Avengers (Vol. 1) #11

 Lookback: From The Beginning
 Posted: 2003
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)


Spider-Man meets the Avengers. Well, sort of.

Just a few months back, Spider-Man met up with Giant-Man and the Wasp (Tales to Astonish #57, July 1964) in the first major web-slinger feature without Steve Ditko either penciling or inking. (Dick Ayers and Paul Reinman performed those tasks, respectively.) Now Spidey (sort of) meets all of the Avengers. (Except for Iron Man who is on the cover but not in the actual story. More about that in a moment.) This time the illustrations are by Don Heck with inking by Chic Stone. Stan Lee writes both stories and both stories are missing something, both in plot and composition. No offence to everyone who worked on these issues but the real lesson here is how essential Steve Ditko is to the Spider-Man process at this point in time, which makes the successful transition to John Romita in ASM #39, August 1966 all that much more remarkable.

Story 'The Mighty Avengers Meet Spider-Man!'

As I said, Iron Man is on the cover, which depicts the five Avengers (Thor, Giant-Man, the Wasp, Iron Man, and Captain America) caught in a web as Spider- Man looks on. The splash page also shows the Avengers snagged on a giant web (Well, Thor, Giant-Man and Captain America, at any rate. The Wasp is flying free.) with Spidey looking on but correctly eliminates Iron Man. This is, let's face it, a sneaky trick for anyone who buys their comics simply by looking at the cover and who happens to be an Iron Man fan. Don't tell me that Stan and the gang didn't know what they were doing when they slipped Iron Man onto this cover! Shame on you guys!

All right, before we go any further, let me give a completely unnecessary recap of the Avengers. They were brought together as a result of a scheme by Loki, the Norse God of Evil in Avengers #1, September 1963 and originally consisted of Ant-Man, the Wasp, the Hulk, Thor, and Iron Man. Ant-Man becomes Giant-Man and the Hulk leaves the group in the very next issue (Avengers #2, November 1963) and Captain America, revived from suspended animation, joins in Avengers #4, March 1964. The big shake-up of Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch replacing Giant-Man, Wasp, Iron Man, and Thor is still five issues in the future (Avengers #16, May 1965). So, what we're dealing with is essentially original Avengers. Very early stuff here, gang.

Henry Pym, as Giant-Man, is working on a delicate experiment in his lab when a signal light starts to flash and Thor's voice booms out over a loud speaker. As the "Chairman of the Avengers for this week", Thor is calling a special meeting and expects everyone to respond immediately. Giant-Man calls in and asks for a short delay to finish his experiment but his request is emphatically denied. "There can be no exceptions!" says the longhaired Norse taskmaster, "Avengers business always takes priority!" (That's right, Thor! Science be damned!) Hank's experiment melts down to glass fragments, smoke and a puddle and he is not one bit pleased. "I should have had my head examined when I let them talk me into joining their little sewing circle!" he says to the Wasp, "That long-haired square has all the charm of a rusty doorknob." The Wasp is not impressed by this outburst. "You know you wouldn't miss a meeting for anything" she tells him.

And so the meeting comes to order with Thor, Giant-Man, the Wasp, Captain America and Rick Jones in attendance but without Iron Man. This turns out to be the reason for the meeting (and for this Hank had to give up on his experiment?). Thor, reading from some papers (like he couldn't say what he has to say off the top of his head), tells the others that, allegedly, Tony Stark has been killed. There are two reasons why this concerns the Avengers. First, they use Stark's home as their headquarters. Second, Iron Man is also missing. (At this time, the Avengers do not know that Tony Stark is Iron Man. They believe that Iron Man is Tony Stark's bodyguard.). Giant-Man conjectures that Iron Man is out on his own, trying to track down Tony Stark's murderer "if it was murder". Thor wonders why Iron Man hasn't called the Avengers in to help and Giant-Man tells him "We mere mortals have a code of honor and duty which you may find hard to understand". Captain America concurs. "I'm sure that the golden Avenger wants to do this job alone as a matter of pride," he says. Cap then moves that the Avengers "suspend all operations for twenty-four hours as a mark of respect to the late Tony Stark" and the Wasp seconds the motion. Giant-Man, however, amends the motion, believing that "Stark himself would want us to continue to stay on duty in case we're needed". He therefore moves for granting Iron Man "a temporary leave of absence until his mission is done". Rick Jones raises his hand and seconds Giant-Man's motion only to be shot down by Cap who stands and barks, "You're out of order, Rick! You have no voting privilege with the Avengers as yet!" (Yeah, yeah, right, Mr. Establishment. Power to the people!) Now that he's taken the time to humiliate Rick, Cap agrees with him! He withdraws his motion and seconds Giant-Man's motion. The rest of the Avengers also stand as Thor rules the motion is carried. He then declares the meeting adjourned. The Wasp immediately pulls out her lipstick and gives herself a new glossy coat. Hank wonders why the remark that they are adjourning "always seem[s] to be a signal for you to put on fresh lipstick, little lady" and the Wasp replies, "Every remark is a signal for a girl to freshen her lipstick, big boy! And please don't speak to me right now, or I might smudge it!" (Ah, the mid-60s! You gotta love it!)

