Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #42
This story is part of a Lookback Series: From The Beginning
This review was first published on: 2006.
Last issue, Stan promised that this issue "you're finally about to meet Mary Jane!" So what's this "Birth-of-a-Super-Hero-John-Jameson-rocking-Spidey- backwards-with-a- roundhouse-right" stuff on the cover, then?
Of all the continuing characters still alive in the Spider-Man universe there haven't been many around longer than J. Jonah Jameson and his son John. Let's all refer back to our "mint" copies of Amazing Spider-Man #1, March 1963 (All right, all right, mine's "very fine") or take a look at the five panel recap in the last issue to refresh our memories of astronaut John Jameson's errant space capsule and his rescue by a very young Spidey. Since then, very little else was done with John which is the polite way of saying that he didn't appear again until Amazing Spider-Man #41, October 1966. In fact, I don't think it was even mentioned that JJJ had a son in any issue in between. So, give Stan credit for remembering him and bringing him back. Unfortunately he chooses to do so with an old comic book routine made particularly infamous in the silver age Superman comic books: when in doubt, give a character super-powers. Fortunately for us, he does it in an entertaining and enjoyable way. Unfortunately for John, it won't be the last time he finds himself cursed with super-powers.
All of this excitement has been mostly drowned out since then because issue #42 is known for an entirely different reason. I may have this wrong but I think it has something to do with the very last panel.
In broad daylight, for all Manhattan to see, Spider-Man swings away from a bank carrying a yellow money-bag with no explanation for his actions. We know it's a money-bag because it has a dollar sign embossed on the side and also because "Mr. Exposition" runs out of the bank yelling, "It's Spider-Man, taking off with a money-bag from the bank!" Now since the last issue ended with Peter Parker riding through Forest Hills on his motorcycle, this is known as "opening in medias res" or, to put it in layman's terms, "opening with a bang". (The term "in medias res" has just been used by a trained Spiderfan professional. Don't try this at home.) Mr. Dunlap, the bank manager... a balding man in a green suit... shakes his fist and cries out, "Stop, thief! Someone stop that wall-crawling crook! Don't let him get away!" But there's nothing anyone can do except stand around and believe that Spidey "is the menace people have said he was!" Seconds later, the police arrive. When one of the cops expresses doubt that Spidey would rob a bank, Dunlap takes them to the vault and shows them that the metal bars have been pulled apart so that the thief could enter. Dunlap has been reading his Spider-Man comic books, apparently, because he knows the phraseology: "Could anyone without the proportionate strength of a spider have done something like that?" he asks. "No one I know," says one cop, even though the city is filled with super-powered people who could do it without any problem. (Maybe he means no one he knows personally.) As Dunlap spouts about how J. Jonah Jameson "saw through that costumed crook's phony facade", the cops promise him that they'll "throw a cordon around the whole city".
Meanwhile, Spidey is busy scaling one of the supports of the Queensboro Bridge. For some reason he then moves over to the center of the span before he drops the bag into the river. He knows that "this is the easy part. It's trying to explain that'll be the hang-up!" As the yellow bag lands in the water with a "sploosh!" Spidey decides to "swing on home and change to Peter Parker while I still can".
Over at the Daily Bugle, Betty Brant is telling Ned Leeds how glad she is to be back at her old job when Fred Foswell shows up to report to Jonah Jameson that Spider-Man has committed a bank robbery. (Betty returned to New York in ASM #41, October 1966 and must have gotten her job back between issues, replacing Miss Brown who was mentioned but not seen back in Amazing Spider- Man #40,September 1966 and who apparently didn't last any longer than the three previous secretaries.) Betty tells Foswell that Jonah is at Kennedy Airport seeing his son John off. Stan obligingly shifts us to the two Jamesons in the waiting area at the airport. (Back in the days before any sort of airport security when you could see someone off all the way to the gate.) He has JJJ immediately mention, "those spores [John] contacted during [his] space walk" just in case we missed last issue. Just as Jonah mentions the spores, John puts his left hand to his head and tells his dad that "it's getting hot". Symptoms come and go quickly. Even as he leans on a chair, he announces that "my head's spinning 'round, now the fever's leaving me but I'm groggy, can hardly keep my balance". He starts to grow rapidly, bursting out of his clothes (well, we see a rip in the right knee of his pants, anyway). He puts a hand on some sort of metal pillar that appears out of nowhere and it crumbles "like a toothpick". Then he falls on a marble and steel counter top that also appears out of nowhere and smashes it to rubble in a literal example of not knowing his own strength. His uniform becomes tattered, his tie all askew, his pants torn off at the knee. With that the dizziness passes and he tries to walk but his muscles have become so strong that "the slightest motion sent me hurtling through the wall". He barely feels the impact. Finally the two federal agents who are serving as his bodyguards show up. (Actually, we never see them. We just get a couple of word balloons pointing off-panel. Makes you wonder if JR forgot all about them, forcing Stan to do a quick fix with the dialogue.) One of the agents tells JJJ that they have been expecting something like this (since, you know, anytime anyone gets infected by space spores, you have to figure they're going to grow larger and get stronger) and that they have to return John to their lab on the double. In the car from the airport, the agent continues his explanation, telling Jonah that "this is why enemy agents hired the Rhino (last ish) to capture Colonel Jameson! They also anticipated the development!" (So does everyone know that space spores give your super- powers?) A light bulb goes off over Jonah's head. "Of course!" he declares, "If those blasted spores have increased my son's strength, they'd be one of the most valuable military secrets of all!"
