Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #43
This story is part of a Lookback Series: From The Beginning
This review was first published on: 2006.
I know we're all still dazzled by our first glimpse of Mary Jane Watson but it looks like the Rhino is on the loose again and, if the cover is any indication, he's ready to put it to Spider-Man.
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #43
Dec 1966 : SMURF 043.500 : SMURF 043.600 : SM Title
Summary: Second Rhino
Partially Reprinted In: John Romita's The Amazing Spider-Man Artifact Edition (IDW)
Reprinted In: Amazing Spider-Man (Fireside)
Reprinted In: Marvel Masterworks #22
Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #183
Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #32
Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #2
Reprinted In: Spider-Man Pocket Book #24
Reprinted In: Spider-Man/Mary Jane...You Just Hit the Jackpot
|Articles: Watson, Anna, Aunt May Parker, Betty Brant, The Big Man, Daredevil, Flash Thompson, Green Goblin II (Harry Osborn), Gwen Stacy, Jameson, J. Jonah, Lizard, John Jameson (Man-Wolf), Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Leeds, Ned, Rhino, Rhino|
Speaking of the cover, it's another clean, powerful one by John Romita. While it depicts the scene from page 11, panel 1 where Spidey has a hold of the Rhino's horn, it is really much more effective than that interior moment. Look at the Rhino's stance and body language as he tries to shake Spider-Man off. Look at the grimace on his face. Look at the motion lines that make you feel Spidey being whipped around as he hangs on for dear life. Look at the cop in the background on the left holding a bit of the crowd back. Look at the crowd gaping, running, horrified, cowering. Even the ones that are little more than blobs of background color have individuality. All of this is topped off with a nice light blue sky that offsets the grayness of the buildings and the Rhino. Great stuff by "Jazzy" Johnny.
After teasing us with a possible Rhino escape in the last issue, Stan gets right to it. The splash page shows the Rhino punching his way out of his jail cell much to the surprise of the doctor and police officer standing outside. Unfortunately, this potent moment is muddied a bit by a weird little cloud with Spidey inside that looks like the web-slinger is riding in on a puff of smoke but is really just the Rhino thinking about the man who just defeated him, I guess. Maybe Stan and John were afraid of featuring a splash page without Peter or the wall-crawler but there have been plenty of others, haven't there? Let me check. Yeah, there's Amazing Spider-Man #3, July 1963, Amazing Spider-Man #32, January 1966, Amazing Spider-Man #34, March 1966, and Amazing Spider-Man #38, July 1966 so there certainly is a precedent. On the other hand, maybe Ditko's increasing tendency to leave Spidey off the splash was one of the things that Steve did that drove Stan crazy. In any event, Johnny found a way to include the web-slinger on his splash page even if it looks like he's been magically transported there by Dr. Strange.
Remember the two police physicians we dubbed Bald Spot and Beard in the last issue? Remember how they couldn't figure out a way to give tranquilizers to the Rhino? Well, Beard is the surprised doctor when the Rhino smashes the door open and he immediately gets on the phone and alerts all the units that the Rhino's tranquilizers have worn off. (Good job keeping track of that.) The cop looks like the same guy from last issue who proclaimed, "Bullets won't stop 'im!" and proceeded to shoot some anyway. Not having learned from that, he shoots at the Rhino again but declares, "My shells don't even slow 'im down!" The Rhino is staggering from his recent sedation but he has enough power to smash a desk, sending Beard scurrying, and plow through a brick wall to freedom. As his mind clears, he remembers Spidey and declares, "If we meet again, I've got to crush him!"
Over at the Daily Bugle, Betty Brant shows off her new engagement ring to Frederick Foswell. Betty has finally accepted Ned Leeds' marriage proposal which he first laid on her in between panels of Amazing Spider-Man #30, November 1965. (Poor Betty! Everything seems to happen behind the scenes for her. Her proposal from Ned, her departure from the Bugle, her return to the Bugle, her acceptance of Ned's proposal. Not only that but the wedding won't take place for another nine years and five months in Amazing Spider-Man #156, May 1976. Don't even get me started on what happens after that!) For now, though, Ned stands beside her with his arm around her and Betty flashes a big smile as she shows off her new rock. Foswell congratulates them but tells himself "I always thought it would be Betty and that kid Parker". Just then J. Jonah Jameson bursts out of his office, puffing on his cigar, his fists clenched and raised. He has just learned that the Rhino has escaped and he wants the story. He also wants Peter Parker. When Foswell reminds him that he has "other photogs", Jonah replies, "But none as good as that lazy lowlife!" More vintage JJJ, courtesy of Stan, follows, "Get moving!" he bellows, "Get on the ball! Get the story! Get Parker! Get outta here!" "And you two, break it up!" he says to Betty and Ned, "This is a newspaper, not lovers' lane!" Betty, Ned, and Foswell break it up in a hurry.
And where is Peter Parker? Pretty much where we left him last issue, only he has made it from Anna Watson's front door to the dinner table, though he doesn't appear to have looked anywhere but Mary Jane's way since he first laid eyes on her. (You may recall that this dinner to meet Mary Jane was taking place on a Sunday evening, which means that JJJ, Betty, Ned, and Fred must never go home from the Bugle offices.) He's got a knife in his right hand but his left hand is propped under his chin and there isn't a scrap of food on his plate. (Though, to be fair, there isn't any food on anyone's plate or any liquid in anyone's glass.) Aunt May asks him if he'd mind passing the butter and he replies "No, not at all" but makes no move to do so (probably because there isn't any butter on the table!). When May says, "Then, why don't you pass it, dear?" Pete replies, "Pass what?"
