Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #16

 Posted: 2003
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)


So far, Spider-Man has met up with the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Giant-Man, and the Wasp. Now he comes up against Daredevil. (And pretty much in time for the movie, too!) This issue appeared on the newsstands between Daredevil #3 (August 1964) and Daredevil #4 (October 1964), so early in DD's career he had only just fought the Fixer, Electro, and the Owl with Killgrave the Purple Man just over the horizon. And, of course, he's still wearing the yellow costume. The villains chosen for this team-up previously appeared in The Incredible Hulk #3 (September 1962), of all places. The Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime.

Story 'Duel With Daredevil'

Everybody ready for another Lee-Ditko early Spider-Man extravaganza? This time, Stan warns us on the cover, "If you don't say this is one of the greatest issues you've ever read, we may never talk to you again!" Well, it's got some pretty big shoes to fill. Let's see if it can measure up.

It certainly starts out right, with another great Ditko splash. This time, Spidey is upside-down in the center of the action with the Circus of Crime all around. He is punching the strong man, Samson, with his right hand while he has somehow repelled some guy with a turban on his left. Clowns are hitting the deck and covering their heads while carnies are recoiling behind him as the trapeze duo of the Flying Gambonnos swing in from above ready to trap the web-slinger in a net. The only thing missing is the Ringmaster and Daredevil, which come to think of it, is quite a bit. Oh well. Let's get on with the show.

Our story begins with Peter Parker trying to study while Aunt May nags him relentlessly about Mary Jane Watson. Peter tells his Aunt that he already has a girl friend and isn't interested in any blind dates but the old bat keeps hammering away. "I'm sure you'd like her if you dated her!" May says, and "Mary Jane would just love to meet you" and "You're not really engaged or anything" as she puts her hand on his shoulder and leans over from behind like some leering gargoyle. Finally, Peter can stand it no longer. He's not getting any studying done anyway so he puts on his jacket and tells his Aunt that he's going out for some air. May gets in some parting shots. "Be sure you dress warmly, dear!", she says, "It's a bit nippy out!"

Five minutes later, Pete is in his Spidey suit, webswinging his way over Manhattan blessedly free of Aunt May's nagging. He pauses as he clings to a wall because his "keen eyes" have spotted four hoodlums running into an alley from the back of a store. Two of the four men carry moneybags. And then the burglar alarm goes off. As the four crooks exit the alley, they nearly run into a red-headed blind man, wearing a black suit with a yellow tie and guiding himself along the sidewalk with his white cane. The thug in the lead worries that the blind man could become a witness if he has heard their voices and decides "we can't leave him here to identify us later". But before the goons can take any action against the blind man, Spider-Man lowers himself amongst them, upside-down on his web. "If you creeps don't want witnesses, you better get rid of me" he says, "My baby blues saw the whole thing!" One look at the web-slinger and the four men run for it. Spidey immediately knocks out the slowest of the four by clipping him on the jaw. The other three decide to keep running. "He can't catch us all!" they tell themselves, since "he's only one guy". Little do they know. Putting his spider-speed in gear, the wall-crawler jumps and flips and twirls and punches all three men into unconsciousness in the space of two seconds. One minute after that, the four men are each securely webbed up to the nearest wall. After he's finished the job, the web-slinger turns to the blind man and asks if he is all right and if he can help him "in getting where you're going". The blind man thanks the wall-crawler for the rescue but refuses any additional aid. As he departs, the webhead tells the blind man to "be careful not to walk in these lonely neighborhoods when it starts getting dark". The blind man points out that "to someone like me, night and day are the same" but he thanks Spider-Man for the advice.

