Of all the Spider-Man issues of the Stan and Steve era, this one, I think, is the most dominated by Ditko. From the noir, art deco-like cover which dwarfs all the human figures (including Spider-Man) in favor of searchlights and shadowy buildings to the "periscope" splash page to the non-super villain to the masked henchmen to the raw ungarnished emotions to the ghostly figure of Spider-Man at the end, this issue seems more akin to the moralistic milieu of the Question in Mysterious Suspense #1, October 1968, the emotional starkness of Beware the Creeper (May/June 1968-March/April 1969) and Hawk and Dove (August/September 1968-June/July 1969) and the unabashed Objectivism of Mr. A (1975) than anything Marvel puts out in any other contemporary comic. Stan can hardly be seen in this issue at all. It's not surprising that the Lee/Ditko team only lasts about eight more months.
|Cover Art:||Steve Ditko|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Masterworks #10|
|Reprinted In:||Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus #1|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Tales #169|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Tales #23|
|Part Reprint In:||Pow! #77|
|Reprinted In:||Essential Spider-Man #2|
|Reprinted In:||Spider-Man Pocket Book (UK) #19|
Let's look at that cover for a moment since it is unlike any other cover you will see at the time. The first thing that draws the eye is the spotlight effect, which is not only the sole brightness amongst shadow but is also in the center of the page. Smack in the circle of the left spotlight is Spider-Man adhering to a wall with his hands. Though he is a very small figure, the spotlight draws your attention to him. The right spotlight is shining on a water tower which is toppling over and that is where your attention is drawn next. Once you look at the falling tower, you see the shrapnel from it that draws your eye to the explosion at the base of the tower. Then your eye trails down the spotlights to their source, which is a collection of tiny police cars, fire trucks, roadblocks and people. Only after taking all of that in does your eye find the Cat Burglar off in the shadows of the upper left, right under the "Marvel Pop Art Productions" logo where he apparently set off the explosion. It is an impressive display of Ditko's intelligent design sense but I can't imagine that Stan was too happy about it. It's a bit of a wonder that the artwork ever made it to the cover at all.
The splash page is completely different but just as startling. Ditko narrows his focus to a circle in the center of a purple field with a diameter less than half the length of the page. It looks very much like the view through a periscope as seen in countless Hollywood war pictures. Spider-Man hangs upside down from the top of the circle. His back is to us, as he seems to be facing the Cat Burglar who is running across the circle from left to right. The rest of the circle is filled with disembodied heads of varying sizes. From left to right (more or less) they are Ned Leeds, Aunt May, Betty Brant, J. Jonah Jameson (the biggest head, appropriately), Peter Parker, Liz Allan, and a masked henchman. All the way to the right, Flash Thompson gets more than a headshot, for some reason. We see him from the waist up. Betty and Ned are laughing with each other. Aunt May seems to be in reflection, looking heavenward. JJJ and Liz seem to be eyeing Spider-Man while Peter Parker just looks forlorn. Artie Simek even gets in the act with the title lettering. All of the letters in "Claws" are drawn so that they have claws. The "C" and "T" in "Cat" are furry and the "A" has the eyes, ears and whiskers of a cat.
But now it's time to stop being so pedantic and to get the story started. Remember last issue when I was describing the scene where Betty comes home sick and has a friend look after her and I said, "The friend wears a blue dress and has auburn hair but we never see her face and she never appears again"? Well, it only takes one panel of this issue to prove me dead wrong. This story begins with Betty still traumatized by the Scorpion and still in bed, with Ned Leeds still looking after her and, by God, there's her unnamed friend making another appearance and we actually do see her face but now she is wearing a purple dress instead of that blue one previously mentioned.
Over in the Parker home, Aunt May seems to be fainting all over the place but she doesn't dare let Peter know, since he may try to actually get her some medical attention. Since Peter doesn't know a thing about Aunt May's new hobby, he is thrilled when Anna Watson comes over and invites May out to the movies. This gives him a chance to web-sling through the city as Spider-Man.
So, Spidey hits Manhattan but he can't seem to find anything exciting going on. "The city's as dull as Jonah Jameson's wise-cracks!", he thinks and then he wonders if Betty is feeling better. Unfortunately, the city isn't as dull as all that. Spidey is just too preoccupied to notice! He swings right by a man dressed in army green with purple boots and gloves and a black headpiece that covers everything except his face. He has a multi-pocketed belt around his waist and is using some sort of grapple system to scale the side of a building with a rope. He refers to himself as "the Cat Burglar" and he is relieved to see Spidey swing by without turning around. Had the web-slinger only looked his way, it could have been the end of his criminal career.
