Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #17

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


Amazing Spider-Man #14 (July 1964) introduced us to the mysterious Green Goblin. By the end of the issue, the Goblin escaped, his true identity left unrevealed. Now, three issues later, he's back. Will the readers of 1964 discover who the Goblin really is this time?

It's Spidey. It's the Goblin. It's the Torch. It's Stan and Steve showing the rest of the comic world how it's done.

Story 'The Return of the Green Goblin!'

Chemistry class is just breaking up at Midtown High School. A crowd of kids gathers around Flash Thompson who tells them all to "see me after class". He has some "big news" he wants to pass along. Peter Parker appears to be still wrapped up in his Chemistry book. "Look at ol' bookworm Parker!" whispers one wise guy behind his hand to his pals, "The way he's glued to that Chem book, you'd think he was readin' the latest James Bond mystery!" But Peter isn't actually looking at his Chem book at all. His mind is far away, thinking back to that time months back when he fought the Green Goblin in the desert and let him get away. "I wonder what became of him?" Peter wonders, "Why hasn't he been heard from since?"

And why is Peter thinking about this now? Because he's about to meet the Goblin again, that's why! In fact, at the exact moment that Pete is thinking about the Goblin, the Goblin is off in his hideout thinking about him. He has strung a life-size Spider-Man doll from his ceiling and he is practicing his attacks with some new weapons of his own devising. First he fires his sparkle weapon out of his finger then he pulls some sort of bomb out of his bag of tricks and throws that, too. By the time he's done, the Spider-Man dummy is sprawled out on the ground, upside-down with one leg hanging down by its head. The Goblin decides that, with this practicing, he "should be able to vanquish [the real Spider-Man] just as easily as I've beaten his lifeless replica". (It's almost pathetic, this beating up of a Spider-Man dummy, when you stop and think about it.) Behind the Goblin, we get a glimpse of some cardboard boxes piled up to the ceiling. An elaborate-looking machine is propped up against a black brick wall. A piece of paper wafts through the air. Clearly, the Goblin is someone who has the means to create a hideout and built fancy machinery in a warehouse.

He checks the controls on his new Goblin-Glider. He has dispensed with the flying broomstick previously used in ASM #14. This new glider is built to look like a bat with outstretched wings. There are stirrups at the end of each wing for the Goblin's feet and he usually stands up as he rides on it.

He dumps the contents of his bag of tricks on a table and looks it over. There are two pumpkin bombs and one of each of weapons shaped like a ghost, a frog, a bat, and a crescent moon with a smiling face on it. (By the time this story's done, we'll see all of these weapons in action... except for that crescent moon. Has the Goblin ever put the moon into action?) Then he removes his costume and puts on a brown pinstripe suit and hat (though we don't get to see his face). He is ready to face the wall-crawler once again. All that remains to be done is "find Spider-Man!"

(While Norman Osborn never used the moon, it turns out that Bart Hamilton did. According to "From The Beginning" fan Daniel, "In your Amazing Spider-man #17 review (the second fight ever with the Green Goblin), you asked if the Goblin's tricks like the ghost, sonic toad, and crescent moon were ever used again. The answer is YES. In one of my favorite Green Goblin stories... when Bart Hamilton took over as the third goblin. In Amazing 178, he uses the ghost. In Amazing 180, he uses the sonic toad. I am also pretty sure that [in] 180 [Bart] uses the moon." So he does! Thanks for the info, Daniel!)

With class over at Midtown High, Peter Parker puts his book away and puts on his usual blue jacket. Another crowd has gathered around Flash Thompson and Peter decides to join it to see what Flash is up to now. Flash is letting the other kids know that he is starting a "Spider-Man Fan Club-Forest Hills Chapter". Flash, of course, will be the club president. Liz Allan is all for it. "It sounds groovy!" she says. But another student warns Flash to clam up ("Ixnay" he says.) because Puny Parker is approaching. But as soon as Peter walks up, Liz asks, "Have you heard about the club Flash is forming?" Unfortunately, she never gets so far as to tell Peter what kind of club it is because Flash intervenes and proclaims that "Parker wouldn't be interested." Pete has no intention to stay around where he's not wanted. "I can always think of something better to do than talk to you" he tells Flash. After Peter leaves, Liz gives Flash a tongue-lashing for his behavior but Flash won't budge. "Who needs that creep?" he tells Liz, "Anyway, he doesn't even like Spider-Man!" adding, "You know him! He's not interested in anything unless it's strictly from Dullville. Imagine if he ever saw Spider-Man, he'd probably faint!" (Hah. Say what you will about Flash. The boy can talk the talk!) Flash continues, telling the kids that he has "big plans" for his club and that "it's gonna be the greatest fan club in town because Spidey's the greatest guy in town!" Meanwhile, a scheming Liz vows "to get Peter Parker into that club" one way or another.