Time for your trivia question of the day: We all know the first thing Mary Jane said after we finally saw her face ("faceittigeryoujusthitthejackpot") but what is the second thing? If you answered, "Petey-O, you're right from Groovesville!" you're correct. (Um... everyone did answer that, didn't they?) And, of course, the third thing she says is, "I never thought a Tiger who wore his hair so short could be so dreamy! And you've a bouncin' bike too! Dad, you're the end!" which sounds sort of like MJ is living in the 60s (that comment about short hair) and the 50s ("Dad, you're the end") simultaneously. But what do you expect from a writer who was about 44 years old at the time? Actually, Stan somehow succeeds in turning his imperfect understanding of 60s slang into a way of talking that becomes endearingly MJ's own. Later, other characters get into the act as well and it never seems phony or foolish. (Well, sometimes it seems phony or foolish.) It just becomes the way these particular teens happen to speak.
As Pete tries to get over the fact that he avoided Mary Jane for months, she takes him into the living room to turn on the "boob tube". May and Anna are all smiles behind them. They're thrilled at how well the two youngsters are hitting it off. In the living room, Pete puts his hands in his pockets and asks MJ, "What do you do with yourself when you're not driving helpless males out of their minds?" MJ tells him that she takes drama lessons. She then turns on the big clunky TV console (state of the art back in 1966) and finds a show called "Boss-Beat Bandstand" to which she commences to do the Watusi or Swim or Pony or something, though she just looks like she's going to fall over on her back. "C'mon Petey, let your hair down" she says, "They're playing our song!" This won't be the last time MJ says that to Peter but in this particular instance, we aren't told what the song is. (Years later, MJ says, "they're ALL our songs" or something to that effect so it doesn't much matter what this one is, does it?) But in the middle of the song, the station cuts away to a special bulletin, announcing that the Rhino has escaped. Peter gets so upset by this that the black lines radiate off his face. MJ stops dancing, crosses her arms, and says of the Rhino, "Those crazy threads break me up!" Now, Peter is faced with his standard dilemma. He wants to get away to fight the Rhino as Spider- Man but he can't ditch Mary Jane. Fortunately, MJ is interested in seeing the Rhino in person. Or as she puts it, "It's a real happening, man! We could hop on your cycle and follow the sound of the sirens!" This is just what Peter is waiting to hear. He readily agrees to this plan. "Grrrreat!" says MJ, "I'll bet the Rhino's a real swinger!" (And for those of you who are about to bring up how convenient it is that Mary Jane seems immediately interested in an apparently dull tool like Peter and how she suggests just what he needs in order to change into Spider-Man and then use that as proof that she's known that he's Spidey all along... bite your tongue! None of that retcon stuff in MY classroom! As far as we're concerned, Mary Jane does not know Peter is Spider-Man and she won't know until ASM #257, October 1984 says otherwise. So not a peep out of you guys for the next 18 years.)
Peter and MJ say goodnight to Anna and May, hop on his motorcycle and head for the East Side where the Rhino was last seen. Pete knows that it won't take long to reach him but he wonders how he can switch to Spider-Man when the time comes "without Mary Jane getting wise". And at that moment, we switch our attention over to the law offices of Nelson and Murdock. Yes, that's right. We had Foggy sticking his nose into Spidey's mag last issue and now Matt Murdock joins him in this one. Even Karen Page is hanging around in the background. Matt is consoling Foggy over the way his client broke out of jail after Foggy "worked all thru the night on a writ to free the Rhino". Foggy tells Matt he wishes the court "had appointed you to represent him instead of me" and Matt wishes the same thing, except that Matt was out playing Daredevil against the Owl when Foggy got the assignment. Matt tells Foggy that the most important thing now is to "make sure that the Rhino doesn't injure anyone until he's caught". Foggy doesn't think that's their problem. "Spider-Man fought him once before and he'll probably tackle him again", he says. Matt thinks that he'd like to go after the Rhino as Daredevil but "the web-slinger deserves first crack at him". (What is this? Super-hero dibs? Is Matt willing to sit around doing nothing, even though he's afraid the Rhino will injure someone, all because Spidey fought him first? Apparently so.) Foggy declares, "I hate felonies! Give me a juicy tax case anytime!" and that's it for our favorite lawyers this issue. When Foggy appeared last time, it was pretty clearly a plug for Daredevil's mag but I don't know what this is. Maybe Johnny just wanted to draw the old DD gang again.