Instead, he makes his way to an apartment window. He breaks the lock and enters an empty apartment, using a flashlight to show him the way to the wall safe where he uses just enough charge "to blow the safe without making so much noise that I'll be overheard". Later when the apartment dweller gets home, he finds his safe open and empty. We see from inside the safe (in another framed circle like the periscope view of the splash page) that the victim is J. Jonah Jameson. (It's the first time we've ever seen the old boy at home and, wouldn't you know it, he's been cleaned out!) He peers in and realizes "All my stocks, bonds, important papers, gone!... Someone is going to pay for this!"
Even in the time it takes two plainclothes detectives and one uniformed cop to arrive, Jonah is still steamed. One plainclothesman tells him it looks like the work of the Cat Burglar (The other plainclothesman just stares into the safe as if fascinated by its emptiness.) and JJJ declares, "Well, he picked the wrong victim this time!", adding, "I'm offering a thousand dollars reward for his capture!", which sounds like a pretty decent reward to me even today so imagine how good it sounded forty years ago!
Elsewhere in the city, a truck with "Danger" written in big red letters on its side turns a corner out of an alley and drives along a deserted street. Deserted, of course, except for the truck that is following right behind. That truck has a couple of doors on the roof of the trailer which open up and four guys in identical costumes climb out. They are dressed all in purple with big holsters holding big guns on their hips. Their purple masks has "Spidey-mask" shaped eye lenses and they just have a big oval where their mouths should be, making them look a bit like a purple version of the salt creature in the original Star Trek episode "The Man Trap". (Yeah, just got my complete season one DVD set. You can tell, huh?) They then pull a wooden plank out that seems longer than the truck itself and slide it over so that the gang can walk over and step onto the back of the Danger truck. (There are so many reasons why this shouldn't work that I'm not even going to go into them.) "Only the Cat could have thought of a scheme like this!" says one of the guys, which only emphasizes how little Stan even understands the story he is telling. Apparently Steve never bothered to explain to Stan that these are not the Cat Burglar's men but the men of the Master Planner. We find this out next issue. So does Stan.
Now I'm not sure whether to trust anything Stan tells us in this issue but I should mention that, according to one caption, the truck is carrying a "priceless load of uranium derivatives to the factory of Anthony Stark", a further indication that the Cat Burglar is not involved in this theft. Anyway, the four men climb all over the truck. One climbs onto the roof of the cab, leans over, sticks his gun in the driver's face and tells him to stop the truck. One of the other three hears "a soft whooosh of air behind me" which heralds the arrival of the Amazing Spider-Man who is leaping down from his web seconds later but apparently not soon enough to prevent the replacement of the driver with one of the henchmen. So, what happened here? Did they stop? Did the driver get out? Did they just toss him out as the truck sped along? The only hint we get is one man telling another, "You take the wheel! Step on it, get ready to make a sharp turn when I give the signal!" but no other details arrive.
We do find out that the henchmen are wearing magnetic shoes so that they can stick to the roof of the truck. This keeps two of them from falling off as Spidey gives them each a punch in the snoot. Meanwhile, the man who ordered his pal to take the wheel hangs back watching and thinks, "My plan was perfect. Except that I didn't count on any interference from such an unexpected source" which now seems to imply that he is the brains behind it all. Poor Stan! You can almost feel him desperately trying to figure out Steve's plot and deciding to throw everything at it, hoping something will stick. For an instant, Spidey is off-balance and the signal is given to make the sharp turn. The men with the magnetic boots stay on the truck but Spidey falls off (even though Spidey's sticking power should be better than any old magnetic boots). The web-slinger finds himself sticking to the side of a building as the truck speeds away. He takes to the rooftops, hoping to cut the truck off at the pass but he can't find any sign of them. Still, he seems uncharacteristically upbeat. "I eat my crunchies and brush after every meal", he says, "I'm sure to win out in the end".
