We come now to the part of the Master Planner trilogy that many believe is the best Spidey issue of all time. I'm not one who agrees with that (my personal favorite is ASM #10, March 1964) but it certainly has Spidey at his most inspiring. It is also the culmination of Steve Ditko's most elaborate multi- issue plotting before he settles into five rather half-hearted single-issue stories prior to walking away from the series altogether. So, just like Steve gave the Master Planner's identity away right off the bat last issue, I'll ruin the suspense by letting you know that this one gets a full five webs. But check out the details anyway.
|Cover Art:||Steve Ditko|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel 75th Anniversary Omnibus #1|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Masterworks #16|
|Reprinted In:||Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus #1|
|Reprinted In:||The Best Of Marvel Comics Vol. 1 (Hardcover)|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Tales #172|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Tales #26|
|Reprinted In:||100 Greatest Marvels #17-14|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Visionaries, Steve Ditko|
|Reprinted In:||Essential Spider-Man #2|
|Reprinted In:||Spider-Man Pocket Book #20|
|Reprinted In:||The Very Best Of Spider-Man (TPB)|
This one's giving nothing away. The cover features Spidey trapped in the same spot where we left him last issue. He is so engulfed by water and machinery that all we can see of him is his head and parts of his arms. (I particularly like the way the water flows down his right hand, seeming to cut off his fingers at the knuckles.) His left hand lies submerged in the rising waters and his head is facing down; both clearly expressing defeat. How can the wall- crawler ever get out of this trap? Well, that's what the story's about, isn't it?
The splash page is still giving nothing away. In fact, it really isn't a splash page at all. Topped by the title, the page jumps right into the story, giving us five panels updating the status of various characters. First we visit Aunt May in the hospital, looking as close to death as May ever gets (even when she supposedly died!). Next we look in on Dr. Curt Connors who is grimly waiting for Spider-Man to deliver the ISO-36 that can create the only serum that can save Aunt May. Then we bounce over to the Master Planner's men who are patiently waiting on the other side of a door to see who will emerge... Spider-Man or their boss, Dr. Octopus. And where are these men waiting? In the underwater headquarters of the Master Planner, as shown in the next panel, where an ever-growing crack in the dome is allowing water to enter. Which takes as to the last panel, as large as the other four combined, and a return to the image on the cover. Spider-Man is trapped under an overwhelming amount of machinery with the container holding the ISO-36 just out of reach and the water pouring in on him. He believes he has failed when he was needed the most but Stan tells us in a caption that this is "Possibly one of the most thoroughly satisfying Spider-Man sagas you have ever thrilled to!" so I'm guessing that it's all going to come out all right.
Spider-Man knows that the only way out is to lift the huge weight off of him "no matter how impossible it seems", so he pushes his back against the machinery but it's no use. He's too exhausted from his fight with Doc Ock. He can't budge his prison an inch. He looks over at the serum and feels like it is mocking him "lying there just beyond reach". This reminds him of Aunt May in the hospital, doomed if the serum is not brought to Curt Connors... and, as Spidey thinks of her, we see a ghostly sliver of Aunt May's comatose face. May's face is joined in the next panel by a ghostly view of a half-smiling Uncle Ben as Spidey covers his own face with his left hand and tells himself that May's death will be just as much his fault as Uncle Ben's death was. With both ghostly heads floating before him, Spider-Man clenches his fists and gains a new resolve. "The two people in all the world who've been kindest to me!" he says, "I can't fail again... No matter what the odds... I'll get that serum to Aunt May and maybe then I'll no longer be haunted by the memory of Uncle Ben!" (Fat chance of that, Spidey, but if it motivates you to get out from under the machinery, who am I to differ with you?) He plants his hands firmly on the ground and calls "on all that strength, all that power that I possess". He ignores the water dripping on his head and left forearm as he talks himself into the act, saying, "I must prove equal to the task, I must be worthy of that strength or else I don't deserve it". By this time he has pushed hard enough to stretch his arms out full-length. "The weight is unbearable! Every muscle aches!" The strain is so great that it feels like his head is spinning but still he presses on. The increasing flow of water makes Spidey realize that the crack in the ceiling is growing wider by the second. (Steve obligingly gives us a view of the ceiling even if Spidey can't look up to see it.) For a second his determination falters, as Spidey starts to believe he won't succeed before the water comes rushing in. Then he shakes off the defeatism and keeps going. He knows if he even so much as closes his eyes, he'll "go under" so he clears his head and keeps pushing. Soon he has shifted the weight from his back onto his arms and shoulders. Telling himself, "Anyone can win a fight when the odds are easy! It's when the going's tough, when there seems to be no chance, that's when it counts!", he gets his feet under him, though he is still down on one knee. He can feel the great weight moving, he knows he just has to exert himself a little more, but his head is aching and everything is going black.
