Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #20

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


Are Stan and Steve losing their touch? It's been five whole issues since the introduction of a destined-to-be classic Spidey villain. Looks like it's time for the Scorpion.

Story 'The Coming of the Scorpion! Or: Spidey Battles Scorpey!'

Does everybody remember our place from ASM #19 (December 1964), before we detoured into Avengers #11 (also December 1964)? Peter Parker was being tailed by a man who reported back to a mysterious figure living in a Manhattan penthouse. And off we go.

Let's look at the start of this issue through the eyes of a child. I was seven years old at the time of this book. It may seem quaint what with all the over- the-top violence in comics today but some of the events in some of these early Spidey stories could actually be scary. The Scorpion, believe it or not, was a frightening looking villain and the cover (which shows the Scorpion lifting Spidey over his head as the wall-crawler's webbing flutters uselessly out of his wrist-shooter while the text cries out, "How can Spidey battle a foe who is stronger than he is???") promised a pretty scary ride. The splash page illustration isn't any more assuring. You can almost feel the speed and the impact as the Scorpion smashes a chimney with his tail while Spidey must leap and twist to dodge all of the bricks flying at him. But Stan was always an expert at mixing drama with dopey humor, keeping the kids reading rather than hiding under their covers. Thus, he lets us know that the alternate title of "The Coming of the Scorpion" is "Spidey battles Scorpey" and things are less frightening right away. (How can you be afraid of a villain you can call "Scorpey"?) And to further lighten the mood, he shoves in this joke involving the credits (which probably annoyed the heck out of Ditko) in which he writes, "Many readers have asked why Stan's name is always first on the credits! And so, big-hearted Lee agreed to put Stevey's name first this time! How about that?!!" And Ditko's credit is first but Stan's name is twice the size, of course, and written in red so that it stands out like a beacon. The text finishes with, "but we still have a feeling that Sneaky Stan put something over on us! Anyway, now it's time for thrills, chills, and spills..." And now that the carnival barker has softened us up and assuaged our fears, we are ready to turn the page and check out the excitement.

As I said, Stan's looking out for you, so right off the bat he reminds you of the man who followed Peter home from school in the last issue. Here he is again, wearing a green suit and purple hat while smoking a cigarette and hiding around the corner, as Peter says "so long" to Liz and Flash. ("Bye, Petey!" says Liz. "Go play in traffic, pest!" says Flash.) This time, however, the man follows too closely and his presence triggers Peter's spider-sense. Pete sneaks a peek behind and sees the man who is now trying a bit too hard to look the other way and "pretend he's an innocent pedestrian". Pete decides to keep an eye on him.

At home, Peter looks out his bedroom window and sees the man hiding behind a tree, keeping an eye on the house. At first, he cowers in the shadows, worrying that this stranger may have figured out his secret identity. But he quickly shakes off his fears and decides to face things head-on as Spider-Man. He is in the process of removing his white shirt (revealing his Spidey suit underneath) when he notices the man walking away. Deciding that "Here's where the follower becomes the followed", Pete dons his Spidey duds and tails the stranger. The man walks two blocks away and enters a phone booth. Spidey clings to a wall high above and waits for the man to come out again. He can't hear the phone conversation and can only assume that the man is "an agent for someone and phoned his boss for further instructions". The man finishes his call and heads back toward the Parker house. Spidey must hurry to beat the stranger to the house so he can sneak back in without being seen. He runs along some telephone wires but has to stop short of the house because there is too much traffic on the street and he might be seen. Meanwhile, however, the stranger is coming up fast. Spidey's only chance is to "divert that snooper's attention" long enough to slip back inside. So, he creates a bat out of webbing and flies it past the stranger. (That's a "bat" as in "flying rodent" not "baseball equipment" and it's so detailed and lifelike even though Spidey only took seconds to make it that you have to wonder why he isn't an artist instead of a scientist.) The phony bat does the trick. The man is so startled by the bat's appearance, that he turns his head to look at it and yells out, "What in blazes is that?" (And so he walks over and picks it up after it has landed, right? And he discovers it is made out of webbing and deduces that Peter Parker is Spidey, right? No. He ignores it completely and goes back to watching the house. And forget about Stan's weak excuse that the "little flying bat will have turned into a thin strand of webbing again before he can find it" since the webbing has never worked that way before or since.) Meanwhile, Spidey takes advantage of that split-second of distraction to swing into his open window but he gets a bit off-stride when he tries to finish off with a backward somersault and he bumps hard into his bedroom wall, waking up Aunt May. Pete hears May's approaching footsteps and knows he must move fast. He whips off his mask, throws a robe on, and half hides behind his door (with one gloved hand concealed behind his back) as he lies to his Aunt, telling her "I'm sorry I disturbed you, Aunt May! I accidentally knocked over a chair!" After May returns to bed, Pete turns off his light and watches out the window. The man is still there and looks to be staying the night. A worried Peter clenches a fist but realizes that "there's nothing I can do but let him continue this cat and mouse game until I can figure out what he's after". Above everything else, "I must be careful to do nothing to reveal my secret identity to him".