Let's pause for a moment and look at the "More Triumphs for Marvel" page that features covers of three currently available issues (back then, of course) and the latest list of 25 Merry Marvel Marchers. From left to right, they are Fantastic Four #44 with the introduction of Gorgon as Lee/Kirby introduce the Inhumans and kick the series into high gear, Daredevil #10 with the introduction of the Cat Man, Ape Man, Frog Man, and Bird Man as Wally Wood does the writer-artist thing just prior to bailing out of Marvel, fed up with Stan and the Marvel Method, and Strange Tales #138 with Nick Fury fighting Hydra and Dr. Strange meeting Eternity as Lee, Kirby, Ditko, and John Severin keep giving you the best that they've got. All are still recommended. Oh, and our twenty-five Marchers are: Louis Smith of Toledo, Ohio. Randy Myers of Bear Lake, Michigan. (Prior to his career as a top big- league closer for the Cubs, Reds, and Padres?) Stanley Swartz of East Berlin, Pennsylvania. Steve Steingard of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Brian Stutphin of West Hartford, Connecticut. David Turitto of New York, New York. Edward Costner of Atlanta, Georgia. Dick Flinchum of Hazard, Kentucky. Bob Price of Jackson, Mississippi. Carol Lackett of Como, Mississippi. Herbert Clark of Syracuse, New York. Roy F. Greene of Norfolk, Virginia. Tony Paciera of Somerville, Massachusetts. Curtis Mohr of Davenport, Iowa. Leslie Krick of Reading, Pennsylvania. Chris Shubata of San Francisco, California. Rick Dobson of Orcutt, California. Mark Lunde of Keremtos, British Columbia. Clark Melio of Fresno, California. Jerry Younkins of Frosses Pt., Michigan (which I'm sure must actually be "Grosse Pointe, Michigan"). Fred Alexander of Indianapolis, Indiana. Mark Scpanski of Waterbury, Connecticut. Robert E. Winiham of Jacksonville, North Carolina. Joe Campbell of Tama, Iowa. And Brian V. Lane of Brooklyn, New York.
As he is perched on the wall of a building, Spidey eavesdrops on a television inside an apartment, which is announcing the thousand-dollar reward offered by Jameson. The wall-crawler likes the sound of the money. He likes the thought of Jonah having to pay the money to his enemy even better so he decides to swing over to JJJ's place to needle him about it. ("Jolting ol' Jonah is fast becoming my favorite indoor sport," he says.) It isn't long before Spidey is hanging upside-down by a web looking into Jameson's apartment. Seeing that JJ is home, he pops into the window and says, "Hi, Chuckles! I just dropped by to tell you to keep your check book handy! I'm gonna bring you that Cat character before you can say, "All the way with JJJ!" (That last part is a take-off on one of Lyndon B. Johnson's slogans in the 1964 Presidential race... "All the way with LBJ!") In the next panel, Spidey is outside on the wall again but still looking into the apartment. "Well, I don't want to hang around too long" he says, "You're so charming that I may grow to like you, in which case I'd have to kill myself!" (I love Lee patter like this.) Jameson shakes a fist at him and orders him to "stay away from the Cat Burglar" declaring, "the reward isn't for you" but it's too late. Spidey takes off and Jonah is left to wonder what it will be like if the web-spinner actually does capture the Cat Burglar. He imagines Spidey swaggering down the street holding a web-entangled Cat in his left hand as crowds cheer. Then he pictures having to write a thousand dollar check to Spider-Man (which shouldn't have worried him since, as we all know, Spidey can't cash those anyway) in front of TV cameras. "He'll be gloating beneath that ugly mask of his!" Jonah says as sweat pours down his forehead, and he visualizes Spidey holding the check with beady eyes showing through his lenses and an evil smile showing through his mask. Then Jonah realizes that he will be a laughing-stock after all the times he's attacked the webster in the Bugle. He covers his eyes with his hands as disembodied laughing mouths swirl around him and a leering, toothy Spidey joins them in the fun. Jonah can no longer stand the thought of it. "I'd rather give the reward to the Cat!" Somehow he must stop the web-slinger from earning that reward. He steps over to his phone and calls Frederick Foswell, though apparently he calls the office since he tells whoever answers, "Find Foswell! Get him to the phone!" except that it looks like Foswell answers the phone at his apartment. Either that or he's gotten awful cavalier about his dual identity since he has the mask he wears as Patch draped over his fist like a sock puppet. Jonah orders Fred to "use all your underworld contacts" in order to find the Cat Burglar before Spidey can. Foswell promises to do what he can and then hits the streets as the stoolie, Patch.