Out on the street, Peter runs right into a crowd of by-standers gawking up at some roof. He looks up to see a helicopter hovering above a building. Three men in purple costumes with yellow masks, gloves, capes, belts, and boots carry big yellow sacks and climb a ladder leading to the chopper. It sure looks like a robbery to Pete so he sneaks into an alley and climbs into his Spider-Man suit. Then he makes a grand entrance, doing a handstand on the roof of a big yellow sedan, flipping over to the top of a truck, bouncing up to a lamp post, over to a wall, swinging on a flag pole, hanging on a sign, shooting a web and propelling himself into the air until he catches the ladder of the helicopter. In seconds he is inside the whirly-bird and ready to take on the costumed men. He grabs one by the collar, rears back a fist and asks, "What made you think you could get away with a caper like this?" The man in the yellow mask puts his hands up and tells Spidey he's "got this all wrong". How wrong does he have it? A movie director gets out of his chair on a nearby rooftop and yells "Cut!" The whole thing was just a scene from a movie and our hero has ruined a great take. Once Spidey realizes his mistake, he swings down and apologizes to the director but it doesn't do him much good. "Sorry?!" yells out the director, "You web-swinging lamebrain! They oughtta keep you in a cage!"

By the time Peter Parker is back on the street, the word has gotten around and the crowd is in full swing, lambasting the web-spinner. "It doesn't matter how many great things a fella might do," thinks Peter, "Make one little mistake and they never forget it." By the time Peter gets to the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson is laughing himself silly over Spider-Man's blunder. The news has traveled fast and "Everyone's talking about his bonehead mistake." JJJ is so cheerful, he's even willing to chat with his "demon photographer" but Pete is in no mood for it. He tells Jonah he only came by to walk Betty Brant home. Betty gets her wrap and the two take to the street.

As they walk, Betty tells Peter she wishes JJJ "didn't hate Spider-Man so". Peter, always ready to see the glass as half empty, doesn't rejoice over the fact that Betty no longer hates Spider-Man but worries that she may be starting to suspect who the web-slinger is instead. But it's nothing like that. It's just that "Spider-Man saved [her] life three times in the past". (Count with me. One: ASM #11, April 1964. Two: ASM #12, May 1964. Three: ASM Annual #1, 1964. Right?) Peter has just enough time to be relieved when he looks up ahead and knows the Parker luck is running true to form. He tries to get Betty to turn around by coming up with some phony story about forgetting to tell something to Mr. Jameson but it doesn't work. A voice cries out, "Petey!" It is Liz Allan hanging out at a newsstand with Flash and she wants to show Peter something.

Pete cringes when he hears Liz' voice. He tells Betty he was hoping to get away before Liz saw them but Betty tells him to "stop the act". The two couples meet up. Liz casually meows, "Mmmm, putting on some weight, aren't you, Miss Brant?" and then shows Pete an item in the newspaper. Betty is so steamed by this that little lines of heat radiate off her head. She clenches her right hand into a fist and thinks, "Ohhh! When she calls me Miss Brant, I feel a hundred years old!" Flash stands apart, frowning, his arms crossed in front of him as Liz shoves the paper in Peter's face. Pete can't miss the big ad taking up several columns of the newspaper. "Important Notice" it says, "The First Meeting of the Spider-Man Fan Club, Forest Hills Chapter will be held at the elegant Avenue Dinner Club! Spider-Man will appear in person!" Peter doesn't know which part floors him most: that they actually put an ad in the paper, that the meeting will be "at a real dinner club" or that Spider-Man is supposed to attend.

Having shown Peter the bait, Liz tugs on the line and tries to hook him. She primps her hair and smiles as she tells Pete that her father owns the Avenue Dinner Club which he is letting them use for free and that he paid for the ad in the paper too. Betty glares at Liz with outrage. "That blonde boy-stealer wants the world to know how rich she is!" (Actually, Betty, I think she just wants Pete to know.) Peter somehow remains oblivious to Liz' raging hormones. He's too busy wondering why they're so sure Spider-Man will be there. This gives Flash a perfect opportunity to get back in the conversation. "Because he's not a crumb like some guys I know" he says, "He's the greatest guy in the world! And he's all heart! He performed at a circus for charity last month. (That was in ASM #16, September 1964, of course.) He won't let his loyal fans down!" And once again Peter just has to smile at the irony that Flash's love for Spidey is as intense as his hatred for Puny Parker. So, when Flash insists that Spidey will show up once "he sees that notice in the paper", Peter can't help but agree. Liz puts her hand on Peter's shoulder and invites him to come as well. Then she peers back at Betty and coos her regrets that "Miss Brant can't come because her boss, Jonah Jameson, might not like it!"

