Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #56
This story is part of a Lookback Series: From The Beginning
This review was first published on: 5 Feb 2017.
1968! Well, technically, it’s still 1967 since the cover date was always a couple of months ahead of the actual date but who’s counting?
Nearly 50 years down the road, 1968 is still remembered as a tumultuous year. Look at all that went on. Anti-war demonstrations, student protests (even Spidey is affected by these by the time 1969 rolls around), the Black Panther movement, SDS, Stokely Carmichael and SNCC, Cesar Chavez and the farm labor movement, the American Indian Movement, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, the mayhem at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, the election of Richard Nixon to the Presidency. And that’s just in this country. There was also the Prague Spring, the Black Power salutes at the Mexico City Olympics, the capture of the USS Pueblo by North Korea, the Tet offensive in Vietnam, the “Bloody Monday” student protest in Paris and more.
I was still too young to take all of this in but I do have very clear recollections of the assassinations. I remember my mother telling my father that Martin Luther King had been shot. “Senior or Junior?” my father asked. This is not as silly a question as it appears today. Martin Luther King Sr. was a civil rights leader in his own right. “Junior,” my mother answered him. And I, who did not know who Martin Luther King was, thought a young boy had been shot because I was also a junior and I was a young boy.
I knew full well whom Bobby Kennedy was when he was shot. Bobby had become the hero of young America and I was as drawn to him as my peers. The death of Bobby Kennedy was a powerful blow to me. I still remember the shock and sadness in the same way as many older than me remember the JFK assassination. In all the world events that influenced me growing up – the Civil Rights Movement, the hippies, Vietnam, and mass demonstrations - the assassination of Bobby Kennedy is up at the top of the list.
But enough about me. What’s Spidey up to? You may recall that, in Amazing Spider-Man #53, October 1967 he (as Peter Parker) takes Gwen Stacy to the science exposition where Doc Ock tries to steal the nullifier, a machine that “nullifies the homing devices of enemy missiles.” Spidey thwarts Ock who, in Amazing Spider-Man #54, November 1967, rents a room in May Parker’s home. (Actually, it’s Anna Watson’s home. May moved in with Anna. This gets muddled over the years but don’t forget May bemoaning “All the damage to your house” to Anna in ASM #55.) When Peter finds out, he becomes Spidey and crashes into the house to attack Ock, which shocks Aunt May into a heart attack. In Amazing Spider-Man #55, December 1967, Ock finally succeeds in stealing the nullifier. He makes modifications on it so he can use it as a hand-held weapon and can “nullify” any device…pistols, telephones, missiles. He brings it to Tony Stark’s factory where he nullifies every machine there. Spidey shows up and battles Ock who, in desperation shoots the nullifier at him. The nullifier’s ray interacts with Spidey’s radioactive blood causing him to lose his memory. Ock takes advantage of the situation, telling Spidey that they are partners in crime.
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #56
Jan 1968 : SMURF 056.500 : SM Title
Summary: Spidey and Doc Ock Team-Up, First Captain Stacy
Arc: Part 4 of "Doc Ock Wins"
Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #41
Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #3
Reprinted In: Spider-Man vs. Doctor Octopus (TPB)
|Articles: Watson, Anna, Aunt May Parker, Betty Brant, Doctor Octopus (Otto Octavius), Gwen Stacy, Jameson, J. Jonah, John Jameson (Man-Wolf), Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Robertson, Joe "Robbie"|
The cover shows Spidey and Ock side-by-side with a copy of the Daily Bugle as a backdrop. Its headline is “Spidey Joins Doc Ock!” with the sub-headline “Super-Hero Turns Bad!” Since the article was written by J. Jonah Jameson, it shouldn’t acknowledge that Spidey “turns bad” since that implies that he was once good, but it’s all for cover dramatic effect. There are two things I like quite a bit about this cover. One is that the newspaper articles are actually readable…what there is of them. Not just JJJ’s article but ones about Vietnam (“The North Vietnamese, breaking contact, headed toward Cambodia”), union negotiations with the auto industry (“The union’s position paper indicated it was seeking the same salary status for workers as for executive and white collar personnel”) and the Canadian Olympic team (“Wiskin [swim coach George Wiskin] said that until this year Canada has never had a contender for the men’s breaststroke”). I suspect if you pored through thousands of newspaper from 1967, you would eventually find these actual articles (except for Jonah’s, of course), since they are clearly culled from elsewhere. By the way, the date on the paper is “Saturday, October 18, 1967” which probably gives us a good idea as to the actual release date of this issue. Unfortunately, October 18, 1967 was a Wednesday.
