Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #142

 Posted: 2002
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)


Part two of our two part look at Mysterio II.

Story 'Dead Man's Bluff!'

The next day, Spider-Man goes diving in the Hudson River, looking for his wrecked spider-mobile. He finds it easily enough but doesn't know what to do about it. It is tilted on its side with a shattered windshield and has generally just become part of the junk sitting at the bottom of the river. As he resurfaces, he thinks back to the moment when he was sure that the pier above was an alley. "Was I hallucinating on my own" he wonders, "or was someone making me hallucinate?" He finds his old perch on the crossboard underneath the pier, takes off his mask, removes a miniature scuba respirator from his mouth, and thinks way back to the time Mysterio tried to convince him he was going mad (in ASM #24, May 1965). Mysterio appears to be behind this plot, too, except that Ned Leeds informed him that Mysterio died in prison.

While pondering all this, he puts weight on his right hand and immediately regrets it. Both hands are still very sore from using "a brick wall for a punching bag". He takes off his gloves and looks at his still-bandaged mitts. "I'm lucky I didn't fracture them," he tells himself and then he stops the chatter and listens very carefully. There are "footsteps up on top of the pier". So, the webhead puts his gloves and mask back on, leaps up to the pier and finds himself mask-to-globe with Mysterio!

Mist swirls around the villain and he has his hands outstretched as if he is casting a magic spell but he makes no sound. Spidey interprets this as contempt and it riles him enough to go on the attack. He runs right at the villain and leaps right at his midsection... only to pass right through Mysterio's body. He lands on his hands on the other side, which sends a jolt of pain through his whole body. With that, Mysterio turns, points at him, and calls him an imbecile and "a bungling child". Spidey responds by calling Mysterio a "crummy imposter". He knows that the real Mysterio is dead which must make this fellow "a cheap phony" (or... dare we say it... a copycat). (Actually, I find it a bit surprising that Spidey immediately accepts Mysterio's death when he knows the villain is the master of illusion. And, in fact, in later issues, it is established that Mysterio faked his death at this time.)

The man in the Mysterio outfit scoffs at Spidey's statements. He declares that he is both the real Mysterio and dead. "I swore I would revenge myself against you" he tells the web-spinner and now he is fulfilling that vow by coming back as a ghost. To prove this, he takes off his helmet. There is no head underneath.

Spidey refuses to believe it (though he does seem to panic a little bit). Declaring it must all be an illusion, he covers Mysterio from head to foot with webbing. Then he comes up to the webbed figure and starts tearing away webbing. (Though it looks like it is already dissolving from the ever-present mist.) "Come out, come out, where-ever you are" he calls but this taunt sticks in his throat as he pulls all the webbing away and finds nobody (or no body) underneath.

And so, our hero heads home to his new Chelsea apartment. He still has no furniture for it but he does have a telephone. He sits on the floor and calls his Aunt May. When the phone rings, May is watching a doctor show on the tube. She is happy to break away and talk with her nephew. During the conversation, Mary Jane walks in (Pete has left his door wide open). "Take a seat, MJ", Pete offers. She sits on the floor facing him. As Pete continues his talk with his Aunt, Mary Jane pulls a mirror and some lipstick out of her purse and begins applying a new coat of red. But behind her, a strange mist starts to build up again.

And so, even as Peter assures his Aunt that "nothing's wrong", he looks up and sees the Kingpin materializing behind MJ. Without thinking, he yells at her to "Look out!" and then throws the phone with enough force to knock a chunk of plaster out of the wall. Mary Jane just manages to duck out of the way. Aunt May's frightened voice comes out of the phone, screaming, "Peter! Peter, what happened!"

The image of the Kingpin disappears, which makes Pete realize that he must have been another illusion created by Mysterio. Pete picks up the phone and tries to calm May down by telling her "it was a mistake". He tells her he's sorry, he tells her not to worry, and he gets off the phone. MJ gently puts a hand on him and tells him she's pretty worried about him too.

Then Gloria Grant enters the apartment, preceded by landlady Mrs. Muggins who is hefting a broom like a club. (Pete, you've got to close that door, man!) Mrs. M. tells Pete "this is an apartment building, not a boxing ring." "If you're the sort of man who likes to throw things around" she continues, "well, then you can throw yourself right out of here". Pete assures her that he only dropped the phone and that it was an accident. Pete and MJ both look so innocent that Mrs. Muggins lets it go this time. "But watch yourself, sonny" she says in departing, "I'm warning you".

Gloria stays behind, which gives Pete a chance to introduce her to Mary Jane. ("Glory. Cute name" says MJ. "MJ. Spiffy tag" says Glory.) Gloria has stopped by to invite Pete, who she calls "Peter, my man" to a party she's having next weekend. When she leaves, MJ reacts to the "Peter, my man" and wonders how long Pete has known Gloria. "As a matter of fact, MJ" he says as they leave the apartment and finally close that door, "I'm not sure".