So, will he make it? Not so fast! We've got a "Two More Triumphs For Marvel...!" page to look at first. You may recall that we featured Journey Into Mystery #124, January 1966 in our last Lookback because it had a tiny reproduction of this very ASM cover pinned up at a newsstand. One of the other issues at that stand was Fantastic Four #47, February 1966 which is reproduced here at a slightly larger size. It has that great Kirby cover with the Thing standing on a crumbling rock bridge trying to save Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Girl and is part of the indispensable FF run. The other featured issue is Marvel Collectors' Item Classics #1, 1965, which we featured two Lookbacks ago and which includes Spidey's first battle with Doc Ock from ASM #3, July 1963. Now just think about that for a moment. Let's say you're a relatively new reader, having stumbled on Spidey ten or so issues ago. You discover in the previous issue that the Master Planner is actually Dr. Octopus and you ask, "Who is Dr. Octopus?" Suddenly, here's comes your answer. A double-sized reprint book that includes the web-slinger's first meeting with the Doc. Now tell me you're not going to look all over town for that issue? That, my friends, is what good marketing is all about.
Now we turn the page and get back to the story just in time for a great Ditko full-page spread as Spidey ignores the pain and agony and succeeds in pushing the weight off and away from him. "I did it!" he exults, "I'm free!" But not without a toll. He stands and discovers that his right leg is hurt so badly that he can barely walk on it. Fortunately, no bones seem to be broken but it still takes him longer than expected to limp over and pick up the serum container. Meanwhile, the crack in the ceiling has gotten bigger. (If you don't believe it, compare page six panel two back to page four panel one. Yup. It sure is bigger.) Spidey notices that the "water is pouring in faster" but he can't move any faster. Now, in page six panel four, we can see that the water is rushing in. The roof is collapsing altogether and "the whole place will be flooded within seconds". He tries to make his way to a nearby tunnel... "the only way out"... hoping that the roof will hold out long enough. Then it becomes too late. The roof caves in and the water rushes in in a torrent. Spidey tries to run but it doesn't do him any good. It is as if the entire river is pouring in. All he can do is let his body go limp and hang on tight to the serum. The water catches him and sweeps him into the tunnel. Which brings us to page seven, panel one and one of the nicer combinations of Steve's art and Stan's purple prose. With the water surging and spiking in all directions, taking Spider-Man with it, Stan tells us, "With surging, thunderous power, the onrushing deluge sweeps Spider-Man along thru the tunnel, as it hurtles on its course with a force and impact such as only nature herself, in all her fury, can unleash... And, only Spidey's amazing agility and sense of balance can keep him from being helplessly battered as the torrent surges from side to side...!" I don't know about you but I can feel it!