Thor then announces that the chairman of the next meeting will be Captain America and he yields the gavel to him, little suspecting that someone has been eavesdropping on their entire meeting but before we get to that... what's the deal with this "death of Tony Stark" stuff anyway? It begins in Tales of Suspense #59 (November 1964) when Tony Stark collapses in front of his secretary Pepper Potts and his chauffeur Happy Hogan. Unknown to everyone else, Stark wears a "protective chest device" to keep his heart beating which is also the chest plating for his Iron Man armor. He collapses because the device starts to malfunction. Pepper and Happy try to get a doctor but Tony doesn't want his chest plate revealed because it will expose his secret identity. When the evil Black Knight attacks, Tony crawls into his office and locks the door. Inside, he recharges his chest plate but is forced to "increase the power output" of the Iron Man suit by adding "extra transistor power" from his "belt pods". Then, as Iron Man, he breaks through the wall and defeats the Black Knight. Slipping back into the office (and repairing the wall), Stark realizes that he now needs all the power of the suit to stay alive. He dare not change out of the Iron Man armor. He opens the office door and tells Pepper and Happy that Mr. Stark "left by another secret entrance", that "he'll be out of town for a while" and that he left Iron Man in charge. But Pepper and Happy don't buy it. They know that Tony was ill and they now suspect that Iron Man has done away with his boss. In Tales of Suspense #60 (December 1964), the police are brought in and they accuse Iron Man of murdering Tony Stark. Iron Man has a note in Tony Stark's handwriting that authorizes him to take charge while the boss is on a secret mission but the cops quickly discover that there are no fingerprints on the note (since Iron Man forgot to take off his metal gloves when he wrote it). Faced with this damning piece of evidence, Iron Man panics and makes a break for it. He flies through a window, shattering the glass as he escapes. Once away from the police, he contacts Thor and requests permission to be absent from the Avengers' meeting. He also assures Thor that "on my honor as an Avenger, I have not betrayed Tony Stark". Thor grants the permission. (Since Stan wrote nearly every super-hero story at this time in the Marvel Universe, the continuity is usually impressively precise. Note, however, in this case that after Iron Man reports in to Thor in Suspense, the Thunder God merely says that "Iron Man has been missing" and wonders why Iron Man has "not summoned us to assist him", in Avengers as mentioned a couple of paragraphs back.)

That's already more information than is needed to explain Iron Man absence but, for those of you wondering, here's how it all wraps up. With Tony Stark missing for over a month, Pepper and Happy tender their resignations to Iron Man in Tales of Suspense #61 (January 1965). They then go to the police and the press with their suspicions. Later, Happy sneaks onto the grounds of Tony Stark's estate to see what he can see. Tony is in his bedroom without his helmet on when Happy scales the balcony and starts to enter. He barely has time to jump under the covers and pretend that he is sick in bed. He tells Happy and the arriving Pepper that he has been exhausted and has instructed Iron Man to run the business in his place. Happy and Pepper still don't entirely buy it. They think Iron Man may be holding Mr. Stark hostage. All of this becomes moot when the Mandarin attacks with a "killer satellite". The press has gotten word that Tony Stark is sick in bed and the Mandarin uses this info to aim a laser beam right into the bedroom, destroying everything inside. Stark is protected by his Iron Man armor but he finds it convenient to let the world believe that Tony Stark has been killed. It is not until Tales of Suspense #63, March 1965 that Tony comes up with the idea of "modifying a master transistor and tripling its power output" which allows him to remove all the armor except for the chest plate. He puts on a suit and tie, waltzes right into his office (nearly knocking Pepper and Happy flat with the shock) and comes out with this cockamamie story about being out on a yacht for several weeks and never hearing the news that he was supposed to be dead even though he was supposed to be sick in bed only a short time before.