Back to the Rhino who is going around smashing everything in sight, hoping to attract Spider-Man. He's so into this that he pushes a garbage can aside and punches a wall at the very same time. Then he dreams up another image of Spider- Man inside a cloud, just like the splash page only this time Spidey's shooting a web. "If not for that blasted wall-crawler, I'd have captured Colonel Jameson by now" he says (which he was trying to do in Amazing Spider-Man #41, October 1966 in case you forgot). "My plan was perfect, foolproof, till he butted in!" (Hah! "Rhino." "Butted in." Get it?) This all makes him think back to the time when he received his power. (Or as Stan puts it, "Origin time is comin' up!") As the Rhino puts it, "I was a nobody, just a hired hood, a muscleman doin' the dirty jobs for a bunch of professional spies". In his memory, he stands before two sinister looking guys in lab coats, one balding and one with a mustache, who tell him that they "owe allegiance to no nation except the country that pays us the best". Mustache tells him "my associates think you are too stupid to be trusted but I disagree. I feel your very lack of intelligence will prevent you from ever betraying us!" Then they present him with the experiment to which they want to subject him. He doesn't care "so long as I get paid". And so, the man who will be the Rhino allows these two goofballs to inject him and subject him to different treatments for months. Finally they have him lay very still as Bald covers him with his greatest invention "a form of molecular adhesive which will become as much a part of you as a second skin". When they're done, they give him the horn and the whole bit. "You are possibly the strongest man alive" they tell him, "You will be the perfect assassin! Brainless, obedient, invincible!" Except for one thing they didn't count on: when Rhino's power increased, his intelligence did too! Deciding that he is "too strong to take orders from any man", Rhino tears the lab apart with his bare hands. Mustache and Beard cower as their work is destroyed around them and only hope that "he lets us escape with our lives". As the lab gets engulfed in flames, the Rhino stomps off. "I'll use my power to make me rich!" he declares, "There are nations who'll pay a fortune for the things I can offer them!" Now, this appears to all take place somewhere in the United States but since the Rhino stomps across "our southernmost border" perhaps this has all taken place in Central America. Add to that the fact that Mustache and Bald are later revealed (in Incredible Hulk #104, June 1968 to be Igor and Georgi respectively not to mention that the Rhino is also later established to be Russian (in Spectacular Spider-Man #190, July 1992) and who knows where all this was taking place? The Rhino doesn't tell us. He's through thinking of the past. The streets have been cordoned off. Everyone is town knows he's here. Now he just has to wait for Spider-Man to show up.
At that moment, Peter and MJ join a crowd of gawkers. (One guy in the crowd says, "If I was in charge, I'd toss an a-bomb at him from the roof!" and another replies, "Could be that's why you're not in charge!") Pete asks MJ to stay with his cycle while he tries to get some photos of the Rhino for the Bugle ("Tell him to say cheese, Petey", says MJ.) Then he sneaks off and changes into his Spidey duds.
What follow are six pages of classic Spidey action. (Except for four panels of camera business, that is.)
Spidey finds the Rhino stomping around all by himself in a back alley. He pulls out his camera, sets it on automatic "with a 10-second time interval", "wide- angle lens" and "automatic zoom". He seems to accomplish most of this with one click of a button. Too little antennae pop up out of the top of his camera when it's all set. Spidey then webs the thing up on the wall and heads down to face the Rhino. He's full of glib repartee (such as "If you're trying to find the way back to jail, I'll be glad to put you back on the track, Horn-Head!") but he doesn't expect the Rhino to be so fast and ends up swinging right into two simultaneous uppercuts that drive him backwards. He goes into a backflip so that he can land a few feet away from the Rhino as he tries to recuperate. As Spidey crouches on the ground trying to clear the cobwebs, the Rhino brags that he knows how to handle the web-slinger this time. He comes charging at Spidey (but didn't he do that the last time?) only to have the webster leap over him while piledriving his head into the cement (and didn't Spidey do that last time?). The Rhino gets right up, however and declares, "It doesn't matter how many times I miss you. I'll just have to connect once and that'll be the end of Spider-Man!" (But didn't he just connect with two uppercuts at once? That wasn't the end of Spider-Man.) So, the Rhino goes back to his ingenious, complex plan, which seems to entirely consist of charging at the wall-crawler. This time, Spidey picks up an empty oil barrel that is conveniently placed in the alley and gets the Rhino to stick his head and half of his body right into it. The Rhino smashes out of it with a "skak!" He throws the pieces of the barrel at Spidey and finally comes up with a new wrinkle (hah! "Wrinkle." For the Rhino! Get it?) on his plan. "Instead of vainly attacking you," he says, "I'll force you to come after me!" "Gonna play hard to get, eh?" taunts Spidey as he perches on a wall but the Rhino's plan worries him. "Wonder what he's up to now?" he thinks. He finds out right away as the Rhino charges right through a wall, heading for the street. ("If nothing else, you sure are the noisiest guy I've fought!" says the web-slinger.) As Spidey leaps up to a rooftop, he figures out what the Rhino is doing. "The street outside is a Hollywood extra's paradise!" he says, "It's jam-packed with rubber- necking innocent bystanders! And that's where the Rhino's heading!" Sure enough, as Spidey look down from above, the Rhino charges right at a police car and a slew of scattering bystanders. Two cops stand in front of their car and shoot at him. Their guns are as effective as the guns fired at the jail. "Our bullets might as well be made outta cork!" says one officer. Spidey knows he must swing down and stop the Rhino before he tramples the crowd.
MJ is still in that crowd and not going anywhere. In fact, she is all smiles as she points up at the web-slinger and says, "It's Spidey! Oh, isn't he the dreamiest! Petey better get back before he misses all the fun!" Now, in retcon land, I guess we have to believe that MJ is saying this aloud just in case anyone in the crowd suspects that Peter is Spider-Man. In fact, Frederick Foswell is right behind her and he would certainly be one who would suspect. But MJ probably doesn't know he's back there and probably wouldn't recognize him anyway so she's just putting on this act for whoever happens to be listening. But we don't have to worry about that here at FTB. I don't have to go all through that again, do I?
