living wage! Rats! If I felt any lower, I’d be underground!” Before he can consider why he took that rush hour subway instead of web-swinging to campus, he encounters a young African-American man who asks if he is Peter Parker. This is Joe Robertson’s son, Randy, and we met him last issue. He tells Pete that his dad told him “one of his hot-shot free-lance shutterbugs was a BMOC here” (that’s “Big Man on Campus”) and Peter tells him, “I can’t even get myself arrested!” Pete asks his new acquaintance’s name and is told “My draft card says Randolph!” One of those comments that conjures up the times and that I find so endearing. “Put ‘er there, Randy!” says Pete. (No, no, Peter. He said his name was “Randolph.” Fortunately, he does go by “Randy.”) They shake hands just as another young African-American man, wearing tinted glasses, a green turtleneck and a medallion around his neck that seems to come and go from panel to panel, joins them. He is Josh, whose last name, according to Amazing Spider-Man: Official Index to the Marvel Universe is Kittling. This name doesn’t seem to appear in any of the comics, however. I was one of the Head Writers on that book and may even have written the ASM #68 entry. We were given some leeway to fill in some gaps so it’s possible that we invented Josh’s last name but, if we did, it sure wasn’t me who came up with it. Am I wrong about this? Is Josh’s last name in one of the comics? If so, would somebody please let me know?

Randy tries to introduce Josh to Peter but Josh says, “We already did the bit, Randy!” (This is our first look at Josh so we didn’t see their initial meeting.) Josh asks Peter where he stands “on the Exhibition Hall issue” and Peter doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Josh explains that “after exhibiting that clay tablet, the ‘Ex Hall’ is being turned into a private dorm, for visiting alumni.” Peter gets the point right away. “But it’s supposed to be for the students!” he says. Randy tells him, “We’ve been petitioning the Dean to turn the hall into a low-rent dorm for needy students! The old grads are loaded…they can bed down in hotels!” (Of course, you are talking about pricey Manhattan hotels.) The answer from the Dean “was no!” Josh adds, “but not for long!” As Josh and Randy walk off, Peter worries that trouble is brewing. “Josh is spokesman for a lot of angry cats…and I guess they’ve got a right to be!” he thinks.

And now Stan heads into some controversial territory. No, I don’t mean Peter calling his fellow students “cats.” I mean, the events of the times. As I mentioned above, this affair seems to anticipate the encounter at Berkeley between the students and the police over People’s Park in May 1969. But Stan wasn’t a futurist. There were plenty of student protests going on all over the country and they were polarizing events. Stan realizes that a great part of his readership is composed of college students so he wants to be on their side in the issues but he doesn’t want to alienate those readers (or the parents of those readers) who think of the protests as disruptive and misguided. So, he has a thin line to walk over these next few issues. We’ll see how he does. For now, Peter thinks, “Wish I had time to get more involved in this thing!” and then someone covers his eyes and says “Guess who, guru!” (I think using “cats” works. I’m not so sure about “guru.”) Peter sticks his foot in it, declaring, “Hey Mary Jane! Where’d you come from?” when the person calling him “guru” is Gwen. (Do MJ and Gwen sound alike?) “Mary Jane! Is she the first girl you thought of??” asks Gwen. “Well, she’s more the guess-who-ing type,” Peter lamely replies. (Clearly, Peter is not aware that MJ won’t appear again until ASM #82, March 1970.) Peter holds Gwen around the waist and asks, “Don’t tell me I finally found the magic words to make gorgeous Gwendolyn jealous!” “Negative,” Gwen replies, “I don’t have a jealous bone in my body! But mention her again and watch the roof fall in!” Behind them, a student in a brown shirt and wearing glasses looks back at them, almost wistfully. I understand, buddy! I’d like Gwen Stacy for my girlfriend too!

Before we move over to the Daily Bugle, where J. Jonah Jameson has just entered Joe Robertson’s office, let’s take a look at Peter’s hair. Why? Well, remember the letter last issue from Gard Wright of Willowdale, Ontario where he said “There is only one thing the matter with the mag, and that is the grease in Peter Parker’s hair. Let him grow it like every other kid. Grease went out about 60 issues ago” and I said “So…does Peter have grease in his hair? Let’s check. Oh no, we can’t. He never gets out of costume in this issue!” He’s out of costume now and I just don’t see any grease in that hair. Granted, he hasn’t let it grow long like the Hippies but neither have any of the students we’ll see at the upcoming protest. Whatever else he does to his hair, Peter is not using that greasy kid stuff.