The other thing I like about this cover is Doc Ock’s evil smile. He is clearly enjoying every minute of this.
The title, “Disaster!” pretty much says it all. It begins right where last issue left off as, taking advantage of Spidey's amnesia, Doc Ock has the webhead load the nullifier into the back of his truck. “With Spider-Man’s help, no one can stop us now,” says Doc’s henchmen and driver. (He seems to be the only one left.) They then climb in, with Doc telling the driver to "Head for my hilltop retreat!" (Wait a minute! Wasn’t the whole idea of Ock going to Stark’s factory to hide out in the one place where no one will look for him? What happened to that plan?) Otto tells Spidey to "keep a lookout" but the webhead is still too confused to comply. "Every instinct within me despises Dr. Octopus...tells me not to trust him," he thinks and yet he doesn't know what else to do.
As they travel a winding country road, a police car approaches them. (It is car 54. Shouldn’t Muldoon and Toody be riding in it? For those too young to get that remark, look it up.) That car is just getting a report to "Be on lookout for maintenance truck escaping from Stark factory." (If it starts to seem like Stan forgot last issue and thought that Ock stole the nullifier from the Stark factory, it's because he probably did.) The squad car does a U-turn to pursue but Ock fires the nullifier at them and their motor stalls out. (One of the cops is named Marty but the other goes into posterity nameless.) Now, Stan may have forgotten where the nullifier was when it was stolen but he didn't forget that John Jameson mentioned it needed modifications, for, after it is used on the police car, the device starts to emit steam (of all things). "That must be the reason it was brought to Stark's factory", says Ock. (Well, it was being brought to Stark’s factory by the military but Ock hijacked it. He’s the one that actually brought it to the factory.) "The isotopical element" is "starting to overheat!" (Uh-huh.) Ock is convinced that he can fix it “before we reach our destination” but Spidey sneaks a peek, too. He realizes that he understands much of the inner workings of the machine and he wonders, "Can it be that I'm some sort of scientist?" But then he decides that "I must be a criminal! I must be the partner of Dr. Octopus." But... when the truck arrives at the hideout (a palatial mansion surrounded by a stone fence; I wonder what sort of rent Doc pays on all these hideouts?), Spidey wonders why he doesn’t think of it as "our hideout."
Many hours later, after "working halfway through the night” in a lab filled with impressive-looking machinery, Octavius finally figures out what's wrong with the nullifier. "There's one part that's still missing! As a safety factor, they didn't assemble the entire thing!" (Now, wait a minute! It worked just fine back at the factory!) Ock realizes that he needs "a small quantity of isotope 16 which is stored at Ft. Tyson, a scant few miles from here." Spidey reminds him that Ft. Tyson is an army post. "How can you hope to get in there?" "I don't hope to," Otto replies, "You're going to do it for me." The amnesiac hero gets a tingling all over his body but does not recognize it as his spider-sense warning system. Still, he hesitates to carry out Ock's command. "Don't just stand there when I give you an order!" says the Doctor, "And another thing... before you go, take that moronic mask off! I want to see who you are!" But this command turns out to be a mistake. Pete starts to remove his mask, but again hesitates. After all, "if you don't know my identity, how can we be partners?"
The “More Triumphs for Marvel…!” page plugs Thor #147, December 1967 with a weakened Thunder God fighting Loki in “The Wrath of Odin!” and Daredevil #35, December 1967 with the Man Without Fear taking on the Trapster in “Daredevil Dies First!” Both worth seeking out and reading. I won’t be reviewing either one of these but a small Spidey reference in Thor #148, January 1968 means we will be getting to that one soon.
