Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #39

 Posted: 2005
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)


It's 1966, you're Stan Lee and you've just lost the co-creator, plotter and illustrator of Spider-Man. What do you do? Well, since you had a feeling this might happen, you've already prepared John Romita Sr. for the job, even giving him a "screen test" as it were with two issues of Daredevil which guest-starred the web-slinger. And this does give you the perfect opportunity to resolve the identity of the Green Goblin the way you, and not Steve Ditko wanted to resolve it. So, it'd probably be a good idea to do that as soon as you possibly can since Ditko may change his mind and come back and if he does and you haven't done your version of the Goblin and Steve ends up doing his... well... you've only got yourself to blame. So, right, first order of business... revealing the Goblin's identity. But still, there's that problem that Ditko is Spider-Man, isn't he? I mean, no one can compare with him, can they? Can you even keep the series going without him? Will the fans take one look at the next issue's cover, see it's not Ditko, and drop it like it just caught on fire? Maybe the cover is the place to start, with an image so provocative that the fans will grab it off the newsstand no matter who the artist happens to be. Something like, oh, an unmasked Spider-Man being towed away by the Green Goblin? Yeah, yeah, that's it. A stark Romita cover with the Green Goblin roping Peter Parker whose Spider-Man costume is apparent through his torn clothes. And underneath, the copy "Another Marvel First: Spidey and the Green Goblin... Both Unmasked!" It's just the thing. It can't miss. And it doesn't.

Story 'How Green Was My Goblin!'

In my excitement, I sort of already described the cover so let's open the comic and see what's on page one. First thing that hits the eye is that title. "How Green Was My Goblin!" A riff on Richard Llewellyn's book "How Green Was My Valley" made into a film in 1941 by John Ford, starring Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O'Hara and Roddy McDowell. So, Stan starts us off with one of his cheesy riffs that seems to belie the seriousness as portrayed on the cover. Is this story going to be funny or serious? The Goblin on the splash page (heading to the right and turning back so that he looks at the reader just as he does on the cover, by the way), looks a little cartoonish too. John Romita says, in Comic Creators on Spider-Man that "for the first six months, I was doing what I felt was an exact duplicate of Ditko" but somehow JR's Goblin looks much less menacing than Steve's Goblin when he last appeared in ASM #27, August 1965. This is not such a bad thing. Remember Stan's text on the cover of ASM #14, July 1964? "Does the Green Goblin look cute to you? Does he make you want to smile? Well, forget it! He's the most sinister, most dangerous foe Spidey's ever fought!" There's something to be said for that moment when the funny-looking Goblin mask comes off to reveal the serious, sweaty, disturbed face underneath. A scene that makes the reader think, "we thought this was a game and it's not". But I'm getting way a head of myself.

Anyway, since the Goblin is a big bad super-villain, he has no qualms about littering; tossing the latest Daily Bugle away from him disdainfully as he flies on his Goblin Glider. The paper has a front-page picture of Spider-Man (it's a head shot like it was sent over by his agent) with the headline, "Spider-Man's identity still a mystery". "By now, that web-crawling weasel must have forgotten all about the Green Goblin," says the Green Goblin speaking of himself in the third person. "Therefore this is the perfect time for me to strike and to get the revenge that my soul is hungering for." This is exactly what the Goblin planned last time we saw him in ASM #27, you may recall, when on page 20 panel 5 of that issue he declared, "But, I'll lay low for a while! I'll wait till he's convinced that I've given up my crime career, till he's virtually forgotten about me! And then, when he least expects it, I'll strike!" So he's consistent, I'll give him that.