JJJ wants to know why the Bugle didn’t get the “story about Spider-Man’s battle with Mysterio until it was all over.” He also wants to know why Peter got no photos. Robbie defends Peter, saying, “Considering the way you treat that kid, it’s a wonder you ever see him at all!” Jonah stalks off, declaring, “My own City Editor taking Parker’s side against the sweetest publisher in town! Why, oh why was I born to be a martyr?” (And, look! Betty Brant is at her desk in the background!) Robbie knows that Jonah will “get over it soon enough” but he has feelings of apprehension that he can’t shake, about Randy. He pats a photo on his desk of his wife Martha and of Randy as a boy. “He means so much…to his mother…and to me,” he thinks, “For her sake…and his…I must not fail!”

Later, Peter and Gwen show up at Anna Watson and Aunt May’s house. Anna answers the door, which is completely repaired after being smashed down by Peter back in ASM #66, November 1968. Perhaps confused by the suddenly repaired door, Anna thinks everyone in the house has the same name and says, “Come in! This will be the best possible medicine for Anna!” Peter and Gwen find May still recovering from the shock she got in ASM #66. They give her a box of candy and banter with her. May suddenly realizes that their relationship is serious. “You’ve made a silly, sentimental old lady…very, very happy,” she says but, after Peter and Gwen leave, she grows pale. A shocked Anna tells her that she should have had Peter call the doctor but May says, “I didn’t want to spoil their happiness.” (You kids have fun! I’ll just sit here and die!) So, does Anna call the doctor? We don’t find out because it’s back to E.S.U. the next morning where Peter encounters Randy and Josh and other students putting together signs for their protest rally. (“Student Committee for a Low Rent Dorm,” “Ex Hall Must Be Saved,” “Do or Die for the Dorm,” “We Demand Low Rent Dorm,” and my favorite, “E.S.U. Phew!”)

Randy calls Peter over and tells him to “line up all the cats you know and get them to contact all of their friends! Then, as soon as we have enough protesters to really rock the joint, we march on the Ex Hall!” Peter still doesn’t quite know what’s going on. (Even though the protest signs all around him should probably fill him in.) He balks, which brings Josh into the conversation. Josh doesn’t pull any punches. “Look Whitey, how much do you haveta know?” he says, “The school’s turning the Ex Hall over to the establishment…but it belongs to us…and we want it! And you just know we’re gonna get it!” Peter gets annoyed and takes the other side, asking what the Dean has to say about it. “We ain’t buyin’ what he says,” says Josh and, with that, Peter walks away. “Anyone can paint a sign, mister,” he says to Josh, “that doesn’t make you right!” Josh counters with “You’re too chicken to get involved!”

Okay, so Stan has mollified the anti-protest crowd in his audience but he can’t afford to lose the student protesters in the audience. So, he has Pete walk into Ex Hall, thinking, “Well, Brother Parker, you did it again! My sympathies are all with the kids down there…but just because I don’t like anyone to push me, I flew off the handle again!” So, it’s not that he’s against the cause, he just doesn’t like Josh pushing him around. Nice tightrope walk, Stan!

Peter walks past the petrified tablet, which is just sitting there in the hallway under a glass case with two security guards on either side of it. Peter betrays more sympathy for the cause…”It sure is a shame they’re turning this place over to the alumni after the exhibit! We really need a low-rent dorm on campus…and this would be the perfect place! I wonder why the Dean’s so obstinate?”...but he doesn’t join the protesters.

Outside, the protesters are about to make their move. First, though, another African-American student speaks up, saying, “Hey! Doesn’t Robertson’s father work for the Daily Bugle? Who wants the son of an Uncle Tom marchin’ with us?” Randy is about to take on the student but Josh cuts him off. “Randy’s a soul-brother…and don’t forget it,” he says.

The protest begins with Josh leading the group. He climbs the steps of the hall and tells the others “We need the papers, TV, radio to cover this thing! We gotta shake up the whole establishment! That means we gotta take over the hall!” It’s a pretty big crowd and, with Josh leading the way, they all rush in.

The TV networks get there pretty fast. Joe Robertson is watching the protest from the Daily Bugle. He tells Jonah that he is going down to cover the story himself. “My boy’s a student on that campus!” The Kingpin is also watching and realizes this is the perfect distraction for him to snatch the tablet. Except he says, “As soon as it gets dark, we move!” The problem with that is that Stan has already told us it is morning. So, the Kingpin is going to cool his heels all day long, secure in the knowledge that the protest will go on all day. And I guess it does. And I suppose we can justify Peter spending all day there because he starts taking photos for the Bugle. But, really, he isn’t part of the protest. Doesn’t he have classes to attend?