Once the web-spinner has left, the blind man checks his watch by rubbing his fingers over it and muses about meeting Spider-Man. "I'd say he's about 17... five foot ten inches... and judging by the sound of his pulse and heartbeats, in excellent health" he says. He stands alone in a dark alley and ponders Spidey's theoretical amazement if he only knew that the blind man "could see everything that happened with my senses as well as he could with his eyes". In fact, he reveals that he had been planning to catch the four crooks himself but "didn't dare change while Spider-Man could see me". But now free of all prying eyes, the blind man removes his suit, shirt and tie to reveal a yellow, red, and black costume with a big D on it underneath. He removes his dark glasses and puts on a yellow mask with little horns on it. Then he leaps into the air, using his cane as a hook to catch onto cornices and electrical wires and that sort of thing and thereby propel himself through the air. For this is Matthew Murdock whose other identity is the masked adventurer known as Daredevil, as if you didn't know.

As he travels, Daredevil talks to himself, telling himself all the nifty things he is able to do, just so that we, the readers, will know also. "My built-in radar sense enables me to detect objects all around me... I can even hear the shape of any object by analyzing the sound of air currents as they swirl around it" and all the other stuff that you already know. He arrives at his law office and sneaks through a back door, where he gets back into his civvies, becoming Matt Murdock: Attorney-at-Law, and exits his private office. His partner Foggy Nelson and their secretary Karen Page are out in the reception area. Foggy tells Matt that he is taking Karen to the circus tomorrow and invites Matt to join them. Matt turns Foggy down, telling him that he has "quite a bit of unfinished work to catch up on tomorrow". Karen, in her early blonde beehive hairdo phase, tells Matt that he works too hard and needs some relaxation but Karen just doesn't get it. Matt is really turning the offer down because he is in love with Karen and dares not tell her. Since he doesn't trust his feelings for her, "it's better that I don't see her socially". (And why does Matt dare not tell her about his feelings? Because that is what Marvel super-heroes did back in the sixties. You can reel off a whole list of them... the Mighty Thor and Jane Foster, the Invincible Iron Man and Pepper Potts, the Incredible Hulk and Betty Ross, Cyclops and Marvel Girl... all couples that had trouble getting started...if they ever did... because the man was afraid to reveal his feelings and ended up acting aloof instead.) Foggy tells Matt he "mustn't allow your handicap to make you a recluse" but Matt only lowers his head while Karen is looking plenty downcast herself.

But enough of that. Time to meet the villains of the piece. The next day, under the Big Top, the Ringmaster puts his circus through a rehearsal. One clown does a handstand while another walks on stilts. A little man rides a unicycle. The Gambonnos work on their trapeze act. Samson runs by carrying a barbell in one hand. The guy in the turban looks like he's practicing leaping into the crowd. The Ringmaster wants to make sure that everything is perfect because he and his group are going to attempt a major-league crime "in the heart of the big city". Ever since being defeated by the Hulk "months ago", the Ringmaster has been planning "this one spectacular performance to outdo anything we've ever done in the past". Now the time has come.

(The Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime first appeared in The Incredible Hulk #3, September 1962. In that issue, they were a traveling circus that used the Ringmaster's powers of hypnotism to sap the will of people in entire towns. Then, with everyone asleep, they ransacked the town, stealing everything that wasn't nailed down. At one stop, Rick Jones, who has a mental link with the Incredible Hulk at this time in their histories, attends the circus. When he feels himself succumbing to the hypnotism, Rick mentally summons the Hulk, who comes to the rescue but turns docile when Rick falls completely under the hypnotic spell. He becomes part of the circus sideshow but wakes up again when he hears the voice of a revived Rick. The Hulk ends up smashing the show and the Ringmaster is taken into custody by the F.B.I. It has also been suggested that the Ringmaster is the same as the "Ringmaster of Death", a Nazi who fought Captain America and Bucky in Captain America Comics #5, August 1941 but The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #9, September 1983 refers to this character as the Ringmaster's father, Fritz Tiboldt. So, officially, ASM #16 is the Ringmaster's second appearance.)

Giving up the idea of looting entire towns and settling for just looting the attendees of the circus, the Ringmaster wants to make sure the Big Top is filled to capacity. He orders a carny to bring him the "newspapers, the ads, the posters" which will be shown around the city. One of the posters is unfurled for him and he is pleased by what he sees. It shows a large photo of Spider-Man and promises, "In Person Tonight! Spider-Man. Proceeds to go to charity." It doesn't matter that Spidey is not really slated to appear. Once the crowd finds its way into the tent, it will be too late for them to do anything but be victims of robbery.