Octopus realizes he must change the subject if he is to maintain his charade. He decides to pick a fight by telling Spidey they aren't equal partners. "I'm your boss! And I'll show you what happens to those who dare defy me!" Spidey may not know who he is but his spider-sense can recognize an enemy when it senses one. Without thinking, he goes for Otto's throat. But his amnesia causes uncertainty and this allows Ock to fling him away. Spidey leaps up, ready to press the fight. "Maybe I can't remember the past... but one thing I do know... nobody can push me around like that... Nobody!" (Nice to see the gumption he has when he’s not hampered by Peter Parker’s pessimism.) Spidey knocks aside some big computer or some such and heads for Dr. Octopus.
Since Ock hasn't finishing taking advantage of Spider-Man yet, he decides to end the battle. Ultimately, he doesn't care enough about Spidey's true identity to press the issue. Instead, he calls a halt to the fight, telling Pete that he was only testing him to see that he really had lost his memory. This ploy works (“All I needed was an appeal to his stupid misplaced sense of loyalty!”) and so Octopus lays out Spidey's task. He pulls a rolled-up map from a safe filled with rolled-up maps (How does he know he has the right map? Is it a whole safe full of the same map?) and draws out Spidey's route from the hideout to the Fort. (Johnny gives us two cool panels in a row of Ock using his tentacles. First, he removes the map from the safe without looking as he continues to talk to Spidey. Then he holds the map open with his four tentacles while he holds a ruler in his right hand and a pencil in his left hand.) Spidey ties the map to his back and swings off a balcony into the night. (The lab is on the second floor and has a balcony! And I guess the nullifier effect wore off his web-shooters, eh?) Ock calls after him that isotope 16 “shouldn’t be hard for you to locate! An element like that is certain to be stored in an easily-recognizable platinum container!” (Of course it is.) “Why did I ever team up with someone like him?", Spidey wonders, "Or, can it be that I'm just as bad?"
And in Forest Hills, Gwen Stacy has teamed up with Harry Osborn to visit May Parker to see if she's heard from her nephew. Peter hasn't been seen by anyone for several days and Gwen is worried. (Harry is less sympathetic. "If you ask me, he gets his kicks by acting like a mystery man", he says, “He was probably jealous of the fuss we made over Flash when he was here on furlough!” Harry’s either referring to the get-together with Flash in Amazing Spider-Man #52 or Amazing Spider-Man #53 or both.) Aunt May, now recovered from her attack, hasn't seen Peter either and this visit from his friends concerns her. "Do you think there might be something wrong?" Mary Jane shows up and walks right in with the latest edition of the Bugle, which has a headline reading Extra! Spider-Man Joins Dr. Octopus! (How do they know this already?) MJ is so blasé about this that I would hazard a guess that she doesn’t know Peter is Spidey…at least until this is retconned years later. The young people try to assure May that Peter must be off looking for pictures of Ock and Spidey but this only worries May even more. With tears in her eyes, she says, "Why can't he get some other part-time job... instead of trying to sell news pictures to the Bugle? He always wanted to be a scientist!" Anna Watson, standing behind May, says, “And he will be, May dear!” And she’s right! It’s only going to take him about 45 years.
At a meeting of "police and military authorities at City Hall," John Jameson is discussing means for getting the nullifier back. He is told that every exit from the area is blocked and Ock "will never get out of town." One man at the meeting points out that "He may not be trying to leave the city! We've got to catch him here!" This man is grey-haired and walks with a cane. John Jameson thanks him for coming "out of retirement to attend our meeting." He is Captain George Stacy, father of Gwen, and this is his very first appearance. After the meeting, Captain Stacy gets a phone call from his daughter. She is concerned about the missing Peter Parker. George promises to check accident reports. "Thanks, Dad!" says Gwendy, "It would make his Aunt feel better!" "Only his Aunt, Gwen?" replies her perceptive father.