Uptown at the Daily Bugle, a jubilant J. Jonah Jameson is on the phone. The person on the other end of the line reports that he has his target so rattled he thinks he is dealing with a ghost. (No need to be obscure here. Clearly, JJJ is talking to Mysterio about Spider-Man.) Jonah offers extra money if Mysterio can keep it up. When he hangs up the phone, he is so worked up that he wrings his hands with glee. Imagining that a monument will one day be built to him, reading "Jonah Jameson, the man who destroyed Spider-Man", JJ kicks up into the air and clicks his heels.

From outside Jonah's office, Betty Brant and Joe Robertson hear a loud "thudd". They enter quickly and find Jonah sprawled out on the floor. But he doesn't seem hurt or upset. In fact, he is all smiles. He puts his arm around Robbie and tells him "it's occurred to me you could use a raise". He pinches Betty Brant's cheek and infers that she will be getting a raise too. Then he shoos them out of his office, leaving Betty and Robbie shrugging their shoulders and wondering if, in some way, they've just been taken.

Just then, Peter and MJ walk up and join Betty and Robbie. (They must have absolutely flown up from Chelsea.) Robbie pulls Pete aside to talk about his claim that Mysterio has returned. Betty and MJ go over to the coffee machine for their own conversation. Betty reminds MJ of a talk they had at her Christmas party "last year" (in ASM #131, April 1974) in which MJ told her she didn't want to get serious with Peter. Now, sipping coffee, MJ replies that "maybe things have changed". Ned Leeds walks up and joins them. He puts his arm around Betty and asks MJ if she's heard the news. Betty tells MJ that she and Ned have "finally set the date" to get married. Mary Jane is so knocked out by the news that she gives Betty a big hug, sheds a tear and can only say, "Far out. That's simple the most... Far out. I can't tell you how... Wow." Then she decides that Peter has to hear the news. She calls him over and, next thing you know, Pete is shaking Ned's hand and Robbie is giving Betty a kiss on the cheek. Robbie wishes Betty every happiness. Pete tells Ned "it's about time".

Pete and MJ then take the elevator down to the lobby. As they descend, Pete recalls that Betty was his first love and that he "hated Ned Leeds' guts" at one time. But "times change, loves change"... or maybe not. As the elevator doors open, Pete sees a blonde-haired woman in a green mini-skirt just heading from the lobby to the outdoors and he knows right away it is his dead girl friend, Gwen Stacy. Ditching MJ in the elevator, Pete runs outside in pursuit. Gwen has already crossed the street and the busy New York traffic bars Peter's way. He stops, halfway convinced that this must be another of Mysterio's illusions but equally afraid that he truly is going insane. Whatever the truth, the trauma of seeing his lost love nearly overwhelms him. He covers his face with one of his bandaged hands and breaks out into a sweat. MJ catches up to him and expresses her concern but Pete is not in the mood for it. He tells MJ that he "better be alone for a while" and that he'll call her later. Then, he walks off and leaves her.

As evening falls, Peter recovers from his trauma enough to don his Spidey duds and get "angry as all get-out"! He hasn't figured everything out but he has decided that his opponent is not a ghost. "Mysterio may be dead in prison" he tells himself as he makes his way through the city, "but that doesn't mean there's no Mysterio. It simply means someone new has the job." He looks down at a "handy tracking device" that looks a lot like a watch (or a compass on a watchband) and that he is wearing on his left wrist. Why does he have this device? Because just previously, as he was changing from his civvies, Spidey noticed a tiny device attached to the front of his costume. He figured out that the little gizmo was an "image-inducer" that was planted on him by Mysterio when they met on the pier. This tiny device generated the image of the Kingpin in his apartment, as transmitted by Mysterio. (And it must be powerful enough to generate that Kingpin image right through Peter's red turtleneck shirt... quite a trick!) Now, Mysterio is transmitting more images of Spidey's enemies. They appear out of the mist in front of him. (This time it's the Jackal, Morbius, the Vulture, the Lizard, the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus and the Mindworm. Should Mysterio even know about the Mindworm? Or Morbius or the Jackal for that matter?) But Spidey's not falling for them anymore. His wrist device tracks Mysterio's transmission back to its source and he is getting darn close.

He arrives in the Wall Street area of downtown and his tracker tells him that the transmission is coming from a glowing skylight in a building up ahead. This doesn't surprise Spidey because it is very near to the site where Mysterio first tricked him into thinking a pier was an alleyway, when he drove the spider-mobile into the drink. Now that he has located his opponent, he tosses the image-inducer away and crashes down through the skylight. He finds himself in a warehouse decked up with lots of fancy-looking computers and consoles. A spare Mysterio costume stands over by an area fenced off with mesh. Sitting at the console is Mysterio himself.