Soon the tunnel is completely submerged and Spidey must hold his breath while dodging all the debris that rushes through the water alongside him. His only way out is the closed door at the end of the tunnel and his only hope is that the onrush of water will break the door down before he gets there. It does, but in the meantime, Spidey must keep "swerving, dodging, avoiding the wreckage which could tangle me up". Finally, he gets out. Now, I must admit I'm not sure how this works. The tunnel was blocked by a door that should have just led to another room that should be quickly filling up with water. But instead, Spidey gets to the surface of what appears to be a pool. In any event, the web- slinger sticks his head up out of the pool and breathes deeply of the air. Then he gets pulled right back down again by one of two Master Planner men in diving gear. Spidey decides they "must have been investigating the crash" but what does that mean? Where did they come from? From outside the hideout? And why didn't the surging waters affect them? In fact, why isn't anyone affected right now? How did this whole area just become pool water? The two divers try to pick a fight but Spidey takes care of them quickly by yanking out their air hoses, which forces them to return to the surface. Spidey climbs out of the pool, expecting to deal with the two divers but finds six other members of the Master Planner's goon squad have joined them. These are apparently the same guys we saw waiting for the web-slinger on the other side of the door on page one. One of them even says, "We knew you'd show up here, Spider-Man! It's the only way out of this place!" But a look back at last issue reveals no sign of the pool and no indication that Spidey had to do more than follow the tunnel on the level he was on in order to get to the underwater hideout. Not that it really matters that much, you understand.
So, the web-slinger is exhausted, his leg is injured, and he doesn't dare put down the serum canister but he's got to take on eight of the Master Planner's nastiest. One goon yells out, "Let's rush 'im!" but Spidey decides to be the one who does the rushing. He wades into the men and is punched in the jaw several times in rapid succession for his troubles. "Keep swingin'!" orders one thug and the rest comply. Soon, Spidey has taken so many blows ("a human punching bag" as one MP man puts it) that he drops the canister and starts to topple over. But in the meantime the web-spinner is using the time to rest and regain his strength, since his spider-power "keeps the blows from hurting too much". He speculates that "this is probably the first time anyone ever rested by taking a beating but then I never was much of a conformist". But now the punches are beginning to ache and he decides he ought to start fighting back. By this time, with blows still raining on him, he is down on one knee but he starts swinging back. Still, with the injury to his leg, he can't maneuver as well as usual and the bad guys keep punching, forcing him into a crouch. His head down, Spidey gives himself the same sort of pep talk he did when trapped by the machinery and punches back without looking. Just as he did in the flooding chamber, he conjures up that ghostly image of Aunt May in the hospital bed and vows to keep fighting. "A man may lose! A man may be defeated! It's no disgrace so long as he doesn't give up!" he thinks, and then switches to talking aloud. "And I'm not giving up!" he says as he keeps punching, "I'm not, I'm not!" Little flashes of light circle his reeling head but the web- slinger keeps talking and keeps swinging. "Nobody can make me give up! Not when there's so much at stake!" he says, "I'll keep fighting until, until... Wha? It... it's over!" And it is. Without even being aware of it, Spidey has knocked out all of the Master Planner's men. They all lie unconscious in a circle around his feet.
He retrieves the serum and starts limping to the exit, up the stairs and through the trap door into the deserted building he had entered last issue. Not long after, the web-slinger enters Dr. Connors' lab through the window. Curt notices that Spidey is "breathless" but that seems to be the only thing wrong with him at this point. The web-slinger removes the vial of serum from the canister and hands it to Curt. Then, while Connors is not looking, he pulls out a hypo and draws some of his own radioactive blood. He plans to test the serum on it but doesn't want Curt to know where it came from so after drawing the blood, he stashes it in a container in his belt. Then Spidey rejoins Curt who is standing in front of the most ridiculously elaborate combination of beakers and containers this side of a Dr. Seuss contraption. There's a whole bunch of purple liquid bubbling away in this glassware, which seems to please Curt. "I'm getting just the reaction I expected!" he says. That's good enough for Spidey. He pours some of the purple liquid into a test tube and adds his radioactive blood sample with an eyedropper. He doesn't explain anything to Curt except to say, "If the serum works on this, then it will probably be effective on the patient, too!" He then hands the test tube back to Curt who seems to look at it with a microscope that looks like one of those coin-operated magnifiers that crop up at scenic lookouts just off two- lane highways. Curt declares that the serum works and that "the deterioration of the blood was instantly checked when the serum was applied!" (But not so fast! Since when is there any deterioration in Spidey's blood? Isn't it just Aunt May's blood that is deteriorating because of the radioactivity? This test on Spidey's blood shouldn't be able to reveal anything. Why didn't the web-spinner just use the sample of Aunt May's blood that he stole from the lab last issue? He gave it to Curt. It should be right there!)