“But while Gorgeous Gwendolyne worries about Peter Parker,” says Stan, “his amazing alter-ego is hurtling toward disaster!!” There’s that word again. And with two exclamation points!! Spidey web-slings along with the rolled up map secured to his back. He arrives at the outskirts of the army fort and checks the map, trying to figure out a way in. (“According to this chart,” he thinks, “”it’s one of the most carefully-guarded posts…” That map is just a wealth of information!) Spotting a trailer truck carrying a "section of missile," he swings down and adheres to the bottom, avoiding detection as he enters the fort. He wonders, "if I really am a criminal, why is this so distasteful to me? And if I'm not a criminal, why do I wear this mask? And what’s my connection with a full-time creep like Doc Ock?" He may have lost his memory but he still knows that he calls Dr. Octopus “Doc Ock.” In fact, I think he thinks of his “partner” as “Dr. Octopus” (on page 2 panel 2) before Ock calls himself by name (on page 3 panel 1).
Now inside the perimeter, he moves to a vent in the roof of a building and uses his strength to tear away the shaft. “Wow!” he thinks, “I’m lifting it like it’s nothing! Sure wish I could remember how I got my powers!” (We could tell you, Spidey! We’ve all got it memorized!) He crawls into the vent until coming to a barred jail cell that holds cannisters. “I couldn’t miss that platinum cannister!” he thinks. (Just as Ock said!) He bends the bars of the door to get to the isotope and again experiences that "nutty tingling," not knowing it is his spider-sense warning him of danger. Meanwhile, his theft is witnessed over closed-circuit TV. By the time Spidey rounds the corner carrying the cannister, two Army M.P.s with handguns meet him.
The guards fire, but Spidey is no longer in the spot at which they were shooting. Leaping from one wall to the other, Spider-Man shoots his webbing and disarms the two men. He covers them with webbing. Their struggle to get free puts them in the path of two more approaching guards who tumble over them as Spidey crawls past on the ceiling, finally smashing through a window to escape. The act of smashing through the window loosens "the map Ock gave me" from his back. He notices it but, with more guards arriving, leaves it behind on the ground. As he swings away, he ponders, "It's strange... I could have whisked up the map with my webbing. But I didn't. Almost as if I subconsciously want it to be found."
Back at the crime scene, soldiers find the map. They give it to the arriving John Jameson, who looks it over and realizes, "If this is genuine, it pin-points the area he started from and to where he may be returning." (John Jameson knows how to use a preposition!) Jameson tells a Sergeant he wants a "chopper and a squad of your best men armed to the teeth!" When the helicopter (#53) arrives, John joins the squad. He orders an "iron cordon thrown around the entire area," then boards the 'copter to lead the attack.
At the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson is lamenting his fate. His "own son in charge of Operation Nullifier and not a peep out of him." And if that isn't bad enough, Spider-Man is proven to be a crook (though how anybody other than the military knows this is still a mystery to me) and no photos from Peter Parker (“that frosty-faced fink” Jonah calls him, whatever that means), who hasn't been seen for days. Betty Brant reminds Jonah that Peter is part-time. “She’s right, JJ,” says Robbie. "Sure!! Sure!! She’s right!! He’s right!! They’re right!! Everybody’s right…except J. Jonah Jameson!! At last the world can see that Spider-Man really is a crook…and I haven’t one single picture to gloat over! It's a Communist plot", JJJ says, "to drive me batty!" (I love the way Stan scripts Jameson.)
Meanwhile, Spidey arrives at the hideout, with Doc Ock and the one Master Planner flunky awaiting him on the balcony. The wall-crawler still feels "so guilty about what I've done" but he turns the cannister over to Ock anyway. “Wonderful! Wonderful!” says Ock, doing his best Lawrence Welk, “You’re the best partner I ever worked with.” But then, the flunky points out that Spidey has returned without the map. "You fool! It pinpoints our location here!" yells Otto, thrusting a fist in Spidey's face. (Yeah, that wasn’t too smart, pinpointing their location, was it? Ock could have circled the Fort on the map without showing where his hideout was but then Stan would have had to come up with a different ending.) When the webhead responds angrily to the physical threat, Octopus decides he has had enough. "You've suddenly out-lived your usefulness to me," he says, as he slugs Spidey with a tentacle.