But that's enough of all that. As you'll recall, someone was eavesdropping on that special meeting of the Avengers. From his hideout in the year 3000, Kang the Conqueror watches on "a fantastic electronic device from the far future" which looks more like a big clunky computer with an oval TV picture tube from the year 1964. Hard as it may be to imagine with a villain like Kang who has made something like a couple of thousand appearances (or so it seems), this is only the second time he has shown up. (The first time was in Avengers #8, September 1964 in which Kang reveals that he has actually appeared before. Born in the year 3000, Kang masters time travel, journeys to and conquers ancient Egypt where he calls himself Pharaoh Rama-Tut, as seen in Fantastic Four #19, October 1963. After getting spanked by the FF, Rama-Tut travels to our present where he hangs out in outer space wondering how he can get revenge. There, in Fantastic Four Annual #2, 1964, he encounters Dr. Doom floating in space, from his defeat in FF #23, February 1964 and rescues him. The two chat and Rama-Tut reveals that he was a master criminal in his own time, the 25th Century, and that his time machine is stolen and was actually invented by his ancestor Dr. Doom. The two men even discuss the possibility that they are actually the same man from two different points of his time line. By the time he meets the Avengers, however, Kang is calling the 30th Century his original time and implying that he created his time machine himself. After meeting with Doom and returning him to earth, Kang reveals that "electro-static disturbances in the relative time stream" caused him to overshoot AD 3000 and arrive in AD 4000 instead. There he finds a world possessing highly advanced weapons and locked in eternal war. Kang forms an army and carves out an empire but is soon bored by it all, so he climbs into a time machine and proclaims himself "Kang the First, ruler of the 20th Century. For all the good it does him. The Avengers kick his scrawny butt.) Now back in the year 3000 instead of 4000, for some reason, and with all of time and all those thousand of appearances to choose from, Kang decides that this moment, this period of time when the Avengers are "without the power of Iron Man" and therefore "at their weakest fighting strength" is the perfect time to attack. (What? He couldn't dial in on the time when Thor, Iron Man, Giant-Man and the Wasp all quit? Why doesn't he fight the Avengers, go away and rest up for a month, then return to the exact instant that he left, as many times as necessary to win? Do you get the feeling that Kang is a bit of a klutz when it comes to choosing opportune moments in time? And since he's watching all this from the future, shouldn't he already know that all of his attacks are doomed from the start?) This time, he gets the bright idea to "not battle them in person". He brags that he is "too wise, too cautious for that" but I think he's just too chicken to risk getting Thor's hammer thrown at his snoot. He prides himself on the fact that "with all the knowledge of the far future at my disposal, it will be a simple matter for me to find another to wage my battle" since, after all, he's been watching plenty of Avengers battles on his view screen and has learned from the mistakes of others. In particular, he noted how "[Baron] Zemo and his Masters of Evil came closest to destroying the Avengers by using Wonder Man" (in Avengers #9, October 1964) "but they made one fatal mistake... They failed to reason that Wonder Man himself might turn against them." But Kang is too smart for that. He vows to use a pawn who is "completely loyal to Kang" and, he reasons, "there is only one such creature who fulfills that requirement and that is a robot!"

Now, if Kang was really in the year 3000 and really had the opportunity to review all of Marvel history, he would know that Ultron betrayed his inventor and the Vision betrayed his master and hundreds of other robots have betrayed the various humans to whom they were supposed to be "completely loyal". But since we really know that this story was written in 1964 and Stan could have no idea what the next 40 years of Marvel continuity would bring, we're going to give Kang a break and stop bringing this kind of stuff up. (Mainly because, with all these digressions, I'm still only up to page three!)

