After presenting a new villain (the Shocker) last issue, Stan and Johnny bring back an old favorite, Kraven the Hunter, as well as re-introduce us to Norman Osborn. I assume everyone remembers Kraven's previous appearances in Amazing Spider-Man #15, August 1964, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, 1964, and Amazing Spider-Man #34, March 1966 but let's not forget his brief appearances in Tales of Suspense #58, October 1964 and Amazing Spider-Man #18, November 1964 making this his sixth showing in a Marvel mag. Not bad for a guy in a leopard skin leotard. Norman's appearance is his first since being shocked out of his goblinness back in Amazing Spider-Man #40, September 1966.
|Pencils:||John Romita, Sr.|
|Inker:||John Romita, Sr.|
|Cover Art:||John Romita, Sr.|
|Part Reprint In:||John Romita's The Amazing Spider-Man Artifact Edition (IDW)|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Masterworks #22|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Tales #187|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Tales #33|
|Reprinted In:||Essential Spider-Man #3|
|Reprinted In:||Spider-Man Pocket Book #26|
The cover is another of John Romita's symbolic works. It shows a smiling Kraven front and center, holding a net in one hand while reaching out with the other. He is standing atop a spider-signal and is surrounded by five tiny figures of Spider-Man. This not only makes Kraven the star of the cover but also emphasizes his stature compared to the quintet of small Spideys. Looks like Kraven's going to be a tough opponent for the web-slinger.
The story, strangely enough, begins with a flashback to a scene we have never seen. A look at the splash page before reading any of the text reveals Spidey battling Kraven while the Green Goblin hovers, unseen, above them. As regular Spidey readers, we know that the Goblin reverted back to Norman Osborn in ASM #40, so what the heck is this? A new Goblin? The return of the original with his memory intact? It is only after wading through Stan's verbose intro in the arrow-shaped caption box that we learn this is a flashback "that occurred just a few months ago." In the scene depicted here, we now learn that Kraven did not attack Spider-Man for honor last time out but because the Goblin promised him twenty thousand dollars to kill the web-slinger. The Hunter sees the Goblin watching and is so preoccupied with this, so obsessed over the money that Spider-Man manages to escape. Later, Kraven meets with a mysterious, shadowy go-between from the Goblin. So, confident is Kraven of defeating Spider-Man that he demands half of the money in advance. When the mysterious flunky refuses to pay, Kraven vows to kill the Goblin after he disposes of Spider-Man. After the meeting, the Hunter uses his jungle senses to trail the Goblin's emissary. He is surprised to discover that the man is wealthy industrialist Norman Osborn. As Stan's footnote says, "Too bad Kraven never read ish #40 like WE did or he'd know that Osborn HIMSELF was the Goblin." (But then, since this flashback is from before #40, it wasn't out yet for Kraven to read. Confused yet?) The flashback ends with Spidey defeating Kraven, leaving him in a webnet for the police. ("All gift-wrapped and ready for mailing.") Embarrassingly trussed up, Kraven whines that Spidey "beat me by a trick, only because I was careless." So off he goes to "many long, lonely months of confinement" without having a chance to confront Osborn or the Goblin and without receiving any money at all.
This all takes place, apparently, during the events of Amazing Spider-Man #34, March 1966 and unfortunately it doesn't make any sense. On page 2 panel 1 of that story, Kraven muses, "I can endure the frustration no longer! I must battle and defeat my greatest mortal enemy or else everything that has gone before is but a hollow mockery!" There is no one else around so he is talking to himself... and fooling himself, apparently, if the "payment for Spidey's murder" retcon is to be believed. Of course, Kraven is still in Africa at that point. It is possible that his honor led him back to the USA and then he encountered the Goblin. But when does that happen? Kraven sneaks back into the country and hides out in one of the Chameleon's old joints. He doesn't dare go out in public because he has "been sentenced never to return to these shores." His plan involves impersonating Spider-Man and attacking J. Jonah Jameson. He poses as Spidey in the days ahead, hoping to draw the real Spider-Man into battle. Spidey does go searching for the imposter and finds him. Kraven, as Spidey, leads the wall-crawler over the rooftops to a block of condemned empty buildings. There he reveals himself as Kraven and the battle begins. So there is no time from his departure from Africa to his battle with Spidey where the Green Goblin should have any reason to know he's in the country. But, let's say the Goblin found out somehow and knew where Kraven was hiding and visited him at the Chameleon's place. Does the "flashback" work now? Well, no, because the battle with Spidey is continuous from Kraven's unveiling to his defeat. There is no time for the Hunter to get a visit from the Goblin's mysterious go-between and to trail him to Osborn mansion in Westchester County. Not only that but Kraven has a lot of nerve claiming that Spidey "beat me by a trick" since the web-slinger essentially beat him by pounding the crap out of him. Note that Kraven makes no such claim in the original.