The Goblin speeds back to his hideout, working himself "into a veritable frenzy as he recollects his previous battles with Spider-Man". He removes his mask (but we don't see his face, of course), looks into the mirror or something and puts the mask back on. Deciding that "merely destroying him, simply crushing him like a worm" is not enough, Gobby comes up with "the most humiliating blow of all". He plans to learn Spidey's secret identity "and reveal it to all the world!" So, he gets his gear in shape. He loads his bag of tricks with jack o'lantern stun bombs; he tinkers with his glider ("I've modified my rocket- powered flying broomstick so that it's faster and more maneuverable than ever" he says, oblivious to the fact that he hasn't used a "broomstick" since ASM #14.) He ruminates over the way he's been careless and overconfident in the past, costing him victory, then says "but now, the outcome is a foregone conclusion! He hasn't a chance!" not being overconfident this time at all. Then he rides off on his glider, exhaust trailing behind, shaking a fist, crowing about how "the Green Goblin (speaking of himself in the third person again) will have scored the greatest triumph of all!"

Elsewhere in the city, Spidey is web-slinging along, carrying his briefcase strapped to his back, but he is not at his best. He feels like he's catching "a real heavy head cold". Either that or his allergies are kicking up. Since he's in the neighborhood, he decides to stop by Doc Bromwell's office and get a fast check-up. (Back in the days when you could get a fast check-up.) The Doc was last seen in ASM #31, December 1965 and you almost wonder if Stan threw him in here just so he'd have another suspect for the Green Goblin's identity. (Matter of fact, making Doc Bromwell the Goblin would have been a great idea.) Spidey clings to the wall of Bromwell's building and finds a window that leads to a broom closet, of all things. He gets inside that broom closet and changes from his Spidey suit to his Peter Parker duds; concealing his costume in his briefcase so the Doctor can examine him without discovering his secret. As he exits the broom closet (marked "Maintenance" on the door) he encounters a janitor, dressed like a doorman, who tells him no one is allowed in there. "Broom closet?" says Pete, "I thought id was a waiting room!" (He's not making some esoteric "Wizard of Id" reference. His stuffed up nose is affecting his pronunciation.) Milking the gag for all it's worth, Pete adds, "I should have known I was in the wrong place though! There weren't any of last year's magazines on the table!" The janitor pushes his hat back and scratches his head. He was outside the room the whole time. How did this smack-aleck teenager get in there? Peter sympathizes with the janitor's confusion but he doesn't linger over it very long. "He'll have to chalk it up as one of life's little mysteries!" he thinks as he enters Dr. Bromwell's office. Somewhere he comes up with a handkerchief and dabs his nose as he talks to the nurse. (It looks like Peter is carrying a rose in his right arm along with his briefcase but I think that rose is actually intended to be on the nurse's desk.) She asks him if he has an appointment and he doesn't but "I hab this bad code id my node" he says. The nurse, in her first appearance, tells him that the doctor is available (that's how you know this is a comic book) and that he can go right in.

Inside the examining room, Peter doesn't have to say more than a few words before Dr. Bromwell knows what the problem is. ("That invisible clothespin you seem to be wearing on your nose is a dead giveaway" says the witty Bromwell.) He tells Pete to roll up his sleeve and pulls out the sphygmomanometer to take his blood pressure. The doc declares that Pete has "the pulse of a super-hero" which prompts Pete to say, "You're puttin' me on, doc!"

Now, Doc Bromwell apparently has the cure to the common cold because after he diagnoses Peter he tells him that "some anti-histamine pills and a B-12 shot will have you good as new again". But then things gets serious as you can tell by Peter's wide eyes, clenched teeth and black lines emanating from off of his right cheek when he hears the news. Bromwell tells him that Aunt May is an old woman who has been weakened by her last operation back in ASM #33, February 1966, though it was really more of a transfusion using the ISO-36 serum than it was an operation. The Doctor gives Pete a friendly warning that Aunt May "must have no sudden shocks, no excitement" and that "any additional setback might very well prove fatal". The Doc puts a reassuring hand on Peter's shoulder and tells him "luckily you both lead quiet peaceful lives... I know you'll do all you can to keep her calm and unworried". Now that sounds like a distinct plot point to me but Pete doesn't know that so he just heads out of the doctor's office with his head down, determined that Aunt May must never learn his secret identity. The nurse watches him exit and thinks, "It must be wonderful to be his age, no troubles, no responsibilities, none of the worries of older folk."

