And now for something completely different. A super-hero fighting a mental rather than physical battle. A super-villain who never gets into his costume. If it all sounds familiar today, it was something brand-new back in '65. The cover shows an anguished wall-crawler crouching down in a topsy-turvy room with ghostly images of the Sandman and the Vulture haunting him. Spidey has his face buried in his right hand while his left hand stretches out beseechingly. He stands on a brick wall that is on the other side of an open door, which appears to be on the floor. A window sits as if beneath the door but turned as if "up" is to Spider-Man's right. A man stands behind a desk, his back to us, upside-down, as if perched on the ceiling. The whole room looks like it is the interior of a twisted Rubik's Cube. The cover copy proclaims, "Spider-Man Goes Mad!" If you saw it on the newsstand, you just had to shell out your twelve cents and grab it!
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Masterworks #10|
|Reprinted In:||Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus #1|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Tales #162|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Tales #19|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Treasury Edition #8|
|Reprinted In:||Essential Spider-Man #2|
|Reprinted In:||Spider-Man Pocket Book #16|
I was going to go right to the splash page but I just noticed that the inside cover features those famous "Exclusive Fun Products By Mail" that were always sold in comic books. You know the ones I'm talking about. "Trick Baseball" (50 cents), "Pepper Gum" (25 cents), "Joy Buzzer" (50 cents), the plastic vomit called "Whoops" ("Only 75 cents."), "Whoopee Cushion" ("Only 50 cents."), "Squirt Seat" ("It's all wet. Place it under the toilet seat. Can't you picture the expression on your victims face when he sits down? 75 cents."), and the ever-popular "X-Ray-Spex" (One dollar.) Ah, what fantasies were conjured up in an eight-year-old's mind at the thought of those X-Ray- Spex. Those were the days!
Okay, now for the splash page. It's actually a variation on the cover but not nearly as powerful in its impact. In this illustration, Spidey is stretched out on a psychiatrist's couch but seems to be writhing in pain. He covers his face with the back of his left hand while his right hand is stretched out in front of him. His left leg is bent at the knee with his foot propped on the footrest on the end of the couch. His right leg is bent with his foot on the floor as if to brace him from an assault. Around him are yellow light beams; unreal and disjointed, like the braces of a deranged house. In the midst of the beams are three sketchy images of attacking villains. Doctor Octopus and the Sandman in pink, the Vulture in light blue. To our right, a man dressed in a brown suit with a green and black striped tie and what looks like a hearing- aid, strokes his chin and looks on sympathetically. Ditko knew a good thing when he drew it. Good enough to essentially draw it twice.
Okay, so we've been thoroughly inoculated with the theme by the similarity of the cover and the splash page. What about the story? It begins when Peter Parker answers the door at his Forest Hills home to a deliveryman who has a package for May Parker. It has a charge of six dollars and seventy-five cents. May is not home and Peter is apparently without funds since he raids the cookie jar to pay the deliveryman. He notices that there's not much money left in the jar and then plays big spender by giving the deliveryman a whole twenty-five cent tip! (Now, let's be fair. It was worth a lot more back then. And I don't see any of you tipping the Fed Ex guy. But it's still pretty cheap.) Pete knows without opening it that the package contains a hat that May bought to wear at Anna Watson's tea party. He feels sorry for his Aunt. "No matter how she scrimps and pinches pennies, we just can't save any money!" he thinks. (Maybe they'd do better if he didn't give quarter tips to the deliveryman.) Peter decides he has to help out and he has a pretty good idea of how to do it.
Five minutes later, Spider-Man is web-swinging through New York City looking for something to photograph. It's been weeks since he sold any shots to J. Jonah Jameson because he has been too busy studying. Now that he's looking, though, he's "never seen the city so quiet! I can't even find a jaywalker or a big bad litterbug." But then as he is perched on a wall, Spider-Man spies a man in a green jacket and brown pants sneaking into a window. He's knows it's just a small-time burglary "but it'll pay better than a picture of Brooklyn Bridge", so he sets his camera up on the wall and waits until the burglar comes out. "My only danger" he thinks, "is I may get bored to death".