Spidey shoots a web at a lamppost and rides it down to the scene as he tells the police to forget about the shooting and concentrate on protecting the crowd. Then he slingshots off the web and grabs the Rhino by the horn. "Sorry to keep you waiting, playmate" he tells "Rhiney", "but I wanted to count the house first!" Whatever that means. "Count the house" as in gauging how many people are in the audience, I guess. Then he jumps to the ground and brings the Rhino with him, propelling his head into the cement horn-first with a "klonk!" Spidey is apparently listening to the sound effects because he adds, "I wish you had the courtesy to say ouch when I klonk you!" He stands up straight as the Rhino struggles to his feet. ("Okay, up, little Sheba, rest time's over" he tells the Rhino, which is the second time he's referenced William Inge's play, isn't it? Let me check. Yeah, here it is. He says, "Come back little Sheba" to the Looter back in Amazing Spider-Man #36, May 1966. ) But he notices that the Rhino "doesn't even look winded" and wonders what it will take to stop him.
The Rhino responds by taking off "like a missile", ramming Spidey before he has the chance to leap away. Then, somehow, a "heavily-laded trailer truck, loaded with steel beams" of all things manages to get around the whole crowd and the cops as the oblivious driver cruises through everything and heads towards the onrushing Rhino and the fallen Spider-Man. Spotting the charging figure, the driver bails out of the truck in a panic. But the Rhino reserves the right to finish Spidey off on his own so he headbutts the truck, collapsing it like an accordion. Spidey is still too hurt to get up and the Rhino turns towards him for his final charge. But one of the cops (who we learn is named Joe) runs out to help the web-slinger. He knows that the Rhino is fast but can't change direction easily so he pulls Spidey out of the Rhino's path just in time and the Rhino ends up crashing into the steel beams from the truck instead. (Which has me all turned around. Didn't the Rhino head away from Spidey to crumple the truck? Now he turns back the other way and runs into the steel beams from the truck? Did the steel beams fly up in the air after the truck impact and land on the other side of the web-slinger?) All of the beams fall on top of the Rhino. Joe keeps dragging a helpless Spidey away, figuring that he can have the wall-crawler "safely hidden in the crowd" by the time the Rhino digs out from under the beams. Actually, the Rhino digs out fairly quickly but only now does Stan tell us that the poor slob is near-sighted. Amidst all the smoke from the rubble, he just assumes that Spidey was killed under the "falling girders". He stomps away, figuring to go after Colonel John Jameson again.
As Spidey comes to and tries to clear his head, Joe asks him if he's okay. "I think so" says the wall-crawler "though I wouldn't be if not for you!" Getting to his feet (and with the crowd all smiles behind him) Spidey starts to thank Joe for saving his life. "Forget it, mister!" says the cop, "We may not be glamor [sic] boys but we do our job!" "And anyone who doesn't believe that can check with yours truly" says Spidey. "Well, I better make my report before we need a cryin' towel!" replies Joe. As Spidey departs by crawling up a nearby wall, Frederick Foswell, who was in the crowd, hangs onto his hat and rushes off to the Bugle. "Wotta story!" he says, "Spidey saved by a cop on the beat! Jonah will eat it up!"
Up on the roof, Spider-Man heads for his webbed-up camera. He is still harping on how great the police are. "Boy! Someone oughtta write a book about cops! They're the real heroes!" (I'm not sure why Stan kept grinding this in. Perhaps he was trying to counteract the general opinion of his college-age readers of the time.) Even as Spidey heads for his camera, he notices that it is beginning to wobble. Then the webbing breaks free and the camera falls. (Does this mean, the fight with the Rhino lasted an hour?) He fires some webbing and snags the camera just before it hits the ground. He holds the camera in one hand while he grabs the back of his head with the other. "Little Petey really needs the greenbacks this'll bring" he says of the photos, relieved that he saved the camera. It turns out that he left his street clothes in a web sack attached to the wall in the alley. (But that webbing doesn't seem to be dissolving.) He retrieves them and changes back to Peter Parker, aware that MJ is probably wondering where he is. But he has already "figured out a way to polish off the Rhino" at their next meeting. Then he notices a "small piece of the Rhino's hide stuck on this jagged stone". He picks that up and rejoins Mary Jane. She assumes that he didn't get any photos since she didn't see him during the fight but Pete lies to her and assures her that he "ran into a building and snapped them from a second floor hall window". MJ then tells him she needs to get home. "Shall we ride, Clyde?" she asks. (Love that MJ-speak.) Pete refuses to comply "unless you tell me you're free tomorrow night". "I had promised Rock Hudson," says MJ, "but I don't want him to take me for granted". (Plus, I don't really think Rock would have been interested, anyway.) So, Peter drops MJ off at her apartment. He's thrilled that he has a date with her tomorrow but he's more interested in getting his own apartment too. "If only I didn't have Aunt May to consider" he thinks.
Peter stops by the Daily Bugle where JJJ is looking over Foswell's shoulder as the reporter clacks out his story on a typewriter. Jonah wishes he had photos to go with it and Peter hands him his already-developed pics. Jonah's face lights up (and those little black lines radiate off of it) as he sees the picture of the "ordinary cop" saving Spider-Man. "It's beautiful!" he crows, "It proves that web-slingin' weasel isn't half as good as he's cracked up to be!" He then promises Peter a bonus but doesn't say anything about money. "Foswell! Get 'im his own key to the washroom!" he bellows, "Put his initials on it!" Then he gets on the phone and orders an extra edition. (Except it has to be a late-night edition by this time, doesn't it?) Then he orders his telephone operator to call the Westchester hospital where his son John has been transferred for observation (following last issue's events). Peter overhears and files this information away.