Betty insists she can go where she pleases and Flash starts telling Liz that he didn't invite Puny Parker but Peter stops listening to all of this. His spider-sense has just started clanging. He looks around but sees no danger. There are plenty of pedestrians but he doesn't "recognize anybody in this crowd". And there's no reason why Pete should recognize this particular pedestrian in the brown pinstripe with the purple hat because, as Stan informs us, "he's never seen him without his Green Goblin mask before!" (This is a big clue that is later overlooked by readers when such people as Frederick Foswell are presented as candidates for being the Goblin. At the time of this story, Peter has never seen the man behind the Goblin mask before.) The Goblin reads a newspaper as he walks by and he is on the same page as the teen-agers. "A meeting of the Spider-Man fan club, eh?" he thinks, "Very interesting."

In the meantime, Liz tells Flash that she will have her father pull the plug on the affair if Peter isn't invited. Flash puts his hand to his forehead; flabbergasted that Liz would do this to him. Betty, looking disheartened, puts her hand on Peter's shoulder and tells him she has to get home. Pete is still distracted by his spider-sense but he agrees to accompany her.

So, Pete drops Betty off at the entrance to her apartment building and wishes her a good night. Betty notices that Pete did not ask her to join him at the Spider-Man Fan Club. Pete feels this void, too but he also knows he can't invite her if he's planning to show up as Spidey. "Hope she doesn't feel hurt!" he thinks.

Now that he's fulfilled his home-walking duties with Betty, Pete rushes into his Spidey suit and tries to find the pedestrian who set off his spider-sense. He spends several minutes perched up on a wall and even seems to focus momentarily on a man in a purple suit and black hat who is smoking a cigar but he doesn't dare make a move "after spoiling that movie scene yesterday". In the end, he decides to web-swing into an alley and change back to Peter Parker. But just as he exits the alley, straightening his tie, a gunshot rings out, someone yells, "Help! Police! Stop thief!" and the man in the purple suit runs past... only instead of holding a cigar, he is now carrying a gun. Peter freezes for a moment, wondering whether he should change back into his Spidey duds or take on the crook as Peter Parker. And suddenly the question is moot (as Jesse Jackson would say) for a fireball plunges down from out of the sky and hits the bad guy in the hand, melting his gun. Then the crook finds himself encircled by a ring of flame. He puts his hands in the air, knowing he is beaten, caught by the Human Torch who just happened to be passing by.

The cops arrive right away, handcuff the thief and lead him away. The Torch, however, decides to land, flame off, and soak in the adulation of the by- standers. The police thank him, a gray-haired man shakes his hand and compliments him and a crowd of people with autograph books arrives. Peter Parker stands right behind the Torch, marveling over the fuss people are making. Pete watches the Torch sign autographs until he can stand it no longer. ("I'd better shove off before he gets elected President," he thinks.) But before he can go, the Torch shoves an autographed piece of paper in his hand. "I noticed you hanging around!" Torchy tells Peter, "In case you're too shy to ask me, here's my autograph anyway! Don't bother thanking me. I'm just all heart!" A miffed Peter responds, "What am I supposed to do, sleep with it under my pillow?" and thinks to himself, "Loud-mouthed showoff!" But he hangs onto the paper. As he walks away, a young boy runs by. The boy also has the Torch's autograph and he is thrilled. "Hey!" he asks Pete, "Did you get his autograph, too?" "No!" Pete replies, "This is Spider-Man's! Would you like to swap?" "What do you think I am" the kid answers, "a nut?"

Now, you all may have noticed that the big ad in the paper for the Spider-Man Club said nothing about when the meeting would take place but everybody seems to know it is the following night. So, the next day, J. Jonah Jameson puffs on his cigar and grouses about the ad being in his newspaper. "If the club's a success" he reasons, "that web-spinning clown could become as popular as the Beatles!" He can't have that! So, JJ decides he and Betty in her role as his secretary must be in attendance so that he can "find some way to put a damper on that club". He orders Betty to tell Peter Parker to come to the meeting with his camera. Betty doesn't want Peter anywhere near Liz Allan and that meeting so she makes sure to wait until Peter goes out before she tries to call him. (But how can she know when he'll leave?)

At home, Aunt May tells Peter that she has set up a blind date for him with Mary Jane Watson for that very evening. Pete tries to tell his Aunt that he already has a girlfriend but May could care less. But then inspiration strikes. With a forefinger in the air, Peter tells May that he can't go out with MJ because he's going to a meeting of the Spider-Man fan club. Unfortunately, Aunt May thinks this is a wonderful idea for a date. "Mary Jane's Aunt tells me she just loves Spider-Man," she says. Pete slaps himself in the head in frustration. How in the world is he going to attend the meeting as Spider-Man if he is saddled with a blind date? He is saved by the bell when the telephone rings. It is Anna Watson on the phone telling May that the date is off because Mary Jane has a bad cold. Peter is relieved, of course, but he tries not to act that way. "I'm all broken up about it, Aunt May," he says. Anna apparently hears him over the phone and tells May that MJ "might try dressing warm and taking some pills" if Peter is that broken up about it. But Pete waves his hand at May, tells her to tell Anna he "wouldn't think of it" since MJ "might get the flu or worse", then grabs his jacket and runs off before he gets caught in a date again.