There turn out to be at least four crooks that come out of the window and not a one of them seems to have stolen anything. Doesn't matter. Spidey drops down on a couple of strands of webbing and, dangling like a trapeze artist, kicks two of the guys (the one in the light brown suit and the one in the green suit) right in the chops. He leans back, away from the punch of a guy in a dark brown suit as he simultaneously punches a guy in a gray suit. It's all so easy for him that all he is thinking about is how he "mustn't let them get out of camera range". Then he pushes the green jacket guy aside and punches a fellow in a tan suit. Finally, he leaps up in the air, punching with both hands, connecting with the jaws of green jacket and a guy in a purple suit. (Let's add it up. Light brown suit, Green suit, Dark brown suit, Gray suit, Green jacket, Tan suit, and Purple suit. That's seven guys! To steal nothing!) When all the opponents are unconscious on the ground, Spidey suddenly gets a tingle from his spider-sense. Someone has come up behind him. He whirls around and finds himself face-to-mask with Bugle reporter Frederick Foswell. ("He's still working for Jonah Jameson!" Spidey thinks. Well, yeah, Spidey! He only started up again last issue.) Foswell holds a notepad in one hand and extends his other hand in a defensive gesture. "Don't look at me that way, Spider- Man," he says, "I'm not one of that gang, I'm a reporter!" Foswell heard the sounds of the fight and now wants to interview the web-slinger about it. But Spidey doesn't say a word. He just takes to the nearest wall and climbs away, silently cursing his bad luck. He knows he can't sell his photos to Jonah Jameson now. Foswell would know that Peter Parker wasn't at the scene and may suspect that Pete and the wall-crawler are one and the same. Regretfully, he opens the back of his camera, exposing his film to the air.
(A question, before we go any further. Why did Spider-Man's spider-sense go off at the approach of Frederick Foswell? Because Fred was sneaking up on him? Because Fred used to be the Big Man? Perhaps Stan is trying to add to his red herring case that Foswell is the Green Goblin here, but if he is, the whole thing is a bit of a cheat. If we go by today's standards of spider- sense... that the tingle comes whenever Spider-Man is in danger... then there's no reason why the tingle should have taken place in this case. To be fair, though, the spider-sense rules have always been erratic. It isn't hard to find a situation where the rules don't seem to apply.)
After destroying his negatives, Spider-Man digs up his Peter Parker duds from somewhere and changes on the roof. (Note that he is so casual about this that he puts his pants and shoes on first before bothering to put on a shirt to cover up his costume.) As he ties his shoe, he reflects on "what a fizzle that idea was". Since he destroyed the whole roll, he is now out of film without enough money to buy more. Instead he decides to stop by the Daily Bugle to see Betty Brant.
Upon entering the building, however, the first person he sees is J. Jonah Jameson screaming for a copy boy. Pete ducks behind a pillar before Jonah can see him since he knows that "he hates me hanging around if I haven't any pix for him". He feels sorry for the missing copy boy but he can't worry about that poor slob. He has to take care of himself. So, Pete sneaks around behind JJ, ducks down behind Betty's desk and whispers up to her. He explains that he is "hiding from ol' stone-face" which Betty finds amusing. ("Honestly! You look so silly down there!" she says.) Getting into the act, Betty puts her hand on top of Peter's head and pushes him down when Fred Foswell walks by. ("Now I know how the Three Stooges must feel!" Pete says.) But when Betty does this, she knocks a few pieces of paper off her desk, including a letter. When Peter picks it up, he finds that it is addressed to Ned Leeds. He is shocked to discover that Betty is actually writing to Ned while he is in Europe. (Which is simply denial on Peter's part since there is no reason why Betty wouldn't still be in contact with Ned.) Pete hands the letter back to Betty and confronts her with it. Defensively, Betty avoids Peter's eyes as she tells him that Ned "wrote to me and he said he was so lonely in Europe, being a stranger there and all that". Unmoved, Peter crosses his arms and barks, "It sort of brought out the Mother Instinct in you, eh?" Now it is Betty's turn to be shocked. She has never heard that tone in Pete's voice before. She asks him if he is angry. "Why should I be angry?" Pete replies, "Just 'cause my girl writes to some other fella?" Then he gets to his feet and runs off. His parting shot: "I've got to go now! Regards to your Pen Pal!"
Later, Spider-Man goes web-slinging as he tries to get the anger and jealousy out of his system. He wonders why he is so upset by this. "What do I care who Betty writes to?" he asks himself, "We're not engaged!" Standing on a wall, Spidey finally calms down. He decides to head home before Aunt May gets there and he wonders if "Foswell and Jonah will use the story of me nabbing those burglars". And, wouldn't you know it? At that very moment, Foswell is in JJJ's office puffing on a cigarette and telling his boss about the "punks caught by Spider-Man". Jonah thinks they need to take the story and "hoke it up a little". He suggests using the angle of Spider-Man as the villain of the piece. "We can say he was brutal to those misguided crooks!" he tells Foswell. (Yeah! And what the heck were those guys stealing anyway?) Jameson figures that Fred will be interested in pushing this angle because "Spider-Man is the one who sent you to jail months ago" (back in Amazing Spider-Man #10, March 1964 when Foswell was the Big Man). JJ asks his reporter what he thinks of Spidey these days and Foswell replies that "I try not to think about him any more." With that, Jonah orders Fred to "let one of the sob sisters rewrite your story and put some schmaltz in it" and Foswell leaves the office. But Jonah is left to consider that Foswell may well be "one guy who hates that masked menace more than I do" and he comes up with an idea for a new series: "Instead of me always writing editorials against [Spidey], I'll print other peoples' opinions about why they all hate him".
