Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #73

 Posted: 15 Mar 2022
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)

Background

Oh, look at this! I already reviewed this issue 20 years ago. My “Background” section is no longer current and it gives a rundown of events from previous issues that we probably no longer need, but…I rather like it as it is, so I’m leaving it here, in red , for posterity.

This looking back is prompted by the recent release of a new Spider-Man limited series, Spider-Man: Lifeline. That new story has its roots in the classic tale which introduced a tablet on which was inscribed the secrets of the formula of eternal life. If you're reading Lifeline, you may appreciate this timely summary of what came before...

The story of the Petrified Tablet spanned over half a year of 1969 Amazing Spider-Man comics. It began in ASM #68, January 1969 when the Kingpin learned that a mysterious ancient tablet had been discovered and was on display at Empire State University. Under cover of a student protest over low rent for dorms, the Kingpin battles Spider-Man and succeeds in stealing the tablet. (This issue also introduces Randy Robertson, currently Peter Parker's roommate.) In ASM #69, February1969, Spidey invades the Kingpin's headquarters, captures the mob leader, and takes the tablet back. But when he tries to return it to the cops, they shoot at him.

A fed-up webhead declares "if they call me a menace and treat me like a menace, I might as well BE a menace!" In ASM #70, March 1969, everyone is convinced that Spidey is the Kingpin's partner in the snatching of the tablet. Everywhere he goes, the cops try to shoot him. The Kingpin breaks jail and takes on the wall-crawler again. J. Jonah Jameson gets involved and Spidey gets so fed up with the publisher's bashing that he grabs him and threatens him. A terrified JJJ has an apparent heart attack and Spidey flees the scene, worried sick that he may have killed his boss.

In ASM #71, April 1969, we learn that JJJ suffered a case of shock. While he is in the hospital, Joe Robertson buys and publishes photos from Peter that show the web-slinger battling the Kingpin. These photos clear Spidey of wrongdoing. The wall-crawler decides to give the tablet to Captain George Stacy for safekeeping. Oh, and he fights and defeats Quicksilver just for the heck of it. In ASM #72, May 1969, the Shocker smashes his way into the Stacy home, attacks the Captain, and steals the tablet. Spidey eventually defeats the villain but does not recover the tablet because the Shocker has stashed it somewhere. And Flash Thompson is back in town; on leave from the army.

Story 'The Web Closes!'

  Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #73
Summary: Man Mountain Marko and Silvermane
Arc: Part 1 of 'The Secret of the Petrified Tablet' (1-2-3)
Editor: Stan Lee
Writer: Stan Lee
Pencils: John Buscema, John Romita, Sr.
Inker: Jim Mooney
Cover Art: John Romita, Sr.
Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #54
Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #4

We start with a stark cover showing Spidey being manhandled by some guy who looks like he came out of professional wrestling or the Elvis comeback special. The background is all white, making the two figures stand out. The “wrestler” dominates the image. We look at him first and then down at Spidey who is so beaten that his bare back is shown as his opponent tugs on his shirt, untucking it. The blurb at the bottom gives us our title, “The Web Closes!” The other blurb tells us the “wrestler’s” name. “Featuring: Man-Mountain Marko!” (Perhaps inspired by the professional wrestler Man Mountain Dean?)

The splash page calls him, “The Sensational Man-Mountain Marko,” but there really isn’t anything sensational about him. He’s actually a pretty forgettable villain. To be fair, the cover and the splash page are deceptive, since they imply that Marko is the sole opponent when he is really only a part of the whole…the whole being the Maggia. Marvel’s version of the Mafia, the Maggia first appeared in Avengers #13, December 1964 under the control of Count Nefaria. It is later established that there are several Maggia “families” and the so-called “Silvermane Family” originates here. Let’s jump in. It is night at the Stacy home. The Amazing Spider-Man has slipped unseen into Captain George Stacy's bedroom. He is feeling guilty about causing the captain’s injuries at the hands of the Shocker. (After all, if Spidey hadn't left the tablet with Stacy, the Shocker wouldn't have attacked.) Now he just wants to make sure the captain is all right. As Spidey watches, Gwen enters the room to check on her dad. The wall-crawler is struck by her beauty ("She must have taken a double dose of pretty pills today!") and can't believe he's actually "hanging around on the ceiling when he could have a dream-thing like Gwen in his arms," but he waits patiently until she leaves. Before she does, though, she asks her father if Peter Parker has called. She's afraid Pete is still angry over the confrontation he had with Flash Thompson the day before (in ASM #72, May 1969. Gwen acts as if silence from Peter is unimportant ("He's not the only boy in the world!") but her father sees right through her ("If he's not the only boy in the world why do your eyes glow that way when you mention him, young lady?") "Nitey nite, Mister Cupid," Gwen tells her dad.