An hour later, at the lab, three big shot doctors stand around and discuss the situation. One of them actually says, "The spores must be from some planet like Jupiter where far greater muscle power is needed to overcome the tremendous gravitational pull!" (This is assuming that there are actually people on Jupiter and that they need a spore to give them the power to walk around instead of adapting this ability themselves.) The other two so-called scientists actually fall right into agreement with this Elementary School explanation. They determine that John will now react "the way an earth man would react upon the moon". Still, the scientists decide that "the sudden conversion will place a great strain upon his heart and nervous system", which doesn't seem to follow from their earlier supposition that these spores have created these powers in others on Jupiter... at least I think that's what their supposition is. Anyway, they figure that John will need a "special suit which will protect him, and slow him down" and they contact Tony Stark's lab for help. Only hours later, Stark's technicians have delivered a very spiffy suit in yellow with green trim complete with gloves and weighted boots for that super-hero costume look. Even though John "feels like I'm weighted down with lead", he still feels "as though I'm bursting with power". The scientists are very pleased by this. "You can function normally within that outfit but it will prevent you from being a victim of your own super-strength" says one. Another adds that "It will also regulate your nervous system and your heartbeat to lessen any possible strain upon them". They tell John to stay in the suit until further notice and that "now more than ever" he needs the two agents as bodyguards. As the Jamesons leave the lab, one of the agents asks JJJ how it feels to be the father of a new super-hero. This stops Jonah short. He's been writing anti-super-hero editorials for months and now this! Still, he tells himself, "there's a difference. My son isn't a phony super-hero like that fink Spider-Man!"
The agents escort John back to his hotel room and tell him that they will remain on call in the lobby if he needs them. JJJ is allowed to enter the room with him, which suits John fine since "I need someone to talk to". But Jonah is still obsessed with the notion of becoming a laughingstock if his son is dubbed a super-hero. In the room, Jonah calls the Bugle and gets Foswell on the line. Fred tells him that Spidey robbed a bank in front of witnesses. Eyes wide, smiling toothily, Jonah can't contain his joy over finally being right. When John suggests that someone impersonated Spidey, JJJ tells him "he was seen breaking into the vault with his bare hands and climbing a sheer wall! It had to be him!" Then he proceeds to convince his son that he should be the one who captures the web-slinger. (Or to put it in Jonah-speak: "[J]ust think of the triumph if my own son is the one to catch that miserable masked madman... Go get 'im, Johnny! Squash that wall-crawler like a bed bug!") John storms out before anyone can stop him. Some guy with gray hair at his temples, who doesn't look like either of the two agents, comes into the room and asks JJJ what's going on. Grabbing the labels of his jacket and puffing away at his cigar with satisfaction, Jonah tells him that John is "off on a mission of justice". When the gray-templed guy tells him that John being off alone is dangerous, Jonah replies, "You bet it is... to Spider-Man!"
In cell block B of a nearby courthouse, two guys in white lab coats (one with a beard and one with a bald spot) who happen to be police physicians stand over the unconscious body of the Rhino, who was captured by Spidey in ASM #41. (I remember being thrilled as a kid by this follow-up of the Rhino after his defeat in the previous issue and by his escape and reappearance in ASM #43, December 1966. So many of the comics of the time featured stories that might as well have never happened in the following issues. Here was a villain who was actually captured but still isn't yet defeated. You mean the villain doesn't just fade into oblivion after the good guy beats him? Who would have expected it?) They are aware that the Rhino is capable of escaping by smashing right through the wall so they've been trying to remove his costume to no avail. Bald Spot is so flummoxed by this failure that he speaks in typo: "Incredible as it seems, I've been wondering if it is removable, of [sic] if it isn't actually a part of him!" They know they need to solve this problem before the Rhino regains consciousness. Beard suggests tranquillizers but Bald Spot tells him that he's already broken three needles on the Rhino's hide trying to administer them. "Nothing can pierce that skin of his!" he says. (So, may I suggest injecting him in the mouth? Or just putting a tube down his throat and administering it orally? Or maybe suppositories? I mean, assuming there's an opening in the suit that... doesn't there HAVE to be an opening in the suit that... I mean, he's not just holding it all this time, is he?) Beard suggests that the rhino hide may not be a costume at all but may actually be his skin. Bald Spot puts his hand over his mouth and states, "Just wearing a macabre outfit isn't likely to give him such brutish power." Then they decide to summon some more specialists (in what? Rhino hides?) before he awakens. And, of course, just at that moment, the Rhino wakes up.