At the hospital, one of John's doctors (I assume) tells Jonah that his son is fine. "Our tests have revealed absolutely no after-effects from the strange spores he picked up on his space walk" he says and offers the prediction that John will "be back on active duty within a week". He then assures Jonah that the government is paying all medical expenses. "Good ol' Dad" thinks John, "He's as tight-fisted as ever! He makes Jack Benny seem like a compulsive spender!" (Does this make sense to everyone? Jack Benny was a comedian whose bit was that he was cheap as cheap can be. He had a long-running radio show in which he played a fictionalized thoroughly cheap version of himself. In one of its most famous routine, Jack was walking home from Ronald Colman's house (he had borrowed Ronald Colman's Oscar and Colman had a devil of a time getting it back) when a hold-up man stopped him. "Your money or your life!" said the crook. Jack doesn't reply. The crook says, "Look, bud! I said, 'Your money or your life!'" Jack's famous reply was, "I'm thinking it over!")
On his motorcycle, Peter worries about John. He's sure that the Rhino will try to abduct him again. He's determined to pay John a visit as Spidey. But first he changes into the reds-and-blues and goes to Dr. Curt Connors lab. (We haven't seen Curt since Amazing Spider-Man #33, February 1966 when he helped Spidey create the serum from ISO-36 that cured Aunt May.) Curt tells Spidey that he heard about the fight with the Rhino. Spidey tells Curt that he can't defeat the Rhino as long as he wears "that Rhino hide of his". Curt wishes he had a sample of the hide to analyze and Spidey gives him the one from the jagged rock. As Curt starts analyzing, Spidey gets permission to use the phone in the other room. Lifting his mask up so his voice won't be muffled, he calls Aunt May and tells her he is staying out late because he is "studying at a friend's house", which is close to being true. (So, wait a minute, just how late is it anyway? Peter was having Sunday dinner with Aunt May, Anna Watson and MJ. MJ turns the TV on after the meal and the bulletin of the Rhino's escape comes on. He rides into Manhattan with Mary Jane, fights the Rhino long enough for the webbing on his camera to dissolve, drives MJ home, develops his photos, goes to the Daily Bugle and sells them to Jonah and then visits Curt Connors who is apparently working late on a Sunday night in his lab. It has to be at least 10 PM or so, doesn't it? And Aunt May doesn't care that Peter hasn't come back? Once again, he gripes to himself that he needs his own pad but he actually tells his Aunt, "See you in the morning". That doesn't sound like any sort of repressive supervision to me.)
Back in the lab, Curt looks through his microscope as Spidey does something with a beaker full of fluid. Curt tells him he's always been amazed "how a masked crime fighter like yourself can also be such a capable scientific lab man" and Spidey replies "science was always my first love". Connors starts to wonder if the Lizard (his evil alter-ego as you all know, who hasn't been seen since Amazing Spider-Man #6, November 1963) could defeat the Rhino but Spidey declares that "Too dangerous!" He reminds Curt "you almost remained the Lizard last time" and won't let him risk it. (Actually, once Spidey created the antidote, Curt was turned right back to normal. Does he mean Curt would have remained the Lizard if he hadn't come along to cure him?) Finally, the two science whizzes crack the secret of the Rhino's hide. Curt wants to experiment more before Spidey proceeds but the web-slinger declares time of the essence and takes whatever-it-is-they-came-up-with along with him. Curt offers to go along with him but Spidey turns him down. "You've a wife and a son, doc!" he says, "Why risk it?" As he web-swings away he reflects on the fact that Connors "still doesn't realize that when he turned into the Lizard, he was one of the deadliest foes I ever fought! I sure don't need that again!" (Now Curt had appeared back in the Master Planner story without turning into the Lizard and it had been 37 issues, as I mentioned, since Lizzy's one and only appearance so there was no reason for the reader of the time to think that was going to change any time soon, except that Stan blows it in the "next issue" blurb. But looking back on it now, I would have to say that Spidey's little "I sure don't need that again" soliloquy has to qualify as a definite plot point.) "Good luck" says Curt to the departing web-spinner. "Leave a Bunsen burner flaming in the window for me, doc" says Spidey.
Thirty minutes later, Spidey arrives at the Westchester Hospital and perches outside John Jameson's window. As he's perched there, he thinks, "Lucky there wasn't much traffic at this hour" which I think means he must have changed back to Peter, ridden his motorcycle there, and changed back to Spidey even though we saw him a panel ago leaving Curt Connors as Spidey and now see him perched outside the window as Spidey. He wonders if "maybe I'm just a professional worrier" since no one else seems concerned over the possibility of another Rhino attack but just then his spider-sense starts tingling and the Rhino breaks into the hospital hallway. He thunders by a guard who is so casual that he can't even get his gun out. But he does show why everyone's so lackadaisical as he yells at Rhino, "Hold it, you fool! Jameson's no use to you! The spores have vanished! He's normal again!" The Rhino then stomps his way into John's room. That guard manages to pull his gun and fire but it does no good. Seeing this from outside, Spidey crashes through the window. The Rhino is a bit surprised to see the web-slinger since he thought he killed him. "You're still alive!" he says. "Now there's a swingin' soliloquy" Spidey replies.