Over we go to the Grand Ballroom of the Avenue Dinner Club where we meet Liz' dad for the first (and, I think, last) time. He is a good-looking man with brown hair and a pencil-thin mustache, wearing a gray suit and red tie. He stands on the dance floor of the big room with Liz and Flash. (And Flash must be as unfamiliar with him as we are. He calls him "Mr. Brant"!) The kids thank Mr. Allan for the use of the club. He is happy to help. After all, he freely admits, "if there's a good turnout, it'll be good publicity for my club! And that means a big boost in business later!"

It isn't long before the place starts filling up. A Flash sycophant in a bow tie (whose name is either Seymour or just called that by Flash) declares, "Half of Forest Hills must be here". But Liz Allan is aware that Peter Parker hasn't shown up. She strokes her chin and wonders if all her work to invite Pete will be in vain.

Meanwhile, Spider-Man stands on a nearby rooftop, as nervous as an actor on opening night. He knows that "if I make a good impression in there, maybe people will stop distrusting me and start liking me the way they like the Torch". He doesn't want to blow it.

Not far away, the Green Goblin flies on his glider on his way to attend the Fan Club Meeting.

Inside, the crowd mingles, waiting for the arrival of the web-spinner. Johnny Storm (the Human Torch) is there with his girl friend Dorrie Evans. Dorrie warns Johnny to keep his promise to remain a member of the audience and not to compete with Spider-Man. "The only flame tonight will be the one in my heart burning for you!" Johnny replies. J. Jonah Jameson and Betty Brant are there. Jonah wonders where Peter Parker is and Betty tells him Pete "wasn't in when I called" because, as we know, she "waited till [she] knew he'd be out". Betty looks over her shoulder and sees Flash, Seymour, and Liz standing in the corner. She is pleased to see that Peter hasn't shown up since "That blonde bandit Liz Allan is watching for him like a hawk." Seymour asks Flash what happens if Spidey doesn't show. "He's got to be here!" Flash tells him.

And then, right after Flash speaks, the spider-signal shines down on the scrim behind the ballroom stage and Spider-Man himself swings in. Flash leads the cheers as the whole crowd goes wild (except for J. Jonah Jameson, who looks like he's startled by the passion of the crowd's response). But, from backstage, a gloved hand throws "an electrically-charged toy frog" which explodes into sparkles when it hits Spidey's web. The web line snaps and the wall-crawler starts to fall. The crowd reacts. A guy with red hair can't figure out what happened. A blonde-haired woman covers her eyes. But the web- spinner is on top of the situation. He knows the best way to deal with things is to make it all look like it was part of the act so he does a couple of somersaults in the air and executes a flawless landing on the stage. Most people are taken in. One screams out for "More!! More!!" Flash Thompson applauds and calls out, "Yay, Spidey!" But Liz is more concerned with the fact that Peter Parker didn't show up; she considers the evening to be a flop. And Johnny Storm realizes that the fall was not part of the act. "Someone tried to hurt Spider-Man!" he decides. Dorrie Evans can see Johnny's reaction in his body language. Or, as she puts it, "Johnny, I don't like that look in your eye!"

Spidey, meanwhile, hasn't even had time to move off of the stage when the Green Goblin, hovering before him on his glider, suddenly confronts him. The villain goes right to the attack by throwing... nothing, as far as I can tell. Nevertheless, the web-slinger leaps and somersaults in the air to avoid the assault. He is determined to make the whole thing look like an act so that the audience doesn't panic and get hurt in a rush to the exits. Now, the Goblin presses a button on his belt that ignites his new Goblin Sparks. He tries to lull Spidey into some sort of hypnotic trance ("See how pretty they look, glistening in the air!") even as he shoots the sparks out from his finger. Spidey isn't sure what they'll do but he figures he'd better get out of the way. He shoots some webbing up to the ceiling, then flips himself up in the air to avoid the shower of sparks. Once up there, he spins himself around and around to make it look good for the audience. The ruse works. "What an act!" yells the crowd, "More, give us more!!"

J. Jonah Jameson isn't cheering, however. He wishes he could "dream up some way to spoil this corny show of his". Betty Brant isn't cheering either. She's just relieved to see that Peter still hasn't shown up. "Perhaps he doesn't like Liz Allan as much as I feared he did" she thinks.

The Green Goblin has a lot more up his sleeve, of course. He pulls the "electrically-activated mechanical bat" out of his pouch. The bat flies around Spider-Man, "emitting thick black smoke". In seconds, the web-slinger is completely surrounded and blinded by the smoke. The Goblin follows the bat up with a pumpkin bomb that he hopes will blow up the wall-crawler before he can even see it coming. But the Goblin doesn't account for the spider-sense that warns Spidey to get away from the smoke "at all costs". Just as the pumpkin bomb arrives and explodes, the webster bursts out of the smoke in a tuck-and-roll, taking him to safety.