As Spidey packs the cure up in the canister, Curt tries to pry into the patient's identity. "The serum may be affected by the age, sex or physical condition of the one it's given to!" he says. Spidey still doesn't tell Curt who the patient is but as he leaves through the window he asks the doc to "call the hospital and tell them I'm on the way with the serum", which means Curt can probably find out who the patient is when he calls. Seconds later, May's doctor (who is spending his time hanging around in her room as if he has no other patients, talking to himself about how "we've done all we can but she's sinking rapidly") is called from the room by a nurse who tells him he has an "urgent phone call". This is Curt passing along the info so that when Spidey arrives soon after, the doctors are ready to receive the serum. But after all the hurrying, the head doc tells Spidey that it will take two hours before they know if the serum will work. Why? Because they "have to conduct a series of tests to determine the effectiveness of the serum!" Ahem. Excuse me but didn't Spidey and Dr. Connors already perform that test? And didn't it take seconds rather than two hours? And didn't May's doctor say she was slipping rapidly and was just barely alive? Then what's the hold up?
Spidey can't bear the thought of hanging around for two hours so he leaves three doctors and a nurse to surround May's bed and slips away. The head doc tries to stop him (since he has plenty of time to conduct his tests, right?) and find out what the web-slinger's interest is in the matter but Spidey just says, "Let's just say that I was helping a friend" and splits out an open window. He runs along a rooftop trying to think of something to do during the next two hours and then remembers that he left the Master Planner's men out cold in the hideout. He goes back, lifts the trap door and sees them still unconscious. So, he calls the police, right? Wrong. First he sets up his automatic camera and has it snap a picture of him running out of the trap door. (Sort of like the time he restaged the fight with the Sandman to get photos back in ASM #4, September 1963. You'd think he'd have gained a little more journalistic integrity by now.) Then he takes a picture of the unconscious thugs... and he's so proud of himself as he does this that he thinks of himself as "Scoop" Parker.
Okay, so he doesn't forget about calling the police. First he calls Frederick Foswell at the Bugle and tells him he's got a tip for him. Foswell grabs his jacket and runs for the exit, yelling, "Better hold the front page for an extra, Mr. Jameson! I'm on my way to get a scoop from Spider-Man!" Jonah's eyes light up at the sound of an extra. "Maybe that blasted web-spinner's in jail or worse if I'm lucky!" he declares as he beams. "Mr. Jameson! You're smiling!" says Betty, "Is anything wrong?"
Down at the waterfront, Spidey (perched high up on his webbing) flags down Foswell as he runs by. Spidey tells Foswell that he's "got the Master Planner's gang all sewed up behind a hidden trap door which I marked for you". He explains that the Planner was Dr. Octopus but that he lost track of Ock when the place got flooded. Foswell tells Spidey that he should have explained all this over the phone. That way he would have gotten a photographer and alerted the police. Spidey tells Foswell that he already alerted the police and then swings away as the cops show up. As for the photographer... well, Spidey's already got his automatic camera set up across the way. Once he takes his leave, he doubles back, grabs his camera, and takes more shots of the police leading the Master Planner's men away. The cops have the goons line up and unmask, as Spidey gets photos of the unveiling. And they must all be pretty notorious thugs, too, because Spidey thinks, "Hooo boy! There'll be a lot of bare post office walls when those characters get taken out of circulation!" and one policeman says, "It'll be like old home week at Sing Sing when you cut-ups come marching in!" As the crooks are hustled into the paddy wagon, Foswell tells one cop that they should send a diver down to search for Dr. Octopus. The officer agrees but guesses that Ock is "miles from here by now... That is, if he survived the cave-in!" (He did.) Spidey decides he's seen enough and he also feels like he's squared things with Foswell for thinking he was the Crime- Master back in ASM #27, August 1965. Now he plans to get his photos to Jameson "on the double". But he's still limping badly as he heads out.