So what are we to make of this? Clearly, Stan didn't look at ASM #34 and he didn't remember the details of the story. I guess he wasn't kidding all those times he told us Marvel didn't keep any of its back issues. And there's no reason why he should remember the details of this story. After all, Stan was writing dozens of stories a month and Ditko plotted that one. Also, there was no reason for Stan to think that the readers would notice the differences. ASM #34 had come out over a year ago and two years was the expected tenure of a reader at that time. Most of those who read the last Kraven story weren't reading this one, right? Well, maybe or maybe not. The fact is that Stan got a little bit careless here. Like it or not, we're stuck with it.
So, anyway, Kraven has been released from prison and he is thirsting for revenge against Spider-Man. But first he plans on taking down the Green Goblin for pride's sake. (Kraven does a lot of this kind of thing.) Breaking into the morgue room at the Daily Bugle, he reads the paper that reports the Goblin's death by fire, along with Spider-Man's involvement. Enraged that he has been cheated of revenge, Kraven smashes up the file cabinets in the morgue and decides to go after Spidey but first... he needs some money. And he knows right where to go to get some. To Norman Osborn, the Goblin's "flunky." He prowls the dark streets of Manhattan, declaring "No need to travel all the way to Westchester to his house. Osborn has an office, right here in the city somewhere. And it won't take Kraven the Hunter long to find it!" (Yeah, but it might still be less time to go to Westchester seeing as he already knows where that house is.)
Elsewhere, Aunt May is moving in with Anna Watson now that Peter has an apartment with Harry Osborn. (So, at this point, May is still moving into Anna's house rather than the other way around. Let's keep tracking this issue by issue and see when it swaps.) Mary Jane shows up, ostensibly to help with the unpacking, but she puts a platter on the record player and ends up doing the frug instead. "We're makin' the scene tonight," MJ says of her and Pete. "It's so rare to find a young lady who's interested in handicrafts," Aunt May replies. May calls Pete at his new apartment (where he is apparently trying to shave with a Shick razor but no shaving cream while standing in the middle of the living room. What the heck IS that razor doing in his hand anyway?) and one of those banters ensues in which Peter has to tell his Aunt that "the word is pussycat not pussywillow." Harry (who is busy buttoning his shirt) says, "I'll bet she's putting you on, son! Your Aunt's probably hipper than you!" Pete's response: "Who isn't, Dad?" (Okay, so Harry is putting on a shirt and Pete is getting ready to shave. Seems like it's morning but isn't Kraven stalking the city at night and isn't this supposed to be happening at the same time?) There is a knock at the door and Harry goes to answer it. "I'd hate to keep Sophia Loren waiting!" he says, "or wouldja believe Captain Kangaroo?" (I'd still hate to keep Sophia Loren waiting. Captain Kangaroo, on the other hand, is dead. Do I have to explain who these people are? Italian sex symbol movie star and host of a kids' TV show. You figure out which is which.)
So, Harry opens the door to his father, Norman Osborn. (And if you think there's a lot of visiting going on here, wait until issue #49!) "What a surprise!" he says, "You're a real early-bird!" (So, maybe Kraven was out real early in the morning instead of real late at night.) Norman tells his son he "came to see how you and your new room-mate are getting along" and Harry prepares to introduce his dad to Pete... but first we have to look at the "More Marvel Masterpieces" page. Our featured issues this time are Thor #138, March 1967, Marvel Collectors' Item Classics #8, April 1967 and Tales of Suspense #88, April 1967. Not a one of them has a thing to do with Spidey but if I only had the money for one I would go with Thor. It's Stan and Jack at the top of their game, even if it's the middle issue of an Ulik trilogy. Suspense was pretty good back then too but this is an expendable issue with Iron Man fighting the Mole Man and Cap dealing with a robot Bucky.