But in that split second between the Rhino's awakening and his bid for freedom, we have time for three panels devoted to Franklin "Foggy" Nelson, of all people. He is standing before a judge and griping about being appointed as the Rhino's lawyer. The judge tells him he is a good choice for the job since he has experience in "bizarre cases". After Foggy balks, however, the judge suggests bringing in his partner, Matt Murdock. Foggy tells the judge that Matt is "out of town at the moment" and Stan tells us, "He sure is, as you'll see in Daredevil #21". So we might as well take a quick look at DD #21, October 1966 to see what Stan is talking about. Oh yeah, this is the one where Daredevil fights the Owl on his private island and ends up riding along with Judge Lewis on the back of a mechanical Owl. (On page one of DD #22, November 1966, Judge Lewis says, "You did it, Daredevil! We've reached the mainland safely! We're over Long Island now!" But since Long Island is an island, does it qualify as the "mainland"?) So, Matt is out of town but is the only reason to include this scene to plug the current issue of Daredevil? Yeah. Pretty much. Anyway, Foggy reconsiders and decides to take the Rhino as his client. He tells the judge he'd like to consult with the Rhino as soon as possible. Back at the cellblock, though, the Rhino gets up from the gurney and starts his escape. He kicks Bald Spot right in the back. In spite of the Rhino's power, Bald Spot doesn't even fall down. He just ends up holding his left shoulder when things settle down again. There is one uniformed cop in the room who announces, "Bullets won't stop 'im!" and then, in the next panel, apparently decides to shoot the Rhino anyway. He's right. Bullets don't stop him. The Rhino lowers his head and smashes right through a brick wall. He emerges into a corridor where there is a third guy in a white lab coat holding a nozzle of some sort and the Rhino is brought down with gas. Which is to say the third guy sprays him with a tranquillizer gas, not that he ate too fast and got cramps. The stuff works immediately and the Rhino hits the deck. But Bald Spot worries about trying to keep him tranquillized indefinitely. "He might even develop an immunity!" Beard agrees. "If only we knew his origin!" he says. (Hah! Sorry, Beard! That's next issue!)
At the same time, Peter Parker is stopping by his school and runs into Harry Osborn, Flash Thompson, and Gwen Stacy. He parks his motorcycle and tells it, "Stay there, sweetie! Don't get too lonesome while I'm gone!" When Flash says, "I'll bet you take that cycle to bed with you at night!" Pete replies, "Sure, Flash! Doesn't everybody?" Gwen invites Peter to a party at her house on Sunday and he immediately accepts. (A party on Sunday? Sounds thrilling.) Just as he is reveling in the notion that the gang is finally accepting him, he remembers that he promised Aunt May that he would meet Mary Jane Watson at dinner on Sunday. He puts his hand up to his forehead and starts to explain but Gwen doesn't give him the chance. With black lines radiating off her face and a tear dribbling down her left cheek (unless that's just a bit of crud on my copy) she interrupts and barks at him, "No need to explain! Attendance isn't compulsory!" Flash loves every minute of it. He cocks a thumb at Pete and calls him "good ol' Parker the strikeout king!" But Harry sticks up for him ("Pete's probably got his reasons!") and Gwen gets miffed at Flash for his ribbing. "Say!" says Flash, "Don't tell me that Puny Parker puts you on, Gwen? Not a chick like you!" "Don't worry, my fatuous friend", Gwen replies, "I won't tell you". When Flash questions the word "fatuous", Gwen skewers him with, "It's more than one syllable so you wouldn't understand!" She takes Harry's arm and the two of them head off to the Silver Spoon, which is apparently the hip place of the moment. Pete, enjoying every minute of it, says, "It's like an Aesop's Fable, Flash! You needle me about your gal, and Harry Osborn walks away with her!" But, later, after getting through his classes, Peter is more thoughtful. "I'm as anxious to meet Mary Jane Watson on Sunday as I am to meet the Hulk!" he tells himself, "And she'll probably look like him!"