Once Gwendy leaves, Spidey leaps down from the ceiling to talk to the captain. First, he must take a tongue-lashing from the ex-detective, who is not pleased with the wall-crawler sneaking into his place ("Just because I don't think you're as bad as you're painted, that doesn't mean I like having my house broken into!") Spidey apologizes and George asks him, “What do you want to know?”

Spidey has come to Stacy in search of any clue as to where the Shocker may have hidden the petrified tablet. Initially, George cannot think of anything. Instead, he wants to know why the wall-crawler is so interested in recovering it. Spidey tells him that there are still doubters (J. Jonah Jameson among them) who think he had a hand in stealing it. He would like to return it in order to completely clear his name. Since George cannot help, Spider-Man exits through the bedroom window. But the captain yells at him to "Wait!" He has just remembered that the Shocker had a girlfriend who "paid his bail once or twice." She "called herself an exotic dancer" (I wouldn't have thought the Shocker had it in him) and lives near the Theatre District on the West Side. “Know something?” says Spidey,”you’re a regular Earl Wilson.” (Earl Wilson [1907-1987] was a New York Post columnist who covered the Broadway theater scene.) Spidey thanks the captain and swings off. George implores him to not take the law into his own hands. "Oh, perish forbid," Spidey says.

Crossing Manhattan, Spider-Man realizes that he didn't even think to ask Captain Stacy if he knew the Shocker's girlfriend's name. Thus, he is forced to swing around the neighborhood hoping to trigger his spider-sense. (Well, he could have just gone back to the Stacy house to ask George, but that's the easy way out. And, besides, as far as I can tell, the Shocker’s girlfriend has no name.) After an hour of scouring the area, his spider-sense starts to tingle. It leads him to a top floor apartment window. Should his spider-sense tingle simply because he has located the petrified tablet? Well, the question is moot because there’s also an argument going on inside. “Sounds like some kind of fight,” says Spidey. More than that, he hears “voices…yelling about a hidden tablet."

Spidey decides he is in luck. Then he peeks through the window and sees the size of the man inside and wonders if "maybe I'm not so lucky" after all.

The apartment is in a shambles. There are two people in the room. One is an attractive orange-haired woman in a mini-skirt and fishnet stockings. (This is the Shocker's girl-friend? Yow! Maybe I should try to wear a quilt over my head!) The other is an immense man; seven feet tall (the Marko entry at The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe, lists him at 6’11”), a great shock of combed-back black hair with wide 60s sideburns, and a forest of chest hair revealed by a V-necked, wide-collared pullover which may be a leather jacket or a shirt made of Saran Wrap. The man's pants are made of the same material and only reach to the top of his ankle, the better to show off his blue suede shoes. This whole look just has to be influenced by the leather ensemble worn by Elvis Presley in his 1968 TV special.

Initially, the woman denies that the Shocker left the tablet with her. The giant tells her that he is Man-Mountain Marko, an enforcer for the criminal organization known as the Maggia. If the Maggia believes the tablet is there, Marko will tear the place apart until he finds it. The woman admits that she has it but tells Marko she is afraid of what will happen to her if the Shocker learns that she double-crossed him. The big man scoffs at this. After all, the Shocker is in prison and represents no immediate danger. Rather, it is Man-Mountain Marko who should worry her. To prove this, Marko picks up a large love seat and rips it apart with his bare hands.

Spidey has seen enough. He busts right through the window and confronts the giant. However, Marko strikes first, delivering a right-handed punch that lands the web-slinger on his can. The Maggia goon moves in for the kill but Spidey grabs him around the wrist and flings him hard against and through the wall. "Man-Mountain, huh?” he says, “To me, Charlie", you're just an ant hill".