Spidey collides with the Rhino and his momentum carries both of them out of the room. The Rhino's horn hits the floor with a "splakk!" forming cracks in the linoleum. From his back, the Rhino punches Spidey, sending him flying. Both men get up. The Rhino charges and Spidey covers him with webbing. "You fool!" says Rhiney, "Haven't you learned I can tear it like a scrap of paper?" "Big deal" says Spidey, "So you're a champion paper tearer!" The Rhino flexes his muscles and tears the webbing with a "ftakt!" Spidey says, "I'll never understand how you do that! Whenever I tear any webbing, it always goes ftiffft instead of ftakt!" as he hopes that the "special gizmo" that he and Curt introduced into the webbing will work. The Rhino charges, planning to "butt [Spidey] thru the wall" but the web-slinger leaps up and clings to the wall over Rhino's head. The Rhino's charge sends him right through the wall. Since they are on the second floor, he also falls to the ground but gets up immediately. Spidey follows through the hole and Rhiney dares him to come down and fight. Spidey complies, smacking the Rhino in the face with a good right cross which only ends up hurting his knuckles. The Rhino is unimpressed. "Once I get within butting distance of you, I'll squash you like a bug" he says, which is a sentence you can't use everyday... unless you're the Rhino, I guess. But he's still coated in webbing and he starts to notice that it is starting to burn, getting hotter and hotter until it begins to dissolve his rhino hide. "I had a hunch you were wearing an artificial covering," says Spidey, "the only problem was finding a way to melt it off!" (And that's as close to getting an actual scientific explanation of what was added to the webbing as you're going to get in this issue, although Incredible Hulk #104 retroactively declares that the costume was "exposed to an acid" which isn't much better.)
The melting continues. The Rhino's horns and head covering melt away and fall to the ground. His hide starts to fade, leaving him shirtless, with a hole at his right knee. "Boy! No wonder you covered your head the way you did! I don't know who you are but one thing's for sure a beauty contest winner you ain't!" says Spidey as he moves in for the kill. The Rhino begs him to "stay back" since he no longer has his hide to defend himself. Spidey doesn't care. He smacks the Rhino in the jaw with a "rop!" knocking him unconscious. Just then, a police car arrives. JJJ and a couple of government men get out. Jonah runs into the hospital. Spidey follows up the wall. The g-men hover over the Rhino. They know they won't have any trouble keeping him locked him without his rhino suit. Once Jonah gets up to John's room, he berates the guard who tells him that Spider-Man saved his son's life. "Balderdash!" he says, "I'll sue that fink for using my boy as a decoy to trap the Rhino!" But, meanwhile, John gives the okay sign to Spidey who is hovering outside the window. "Well done, web- head" he whispers. "No sweat, Colonel", the web-head whispers back.
Spidey gets back into his Parker duds and starts heading home. (Stan gives us this caption: "Dept. of utter confusion: We got so wrapped up in this yarn, that we counted the pages wrong! We thought this would be the end, but now we see we've another page to go! So, stay with us, frantic one, we'll think of something." I don't buy it for a minute but let's see what happens on that last page, okay?) Stopped at a red light, Peter finds himself alongside a white convertible driven by Harry Osborn with Gwen Stacy and Flash Thompson along for the ride. (And what time is it? It's still the same night as the dinner with MJ, isn't it?) Pete knows we're into the wee hours. He asks the trio if they are "coming back late or starting out early". Gwen tells him that they went out to discuss the big news, which is that "Flash has to report for a draft physical". Flash makes with the bombast. "Yeah! All of a sudden they can't win the war without me!" he says. Harry asks Pete if he's gotten his draft notice yet. "I've been so busy," thinks Peter, "I haven't even had time to think of the draft!" My guess is pretty much everyone reading this hasn't thought about the draft either but back in 1966 with the Vietnam War escalating and the draft very much in business, it had a huge effect on the college-age people of the time. It was a stroke of genius on Stan's part to integrate the war and the draft into the life of the ASM cast, allowing the readers to identify with them more than ever. In a nice little Parker/Thompson banter, Peter says, "Well, loudmouth, I wish you luck no matter what happens." "Know something, Parker?" replies Flash, "Anyone ever tell ya that you're all heart?" When Harry suggests that the two bury the hatchet, Flash says, "Bury it? Puny Parker couldn't even lift it!" Peter notices that Gwen says nothing in his defense. "I'll bet Mary Jane wouldn't just sit back and let Flash put me down", he thinks. "Leaving so soon, useless?" says Flash, "Wotta shame!" "Kinda breaks you up, doesn't it?" says Peter.
Pete finally gets home and finds Aunt May moping about the house. (So what time is it?) She's rubbing the back of her neck and looks so pale and listless that Pete gets alarmed. May tells him that she's been feeling weak all evening and is just hoping it will pass. Pete runs into the bathroom to get her medicine but only finds an "old empty bottle" in the medicine cabinet. "No wonder she feels weak!" he realizes, "She never refilled the prescription!" (Plus she's up and about at all hours of the night, apparently.) He figures she never got a refill because "she didn't have the money" (though it could be any number of other reasons such as wanting to make him feel guilty which she succeeds in doing). Feeling guilty, Peter bangs his fist against the wall and goes into this sorry rant: "You're a great guy, Parker! Worrying about getting your own apartment, buying a new cycle, thinking only of number one! While the woman who's devoted her life to you does without her medicine because she can't afford a new bottle! Peter Parker, boy hero! Yeah, isn't that a king-sized joke!"
Now convinced he doesn't deserve to have any fun, he calls Mary Jane and cancels their date for tomorrow. MJ is hanging around brushing her hair (WHAT time is it again?) and she tells him, "That's okay, tiger! I'll keep a stiff upper lip till you buzz me again, hear?" This isn't what Peter wants to hear. "Sounds as though she couldn't care less!" he thinks. And so, he finally ends the day, staring out of a window and moping. "What's wrong with me?" he thinks, "I've defeated some of the most powerful super- villains of all time without batting an eye! But, why do I have such trouble, just managing my own life?"