Norman tells Pete "good to meet you, my boy", not remembering he met and unmasked him as Spidey when he was the Green Goblin. Norman has a standing offer to Pete to join his company as a scientist. (An intriguing little notion never pursued, unfortunately.) It is clear that Norman and Harry are hitting it off as never before, with the Goblin now gone. Norman is taking a business trip to the west coast and has dropped by "so early" to say "so long." (Ach. I give up trying to guess what time it is.) It's a good thing for him that he's leaving because Kraven shows up at his office, wearing a yellow trench coat and demanding to see him. (So, Kraven could have gone to the house in Westchester in the middle of the night but instead wandered around for hours and even bought a trench coat just to check in on Norman's office in the morning?) Norman's secretary, a young woman with brown hair and glasses who either is never seen again or gets frumpy and goes gray by the time she reappears in Amazing Spider-Man #96, May 1971, (and with guys like Kraven scaring the crap out of her, who can blame her either way?) tells the Hunter that Mr. Osborn will be "out of town for the rest of the week." Then, oblivious to the leopard leotard under the trench coat she says, "May I ask who's calling?" Kraven assumes Osborn is fleeing town because he "must have heard I had returned." He bellows enough that he gets the secretary to run into the next room. (Or so his dialogue says but we don't get to see that. I think it's a last second inspiration by Stan.) Frustrated, the Hunter goes back to his lair where he reveals his new weapon, "A double-barrelled ray which can magnetize [Spidey's] muscular electrolytes!" The rays fire out of the lion's eyes on Kraven's vest and are meant to neutralize the web-spinner's spider-speed leaving him vulnerable to what Kraven calls his "far greater strength and my matchless animal powers," which I'm sure will scare Spidey right into hiding.
Over in the Empire State University cafeteria, Gwen Stacy is planning a going away party for Flash Thompson who is heading into the Army. Gwen has been dating Flash and one hormone-driven blond guy wearing a sweatshirt with a big "E" on it asks, "Who's gonna take his place with you, doll?" to which Gwen replies, "Looks like I'm up for grabs, lads!" Pete and Harry show up with their lunch trays and Harry flirts shamelessly with Gwen, saying, "Why don't you admit that I'm the secret love of your life?" to which Gwen, hand on hip, replies, "Because it wouldn't be a secret any longer if I did, Harry!" Pete gets into the act by saying, "Has anyone ever told you that you get prettier every day?" to which Gwen replies, "Only my mirror, Mr. Parker! Whoops! Sorry! I've been listening to Mary Jane too long!" (Poor Gwen, having to come up with all of these pithy remarks to fend off these horny guys. She must go home and have to towel off buckets of drool.) Gwen tells Pete to bring Mary Jane to the party. This frustrates Pete because he is interested in dating Gwen instead. When Gwen asks Harry if he will bring a date, he replies, "With you there, doll? That would be like bringing Chevvy (sic) to General Motors!" Before they head to class, Peter makes one last pitch. He asks Gwen if she is interested in joining him for "a soda after class while we compare some notes on English Lit." Gwen tells him she'll be interested in getting ready for Flash's party. "I'm sure Mary Jane can help you brush up on your notes," she says which is nicely catty considering MJ isn't even in school. Bruised, Peter heads off, thinking, "Face it, Parker! You deserved that! When Gwen wanted to be friendly, I was never around!"
So, Pete webslings over to the Bugle to sell his Shocker photos, taken last ish. While at the Bugle, he bumps into Betty Brant and Ned Leeds and invites them to Flash's party. Pete then goes into J. Jonah Jameson's office. JJJ is on the phone with his son, saying "That pin-headed Peter Parker just came in." but he changes his tune when he sees the photos. "That's stop the presses stuff!" His son John is down in Washington, which we can tell because the Capitol Building is right behind him. He tells his dad he's "joining the space team again, soon!" The last time John was with the space team didn't necessarily work out so well as we saw in Amazing Spider-Man #42, November 1966 but he's all better now.
Meanwhile, Kraven finally shows up at Norman Osborn's mansion. He takes a great leap and easily clears the front gate. Then he smashes right through a door yelling, "I want Osborn!" and scaring the hell out of the butler. (Wait a minute! Norman Osborn has a butler? Whatever happened to him? He never appeared again!) The butler immediately recognizes Kraven and, quivering, tells him "the master is not here." Kraven grabs the butler by the lapels and lifts him off the ground, yelling, "Don't try to lie to me!" then crows about his prowess against a "charging bull elephant" and a "full-grown lion" and so on. The domestic insists that Osborn is indeed out of town. He invites Kraven to look for himself. But Kraven declares, "I don't have to see! My own animal sense tells me you're too frightened to lie!" (Which I guess it didn't do before he lifted the butler up off the ground.) He kicks over a telephone table and rips up the stairway's banister. Then he leaves, telling the butler to inform his master that "Kraven was here!" Once Kraven leaves, the faithful servant calls Norman and tells him of the Hunter's appearance.