The wall-crawler turns to the poor woman whose apartment is trashed (and it's going to get worse!) and tells her to turn the tablet over to him. She is so terrified that she can do little more than cringe. Spidey doesn't know if she's afraid of him or Marko or of what the Shocker may do to her but he knows he must "calm her down somehow". While Spidey tries to reason with her, Man-Mountain returns to the room via the hole he made in the wall. He sneaks up on Spidey and pummels him with a nearby armchair (another piece of furniture shattered). "This makes us even, pantywaist!" he bellows.

And, at a nearby precinct, the Kingpin's assistant Wilson (whom we last saw when Spidey captured him back in ASM #69, February 1969) languishes in jail. He has just decided that he "was a fool to work for the Kingpin" when a policeman unlocks the cell and tells him that someone posted his bail. Wilson straightens his tie and smugly decides that the Kingpin can't function without him. But it isn't the Kingpin who has bailed him out. It is Caesar Cicero, known as “Big C.” (Which is slang for cancer, isn’t it?) He is a short man with a well-groomed beard, who smokes a cigar, and wears a pinstriped suit with spats, a fur-trimmed coat and a fedora that puts his eyes completely in shadow. The desk sergeant tells Wilson to think twice before leaving with “a character like him,” but Wilson tells him, “Mister, I’d take off with Typhoid Mary just to get out of here.” Outside, Wilson recognizes his benefactor as “The big-time mouthpiece for the Maggia” but notes that “you’re not exactly a chatterbox, are you?” (He’s a mouthpiece but not a chatterbox! I get it!) Cicero and Wilson climb into a Maggia car. Caesar notes that Wilson was "The Kingpin's biggest brain" and knows "more about the tablet than anyone,” then tells him they have a line on the tablet and will soon get a hold of it. When they do, they will need someone who can reveal the tablet's secret. When Wilson tells him that he doesn't know the secret, Big C says, "Then that's just too bad... for you!" (And from the look of the Maggia goon driving the car, I’d say that is probably true.)

Back at the trashed apartment, Man-Mountain Marko has lifted a bed in one hand and thrown it against the wall. This action jars the wall enough to reveal a safe hidden behind "a two-bit painting." (A nice little feature for a West Side apartment. Is that standard?) Ignoring the woman's protestations, Marko rips the safe door off with one huge hand. Before he can reach inside, Spidey takes him on again. With a roar of "You half-pint punk, I'll mop up the place with ya!" MM tries to kick the webster, but Spidey ducks underneath. The wall-crawler springs up behind Marko, jumps on his back, and starts punching. This has no effect. ("This is ridiculous", he thinks, "I keep socking and he keeps standing!") Man-Mountain leans down and rams Spidey into the wall. While our hero is still trying to recover his bearings, Marko reaches into the safe and pulls out the petrified tablet. The big man is content to leave Spidey behind ("He can't go blabbin' to the cops any more'n I can!") but he feels that the woman knows too much and must be silenced. (Besides, she has no place to live anymore.) Before the giant can make a move, Spidey leaps up and punches him squarely on the jaw. "If you're still spoiling for a fight", he says, "How about trying me for size?"

Over at the Daily Bugle, Joe Robertson is lecturing his son Randy who is considering quitting school. Randy thinks college is making him a tool of the white man. "What's the point bein' a success in whitey's world?", he asks his father, "Why must we play by his rules?" Robbie replies, "The rules are the same... no matter who the players are." He has no problem with Randy wanting to be a militant ("Maybe we need more of that stripe!") but giving up education is giving up "the greatest power of all.” Joe admits that he may be behind the times but he still wants "what's best for my people... just outside that door... there's a war going on, a war against bigotry, injustice and want! It takes weapons to fight a war, son, and without education, you're a soldier unarmed." Randy understands his dad's point of view but thinks it is cheapened by the fact that Robbie has "got it made here in whitey's world,” as opposed to "other brothers who played it your way, who got their sheepskins and still can't make it on the outside." “I wasn’t promising Utopia,” replies Robbie, but then the conversation is interrupted by the arrival of an angry J. Jonah Jameson.