"Just as my ancestor Dr. Doom is the greatest robotic creator of the 20th Century" Kang tells himself, "So am I the greatest of my century! But being of the future, my talents are even far greater than his!" His first thought is to create a team of robots that replicate some of the most powerful super-villains of 1964 and he conjures up images of the Radioactive Man, the Unicorn, Mysterio, Magneto, and Dr. Doom on his view screen. But then he decides that they may just end up "fighting among themselves or getting in each others way". (But since Kang controls the robots, couldn't he just program them to be nice to each other?) He decides on a different tack. He will go with one robot, one that the Avengers will trust. Immediately, Kang knows whom he will copy for his robot. He calls up a videotape file and plays it on his view screen. It is a series of images of Spider-Man in action; swinging from his web, walking a tightrope while blindfolded, battling Kraven the Hunter and his leopards from ASM Annual #1, 1964 and fending off a force beam with a web shield. Even from his far future vantage point, Kang only seems to know that Spider-Man is a loner. Now he studies "available records of his previous battles to learn to duplicate his fighting style" and to become familiar with his webbing.

Hours later, Kang is ready to begin. First he creates "a three-dimensional proto-image" of Spider-Man, then he feeds "all photos and facts about him into the atomo-duplicator" so the computer can process everything. That done, his "iso-nuclear duplicator analyzes every last sub-microscopic detail of the proto-image" ("strength, knowledge, personality, memories") and builds it all into a Spider-Man robot "possessing every ability of the original" but answerable only to Kang. With the Spider-Man robot complete, the proto-image disappears and Kang programs the "lifelike-looking" machine with "the most minute instructions". Then, he sends the robot back to the 20th Century.

Now, "in the heart of downtown New York", in 1964, the robot stands on the wall of a building, just like the real web-slinger and follows his instructions. Kang has told him to "wait at this spot and my opportunity would present itself within seconds". Sure enough, Captain America walks through after attending a meeting of Rick Jones' Teen Brigade and he is suddenly attacked by at least six hoods. Unbeknownst to Cap, however, these hoods are actually more of Kang's robots. Their purpose is to provide an opportunity for the Spider-Man robot to hook up with old Winghead, even though Cap seems to be doing just fine on his own. Following his programming, the Spidey robot drops a big web net over all the hoodlum robots, who just happen to be standing together in one spot, and hoists them up into the air. (They are never seen again and we can assume that Kang whisked them back to AD 3000 at the appropriate time.) Cap thanks Spider- Man for the assist ("I never knew you were so... cooperative!" he says.) The robot replies that he jumped in because he wants to join the Avengers. Cap tells the Spidey-bot that he cannot make that decision alone, but agrees to take the applicant to Avengers Headquarters to present his case.

Cap summons the Avengers for a special meeting but he doesn't tell them the reason until they are all together. When Giant-Man sees "Spidey" he immediately grows to his giant "fighting size just in case!" though the Wasp thinks he just wants to "show off those dreamy biceps". (Giant-Man should know better since he already had a misunderstanding with the web-slinger back in Tales to Astonish #57, July 1964.) Cap tells the group "there's no need for alarm" and that Spider-Man wants to join up. Thor replies that the Avengers "do not accept any stranger merely because he possesses some power or other". He reminds the others that "there are certain tests and a period of trial". The Wasp states that she doesn't trust the web-slinger. "Everything about spiders makes my wasp-instinct tingle with hate and loathing," she says. (This was back in those great early days when Spidey was considered anti-social and sinister by other heroes, a subplot that is, sadly, long gone, seeing as the web-slinger has since teamed up with everyone from Sleepwalker to Howard the Duck.) The robot has been programmed to expect this kind of reception so he moves on to "phase two of the Master's plan". Casually turning his back on the Avengers and lifting his hand in farewell, the Spidey-bot says that he really "came to tell you where to find Iron Man for he needs your help". Now, however, he refuses to divulge any further information. When Thor orders him to "Halt!" the bot climbs a wall (who knows where he's going since he is inside the Avengers headquarters) and replies, "Forget it, pal! I know when I'm not wanted!" But he stops in his tracks when Thor's hammer strikes with a "Whoom!" right next to him. (That hammer can't be all that tough. It strikes a wall that looks like it's made out of plaster and paneling and it bounces off!) The Spidey-bot turns and points a finger at Thor and, using his "Spidey vernacular" programming to its fullest, says "Look, Long Hair, I don't like havin' hammers tossed at me! You may be a real wing-doozy with your own team, but until I'm one of you, you're just another guy named Joe to me, savvy?" Personally, that speech cracks me up, but Thor is not amused. He is ready to tussle with the "wall-crawler" until Captain America steps in, telling his teammate, "We have Iron Man to think of." When Thor agrees to listen, the bot spins his yarn. "I was swingin' around the rooftops the other night" he says, "like a good little Spider-Man should, when I saw a guy with a nutty- looking mask, accompanied by a 6 ½ foot tall creep and a gorgeous blonde doll hustle him into a helicopter!" Cap immediately recognizes these descriptions. Clearly, Baron Zemo, the Executioner, and the Enchantress have kidnapped Iron Man. Now that the Spidey-bot has hooked his fish, he proceeds to reel them in. "As they prepared to fly off, I heard the masked one give their destination! It was the Temple of Tirod in Mexico!" he says.