Elsewhere, Spidey decides that the trail for the Cat is cold (not that he ever started looking as far as I can tell) and that he'll pick up on it again tomorrow. After all, "This is Aunt May's apple pie night!" and he doesn't want to miss it.
The next morning, Peter hits the street early. He wants to get to Betty's place before she goes to work so that they "won't be interrupted by Jameson or that charm boy, Ned Leeds". He thanks Aunt May for the apple pie as he heads for the door. ("It was the most!" he says. "The most what?" asks May.) Then he gets so preoccupied that he almost runs into Liz Allan as she comes around a corner. They haven't seen each other since High School graduation (in ASM #28, September 1965). Pete thinks Liz is looking great and he wonders what she is doing with herself. Liz explains that she is "a working girl now" but doesn't want to "bore [Peter] with the details". "You don't have to pretend to be interested," she says. Peter tries to assure her that he's not pretending but Liz changes the subject fast. She tells Pete that Flash Thompson is following her and that she doesn't want him to know where she is working. She asks Pete to stall Flash so she can get away. Peter is happy to help but Flash sees him talking to Liz and he is not at all pleased.
As Liz leaves (and it is the last time we will see her for over 100 issues), Flash marches up and Peter stands in his way. "If you're tryin' to stop me from catchin' up to Liz, I'll paste you one!" says Flash, "In fact, I oughtta do it anyway!" Peter is willing to stall Flash with talk but then he sees a shadowy figure with a gun skulking on a rooftop across the way. He figures it just has to be the Cat Burglar and he doesn't dare let him get away. So, instead of acting the pussycat, Peter gets physical. When Flash lunges at him, Pete pushes right back. Flash still hasn't gotten it through his head that Liz wants no part of him and he announces, "I'm gonna show you what happens to wiseguys who try to make time with my girl!" "Your girl??" replies Pete, "You've as much chance with Liz as I have with Sophia Loren!" (I love dated references like this.) Flash takes a poke at Pete, saying, "Yeah? When I'm thru leanin' on ya, even the Bride of Frankenstein won't give you a second look!" "Well, don't worry about it!" says Peter, "She's not my type anyway!" and then he gets Flash in a grip that makes him yell, "Hey! Let go!" This is all so that Flash will remember that the two of them were standing up and grappling with each other. Then Peter hits Flash with a tiny portion of his spider-strength causing him to be immediately knocked unconscious. Pete sets Flash down on the ground, leaning up against a wooden crate (I'm not sure how they ended up in an alley but that is clearly where they are) and leaps all the way up to the rooftop. He changes into his Spidey duds "almost as quick as a sneeze" and runs after the shadowy figure. He leaps through an open window just in time to web the gun of the man he saw who is now threatening a gray- haired man in a beige suit. (The gunman has the standard Ditko "hood" outfit of slacks, sweatshirt, and cap.) "What happened to your Cat costume?" Spidey asks as he punches the guy out, "Did it shrink when you washed it? I have that same problem!" The gray-haired man explains that the gunman is a former employee of his who he fired this morning when he found him stealing. Now the man has come back for revenge. The employer is grateful that Spider-Man arrived when he did but Spidey is disappointed that the gunman wasn't the Cat Burglar. He leaves in a hurry, changes back to his Peter clothes and leaps back down into the alley where Flash is still unconscious. He picks him up and starts grappling again. When Flash comes to, Peter tells him that "we bumped our noggins together and knocked ourselves out for a minute". Then Pete tells Flash that Liz works at Dillon Department Store. Flash buys both lies and takes off for the store. Peter smiles and smacks himself in the forehead at the thought of Flash discovering that Liz doesn't work there after all. (Which would certainly send Flash after Pete again, though I don't believe we ever see that moment.)