Fresh out of the hospital, Jonah has learned that Robbie published photos that cleared the web-slinger of wrongdoing. He accuses Robbie of being a "Quisling," a "Benedict Arnold." Robbie stands up to Jonah's tirade. "I call 'em as I see 'em!" he tells the publisher, no matter how JJJ feels about "that web-slinging weasel." When Jameson threatens to fire him, Robbie says, "If you want the news distorted because of your own paranoiac vendetta, get yourself another Joe!" With that, Jonah backs down, the only way he can, by pretending Robbie has apologized, by wondering why Robbie got so heated ("Used to be a man could enjoy blowin' his top once in a while!") and by leaving his editor with one final expression of authority ("Just remember one thing from now on... I pay your salary here, not that crummy webhead!"). Randy is proud of his dad for standing up for himself but, after JJJ leaves, he wonders aloud why "you haveta take all that bull from a racist like him?" Robbie tells his son, "You've got a good brain, use it! Jameson is no more a racist than Little Eva, He’s a big blundering blowhard with a hang-up about Spider-Man! But just 'cause he's white, it doesn't make him a racist! We'll never get anywhere till we recognize who our real enemies are!" All in all, Stan provides Robbie with some fine speeches here and does a tremendous job of delving into the thoughts and beliefs of each character but…what’s with the Little Eva comment? She was an African-American singer best known for the hit The Loco-Motion. But maybe Robbie’s referring to the little girl in Uncle Tom’s Cabin whose life is saved by the slave Uncle Tom and who then begs her father to buy him. Back at the apartment, as Stan puts it, "a certain young lady has absolutely no problem in being able to tell who her enemy is!" Why is that? Because Man-Mountain Marko has got his big mitt around her wrist and is holding her out the window! Marko goads Spidey, telling him "here's your chance to be a hero!" Even as Spidey times his leap, Man-Mountain drops the woman. Spidey jumps right through the window, which is precisely what Marko wants. With the webhead busy, he can escape with the tablet.

While in mid-air, Spider-Man shoots out a thin stream of webbing and snags the Shocker's girlfriend just above the heads of bystanders on the street. (This works less well when he shoots webbing to rescue Gwen Stacy in ASM #121, June 1973.) He maneuvers his body so that he can cling to the wall, then he carefully lets the woman down. But, instead of leaving her down below or bringing her up by the stairs, the web-slinger scales the outside wall, holding the woman casually in one hand. "You'll be okay now, Miss," he tells her as he brings her back to her destroyed apartment. But she sure doesn't look okay. She looks like she's in serious need of a lengthy rest cure. And where can she get that rest cure? She’s probably going to be evicted.

By this time, Caesar Cicero and Wilson have arrived at the office of Silvermane. Wilson recognizes him as "one of the last of the legendary old-time leaders of the Maggia" and Silvermane is certainly old. (Yes, he has a lined face and silvery-gray hair, but the main reason we know he's old is that he keeps telling us!) He sits behind a large desk, reclining in his chair, dressed in a gray suit with a blue vest and smoking a cigarette in a holder. Big C introduces Wilson to Silvermane and the Maggia boss lectures Cicero for acting "without my orders!" He has no use for Wilson, who he regards as nothing but "a worthless pawn of the Kingpin." Clearly, there is a power struggle here between Silvermane and Big C and neither is shy about revealing it. Silvermane tells Caesar "to return to your plotting as you scheme anew for a means to depose me." Big C leaves with the parting shot of "not even you can order me about this way, Silvermane!"

Wilson is left behind with Silvermane. The old man decides to use him since he has him. “The tablet is on its way,” he says, “We will study it together.” And, talk about service! In the very next panel, Man-Mountain Marko enters the office, carrying the tablet. Silvermane has Wilson examine it and he confirms its authenticity. Marko wants to know what the "nutty-lookin' scratches" on it are. Silvermane tells him they are hieroglyphics and "they are the key to one of the greatest secrets of all time!"