I don't know, Pete! But I do know that Stan ruins any mystery surrounding that plot point regarding Curt Connors when he tells us, "Next: The Lizard Crawls Again!"
Let's take a moment with the Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page. This month, Stan calls it, "Earth-Shattering Essays, Eloquent Epithets, and Exaggerated Endorsements Which You Can Easily Live Without!" and he's not kidding because there really isn't much to mention here. One item touts some lesser-known Marvel employees of the time in perhaps their only mention so let's bring them back for another bow forty years later: "Jovial Johnny Hayes, our circumventing circulation manager... Admirable Arthur Jeffrey, keeper of our MMMS files, guardian of our club coupons... Nifty Nancy Murphy... [and] her soulful self- sacrifice in the face of our daily Marvel subscription list snafus... Delicious Doris Siegler, the most welcome sight in all of Marveldom for it is she, our benevolent bookkeeper, who doth dole out our salaries every week!"
Since I know you've all been waiting with bated breath for the 26 M.M.M.S. members of the month, I'll get right to that: Martin Gheim of Dover, Massachusetts; Richard Coburn of Monterey, California; Matt Kilmow of Johnson City, New York; Dave Heffner of Muncie, Indiana; Toby Fixel of New York, New York; David LaPoint of Stoneham, Massachusetts; Mathew Connarton of North Hampton, New Hampshire; Layne Kiland of Youbon, Canada; Tommy Compton of Detroit, Michigan; Steven Harvey of New York, New York; Michael Farinacci of Denver, Colorado; Michael Gilbert of Waterloo, Iowa; Charles Jones of New York, New York; Odell Harrington of Peoria, Arizona; Alvin Fulton of Kinstree, South Carolina; Frank Federico of Lynn, Massachusetts; David Hartley of Ben Hur, Virginia (yeah, really! Ben Hur, Virginia!); Larry Farley of Scarboro, Canada; Dickie Larson of Billings, Montana; Lonnie Hamilton of Detroit, Michigan; Sheldon Hyatt of Anoka, Minnesota; Joseph Costanzo of Brooklyn, New York; Steve Hargis of Via, Missouri; George Hill of Ozone, New York; Albert Fanelli of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Steven Cipolla of Coventry, Rhode Island. Do you think all of these guys saw their names when this was first printed? Do you think any of them are seeing it now? As always, if any of you guys are reading this, drop me a line!
The opposite page features a new ad for the Marvel Super-Heroes on TV but except for the fact that you have to turn the comic sideways to read it, the super-heroes are now leaping out of a television, and there are 28 stations listed when there were 20 before, it is much the same ad as last time. Besides, what do we care? Spidey isn't even on that show.
In the Spider's Web, Rich Chidlaw of Phoenix, Arizona says, "The Green Goblin is an extremely interesting and unique villain, but the all-time great in my book is the Scorpion! I can't wait until the day when he clashes with your wild web-spinner again. Please make it soon!" How about 102 issues (8 years and 7 months) from now, Rich? Is that soon enough for you? Meanwhile, Greg McDuffie from New Holland, Pennsylvania is green enough (no pun intended) to think that we've actually seen the last of the Green Goblin when Gobby isn't even dead! "The fight scenes were great, but now the Goblin is gone, the best villain Spidey ever fought... I hope you can come up with another villain like the Green Goblin because stubborn old villains like him are hard to find." Greg, my friend, the Goblin wasn't even gone after he WAS dead! Hang in there until Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #2, November 1968. It will be here before you know it.
Two other letters are worth reprinting in full. First, Linda Osborne (no relation to Norman) of Arlington, Massachusetts writes, "Frantic ones, where have you been all my life? Here I am acquiring a B.A. and an M.M.M.S. pin practically the same week! Having arrived at the Halls of Marveldom via the Lancer Collectors' Albums of the F.F. and Spidey, I'm just in time to bid farewell to King Kirby's Subby and gleefully greet Gallant Gene's, wildly applaud jazzy Johnny's spruced-up Spidey, and dig your fugitive-from-"Guernica"- type Hulk. Grand and glorious group, you have managed to combine the heroes of our childhoods with real-gone adventures, real-life solutions, and real-in humor to produce one of the few oases in the desert of Naturalist and Existentialist literature. Love your personality development; and the victory over physical handicaps by D.D. and Tony Stark is particularly well portrayed. One small caution - let us not let the problems get the better of the people. Thou wouldst not, for example, perpetuate Pointy-Ears' personality problems by permitting him to pulverize his passionate princess on purely false premises, wouldst thou? Course not! After all, if Tony and Matt and Petey and Bruce and Thor and Johnny and their chicks don't deserve the best, who does? Yet they're up to their ears in painful problems. Let's have some happy outcomes, crowd." Okay, granted the letter doesn't have much to do with Spidey but anyone who writes, "fugitive-from-Guernica-type Hulk" deserves the whole letter reprinted.