Later that day, a crowd forms around a copy of the poster, placed on a convenient wall. Peter Parker walks by and sees it. He's not sure why the poster promises the appearance of Spider-Man but "if the proceeds go to charity", he thinks it might not be a bad idea if his alter ego were to show up... "Just to convince people that Spider-Man isn't so bad". And so, Peter makes his way to the Daily Bugle and asks publisher J. Jonah Jameson for the night off so he can go to the circus. "You can go to Timbuktu for all I care!" says Jonah, "You haven't brought me any sensational photos for days! And I don't keep you around for your personality!" Then Jameson adds insult to injury by telling Peter not to bother to take any photos of Spider-Man at the circus. "I'm through printing news about that phony!" he says, "Maybe if I stop writing about him, that publicity hound will go to some other city!" Already getting hard-boiled by Jonah's continual harsh treatment, Peter sticks one hand in a pocket and says, "That suits me, Mr. Jameson!" Just then, Betty Brant comes in and asks to speak to Peter when he's finished. The thing is she has stumbled upon "the greatest recipe for spaghetti" and she invites Peter and Aunt May over to her place for dinner. Pete tells her he'd love to but he's busy tonight... then he pulls his hand out of his pocket and his circus ticket drops on the floor in front of Betty. Once she sees the ticket, Betty turns away and wipes a tear from her left eye. She isn't going to object if Peter would rather take "some other girl" to the circus but she wishes he had told her. Peter tries to explain as he retrieves his ticket but he doesn't know what to say. "How can I explain that I can't take her because I'll be changing to Spider-Man!" he wonders. (Um... can I ask something? If he's planning to crash the show in his Spider-Man outfit, why bother to buy a ticket in the first place? Well, so that Stan can give Betty another reason to get pathetic and cry, that's why!)

Over at the offices of Nelson and Murdock, Foggy (who never seems to do any real work) reads in the newspaper that Spider-Man will be performing at the circus. When Matt hears this, he has second thoughts and tells Foggy and Karen that he will go after all. Karen, who couldn't be more obviously hot for Matt if she sat in his lap, head-bobs with excitement at this news. "Oh, that's wonderful!!" she says.

And so, the crowd congregates on the circus grounds (somewhere where there's enough space to put up the Big Top in Manhattan) with Foggy, Matt, and Karen passing right by Peter Parker. Peter recognizes Matt as the blind man he helped before. He wonders why his spider-sense tingles when the blind man is around. Then, hiding behind a circus wagon, Peter puts his Spidey costume on and tightrope walks up a cable to the pinnacle of the Big Top. (See? I told you he didn't have to buy a ticket!) As he climbs, he admits to himself that he "always wanted to be a circus star". He thinks he's really going to enjoy all this.

Inside the tent, the show is underway. As two clowns perform for the audience, the turban guy sidles up to the Ringmaster on the sidelines and tells him that the house is filling up. The Ringmaster orders his men to "keep the entertainment going until the place is filled" so that no one will get suspicious.

But the audience isn't here to see a couple of clowns perform. Impatience sets in in a hurry. One guy cups his hands to his mouth and starts chanting, "We want Spider-Man!" Matt, Karen, and Foggy sit right behind this enthusiast. Matt, using his radar-senses, is the only one who realizes that Spider-Man is perched at the top of the tent and is about to make his appearance. (Somehow he phased from the outside of the tent to the inside. One of the less publicized spider-powers, I presume.) Down on the ground, some circus-type with a top hat and white gloves (the Ringmaster's understudy, perhaps?) gets all jittery and wipes his brow with his handkerchief. He hopes the Ringmaster will "give us the signal" soon. (Who knows what signal he is talking about since, when the time comes, the Ringmaster just steps out and, without fanfare, begins the hypnotism.) But before this guy can overdo his one panel in the limelight, Samson points up in the fly space and tells everyone "He did show up! It's Spider-Man!"