Now those of us who have been reading ASM all along know this isn't so. We haven't yet seen MJ's face but Betty Brant, Liz Allan, and Flash Thompson have. In Amazing Spider-Man #25, June 1965, Betty thinks of MJ, "She looks like a screen star!" and Liz thinks, "He's [Peter] been hiding her from us? Our shy, bashful, studious Peter?" Flash sees MJ and thinks, "Wow! Who's that chick?" Of course Peter doesn't this.
Riding home on his cycle, Peter ponders the fact that he doesn't think about Betty Brant anymore. "But Gwen Stacy looks better to me each time I see her!" he thinks. (Me too, Pete, me too!) "If only we could get off on the right foot just once", he wishes.
Swinging around town soon after, Spidey spies a man in a costume standing on a rooftop. He marvels over the size of him until he realizes he knows him. It's John Jameson and Spidey swings over to ask, "what changed you"? John isn't interested in answering that question. He tells Spidey he just found out that his father has been right all along. "You're nothing but a cheap, costumed crook!" he says and then leans into Spidey with a powerful right-handed punch while calling him a "super-powered stumblebum". As Spidey tries to get him to cool off, John follows up with a left. Spidey covers John in webbing to hold him while he explains why he took the money bag but John tears the webbing apart with a "Snap!" As John starts swinging again, Spidey is forced to dodge the blows. He gets under John and springs up into his solar plexus, knocking the wind out of him but that doesn't slow him down. His protests of innocence fall on deaf ears. John isn't in a listening mood. "You'll have your chance to talk once I put you behind bars where you belong!" he says. Spidey decides he can no longer afford to hold back. He smacks John in the jaw with a hard right but it has no effect. "His jaw feels like iron!" thinks the web-slinger. Stunned by John's newfound power, Spidey backs up against a chimney. When John moves in to grab him, Spidey leaps away but the force of John's grab turns the chimney into a cascade of bricks that Spidey grabs in a web before they can fall to the street. He swings the web full of bricks at John but the new super- hero brushes them aside "like they were paper dolls". Desperate, Spidey covers John's head in a big white glob of web fluid, picks John up over his head and throws him down again on the roof. Before John can get back up, Spidey web- slings the heck out of there. He is sorry John wouldn't listen to reason since he's dying to tell someone the story of the bank. So instead he tells us. He was at the bank as Peter Parker when a security guard walks by with some payroll bags. One bag in particular sets off his spider-sense. Leaning in closely to it, Pete hears "that faint ticking sound" that signifies a bomb. Pete finds a secluded room and webs the door shut so he can change into his Spidey duds undisturbed. By the time he gets out of the room (it probably took him a while to get that webbing off the door frame), the guard is already leaving in his armored car. But Spidey has figured it all out. The guard is a phony and he has intentionally planted a bomb in the vault so that he can "return for easy pickin's" after the explosion. (Assuming all of the money doesn't get blown up.) With no time to explain, Spidey rushes to the vault, webs up two guards, bends the iron bars with his bare hands, grabs the bag, swings away from the bank knowing the bomb may explode any second (just as we saw on the splash page), clings to the side of the Queensboro bridge (just as we saw on page two, panel 5), drops the bag where it explodes "just after it hit the water" with only seconds to spare, and swings away knowing that he'll be cleared as soon as the bank realizes that no money is missing.
Back in the present, J. Jonah Jameson ("that peerless paragon of publishing parsimony" as Stan calls him, though I think he actually means "that peerless parsimonious paragon of publishing") tells Fred Foswell to go cover the Rhino story. He, JJJ himself, plans to cover the story of his son defeating Spider- Man. "This will be the greatest triumph of my illustrious career!"
Let's pause for a moment to look at the double page center spread, advertising the New Super Heroes Saturdays on CBS. Superman hosts the ad (which I'm sure thrilled Marvel) saying, "Great Krypton, Kids! Look at the fun and excitement CBS is sending you!" You could watch for hours. Captain Kangaroo at 8AM, Mighty Mouse Playhouse at 9AM, Underdog at 9:30AM and then a whole bunch of new cartoons. "Frankenstein Jr., the greatest super robot of all time... with his pal Buzz" is on at 10AM, the Impossibles "Coilman, Fluid Man and Multi Man (a rock and roll trio in disguise) pit their incredible powers against an array of villains... the Bubbler, Bratfink, Sponge" are on at, um, 10AM (so they showed Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossibles simultaneously?), Space Ghost before his wise-cracking talk show days "with Jan, Jayce and Blip" (who is a monkey) at 10:30AM, Dino Boy battling "prehistoric horrors in the mysterious Lost Valley with Ugh the caveman (aren't all cavemen named Ugh?) and Bronty, the baby dinosaur" also at 10:30AM, (see what they did, I think, is alternate the shows week by week or maybe each show was only fifteen minutes long or maybe... I don't know. Does anyone else remember these shows and how they aired them?) The new adventures of Superman with Krypto, the superdog were on at 11AM, the Lone Ranger with Tonto and Taka the Eagle at 11:30AM, the Road Runner at noon, "the zany new comedy team, the Beagles" at 12:30PM and Tom and Jerry at 1PM. Tune in starting on September 10 just a bit over forty years ago! You don't get this stuff in the Essentials collections, folks!