The next morning, a Saturday, Peter Parker walks the streets of Manhattan. His shadow in the purple hat trails behind, pretending to read a newspaper. Pete decides that the stranger can't take him by surprise as long as he's aware of him so he puts the man out of his mind and heads to the Daily Bugle to visit with Betty. ("Betty usually gets to work early on Saturday", thinks Pete. That Betty sure knows how to live!)

J. Jonah Jameson is also working on Saturday. He is glancing at a news item left on his desk in which "some nutty scientist claims to have found a way to cause artificial mutations in animals". JJJ is not impressed. "Big deal!" he snorts. Then he flings the story into the air (there is an illustration on the sheet of a canary comfortably standing in a water-filled fish bowl which would impress the hell out of me) while he moans out a wish that someone would discover "an anti-Spider-Man serum". "If only there were someone stronger than him that I could hire", Jonah laments and then he stops and picks up the news item he just contemptuously threw aside. He sifts through the information until he finds the name of the scientist... Dr. Farley Stillwell who "lives right here in the city". JJ has gotten himself one doozy of an idea and he knows just the man to serve as his guinea pig.

At this same time, Peter Parker is heading into the Daily Bugle building. The man in the purple hat figures that Pete is "going to see his girl friend" and decides this is a perfect time to break away and contact his boss. The man slips inside a building and knocks at a back door. Inside is his boss, standing in shadow. The man (who we now learn is named Mac Gargan) reports that he hasn't been able to find out anything about Peter Parker so far. The boss replies that he has "lost interest in Peter Parker" and that he has a new job for his man. And the next panel reveals the boss to be... J. Jonah Jameson! (Who either has a back entrance to his office that is never seen again or he teleported home after reading about Stillwell in his office.) Now we learn that Jonah has hired Mac to discover how Peter "manages to get those great news photos which he sells me". But Jonah wants Gargan for a different gig now. Mac doesn't care what the job is. "You know me, boss," he says, "just as long as the pay is good!"

Okay, so Jonah didn't teleport home. This is all happening in his office. Right outside, Peter is chatting with Betty Brant and Ned Leeds. Ned tells Pete that he is heading out to Europe to cover the "disarmament conferences" for the Bugle and Pete couldn't be happier. ("He's a real nice guy" Pete thinks of Ned, "but Betty was seeing too much of him! For once, things are going my way!") In fact, according to Betty, "Ned leaves tonight". Just then, Jonah and Mac rush out of the office. Jonah tells Betty he'll be out of the office for a few hours, then tells his companion, "C'mon, Gargan! I'm in a hurry!" Peter recognizes the man in the purple hat and now knows his name is Gargan and that JJJ probably hired him but he still doesn't know what it's all about. Even as Peter is puzzling over it, Ned invites him along to the airport to see him off. Betty likes the idea, too. "Then we could ride back to the city together," she tells Pete. Our hero is glad to go along and relieved by the invitation since, he assumes, Betty and Ned "can't be serious about each other if they invited me along". But he's sorry he can't follow J. Jonah Jameson to learn what's up.