Back at the Bugle, Jonah (tie loosened, hair askew) receives a call from Foswell giving him the lowdown. JJ is ecstatic over getting the scoop but doesn't want to praise Fred too much. After all, "he's liable to hit me for a raise!" But his one regret is that he doesn't have any photos. Just then Peter Parker shows up and heads for Jameson's office with pictures but his leg is still so sore that he can't disguise his limp. Betty Brant sees him from behind and notices that he's been hurt. She runs up to talk to him. (Remember that Betty received a marriage proposal from Ned Leeds in ASM #30, November 1965 and has been stalling off her answer until she can talk to Pete. She cornered him last issue but Peter, convinced that the best thing to do is to make her dislike him, gave Ned a shove and gave Betty the brush-off.) Peter doesn't want to see Betty right now but he can't avoid it so he turns to face her when she calls to him. Betty sees that Peter is bruised on his forehead, above his eye, on his left cheek, and under his lip. The bruise on the cheek is apparently so bad that Pete has put a couple of adhesive bandages on it. Betty is so shocked by the sight that her hands flutter up to her face and those spiky black lines radiate out of her face. She asks Peter what happened and he tells her that he got hurt while out trying to get some photos for Jameson. Then, getting really defensive, Peter tells her "there's no need to make a federal case out of it! Selling photos is important to me, I need the extra money! And if I have to get slapped around once in a while, it's part of the job! I'm not complaining! And I'm not quitting my work, either!"
From Betty's perspective, Peter may as well have told her that he is Spider- Man. You thought the black spiky lines were impressive in the previous panel? You should see them in this next one! Betty thinks back to her brother Bennett, killed in ASM #11, April 1964 and ghostly images of Bennett being shot appear behind her opposite a ghostly image of Peter suffering the same fate. Her mouth opens wide and her eyes reflect shock and horror. She can't bear the thought of losing another loved one to violence and she is finally forced to run off with her right fist covering her face. "Peter! Peter! Why do you have that stubborn streak?? Why can't you stick to your studies? Why must you always crave action??" she moans as she flees. Peter watches her go. Though Stan told us in the last panel that Pete said what he said precisely because he knew it would have this effect on Betty, he stills seems to have learned a little something extra from the encounter. "Now, more than ever, I realize I'm no good for Betty" he thinks, "If she feels this way about Peter Parker, how would she react if she learned about Spider-Man?!!"
Peter enters the office where Jonah is still on the phone with Foswell. When Pete tells JJ he has something for him, the publisher hangs up and says, "Let's see!" Peter pulls out a set of pix of the capture of the MP men "plus some shots I managed to get of Spider-Man on the scene". Jonah wrenches his neck around and opens his eyes wide. "It's true, then!" he says, "There is a Santa Claus!" Then he lunges for the photos, arms outstretched, but Peter yanks them away. He wants to settle on a price before Jonah gets his grubby hands on them. Peter knows he has to collect enough money to pay medical bills "and to get my microscope and other equipment out of hock". (Which explains why he still has that microscope when he puts it on Uncle Ben's grave in ASM #181, June 1978 but not how he still has it after that.) He tells Jameson that he won't take less than a hundred dollars per photo and Jonah, trembling and wringing his hands, says, "It's highway robbery! You're taking advantage of my warm heart, my generosity!" but inside he's thinking, "He doesn't realize they're worth twice as much!" Peter drops the photos on JJ's desk and tells him he wants a check right away. Jonah pulls out a pen and writes one out, all the while wondering what's happened to Parker. "He used to be a real little milk-toast [sic]! Who wised him up?" Even then, Jonah can't resist acting like he's throwing the money away carelessly but Peter isn't buying. "Compared to you, even Scrooge was a reckless devil-may-care spendthrift" he says.