Flash and his posse are eating this up. But Johnny Storm is more convinced than ever. "That's no act!" he tells Dorrie, and I don't think he's critiquing the technique.

Now, Spider-Man decides he must take the offensive. He meets the Goblin head on and leaps at him, arms outstretched. But Gobby is expecting this. His glider shoots vertically up in the air and Spider-Man misses him. "You'd save a lot of energy if you had a little Goblin Glider like mine" says the wisecracking super-villain. "Where'd you get it, Gobby!" replies Spidey as he does a back flip, "Your local Hertz rent-a-glider?"

But Spidey's back flip takes him right over by Flash and Liz, just in time to hear Liz wonder, "why Peter Parker is never around when Spider-Man appears?" "I've never seen them at the same time", she notes. Looking around with her hand to her chin, Liz decides that the place is so crowded that Pete may actually be there without her seeing him but, unfortunately, she doesn't say this part aloud so Spidey doesn't know she's starting to talk herself out of it. All he knows is that he's got to do something "to keep her from getting too close to the truth". First, though, he has to take care of the Goblin.

He takes to the webs and swings around to again face the Goblin. He starts to develop a plan that begins with letting the Goblin "think he's got me on the run". Gobby flings another pumpkin bomb that misses Spidey but severs his webbing. ("You're okay as a big, bad villain," Spidey says, "but you'd never make it with the Dodgers, pal!") The Goblin throws another bomb. This one also just hits webbing. The masked villain starts to become frustrated. ("I can't keep missing you all the time, blast it!" he cries.) Spidey has swung around and maneuvered and positioned himself. Now, he's got the Goblin right where he wants him and he moves in for the kill.

But down below Johnny Storm has noticed the "glint of three gun barrels in the balcony above". He tells Dorrie he must leave her for a few moments. Dorrie grabs him by the shoulder and tells him to keep his promise but Johnny can't afford to wait. And, sure enough, Johnny is right about the gun barrels. Three crooks stand on an outside balcony looking in through a window. They are there to break into the Club's safe "while everyone's watchin' those clowns down below" but one of them can't resist trying to take a shot at the wall- crawler. Yelling out, "Flame on!" Johnny ignites and becomes the Human Torch. He flies up into the air, heading for the three hoods, but his timing is terrible. He flies in between Spidey and the Goblin, just as the wall-crawler is in prime position to shoot out his webbing and capture the bad guy. The webbing strikes the Torch instead (and presumably burns off). Even the Goblin knows how lucky he's been. "That was a close one" he thinks, "He almost had me."

Down below, Flash Thompson has no use for the Torch horning in on the party. He heckles him and tells Johnny to "get lost". But the other kids are riveted. As far as they are concerned, the arrival of the Torch has made things just that much more interesting.

Meanwhile, the Torch continues on his way, throwing fireballs through the window that cause the crooks on the balcony to scatter. (One of them even vows, "I'm takin' the pledge! I'm goin' straight!") He flies back down and is surprised to see that Spider-Man has taken a powder in the meantime. But he has little time to wonder where Spidey has gone. The Goblin turns on him and tells the Torch, "I'll teach you not to interfere with your betters!"

Still worried about Liz' realization that Spidey and Peter Parker have never been seen together, the web-slinger takes advantage of the Torch's arrival to slip away and put in an appearance in his civilian identity. His pants look unbelted, his shirt tail is hanging out, he has neglected his usual vest and tie, and he doesn't wear any shoes so his Spider-Man boots are plainly visible but it's all good enough for a brief cameo. Peter, his hair in disarray from all the rush and exertion, runs over to Liz Allan and tells her "I thought I saw you from across the room!" Liz is overjoyed to see that Peter is actually there but Flash is fed up. "First the pesty Torch and now Puny Parker!" he says, "This place is filling up with a bunch of deadheads." (And they're all wearing tie-dye and waiting to hear "Uncle John's Band". Yeah, I know. That was beneath me. Sorry.) All smiles now, Liz tells Pete she thinks she can "talk Flash into letting you join his Spider-Man fan club". Flash balks and Pete tells her not to bother, anyway. "I may start my own club," he says, "for the Green Goblin". (I bet Spidey would never make a joke like that now.) Flash thinks Pete is "as funny as a second-hand crutch". Disgusted, he wanders away. This allows Liz to move in for the kill. She compliments Pete on his sense of humor, then runs her hand through his hair as she wonders aloud how it got "so mussed". The best excuse Peter can think of is, "It's pretty windy on the other side of the room!" He's really more concerned about getting back to the fight. But before he can, he looks across the room and sees J. Jonah Jameson and Betty Brant... and the two of them are looking right over at him. The only thing Jonah cares about is that Parker didn't seem to bring along his camera. Betty, however, sees Liz running her fingers through Pete's hair and this breaks her heart.