The thought leads to the deed. The next day, Jameson has reporters out all over the city with big reel-to-reel tape recorders on shoulder straps asking people why they hate Spider-Man. One woman dressed in green tells the reporter that she never said that she did hate Spider-Man. The reporter asks her whether she wants her name and picture in the paper or not and the woman decides she'd better come up with some reason.
As the day progresses, the reporters get a choice selection of responses. A woman in a purple hat that looks like it's crossed with the Crimson Bands of Cytorrak says, "If you ask me, he's too creepy-looking in that mask and costume." A man in a light blue hat says, "Everyone knows he's a public menace! I say he should be put in jail for life!" A heavy-set red-haired woman in a leopard skin pillbox hat asks, "What honest man would prowl the city at night the way he does?" A man in a light brown fedora reasons, "If he ain't just a plain crook, why don't he tell everybody who he is? Answer me that!" A man with wire-rim spectacles and a green bow tie states, "I say he's a coward! He fights and then runs away!"
So, things are going great for J. Jonah Jameson's series until one of the reporters strays too close to Peter Parker, Flash Thompson, and Liz Allan. Flash takes one look at the proceedings and shoves the small crowd out of the way to get to the reporter. "One side! Let me through!" he bellows, "I wanna talk to that crumb!" When Flash gets to the reporter he introduces himself, tells the reporter that he is "Captain of the Midtown High football team" and finishes by saying, "I think Spidey's the greatest! And you better print that!" The startled reporter backs off, tells Flash that he's all out of tape, and tries to beat a hasty retreat. But Flash won't let him get away that easily. He follows the reporter, telling him, "If you keep quoting only the people who hate Spider-Man, the only tape you'll need will be adhesive tape to put on the fat lip I'll give you! Do you read me?" The reporter says he does and then gets the heck out of there in a hurry.
While Flash is chasing the reporter, Liz turns to Peter and asks if he'll do her a favor. She tells him that she is doing badly in science class and wonders, "if you could coach me some evening". Peter tells her he'd be glad to. Flash returns just in time to see Liz pat Peter's cheek in gratitude. This drives him nuts and he remembers that he hates "that egg-headed bookworm". Deciding that he must reassert his claim on Liz, Flash reaches her just as Peter is leaving and tries to start a conversation. But Liz, who has just given a big smile and wave to Peter, tells Flash that she has to run. "Toodle-oo", she says as she books. Flash clenches his fists in anger and yells to the departing Peter, "So! She had time to talk to a nobody like you but when I come along..." Peter, still walking away with hands in pockets, delivers a scathing comeback. "Why would anyone want to talk to you, bird- brain? It gets boring using nothing but one-syllable words." Flash watches Pete walk away and considers beating him up but he knows it won't mean anything with nobody looking. "But some day" he thinks, "when I get the chance with a crowd around..." (Flash loves to leave his sentences hanging, doesn't he?) And Peter again muses over the irony of Flash hating the man who is secretly "his web-slinging idol".
Now, the Daily Bugle hits the streets with all the anti-Spider-Man stuff and it becomes "the talk of the town". All sorts of regular folks who never thought Spidey was so bad now think they must have been mistaken since everyone else clearly hates him. One woman in a bad hat decides to write the mayor and demand that Spider-Man be put behind bars. A man in an even worse hat decides to get up a petition. (But of what, he doesn't bother to say.)
At the Bugle offices, Jonah is so tickled over the success of his series that he actually says, "La da dee da da da". Betty appears at his office door with a middle-aged man in a brown suit. The man has a goatee, eyeglasses, gray hair at his temples, holds a green hat in his left hand, holds a walking stick in his right hand, and wears either a transistor radio or a hearing aid. Betty introduces him as Dr. Ludwig Rinehart. Jonah says, "Tra la dee da."
Dr. Rinehart tells JJ that he is a psychiatrist on vacation from Europe (because all the best psychiatrists are from Europe, you know). He has been reading all about Spider-Man and has decided that the wall-crawler is "a very, very sick man". Taking a seat and pulling out a pipe, Dr. Rinehart tells Jonah that Spider-Man is living in a fantasy world, that he wants to be a spider and that it is "only a matter of time before his id and ego get so confused that he forgets who he really is and then he will suffer a severe breakdown". Jonah is very happy to hear this but he asks the doctor how he can be sure. Rinehart stands and puts his hat on as he tells Jameson that he will "be happy to provide proof of my theory". Jonah tells the doctor to come back at eight o'clock in the evening. "I'll be waiting to see your proof, Doctor," he says. But the instant Dr. Rinehart leaves the office, Jonah gets on the phone to the pressroom. He wants to put out an extra featuring "an interview with a famous doctor who can prove Spider-Man is a nut!" When Betty comes in, JJ orders her to send in the editors... fast! No thought to actually checking out the doctor's credentials, of course.