The two hours are now up and so Peter goes to the hospital to get the word on Aunt May. The doctor calls to him, and then steps up and puts a hand on his arm. Peter immediately wants to know if the tests are completed and if his Aunt is all right. (And if this doctor had any sense at all, he would take the fact that Peter shouldn't know about these tests... since he only heard about them as Spidey... and combine that with the fact that both Peter and Spidey are limping, and figure out the truth. Maybe a loose end for some future Spidey writer to pursue?) The doctor tells him that they will know the result of the tests in a few minutes. In the meantime, he takes a look at Peter's battered face and tells him, "You'd better let me look at you!"
They go into an examining room and the doctor tells Peter to open his shirt while he puts on a stethoscope. (And where is Peter's Spidey suit while this examination is going on? Nowhere to be found.) Peter tells the doc that he only "mixed it up with a few other fellas" but that doesn't stop the examination, which seems to only consist of the doctor checking Pete's heartbeat with his stethoscope. From that simple act, he can deduce that Peter is in fine shape but "on the verge of complete exhaustion". Peter admits that he is pretty tired but has to learn the truth about Aunt May before he can rest. Secretly, he is relieved that the doctor didn't take a sample of his blood. The doctor gives Pete something to drink which will "relax you a bit" and orders him to get some rest as soon as possible. Just then a nurse enters and tells the doctor that the test results are in on Aunt May. The doctor tells Peter to come with him and he joins two other doctors at May's bedside. One of the already-present docs tells Pete that "the serum has stopped the blood deterioration" and that "we expect her to pull thru". The doctors leave Peter alone with his Aunt and he breaks into a grin as he realizes that "I didn't let you down this time, Aunt May! I didn't fail you!" Then May lifts her hand and actually says his name! Peter takes her hand and tells her that she is "going to be well again". May drops off to sleep but with a smile on her face. The doctor returns and tells Peter "she'd never have made it if not for that serum which Spider-Man brought us". He wonders how the web- slinger "fits in to all this". "I don't know, doc" says Pete, "but maybe he's not quite as bad as some people think he is."
The doctor orders Peter to go home and get some rest. Steve gives us four consecutive panels looking through the window of May's room to the sidewalk outside. As May sleeps and smiles in the foreground, we can see Peter walking away on the sidewalk as the doctor slowly lowers the blinds, finally obscuring Peter's figure and leaving May in the darkness. As he closes the blinds, the doctor thinks, "That Peter Parker certainly is a nice boy! He's sincere, well- mannered, and devoted to his Aunt! Too bad there aren't many more young men like that! Too bad someone like him can't be an idol for teenagers to imitate instead of some mysterious, unknown thrill-seeker like Spider-Man!"
That's the end of the story but there's a whole third of a page left. Steve fills it with a view of a snarling Kraven the Hunter, pulling back the white background of the panel as if parting a curtain. "Next Issue: The Return of ... Kraven the Hunter!" writes Stan, getting it right this time, "Nuff said!!" Kraven is looking particularly dangerous here... except that the ears of the lion depicted on his vest, sitting as they are on either side of his head, look absolutely ridiculous. I hadn't even really noticed those ears before. A look back at ASM #15, August 1964 and ASM Annual #1, 1964 reveal that they've always been there but not as noticeable as this. Sort of spoils the effect of the whole next issue threat, if you ask me.
The Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page has morphed mostly into the look it will retain for years to come. This issue announces Roy Thomas' hiring and plugs Stan's magazines "Monsters Unlimited" and "You Don't Say!" The Mighty Marvel Checklist plugs the FF versus the Inhumans and the X-Men's first battle with the Sentinels among others. And our 25 M.M.M.S. members are Frank Gerencer of Phillipsburg, New Jersey, David Edwards of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, Steve Sander of Madison, Tennessee, John Pepi of Brooklyn, New York, Howard Battersby of Chicago, Illinois, Ronald J. Wieck of New York, New York, Frank H. Mowrey of Clinton, Tennessee, Danny Kusmetzky of Overland Park, Kansas, Norman McLinden, Jr. of Bellingham, Massachusetts, Charles Pauley of San Francisco, California, Aric Mills of San Francisco, California, Ricky Wesp of Buffalo, New York, James Casler of Syracuse, New York, Mary Ann Sheldon of Saratoga Springs, New York, Joe Connelly of Rochester, New York, George Gudmundsen of Brooklyn, New York, Roderick K. Robinson of Baltimore, Maryland, Holly Ingraham of San Pedro, California, Michael G. Rome of Indianapolis, Indiana, John Corr of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,, Robert Sena of Gloversville, New York, Don Haynes of Peoria, Illinois, Danny Pringle of Rosebush, Michigan, Mike Hembree of Spartansburg, South Carolina, and Ricky Ryans of San Lorenzo, California. If any of you guys are out there reading this, let me hear from you!