And Pete would be pretty interested in Jonah's activities, too. The publisher and Mac Gargan have already arrived at the laboratory of Dr. Farley Stillwell. There they see a rat swimming around in an aquarium and a fish perched on a branch like a bird. Dr. Stillwell has used his genius to create a rat that can breath in water (just what we need, isn't it?) and a fish that can breathe air. Stillwell, carrying a big smoking beaker in each hand, is thrilled that the Daily Bugle is interested in his work. He believes that his developments "might be of great value to farmers, botanists and the like" and that "publicizing my findings could further the cause of science immeasurably". But Jonah isn't interested in any of that. He tells Stillwell that he has a "special project" in mind. "If it works" he says, "I'll pay you $10,000". So there it is. Stillwell's Faustian dilemma. The doctor rubs his chin and protests that he doesn't accept private jobs and yet he knows what he can do with ten thousand dollars ("I could buy new equipment, new materials".) so he gives in to the devil without much resistance. (In fact, it all takes place in one panel.) He agrees to listen to Jonah Jameson's proposal.

Jameson tells Stillwell that he wants him to experiment on a human being "to give a man powers which are greater than Spider-Man's". Stillwell knows he has the serum and the know-how for the job but "it might be dangerous" and he "can't guarantee the results". But Mac Gargan doesn't care. (And you have to wonder just what kind of willing tool he is!) He stands there, arms crossed, cigarette in mouth, and tells the doc he's "willing to chance it".

So it begins. Farley shaves Mac's head and then gives him a beaker of serum to drink. The doc has decided to give his subject the powers of a scorpion. "Your body would become more powerful than Spider-Man's," he tells the guinea pig, "but I don't know how it would affect your brain!" "Who cares?" Mac says (while drinking, by the way, which means he missed his calling and could have been a great ventriloquist), "I'm getting $10,000 also for my part in this and I'd do anything for that kind of dough". (Sounds like his brain is affected already!) The experiment continues. Stillwell has Gargan stand on some yellow disc while holding an electrode in each outstretched hand. Electricity glows all around him. Stillwell checks his instruments and is pleased to see that Mac is "reacting perfectly". Already his strength and coordination have increased to super-human levels. Jonah is right there beside Farley urging him on. "Just so long as I'm sure he can beat that blasted Spider-Man!" he says, "That's all I want!"

Now, if you think Dr. Stillwell's knowledge of biology is impressive, just wait until you see what he can do with mechanics. He goes over to a yellow table and whips up a scorpion tail out of spare parts and he even happens to have some kind of green material to cover the thing and give it that realistic super- villain look. In fact, Farley already had the green motif going because he has dressed Gargan in a green pair of underpants. Mac doesn't pay much attention to Stillwell and Jameson. He is too busy hanging onto the electrodes and noticing that he feels "like a living dynamo!" He realizes that he's "become all muscle" and presumes that he "can lick anybody". Just then, Stillwell turns off the electrode machine and declares the experiment over. Jonah is anxious to get Gargan into a costume. "I have the perfect design in mind!" he says, "I want Spider-Man defeated by someone just like him... It will be poetic justice!" (So, wait. It is Jonah's idea to dress Mac up like a giant scorpion? Did he bring along the material for the tail, too? How did he know that Stillwell was going to design one?)

And so, moments later, Mac Gargan is dressed up in a big green costume that covers everything except a small area around his eyes. The tail has been seamlessly attached. (Stillwell tries to tell Jonah that the tail will be automatically activated by Gargan's nerve impulses but JJ tells him to clam up.) Mac swishes his tail around and calls for something to test his strength. The doc has a "granite block" about as big as a mini-bar refrigerator set up on another of his series of yellow tables. Gargan takes a hold of it and pulls it apart with his bare hands. Then his tail lashes out, knocking a chunk out of some unspecified machine and causing Farley and Jonah to scatter. The Scorpion is as surprised as the scientist and the publisher. He still hasn't "fully learned" how to control his tail and Stillwell advises him to "spend some time practicing, learning to coordinate your movements to familiarize yourself with your new powers". Mac feels so good, he doesn't want to waste the time practicing but Jameson reminds him that he is on the payroll and will do as the doctor says. "Report to me when he says you're ready" orders Jonah.