Mysterio is clearly shaken by Spidey's sudden appearance but he tries to make the best of it. He lifts his helmet up to again show an empty space where his head should be and reminds the wall-crawler that "you can't... fight a ghost". But Spidey's not buying it anymore. "Bunk!" he yells. Then, to prove that Mysterio is solid and real, he grabs him by the shirt and punches where his head should be. Sure enough, his fist hits something but he has again forgotten about his injured fingers. The pain forces him to let go of Mysterio and to back off. The "headless" Mysterio takes advantage of the moment to let a spray of "drugged-mist" out of his gloves. Spidey has been waiting for this. He grabs Mystie by the gloves, flips him over his head, and sends him flying into the fence. This judo move separates Mysterio from his gloves, depriving him of his mist. And with that, Mysterio loses his temper. Yelling that, "Nobody pushes me around, punk!" he tries a flying drop kick, only to have Spidey kick him to the ground instead. The wall-crawler webs Mysterio's hands and feet to the floor. Then, by touch alone, he removes the mask Mysterio is wearing under his regular fishbowl headgear. It is a nifty little device that has miniature cameras on the back of it and a screen on the front... "when it's working it projects the background onto the mask... makes your head look invisible". Underneath this mask, he finds a brown-haired man with a crew cut and goatee. Not the Mysterio he remembers. It is a new man assuming the role after all.

The captured Mysterio introduces himself as Danny Berkhart, a stunt man who was blacklisted for showing up to work drunk a little too often. He explains that he and the original Mysterio used to work together in the movie business. When Mysterio died in prison, he left "some'a his untried gizmos" to Danny. Danny decided to repay his old buddy by using the gizmos to get Spider-Man.

But now that he's captured, Danny starts blabbing about everything. First, he explains how the mask makes his head invisible. Then, he tells Spidey that he had rigged up a special Mysterio costume, built out of "fancy dissolvable wires" back at the pier. When Spidey webbed up the empty costume, the suit and wires melted like a ghost. (Unfortunately, Danny doesn't explain how this special suit can move, talk, point, and lift its helmet up in the air. Nor how Spidey could pass right through it.) He even blabs about the mini-projectors that made the images of the villains appear and the mist that drugged Spidey into believing all of it. But in spite of all these goodies, the webhead still won and Danny can't figure out why. "Maybe the clothes don't make the man," suggests the wall-crawler as he leaves Danny for the police.

Less than a half an hour later, a cheerful J. Jonah Jameson answers his phone and finds himself talking to an arrested Danny Berkhart. The new Mysterio has used his one phone call at the police station to call Jonah and tell him that the wall-crawler has bested him. Now, he threatens to tell the world that Jameson was behind his attacks on Spider-Man. "You better get me a good lawyer, friend" he tells JJ, shortly before he hangs up on him. Instantly, Jameson is a nervous wreck. His eyes bug out and he wipes the sweat from his brow. Realizing "this could be serious", Jonah decides to run for it. He grabs his hat, coat, and briefcase and bolts from his office. When Betty Brant asks him where he is going, he decides on the spur of the moment that he is going to Paris and "could be gone for months". He catches the elevator just before the doors close. "Until you hear from me again..." he calls out, "goodbye!"

General Comments

Jonah does travel to Paris where he gets himself kidnapped by the Cyclone. That story takes place in ASM #143-144 (April-May, 1975) and has already been featured in a previous lookback. When Jonah returns to New York, the threat that induced him to flee the country is never mentioned again. Either Jonah gets Danny a good lawyer or Danny decides not to rat on Jonah after all. (And since Mad Jack has a grudge against Jameson, my guess is Jonah did not bother with the lawyer.)

The original Mysterio is not dead (at this point, anyway). He turns up again in his guise of Dr. Ludwig Rinehart in ASM #193 (June 1979), running the Restwell Nursing Home. There he teams up with the Burglar to fake Aunt May's death in an effort to recover the treasure of Dutch Mallone. In Daredevil (Vol. 2) #8, June 1999, Mysterio really does die, taking his own life... or does he?

Danny Berkhart drops into obscurity until revealed (in Spider-Man: The Mysterio Manifesto #3, March 2001) to be either the copycat Jack O'Lantern (otherwise known as Mad Jack) or the new Mysterio since the original's suicide or both or neither or something. I never did figure that one all out. Whatever he was, he seems condemned to everlasting "copycat-dom".

And, say, wait a minute! Okay, Mysterio created the illusion that the pier was an alleyway and the images of the villains such as the Kingpin, Doc Ock, and the Green Goblin, but what about that vision Peter had of Gwen Stacy leaving the Daily Bugle and walking across the street? Mysterio doesn't know that Spider-Man is Peter Parker, right? So, therefore he wouldn't bother to create an illusion of Gwen Stacy, right? So, Gerry screwed up, right? No, in fact, Gerry was being pretty damn clever slipping the Gwen Stacy appearance in amongst the Mysterio illusions. The truth is that appearance has nothing at all to do with Mysterio and is, in fact, the first ever look at the Gwen Stacy clone. And that, as we all know, is a whole other story.

 Posted: 2002
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)