Out in the city, Spidey decides that he won't be able to find Man-Mountain Marko without a lead. He heads home and swings into the window of his apartment under the cover of night. (“No one’s apt to see me swinging into the window at this time of night!” he says, “And even if they did…what would they do about it?” Well, they could call the police, I suppose, and say that Spider-Man was breaking into an apartment.) Spidey has no worries once he is inside because Harry is out on another date. (With MJ? We haven’t had a mention of her since ASM #70, March 1969 when Peter said of Harry, “It’s lucky for me that he’s dating MJ tonight!”) He starts thinking of how he needs to earn some money to pay for Aunt May’s Florida vacation. And thinking of Florida reminds him that he wanted to call Dr. Curt Connors. “It would be a gas if I could get a summer job, working for him. Not only would I be able to look after Aunt May but I could learn more natural science from Curt Connors than anyone I know!” He decides to “invest in one long-distance call.” But he doesn’t get Curt who is “usually working in his lab late at night.” Instead, he wakes Mrs. Connors. She tells him that Curt isn’t there; that “he just left unexpectedly with a couple of men” whom she’d never seen before. Pete apologizes for bothering her and hangs up but he thinks it’s strange since, “Doc Connors almost never leaves his lab in the Everglades! He knows the danger…in case something should go wrong again…if he should happen to turn into…the Lizard!” Pete leans up against a bookcase (there is a photo of Gwen, signed “Love, Gwen” on his desk) and wonder who the two men were who took Connors “or where he went with them…in the middle of the night.”

Before we answer that, let’s tackle the question as to whether Mrs. Connors, or Curt for that matter, should know who Peter Parker is. Curt has previously appeared in ASM #6, November 1963, ASM #32, January 1966, ASM #33, February 1966, ASM #43, December 1966, ASM #44, January 1967, and ASM #45, February 1967. At this point, his wife Martha has only been in ASM #6, ASM #44, and ASM #45. In ASM #33, Curt synthesizes the serum that will save Aunt May’s life. Spidey has been careful about not revealing too much but on page 13, panel #5, he asks Curt, “Would you call the hospital and tell them I’m on the way with the serum?” When Curt makes that call, he probably finds out who the patient is. In ASM #43, with Curt helping him create a serum to melt the Rhino’s hide, Spidey excuses himself to make a phone call. On page 15, panel #4, he calls Aunt May from another room, saying, “This is Peter! Don’t wait up for me…See you in the morning, Aunt May.” So, if Curt heard this and found out who the patient was in ASM #33, he could have put two and two together, although there is no indication that this is the case. Ah, but it’s not Curt who answers the phone here, it’s Martha. And, in ASM #44, page 6, panel #1, Peter thinks of Martha, “She doesn’t know Peter Parker – but she met me as Spider-Man during my battle with the Lizard.” So, after all this, I would say that Martha should not know Peter Parker from Adam and is probably not pleased about being awakened by a strange boy. Except that Curt has just been taken away by two strange men and Martha has gone to bed without worrying about it, so, maybe these things happen all the time.

So, where is Curt? In Silvermane’s office, of course, where Big C tells Silvermane, “So…you want the secret of the tablet, eh? All it took was one phone call to our boys down south…to get them to put Dr. Connors on the first plane to New York.” (Didn’t he “just” leave Florida, “in the middle of the night?” How fast was that plane, anyway?) Silvermane is not pleased that Big C has again acted on his own but he is happy to have Connors. Curt tells him, “I’m just a dime-a-dozen research scientist” but Silvermane thinks Curt is “just the man we need.” (Yes, Curt is a genius but is this common knowledge? Well, the Daily Bugle did blab about him in an article last issue.) With Marko looming over them, Curt tells Silvermane, “you can’t keep me here!…It isn’t safe!” Silvermane asks him “why?” In case we haven’t gotten the idea already, the last panel shows us a distressed Curt, replying, “I can’t answer that,” while an image of the Lizard looms behind him and the “Next” blurb says “All Bedlam Breaks Loose!” All of which seems to imply that the Lizard will appear next issue but that turns out not to be the case. Still, you know what they say…If Curt worries up an image of the Lizard (not to mention if Peter mentions the Lizard a few panels earlier and Stan includes a five-panel Lizard flashback in the previous issue), you can be sure there will be a Lizard appearance before too much longer.

There’s all sort of news in the Bullpen Bulletins (“Awe-Inspiring Announcements to Yawn With!”) First, Stan announces the 3 savings bond winners that came from a questionnaire. Stan asks, “Remember the questionnaire which appeared in our mags some months back, asking you to answer various questions about yourselves in order to give us a more accurate understanding of our rabid readers?” and, no, I don’t remember that at all.