Over at Betty's place, the nameless friend is gone and Betty seems to have gotten over her Scorpion-shock. But, Ned Leeds has just asked her a question and Betty doesn't know quite how to answer. The phone rings and Ned tells Betty to think about it. While she answers the phone, he goes off to work. It turns out to be Peter calling. Betty tells him that she is going to go to work in the afternoon but she'd like to see him as soon as possible. (Wasn't it early in the morning and wasn't Peter coming right over? Now he's calling from who-knows-where and God only knows what time it is.) Pete rushes over and gets to Betty's place in "two shakes". Pete is happy to see Betty looking much better but he immediately senses that she has news that "won't make me jump for joy". Betty comes out with it. (And the news is so important that she has a white aura around her head with black spikes radiating off of it as she speaks and Peter goes green and yellow from the light she is apparently giving off.) "Well, in a nutshell" Betty says, "Ned has asked me to marry him!" "Nutshell, my foot!" replies Pete, "That's a whole peanut factory!" Then he starts thinking fast. There's only one thing to do. He must confess that he is Spider-Man and then propose to her himself. But afraid he will shock her too much if he just blurts it out, Pete takes a roundabout route. "Ned's a good guy, I guess!" he says, "Of course, he's no Spider- Man..." and he gets no farther than that because as soon as Spider-Man is mentioned, Betty jumps in and declares that she wouldn't even consider Ned's proposal if he was anything like Spidey. "I've had enough excitement in my life" she says, "I still remember what happened to my brother!" (Bennett Brant was killed in ASM #11, April 1964 in a battle involving Spider-Man, Blackie Gaxton, and Doctor Octopus.) "I want a man who has a good steady job", Betty continues, "who comes home each night, to his pipe, and his paper and to me!" Peter listens to all of this with a heavy heart but when Betty talks about what attracted her to him ("You were so studious, so sincere!"), Peter blows his stack. Fists clenched, one of those white auras with black spikes coming off his head, Peter heads for the door, yelling, "I get the picture! Ned Leeds is the guy for you...Go ahead and marry him! You probably deserve each other! What difference does it make to me?" Betty gets her spiky aura going good too. She has her arms outstretched, hands open, trying to stop Peter from leaving. But the door is slammed in her face and Betty is left to lean up against it and cry. Because Peter never gave her the chance to explain that she loves him and always has. "What is it that always stands between us?" she wonders. "The one secret he keeps locked within him, the secret he never shares or talks about!" (Well, you see, Betty, then it wouldn't be a secret.) And outside the building, Peter stands still, his head bowed. He doesn't even consider going back. "That tears it for good!" he thinks, "It's over! I've lost her!"
Meanwhile, back "in the office of Jonah Jameson" (which I think is his home office), the Bugle publisher is doing one of his "pacing-and-smoking" things. Every time his phone rings, he's afraid that it will be news that Spider-Man has captured the Cat. Now his phone rings again but it is Foswell (who we can see is in his Patch disguise) reporting that he's uncovered no Cat leads so far. After he hangs up, Jonah again imagines paying the reward to Spidey and gets so panicked that he can't even finish the thought.
It turns out that Patch is hanging out at some sleazy bar having a beer. "If I hang around places like this long enough, I'll get a lead on the Cat sooner or later", he thinks but I think it's just an excuse to have a few. (And how does he drink through that latex mask anyway?)
Peter, meanwhile, has forgotten about the Cat completely. He wanders through the Manhattan crowds trying to figure out how to win Betty back. But he sees no way. If she finds out he's a super-hero, she won't have him but there's no way he can bring himself to give up being Spider-Man. His only avenue is to figure out how to "forget about the girl I love". Then his thoughts are interrupted by loud gunshots. "It's just what I need!" Peter says, "Action work for Spider-Man!" (Do you think the bystander in the green hat overheard what he said?) One panel later, and Spidey is perched up on a wall watching four men running through an alley, each carrying a fat yellow sack presumably filled with money. The wall-crawler swings in behind them. The two men in front turn back, see him, and announce his presence to the two men behind. But the two men behind don't see him when they turn around because Spidey has already zipped past them and crashed into the two men in front. The men behind each try to shoot him, but Spidey leaps up out of the way as the bullets criss- cross. In fact, the men nearly shoot each other instead. Then, Spidey jumps over and punches each man in the jaw at the same time. In seconds, the fight is over. The web-slinger lassos all four men in his web and drags them off to jail.