Spidey makes his entrance by dangling upside down on his web. "Howdy folks", he says. The crowd lets out a huge cheer of "Yay, Spider-Man!" and the web-slinger realizes that he's not as unpopular as he thinks. As the crowd goes nuts, Matt Murdock calmly sits in his seat, using his senses to follow every move but Karen looks over and feels sorry for him. "Poor Matt!" she thinks, "How can he appreciate any of this?"

Spidey begins a showstopper act. As the crowd eggs him on with "Go! Go! Go!" and "More! More! Give us more!" the web-spinner does handsprings on the tightrope, takes a long leap over to the trapeze, swings from there to balance on one foot on another rope, jumps and swings around a pole, propels himself to a wire holding pennants to which he clings upside-down and one-handed and springs over to another trapeze where he balances himself on his head or something. (And all of this is in one Ditko panel with numbering indicating the sequence of Spidey's actions; one of the best one-panel sequences of the early-60s Spidey books.)

The Ringmaster watches the act from the wings. He never thought Spider-Man would really show up but he doesn't see any reason why that should alter his plans. So, as the crowd goes wild, yelling things like "Wow! This is the greatest act I've ever seen!" and "The guy's the most!" the Ringmaster runs out to center ring and puts his plan into action.

For those who don't know, the Ringmaster wears a green jacket with black stars all over it, white gloves, purple pants and tie and has a Fu Manchu mustache. His power emanates from his purple top hat that has a pinwheel swirl on it, perched right at the Ringmaster's forehead. When the pinwheel spins, the swirls emanate out over large distances, instantly hypnotizing everyone who can see it. Then the Ringmaster imposes his will on his victims. This is exactly what now takes place. Spidey sees the Ringmaster below him, "standing and waving". He wonders why the Ringmaster is trying to "crab" his act. When he lowers himself down on a web to see what's what, the Ringmaster spins the pinwheel and puts Spidey under his hypnotic power. Then he turns to the crowd. With his arms outstretched, the Ringmaster turns to all segments of the audience, spinning his pinwheel and intoning, "My will is your will! My will is your will!" "Within split-seconds", the entire crowd is put into a trance... except for the one man who can not actually see the swirls of the pinwheel... the blind man... Matt Murdock a.k.a. Daredevil, the Man Without Fear.

With the audience under his power, the Ringmaster orders his men to go into the crowd and rob all the members of their wallets and jewelry. The spell will last for an hour. When it ends, the audience members will remember nothing about it. Later, when they find they have been robbed, they will (the Ringmaster hopes) put the blame on pickpockets. But while the circus folk do this, Matt Murdock uses his cane to lower himself from the grandstand to the ground. He can tell that everyone is in a trance and figures he'll have to battle the entire Circus entourage. But he never hesitates donning his Daredevil costume and heading straight for the Ringmaster.

When the Ringmaster sees DD coming, he spins the pinwheel at him but can't seem to put the super-hero under his power. So, he does the next best thing. He already has one super-hero in his thrall. Now he orders the hypnotized Spider-Man to his defense. "Daredevil is your mortal enemy!" he commands, "Attack him!" Spidey repeats the order, leaps down from his web, and makes his way toward the Man Without Fear.

Daredevil's radar sense detects a trapeze about ten feet off the ground. He knows by monitoring Spider-Man's heart rate just when the web-slinger is going to leap at him. Timing it perfectly, he eludes Spidey by jumping up and grabbing hold of the trapeze. While swinging on the high bar, Daredevil detects the Ringmaster's departing footsteps. Realizing that only the Ringmaster can break the hypnotic spell, DD winds up on the trapeze, and lets himself fly feet first at the Circus leader. But the Ringmaster again orders Spider-Man to save him and the wall-crawler somersaults and leaps up to intercept Daredevil in mid-flight. They grapple a bit in mid-air with Spidey succeeding in knocking Daredevil hard on his shoulder on the ground. DD can tell that he "can't possibly match [Spidey's] superhuman strength" so he knows his only chance "is to outthink him". That shouldn't be hard to do because Spider-Man is not doing much thinking for himself at the moment. Having accomplished the command to save the Ringmaster, the webster lands on the ground and stops, standing still, waiting for the Ringmaster's next order. This gives DD time to reach the pole that leads to the trapeze platform. By the time the Ringmaster gives the command of "After him! Daredevil must be defeated!" the sightless adventurer has nearly climbed to the top. By the time Spider-Man gets there, Daredevil has jumped out and grabbed hold of the nearest trapeze.