Back at the pad, Harry and Pete get dressed for the party. Harry is gushing about the beautiful women they hang with. "Between my Gwen and your Mary Jane, we've really got it made", he says. "It figures, son", Pete replies, "we're strictly from Wow City." But secretly, he thinks, "Why do I get all shook-up when I hear him call her HIS Gwen?!!"
The two boys hop into Harry's huge convertible to pick up their dates. Harry indulges in some rich-boy humor, saying, "I may have to trade this car in soon. It needs a wash!" (Ah, that Harry!) They pick up Gwen first and the hip-cute dialogue flies fast, thick, and heavy. Gwen: "Ahh, my two gallant Knights on their speeding steed!" Harry: "Gwen! If...if I'd known you'd look like that...I'd have gotten here sooner!" Gwen: "What did you expect me to look like? Yogi Bear?" And when Pete tries to put the top of the convertible up, Gwen cries, "Bite your tongue, impetuous one! We night people thrive on moon burns!" Pete laments to himself that he was too busy fighting the Molten Man and the Scorpion when Gwen was originally interested in him. Now that HE'S interested, he thinks that she isn't anymore. ("But now... with Gwen sending me into orbit whenever I look at her, she suddenly forgot my name.") Still, he IS dating MJ and "nobody can say THAT gal isn't 100% dreamville!" (Whew! "Yogi Bear", "Moon Burns", and "Dreamville" all in one paragraph! Let's take a break.)
(All rested up? Let's continue.)
The gang then stops to pick up Mary Jane. She runs to the car, even as she claims, "Who needs a car? When there's a party to go to, I can like fly all the way." The foursome arrives at the soda parlor for Flash's party. (Stan tells us he skips the rest of the ride "to prove this really isn't our version of Peyton Place," which was a popular evening soap opera in the sixties based on the novel by Grace Metalious and starring Mia Farrow and Ryan O'Neal, among others.) Flash hasn't yet shown up for his own party but Betty and Ned are there. (Betty wonders "which of those two gorgeous girls [Pete is] most interested in.") In fact, the place is packed with kids who all seem to know Flash, Pete and the gang. Just then Flash shows up and everybody has a swell time making allusions to Vietnam as if it is a football game. MJ and Pete get down on the dance floor, which prompts Gwen to strut her stuff in return. "Wow-eeee!", says one ogler, "if we could package that, we'd be rich!" "Mmm-boy" says another, "Flash oughtta enlist every day!" MJ, livid that Gwen has stolen the spotlight, looks daggers at her rival. Observing this, Harry says, "There's liable to be an explosion soon." And he's right but not in the way he thinks, for just at that moment, Kraven the Hunter comes bursting through the wall, looking for the son of Norman Osborn. (Poor Stan just can't help himself. He spoils that segue from Harry's "explosion" comment to Kraven's arrival by putting in a footnote that says, "Hang loose, Harry, you don't know how right you are." Sort of like telling your audience, "You know that shock that's going to come but you don't know when it's coming? Well, it's going to come right now.")
As Peter tries to figure out how he can go into action as Spidey, Kraven grabs Harry and demands to know where Norman is. And in case you were wondering how Kraven knew to come to the soda parlor to find Harry, he tells us, "I knew Osborn had a son! And, it wasn't hard for the world's greatest hunter to track you here!" Simple and direct, just as I like it. Harry is baffled. He doesn't know Kraven and can't imagine what the Hunter wants with him. Flash doesn't hesitate. Saying, "Back off, mister! Nobody breaks up my party that way!" he rushes Kraven. A couple of other party-goers join Flash but Kraven smacks them away with the back of his hand. "Can a pack of rabbits hold a lion at bay?" he says. (Umm. I don't know. Can they?) In the midst of this melee, Pete runs off to change to Spidey, telling the others that he is calling the cops. (MJ watches him go.) Kraven decides to kidnap Harry, forcing Norman to come to him. He tucks Harry under his arm and heads for the hole in the wall. Harry tries slugging Kraven as he is carried off but to no avail. "He looks human," he thinks, "but it's like hitting an elephant's hide. He doesn't even feel it!"