Okay, we left Jonah Jameson sending Foswell out of his office. Now Spidey swings through the window into the office. He tells Jonah that he didn't rob the bank but rather saved it from a robbery. Jonah doesn't buy it. "Sure, sure!" he says, "And I'm not Jonah Jameson, I'm Huckleberry Finn!" Spidey, always ready with a comeback, replies, "Not a chance! Mark Twain would have busted his quill pen before he'd inflict you on the reading public!" Before he can get into too much of a verbal tussle, Spidey exits out the window but, as he webslings away, he tells JJJ to call the bank "and ask if any money's missing". "It's gotta be missing!" says Jonah, "you took it!" Then shaking his fist at Spidey and puffing on his cigar, Jonah goes through one of those great Stan Lee monologues that is worth repeating in its entirety: "My son, the super- hero, will bring you to justice! Just wait! 'Call the bank'!?? What does he take me for? I know he's guilty! But, why would he tell me? What's he up to? Nuts! I won't give that fink the satisfaction of calling!" But on the phone a minute later, he thumps his fist on his desk and bellows, "What d'ya mean no money's missing from your vault?!! It's got to be missing! Spider-Man took it! I don't care how many times you counted it! Count it again! If...if I'm wrong again about that wall-crawler... I...I... no! I can't be! I can't! Never mind who this is! I'm just an unselfish crusader for justice!" Great stuff.
Just after Jonah hangs up the phone, John bursts into his office. Jonah tries to tell him that Spidey "may actually be... ulp... innocent" but John doesn't care. He just wants to get even with Spider-Man. When his dad tells him he can't use his powers to satisfy a grudge, John replies "Save your breath! He's got a score to settle with me!" Jonah notices that this man no longer sounds like his son. "He's changed" he thinks, "become cruel, deadly." (Or as Spidey later puts it, "whatever gave him his power also knocked him off his rocker".) Just at that moment, one of the federal agents shows up on the off chance that John is at his father's office. He tells John that he has orders to return him to his hotel. Jonah reaches up and puts a hand on the small of John's back (in a great panel by JR showing us just how big John has gotten) and tells John to get a good night's rest. But John isn't interested in that. "I need to find Spider-Man again and prove that I can whale the tar out of that crooked creep!" he says, starting to sound like the Sandman. Bewildered, Jonah puts a hand to the side of his head and again thinks about how changed John sounds. "His voice is bitter, arrogant, completely merciless!" Still, John obeys his father and the agent and returns to the hotel.
Sometime later in the dark, Peter Parker sits up in bed, realizing he can't sleep. "It's as though something is calling me, making me get up!" he says. He has left things "too undecided" with John and needs to find him again. Maybe it's his spider-sense telling him that John is "too dangerous to be at large in the city". Whatever it is, he gets out of bed and puts on the Spidey suit. At the same time, John Jameson, still dressed in his Jupiter suit, rolls out of bed and smashes the bedside table with his left fist. "Nobody's keeping me cooped up in a crummy hotel room!" he vows, "Not while Spider-Man is out there somewhere, probably gloating about how easily he got away from me!" He exits his room, easily shoving his bodyguards aside, then strides down the empty street (where do they find all these empty streets in New York City?), his heavy boots "thumping" with each stride. Feeling like he must beat Spider-Man to prove he is the world's greatest super-hero, John reveals how far his corruption has gone. "I don't have to answer to anyone!" he says, "I've got the power, the strength, to make my own rules, to write my own ticket, anywhere!"