This quick fight draws a crowd as we see pedestrians running to the scene to check it out. A blue van parked across the street goes unnoticed by the group but it's important because it conceals one of the Master Planner's masked men. It turns out that these guys hired the foursome to rob a bank but Stan is still on a different page than Steve and he still thinks these masked men are working for the Cat. ("I knew the Cat shouldn't have trusted anyone except his own gang... I'll have to report this to him right away!") The masked man tells the driver to "get going" while he uses an oversized radio stashed in the back to contact the Cat. (But let's pretend that he's actually contacting the Master Planner since we're going to be switching to that story next issue anyway.) So, the goon reports in on the failure of the job, as the van drives off, and the boss replies, "Spider-Man is beginning to be a nuisance! It might be necessary for me to take steps to stop him before he becomes too dangerous to my future plans!"
Peter heads home, still downhearted about losing Betty and not finding the Cat. Aunt May is upstairs in bed since she felt so dizzy she "had to lie down" but she still won't tell her nephew she is sick so she sucks it up, gets out of bed and comes to the top of the stairs. Entering, Peter asks her if there's "any of that groovy apple pie left". May tells him it is in the fridge and then tells him that "Betty Brant called quite a few times". Betty wants Pete to call her as soon as he comes in but the poor sap can't bring himself to do it. He stares at the phone from across the room and vows, "It's all over, I might as well let it remain that way!" He has his piece of pie (which, Stan tells us, he hardly tastes because of his sadness) and turns on the TV. The news is reporting that the Cat has not been seen since Jameson offered his reward. "Sure! Just my luck, he's probably retired" thinks Peter.
But the Cat Burglar is watching the same broadcast and he laughs as he smokes a cigarette and drinks a can of beer. "Nobody suspects that an ordinary second- story man like me is also the uncatchable Cat Burglar!" he chortles. (Now that he isn't wearing his hood, we can see that the Cat has bright red hair that would certainly make him stand out in a crowd. No wonder he covers it up.) He looks at a map of the city, trying to think of "one more haul" before he "lay [s] low for a while". The plan is to strike where they'd least expect it "and then settle down and dream up a plan to get rid of Spider-Man". Soon after, having apparently decided on a job (not one for extensive planning, I guess), the Cat climbs into his outfit and goes out to prowl in the night. As he runs along a rooftop, he boasts, "They'll never be able to capture me! If I can out- smart Spider-Man, I can get away from anyone!" (So, since when did he actually "out-smart" Spider-Man? Is he referring to the moment when Spidey swung by and didn't see him? I'm not sure I'd be all that cocky about that if I were the Cat.)
Back at the bar, Patch has actually picked up a tip in between his brewskis. He phones Jonah (who now appears to be at his Bugle office) to tell him that "There's one second-story man who hasn't been seen around here lately and the Cat has most of his trademarks!" Foswell tells Jonah he will try to dig up more evidence. If he does, he will tip off the police. Jonah is delighted to hear this. He rubs his hands with glee at the thought that the cops will nab the Cat before Spidey gets his hands on him.
Back at the Parker home, Aunt May tells Peter she is going to visit Anna Watson. She asks Peter to join her but he turns her down. As soon as May leaves, the phone rings. Again, Peter stares at the intimidating instrument from across the room. He is sure it is Betty calling again and he doesn't dare answer it. Sure enough, it is Betty and she wonders why Peter won't pick up and speak to her. In fact, Peter turns so chicken that he runs out of the house rather than listen to the phone ring! And if you're Peter Parker and you're out on the streets at night, what else should you do but change into your Spidey duds and patrol the city looking for the Cat?
Not far away, the Cat is at work. He has lowered himself on a rope from the roof of some apartment building and adheres to the wall using suction cups attached to his knees while he uses a "handy little collapsible jimmy" to try to pry open a window. One floor up and a few windows down, a blonde-haired guy pokes his head out his window and wants to know what's going on. "Our windows were just washed yesterday!" he says. But as soon as he says it, he realizes that he's not looking at a window washer. He's looking at the Cat!
As the man screams for the police, the Cat hurriedly climbs his rope up to the roof. "Of all the crummy luck!" he thinks, "I hadda pick the one building whose windows were just washed yesterday!" (Which is just what he gets for not planning his capers out.) The cops arrive immediately (and I mean immediately) as do the TV networks. The streets are cordoned off and searchlights are trained on the nearby buildings. TV cameras follow the searchlights hoping to catch a glimpse of the Cat. And Spidey comes swinging in to see what the business with the searchlights is all about.