Somewhere in between panels, Rinehart returns with his proof and the next day Peter Parker reads all about it in the newspaper. At the thought that Spidey may be a "mental case" who is "sure to crack up real soon", Peter breaks into a sweat. Aunt May enters the room carrying a bowl holding her yarn and knitting needles. She tells Peter that reading such things will give him nightmares. She doesn't think that the paper should be printing "alarming crime news for young, impressionable boys and girls to read" but on the other hand she thinks, "that horrible Spider-Man should be put in prison, just like any other menace to society". (Good old Aunt May! Advocating censorship and imprisonment without trial all in one breath.) Peter ignores the old bat, reaches for the phone and calls Betty Brant to see what she knows about Dr. Rinehart. Betty confirms that the "article is true" since "it seems" that "Ludwig Rinehart is a famous European psychiatrist who is an expert on cases like this". But, again, no one has bothered to check on his credentials.
Peter doesn't consider the doctor's credentials either. Betty's news shakes him up so much that he doesn't even talk to her. He just hangs up the phone, grabs his jacket and heads for the door. "What if I'm cracking up and I don't know it??" he wonders. Suddenly, he thinks it imperative that he find this Dr. Rinehart and prove him to be wrong.
Little does Peter know that Flash Thompson is lurking behind a tree in his front yard doing a little spying. Flash tried to call Liz a little earlier and she wasn't home. Now he sees Peter rushing out of the house and wonders if he's going somewhere to meet Liz. Flash decides to follow Pete and he's really really bad at it. Stan tells us that Pete detects him with his spider-sense right away but... let's face it... anyone could spot Flash peeking around corners while trying to keep up with "Puny Parker". Pete knows he can't change to Spider-Man with Flash around so he comes up with a needlessly complicated plan. He rounds the corner of a city block so that he is temporarily out of Flash's sight. He could just leap up to the rooftop in the seconds before Flash turns the corner but no. Instead he pulls the spider-signal off of his belt holder and attaches some webbing to it. As he turns the corner, he turns the signal on and throws it high up in the air. The webbing attaches to the side of the building and the signal casts its Spider-Man emblem on a nearby wall. When Flash sees the spider-signal he stops in his tracks and yells out a cry of joy. ("Woweee!") This has to mean that Spider-Man is nearby. In his excitement, he forgets all about Peter who quickly loses himself in the shadows, changes to Spider-Man and heads to the Daily Bugle since Jonah is sure to know where he can find Rinehart.
Moments later, the spider-signal goes out, leaving a mystified Flash Thompson. (I'm mystified too. Why has the signal gone out? It's not set on a timer, is it? It looks like the signal may have fallen and landed on a ledge but it's hard to tell and the webbing shouldn't have given way in such a short time anyway. Even if it did, you would think the signal would continue shining straight up into the air.) Poor Flash is left to wonder, "what happened to Spider-Man?"
At the Bugle, Betty Brant is on the phone with Ludwig Rinehart who informs her that he will be over later in the evening with even more evidence that "Spider- Man's sanity can't last much longer". Betty passes this information along to Jameson who is all smiles from the news. Jonah will wait all night if necessary for information like that.
Nearby, Spider-Man lands on a rooftop close enough to the Bugle building so that he can see a light on in Jameson's office. A black cat walks a ledge right behind him. He's about to go ask Jonah where he can find Dr. Rinehart when he turns and sees Dr. Octopus coming right out of a wall, surrounded by some of those disorienting yellow beams like we saw on the splash page. (But before this happens, Spidey tells himself that he's "glad I didn't forget to grab my spider beam again!" Now, just when did he do this? Wouldn't Flash have seen him?) Anyway, Doc Ock is rushing at him with his tentacles outstretched and writhing. Spidey briefly wonders how Ock could "get through a solid wall" but then he must defend himself. Silently, "like a jungle cat", Octopus reaches out with his metal arms. Spider-Man braces to grab the tentacles "and tangle them together" but Otto vanishes before the webhead has a chance to do so. Spidey can't figure out how Ock has accomplished this, since "he's not a magician". But then the Sandman rises up right at the web- slinger's feet and Spidey wonders, "what kind of a fantastic trap have I blundered into??" The black cat stands just above and seems to watch as Spider- Man prepares for the Sandman's attack. Although Sandy is forming the upper half of his body and turning his fists into his usual battering rams, he is as silent as Dr. Octopus. The only thing Spider-Man can think to do is to swing at the Sandman with his right hand "employing every ounce of his amazing spider strength" but even as he does so, the Sandman also vanishes. Spidey can't figure out what has just happened, not once, but twice. Then a horrible thought comes to mind and he puts his left hand up to his head with agitation. "What if that doctor is right?" he asks himself, "This could be the start of my crack-up!" After all, he has heard that "it begins with hallucinations, the victim starts imagining things" and that certainly seems to be the case right now. Spidey takes to his webs to clear his head. A big black bat flies above the rooftops right behind him.