At the airport, Ned's plane is already taking off (even though Betty said he wasn't leaving until "tonight"). Peter and Betty watch it go. Betty tells Pete that Ned will be gone "at least six months". Pete is thrilled by this news ("Hooray!" he thinks.) but he doesn't let Betty know that ("Aw, that's too bad!" he says). On the way back to the city, Pete tries to get into a conversation about Betty dating other men but Betty cuts him right off. ("Let's not talk about anything serious now! I'm just not in the mood!") Peter says good-bye to Betty at the entrance to the Daily Bugle. Then he runs into an alley to change into Spider-Man. He wants to visit Jameson and find out what the snooping business was all about.

Spidey scales the wall of the building. He sees that Jonah's light is on so he climbs right into the window. Much to his surprise, JJJ actually invites him in and offers him a chair. "I just want to talk to you," says Jameson but he is really trying to keep the web-slinger around until the Scorpion shows up. Spidey doesn't fall for it. "If you want me to stay, it probably means you've got some sort of trap laid for me!" he says as he web-slings away. But he doesn't get far. He is in the process of swinging over a city street when the Scorpion appears out of nowhere and lands on his back. They end up on a nearby rooftop and the Scorpion immediately strikes Spider-Man with his tail, driving the wall-crawler back. From his office window, Jonah has "a ringside seat". He pumps his fists with delight as he cheers on his fighter. "Go get 'im, Scorp!" he says, "Smash him! Atta boy!" Hearing this, Spidey realizes that Jameson was setting him up for the Scorpion and is behind the villain somehow. He decides he must flatten his opponent in a hurry before he is clobbered with another swing from that tail. So, he puts all his spider-strength into a big left-handed punch but the blow barely staggers the Scorpion. For Spidey, it is "like hitting a brick wall" and he now knows that the Scorpion is "at least as strong as [he is]". He doesn't have time for too many other thoughts. Suddenly, the Scorpion whacks him in the jaw with a right hand, jabs him in the stomach with the point of his tail, clubs him on the back of the head with the side of his tail, and punches him in the jaw again with that aforementioned right hand. It begins to occur to the wall-crawler that the Scorpion is stronger than him. "I've got no excuse this time!" he thinks, "I'm at the peak of my power but I can't even begin to stop the Scorpion". He must resort to leaping away to get some distance. While balanced upside-down on one hand, Spidey uses the other hand to direct his webbing. He strikes the Scorpion with it and covers him from head to toe. Then, he flips back to his feet and really pours it on. Using both web-shooters, Spider-Man so thoroughly coats the Scorpion that the villain can barely be seen under all the webbing. Up in his window, Jonah is beside himself. He's already spent twenty thousand dollars on this project and it looks like it will be for nothing. But not so fast! The Scorpion uses his "powerful pincers", otherwise known as his fingers, to snip all of the webbing off of him. (Apparently he can do this because he has all of the powers of a scorpion but I sure didn't see Dr. Stillwell doing any kind of pincer transplant. All he did was have Gargan grab hold of some freaking electrodes!) Spidey is so disappointed by this move that he actually thinks, "Rats!" Jonah brightens right up. He has just watched the Scorpion make "mincemeat of Spider-Man's greatest weapon". He is certain that "Spider- Man is through!" The Scorpion makes the next move. He takes all the webbing and flings it at Spidey with his tail. The wall-crawler finds himself entangled in his own webbing, ripe for another powerful punch from the Scorpion. Things aren't looking good for the web-spinner but first...