Now, either that tent isn't as large as I thought or that trapeze can swing way down towards the ground, because Daredevil uses the trapeze to try to get to the Ringmaster (who hasn't climbed anything and is still standing down below). He gets pretty close, too, before the wall-crawler uses his web to swing around and cut DD off at the pass. The Ringmaster issues a new order to "head him off" and Spidey obeys, jumping down at the trapeze, only to be thwarted by Daredevil's acrobatic flip. Spidey falls right by but then, having accomplished the order to head DD off, hesitates, awaiting a new order. Daredevil, anticipating the wall-crawler's hesitation, leaves the trapeze, landing ten feet away from the Ringmaster. His foot touches a circus ball and he knows just what to do with it. Before the Ringmaster can give Spider-Man a new command, Daredevil throws the ball at Ringo's feet, knocking the criminal into the air and separating him from his hypnotic hat. The Ringmaster reaches for the hat but Daredevil hurls his "all-purpose billy-club cane" and knocks the hat out of the way. Then using his "super-sensitive hearing" to pick up "the sound of tiny electrons vibrating within the Ringmaster's hat", DD locates the chapeau, races over and scoops it up himself. Ringo orders Spidey to "retrieve my hat at any cost" and Spidey, repeating the order, goes into action. But Daredevil turns the hat on Spider-Man and orders him to "Halt!" "You are no longer under the Ringmaster's spell!" he tells the webhead, "I release you from your trance!"

The pinwheel swirls emanate out from the hat, looking like a dartboard. Little sparks of light seem to pop and glow around the web-slinger's head. Or, as Spidey himself puts it, "My head... fog... mists swirling about... beginning to clear... I can think again!" (And who can possibly put it better than that!) Daredevil uses his hypersenses to determine that Spidey's heartbeat is back to normal. The hypnotic spell has been broken!

That done, the two heroes decide to hang around and just jaw for a little while. Spidey thanks DD for freeing him. Daredevil replies, "I'd rather have a gent like you with me than agin' me!" They shake hands, with Spidey insisting that he owes DD a future favor. The Ringmaster's hat disappears from one panel to another as if the Man Without Fear has just dropped it on the ground. Meanwhile, behind the two oblivious good guys, the Ringmaster is marshalling his forces. Fortunately, Daredevil's super-hearing tunes in on this so when the entire Circus of Crime attacks, he and Spidey are prepared for them.

And when I say everybody, I mean everybody. Clowns on unicycles, little bald guys, the Gambonnos on their trapezes, the strong man Samson, and that guy in the turban all attack but most of them are knocked over by Daredevil, who has curled up into a ball and scattered them like bowling pins. Above him, the Gambonnos try to drop their safety net on him but Daredevil senses it and grabs onto the side of the net. The Gambonnos are stymied. "How can we wrap him in the net when he's holdin' on to one end of it?" says one Gambonno to another. Just then, Spidey calls to Daredevil, telling him he's done his share and that "it's my fight now". So, DD slings himself over the net to safety, ceding the fight to the web-slinger. "But if you need me, just wiggle your web, fella!" he says.

Spidey begins his assault by leaping down into the midst of the circus performers. Just when they all converge, trying to grab him, he shoots out some webbing and stops short, dangling just above their heads. All of the crime-sters collide in their rush to get at him.

Figuring that "Spider-Man needs me about as much as the Hulk needs vitamin pills", Daredevil goes back behind the grandstand, changes back into his Matt Murdock clothes and climbs back to his seat.