As he travels, Spider-Man extrapolates from the hypothesis that he is "becoming schizoid". If so, his spider-power could make him "a terrible menace to mankind". Before, he can pursue this line of thought any further, though, he notices the Vulture coming at him from his left, seeming to appear right out of a wall just as Doctor Octopus did. Spidey notices that Vultchy is a silent as his other foes and he wonders if he is even really there. Still, he dare not take the chance. As the Vulture nears, Spidey shoots a spray of webbing at him. Like the others, the Vulture vanishes. Now certain that he cannot trust his senses, Spidey lands on a rooftop and covers his eyes with his hands. He can't go to see Jameson now. He can't let anyone see what is happening to him. His thoughts settle into a gloomy list of "what ifs". "What if it gets worse? What if I lose control completely? What if I can't tell what's real from what's imaginary?" And finally, "What if I should start attacking innocent people thinking they're dangerous criminals?" At this thought, he sinks down into a crouch and then takes off running along the rooftop ledge. Desperately, he decides that he ought to go home, get some rest, and give himself a chance for his mind to clear.
But when Peter Parker gets home, he looks in the hallway mirror and sees that he is "white as a ghost" with sweat pouring down his face. His jaw drops, his eyes open wide and he turns a shade of chartreuse. (Oh no, sorry. Forget that last part. That is just a coloring decision.) "I must be in a state of complete shock!" he realizes and is amazed at how fast it has happened. Then he hears Aunt May's footsteps and knows that he cannot let her see him like this. May starts to enter the room, carrying a tray with milk and a slice of cake. Peter picks up the newspaper and bolts for the front door. Only his spider-speed allows him to escape without confronting his Aunt. But that doesn't mean she doesn't see him. It doesn't help that he leaves the front door wide open. May is sure that Peter must have heard her and "yet he dashed out without even answering". Clearly something is troubling Peter but he just won't let her in on it. "Why are most teenagers so reluctant to confide in those who love them?" she wonders.
Now in his Spidey suit again, our hero checks out the newspaper that he grabbed from home (bet you were wondering why Pete picked up that paper, right?) and finds Dr. Rinehart's address listed in the article. The house has sort of a dull purple siding and a light blue door nestled behind some ungainly-looking shrubbery. Spidey goes up and rings the doorbell. A voice comes over a speaker and tells him, "The door is open! Please come in and be seated! Thank you!" The wall-crawler walks into a foyer with a green carpet and blue walls. There is a pedestal with a fishbowl just to Spidey's right in the corner near the door, a mirror on the wall to his right and a painting on the wall to his left. As soon as Spidey enters, a door at the end of a dark hallway swings open and light shines out from the other room. Spider-Man recalls that he's "always feared seeing psychiatrists before, lest they discover my true identity". (He did go to a psychiatrist before, back in Amazing Spider-Man #13, June 1964 and left for that very reason.) But soon it's too late for such worries. The web-slinger enters the room at the end of the hall and "cannot repress an involuntary cry of alarm, as his heart seems to sink within him". Why? Because the whole room is upside-down, including Dr. Rinehart behind his desk (even his dialogue balloons are upside-down). But is everything upside-down or is this a hallucination or has Spidey gotten so turned around that he is standing on the ceiling without even realizing it? Panicked, the web-slinger runs from the room, his hand covering his eyes. The doctor quickly makes it to the door and calls to Spidey to come back. (And the doctor is rightside-up again.) Spidey doesn't dare come back until he gets back to the foyer and sees that it is all upside-down now too...even the fishbowl. Now Spidey doesn't dare go outside "among all those innocent people". Again he covers his face with his hands, as he stands right at the edge of the hallway, without stepping into the foyer. He, then, allows Dr. Rinehart to gently put his arm around him and assure him that he will try to help. The first thing Rinehart tells Spidey is that "I must have your complete confidence". To do this, he asks Spidey to uncover his eyes and look at the foyer. "Everything is perfectly normal, is it not?" he asks the web-spinner and, sure enough, the fishbowl and the rest of the area is back to being rightside-up. Then Rinehart leads Spidey into his consulting room and the wall- crawler sees that this room is rightside-up as well. "But", he nervously wonders, "How do I know how long it will last?"