Back in his lab, Dr. Farley Stillwell continues his tests and learns that the Scorpion will be even more powerful than he expected. However, "the more his strength increases, the more his evil nature will take over". (He learns all this by staring into some big glass bowl full of pink liquid.) Stillwell comes to his senses and realizes that the money isn't worth it. He may have "unleashed one of the worst dangers of all time upon mankind" and he must do what he can to stop it. He grabs a beaker full of serum that "will serve as an antidote" by ridding the Scorpion of his powers... if Farley can get it to Gargan in time.

Back at the rooftop, the Scorpion is hammering away at the entangled web- slinger. The villain lifts Spidey's limp form over his head and throws him across the street at an empty water tower. Spidey smashes right through the tower and lies unconscious in the shattered remains, still tangled up in his own webs.

The Scorpion stands on the roof ledge and raises his fists in triumph. He has just defeated Spider-Man with ease. Wide-eyed, he figures this means that no one can stop him. "The whole city is mine for the taking!" So, the Scorpion starts climbing down the outside of the building to start his takeover of the city. Jonah Jameson yells at him, ordering him to "bring [Spider-Man] to me so I can unmask him" but the Scorpion is through taking orders. "Nobody tells the Scorpion what to do!" he says, as he leaps down to an armored car. He no longer needs Jonah Jameson's money. Using those "pincer-like fingers", the Scorpion rips the roof off of the armored car but the car is empty. That's because the two guards haven't exited Carter's Jewelry Store yet. As soon as they do, the Scorpion leaps down, hits one guard with his fist and the other guard with his tail. He grabs a satchel full of gems and isn't particularly shy about it. "When the reporters get here and ask who did it, be sure you spell my name right!" he says, "It's Scorpion, the one who defeated Spider- Man! Got it?"

Meanwhile, the world of J. Jonah Jameson has taken a turn for the worse. He knows that he is responsible for the creation of the Scorpion and now the Scorpion has become a criminal. He orders Betty Brant to contact Dr. Stillwell but Dr. Stillwell doesn't answer his phone. Puffing on his cigar and pacing his office, Jonah tells Betty to keep trying.

Lost in these new developments is the hero of the book. Spider-Man regains consciousness and pulls the entangling webbing off. Spidey always knew he couldn't win every fight but the Scorpion has made the mistake of thinking that winning the battle also wins the war. All he's really done is made Spider-Man mad. "I'll never rest till I catch him" the wall-crawler vows, "Till I find a way to beat him!" He leaps across the street from the water tower to search for the Scorpion.

In the meantime, someone else finds the Scorpion first. Dr. Farley Stillwell comes across his creation walking the streets of Manhattan (with nobody else around!). Stillwell runs up to Gargan and tells him he must drink the beaker full of serum. If he doesn't, he'll never be able to return to normal and he'll "lose all sense of right and wrong". But it's already too late. The Scorpion doesn't ever want to change back and he already has a new view of right and wrong... "Whatever the Scorpion does is right!" He turns his back on Stillwell and starts to scale a nearby building. But the doctor can't allow him to leave this way. He runs up and tries to stop the Scorpion, only to be brushed aside by the Scorpion's tail.

Still, the scientist doesn't give up. He can't live with the knowledge of being responsible for the Scorpion, so he tries to scale the side of the building right behind his creation. The Scorpion climbs with both hands (balancing the satchel of gems on his tail) but Farley tries to follow while holding the beaker of serum. Even though the Scorpion doesn't want to hurt him ("Beat it, Stillwell! The only reason I'm letting you live is cause I figger I owe it to you for making me unbeatable! Get back to the ground, you fool! You can't follow me!"), the remorseful creator doesn't stand a chance. He makes it all the way up to the third floor and then loses his grip. Even as he falls, he tries to make amends by throwing the bottle of serum at the Scorpion but he misses his mark and the beaker smashes harmlessly against the building to the Scorpion's right. Dr. Farley Stillwell falls to his death with a thud. The Scorpion looks down without remorse. "I warned him!" he thinks, "Well, it's no skin off my nose! I've got things to do!" (Admit it, now. The first time you read this story, you were certain that the Scorpion would be defeated with Stillwell's serum just as the Lizard was defeated with Spidey's serum in ASM #6, November 1963. You've got to hand it to Stan here. He leads us all along that familiar path and then snatches it away when you least expect it.)