Back at the battle, Spidey plunges down into the colliding crooks and socks a few of them into unconsciousness. Samson tries to sneak up behind him. He is holding onto his five hundred pound barbell by one "bell" and he plans to wrap the thing around Spider-Man. But the web-slinger's spider-sense tips him off. "For shame, Samson! Don't you know better than to try to sneak up on a citizen who's loaded with spider sense?" he says, spilling the beans again about a power he should keep secret. Samson swings the barbell, trying to brain the webhead with the other "bell" but Spidey just grabs hold of it and swings it over his head. Samson loses his grip and goes flying, landing on more carnies who fail to get out of the way.

But Spidey has neglected to set down the barbell. Now that he's weighted down with it, four Circus members simultaneously attack. The Gambonnos swing above him, dropping anvils and lead weights even as a clown and the turban guy make a run at our hero. Spidey doesn't even stop with the snappy patter. ("What makes all you boys so hostile?" he says, "You must have had unhappy childhoods or something!") He dodges the falling weights, and then throws the barbell at the clown and the turban. These two have no choice but to catch it, each grabbing hold of a "bell". While they are thus occupied, the wall-crawler jumps up on the barbell and punches each crook smack in the snoot. Another clown, this one on stilts, tries to move in with a net but Spidey jumps up to him, punches him in the face, and then does a loop-de-loop in the air where he lands on a flying trapeze. While he's up there, three Gambonnos attack. (One of them must have retired right after this caper.) As Spidey does a handstand on the trapeze, the middle Gambonno swings in, hefting a weapon that looks like the hammer from the Olympic hammer throw. (Where are these guys getting all these weapons? Do they keep them stacked up on the trapeze platform just in case?) The Gambonno uses his hammer to snap Spidey's trapeze in two. He thinks that this has finished the wall-crawler off but Spidey only jumps up and lands on the Gambonno's trapeze. The Gambonno can't reach Spidey with the hammer but the wall-crawler can web the Gambonno's legs to his trapeze, putting him out of the action.

With that, he makes his way over to the other two Gambonnos. He somersaults in the air, only to perch on the ropes of one of the trapezes, right above the Gambonno who is hanging on the bar below. This Gambonno starts to lose his cool (probably the one of the three who retires), yelling out "You maniac! Now what are you doing?" (Oh no, wait. Forget that stuff about the third one who retires. We're back to just two again. The third one must have taken a look at the action and given up after one panel's appearance.) Spidey wraps his legs around the ropes so he is anchored then flips upside-down and uses one hand to shoot webbing that attaches the Gambonno's arms to the trapeze as he socks him in the jaw with the other hand. He pops him once more for good measure, then springs over to the high-wire.

Down below, the Ringmaster thinks he sees his chance. With Spidey in this vulnerable position, he orders Cannonball to attack. (By the way, Cannonball, a guy wearing lead shoulder pads and a metal helmet in the shape of a bullet who lets himself get shot out of a cannon, refers to himself as "The Great Gambino" here. I don't think he ever uses that name again.) The carnies point Cannonball in the right direction and fire the cannon. Gambino, who is carrying a little net for some reason, lowers his head, planning to butt the webhead off the high-wire ("Well, well! Company!" says Spidey, "And I didn't even bake a cake!") but the wall-crawler is prepared for him. "You lamebrain!" says our hero, "Did you think I'd stand still and wait for you to hit me?" He doesn't, of course. Using split-second timing, he jumps up and drops some webbing right over Cannonball's head. Then, he lands on Gambino's back, using the webbing like reins to guide the Cannonball's movement. With his right hand, he attaches some webbing somewhere behind him to act as an anchor. He guides Gambino around the trapeze platform pole and steers him so he is heading right for the Ringmaster and a few flunkeys. They start to run to no avail. Spidey lets the Cannonball plow into them ("Happy landings, sweetie!" he says) but pulls up himself, using that other attached web to avoid being part of the collision. Unfortunately, one of the crowd does manage to get away from the impact. The Ringmaster is still upright and on the move. As he runs, he spots his hat sitting on the ground next to one of those little platforms on which they perch elephants in the animal training acts. With the hat in his possession, the Ringmaster gets very cocky indeed. "And now you brash, boastful, brazen boor!" he says to Spidey, "Now you'll pay for your taunts and insolence!" (Spidey replies, "Boy! I'll bet they feed you corn flakes three times a day! You'd make Thor sound like a teen-age swinger!") Ringo puts his hat on his head and marches confidently right up to the web-slinger. He smiles broadly, gets that pinwheel spinning again (By the way, how does he go about getting the pinwheel to spin in the first place? He doesn't touch the hat when he does it. Even Daredevil knew how to get the thing spinning. Does it just go when you want it to go?) and starts intoning, "His will is my will! His will is my will!" over and over again. But this time, the hypnotism doesn't work. Saying, "You've had it, chum! You're hypnosis doesn't work on me anymore! You've flubbed your one last chance!" the web-slinger keeps coming. How does he manage it? He simply closes his eyes in anticipation of the pinwheel and the opaque lenses in his mask prevent the Ringmaster from realizing what he's doing.