Rinehart leads Spidey to the couch and the webster sits down on the edge, his hand covering his eyes again. He tells the shrink that he's been imagining things and can no longer tell what is real. Rinehart stands over him and says, "You have been leading a double existence for too long! Your mind can no longer stand the strain." He advises "prolonged psychotherapy". Then the light show begins again and Spidey sees Ock and the Vulture coming out of the wall. He tries to get up but Rinehart gently restrains him. The doc assures him that there is nothing there. Spidey starts flailing his arms in agitation as Rinehart puts his hands on the web-slinger's shoulders. He tells Spidey that these visions of his enemies are merely symptoms of his schizophrenia. He advises the wall-crawler to sit back and to shut his eyes.
Spidey does as instructed. When he opens his eyes he finds that Ock and the Vulture are gone. The doctor tells him that this is a sign that his "brain is not yet completely divorced from everyday reality" and that a cure is possible. He tells Spidey to lie down on the couch to begin immediate treatment. Not knowing what else to do, the web-slinger complies.
Back at the Daily Bugle, a disgruntled Betty Brant is wondering how much more overtime she will have to put in this evening when she sees Frederick Foswell enter and approach J. Jonah Jameson. Betty can hear Foswell say, "It's about Ludwig Rinehart" but the rest of his report is inaudible. She does, however, see Jonah's reaction. He smacks himself in the head and yells, "Oh no! And after all the write-ups I gave him in my paper! I'll be a laughingstock again!" Then she sees Jameson instruct Foswell to "kill the new feature" they are preparing to run about Rinehart. He adds that he is going to see Rinehart himself. Betty scratches her head and wonders what Foswell told her boss that got him so excited. But nobody tells her. Instead, she knows she is stuck at the office until Jonah returns. "I wonder where Peter is and what he's doing?" she thinks, "Hope he's not still angry with me!"
Flash Thompson is also thinking about Peter Parker. He is wandering the city, his hands in his pockets, wondering if "Parker and Liz are out together". A dog on a leash who has shaken his owner follows him His plan is to keep walking until he bumps into Pete and Liz which he figures he is bound to do sooner or later. (New York being so small and intimate, you know.) But instead, Flash unknowingly walks past Ludwig Rinehart's address just at the time that J. Jonah Jameson gets out of a taxi in front of it. Flash recognizes Jonah immediately and runs up to give him a piece of his mind. "Hey, Mr. Jameson!" he says, "Why don't you stop pickin' on Spider-Man in your paper? I'm president of his Forest Hills Fan Club and I wanna protest the policy of..." only to be cut off by Jonah's snarl of "Beat it, kid! If you've got a gripe, write me a letter!" But Flash is not to be shaken so easily. Even as Jonah runs fast enough for his tie to flap over his shoulder, Flash keeps after him. (Man, it must be a long way from the curb to Rinehart's front door.) Finally Jonah nears the entrance to the building where he hopes to lose this teen-aged pest. Flash suggests that Jonah "pick on the Human Torch for a while? Or those nutty X-Men?" Jonah suggests that Flash "go play in traffic".
The front door is unlocked so Jonah walks right in. That way, he figures, he won't have to listen to Flash jawing at him as he waits for someone to answer the door. Besides, what he has to say to Rinehart can't wait. He runs through the foyer with the fishbowl rightside-up and sees the light coming from the room in the back. As he runs, his tie continues to flap over his left shoulder but switches over to the right shoulder in the very next panel so I suppose that means that Jonah is motoring really fast. But if Jonah thinks a private residence is going to stop Flash Thompson, than he doesn't know our favorite bully. Flash follows Jameson into the building, now threatening to get some friends together to picket the Daily Bugle.
And even as all that is going on, Spidey is lying on the couch with the back of his left hand covering his eyes. Rinehart is smoking a pipe and explaining that "the root of your problem is, of course, your dual identity". He suggests that Spidey reveal his true identity to take most of the strain off. When Spidey tells him that he doesn't dare reveal his identity because it would hurt too many people, Rinehart replies, "Really? Most interesting! Tell me who they are and I'll be the judge!" The doctor helps Spidey to sit up as he presses his point. Not only will the wall-crawler have to reveal who he is but he'll have to give up being Spider-Man altogether. "It's the only way to save yourself! The only way to keep from going completely mad!"