Inside, the protesters notice the petrified tablet. Josh gets the idea to steal it so that they’ll “have to listen to us.” But Randy objects to that and Peter gets involved again, telling Josh not to do it. One of the security guards pulls his gun, escalating the tension. Peter realizes that even Spidey is helpless in this situation so he starts taking photos.

And then the Kingpin shows up. Either he decided to come before dark or everyone stood around in Ex Hall all day or Stan has lost all track of time. The Kingpin brings three goons with him. They set off an explosion that they figure will be blamed on the students. As everyone hurries to check on the blast, the Kingpin rushes inside, tearing the front door off in his bare hands. The students recognize him as the Kingpin…but should they? Hasn’t he been behind the scenes in his previous appearances? Or is he now known to the public? The Kingpin announces, “To the exhibition chamber…quickly!” but isn’t the tablet right inside the doors? That’s how it appeared when Peter and later the protesters came in. But now it appears to be upstairs and down the hall. I think Stan has lost track of space as well as time.

Peter is there in the hallway and the Kingpin pushes him aside. He thinks, “I’ve got to act like I’m nobody special,” but still the Kingpin gets a “feeling of power…of raw strength….far more than I’d expect from a callow, cowering student.” Deciding that he’s keyed up and imagining things, the Kingpin moves on but, as he nears the stairs, Randy Robertson blocks the way to keep him from “foul[ing] up the whole demonstration.” With Randy in danger, Pete decides he must change to Spider-Man. He uses a janitor’s closet to get into his costume. By the time he emerges, the Kingpin has gone up the stairs. Seeing that Kingy’s men are armed, Randy and the others have backed off. The students think Spidey is there to disrupt the protest and they swarm the stairs but he leaps over them, telling them to “warn the police the tablet’s in danger.” And, you know what? I bet they have more important things on their minds than defending the tablet.

Randy is still smarting over not tackling the Kingpin which will not serve him in good stead in the upcoming pages. As Robbie waits outside with the police, the Kingpin enters what Stan is now calling “the tablet display room.” He and his goons have gas masks on. They charge the guards, with the Kingpin shooting gas at them from his cane. (The gas seems to be explosive what with the way the guards get thrust aside.) Spidey takes time to set up his camera, then wades in, snagging Kingy’s cane with his webbing. He quickly takes out the three goons, then uses one as a cudgel (which I love), hitting the Kingpin with a WOK!

As soon as Spidey waded in, the Kingpin’s gas mask disappeared. He doesn’t seem to need it and he immediately recovers from the goon-cudgel, rushing in and getting Spidey in a bear hug. “The man doesn’t live who can endure my bear hug without blacking out,” he says, but then he throws Spidey on the ground before the bear hug does its work. With Spidey down, Randy sneaks up behind the Kingpin and leaps on him. “One fumbling student is virtually beneath my notice!” says Kingy as he slams Randy up against the wall. (Not completely beneath his notice, just virtually beneath his notice.) But the distraction helps Spidey to get up and lay a solid punch right into the Kingpin’s gut. He follows it up with a flurry of punches to the jaw, knocking the Kingpin flat.

(I’ve been avoiding Spidey’s “fat” insults through all the Kingpin appearances but I may as well mention them here. In this fight scene, he calls Kingy, “Chubbs,” “Tubby,” and “Fatso.” Just part of Spidey’s insult banter or a constant display of weightism? I doubt today’s Spidey would use such words against an opponent.)

Spidey goes to check on Randy but the Kingpin is not unconscious. Not only that but he has fallen next to his cane which he now uses as a blaster. (Does the thing have a switch or a dial on it?) It smashes the “marble wall” behind Randy. Spidey tries to swing away with him (Johnny’s panel makes it look like he’s doing a pretty good job of it) but he can’t make it. He’s forced to protect Randy with his own body as they are both buried beneath marble. The Kingpin snatches the tablet. (What happened to the guards? And the Kingpin’s men?) “Never have I known such total triumph!” he says as he flees.