Amazingly, the two restless super-guys find each other immediately. (Stan says, "Like some mystic, metaphysical magnet, fate seems to draw both men to the same place at the same time" which is as good a way as any to say, "we had to get them together somehow.) Spidey is perched high up on a wall of a building with a "Danger High Voltage" sign on it. He tells John he'd like "a peaceful little talk". John is not interested. While Spidey continues to talk, John unsnaps the lead weights attached to the bottoms of his shoes. (Surely, there must have been a better way to weigh those boots down than to put the lead on the bottom! He's been walking on lead all this time?) Without the weights, John is free to "jump like the Hulk" right up to where Spidey is perched. (This is also the moment when Spidey realizes that the power "knocked him off his rocker".) The web-slinger dodges John's punch but doesn't strike back. He realizes that John is like the Green Goblin in that "He doesn't really know what he's doing!" (But, as Spidey will learn much later, it doesn't much matter if you know what you're doing if you end up killing somebody's girl- friend.) As John falls back to earth, Spidey dangles on two webs, tells John he can "swing up here all night" and then starts singing, "The Man on the Flying Trapeze" which I know he did when sparring with the Torch back in Amazing Spider-Man #8, January 1964 but I'm pretty certain he's done it again between that time and this time. Help me out here, guys!
John looks up at him and tells him he won't fight him on the wall. "I can afford to wait until you come down!" he says. But Spidey has finally noticed that the building is a power station and this gives him an idea. He tells John to meet him on the roof but John gets there with one leap, arriving much sooner than Spidey expected. As the new super-hero rushes at him, the web-slinger grabs the frame of a large antenna and swings on it, kicking John in the face. This has no effect on John at all and he tells the wall-crawler that a mere kick won't stop him "not even when it's delivered with spider strength". (I thought only Spidey prefaced his powers by calling them "spider-something". Now he's got other people doing it!). John moves in for the kill. Spidey grabs him by the wrists, maneuvers to the right spot and shifts his weight suddenly taking both of them through the building's skylight. "Geronimo!" says Spidey as they fall, which he last did fighting the Looter in Amazing Spider-Man #36, May 1966. John scoffs at Spidey's plan. After all, "a simple fall can't hurt me!" he says. But Spidey has something else in mind.
John strikes first with a right-handed punch so fast, it creates a "Whipp!" sound. He rocks Spidey so hard with it that it actually makes the sound "Rok!" "Now the world will know I'm the strongest!" he says. ("Sure", Spidey replies, "but the strongest what?") Now the two men are fighting amongst various machines. John strikes one with a "rrak!" when Spider-Man ducks the punch. Crouched below his opponent, Spider-Man tells John ahead of time that "what I'm gonna do now is for your own good", then he rises up, puts his hands together, and clubs his foe with a double-fisted punch. John staggers back, exactly as planned, into the power plant generator. The electro-magnetic field in John's Jupiter suit causes a feedback that engulfs him in lightning and gives off a "skakkkkkkkk" ( I think I got enough "k"s in there.) John collapses powerless, immediately returning to his normal size. As Spidey tells us, "Whatever changed him just had to be a result of something contacted during his space walk! So, I chose the one way to shock it out of his system before it became so firmly entrenched that nothing could help!" That's all well and good, I suppose, but also seems to mean that the very presence of the spores were keeping John large and the absence of the spores reverted him to normal size rather than that he grew as a result of the spores and then stayed that way when they were gone. Do you see what I'm getting at here? I mean, we grow at a certain time in our lives and that growth is fueled by what we consume, right? If you take the consumables away, we will lose our strength but we won't get shorter. I can buy this sort of "reverting to normal" more in comics when it involves magic but Spidey himself proudly says, "My spider powers are great but it was my science savvy that licked this one!" Oh well. If you can get super- powers from the bite of a radioactive spider, then the scientific laws have to be different in your universe than mine.
"Ten minutes and twenty-six seconds later" (according to Stan), the feds and Jonah Jameson arrive on the scene. They got a call from Spidey telling them to "come running". One man gets down on one knee to check the still-unconscious Colonel Jameson. He tells the others that John's vitals all check out as normal. Another agent knows "the lab boys" will be glad to know the spores are gone. "They were convinced the whole Earth was in danger while they lived." Jonah wants to know who knocked his son out. (As if he didn't know.) As the other men cart John off on a stretcher, Jonah presses the point. "Don't you see?" he says, "It's Spider-Man's fault! He tormented my son, made him fight, tried to turn him into a killer, like he himself is. But he couldn't do it! John was too brave, too strong, too smart! He's a chip off the old block!" Nobody listens to JJJ, and Spidey, who was spying through the broken skylight, webswings away, thinking, "If the Colonel really is a chip off the old block, he's got enough trouble without me hangin' around!"
Back home, Peter goes to bed and sleeps most of Sunday away. When he wakes up, he puts his hands behind his head and reclines in bed, thinking about calling Gwen. But Aunt May barges in just then and tells him he should be getting ready. After all, "you'll be meeting Mary Jane when we go to Mrs. Watson's for dinner in a few hours". Peter puts his hand over his eyes in despair. He had forgotten all about this unwanted obligation. As he stands before his mirror, tying his tie, he realizes that Aunt May has finally out-maneuvered him. He is stuck. Although he's been avoiding meeting Mrs. Watson's niece for months, he has no more excuses. "I guess I might as well meet her and get it over with!" he thinks, "She may not be as bad as I expect! She'll probably be worse!"