As Kraven leaves with Harry, Spidey appears outside. He swings over to the naked girders of a half-built building next door and taunts Kraven. "The mighty Kraven tackling a teenager!", he scoffs (ironically, seeing as HE is a teenager), "Next thing we know you'll be proving your power by wrestling a parakeet!" Kraven, enraged, drops Harry, and leaps into battle. And I mean LEAPS! He gets up in the girders with Spidey in a hurry but the web-slinger evades the punch. Spidey retaliates by swinging on his webbing and kicking Kraven with a "Zop!" Back on the ground, Harry returns to his friends. (It looks like a cop has shown up as well, except that Gwen says, "The police should be here soon" in the next panel so I guess I'm imagining things.) "We'd better get you out of sight, Harry, just in case," says a tiny little blob of ink that appears to be Gwen. Up in the girders, Spidey, knowing that "Kraven's Achilles heel is his pride," taunts him, hoping to make the jungle man careless. Down below the action, Flash puts Harry's arm around his neck and helps him away. MJ is absorbed in the action. "Hey! You're missing the whole bit!" she tells the others, "Like talk about a happening!" Ned Leeds calls the story into the Bugle and JJJ and Fred Foswell grab their hats and head to the scene.
Back at the fight, Spidey gets tired of dodging Kraven. High up on the girders, he figures he can win if he can make Kraven "fall from this height." So he taunts Kraven into leaping at him, then pulls away so the Hunter takes a tumble. But, using "the agility of a jungle cat," Kraven somersaults in mid-air and lands safely. Meanwhile, responding to the urgent call from his butler, Norman is back in town at Kennedy airport. He grabs a cab and tells the driver "I'll double your fare if you can get me to Westchester inside of an hour." As soon as they set off, the cabbie tells him "it's lucky we don't haveta pass through Midtown" since "the radio's been blarin' bulletins about Kraven the Hunter tearin' up the place" and "They probably got traffic backed up for miles around there!" Hearing this, Norman tells the driver to "get me as close to the site as you can." When the cabbie hesitates, saying, "It may not be healthy, pal," Norman triples the fare. "That's healthy enough for me!" says the cabbie.
Back at the scene, Kraven leaps back up at the web-slinger. Spidey thinks he is "comin' in too low 'n slow" but Kraven is actually grabbing the girder below so he can swing up and kick the webhead in the gut. He figures that Spidey will "fall right into the waiting arms of the bluecoats below" (since the cops really have shown up now) but Spidey grabs Kraven by the lion's mane hanging off the back of his vest. (Note to Self: Never wear a lion's mane vest.) "It's real obliging of you to wear that lion's mane get-up," says the wall-crawler, "It may not be mod but it really grabs me... or vice versa." Then he adds, "Y'know if we could choreograph this routine, we'd probably have a great act for Ed Sullivan!" (Again with Ed Sullivan! How many times do you figure Spidey references Ed Sullivan? Someone look through all the issues and tell me, will ya?) Both Spidey and Kraven jump down to a girder below and the fight continues even as JJJ and Foswell arrive on the scene. Spidey lays into Kraven with a right-handed punch that rocks him backward. That's enough for Kraven. "I planned to defeat you without any weapons," he says, "but now I've changed my mind!" Grabbing the studs (or whatever the heck controls it), he triggers his double-barreled electrolyte magnetizer thingee and quickly blasts Spidey. "Feels as though all my muscles have turned to mush!" realizes the webslinger. Kraven moves in for the kill and Spidey discovers, "My brain knows what to do but my body won't... or can't respond." Kraven pops Spidey with a hard left hand using a "nerve punch" which is the same "with which I can paralyze a charging Bengal tiger," which I'm sure he must encounter in Africa all the time. This paralyzes Spidey, setting him up for the kill. However, just at that moment, Norman Osborn shows up in his cab. (Guess the traffic wasn't so bad in Midtown after all.) Norman sees Harry and runs over to see how his son is. "That Kraven must be a madman," he says, "Who is he?" Even as Norman further explains that he's never seen Kraven in his life (or so he thinks), the Hunter uses a rope to lasso him and pull him up into the girders. (Where was Kraven hiding that rope, anyway? Hmmm. Maybe I'd rather not know.) Kraven tells Osborn he wants his money, even if the Goblin is dead. Norman, unaware of his past, cries out, "Goblin? Money? What are you talking about?" The Hunter pulls him up close, aware that his jungle instinct can detect lies, and he is shocked to discover that Norman is telling the truth! Osborn doesn't recognize Kraven. He doesn't remember their previous meeting at all. And Kraven concludes, "It must have been some trick... of the