Spidey clears the rubble off of him and Randy. They’re both unhurt so Spidey takes off as the police arrive. (Why are the police coming in? Did they figure out that the Kingpin was in there? Are they breaking up the demonstration? Don’t tell me one of the students actually informed the police that the tablet was in danger, as Spidey requested!) He gets outside in time to see the Kingpin enter his car but he is distracted by the sight of the student leaders, particularly Randy and Josh, being led away by the police. Robbie calls out to Randy and Josh, “Don’t worry, boys! I’ll see that you have the best legal aid available! I know you did what you thought was right, son! I’ll be behind you all the way.” “That dad of yours is a lot of man, Randy!” says Josh. “Tell me somethin’ I don’t know, Josh,” says Randy.

And what about Spidey? He web-swings after the Kingpin’s car on a very deserted Manhattan street. “I’ll lead him into a trap from which no one can escape!” says Kingy and maybe he will because the “Next” blurb promises, “In the Kingpin’s Clutches!”

In the Marvel Bullpen Bulletins (“A Titanic Treasure Trove of Traumatically Tempting Tid-Bits, Tastefully Tossed Together To Tease and Tantalize Thee!”), Stan announces that, “it finally happened! The love bug bit our own romantic Roy Thomas, and he actually took the plunge! Yep, the Rascally One was recently married to as pretty a gal as you can find outside of a Jazzy Johnny drawing! So, if he happens to name his next few dozen heroines Jean – don’t be too surprised, hear? And the whole misty-eyed Bullpen wishes the cavortin’ couple many many long years of health, happiness, and super-hero hi-jinx.” Roy and Jean eloped causing Roy to return to work a day late from a St. Louis comic convention. He nearly lost his Dr. Strange writing gig as a result. However, the marriage did not last.

Stan also touts the Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #2, November 1968 which is still on sale. “Didja see the colorful cover of The Spectacular Spider-Man #2, now on sale? Not being content to sketch the story boards for the whole zingy issue, ol’ Ring-a-Ding Romita actually did the cover painting himself! If you wanna see living proof why Johnny’s one of the best, don’t dare miss it! (And the story’s not so bad, either!)” In the rest of the Items, Stan does his best to mention every Bullpen writer and artist. And he does a pretty good job.

The Spider’s Web is still printing letters without responses. Norman Albright of Berkeley, California writes, “It is my sad duty to have to call your attention to the inconsistent shadows in Spider-Man #65. Page 5, upper right shows a window next to Spidey’s bed with two horizontal crossbars. The same frame shows the shadow of this window also with two crossbars. On page 6, lower left, the vertical bars cast a shadow in one direction but the leg of the convict who is standing next to the bars casts a shadow in a different direction. This also happens at the top of page 20. There the guards’ shadows are in one direction but Captain Stacy’s shadow is in a different direction. Most curious of all is the top of page 9. Spider-Man and the convicts in front of him have shadows, but the convict directly behind him does not, although the light source is evidently from the left of the panel and should have caused a shadow. It seems that either the prison or your art department should be equipped with better grade light bulbs.” Why didn’t I notice any of this? Because it’s pretty damn picky, that’s why! And, in some of these panels, I don’t even see what Norman is talking about. Ah well, it got his letter printed, anyway.

Tom Prehoda of Schenectady, New York writes, “This letter could probably be addressed to any one of your fine comics, but for lack of any other mag popping into my brain, I decided to forward this to Spider-Man. On quite a few of your covers, most recently Spidey #56…you have had ‘fake’newspapers depicted in the background, bearing a story on whatever hero appears inside. I realize this is usually done to bring about a dramatic or realistic effect, but imagine if superheroes truly existed, what priority would the newspapers give their feats? This all may be totally irrelevant, as it will never happen, but just imagine. Usually when you use one of these dummy newspapers, the heroes get the banner headline, but what of pressing matters such as politics, and Vietnam, and the race problem? Would they be ‘filler’? But, come to think of it, since the hero usually does battle with humanity hanging on its fate, wouldn’t this be just as important as politics, and Vietnam, and the race problem? HMMMMNN!! Also, since a great number of heroes, including Spidey, the FF and Captain America…daily pull the world from the jaws of death, wouldn’t it get a little crowded on the front page if they tried to squeeze in these heroes’ battles in addition to the politics, and Vietnam, and the race problem? My only solution is to use very tiny type, use shorter sentences, have six front pages, or have a six-foot long three-foot wide newspaper. But, since we will never go blind reading a newspaper, be forced to stomach third-grade sentences, have an eternity spent reading a newspaper, and mainly because superheroes will never appear in newspapers, I don’t know why I wrote this fool thing in the first place.” Neither do I, Tom, but thanks for writing!