The second letter is from Stephen Bowell of North Olmsted, Ohio (no jokes about Stephen's last name, please): "In your letters pages for the past few issues there has been some discussion as to what type of person Spider-Man should grow up to be. Frankly, I was quite shaken up by the idea that he should ever grow up at all. What would you propose to do with him? Get him through college, into the army, and make him another Captain America? Have him make his career as a scientist, and make him another Anthony Stark? Or worse, marry him off to some empty-headed dame who disapproves of his risking his life fighting crime, and henpecks him? No! - No! - No! - No! A zillion times no! Spider-Man must never grow up! Can't you yourself see the reason for his great popularity? Spider-Man is a symbol of teenage youth - our energy, our arrogance, our idealism, our confusion, our harassments, our frustrations, our hidden desires. He is the one super-hero we can really identify with. Apart from that he's nothing special, nothing different, nothing better than the kind of junk that the Camp followers are laughing at. So quick, before it's too late, exercise the rightful prerogative of every comic strip creator since Little Orphan Annie - take Spidey back to high school the way you took Captain American back to World War II, and keep him there! There's a new generation of teenagers coming right after us, and they deserve better than to have nobody to represent their generation!" Stan replies, in part, "Unfortunately, we can't think of a single way to de-age poor Petey and put him back in high school - although, we do feel you've brought up a most interesting point - should we continue to allow Pete to age, until he graduates college and enters full adulthood - or should we sort of stop things at this point?... And we kid thee not - we really wanna hear from all of you on this matter, 'cause it's got us more stumped than usual!" I don't know what answers Stan got to this plea but I know what he decided to do. As long as he was the regular Spidey scripter, Pete stayed put in college. As for de-aging Pete back to high school? Stephen finally got his wish but not until that far future year of 2000 with the Ultimate Spider- Man series.
In the yellow "Next Ish" box, Stan predicts "that our next Spidey saga will be acclaimed as one of the greatest Spider-Man thrillers of all - ranking right alongside the Doc Ock, Vulture, and Green Goblin classics!" Well, we'll just see, won't we?
Rounding the bases:
Poor Rhino. He's been jerked around something awful in his years of existence. First, he gets jerked out of Spidey comics and becomes a Hulk villain. His next appearance is in Incredible Hulk #104, June 1968 in which writer Gary Friedrich seems to have forgotten that (as Rhino put it in this issue), "When my power increased, my intelligence did also!" instead keeping him dim-witted after his powers are returned to him. Not only that but he speaks in an American-thug vernacular which belies the fact that he is a foreign agent. It takes Eric Fein in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #28, 1994 to not only show the Rhino as intelligent but tell a story in which he brings his mother and niece to the U.S.A. from behind the "former Iron Curtain". And still Rhino gets portrayed with the intelligence of a stump; a characterization that reaches its depths in the Flowers for Algernon take-off in Spider-Man Tangled Web #5, October 2001 and Spider- Man Tangled Web #6,November 2001. And still Rhino's real name is often mentioned as "Alex O'Hirn" an anagram alias he used in Incredible Hulk #435, November 1995 instead of as "Aleksei Mikhailovich Sytsevich", the name finally established in Marvel Encyclopedia Volume 4: Spider-Man, 2003. I very much doubt all of this confusion would have taken place if Stan had bothered to use him again but clearly Stan wasn't very much interested.
In case you were wondering, Rhino doesn't face Spidey again until Marvel Team-Up #102, February 1981.
Curt Connors appears next issue but whether he becomes the Lizard or not, remains to be... oh, that's right. Stan blew that already, didn't he? Never mind.
Milestones (Landmark events that take place in this story.)
- The second and final appearance of "Beard", the clueless police physician.
- Betty Brant finally accepts Ned Leeds proposal sometime between last issue and this one.
- First time MJ tells Peter, "They're playing our song."
- First appearances of Igor and Georgi before they were called Igor and Georgi
- First time Stan gives us the details of how Spidey sets up his automatic camera.
- Second time Spidey brings up the work of William Inge.
- First time that Spidey's life is saved by the police.
- Flash Thompson gets his draft notice.
The 1969 Marvelmania International Spider-Man Portfolio checklist entry for this story. Warts and all:
"Rhino on the Rampage" - Rhino escapes.
There's a lot of nifty stuff in this issue as Stan continued to make changes each month since regaining the plotting from Steve Ditko. Mary Jane is revealed as a hip-talking swinger instead of the regal starlet she appeared to be under Steve. Betty Brant and Ned Leeds get engaged. Flash reports for his draft physical; step one of bringing the realities of Viet Nam to the book. And Stan brings back the villain from two issues before because Spidey hadn't really yet solved the problem of how to defeat him. Unfortunately, the ultimate defeat is accomplished by one of those "Spidey-adds-something-to-his-webbing-which-does- the-trick" deus ex machinas. To be fair, this is really the first time such a trick is employed (Spidey sort of did it way back in Amazing Spider-Man #3, July 1963 when he whipped up a chemical that fused Doc Ock's tentacles... only he didn't add it to his webbing.) Still, it feels too perfunctory, too scripted to ring true. So, I'm going to give this issue a very average three and a half webs even though I love the six page fight sequence that ends with Spidey being rescued by one brave cop and I love the moment when John Jameson gives Spidey the subtle "okay" because it still doesn't match up to the four post-Ditko issues that preceded it. But even while doing that I'd like to point out that, in the midst of the action with the Rhino, Stan included Frederick Foswell, Betty Brant, Ned Leeds, J. Jonah Jameson, Aunt May, Anna Watson, Mary Jane Watson, John Jameson, Dr. Curt Connors, Flash Thompson, Harry Osborn, Gwen Stacy, Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson and Karen Page in ways that flowed naturally through the story and, in fact, provided richness to the story. Why can't we get such rich-supporting-cast stories today?
Next: Before we get to the Lizard, we have a short date with the X-Men.