Spidey fights back but is quickly wrapped up by Ock's metal arms. They surround his chest, crushing his rib cage. “Move fast…Spider-Man…fast,” thinks Spidey and I love the attention to detail here. Since Spidey has amnesia, he doesn’t know that he refers to himself as “Spidey,” so he refers to himself the same way Doc Ock does, with the more formal “Spider-Man.”
On the verge of blacking out, Spidey shoots webbing onto Otto's shoes, then tugs hard, yanking him off his feet. The falling Octopus loosens his hold on his opponent, allowing Spidey to break free. But Doc quickly retaliates, thrusting his tentacles at an evading Spider-Man, leaving great cracks in the walls. Just then, a loud sound is heard outside. “Sounds like an engine…getting louder,” says the flunky. Ock looks out the window and sees “an Army ‘copter” staging its attack. “Quick!” he tells his flunky, “Get the others…head them off!” (What others???)
The chopper lands, soldiers emerge, and Ock’s “few remaining men” surrender. All two of them. (Yes, there are now two henchmen.) Ock, feeling betrayed, reaches for the nullifier as his sole defense but smoke grenades, fired into the room by the soldiers, blind him. He tries to dispel the smoke by whirling his tentacles but, before he can accomplish this, a group of soldiers wearing gas masks enter the room. Desperate, Octopus tries to get the webster to fight on his side. "It's your neck, fool, as well as mine!" But Spidey hangs on the wall, uncertain, observing the action.
As Ock engages the soldiers, one man separates from the pack. It is John Jameson and he realizes that Doc Ock, not Spidey, is the real threat here. He sneaks over, pulls off his helmet and gas mask for some reason, and trains the nullifier on Octavius. After all, "Ock's arms are operated mechanically and the nullifier will put anything mechanical out of action!"
Doc Ock's metal arms drop limply to his sides. "But you haven't beaten me yet", he cries, "The nullifier can't stop Spider-Man!" Ock tries to goad Spidey into fighting, telling him "You're a criminal like me" and "You can't let them kill you!" Spidey leaps down from the wall and marches up to Colonel Jameson. The web-slinger confronts John (with Otto urging him on, in the background), his fist raised, but at the last instant puts his hand up to his head. "I don't know what happened," he tells the Colonel, "How I got mixed-up in all this, but one thing I do know... I'm no partner of his."
The battle done, the soldiers remove Ock's metal arms (somehow…without removing his clothes) and slap the cuffs on him. With Otto urging, "He's as guilty as I am! You've got to take him, too," John tells Spidey he must come along as well. But the amnesiac panics. "Nobody's locking me up!" he declares and leaps out the window. John calls after him, "If you run off now, you'll be a fugitive forever!" but Spidey doesn't listen. He swings away. A soldier offers to "wing 'im" with a shot but John decides to let Spidey go. "I'll assume responsibility for his escape!" he says.
Back in Manhattan, Spidey removes his mask and looks at his reflection in a window. "It's like looking at a stranger," he discovers. Perched on a ledge, holding his mask in his hand, the wall-crawler broods. "All I know is I'm someone called Spider-Man! Someone with no yesterdays and with no tomorrow!" and the closing caption, slapped on the side of a building like a posted bill, announces, “Next: The Coming of Ka-Zar!” Not what I would have expected.
The Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page (“Who Says This Isn’t the Marvel Age of Batty Bulletins?”) touts the new Spider-Man and Fantastic Four cartoon shows, plugs a radio interview Stan did “with Joel Scott over F.M. station WFMU” (“[I]t’ll be rebroadcast at 9PM, Oct. 16th” which I think we missed by about fifty years or so), and reveals that the “second rank of Marveldom” is “ Q.N.S. (Quite, ‘Nuff Sayer), to be used with pride by any heroic one who has had at least one letter published in a Marvel mag.” Stan uses his Soapbox to plug the new Captain Marvel feature in Marvel Super-Heroes because the Soapbox “is the most widely-read paragraph in all of comicdom, so that none of you will miss it.”
The “Not Brand Echh #5” entry in “The Mighty Marvel Checklist” brags, “This one’s so great, we kept it on sale a second month for you!” Which is a heavily-spun way to say that the comic has been reduced to bi-monthly status.