Nils Osmar of Clam Gulch, Alaska says, “As a great fan of your original artist’s earlier triumphs, and one of Jack Kirby’s most avid fans, I find it hard to believe what I’m about to say. In Spider-Man #65, Mr. Romita, coupled with the fantastic inks of Jim Mooney…surpasses all previous efforts made in the aforementioned mag, and came close to equaling the master strokes of King Kirby Himself!!!” Actually, I think Romita only did layouts here. The rest is all Jim Mooney.

RFO Ralph Sterling of Scranton, Pennsylvania says, “I really dig M.J.’s new hair style. Who does she think she is? Judy Carne?” And while I’m at it, did you notice how the “Hallowed Ranks of Marveldom” are starting to show up along with the letter writers’ names? Plus the Ranks are now listed on the letter page. When did this start happening? I’ll take a look. It looks like the “Hallowed Ranks” first showed up in ASM #64, September 1968 and the first to be published in The Spider’s Web with his ranks was Bobby Crais, RFO, KOF, QNS just last issue.

Finally, Kenwood Dennard of New York City, New York as an idea of how Spidey can go on and on without aging much. “I’ve been doing some research on spiders recently, and I discovered that spiders can live for 2 or more years. I also discovered that a big spider is about the size of a human hand. I could fit approximately 95 of my hands into the area of my body. Therefore, if a spider was enlarged 95 times, it might not only have great strength stamina, balance, etc. but it might live to be 190 years old. So, I was thinking. What if Peter Parker was born on July 30, 1948 and was bitten by a radioactive spider in 1964? This might give him a life expectancy of the above-mentioned spider (assuming that the spider’s lifespan increased with its size). Then Spidey would celebrate his birthday every 4 years, meaning that Marvel could keep webhead around for the next 190 years and he would only have had 47 ½ birthdays!” I like it, Kenwood, but that doesn’t explain how Aunt May is now younger than me.

In case you weren’t nervous enough, the “Next” blurb at the bottom of the letter page says, “See the Senses-Shattering Power of the Kingpin!”

“Two More Triumphs for Marvel…!” appears on the last page. It promotes Fantastic Four #82, January 1969 with a nice caption-less Kirby cover of the FF and the Inhumans and “The Origin of Captain America!” in Cap #109, January 1969 with a newspaper on the cover. Take that, Tom Prehoda!

General Comments

The Editor printed this letter in his latest To the Editor (14-Apr-2020) but I thought I’d reprint it here in case you missed it there. It’s from Will Kuchta and he says, “Recently I went through a photo album from when I was in Vietnam, April '68 - May '69. In there was a ‘No Prize’ envelope. I remember getting it for a letter I wrote to Spiderman. However, I have just gone through your very thorough issue reviews for 1967, 68 (69's don't seem to be available) but couldn't find any reference for my letter. I had a copy of the issue but my wife threw it out long ago. Can you help me find the right issue? I can't believe how complete your reviews are so I'm guessing it's in there but I missed it. Thanks for anything you can do.”

Well, first of all, Will, I don’t mention every letter that is published but, after getting your letter, I checked every letter page from 1967 through 1970 and came up empty. It’s possible that your letter appeared in a different series. Can anyone out there help Will out?

By the way, the petrified tablet, now known as the Lifeline tablet is appearing in the latest issues of Spidey. The webslinger spends two pages giving the history of the tablet in ASM #41 (Legacy #842), May 2020, saying, “The Lifeline tablet. I hate this thing! It’s this weird, ancient mystical Lemurian artifact of enormous (and annoying) power. I first ran into it when it was on display at Empire State University. That was the first time Kingpin tried to take it for himself…but it actually fell into the hands of…” Oops! Let’s leave it there and get to all that when we get to all that.

And, of course, Randy Robertson is currently one of Peter Parker’s roommates, along with Boomerang.