This story only makes Thor angrier. "And, you did not come to us immediately?" he bellows, "What manner of man are you?" Giant-Man has to hold Thor back by grabbing him from behind. He tells Thor that the "webhead" "was under no obligation". Thor knows that "our first concern is to our missing Avenger" so he doesn't press the point but he promises, "When we return, I shall have more to say to Spider-Man". And so, the Avengers go into action and they are so impressive that even the robot is awed, ("No wonder they are so universally renowned! Look at the speed with which they blaze into action!") even though Thor and Cap seem to be running off in different directions. Apparently still working on the rallying cry, Cap proclaims, "Avengers awaaay!"

Quinjets have yet to be invented so, believe it or not, the "standard operating procedure" is for the Avengers to separate and individually get to their destination as best they can. Giant-Man turns into Ant-Man and hitches a ride on a flying ant to the airport with the Wasp flying along by his side. They are just in time to catch a flight, in their insect size, on an airplane that will take them over Mexico. As they travel they wonder why Zemo would take Iron Man to the Temple of Tirod and why Iron Man didn't "use his built-in communicator to contact us" when he was captured. When the plane flies over the appropriate spot, the two tiny heroes bail out. The Wasp is shocked to see Hank falling. "For heaven's sake, you big goop!" she calls out, "You can't fly!" But Ant-Man is using his cybernetic helmet to contact a flying ant in the vicinity. Soon riding his insect mount and with the Wasp again flying by his side, Ant-Man arrives at the Temple of Tirod, which is an immense Aztec pyramid on the shores of a lake.

Amazingly enough, the twosome actually beat out Thor and arrive first. They step to the entrance to the temple. Hank Pym becomes Giant-Man again, growing to a height of twelve feet. Janet Van Dyne changes to her regular height. They walk down a hallway, noting that there is no sign of Iron Man. But someone (who is revealed to be the Spidey-bot a few panels later) is watching from another room and that someone knows that "this entire temple has been converted into a gigantic trap for the Avengers!" (So, Kang somehow managed to convert this huge structure, which must be a national monument, into a death trap from one thousand years in the future and no one even knows that he's done it? And this guy still can't defeat the Avengers?)

Suddenly, Giant-Man detects danger via his "cybernetic sense" and instantly shrinks back down to ant-size to avoid it. The Wasp follows suit and then both heroes peer ahead to get a look at the danger. What major death trap do they see? Let's let Giant-Man tell it. "Look... a light beam!" he says. "Where is it coming from?" wonders the Wasp. "From me, you two doomed fools! From our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!" comes the answer as the light turns into the "Spidey mask" of the spider-signal. So, just to recap, the Spidey-bot has a temple converted into a gigantic trap at his command and instead of using it he chooses to announce his presence and reveal himself as an enemy without springing any trap at all. Then he gets down on his hands and knees to try to grab the tiny heroes. When Ant-Man wonders "How did you get here so quickly?" the bot says, "I have secret methods you can't even begin to suspect" but, just for our benefit, his thought balloon reveals that "Kang can move me anywhere by manipulating his master control panel back in the 30th Century".