Peter is still moping as he pushes the button to summon the elevator. And he must be moping so continuously that he seems to be on the exact same train of thought in the next panel when he is walking on the ESU campus. He passes by Gwen Stacy, Flash Thompson and some guy in a brown sweater and green pants. (This is our first view of John Romita's Gwen and even though he is trying to stay close to the Ditko version of the character, her new looks just jump right out at you.) Gwen reminds Flash that they've all decided to be nice to Pete so Flash raises his hand in greeting and says, "Hi Pete! How's it goin'? Seen anything of Harry Osborn?" Peter is so caught up in his worries about Aunt May that he doesn't even notice the greeting. He walks right past which prompts the brown sweater guy to remark, "Let's face it! He's the original cold shoulder kid! If he wants to be a loner, let 'im!" Gwen can't understand it. "Sometimes he's as friendly as a puppy!" she says. Flash isn't surprised by Peter's actions. "I knew it was a mistake!" he says, "That guy's like nowhere!"

Only a few yards away from the gang, a blue convertible pulls up. Norman Osborn is dropping his son Harry off at school. Harry is dressed in his Jimmy Olsen outfit and he thanks his dad for the lift. When he doesn't get much of a reaction, he wonders if something is wrong since "you hardly said a word all the way from the house to here". "Did you want me to give you a lift or deliver a speech on the way?" snaps Norman. As he drives off, Norman adds, "It costs me a fortune to keep you in college so try thinking about your studies once in a while." While Harry broods about what he may have done wrong to displease his father, Flash spots him and announces, "All bets are off about Puny Parker! He's as hopeless as ever!" But now it is Harry who is so wrapped up in his thoughts that he walks right by his friends. Gwen is so surprised that she gets the black spikes flying off her head. Flash notes, "I dunno what Parker's got but we better put 'im in quarantine! It's turnin' into an epidemic!"

In Professor Warren's class (we can see the Prof in the background), Peter notices that Harry is so quiet he hasn't even bothered to toss any insults his way so he asks Harry if he's not feeling well. Harry replies that he's "okay". He starts to get after Pete for intruding on his business but stops halfway through and says, "I didn't mean to snap at you". "Wow!" thinks Pete, "Something must be really bugging him! He's almost acting human!" With his chin resting on his left fist, Harry explains that he used to be "real pals" with his father till a few years ago when Norman "started to change". Harry figures it all has to do with "having tough sledding in business" but he wonders why his father has to take it out on him. Pete puts his hand on Harry's back and tells him it could be worse. "For instance, take me" he says, "I don't remember ever even havi'g a father!" Harry is surprised to learn that Peter is an orphan. Gwen looks over from her lab table and is pleased to see Peter and Harry getting along. "If Peter Parker becomes one of our crowd" she thinks, "it'll be just wonderful for me!" Flash also notices Peter talking to Harry even though Harry has treated him horribly and decides that Pete is "either a real weak sister or a lot more man than we ever thought he was". Pete finishes up the conversation by telling Harry to keep his chin up. "Things have a way of getti'g better when you least expect it!" he says.