Just after Farley's fall, the Amazing Spider-Man web-slings onto the scene. He gets to the Scorpion just as the criminal makes it to the roof and he clubs Scorpey over the head with two fists. The bad guy drops the gems but, otherwise, doesn't miss a beat. He attacks with his tail but the web-slinger leaps up and avoids it. Now, the battle begins again on a new rooftop but this time Spidey is better prepared. As the Scorpion attacks simultaneously with fist and tail, Spidey uses his speed and jumping ability to keep out of the way. As the fight continues, "the Scorpion seems to grow more powerful, more dangerous with each passing second". He has, Stan tells us, "passed the point of no return. Even the antidote serum would not help him now... His body has attained the maximum degree of super power! His brain has been subtly altered until its standards are those of the predatory beast! He has become the embodiment of all that is evil!" And just in case you doubt it, take a look at the top three panels of page 15 with Steve's increasing close-ups of the Scorpion's sneer and deranged eyes. You just can't help but be convinced!

Over at the Bugle, Jonah gets word by phone that Dr. Farley Stillwell is dead, that the Scorpion robbed Carter's Jewelry Store, that the police are "combing the city" for Scorpey and that "people are locking themselves indoors". A dazed, haunted look crosses his face. He knows that he is at fault for the creation of the Scorpion. "Just to satisfy my own personal hatred, I tried to destroy Spider-Man," he says, "And, in so doing, I've unleashed a far worse menace upon the world!" And he bows his head as he despairingly crumples the papers on his desk.

Back at the battle, the Scorpion grabs a hold of Spidey and throws him across the roof. He uses his tail to strike a chimney and send the bricks flying. (That's right! It's the moment from the splash page.) Spider-Man dodges the smaller debris but he can't avoid the whole top half of the chimney, which hits him full force in the chest. The Scorpion closes in and smacks the web-slinger hard in the jaw. This time it is the Scorpion who hurts his hand with a punch. "I feel as though I busted every one of my fingers" he says, "I shoulda remembered how strong his own muscles are!" Once again, Spider-Man is unconscious. Once again, the web-slinger is ripe for the kill. But once again, the Scorpion decides to wait. "I'll polish him off later, when my hand stops hurting" he says, and there is no reason to think he can't finish off the wall-crawler anytime he feels like it. Meanwhile, he has another task to take care of. "Jameson is the only one living who knows my true identity!" he says, "With him out of the way, my secret will be safe forever!" So, again carrying the gem satchel with his tail, the Scorpion climbs down the wall, intending to kill J. Jonah Jameson.

Left behind, Spidey struggles to rise. He is badly battered, his costume is torn at the shoulder and on the mask, but he refuses to give up. The Scorpion will have to kill him to stop him. Still, his strength is slow to return and he doesn't seem to be going anywhere until he hears a scream for help coming from the direction of Jameson's office and "it sounded like... Betty!"

Yeah. It's Betty. And she's screaming because the Scorpion is coming right through the glass of J. Jonah Jameson's office window. Jonah pushes her out of the room, telling her to call the police and to evacuate the building. It all sounds very heroic on JJ's part but he really is just trying to make sure no one is around in case the Scorpion mentions "something that'll connect me to him". Jameson backs up against a wall as the Scorpion approaches. The villain never reaches his quarry. The sound of Betty's scream has reinvigorated the wall-crawler and Spidey comes leaping through JJJ's window to continue the fight. Spidey lands on Jonah's desk. The Scorpion destroys that desk with one sweep of his tail but the wall-crawler has leapt out of the way and landed on the wall. The Scorpion swings his tail again, putting a big hole in that wall, but again he fails to hit Spider-Man. From his one-handed perch on the wall, Spidey shoots webbing into Scorpey's face. While the Scorpion works at removing that, Spidey glues the villain's feet to the floor with his liquid web goop. With the Scorpion's hands occupied with trying to pull the webbing off his face and his feet glued to the floor, his tail is vulnerable to an attack. Spidey leaps down from the wall, grabs the tail in both hands and rips it right off of the Scorpion's back.