And what of the battle that is still going on? Well, the Goblin has decided he must get rid of the Torch quickly in order to get back to Spider-Man. He pulls out his new ghost weapon and throws it. When the ghost hits the Torch, it forms "an airtight cloud seal" which threatens to put out Johnny's flame. He considers increasing his flame to "near Nova intensity" in order to burn the cloud away but he's afraid that such intense heat will cause a fire "injuring innocent people". But he's got to do something fast. The Goblin has thrown yet another ghost at him.

Down below, Peter decides he must get back to the fight right away. He runs off without bothering to talk to Betty and smooth things over. Betty can't get over the fact that Peter didn't invite her but was hanging out with Liz. She hides behind a pillar and dabs the tears from her eyes with a lace handkerchief. "How could he do this to me?" she wonders.

Back at the battle, the Torch gets a bright idea. Instead of turning his whole body to Nova intensity, he just increases the heat on his right hand. The sudden high temperature draws the cloud down to his hand where it burns away. Then he again goes after the Goblin. Gobby, however, rides off on his glider, which emits a thick black smoke from its exhaust. The Torch flies right into the smoke, blinding himself even as the Goblin circles around and hits the Torch dead-on with a stun bomb. The explosion weakens the Torch so badly that he must "glide to a safe landing" before his flame goes off. The Goblin has "won the first round".

The Torch cuts it so close in saving himself (Steve doesn't show it to us but... trust me on this) that the crowd starts to realize that the whole thing is no act. They finally start to get a little restless. By this time, Spider- Man is back. The Goblin tries to fry him with one of those fingertip sparkles but the web-slinger swings over him, then shoots some webbing onto the back of the glider. Spidey swings down, underneath, around, and winds up coming up in front of the Goblin. The villain responds by letting his glider drop suddenly so that Spidey starts to pass right by. He throws a punch at the web-spinner in the process but Spidey avoids it by doing a back flip, then lands, for a moment, on the dance floor. Spider-Man's confidence soars. He knows he's got the Goblin on the run. But he just happens to land right by Liz Allan's dad who is talking on the pay phone and he hears Liz' dad mention the name of Peter Parker. He pauses to hear the whole thing. Mr. Allan obligingly provides plenty of exposition for the wall-crawler (and he's changed from a gray to a purple suit as well!). "His Aunt?" he says, "Suffered another heart attack? Asking for him in the hospital? I see! I'll see if I can find him." After hearing that, Spidey knows there is no time to waste. He must get to the hospital. He tells himself that "the Torch will be able to handle the Green Goblin", then he runs for the exit. But as far as the crowd is concerned, the web-slinger "must have turned yellow!".

The negative reaction snowballs. A blonde-haired teen yells out, "Some crummy hero he is! Runnin' out on a fight!" Some guy with freckles deduces, "The Green Goblin musta been too much for him!" A girl just resorts to calling out, "Boooo, Spider-Man!" The Torch flames on again, deciding that "someone's got to stop the Goblin" now that Spidey has skipped out. And J. Jonah Jameson shakes his fist and smiles broadly. He already has the headline in mind for tomorrow's Daily Bugle: "Spider-Man Turns Chicken". This is one of the happiest days of his life.

With Spider-Man gone, the Green Goblin has no reason to stay. He just wants to hold off the Human Torch until he can make his escape. So, he throws another pumpkin at the Torch. Johnny counters with a fireball. The two projectiles meet and the pumpkin explodes in a cluster of blinding sparks. Now that the Torch's vision is impaired, Gobby takes flight. He zips out of that same window through which the three thieves looked. (Why doesn't that window have any glass in it? It's just begging for someone to use it to break in or out of the place.) The Torch tosses some fireballs through the window but they all miss their target. Riding high on the success of the evening, the Goblin boasts, "next time I fight Spider-Man, I'll leave him no avenue of retreat! It will be the finish!" And that's the last we see of him for this issue.

Somewhere across town, Spider-Man has forgotten all about the Goblin as he races along the rooftops, changing clothes on the run, praying he is not too late to reach Aunt May at the hospital. (He has his shoes and pants on, and he's putting on his white shirt but he still wears his mask and gloves and holds his blue jacket in his left hand as he runs.)

Back at the club, Dorrie Evans tells Johnny that she realizes he was needed as the Human Torch. She is not mad at him any more. Johnny is glad of that but he is upset by Spider-Man's sudden retreat. He can't figure out why the web- slinger would "turn tail and run off the way he did". Dorrie suddenly sees that "underneath that silly old feud" Johnny likes Spider-Man and Johnny agrees. "Or anyway... I did" he tells her.

Elsewhere in the ballroom, J. Jonah Jameson grabs his hat and heads for the exit. He spots Betty dabbing her eyes behind the pillar and orders her to call the Bugle to tell them that he's on his way to preside over an extra edition that will "tell the whole world what a coward Spider-Man turned out to be". Betty gets back to work but all she can think about is "what a fool I am for thinking Peter Parker ever cared about me" and she vows, "I'll never trust him ever again!"