After he tells us that Neal Adams has joined the Bullpen to draw X-Men, he tells us that Gene Colan “is about ready to tackle another new feature for us. But he hasn’t yet decided which one he wants to do. So how about helping Genial Gene, Gang? Which strip would you like to see him lend his awesome artistic talents to?” He also lets us know that Jim Steranko “is working on a brand-new feature which will shortly be spot-lighted in Marvel Super-Heroes. And, talk about a secret – he hasn’t even told US what it is!” So, what was Gene’s next assignment? I suspect it was Captain America even though he had probably already finished his work on Cap #116, August 1969 at the time Stan was asking for suggestions. As for Steranko, I have no idea. Marvel Super-Heroes goes all-reprint with its next issue and the only Steranko stories published by Marvel in the next year or so are two 7-pagers, neither the sort of thing that MSH would spotlight. Anybody have any idea what this was going to be?

Stan then announces that Jack Kirby is moving to California (“Poor Stan has conniptions every time he thinks of the long-distance phone bills.” Don’t worry, Stan, you’ll only have those phone calls for a couple of years or so.) He goes on to list the other Bullpenners who don’t live in New York. “Barry Smith…recently returned to England…Dan Adkins in far-off Ohio…Sam Grainer, North Carolina…Sal Buscema, Virginia…J. Steranko and …J. Craig both have their pads in Pennsylvania…Tom Sutton, Massachusetts…Jim Mooney, Connecticut…Vince Colletta…Johnny Severin…Gene Colan, all nesting in New Jersey.” He finishes with this story: “about Jolly Solly Brodsky. A few days ago, he announced that he, stunning Selma, and the children were finally moving. So, the Bullpen started to prepare the usual pandemonious party they throw for such momentous occasions. Then, when everything was set, the Jolly One calmly announced his new destination – a few flights up in the same apartment house! And he wonders why no one’s spoken to him since!”

The Spider's Web features letters from future pros Peter Sanderson Jr., then of Milton, Massachusetts and Marc De Matteis, then of Brooklyn, New York. Peter apologizes for doubting the Kingpin’s great strength because he read in the Guinness Book of Worth Records that “the world’s weightlighting [sic] record, set in 1957 by a 364-pound man [was] six thousands [sic] pounds!” Stan doubts it (“that record sounds as amazing to us as it obviously did to you”) and so do I. Are you sure you read that right, Peter? Marc requests stories with “the Scorpion, Molten Man, and the Looter.” Stan says, “Hooo-boy…we’d almost forgotten the lugubrious Looter ourselves” and he writes no more Spidey stories with any of these villains. Did JM De Matteis use any of these villains? Would somebody please check?

The most interesting letter, though, is not from Peter or Marc but from Bennet Marks of Levittown, New York. In it, he writes, “Gwen now thinks he’s a coward, Harry’s and Peter’s friendship has almost broken up twice…all because they don’t know he’s Spider-Man. So the logical solution is: tell them!...Let’s face it, his excuses are getting worse every month. He won’t tell Gwen because he loves her? Boy, is that irrational! People who love each other should have very few secrets, if any at all, remember? And there’s no reason to limit it to Gwen and Harry. Of course, the whole thing works better if Aunt May isn’t around but that isn’t a necessity…I envision Peter telling, along with Harry and Gwen, Mary Jane, Flash, Randy Robertson, and maybe Joe Robertson, George Stacy, and Curt Connors…About the Aunt May problem: actually, the only valid reason young Mr. Parker has for keeping his secret down to as few people as possible…is to keep his aunt from finding out. …The practical answer is to have Aunt May pass away from natural causes…After this aptly-timed unfortunate occurrence, Peter can tell his friends who he really is.” Well, Bennet, your fellow letter-writer, Marc D Matteis, tried his best to get rid of Aunt May in ASM #400, April 1995 but did it stick? No.

Bennet is not the only one arguing for Spidey to reveal his identity. Bill Kerr of Lawrence, Kansas writes, “a confidant could help in many ways to put Peter Parker on a more even keel. The choices are three and obvious. The first is Captain Stacy. He is the sharpest, most rational, and is in a good position to help Spidey in his troubles with the police. However, he is the father of Spidey’s girl, which could lead to complications without end. Secondly, there is Gwen herself. If Peter really loves her, she doesn’t deserve to not be allowed to help him. But naturally, she would always be fearful for him every time he swung into action. I doubt if Spidey could stand up to that. Lastly, there is Joe Robertson. If Jolly Jonah dies, he would be the logical one to help clear Spidey of first-degree charges. If he lives, he would be a natural to possibly help circumvent Jameson’s hate campaign. …For approximately the last eight or ten issues, there have been strong allusions in your magazine that one of these three will soon share all or a part of Spidey’s secret. Anticipating you, I think now is the time.” Ah, but unfortunately, now was not the time. Instead, we only learn that Captain Stacy has figured Spidey’s identity as Stacy dies in ASM #90, November 1970. Robbie often seems to know but that has never been nailed down. And as for Gwen, you have to wonder if she would have fared better in ASM #121, June 1973 if she had been as in on the secret as the Green Goblin was.