I'm sure it comes as no surprise that the "hands and knees" tactic meets with failure. Ant-Man jumps up on top of a stone step that seems to appear out of nowhere. Then, he hides in the cracks between the stones... I think. (The truth is, I don't really have a clue what's going on in this panel. Ant-Man seems to be hiding in some space between blocks but he is thinking that "Spidey" is "trying to trap us with that granite block" which puts a different spin on the panel altogether. Neither seems quite right.) He yells out to the Wasp to "execute maneuver 4-A", which turns out to be an attack to the bot's midsection using a combination of her flying speed and her wasp's sting. This move knocks the robot off-balance but he quickly recovers and tries to snag both heroes in a big web net. This backfires when Ant-Man rapidly grows to Giant-Man height and grabs the web in one hand. ("Go get him!" yells the Wasp, "Make spider stew out of him!") The robot responds by stretching the web and wrapping it around Giant-Man's head. "Spidey" then rears back to deliver "one spider-strength punch" only to hit nothing but air. Giant-Man has shrunk down to Ant-Man again to get out of the way and then grows right back up again, piggy-backing the Spidey-bot and pinning it up against the wall. Before the robot can retaliate, Giant-Man shrinks back down to ant size again and then back up again where he catches the "web-slinger" with a giant- sized punch right to the jaw. The robot can't keep up with the size changes and decides to run away until he can "figure some method of fighting him". But Giant-Man has no intention of letting him escape. As the bot plans his next move, Giant-Man tries to grab him, an arm around either side of an intervening pillar. But the Avenger is distracted by his thoughts. "I've read a lot about Spider-Man's exploits" he thinks, apparently forgetting that he actually met the web-slinger just a few months ago, "but somehow he doesn't fight with the verve and daring I'd have expected of him! He seems different in some strange way!" This woolgathering slows Giant-Man up enough for the robot to make its move. The bot leaps out of the way of Giant-Man's hands and then uses webbing to tie those giant hands together, trapping him around the pillar. "And this webbing is elasticized" says the robot, "It will shrink right down with you if you try to escape that way!" Just then, the Wasp attacks, flitting around the Spidey-bot's head and using her stingers. The robot merely makes a fly swatter out of his webbing and whaps her one.

And that's when Thor finally arrives, (What did he do? Stop off for a snack in Asgard?) just in time to see "Spidey" knock out the Wasp. The thunder god goes to the immediate attack, flying right at the robot with his hammer, but the "web-slinger" dodges out of the way. The bot decides to try to put Thor out of action while he has him off-balance so he wades in with a two-handed clout. But Thor recovers immediately and the robot realizes "He's too strong for me" so he tries to "taunt him into defeat". (How's that for a strategy? That's AI in action, folks!) He stands right in front of Thor and says, "How come you don't get a haircut, chum? Tell me, do you prefer bobby pins or ordinary curlers?" and these remarks actually succeed in infuriating the thunder god who jumps up into the air, whirls his mallet over his head and flings it at his opponent. This is just what the robot wants. He steps out of the way and catches the hammer "with a double-thick web net", which causes the mallet to land uselessly and web-covered on the ground. (Mjolnir has seemed particularly anemic in this issue since the moment it bounced off the headquarters wall.) Thor immediately panics since he knows that he will turn into the lame Doctor Donald Blake if he doesn't retrieve his hammer within sixty seconds. Desperately, he throws a huge granite block at the robot. (Did he just yank this out of the wall? Isn't this an ancient sacred temple? And now Thor is just wrecking it?) Again "Spider-Man" is ready for him. The robot strings up a giant web-slingshot and attaches it to each side of the passageway. The granite block is caught by the web and hurled right back at Thor who runs right through it, busting the granite into chunks as he heads right for his adversary. "Though I am pledged to harm no mortal beings" he says, "Never have I been so sorely tempted to break that pledge as now!"

The Spidey-bot tries to slow the thunder god down by covering him in webbing but Thor just shreds the threads as if they are paper. Just as the Avenger is about to get his hands on the "wall-crawler", the webbing covers him like a cocoon and holds. The bot thinks Thor "wasn't as strong as I feared" but the real reason why the Asgardian doesn't break out is because he is no longer there. The sixty seconds have elapsed and he has turned back into frail Dr. Don Blake.

The robot doesn't waste much time wondering about it. All he knows is "so far Kang's plan is working like a charm" and he is confident that he will wrap it all up by putting it to Captain America since "he has no super powers at all". But unbeknownst to the robot, he is being watched by a mysterious figure, described by Stan as "the last one he would ever expect to meet". But, let's face it, we all know who it's going to be.