Once he realizes that the hypnotism isn't working this time, the Ringmaster's bravado disappears. He puts his hands up in a defensive position and tries to back away. He even offers to make a deal with the web-slinger. But Spidey says, "I never deal with gents who have glass jaws", then punches Ringo in that jaw, instantly knocking him out.

In the audience, Matt Murdock smiles and applauds. "Bravo, Spider-Man!" he calls out, " I couldn't have done much better myself!" Spidey knows that the voice must belong to Daredevil, since everyone else is still in a trance, but "with all the echoes in this place, I can't tell where the voice came from!"

And so, Spidey starts the clean up. (And DD does not leave his seat and offer to help him.) He webs up all the circus members, carries them into the wings, and sets them on the ground together. (As he is doing this, he wonders how Daredevil was able to resist the hypnosis. "It all happened so suddenly that only a blind man could have been unaffected!" he thinks, "Well, naturally, that can't be the answer!") When he's done gift-wrapping the bad guy, he takes the Ringmaster's hat, holds it out in front of him, and somehow manages to get that pinwheel spinning. "Okay, folks!" he calls out, "Snap out of it! The show's over! Time to go home!"

And, sure enough, everyone in the crowd snaps out of the trance and wakes up thinking they have seen the "best danged circus" ever. Karen asks Matt if he enjoyed himself. "Well, I did manage to stay awake," replies the sly counselor.

The threesome from the law office file out of the tent with the rest of the crowd but then Foggy and Karen lose track of Matt. They think he has lost his way but Matt has found his way to the Ringmaster who is being taken off to jail by the police. Matt holds out a card, offering his services as a lawyer. "Aww, get lost" says the webbed-up Ringmaster. Soon after, Foggy and Karen find Matt again. "We were getting worried about you," says Karen but Matt insists that he's okay. "I was just, eh, trying to drum up some business", he says.

Meanwhile, Spider-Man watches from a nearby rooftop as the Ringmaster and his crew are taken away. (Why are the cops there arresting the Ringmaster anyway? Since everyone in the trance thought it was a great show, only Spidey and DD know about the attempted robberies. Matt certainly didn't call the cops. Did Spidey? And could the police really get there so fast?) He feels good about the mop-up but he's sorry he "didn't get to know Daredevil better".

One last look at Foggy, Karen, and Matt. Karen tells Matt that he "can enjoy the circus just like anybody else". Matt thinks, "She'll never know just how right she is!"

And back to Spidey for the finish. He swings away from the Big Top figuring that "Betty's probably still mad at me because I didn't take her to the circus! Aunt May is probably waiting to nag me some more about dating that Mary Jane chick! The most fun I had all day was fighting for my life! How about that?" And so ends another Lee-Ditko Spidey adventure.