Let's jump to the Spider's Web. Gary Nowell of Paris, Texas says, "Molten Man must return!... Molty should become a regular like Doc Doom and the Sub-Mariner are in the F.F. The cover of issue #28 was excellent!... Spider-Man is your best character and his book should have the title, "The World's Greater than Greatest Comic Magazine!" (Well, Gary, I agree with your praise of the cover of ASM #28, September 1965 and I'm sure you were thrilled with the return of the Molten Man only two issues after your letter was published but as for Molty becoming a Doc Doom or Subby type regular... heh.) Matt Emmens and Jimmy Luzzi of Nutley, New Jersey say, "I wish you would clear up this business between Ned Leeds, Betty Brant, and Petey! I'd like to see them get married! (Petey and Betty, that is.)" (I was going to make a comment about these hopes being dashed but I'm still trying to figure out how two guys writing one letter can refer to themselves as "I".) Longtime fan writer Guy H. Lillian III of Walnut Creek, California likes the Scorpion, saying, "Unlike others, he is more than a nifty gimmick, more than just another thug with a power. Also, he is rotten to the ever-lovin' core, which seems to be something new in this age of poor, misunderstood cut-throats." (Glad you like him, Guy. I could never quite cozy up to him myself.) And Mickey Schwaberow of Santa Rosa, California is so fed up with the sappiness of Peter's love life that he declares, "this sickening half-half business is making me sick!"
In the yellow next issue box, Stan says, "If you've got the same kind of tastes as we... then you undoubtedly enjoyed this issue! Well, take it from us, the one that follows is every bit as good!" Now, I'm not ready to reveal my web rating for next issue just yet but I think I can promise you one thing... it's not "every bit as good" as this one. But check in with us anyway.
Aunt May, Betty Brant, Frederick Foswell, and J. Jonah Jameson all return next issue. Dr. Curt Connors, however, doesn't come back until ASM #43, December 1966.
The Master Planner's gang returns wearing the same outfits and still assisting Doc Ock in ASM #54, November 1967.
Steve Ditko only has five issues to go!
Milestones (Landmark events that take place in this story.)
The 1969 Marvelmania International Spider-Man Portfolio checklist entry for this story. Warts and all:
"The Final Chapter" - Spidey comes through and overcomes the problems encountered in #31-32.
In many ways, this is a thoroughly unconventional comic. Everyone remembers the drama of Spidey escaping from being pinned by the machinery but he actually frees himself already on page five. Doctor Octopus, the main villain of the piece, doesn't show up at all and Spidey fights his way to freedom by page 11, only about halfway through the issue. The rest of the issue is actually fairly anticlimactic with its focus on creating the serum, taking photos of the police round-up, Betty's shock over Peter's physical condition and the curing of Aunt May. (Granted, Aunt May was not the immortal being she is today and there was some tension over whether she would survive but it's hard to imagine Stan and Steve putting Spidey through all of this for nothing.) There are also those weird glitches where Spidey uses his own blood to check the serum's effectiveness and conveniently doesn't have his costume on under his clothing when examined by the doctor.
But it does begin with five of the best pages in Spidey history, has three pages of another one of those great Ditko fight scenes where Spidey tackles a whole gang of thugs at once (enjoy it while you can; there's only one more of these to come!) and somehow, as a whole, anticlimactic or not, comes together as one of the most compelling issues ever.
Five webs. (Or to quote the Firesign Theatre, "Didn't I say that on the other side of the record?"