Peter and May walk over to Anna's house. Anna gives May a big hug when they arrive. She tells Peter that Mary Jane will be there "any minute" since "she called a few minutes ago to say she was leaving her apartment". This makes Peter think of two things. First, he's happy that MJ has her own apartment since she'll probably have to leave early to get home. Second, that he'd like an apartment of his own too. I wonder if we ever saw MJ's apartment in any future issue. If we did, it didn't make any impression on me.
So, May and Anna sit waiting at the dinner table while Peter props his chin in his hand in the living room and moons over Gwen. He can't get her out of his mind and has a feeling that she really likes him but he hasn't even gotten to know her. He is just promising himself that he'll do just that after "this Mary Jane ordeal" when the doorbell rings. Anna answers the door and Peter must follow right behind because they're both at the door for Anna to greet her niece and Peter stares wide-eyed at Mary Jane Watson, in all her red- haired, black tank topped, John Romita drawn glory. Or as MJ puts it herself, "Face it, Tiger, you just hit the jackpot!"
On the Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page ("Sensational Secrets and Incredible Inside Information Guilelessly Guaranteed to Avail You Naught!"), there's nothing worth mentioning except for that title! Unless it's this definition of a no-prize: "the revolutionary new concept in which we proclaimed that we never wanted any of our treasured readers to lose a contest - consequently, we would award nothing but 'no-prizes' because if there were no winners, then there couldn't be any losers". That's funny. I thought they invented no-prizes because they were too cheap to give any real prizes.
The 26 M.M.M.S. members this issue are: Eddie Burns of Danbury, Connecticut; Bill Gray of Tyler, Texas; Joey Condson of White Plains, New York; Richard Johnson of Jamaica, New York; Keith Campbell of Kansas City, Missouri; William Gibbons of St. Louis, Missouri; Susan Hill of Scottsbluff, Nebraska; Eddy Kmiecik of Michigan, Indiana (that's probably Michigan City, Indiana); Michael Kleckinsky of Levittown, New York; David Conner of Hillcrest Heights, Maryland; Mitchell Murphy of Atlanta, Georgia; Jan Briggs of Quebec, Canada; Robert Hagans of Buffalo, New York; Robert Kowalski of Detroit, Michigan (a frequent letterhack, as I recall); Robert Brown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; John Green also of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Stephen French of Canaan, New York; Lavvu Dillworth of St. Louis, Missouri; Elliot Ganz of New York, New York; Marvin Ashley of Brooklyn, New York; Jerry Cook of Sydney, Australia; Alex Kristov of Shaker Heights, Ohio; Andy Jacobson of Scarsdale, New York; Efram Geran of Texas, Ohio; Jimmy Allday of Odessa, Texas; and Walter Wryesniewski of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Not much else to say about any of these names and addresses this time. I'm tired of typing these names each month, if you want to know the truth and I'm sorry I ever started this whole thing. Now I'm just putting in my time waiting for the day when the M.M.M.S. members are no longer listed. Sad, really.
The house ad page this time tells us all about Marvel Super-Heroes on TV! "Captain America! The Sub-Mariner! Iron Man! The Mighty Thor! The Incredible Hulk!" This looks like a dream come true... until you actually see the show, of course. But let's not dwell on that. There's a listing of twenty stations carrying the show including WOR-Channel 9 in New York, WGN-Channel 9 in Chicago, KHJ-Channel 9 in Los Angeles and CKLW-Channel 9 in Detroit (which is actually Channel 9 in Windsor, Ontario but who's counting). And just to prove that some other channels besides 9 carried the show, there's WNAC-Channel 7 in Boston, WBAL-Channel 11 in Baltimore, and the channel where I watched it, WTTG-Channel 5 in Washington D.C. where I also watched Captain Tug introducing Popeye cartoons. What more could a kid want... besides, you know, a better Marvel Super-Hero show?