Classes come to an end for the day. (Or as Stan puts it, "But just to prove you're not really reading "Tom Brown's School Days", classes finally break and action time is approaching fast." Now, let's see. I've got an old copy of "Tom Brown's School Days" around here somewhere... Ah, here it is! Written by Thomas Hughes, author of "Tom Brown at Oxford" according to my copy. Check out the dedication: "To Mrs. Arnold of Fox Howe, this book is (without her permission) dedicated by the Author who owes more than he can ever acknowledge or forget to her and hers." Wonder what that was all about? But, uh, I've gotten a little far a field from Spider-Man so let's get back to the action.) Peter still can't shake his cold so he decides that a "little web- swinging" may do the trick. Off he goes, swinging over the city. "I'm feeling better already," he decides, only to spot a robbery in progress up on the viewing platform of a high rise. It is so obviously "in Spidey-swinging territory" that the web-spinner can't help but see it. ("Might as well do it in Macy's window!" he thinks.) Hoping to "sell some pix to Jolly Jonah", Spidey swings on in. But the five goons who have their guns trained on five people (two men in business suits, a woman with her child, and an elevator man) aren't actually doing much in the way of robbery at all. They are there specifically to tackle the wall-crawler. When Spidey arrives they all try to jump him. The web-head doesn't have much trouble socking and kicking them but he does notice that "they didn't seem surprised to see me! Almost as though they expected me to attack them!" but wonders if he's just imagining it. "Don't rush, fellas! I promise not to ignore a single one ob you!" says Spidey as he clobbers one thug with a right uppercut. "It's been quite a while since I just had a nice, simple cops 'n robbers type of fight with a bunch of average, ordinary, everyday thugs! It makes you realize there's nothi'g as satisfyi'g as the simple life", he says as puts a headlock on one goon with his right arm while punching out another one with his left. "Who's been givi'g you your boxing lessons lately, Woody Allen?" he says while head-locking one guy, punching a second guy, and kicking a third guy. (I love when Stan does the Woody Allen jokes. They're always so wonderfully corny. And with Woody's career still going on, they're as easy to comprehend today as forty years ago.) But after that, three of the hoods grab the web-slinger; one has his right leg, one has him around the torso and the third has him around the neck and head. That third guy, we learn is "Boinard"... which is "Bernard" said by a thug with a Brooklyn accent... but he and his pals don't have Spidey for long. He neatly knocks all three hoods away, but secretly he is hurting. "Ohh, my head!" he thinks, "If only I had another allergy pill!"

Now, JR's camera angle swivels so that we can see the bystanders and it looks like there are actually at least eight of them. (The one on the far left looks a little like the Toad or Quasimodo.) As they watch, they quibble over whether the web-slinger is a good guy or not. No consensus is reached. Meanwhile, Spidey is still tangling with the hoods who keep getting up and fighting back. A goon in a tan suit punches Spidey right in the back of the head. This adds to the web-spinner's sense that these men have "been practicing for just this moment, as though they've been trained to hold their own against someone like me!" Trying to mop things up, Spidey grabs tan-suit by the label of his jacket as he punches another one so hard he bounces off the high fence protecting the viewing platform with a "Btap!" A hood in a brown suit crouches behind one of those big binoculars that you have to put a coin in to use (do they still have those?) and fires off a gunshot at our hero. "Firearms! Good heavens, man! Aren't you aware their possession is against the law!" says Spidey as he leaps and avoids the shot. He then webs the goon to the binocular stand, quipping, "But worst of all, I've a feeli'g you looked id those glasses without payi'g your dime!" Noticing three of the hoods rushing him, Spidey shoots out another web strand and trips them.

The fight continues. The woman with the kid tries to cover his eyes with her hand. "Don't look at them, Selwyn," she says, "You're too young for such an awful sight!" Selwyn tries to see anyway, protesting, "Aww, ma, that fight's tame next to the kiddie shows on TV!" Then a man in a blue suit (who doesn't get a name but is probably glad he isn't named "Selwyn") notices that Spidey has lured the hoods away from the elevator. All of the bystanders climb into the car to escape, but Selwyn wants to stay. "It's just startin' to get good!" he says. His mother drags him into the elevator anyway. "What would Soupy Sales say if he heard you?!" she says.

With the bystanders safe, Spidey cuts loose. He fires two weblines onto an overhead railing, takes to the air, and kicks two hoods that are rushing him. Leaving the webbing and doing a somersault, Spidey notices that the crooks don't even seem concerned that their victims have escaped. "There's something not kosher about all this!" he thinks but he doesn't get much farther than that because he remembers something else; Dr. Bromwell's warning that Aunt May cannot stand any sudden shocks. "And here I am taking all kinds of fool chances when now more than ever I don't dare risk getting injured" he thinks, even as "Boinard" sneaks up behind him with a blackjack. All this does is trigger the webhead's spider-sense and Spidey takes him out with an elbow to the chin. As Spidey continues grabbing and punching, one of the slugged thugs announces that they can't outfight him and "we've gotta use the gimmick!" The thug in the brown suit (who, it turns out is named Blackie but who is probably not Blackie Drago of ASM #48, May 1967 fame) pulls out a red ball with smoke pouring out of it. (Where did he keep this thing, anyway? Shouldn't there have been smoke pouring out of his clothing?) He rears back to throw even as his pal in the gray suit seems to lose track of whose hand the gimmick is in. "I'll give 'im the gimmick!" says the one who is not holding it. Regardless of who throws it, the gimmick smacks right into Spidey's chest and smoke sprays out all around him. "Take a nice, deep breath," says one of the hoods, "Make believe like it's poifume!"