Yes, there are still more M.M.M.S. members. Here are the 26 from this issue: Frank Kreznik of Cleveland, Ohio; Anthony Fibbio of Brooklyn, New York; Murray Fields of Oregon, Missouri; Sandy Gosumrak of New Berlin, Wisconsin; David Melville of Rochester, New York; Raymon Makin of Rochester, New York; Luis Mendez of Manila, The Philippines; Dennis More of Sandy, Utah; Chuck Given of Galva, Illinois; Anders Jorjensen of Brookyn, New York; Raoul Gierisch of Burley, Idaho; Joseph Gibson of Butler, Pennsylvania; Ron Kaws of Edmonton, Alberta; Tim Neble of Gates, North Carolina; Mike Mazim of Duluth, Minnesota; Garry Mormington of Belleville, Illinois; Kevin Karasek of Belleville, Illinois; Nathaniel Ferrell of Atlanta, Georgia; Alan Gayson of Yorkstown, New York; Richard Kehoe of New York, New York; John Hatfield of Pawne, Oklahoma; Stan Kormah of Elizabeth, New York; Ronald Hirsch of Union, New Jersey; Dave Jerdee of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Wayne Rogers of Mobile, Alabama; and Ralph Kornmeyer of Elizabeth, New Jersey. As always, if any of you are out there, I’d love to hear from you!
In The Spider’s Web, Eileen Gunn of Cambridge, Massachusetts has fun with the concept of Spidey controlling his web-shooters when he makes a fist. “Why didn’t you just tell all the supporters of your little plaid friend the truth? Why didn’t you tell them that Spidey does activate his webbing when he makes a fist, and he gets all tangled up in it, and a lot of bad guys get away because of this, and sometimes its takes Spidey hours to get himself undone, and he often catches cold from being out in the rain trying to get his webbing scraped off, but he usually has to wait until it dissolves of its own accord, and he keeps saying to himself, ‘Next time, remember – no fist!’ but he forgets a lot, though you don’t show those adventures because they’d take up too much space, and there wouldn’t be room for anything else in the mag, and the artist would have to draw an awful lot of webbing and all, so you just don’t show them, and you hadn’t really planned to conceal this from your fans, but the subject just never came up.” Stan, in true 1967-68 sexist fashion replies, “Boy! There’s no keeping a secret when a female is near!”
Steve Gordon of Springfield, Massachusetts is no fan of Marvel. He writes, “My friend buys your comics. I buy those of one of your competitors. When my friend showed me one of your comics, I almost flipped. A Spider-Man??? I don’t know your explanation for his being the way he is, but I’d love to hear it. Imagine a man looking or acting like a spider!! Another thing is this Brand Echh business. I know who you mean – people like me. But they aren’t ‘Brand Echh.’ Your competitor at least has the courtesy of calling you ‘Brand I.’ You’re trying to make yourself worse than you are. You’re just trying to brainwash your fans. Your competitor doesn’t have to use the ‘Ecch’ business. ‘I’ is all that is necessary. You’re just trying to make them lower. You have to. One look at my comic and everyone would switch so fast!” “Look, frantic one,” Stan replies, “If you prefer any comics company to mighty Marvel, that’s your privilege. Just leave a forwarding address in case your psychiatrist calls you!”
Brian Vedder of Downey, California admits that he’s missed some issues of Spidey and “somehow missed the bit about Spidey’s web-spinners being artificial! I just assumed that if our boy can walk on walls and have the tenacious strength of a spider, he surely must be able to make webbing naturally. But I got an awful shock when I saw Spidey change his web cartridges!! I was so let down I wanted to bawl! I think it would have been great if Spidey had been able to make his own web. Of course, there’s the problem that spiders make webs from the ends of their abdomens…?!”
And Debbie Warren of Louisiana Polytechnic Institute in Ruston, Louisiana wants Stan to know that Peter Parker is not a swinger. “To be a swinger you have to dress like one, grow hair like one, talk like one, and, above all, live in mortal fear of being ‘out of style.’ You have to work at being a swinger – you don’t think for a minute that Mary Jane was born that way, do you And Petey has a full time job as a super-hero. But, paradoxically enough, Petey isn’t a true square, either. A square is someone who automatically conforms and never thinks about what he’s conforming to. And all of you who think P.P. is a normal, average boy go to jail, do not pass Go, and do not collect $200.00! You’ve been missing the point of the whole game!” So I hope that clears that up.