On the letter page, the production guy got so excited about putting the M.M.M.S. coupon at the top of the page that he completely forgot to give it a title. But we'll call it "the Spider's Web" anyway. Everyone seemed to like Amazing Spider-Man #39, August 1966 and no one complained about the revelation of barely mentioned Norman Osborn as the Goblin although Robert Cox of Houston, Texas who probably didn't read Amazing Spider-Man #26, July 1965 and Amazing Spider-Man #27, August 1965 "thought for sure it was Foswell". I think Mike Glicksohn of the University of Toronto and Willowdale, Ontario was paid off to complain about Ditko's Looter and Joe Smith and to say that "with the possible exception of the King himself, the jazzy one is the finest artist in the contemporary comic field". The rest of us 1966 readers are still getting over Ditko's departure. Finally, Terry Masek of Joliet, Illinois thinks Aunt May "used to look like what she really was - an old, wrinkled, worried aunt; but Johnny cut nearly twenty years off her age. She now looks like a spry young fifty year old!" Stan says he is "trying to change the subject before poor May Parker reads what you said about her being old and wrinkled". I'm wondering if Terry, who must be close to fifty now him- or herself, still thinks Johnny's gray-haired, frail May looks like she's fifty.
In the yellow "next issue" box, Stan tells us that "Jazzy Johnny is drawing this one as though he was born in a web and Stan the Man promises more surprises than you can shake Mary Jane at." Otherwise it's "The Rhino on the Rampage" as the blurb after MJ's entrance tells us with "a swingin' surprise or two!" as if the novel idea (for 1966) of returning a villain one issue after his defeat isn't surprise enough.
Now let's see:
First of all, forget about all that MJ hoopla for a moment. Let's look at the story itself, which is a nice little parable about power corrupting and how to use it responsibly. Spidey does exactly that, using his power to save the bank and risking his life taking the bomb to the river, even though he is misunderstood and viewed as a villain. The real villain is the man touted as a super-hero but whose mind is scrambled by his newfound power. Spidey originally used his power selfishly as well and it took the murder of Uncle Ben to teach him responsibility. John becomes corrupted, never learning that power shouldn't be used for grudge matches while you ignore the reality of a situation, so his power is rightly taken away. I don't want to get too political here but this lesson still applies today. After all, if you use your power to avenge your father against his old nemesis ignoring what is really going on in the world and deciding that your power allows you to make your own rules, then you are using your power recklessly and corruptly and deserve to have that power taken away. See? Stan knew... forty years ago!
As for that last panel, well, it has managed to outshine the whole issue taking on an immortality of its own. It has been recreated (though never with the panache of the original), reproduced (I've got it on a t-shirt, for instance) and remembered word for word (it's still the second most memorable line in a Spider-Man story... and you all know what the most memorable is). Not bad for one comic book panel in a twenty-page story published back in 1966.
One more thing about MJ now that's we've been introduced to her: In the From the Beginning Universe, the retcon doesn't matter... until we actually get to it, of course. Since we're looking at these stories through the eyes of someone reading them when they first came out, we can forget all this hooey about Mary Jane knowing Spidey's secret identity before she ever meets Peter, which was always a lame and unnecessary addition if you ask me. It's clearly not true in these stories at the time they were published and it continues to be untrue for us until we get to the retcon itself. And that, my friends, is a very very long time down the road.
John Jameson returns next issue, resting comfortably in a Westchester hospital. Foggy also returns, this time with Matt Murdock as Stan still tries to sell some Daredevil comics.
The Jupiter Suit returns in She-Hulk #9, January 2005 when John gives it to Shulkie to help control her new excessive super-strength. Reed Richards modifies it and She-Hulk objects to the yellow and green color scheme so it gets converted to purple and white.
And we all know when the Rhino returns, don't we?
Milestones (Landmark events that take place in this story.)
- Second time a story begins with someone in a Spidey suit committing a crime (after Amazing Spider-Man #13, June 1964)
- First and only appearance of Mr. Dunlap
- First time John Jameson gets super-powers.
- The Three Stooges of science determine that any spore that makes you big and strong must be from Jupiter! They are never seen again.
- Second appearance of Foggy Nelson in Amazing Spider-Man, (after Amazing Spider-Man #16, September 1964) in a shameless plug of Daredevil #21 (Thanks to fredrju for reminding me of Foggy's first appearance)
- Spidey sings "The Man on the Flying Trapeze" again. (The other times are ASM #8 and... how about it, guys?)
- Spidey says "Geronimo" for the first time since Amazing Spider-Man #36, May 1966
- Mary Jane utters the second most famous line in the history of Spider-Man comics (after "with great power comes great responsibility" from Amazing Fantasy #15, August 1962).
The 1969 Marvelmania International Spider-Man Portfolio checklist entry for this story. Warts and all:
"Birth of a Super-Hero" - Peter first meets Mary Jane Watson. - JJJ Astronaut son is infected with a space virus that makes him super-powerful. In the end he's cured.
MJ! MJ! MJ!!!! And the rest of the issue is pretty good too. Five webs.
Next: Rhino on the Rampage!