High above the skyscraper, the Green Goblin flies perched on his glider, watching the battle through a telescope. He is pleased to see that everything is going according to plan. He staged the "trumped-up robbery" to draw in Spider-Man and trained the men to throw the gimmick, which is a gas bomb that will "weaken all [Spidey's] senses including his most potent weapon, his spider sense!" (I have frequently lectured Spider-Man about not revealing the existence of his spider-sense. The question is whether he has ever blabbed about it to the Green Goblin. In other words, should the Goblin know about the spider-sense? Let's take a look. Yup, there it is. In ASM #14, July 1964, the very first appearance of the Goblin, page 8, panel 3: Spidey is fighting the Goblin and the Enforcers in the desert, thinking he's just making a movie. But then the Ox hits him hard and he wonders aloud "Why are my spider senses tingling this way??" Granted the Goblin is flying high overhead but he could have heard this comment. And if Spidey blabbed it here, he probably blabbed it in some other Goblin appearance.)

When the gimmick doesn't appear to affect Spider-Man, the goons start singing like canaries. "Hey! The Goblin told us that gas would polish 'im off! But it didn't!" says "Boinard". (At least, I think it's Boinard but it looks like he changed his shirt in mid-battle.) "That green goon tricked us! He had somethin' else up his sleeve!" says another. In spite of the fact that two guys start blabbing about the Goblin, Spidey doesn't appear to hear them. The hoods try to take it on the lam but the web-slinger pounces on them and finally takes them out. "I don't know who id is you're worki'g for" he says as he punches the last guy, "but I hope he can ged along without you for a while!" (Psst! Spidey! "Goblin". "Green Goon". Get it?) He wonders what kind of gas was in the gimmick. "Far as I can tell," he thinks, "it didn't affect me at all!" With the hoods all crouched down on the floor and holding their heads, Spidey pulls out his camera and snaps a shot. But he doesn't do it surreptitiously. He actually tells the hoods to "hold those poses now, boy! Id might help if you'd smile and say cheese!" (Now when the picture gets published in the Daily Bugle and Peter Parker's name is on the byline, just what are these hoods going to deduce? That's right, and they don't need any fancy gas that dulls the spider-sense to do it, either.)

At this moment, three police officers arrive in the elevator, guns drawn. They tell the web-slinger to wait but he ignores them and swings away. He is still wondering who "hired those bozos and why they were so prepared for me" ("Goblin", Spidey. "Green Goon", Spidey.) as he stops to pick up a websack full of his clothing that he left stuck to the side of a building, just under the ledge. He makes his way down to an alley where he opens the sack, pulls out his clothes, and removes his mask. He isn't worried about anyone watching him because he knows that his spider-sense would warn him. At least it would if the gas hadn't weakened it. Instead, the Green Goblin watches from up above as Spidey removes his gloves and puts his shoes and socks on before putting on his pants. I'm sure this would shock the Goblin if he weren't more surprised that his archenemy is "just a kid" who "can't be more than nineteen or twenty". Now that he's seen the face, the Goblin needs to tag along to find out the web- slinger's identity.

Peter, meanwhile, is preoccupied with concerns about Aunt May. As he puts his white shirt on, he thinks he hears "a rustling above me like some big bird flying by" but since his spider-sense doesn't warn him, he doesn't even bother to look up. Instead he decides, as he puts on his yellow vest, that he must be imagining things. Too bad, too, because the Goblin is flying right behind him, in plain sight.