Green Goblin! He did it to confound me! But he's dead now. So, I'll never learn the answer." No longer having any reason to attack Norman, Kraven throws him down on a platform with a "thud!" Then he raises his arms up in a Rocky Balboa salute and declares, "The prize is still mine! Kraven has defeated Spider-Man!" Having gotten over that hurdle, he runs off. "Kraven can carve a mighty future for himself," he says as he flees. By this time, Spidey has sufficiently recovered from "that ray gizmo" to shakily stand. He is about to go after Kraven again when he sees Norman, still entangled in the rope and trying to stand up, go toppling over the edge. Just think how much better the rest of his life would be if Spidey just let Norman fall. He doesn't, of course. He swings down, saves Osborn, and leaves him hanging in a web as he web-swings away. (And it must be the non-sticky version of his webbing or something since Harry and Flash have no trouble getting Norman out of it and onto the ground.) JJJ runs up and tries to get Norman to say that Spidey pushed him off the girder, ("C'mon, let me give you a lift home while I tell you what a fink that wall- crawler is.") but Norman scoffs at the publisher for his "psychopathic hatred of Spider-Man". (That's Stan being ironic, I think.) Pete, meanwhile, re-appears "now that the action's over." He tells Flash, Gwen, and MJ that "I didn't have my camera with me, tried to rent one fast but couldn't find a store in time" which seems to convince everyone. "It was a real gasser, Petey!" says MJ. Then Pete gives Flash a final shake of the hand, wishing him the best in his tour of Vietnam. (Since Flash is leaving tomorrow!) Flash smiles back, saying, "every so often I figure you're not as square as I thought" and asks Pete to "take good care of the chicks for ol' Flasheroo while I'm gone." Still, Flash finishes with, "I hope I'm not squeezin' your hand too hard...cause a Spider-Man you ain't!"
So, Pete trudges off all alone, thinking about Flash. "He was probably my greatest fan!" he thinks, "If only I could have told him who I really am, just once! But, why am I thinking of him in the past tense? He'll come back! He'll make it, somehow! The good guys always win... don't they?"
Our final panel next issue blurb is: "Next: The Wings of the Vulture!" Notice how Stan tries to make us think it's the same old Vulture returning? And he'll do it again in the yellow box on the letter's page, too.
Before we get there, though, he have to look at the Bullpen Bulletins. "A Batty Barrage of Bombastic Bulletins; Burstin' with Bi-Partisan Banter, Bare-Faced Banality, and Unabashed Bull!" (As Bulletin titles go, that really is one of the better ones.) Shaking things up, Stan switches from his usual "Item" to "Didja Know?" to introduce each item. Most of the page is taken up with a feature on the Marvel Super-Heroes show on TV ("seen in far-off Australia, Japan, Uruguay, Canada, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and even Kalamazoo!"). The rest is just Bullpen gossip, kind of intriguing from our 40-plus years later perspective. Gene Colan bought a motorcycle, came into work later "with a couple of bandaged elbows and a sheepish expression" and switched back to his sedan. Larry Leiber and Bill Everett each hurt his back and had to spend a week in bed. (Not with each other.) Jumbo John Verpoorten was hired. (Big John died in 1977 at the age of 37.) Roy Thomas gave up a scholarship to George Washington University to write for Marvel. And finally... well, there has been a lot of discussion over the years as to whether Stan treated Jack Kirby well at Marvel. By most accounts, Stan took more than his share of credit (certainly when it came to plotting), profiting financially and in corporate status in ways that Jack never did. But you certainly can't say that Stan didn't praise Jack in public. The last Bulletin this month is a good example of that: "Jack Kirby's ears must be really burning. Every comics mag fan has his own personal favorite among all the artists employed by all the different companies – but, when it comes to the opinions of the pro's [sic] themselves – when it comes to naming the Artist's Artist, there isn't even a contest! Every time the conversation here at the Bullpen gets around to artwork (and what ELSE is there to talk about?), you should hear the top men in the field lower their voices when the name of King Kirby comes up. It's generally agreed that when you talk super-hero illustration; of action drawing; of imaginative conceptions; of dynamic double-barelled drama; Marvel's many-faceted master simply has no peer! There is hardly a pro pencil-pusher in the field today who hasn't been influenced by Jolly Jack's memorable masterpieces – or by the constantly shattering impact of his creativity. Don't be embarrassed, Jack – this is just Stan's cornball way of telling you that it's been a ball all these years, pal – and the best is still ahead!"