The wall-crawler sees no other way around it. If he must do what the doctor says in order to be rid of the hallucinations, so be it. He is putty in the doctor's hands, ready to comply with his every wish when... Jonah Jameson barges into the room and declares, "Rinehart! I want to talk to you, you phony! I found out all about you! You're no doctor! You've got no license! You're a fraud!" (To which I can only say, maybe you should have looked into this to begin with, Jonah.) Shocked, Rinehart turns and looks at the publisher. He begs Jameson to "Stay away!" He only needs "another few minutes" for his plan to be completely successful. But Jonah isn't about to take orders from a crook. He walks into the office and sees that Spider-Man is in there, too. Predictable as ever, JJJ immediately arrives at the conclusion that Rinehart and Spidey "must be in cahoots". But Spider-Man isn't interested in that. He's more interested in the fact that Jameson just called Rinehart a fraud. Rinehart tries to tell Spidey to ignore Jameson but then Flash Thompson enters the room and things really get out of control.
Flash sees Spidey and tackles J. Jonah Jameson, fulfilling his dream of fighting by the web-slinger's side. This move has put Flash and JJJ in between Spider-Man and Dr. Rinehart. Spidey calls Flash a fool and tells him to stay out of it. Jonah tells Flash to "Let go of me, you teenage psychopath before I call your keeper!" And Dr. Ludwig Rinehart presses a button on his fake hearing aid box that is actually the device that controls the light show and phantom villains. He activates it now to create a diversion. Rinehart runs for a door with Spidey in hot pursuit. Now that he knows that he is not going crazy, Spidey can see the "hallucinations" for the illusions that they are. It is obvious that they come from a light fixture in the ceiling. He realizes that "they look unreal now" and that "they're not bothering me the way they did". They seem to be bothering Flash and Jonah, though. They end up sprawled on the floor wondering what in the heck is going on.
Rinehart and Spidey enter another room and the wall-crawler can see that it is identical to the one they just left... except that everything is upside-down! Regaining his confidence, the web-spinner leaps at Rinehart's feet and executes a flying tackle. With Rinehart on the ground, Spidey yields "to a sudden impulse" and yanks on his hair. The Rinehart face turns out to be a mask. The man underneath is dark-eyed, cruel-looking, and sporting a Moe Howard haircut. Spidery recognizes him immediately. "It's my old enemy, Mysterio! Mysterio, the master of mystic effects and startling illusions!"
The wall-crawler pins Mysterio's arms to his sides with a mass of webbing about as wide as a spare tire. Mysterio spills the whole story before Jonah Jameson and Flash Thompson can enter the room. When they do enter, Spidey tosses the trussed-up Mysterio at them, tells them that the former Dr. Rinehart is ready to spill his guts, and then makes a subtle exit. Sure enough, Mysterio is ready to tell all to Jonah and Flash and us. He reveals that he was so intimated by Spidey's physical gifts that he decided he could only defeat him "if I made him think he was cracking up". To that end, he waited for his moment which came when the Bugle starting printing the person-in-the-street interviews. The plan was to disguise himself as a psychiatrist and plant "doubts and fears in Spider-Man's mind". Using binoculars and an illusion machine like the one in the disco ball on the office ceiling, Mysterio watched from a distance. He sent out a mechanical black cat and a mechanical bat (remember them?) that projected the light shows and images of Ock, the Vulture, and the Sandman. Then he tricked up an office with duplicate but topsy-turvy rooms on a turntable. In Spidey's agitated state, it was easy for Mysterio to rotate these rooms around without the wall-crawler being any the wiser. Downcast, Mysterio finishes up by telling Jonah that he was seconds away from getting Spider-Man to unmask. Rattled, JJ realizes that "if I hadn't burst in just then, if I hadn't interrupted when I did, Spider-Man would finally have been beaten?" This thought is too painful for Jameson to take. He puts his right hand up to his face and sharp little black spikes seem to radiate from out of his head. Flash, of course, is just the type to rub it in ever further. "Hah! So good ol' Spidey wins again!" he chortles, "He beat Mysterio and you were the one who helped him! What a gig! What a gas! Wait'll I tell the gang!" Then, holding his arms out in triumph, Flash goes into full rapture. "What a day!" he cries, "What a triumph! I actually saw my idol in action! He even spoke to me! Even if he did call me a fool... he spoke to me! Boy! Even that useless, sneaky, meatheaded Peter Parker couldn't spoil the way I feel now! Wah-hoo!"
Somewhere nearby, Liz Allan is hanging around with a girl named Connie. Connie asks Liz to join "the rest of us girls for a soda" and Liz agrees but then she sees Peter Parker down at the corner and she changes her mind. She calls out to Pete, asking if he has time now to help her with her science lessons. Pete agrees and he and Liz walk off together; both all smiles, with Liz touching Pete on the shoulder. Connie remains behind in a huff, her arms crossed in front of her. She can't believe that Liz dropped her flat to "go off with Puny Parker". "I've got a good mind to tell Flash Thompson about this!" she thinks. As they walk away, Liz cheerfully calls our hero "Petey". He smiles back, thinking, "Yeesh! How I wish she wouldn't call me Petey!"
