Don't you love the way Silver Age heroes often happen to be thinking, at the beginning of a story, of the very opponent they end up fighting several pages later? It happens to Spider-Man when he thinks of the Green Goblin at the start of ASM #17, October 1964 (this month's featured From the Beginning Lookback). And it happens to Giant-Man in this Spidey-cameo issue, although at least in GM's case, it's the thinking that leads to the fighting.
This Spider-Man appearance is often overlooked. Maybe it's because it's only one panel, it's a flashback and it's not even in color. So, a question to all you Spider-Man completists... is this issue a part of your comic collection?
For two years, starting with the return of the Ant-Man in Tales to Astonish #35 (September 1962), Henry Pym appeared in every issue of the comic as the lead feature. He was joined by the Wasp in Astonish #44, June 1963 and became Giant-Man in Astonish #49, November 1963 but his was always the sole super-hero feature, backed only with short suspense, horror, or science fiction zingers. That was about to change. In Astonish #60, October 1964 Giant-Man would find himself sharing the magazine with the Incredible Hulk. Stan Lee and Dick Ayers paved the way for this new format by pitting Giant-Man and the Hulk in a big-time brawl in the previous issue. And what paves the way for Giant-Man to even meet the Hulk? A little experimenting by Iron Man, which gives us our cameo flashback of the Amazing Spider-Man.
It all takes place on the splash page. The scene is Avengers Mansion and the members are having what looks like a rather kinky informal meeting. Giant-Man is doing arm curls with a very large barbell. The Mighty Thor is sitting inside a large Giant-Man-size gymnastic ring that hangs from the ceiling. He holds the ring's cord with his left hand. His right hand rests on Giant-Man's shoulder. Mjolnir, his mystic hammer, hangs from his wrist down over Giant-Man's chest. Captain America stands down at Giant-Man's feet, his head only coming up to Giant-Man's knees. The Wasp is standing on the barbell weight on Giant-Man's left. Iron Man is sitting on the weight of the barbell to Giant-Man's right. He has his left hand resting on Giant-Man's right shoulder. And he is demonstrating his "transistor-powered portable projector" (which he holds in his right hand) by shining a black and white image on the wall. The projected scene is from "newsreel shots of the Hulk battling Spider-Man".
At this moment, the scene shows Spider-Man trying to web-up the Hulk. He holds webbing in both hands and has webbed up both of the Hulk's hands as well as the Hulk's left foot but the picture looks a bit rushed as if the inker lost track of which hands go where. In fact, at first glance it almost looks like the Hulk has three hands since Spidey's left arm seems to stem from the Hulk's left shoulder. The costume on the arm is missing the cross-hatching of webbing and the hand looks more like it is caught in Spidey's web rather than wielding it. However, just when you think it is actually the Hulk's arm, you notice a huge web-entangled hand behind Spidey's head which has to be the Hulk's left arm instead. Ah, well. The credits do say that the story was "Rapidly written by Stan Lee. Dashingly drawn by Dick Ayers. Instantly inked by P. Reinman". I suppose it's possible that the story was rushed to completion when the decision was made to co-feature the Hulk in the magazine. I have no problem with such things. I'm more concerned with the notion that there is newsreel footage of Spidey's battle with the Hulk (from ASM #14, July 1964) when the whole thing took place in a cave with no reporters in the vicinity.
In any event, this newsreel footage gets Giant-Man thinking about the Hulk and he decides to take a trip out to New Mexico to see if he can convince the big green galoot to rejoin the Avengers. At the same time, Giant-Man's arch-foe The Human Top decides to follow Giant-Man around to see if he can find a good time to get his revenge. The Top does this by hiding within his whirlwind or just following behind dressed in civilian clothes. When Giant-Man and the Wasp board a plane to New Mexico, the Human Top tags along.
Giant-Man begins his search for the Hulk at General "Thunderbolt" Ross' Air Force Missile Base. Once there, the big guy asks Bruce Banner if he knows where to find the Hulk. (The Hulk's identity is still a secret at this time.) Bruce is so annoyed by Giant-Man's search that he runs off into the desert, gets too excited, and changes into the Hulk. The only thing the Hulk remembers is that Giant-Man is out to get him.
While Giant-Man searches for the Hulk and the Hulk searches for Giant-Man, the Human Top manipulates things from behind the scenes. He manages to get the Hulk and Giant-Man together in the same evacuated town where they have a big several-page fight. Then the Top convinces General Ross that the Hulk is alone in the town and that he should use a big cannon to fire an "atomic shell". This is intended to "put the Hulk out of action" but will kill Giant-Man in the process.
The Wasp, however, knows Giant-Man is with the Hulk so she flies up to the atomic shell and tries to deactivate it. Unfortunately, she has trouble getting to the detonator and is running out of time. So, she contacts Giant-Man via his cybernetic helmet and tells him the situation. Giant-Man tells the Hulk that a shell is coming that will kill them both. The Hulk isn't so sure he'd die in the blast but he is willing to stop the shell because, he tells Giant-Man, "I wanna be the one to finish you, not some blasted bomb!" So, the Hulk leaps up, catches the bomb and flings it into some desert hills... which just happen to be the same hills in which the Human Top is hiding out. (But don't worry. He doesn't die. He eventually takes the name Whirlwind and returns to plague Hank Pym again and again.) The concussion from the blast turns the Hulk back into Bruce Banner and Giant-Man never does get to talk to the green goliath about joining the Avengers. The Wasp comforts him by pointing out that the Hulk chose to save Giant-Man's life. "Perhaps, in a way" she says, "you succeeded more than you know!"
As mentioned above, this whole story is really a build-up to the announcement presented on the succeeding page. "Hulk-Lovers of the World!" it reads, "Harken to this message from the Marvel Bull-pen! A special announcement of almost earth-shattering importance!!!! Starting next ish, the Incredible Hulk, by Lee and Ditko, will appear regularly as the second starring feature in Tales to Astonish. Great news for the frantic fans of our Jolly Green Giant!" But even in and of itself, the story is a pretty entertaining read. If you're only reading for Spidey, then forget it. But if you like a good Hulk fight, you should try to track this book down.
Three and a half webs.
Stan and Steve knew a good thing when they had it. They bring back the Green Goblin just three issues after his first appearance. It's ASM #17 and it's next!