Meanwhile, ol' slowpoke Cap is finally showing up by parachuting out of a plane. The robot, now perched on an outside wall, watches as Cap lands somewhere on the temple itself. Still believing he is dealing with the real wall-crawler, Cap hails "Spidey" and asks if he's seen any of the other Avengers. In response, the robot pushes one of the huge stone slabs down toward Cap. But the false webhead doesn't account for the Golden Age Hero's instincts, speed, and timing. Cap leaps into some niche in the temple (which pretty much looks like the same scene as when Ant-Man hid in the cracks between the granite just five pages ago) and the granite block falls past, missing him. That's when Cap springs into action. He throws his shield at "Spidey" which knocks the "wall-crawler" off his perch. Using his duplicate spider- abilities, the robot twists around in mid-air and lands on the shield-slinger but Cap has no trouble punching his enemy in the nose. Deciding that Cap is "too battle-wise, too courageous, too dangerous", the robot resorts to dirty tricks. He covers Cap's head with some webbing and then, while the blinded Avengers tries to tug the webbing off, he pushes him off of the temple heading for a hundred-foot fall to the ground.

Watching from the future, Kang gloats over the fact that he "had previously filled the tomb with an odorless nerve gas which dulled the fighting effectiveness of all of [the Avengers] but which could not affect a mere robot". (Which is perhaps what was meant by "this entire temple has been converted into a gigantic trap".) But Kang's feeling of triumph starts to dwindle just a bit as he sees a web net save Captain America from his fall. "Has my robot gone mad?" he wonders. Hoping to finish the job before his robot malfunctions some more, Kang sends a signal to the Spidey-bot to "turn the dial which will send all the captured Avengers here to the future". The robot receives the command, lifts up a hunk of temple granite revealing a gray clunky-looking control panel underneath and starts to turn the "time-transport dial". Before the robot can touch the dial, however, he is grabbed around the neck by some webbing and pulled away from the panel. Then a gloved hand shoots "special sticky web fluid" onto the dial "jamming it beyond repair".

The robot looks up from where he has landed and sees what he thinks is another Spider-Man robot. The newcomer is quick to point out that he is not a robot but "the real thing". He pushes the hunk of granite back into place to cover up the control panel while a thousand years in the future, Kang can only grab his head and moan about how the real Spidey "mustn't wreck my brilliant plan!"

And so begins the first battle between web-slingers. Spidey tells the robot that his very presence on "the streets of New York impersonating me" set off his spider-sense. (An aspect of the sense that has clearly faded away over time.) Then, he explains that he followed the bot "silently waiting to learn what your scheme was". (But he doesn't explain how he managed to follow him all the way to Mexico when he didn't have Kang moving him around the way the robot did.) The Spidey-bot isn't interested in explanations anyway. He leaps up and kicks Spider-Man in the head before the webhead can finish what he's saying. ("Do all living beings talk so much??" he asks, "What a waste!") The blow knocks Spidey off the tier but he stops his fall by adhering to the side of the pyramid. He tries to counter by shooting some webbing at the imposter but the robot uses his own spider-speed to grab the webbing and crack the whip with Spidey still hanging onto the other end. (And he gets real elitist and cheeky while he's at it. "Being a robot, I am far superior to any living being!" he says.) Spider-Man, meanwhile, manages to get his footing down on the next tier of the pyramid and he cracks the whip right back; pulling the robot off his perch, swinging him around, and flinging him into the air over the jungle.

Spidey expects the robot to break into pieces upon landing but things never get to that point. The bot uses his webbing to create a couple of wings and he glides over the jungle. Seeing this, Spidey does the same thing, running off the end of the pyramid and gliding toward his counterpart. When he gets close enough, Spider-Man drops his wings and lunges at the robot, grabbing him in mid- air. The bot cannot drop his wings as well since, as Spidey puts it, "one of us has to keep us in the air". So, Spidey grabs the robot around the neck and goes searching for the "main control stud" which will deactivate his opponent. (And why does Spidey think there is a main control stud? Because in the first half of the sixties, all robots in comics had main control studs that would deactivate them.)