Time for my typing lesson and eye test: the 26 M.M.M.S. Members for this issue. Drew Herzip of Fair Oaks, California; Franklin Fishler of Honolulu, Hawaii; Gary Grosenick of Las Vegas, Nevada; Pat Kasey of Windsor, Illinois; Mike Littleton of Houston, Texas; Tom Brodersen of Phoenix, Arizona; Albert Grossman of San Francisco, California (NOT the late manager of Bob Dylan, I suspect); Chris Kuchler of Lawrence, Kansas; Mary Cole of Chuckey, Tennessee; Barry Meyer of Park Forest, Illinois; Bob Croby of Richmond, Virginia; Mike Limpron of Cottondale, Florida; Richard Fletcher of Charleston, South Carolina; Michael McGinn of Kewanii, Illinois; Mike Holt of San Diego, California; Richard Lloyd Allen of Oak Grove, Missouri; Craig Binney of Iowa City, Iowa; Andy Richard Chavez of Canton, Mississippi; Norm Ingham of Birmingham, Michigan; Cicel Hemp of North Randall, Ohio; Jack Cascio of Springfield, Illinois; Douglas Marden of Hoboken, New Jersey; Roderick Gordon of Jamaica, New York; Bruce Hoppe of Thousand Oaks, California; Mike Acree of Charlotte, North Carolina; and Terry Meister of Parama Heights, Ohio. All still M.M.M.S. members whether they know it or not!
The t-shirt ad (or "Groovy Marvel Goodies") has gotten boring. Let's skip that.
Which brings us to the Spider's Web where we'll leave the first letter for last. In the second letter, A. Rothholtz, H. Kwitter, A. Bulin, and M. Segal from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey want to know, "where is the Lizard's tail coming from? Wouldn't the aperture ruin his pants and probably make them fall down?" Stan says, "We were discussing the same thing in the Bullpen ourselves just a few weeks ago! We couldn't agree upon an answer any more than you can, and we ended the discussion with the fervent hope that nobody would ever bring the matter up." Personally I don't see what the big deal is. I'm more inclined to wonder how the Rhino goes to the bathroom.
Johnny Fisher of Ringwood, Oklahoma talks about bringing home his new copy of Amazing Spider-Man #43, December 1966, "Then tragedy struck! On page 3, panel 4, I was shocked to see that debonair Pete Parker was fat! He looked like Foggy Nelson's twin brother!" Hmmm. Let's take a look. Well, he doesn't look fat to me but Stan still promises Johnny, "we shall submit a calory-counting [sic] regimen to Jazzy Johnny and suggest that he applies it to our well-fed web-slinger!"
All right, let's go back to that first letter. Gerard Addonizio of Medford, Massachusetts writes, "While thumbing thru a Brand Echh comic, I came across something that infuriated me. Some orange-faced character belonging to an (ugh) group of super-boobs had just finished tying up a monster with his web after turning into a spider! He then said, "In case a certain web-headed character thinks I'm stealing his thunder, I'd like to remind him that I was changing to all sorts of weird shapes long before he walked up his first wall." As you know, he was referring to our own Spidey! You fellas usually make your Brand Echh references in a good-natured half-kidding way; and you've never actually pin-pointed any competitive mag or character. But they're getting nasty. I think you should really let them have it. I've never written before, but when I saw that statement, I just had to. Your comics are the greatest!" Stan replies that, "Quite a few indignant Marvelites have commented upon that same reference to Spidey in a mag which we shall charitably not identity. We deeply appreciate the concern of all you True Believers – but don't worry about it, gang. Any knock is a boost... and our ill-advised competitors have been unintentionally boosting us all over the place!" However, in regards to Gerard's letter, Stan wonders why it "took a mention in another mag to get you to write to us? Why have you chosen to remain aloof so long? Why haven't you cared enough till now? What have we done wrong – where have we failed? Must we contact our competitors and beg them to mention us in order to hear from you again?" I, on the other hand, wonder, "In what comic did this Spidey-reference appear, anyway?"
Let's look at Gerard's letter again. He talks about a "Brand Echh comic" with "some orange-faced character" who belongs to a group ("of super-boobs"). The panel he refers to is shown in the gallery at the top of this review. From the character's quote, we know he's been around longer than Spidey. So where do we begin? At this time, "Brand Echh" specifically referred to DC Comics so we can forget about ACG, Harvey, Charlton, and so on. So which DC character has an orange face and belongs to a group? Metamorpho? No, he has a white face and he didn't debut until after Spider-Man. Anyone else in the Justice League? Not that I can think of. What other groups were appearing regularly in DC comics back in the mid-60s? Teen Titans? No orange-faced character there. Doom Patrol? Robotman could be considered "orange-faced" but he can't turn into a spider. Legion of Super-Heroes? Chameleon Boy is orange-faced and can turn into a spider. Plus he first appeared in Action Comics #267, August 1960, two years before Spidey first appeared. Now we're onto something! The LSH appeared monthly in Adventure Comics at the time. If Gerard read the latest issue around the same time he read ASM #43 then we're looking for an issue of Adventure cover-dated sometime in late 1966. So, let's pull out our set of 60s Adventure Comics (which we all have in our collections, I know) and thumb through some issues. Aha! There it is! Adventure Comics #350, November 1966 with "the tale that will stun the world! The Legionnaires kick our their buddies Superboy and Supergirl" in "The Outcast Super-Heroes!" But we don't care about any of that. Instead, turn to page 20 where Chameleon Boy has turned into a spider to defeat a monster just as Gerard says. On page 20, panel 4, he winks at the reader and says... well, exactly what Gerard says he says! So, there you have it. I know many of you would not have been able to sleep until you found the answer to this forty-year-old question. Always happy to help in any way I can!