"Alone in his office" (which looks like his home), Jonah Jameson watches TV. He sees the Cat Burglar caught on a ledge by the searchlights and he puts his hands behind his head and relaxes. The Cat is all but caught and Jonah won't have to give his reward to Spider-Man. But then Spidey himself appears in the picture. Jonah is so shocked that his cigar drops out of his mouth (though it's back in the next panel) and he starts banging on the top of his television with his fists. "Get away from there!" he yells at the televised web- slinger, "Quit butting in! It's not your fight! Go away!"
Spidey alights on the ledge and starts running after the fleeing Cat. "Whither thou goest, I go, pussycat!" he says but he doesn't expect the Cat to turn and shine a bright light in his eyes, temporarily blinding him. The Cat follows that up by swinging his grappling hook. When Spidey dodges it, he is forced to topple off the ledge. The ever-overly confident Cat gloats that "the great Spider-Man" has been "defeated by a simple everyday device which I use in plying my trade" but he doesn't account for the web-spinner's powers. Spidey simply clings to the wall after stepping off the ledge and starts to make his way back up.
It isn't until now that we see that the ledge was actually up on the roof (unless there's been some sort of shift in the Ditkoverse) and the Cat is standing right under a water tower. He attaches an explosive to the tower and sets it off just as the wall-crawler gets his hands over the ledge. Spidey looks up just in time to see the falling tower heading right for him. (All of which is displayed on the cover, as you'll recall.) It takes a dose of spider- speed to leap out of the way and grab onto the wall to the right of the tower. Since the street is condoned off, Spidey doesn't worry about stopping the tower. (Yeah, who cares if a few cops and TV guys get it?) He continues his pursuit of the Cat Burglar.
The Cat has made his way to another roof but Spider-Man is quickly on his tail. He only has one weapon left... his gun. So, he turns and starts shooting at Spider-Man who dodges the shots with ease. ("I knew it!" he says to the Cat, "You're definitely anti-social!") Spidey's plan is to make the Cat use up all his ammunition and then pounce on him. But while the Cat is shooting at Spidey in one direction, the police have shown up on the roof and started shooting at him from the other direction. Spidey decides there is "too much lead flying around up there for comfort". He leaps down to another roof and waits for the gunfight to die down. The Cat knows the cops will soon surround him. He tries one last gambit. He sets an explosive charge at the base of the chimney behind which he is hiding. The plan is to escape under cover of the smoke.
As soon as the charge goes off, the police close in. Four cops wander around the roof, past tall chimneys and short chimneys, around pipes and skylights. The Cat is nowhere to be found. The cops know he didn't run past them but they can't figure out where he is. Spidey, meanwhile, perches on the high wall of an adjacent building. He knows exactly where the Cat has gone and he also knows that the cops will figure it out in moments. "So, here's where I kiss that reward money goodbye!" he thinks. And Spidey's right because, in the very next panel, an officer named Charlie realizes that there's one place that they haven't looked. He stands right next to a low chimney and we can already see that there is some kind of hook stuck in the chimney brick with a rope trailing down into the chimney. Charlie turns and looks at the hook as another policeman joins him. "What's this piece of rope doing here?" Charlie says, "Let's cut it and see what happens!" That's all that need be said. The Cat, hearing that, promises to come right up out of the chimney right into the hands of the police. "Nuts!" he says, "Between you eager beavers and Spider- Man, a fella can't earn a simple dishonest buck any more!" "Don't tell us, fella!" says Charlie, "Where you're going, there'll be a nice sympathetic warden to listen to all your complaints!"
Spidey stays where he is, watching the Cat as he is led away from the police. He hates to see Jonah get off the hook but he takes some pictures of the Cat's capture that he hopes to sell to Jameson "for a tidy sum". Back at his office, Jameson sighs with relief over the Cat's capture by the police (though I doubt the television cameras could have picked any of the rooftop action up). "So, the good guys do win out in the end, after all!" he says.
So, Peter goes home to develop his photos and shows up (the next day, I assume) at the Daily Bugle offices. Betty is happy to see him. She wants to talk. But Peter, still being a putz, says, "Why bother, Betty! There's nothing more for us to say! Leeds proposed to you and he's the kind of guy you want! So let's just leave it at that!" Pete goes into JJJ's office and Jonah gloats that he can afford to be generous in buying the pics since he didn't have to spend the reward money. A downcast Pete tells him to "Pay me whatever you want to... I don't care! Nothing seems to matter much anymore." Then he leaves the offices without turning around. A heartbroken Betty watches him leave. Only the reader can see the ghostly figure of Spider-Man, with arms outstretched, standing between the two former lovers, forcing them apart with his presence.