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

  1. First appearance of Louis Wilson. (His first name appears beneath a newspaper photo in ASM #74, July 1969). He’ll be back next issue.
  2. Seventh appearance of the Kingpin. His last time was ASM #61, June 1968. He’ll also be back next issue.
  3. First appearance of Josh Kittling whose last name came from who knows where? And he’s also back again next issue.
  4. Second appearance of Randy Robertson after his first last issue. And, yes, he, too, is back next issue.
  5. First appearance of the petrified tablet and, you guessed it, it’s back next issue.
  6. First appearance of Martha Robertson…in a photo. She’ll show up in the flesh in ASM #71, April 1969.
  7. First cover appearances for Randy Robertson and Josh. Randy’s next is ASM #100, September 1971. Josh is next on the cover of ASM #105, February 1972.
  8. Randy and Josh are also protesting again in ASM #105, this time against the Daily Bugle.
  9. 24th time an ASM story begins with the villain. The last time was ASM #66, November 1968. The next time is ASM #70, March 1969.
  10. Only appearance of the guy who looks back wistfully at Peter and Gwen.
  11. Second time Peter encounters a protest (after ASM #38, July 1966).
  12. First time someone calls Peter “Whitey.”
  13. Stan loses track of space and time.
  14. Spidey uses a Kingpin goon as a cudgel.
  15. Third time the Spider’s Web has no answers to the letters. (They’ll be back in ASM #70.)
  16. And, oh yeah, Peter’s hair is not greasy.

The 1969 Marvelmania International Spider-Man Portfolio checklist entry for this issue:

Romita-Mooney/Lee/Rosen
“Crisis on Campus” – A campus riot, the Kingpin, and the theft of a mysterious tablet fill this issue.

Well, there wasn’t any campus riot but, other than that…? It’s better than a lot of them.

Overall Rating

This issue deserves five webs just for tackling the subject of student protests and doing it so even-handedly. Making the issue a low-rent student dorm puts the students in a virtuous light even if Josh’s decision to occupy the Ex Hall (or steal the tablet) clouds that a bit. But Josh is only looking for publicity and you can’t fault him for his zealousness even though he treats our hero shabbily. It’s all for the cause. At this point, the E.S.U administration looks to be the villain but Stan will balance that out over the next couple of issues. The real villain here is the Kingpin who takes advantage of the situation, implicating the students in the process.

Stan takes the situation and does a fine job stirring up everyone’s emotions. J. Jonah Jameson takes one look at the protest on TV and declares it a “riot” (which is probably where the Marvelmania checklist writer got it) while Robbie insists on covering it in order to stick up for his son. But Robbie’s relation to Randy causes Randy some trouble. Another student calls him a “son of an Uncle Tom” and, while Josh defends him, he later uses this insult in his attempt to get Randy to agree to the theft of the tablet. (When Randy calls it “plain stealing,” Josh replies, “Look, man, you heard what they called your father!”) Later, though, Robbie’s defense of the students as they are arrested prompts Josh to tell Randy that his dad is “a lot of man.” Peter is not immune to the emotions swirling around here. When Josh calls him “whitey” and “too chicken to get involved,” Peter gets mad and blows the protest off. But he tells himself he is really in sympathy with the students and he tells the security guards to “go easy,” that the students are not “public enemies.” The guards deal with their own emotions with one of them going so far as pulling his gun. Interestingly, it is the Kingpin’s intervention that defuses the situation.

The Kingpin’s plan is a cynical hijacking of these emotions for his own purposes but he has emotions of his own. His avarice impels him to steal the tablet, knowing no more than that “thruout the ages, countless men have died for it” and, every time he thinks of Spider-Man his “blood begins to boil.” The contempt that he and his men have for E.S.U and the students’ attempts to right campus wrongs is exemplified in the comment made by one of his goons: “So this is what college looks like. Big deal!” Randy’s sense of right and wrong, his respect for the integrity of the demonstration causes him to confront the Kingpin even though one student tells him they’d “have been pickin’ up your pieces!” All of these emotions, all of these goals coalesce in the Ex Hall of E.S.U and threaten to explode. It is up to Spidey to keep a lid on it, first by preaching reason as Peter Parker and later telling the students to “warn the police that the tablet’s in danger.” He fails to prevent the theft of the tablet but that’s not important. For now, he has blown out the match that was about to light a fuse.

Jim Mooney does a fine job with Johnny’s storyboards and all of that emotion I talked about can be seen on his characters’ faces. The Kingpin’s smug hatred, Gwen’s embarrassment when she discovers that Aunt May has sensed her serious love for Peter, May’s repressed worry, Peter’s stress and shock in trying to resolve the confrontations, and all of the nameless student protesters who all display their emotions on their faces. And I love Spidey’s barrage of bludgeoning blows on Kingpin as shown in panel four of page 18.

It is a quiet issue in its own way and easy to overlook but it is one of the highlights of late 60s Spidey. Five webs? Absolutely five webs!

Footnote

Hey, weren’t Yellowjacket and the Wasp getting married? We, and Spidey, will attend in Avengers #60, next time.