And in another part of the room, Liz Allan looks around and discovers that Peter is gone again. "Peter Parker must be part ghost!" she proclaims. The rest of the gang starts to head home. Flash tries to stop them. After all, no vote has been taken for officers for the Spider-Man Fan Club but one teen tells him to "Forget it". "After what we just saw," the teen says over his shoulder as he exits, "Spider-Man can go jump in the lake!" But Flash is hanging tough. He tells the others that they are "just a bunch of fair-weather friends" and that "Spidey must have had a reason for what he did". "Nuts! What's the angle, Flash" replies one of his buddies, "Is he a relative of yours?" "He's just the greatest guy in the world!" Flash tells them and he plans to stay the course and remain a fan no matter what, secure in the knowledge that he and Spidey will eventually be vindicated. "Just wait 'n see!"

Almost at the hospital, Peter finally removes his mask. Then, throwing caution to the winds, he shoots out some webbing and swings down to the street dressed in his civvies. ("But, luckily, the street is deserted at that moment" Stan says.) Once in the hospital, Pete meets with the doctor and is told that, though "Your Aunt is a very sick, woman... now, that you're here, she seems to have more will to live!" Pete settles in on a yellow bench in the waiting room as the hours drag by. He holds his head in his hand and berates himself for not spending enough time with May or trying to do enough for her. A doctor enters to tell Pete that "the crisis is over, son" and that he may go in to visit his Aunt. Peter races into May's room and takes her by the hand. He tells her to rest and "gain your strength back". The most important thing, he tells her, is "just get well! You've got to get well!"

At the end of visiting hours, presumably the next day, Peter walks home. He passes a newsstand on the way and overhears the chatter of the men who are reading the Bugle's extra. "The Bugle calls Spider-Man a coward! Right on the front page!" says a guy in a blue hat. "My son was at that fan club meeting!" says a guy in a brown hat, "He said Spider-Man ran off like a scared rabbit!" "Sure! He's probably nothing but a phony!" says a guy with no hat at all, "It shows what a big publicity build-up will do for a guy!" And Peter realizes that "I've become public heel #1 practically overnight!"

Finally back home in his bedroom, Pete strips off his clothes and starts to remove his Spidey outfit. He knows that "Betty is hurt because she thinks I went to the club with Liz instead of her. Everyone thinks I'm yellow, and I've probably lost any fans I might have had. On top of all that, the Green Goblin is free again, and may strike at any time! And the one person who's been kinder to me than anyone else in my whole life is in the hospital now, and there's nothing I can do to help her!" He throws his Spidey shirt hard against the wall in frustration. "A lot of good it does me to be Spider-Man!" he yells, "Sometimes I wish I had never heard that name!" Again, he hangs his head, holding it in his hand. His silhouette, posed in this position of anguish, is projected on the wall by the light from the street outside. The studious teen who is just trying to do what's right finds himself alone in a dark house seemingly without a friend in the world.

This issue's letter page deals with the first appearance of the Green Goblin back in ASM #14. Larry Schenker of Silver Spring, Maryland was "glad [Stan and Steve] didn't give [Gobby] a great deal of gadgets like some other comic villains, but that flying broomstick was too much. (And after this issue dumps the broomstick and adds lots of gadgets, all I can say to Larry is "oops".) Gary Rafferty of Troy, New York, though, didn't think the Goblin had enough gimmicks. "I mean stun grenades, a flying broomstick and spark-shooting fingers aren't exactly world-startling," he says, adding, "I have faith in you though and I think the more the Goblin appears in future issues the better he'll become." (And you would be correct, Gary!) Two correspondents already jumped in with predictions of the Goblin's identity. Jerry McCall of Brookville, Ohio thinks "he is the Vulture in disguise" and future comic writer Bill Dubay of San Francisco, California says, "Remember little ol' Frederick Foswell, the original leader of the Enforcers? Yep, I'd be willing to bet that the Green Goblin is really good ol' Fred up to his tricks again." (Sorry. You guys were both wrong but don't feel bad. It was a trick question. Norman Osborn hadn't even been invented yet!) And finally, future Batman, Aztec Ace, Master of Kung Fu, Werewolf By Night, and Moon Knight writer Douglas Moench of Chicago, Illinois says, "Who the heck are the kooks who knock Mr. Ditko? As far as I'm concerned, Steve's the best pencil and ink pusher you've got." (And if Doug Moench thinks so, that's good enough for me.)

The Human Torch puts in a cameo appearance in the next issue, then assumes a full guest-starring role in ASM #19 (December 1964).

The Green Goblin also has a cameo in the next issue but doesn't return to fight the web-slinger until ASM #23 (April 1965).