Though "tailless", the Scorpion is far from helpless. He reaches one of his "pincer-like hands" out and grabs Spider-Man by the wrist. The Scorpion expects Spidey to try to pull away but the web-slinger surprises him by attacking instead. He uses his free hand to punch the Scorpion right in the gut. It looks like it is time to trade blows again but this time Spidey plays it smart. (Except that he blabs to another opponent about his spider- sense.) "I'll use my spider-sense to easily dodge your blows," he says as he ducks under a left-hand punch. "And then, while you're standing flat-footed, wondering what to do next, I'll join the party!" he adds as he punches Scorp with a "klop!" Suddenly, it doesn't matter if the Scorpion is the stronger of the two. The villain can't land a single blow, while Spider-Man lands all of his. From the corner of his destroyed office, Jameson cheers Spider-Man on, then wonders, "Have I gone mad?? Here I am, cheering for Spider-Man, the one I hate worst in all the world!"

One last two-handed punch lands with a "ptow!" and sends the Scorpion falling backward. (And with his feet still glued to the floor, that fall probably straightens every kink in his back right out!) The Scorpion is unconscious. The fight is finished. Spidey tells Jameson to get the police, and then starts to climb out the window. Jonah marvels over the fact that the wall-crawler defeated someone stronger than him. "It happens all the time!" says Spidey, "Ever hear of David and Goliath?" The webhead departs, leaving Jonah to ponder the irony of it all. "I was saved from a menace whom I myself helped to create, saved by the one he was created to destroy!" he thinks. And you got off easy, too, Jonah! Look at poor Farley! He's pushing up daisies!

Soon after, Peter Parker starts to take off his costume in an alley that just happens to have a mirror up on the wall. (Or is he getting a reflection off a window?) He is shocked to learn that his face is filled with cuts and bruises. He can't let Aunt May or the kids at school see him like this. Not without a decent excuse. So, he crumbles up his clothing and concocts the story that he "got bowled over playing touch football". (Hey Pete! I said, a decent excuse!) And wouldn't you know it? As soon as he walks out of the alley in his newly crumpled clothes, he runs smack into Flash Thompson and the gang. Flash takes one look at Pete and starts cracking up. "What happened, useless?" he asks, "Did some infant in a carriage beat you up for trying to take its lollipop away?" But Pete has had enough. He shows his fists and challenges Flash to a fight. Flash just laughs. "You're not gonna trick me into fighting you while you're all bruised, so that you'll have an excuse for losing!" he says, "When I wallop you I don't want you to have any alibi". Then he walks away, not knowing how lucky he is.

Peter heads home. Aunt May takes one look at him and almost has another coronary. So Pete is forced to use that lame excuse about playing football. May sits him down, puts on her glasses, gets out the iodine and swabs and starts cleaning up the wounds. "If only she were younger," Pete thinks, "If she could stand the shock, I'd reveal my other identity! But I dare not take a chance!" (Patience, Pete! In about forty years, Aunt May will be lots younger and you'll be revealing your secret identity to her then.)

Later, Peter and Betty talk on the phone. Betty tells him "Mr. Jameson saved me from the Scorpion by pushing me out of the room in time". The next day, the Daily Bugle comes out with the headline, "Scorpion Caught! Jameson is hero!" complete with a photo of Jonah's smiling mug. Two men in the street discuss the story. The one with the pipe says that the Scorpion would still be "at large if not for Jonah Jameson's bravery" and the other man replies, "According to the story, Jameson's a real fireball! They mention Spider-Man, too... but it seems he showed up when it was almost over!"