Sure enough, Spidey finds the button somewhere on the body of the robot (but I sure can't tell where because the whole thing is shown so close up that the only thing I'm sure of is Spider-Man's finger... which doesn't even look like a finger.) And so, the inert robot falls to the jungle floor while Spider- Man saves himself with a web parachute. He doesn't know who created the robot but he does know that "even a genius can make one mistake" which is that while "a mechanical brain can be faster, contain more memory impulses, make no mistakes... it can never really outthink a human brain". And here I thought the "one mistake" was putting that main control stud in a place where Spidey could deactivate him.

Over on the side of the pyramid, Captain America (who still hasn't budged and now looks like he's completely covered in webbing) watches the whole battle and realizes that the Avengers had been fighting a robot "and the real Spider-Man saved us". Inside the temple (now referred to, by Stan, as "the mysterious tomb"), Don Blake manages to push his hand through the webbing to grab Mjolnir. He bangs it on the ground and "Thor lives again!" Somewhere in between panels, Giant-Man and the Wasp recuperate and join the others in the temple. There, Cap explains what he has seen and theorizes that "we have only one foe capable of creating so perfect a robot... it can only be a man with all the scientific marvels of thirty centuries at his beck and call". Giant-Man knows what that means... "Kang!!" This news gets Thor to whirl his hammer over his head and yell out to the villain (who he assumes is still spying on them), "Hear me, man of the future! The Avengers have been warned! Next time we shall not be taken unaware!" And Thor is right. Kang is still listening. He pounds his view screen with both fists as he realizes that the entire scheme was in vain. "Still the Avengers live" he thinks, "still they defy me" and then he turns and walks away, head down, into the shadows. (But if it makes you feel any better, Kang old pal, the Avengers do not "still live". You're in the 30th Century. The Avengers must have kicked off almost a thousand years ago. Why worry about them? Sit back and have a cold one.)

There is also a nifty Kang pin-up in this issue showing the Conqueror standing next to a monitoring device that shows Rama-Tut and Dr. Doom on a couple of (black and white!) view screens. And in the "Special Announcements Section" Stan admits that "after we started drawing the Avengers-Spidey yarn you've just finished, we got the feeling that some of you might feel cheated, because it wasn't the real Spider-Man whom the Avengers were battling! So, we dropped everything and changed the ending around until it came out the way it appears in the mag." Meaning, I assume, that the real Spider-Man wasn't originally slated to appear at all. No wonder Stan didn't have a decent explanation for how Spidey got down to Mexico.

Spidey doesn't really meet the Avengers until Amazing Spider-Man Special #3 (November 1966) whose members, at that point, are Captain American, Thor, Iron Man, Goliath, the Wasp, and Hawkeye. The Avengers offer him membership if he can pass a test of capturing the Incredible Hulk. But when Spidey discovers that the Hulk is also Bruce Banner, he decides to stop hounding the "poor tortured soul" and bails out on the Avengers.

While Kang returns often and endlessly to face the Avengers (the next time being Avengers #23, December 1965), he is never really a Spider-Man villain at all. The web-slinger does get involved in a caper involving Kang, Zarrko the Tomorrow Man, Iron Man, the Human Torch and the Inhumans (in Marvel Team-Up #9-11, May-July 1973) but in the end the heroes learn that Kang was never on the scene at all. The "Kang" they were fighting is revealed to be an elaborate puppet while the real Kang staged everything from a distance. I know of no other Kang-Spidey appearances but would love to hear about them if they exist.

And, of course, the Spider-Man robot woke up in the Mexican jungle, bought a motorcycle, changed his name to Ben Reilly and moved to Colorado. Or something like that.

(Actually, the Spider-Man robot did wake up much later and faced off against Ben Reilly, where he eventually ended up getting his head knocked off. I'm not kidding. It's in Spider-Man Team-Up #4, September 1996. Check it out.


General Comments

Well, it's a pretty thin issue, all in all. Here's Kang with all of space and time at his command and the best he can do is put together a Spider-Man robot and send him into battle against the Avengers in some Mexican pyramid? Not only that but he apparently fills the Mexican pyramid with death traps and never bothers to use them. And not only that but he builds his robot with a shut-off switch! The Avengers can't even get it together to travel as a group. And God knows how Spider-Man even shows up at all. But let's boil it all down to two words and say, simply, "No Ditko".

Overall Rating

Two webs.


It's just a disembodied head but it's our disembodied head! Strange Tales (Vol. 1) #128 is next!

 Lookback: From The Beginning
 Posted: 2003
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)