Aunt May gets better but is back in the hospital in ASM #31 (December 1965) .

The Green Goblin's "crescent moon with a smiling face" weapon is never seen again!

General Comments

Still not too many Goblin clues:

  1. Gobby uses a warehouse as his hideout and seems to have the run of the place, which, perhaps implies that he is the owner and certainly implies that he has access to money.
  2. He is not someone Spider-Man has met as yet since the webster didn't "recognize anybody in this crowd".
  3. Stan mentions that Pete has never seen the villain "without his Green Goblin mask before" which not only leaves out future suspects J. Jonah Jameson and Frederick Foswell but pretty much comes right out and tells us that the reader hasn't seen him either.

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

  1. First appearance of the Goblin's new bat-shaped glider.
  2. First appearance of the new bag of tricks.
  3. First time Spider-Man accidentally ruins a scene from a movie.
  4. Tenth time Spider-Man and the Human Torch appear in a story together. Eleventh, if you want to count the Spider-Man dartboard in Fantastic Four #21, December 1963. (The other nine are ASM #1, March 1963, ASM #3, July 1963, ASM #5, October 1963, ASM #8, January 1964, Strange Tales #115, December 1963, Strange Tales #119, April 1964, Strange Tales Annual #2, 1963, Fantastic Four Annual #1, 1963, and ASM Annual #1, 1964.)
  5. First appearance of Liz Allan's father.
  6. Second appearance of Dorrie Evans in a Spider-Man book. (First was in ASM #8, January 1964.)
  7. Second stay for Aunt May in the hospital. (First one was in ASM #9, February 1964.)
  8. First appearance of Liz Allan on the cover. She doesn't appear on the cover again until ASM #135!
  9. Second appearances of Flash Thompson (after ASM #8, Betty Brant, and J. Jonah Jameson (both after ASM #12) on the cover. JJJ's next cover appearance is ASM #25. Betty and Flash next appear on Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual #5.

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

"Return of the Green Goblin" - GG returns - Human Torch guests.

Overall Rating

Just think of all the moments that are packed into this one issue. The mysterious Green Goblin returns. Flash Thompson forms a Spider-Man fan club. Spidey intrudes on a movie shoot. Liz Allan makes a play for Pete right in Betty Brant's presence. Johnny Storm hands Peter Parker an autograph. The Goblin battles both Spider-Man and the Human Torch. Peter shows up at the club just in time to have Liz Allan run her hands through his hair and for Betty to see that and be heartbroken. Aunt May has a heart attack, which causes Spidey to cut and run. Everyone turns on the web-slinger except for Flash Thompson, Peter Parker's greatest enemy. And by the end, Spidey is left as lonely, heartbroken, and miserable as he could possibly be. Bit by bit, throughout the story, Stan surgically removes every support that Peter/Spider-Man has. The public turns on him, the teen-agers run out on the fan club, Betty vows to stop seeing him. Then Stan drops him in a big empty house worrying that his Aunt may not even survive. If it weren't so brilliant, it would be horribly cruel. You simply cannot read the end of this issue and not want to see what happens next. This is as good as it gets. Five webs.


Oh oh. Looks like "The End of Spider-Man." It's ASM #18 and it's next.


I received the following email from Daniel on January 7, 2021:

"I've actually written to you about Amazing Spider-man #17 before (I was the one you mentioned in your updated review about the crescent moon Goblin gadget). I finally got my own copy of #17 and was reading it just now. And I always like to then go back and read your reviews! It's fun. Anyway, I noticed one other thing in my reading that you didn't mention in your review. It's a very minor thing, but I know you often point out these little inconsistencies of Stan Lee's when you find them, so I thought I'd mention it...
In the book, after walking Betty home, Peter goes back out to look for the guy who set off his spider sense. You even quoted the book exactly when mentioning the phrase 'after spoiling that movie scene yesterday.' But that timeline is wrong. It's still the SAME day.
We went from Spidey spoiling the movie to immediately him going to the Bugle (this is the only chance that I could be wrong, but it certainly seems he goes straight to the Bugle after the movie). He walks Betty home from the Bugle, during which the man sets off his spider-sense. As soon as he drops Betty off, he immediately changes clothes to go look for the man. It doesn't seem possible that the movie scene was 'yesterday.' If he said 'earlier,' it would work.
Anyway, I just wanted to let you know about this, as I think it's just one more of those minor little goofs of Stan that happened a lot back in the day."

This note arrived over 17 years after I originally posted this review but I don't care. If anyone finds anything like this, I want to know. It doesn't matter how long it's been since I first posted. So, thank you, Daniel, you're absolutely right. The events from Spidey's movie screw-up to the moment he refers to it happening on the previous day all take place on the same day. Even the visit to the Bugle has to be the same day. JJJ is enjoying the news of Spidey's mistake too much for it to be the next day. Good catch on this, Daniel! I appreciate you reading and please let me know if you find anything else.

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