Back at the Forest Hills homestead, Aunt May is sitting in a yellow armchair, still brooding about what may be wrong with Peter. Pete stops by with Liz to tell his Aunt that he is going over to the Allan house to study and May rushes up to see if he's all right. She puts her hands all over him as she talks about how worried she was and how he gave her such a fright. "After all, Peter, you're all I have left in the world" she whines, and Pete has to whisper, "Aw, gee, Aunt May, this is embarrassing with Liz here!" But, good nephew that he is, he does apologize for running out before and promises never to do it again. With these reassurances, May smiles and tells Pete to "run along with your young lady". But then, unfortunately, she adds, "I'll wait up till you come home!"
And so Peter and Liz walk off together with Aunt May peeping at them from the doorway. Liz is thrilled to finally have Peter to herself. "He's so much more interesting than that empty-headed Flash," she thinks. Peter, meanwhile, would "rather be spending my time with Betty". (I would take Liz in an instant over the neurotic Betty but that's just me.) Pettily, he thinks, "But, if she's gonna keep on writing to Ned Leeds behind my back, I'll show her!" And then he remembers that he never did earn that extra money he wanted to give to Aunt May. But that's okay... for the moment anyway. Peter walks off with Liz Allan and the soap opera is left to be continued another day. (And, look! You can get a subscription of 12 issues of ASM for $1.75. And Sea Monkeys for a dollar! Where do I sign up?)
In the Spider's Web, Donald McGregor of W. Warwick, Rhode Island doesn't have much of interest to say but I wanted to mention his letter because he goes on to become a prolific comic book writer; the creator of Sabre, Ragamuffins, and Nathaniel Dusk as well as the most popular scripter that the Black Panther has ever had. Kitty Holmes, a "college woman" at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio thinks Peter Parker should graduate and go to college. "You could even keep him at home-just have him and some of his high school contemporaries graduate and move on to college in the city... Now don't try to tell us that Spidey is more the high school type. I have never seen him as immature and dull as even a college freshman can be-and you have him in high school?! And his cool manner and jargon are not at all out of place in a college man." (Kitty doesn't have long to wait for her dreams to come true.) Roger Parish of Savage, Minnesota thinks "You should call the Scorpion "Scorpo" instead of "Scorpey"- it's one letter shorter!" Stan replies, "How about Scorp, Rog? It's two letters shorter! Or Scor? Or maybe Sco? Sc perhaps? Then, there's always S - or just plain ""! (Nobody's gonna top us, by golly!)" And Buddy Saunders of Arlington, Texas promises, "As long as Marvel is around I'll be reading your comics". (Are you still out there, Buddy?)
At the end of the page, Stan gives us a teaser for the next issue. "It's gonna feature J.J.J.'s most amazing plan to capture and defeat Spider-Man, and-for once-the plan works! So, if you've been itching to see jolly Jonah come out on top some time, this is for you! Or, if J.J.J. is first on your hate list, you'll enjoy it, too! How can that be? You'll find out in Spider-Man #22!" Yes, that's right, "Spider-Man #22". Poor Stan. Do you ever get the feeling that, with all those issues he was writing, he was constantly living just out- of-kilter?
In our Post-issue Clean-Up:
On page 2 of ASM #25, June 1965, Spidey goes back to the rooftop to pick up his spider-signal which is lying on the ledge where it fell. He does this in spite of the fact that he tells us, "Glad I didn't forget to grab my spider beam again" on page 9 of this issue. Just a little misunderstanding between Stan and Steve.
All of you Mysterio fans are going to have to wait for a bit. He doesn't appear again until the Amazing Spider-Man Special #4, November 1967.
And, believe it or not, Dr. Ludwig Rinehart makes a re-appearance, as well. (At least the name if not the look.) Mysterio again takes on this identity when he fakes Aunt May's death and runs up against the Burglar in his scheme to steal the Dutch Malone fortune. Ludwig can be first seen in this role in ASM #193, June 1979.
Milestones (Landmark events that take place in this story.)
The 1969 Marvelmania International Spider-Man Portfolio checklist entry for this story. Warts and all:
"Spider-Man goes Mad" - Spidey suffers delusions brought on by Mysterio, who is disguised as a psychiatrist.
From first to last, from cover to splash page to Sea Monkey ad, from Aunt May's hat to Fred Foswell blowing Peter's photo op to the person-in-the-street interviews to the appearance of Dr. Ludwig Rinehart to the phantom villains to the upside-down rooms to Flash hounding Jonah to Jonah ruining Mysterio's chance at victory to Pete hanging with Liz at the end of the day, this is one of the best issues of Amazing Spider-Man of all time. Stan's script hits all the right notes and Steve's art is as good as Spidey art gets. It is flawless except for maybe some confusion with the spider-signal and Stan calling the next issue "#22".