In the Spider's Web, Bill Payne of Louisville, Kentucky can't stand to wait between issues. "You know that a person who is addicted to cigarettes is likely to have a nicotine fit if he goes too long between smokes." he writes, "Well, as of two days ago I am having a Spider-Man fit! My pupils are dilated (from lack of reading material), my pulse is rapid, I can't eat and I can't sleep. If the next issue doesn't come out soon I think I might start pulling my hair out by the roots." (I know how you feel, Bill.) Jay Blackburn of Calumet City, Illinois thinks the Amazing Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four have become "too mushy". "How would you like your magazines to be called 'The Marvel Age of Henpecked Super-Heroes'"? he asks. Bruce Donehower of Short Hills, New Jersey says, "I have read enough of your boring hogwash! I hate your comics so much I always want the bad guys to win! You call them 'mags'! They should be 'rags'! Where do you get your jokes from... Romper Room? As far as I know the Marvel Age of Comics should have gone out with the Ice Age. And another thing... I hope Spider-Man gets swatted!" Stan's reply: "Sorry, Bruce! No matter how you beg-you can't have our autographs!" (Heh. Good one, Stan.) And finally, Steve Keyes of Costa Mesa, California noticed that the Ferris wheel in ASM #12 was referred to as "the highest roller coaster". "Apparently the blamed thing was so high that we couldn't tell WHAT it was from 'way down below!" says Stan.

Daredevil makes a cameo appearance in ASM #18 (November 1964) sticking his two cents worth in on Spider-Man's supposed cowardice ("When last I met Spider-Man, my instincts told me he was a valiant fighter! How could the super-sharp senses of Daredevil have been so wrong?") but he and the wall-crawler don't really team up again until Daredevil #16 (May 1966). (First meeting: ASM #16, second meeting DD #16. You gotta love the symmetry of that.)

The Ringmaster finds himself deposed by the Clown when the Circus of Crime becomes the Masters of Menace in ASM #22 (March 1965). Don't feel too sorry for old Ringo, though. Soon after, he retakes the reins of leadership and the Circus of Crime goes on to battle the Avengers and Thor and Howard the Duck and generally get more mileage out of their old hypnotism and circus act shtick than anyone would have ever expected.

Meanwhile... didn't Stan say there was going to be a Spider-Man Annual this year?

General Comments

Milestones (Landmark events that take place in this story.)

  1. First meeting with Daredevil.
  2. First meeting with the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime.
  3. First time Stan threatens to never talk to us again.
  4. First and only appearance of the Ringmaster wannabe who gets jittery and sweats a lot.
  5. Spidey spills the beans about his spider-sense again.
  6. First time Spidey wins by closing his eyes.

The 1969 Marvelmania International Spider-Man Portfolio checklist entry for this story. Warts and all:

"Dual with Daredevil" - Old Hulk foes, the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime hypnotize Daredevil into fighting Spidey.

Overall Rating

As the saying goes... life and web ratings aren't fair. The problem here is context. If this issue had come out around the same time as Maximum Carnage, say, or the Byrne-Mackie reboot, I'd be falling all over it and giving it a sure-fire five webs. But, unfortunately for it, it came out just after ASM #14 and 15, two of the best Spidey stories ever and it is followed by ASM Annual #1 and ASM #17, which happen to be two more. So, stuck in 1964 as I currently am, I'm forced to compare it to its neighbors and not its defective distant cousins.

That being said, Stan and Steve come through once again with some truly great fight scenes and you have to love the way Spidey finally defeats the Ringmaster by closing his eyes. (File that under great finishes for villains along with the vacuum cleaner against the Sandman and the fire hose versus Electro.) But Daredevil bows out far too early and all the sub-plots grind to a halt. There's more of Karen Page and Foggy Nelson than there is of Betty, JJJ, and Aunt May. And Flash and the gang don't even show up at all.

And so, bearing that context in mind, I've giving "Duel With Daredevil" a too-low, somewhat reluctant two and a half webs.


Spider-Man reprints ran for a very long time in Marvel Tales. It begins here...Marvel Tales #1.

 Posted: 2003
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)