Having once again trod upon his own journalistic ethics, Jonah has no trouble rationalizing his hatred for Spider-Man once again. Now he thinks the fate of the Scorpion proves that "anyone with too much power is liable to turn into a menace sooner or later". His troubled conscience has fled the scene. Jonah is back to vowing to one day exposing and destroying the Amazing Spider-Man.

In his bedroom, Peter Parker stitches up his torn costume. Never having made the connection with the Scorpion, Peter realizes that he "never did find out who that fella was who was tailing me or what his connection with Jameson could be". But right now his "biggest problem is getting this sewn without stabbing my finger to death".

Not much going on in the Spider's Web this month. Even Stan, in the Special Announcements Section, admits that he doesn't have anything special to announce. Except that he does include this telling little sentence: "Poor ol' darling Ditko does about twenty pages of Spidey each month-plus ten pages of Dr. Strange-plus ten pages of the Hulk-and he still finds time to argue with Stan for a few hours each week!" The only Merry Marvel Marching Society memo is that it will cost one dollar to join the club, with Stan adding, "But, for gosh sakes, we don't want your buck unless you can easily afford it... You can join a month later, or a year later! You won't miss anything important! There'll be no secret code messages which only Marvel Marchers can understand, or any other juvenile jazz like that! But for those of you who do join we guarantee a million laughs and a barrel of fun!" The official announcement arrives next month. Meanwhile, in the letters themselves, Imtiaz Alladina from Tanga, Tanganyika writes, "My age is 13. Please find me about 5 to 8 pen friends in America." (Before any of you write to Imtiaz, bear in mind that he is about fifty-one years old now. Still, maybe he'd be interested in hearing from you.) Charles Lichtman from the Bronx, New York thinks, "it would be of interest if Spidey revealed his identity to either Aunt May or Betty Brant". (Boy, have you got a long wait, Charlie!) And Aldo Falchin from Rome, Italy says, "May I congratulate you on your new villain, the Green Goblin. He is one of the best crooks every created. Could you have Spider-Man meet up with the Scarecrow?" (And you, also, have a long wait, Aldo, but by God if Spidey didn't eventually "meet up with the Scarecrow" in Untold Tales of Spider-Man #22, June 1997.)

Feeling unfulfilled by the letters page? Well, there is this nifty "Marvel Masterwork Pin-up" of "Peter Parker and ol' Webhead" on the following page, showing a smiling Peter sitting in his room amidst his books and science equipment on the left and Spidey shooting webs from both wrists on the right. That's got to curb the hunger just a little bit, right?

By the way, the Scorpion returns in ASM #29 (October 1965) which happens to be the same issue that Ned Leeds returns from Europe. Coincidence? You decide!

General Comments


  1. First appearance of the Scorpion.
  2. Yet another lie to Aunt May. ("I knocked over a chair" indeed.)
  3. First time J. Jonah Jameson has someone mutated so they can fight Spider- Man.
  4. Introduction and demise of Dr. Farley Stillwell.
  5. First time J. Jonah Jameson realizes that having someone mutated so they can fight Spider-Man only to have them turn around and go after him may just be a bad idea.
  6. And yet another lie to Aunt May. ("I was playing football and I fell a couple of times.")Shame on you, Peter!

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

"Spidey Battles Scorpey" - First encounter and origin of the Scorpion.

Overall Rating

My apologies to all the Scorpion fans out there but I have never cared for the character all that much. I love the idea of Jameson creating a menace to defeat the perceived menace of Spider-Man and I think the fish on the bird's perch is just about the coolest thing but there really isn't much else in this issue that does much for me. Yeah, the whole "Spidey never gives up" motif is inspiring but it's not all that different from what we saw with Dr. Octopus way back in ASM #3 (July 1963). Liz and Flash barely appear, Aunt May is annoying, Betty is boring, and Ned Leeds leaves the country two issues after his introduction. Still a strong issue compared to a lot of what appears over the years, but a real letdown compared to the issues just preceding it.

Sorry guys. I can't give this any more than two and a half webs.


The Beetle, Dorrie Evans, and the Human Torch! ASM #21 is next.

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