In that yellow "Next Ish" box at the end of the letter's page, Stan says, "After an absence of many months, one of the greatest, most memorable of all super-villains returns to prove once again that, just when you think mighty Marvel has reached the absolute pinnacle of perfection, we can always come up with something even more sensational – namely the vicious Vulture! When you see the way Vulchy comes alive via the inspired artwork of Ring-a-Ding Romita, you'll wanna stand up and cheer!" I can't wait for that. The old bald Vulture back in action next issue, this time drawn by Johnny Romita! (Stan, you little devil you.)
So, in sum:
Kraven will be back for one panel on a black and white TV next issue, then appears fully in Amazing Spider-Man #49, June 1967 for the big finish.
Flash Thompson, off to the Army, won't be seen again until Amazing Spider-Man #52, September 1967 when he's back home on furlough. John Jameson and Norman Osborn are away for even longer. John returns in Amazing Spider-Man #55, December 1967, "in charge of Security for America's Nullifier Weapon" and Norman comes back in Amazing Spider-Man #61, June 1968, feeling disturbed about the Green Goblin and lending a hand saving Gwen and George Stacy in the Brainwasher/Dr. Winkler affair (after which, in our brave new continuity, he has sex with Gwen and fathers twin lunatics but, believe me, we can pretend that never happened in our secure little world of 60s Spider-Man).
Before we move on, I'd like to take a moment to talk about the flashback story in Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1996. Ben Reilly, as Spidey, recalls an event that appears to take place around the time of Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #2, November 1968 when Norman Osborn, back in Goblin-mode, decides to have Harry kidnapped in order to toughen him up. Kraven hears about the plan and declares, "Norman Osborn once served as an intermediary for the Green Goblin! I was cheated of my due, and my jungle honor now demands that he make amends!" So, Kraven crashes the gig and shows up at Osborn manufacturing later. There Norman awaits with several stacks of cash. He tells Kraven "I am the future" and offers him a position in his "vast world-wide empire." But Kraven rejects it all, saying, "Keep your blood money! I only came here because you once offended my jungle pride but I now realize that there can be no honor in any transaction which involves a man such as you." This is all well and good except that Kraven would never continue to hold a grudge against Osborn and he certainly wouldn't have shown up to get his money once his jungle senses told him that Norman knew nothing about it. ("You don't remember! You don't know anything about it! You're telling the truth! I don't know how but you're the wrong one!" says Kraven in our featured issue.) I like Tom DeFalco's work and I generally like this story but it seems to be trying to fill a continuity gap that was never there to begin with. As a result, it presents us with a continuity blip of its own. My advice is to stick with the events of ASM #47 and chalk this one up to Ben Reilly's faulty memory.
Milestones (Landmark events that take place in this story.)
The 1969 Marvelmania International Spider-Man Portfolio checklist entry for this story. Warts and all:
"In the Hands of the Hunter" - Kraven captures Harry to force his father to become Green Goblin again - but Norman does remember his other identity.
A major typo in this entry. Norman does not remember his other identity.
Taken as a trilogy, ASM #47-49 is an entertaining romp but taken on its own, ASM #47 doesn't measure up. Much as I try, I can't get past Stan's continuity cock-up at the start of this issue. Like DeFalco's later blip on the same theme, it seems so unnecessary and easily avoided. For all of the supporting characters that appear, there isn't really any relationship development. Spidey's fight with Kraven is pretty standard fare and I can't read the part where Spidey rescues Norman without wishing he'd just let him drop. On the other hand, that Gwen sure can dance the Watusi.
I can't say I'd ever thought of this issue as the worst in the series so far but I'm giving it the worst rating so I guess that's what it is. As I said, it fares much better within the trilogy. Best thing to do when you finish it is to go directly to ASM #48. We, on the other hand, have somewhere else to go.
Next: Daredevil, Stilt-Man and the "end" of the Masked Marauder.