A turn of the page presents us with an ad for "The 1965 Marvel Annuals" on the left and Peter Parker plugging the Marvel t-shirts on the right. Most of these shirts were re-issued a few years ago but not "Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos" or the Western shirt with Kid Colt, Two Gun Kid, and Rawhide Kid. To which, I wonder, "Why not?" I want them! And I'll bet I'm not the only one.
In the Spider's Web, Richard McCabe of Brooklyn, New York thinks, "The Green Goblin, Frederick Foswell, and Jonah's Robot were pretty silly! Please get off this kick. His fighting the Hulk, the Avengers, Dr. Doom, and his joining with Daredevil all were excellent. To compare the crumb called the Crime-Master or one of those Masters of Menace to these epics is futile" while Carey Bert of Mishawaka, Indiana thinks, "You're beginning to turn Spider-Man into a love mag!... I'm for no more love. I'm for action!" and Edward Fabrega of College Point, New York says, "After revealing the story behind Frederic [sic] Foswell in issue #27, get rid of this mystery jazz." (Just in case you thought all the readers at the time appreciated how great these early Spidey comics are.) Jack Harris of Wilmington, Delaware has "a list of the things I would like Spidey to do in the near future" and #1 on his list is "Punch J.J.J. in the mouth!" (Is this the Jack C. Harris who grew up to become a comic scripter including the Spidey mini-series, "Web of Doom"? I can't remember. In that series, did Spidey punch Jonah in the mouth?) And finally, Vic Miller of Somerdale, New Jersey demands, "Let's have a look at Mary Jane. From all indications she must be a knockout." (Wait till you see John Romita drawing her, Vic!)
In the "Next Issue" box, Stan challenges the readers. "Here's your chance to prove how loyal you are to ol' Spidey" he says, "Without us telling you anything about next ish, let's see if you'll all be sure to buy it!" I think this means Steve didn't tell Stan anything.
Let's count up the swag:
Lately, Spidey has been having trouble sealing the deal with his opponents. The Green Goblin keeps escaping, of course. And the cops keep stepping in to steal the glory. The men in blue nab the Sandman in ASM #19, December 1964 and the Ringmaster in ASM #22, March 1965, then they gun down the Crime-Master in ASM #27, August 1965, before capturing the Cat in this issue. I have heard that Steve Ditko is no fan of the depiction of heroic vigilantism coming out ahead of the law-enforcement authorities and you have to wonder if these outcomes are an attempt on his part to partially rectify that.
Wave good-bye to Liz Allan who doesn't appear until Steve and Stan are long gone. Liz doesn't show up again until Gerry Conway brings her back in ASM #132, May 1974.
Betty goes through some changes while considering Ned's offer but the two of them are finally officially engaged in ASM #43, December 1966, at which point Peter is well past the hurt. They are in no rush to go through with it, but Betty and Ned finally get married in ASM #156, May 1976.
Think the Cat Burglar is never seen again? Wrong! He shows up as the second Prowler in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #47-48 (October-November 1980). Good old Roger Stern. He never forgets any character.
Milestones (Landmark events that take place in this story.)
The 1969 Marvelmania International Spider-Man Portfolio checklist entry for this story. Warts and all:
"The Claws of the Cat" - Spidey fights a clever costumed cat-burgular and his men.
This is one of the great overlooked issues of the early Spidey. I think, like Stan, most people don't know what to make of it. The villain is nothing special, he doesn't put up all that much of a fight, and the police end up catching him anyway! But the Cat Burglar is really just an excuse to plug in some action. Look what else you get in this issue: Aunt May having another faint, J. Jonah Jameson robbed, the introduction of the Master Planner's men, Liz Allan in the working world, Ned Leeds proposes to Betty and Peter allows the specter of Spidey to end his relationship with her. And there's plenty of action, as well, if that is your thing. Besides the tussle with the Cat Burglar, Spidey takes on Flash Thompson, a recently fired employee with a grudge against his old boss, four bank robbers, and the Master Planner's men. Through it all, Ditko's artwork gets more expressionistic, more noirish, more powerful. What's not to like?
Next: The classic trilogy. "If This Be My Destiny," in ASM #31.