End of the Line:
Doc Ock takes a couple of years off. He doesn’t return until Amazing Spider-Man #88, September 1970 in a storyline that eventually becomes significant to a brand-new member of our cast. Doc’s Master Planner flunkies do not come along for that ride. The next set of henchmen he has are “Defense Force Nine” who appear in Amazing Spider-Man #115, December 1972. They do not wear the Master Planner outfits but are clothed in yellow jumpsuits with gas masks as they battle Hammerhead’s crew. They next appear in Amazing Spider-Man #130, March 1974 but now are Hammerhead’s crew and continue to be Hammerhead’s crew from that point on. So, either Defense Force Nine switches sides or someone somewhere makes a bit of a continuity mistake.
Milestones (Landmark events that take place in this story.)
- Doc Ock’s eleventh appearance, if we count each of these issues as a separate appearance. His last one was last issue. His next, as I said, is ASM #88.
- Ock’s gang is down to two guys even if he tries to pretend otherwise.
- MJ brings the newspaper in and doesn’t seem to care a whit that Spidey has teamed with Dr. Octopus implying that she doesn’t know Peter is Spider-Man. (Though I suppose she could be putting up a brave front.)
- John Jameson, not Spidey, defeats Dr. Octopus; the ninth time the villain is defeated by someone other than Spider-Man (See the “Milestones” section in the Amazing Spider-Man #49, June 1967 review for the other eight.
- John appears again next issue. So does Captain Stacy.
- Peter Parker does not appear in the issue (unless you count when Spidey pulls off his mask in the penultimate panel) for the third time ever. (The others being Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2, 1965, not counting reprints, and Amazing Spider-Man #52, September 1967, where Peter’s face is not seen at all.)
- Surprise! Spidey does not regain his memory.
- Doc Ock Loses!
- And, perhaps, most importantly, the first appearance of Captain George Stacy who comes in with Doctor Octopus and goes out with Doctor Octopus.
The 1969 Marvelmania International Spider-Man Portfolio checklist entry for this story. Warts and all:
"Disater" - memoryless Spidey becomes Doc. Ocks ally but finally wins out with the aid of Col. Jameson, JJJ's son.
That's right, the title is misspelled here. The "Doc" in "Doc Ock" is apparently an abbreviation of "Doctor" and the first word in the sentence is not capitalized. Other than that, everything's...well, the apostrophe in "Ocks ally" isn't there either.
A satisfying conclusion to the four-issue arc, drawing the story of the nullifier into a nice little bow. Doc Ock steals the nullifier from John Jameson and the Army, then John Jameson uses the nullifier to disarm Ock and capture him for the Army. There’s a nice lesson in there somewhere of being hoisted on your own petard. The story wraps up nicely and still gives us a cliffhanger, with poor Spidey all alone and amnesiac in Manhattan. The issue itself is full of suspense with Spidey struggling with the idea that he is Dr. Octopus’ crime partner. Should he climb into the truck and escape with Ock? Take his mask off to reveal his identity? Steal isotope 16? Ock is characteristically egomaniacal and authoritarian enough to make Spidey suspicious. The web-slinger’s internal monologues, as he tries to reconcile his feelings with the idea of being a criminal, are Stan at his melodramatic best. Captain Stacy’s introduction will lead to a whole new angle for the series and John Jameson pulls Spidey’s fat out of the fire, becoming the true hero of this issue, nicely contrasting him with his father who only appears in three panels but still manages to spout a classic JJJ speech. What more do you want?
This one is five webs, any way you look at it.
Next: I’d love to jump right to the next issue and find out what happens but we’ve got to wait for the next issue just as we had to wait back in 1967-68. But, hey, in the meantime, there’s a Marvel Tales reprint. And I hear Spidey has a tiny appearance in the next issue of Thor. Let’s run down to the Drug Store, check out the spinning rack, pick up a copy of Marvel Tales #12, and read it next.