And speaking of Gwen…one more letter worth quoting, this one from Brad Ramsey of Lima, Ohio. “I just picked up issue #70, and I quote, ‘Skip it, Mr. Parker! It’s just no fun…losing your stupid heart…to someone who’s always making like…a coward!’ I thought, after I read the last issue, that you were going to get them hitched, but if you don’t want Pete to have Gwen, I’ll take her!!!” Me too, Brad! Me too!

The bottom “Next” blurb says, “The Secret of the Tablet!” Can we stand to wait the 30 days to find out?

General Comments

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

  1. First appearances of Man-Mountain Marko, Caesar Cicero, and Silvermane. They are all back next issue.
  2. Third appearance of Louis Wilson, who hasn’t gotten his first name yet. He’s also back next issue.
  3. Only appearance of the Shocker’s girl friend who never does get a name.
  4. And speaking of names, Marko gets the first name Michael in Web of Spider-Man #82, November 1991 and Silvermane’s full name is revealed in The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #6, June 1983 (in the Maggia entry) as Silvio Manfredi. Yes, Silvermane gets one of those lazy, uninspired names that are derived from his villain name. It isn’t enough that he is “Silvermane” because of his flowing silver hair, no, he has to be Silvio Manfredi, for gosh sakes. Just like it isn’t enough that Harley Quinn got her name because she’s a harlequin, no, she has to be named Harleen Quinzel. Don’t get me started.
  5. The Maggia was last seen in Iron Man #8, December 1968 but that was the Nefaria family.
  6. Seventh appearance of Curt Connors, not counting last issue’s flashback and newspaper photo.) He’s only the Lizard in three of those and this isn’t one of them, except for that ominous image in the last panel.
  7. So what was the “new, vital, highly-secret experiment” that Curt was working on, as mentioned last issue? Maybe we’ll find out in the issues ahead.
  8. First time that Spidey’s bare back has been shown on the cover. Has it been shown in the insides?
  9. ”The Web Closes,” but on what? Why, the secret of the petrified tablet, of course!
  10. First time Captain Stacy tells Spidey his home is not Grand Central Station.
  11. He, Joe Robertson, and JJJ will take a few issues off. George and Joe are back in ASM #76, September 1969 and Jonah is back in ASM #78, November 1969.
  12. Spidey saves the Shocker’s girlfriend by snagging her with webbing as she falls. Why doesn’t this work 48 issues later?
  13. And what happens to the Shocker’s girlfriend? She’s left traumatized and homeless but we never see her again.

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

Romita-J. Buscema-Mooney/Lee/Rosen
“The Web Closes” – New foes Man-Mountain Marko and Silvermane capture the tablet.

Overall Rating

The petrified tablet saga continues with a whole slate of new characters. Only Wilson serves as a conduit to the previous issues. This is a bit disconcerting; almost as disconcerting as seeing Spidey getting beaten up on the cover by a guy wearing Elvis’ leather suit. Spidey’s role in this issue is little more than duking it out with that Elvis-suit-wearing guy but Stan stitches the issue together nicely with the scenes involving Wilson, Big C, and Silvermane. None of the new characters seem very promising but, at this stage, the “main character” of the piece is the petrified tablet and the next issue blurb announcing “The Secret of the Tablet” makes it all feel worthwhile. In other words, in spite of some nice character development with George Stacy’s relationship with Spidey and the terrific scene involving Robbie, Randy and Jonah, it’s essentially a set-up issue. It’s well done, it looks like it’s heading for something truly interesting, but it’s still a set-up issue. Three webs.

Footnote

It's nothing more than a one-panel cameo but that’s no excuse. Prince Namor The Sub-Mariner #14 is next.

 Posted: 15 Mar 2022
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)