Peter exits the alley and realizes that his cold has gotten better already. (Which isn't surprising since it was just a gimmick used to introduce the whole "Aunt May can't see who I really am" shtick, which becomes important at the end of this issue.) But after that he starts thinking again of his spider- sense. He is surprised that he keeps thinking about it, as if part of his brain is trying to tell him something. He can't imagine that it is anything he has to worry about now since, to all eyes, "I'd just be an ordinary college kid, probably returning home from a late date". But he still doesn't turn around to see the form of the Goblin hovering above and behind him. (A great JR Sr. panel which just has to give you the creeps.) Peter feels jittery without knowing why and starts to remember the last time he felt this way. It was when he was fighting Professor Stromm and his robots (in ASM #37, June 1966) and his spider-sense warned him that someone was pointing a gun at Stromm from a strange little paneless window high up on the wall. Spidey pushed Stromm out of the way and raced up the wall but by the time he got to the window, the gunman was gone. (By the way, the dialogue used in this three panel flashback is exactly the same as what we saw in ASM #37 except that Spidey thought the lines, "It doesn't make sense! It only took me two seconds to get up here! How could he have vanished so soon?" in the original and speaks them aloud in the flashback.)

This brings us to my favorite transition in the whole issue. In the last flashback panel, Spidey leans out of the window that is perched high on a big gray wall as he says, "How could he have vanished so soon?" In the adjacent panel, Peter Parker walks along while the shadow of the Green Goblin on his glider is cast on a big gray wall pretty much in the same line of sight as the window in the previous panel. At no time does Stan have to spell out that it was the Goblin who was at that window, escaping quickly on his glider. The transition tells it all, beautifully. (Oh course, if you remembered ASM #37 when you were reading this issue... and why wouldn't you, since it was only two issues before... this moment pretty much gives away who the Goblin is, since we saw Norman Osborn with the gun in his hand on page twenty of that previous issue.)

Since Peter doesn't see the shadow he just continues to wonder whether his spider-sense was on the blink, whether someone was actually at the window and, if so, how he escaped so quickly. Then he arrives at the Daily Bugle. The Goblin is surprised to see his young adversary enter the Bugle rather than going home but he isn't too concerned about it. "I can afford to wait," he thinks. And besides it helps to jack up the suspense for the reader.

As Peter enters the Bugle offices, he spots Ned Leeds on the phone. Not interested in spending "the next hour arguing with him about Betty", Peter tries to slip by but Ned hangs up the phone just then and sees him. Ned tells Pete that he has just been trying "to get some info on Betty's whereabouts but no luck yet"; then he proceeds to apologize for snapping at Pete "the other day" (in ASM #38, July 1966) explaining that he was "upset about Betty's disappearance". Peter is surprised by this and thinks, "First Harry Osborn and now him! Next Jameson himself will probably blow me a kiss!" And it likely isn't a coincidence that these two adversaries start chumming up to Peter the very issue after Steve Ditko leaves. Steve always wanted Peter to remain the disaffected loner. Stan always wanted... well, as Peter gets a motorcycle, gets friendly with Flash, and ends up with two beautiful women who want to get cozy, we'll see what Stan always wanted for him.

Peter tells Ned that he hopes he finds Betty "and when you do, you don't have to worry about me! As of now, Peter Parker is out of the race! You're on your own!" Ned tells Pete that he never understood what "came between you and Betty Brant... but I appreciate you letting me know where you stand". Peter walks away with his hands in his pockets. He's not sure what made him say what he did but he's just as glad he did it. (I think what made him do it was Stan still feverishly changing the Spidey landscape in his first issue without Ditko. You just got to figure that Stan was chomping at the bit to do all of these things the whole time Steve was doing the plotting.) "Now I can put Betty out of my mind... forget her forever!" he thinks. His thoughts are interrupted by a bark from JJJ who tells him to produce photos to sell or get lost. But it just so happens that Peter does have photos and it just so happens that they are the pix he took on the observation tower and it just so happens that he already has them developed which either means he did it in the time he walked from the building's entrance to the Bugle offices or that the Green Goblin has been waiting outside for a pretty long time now. Jonah is definitely interested in the shots but he tries to put off paying Peter until next week. "Fine! I'll keep the pictures till then!" says Pete. Jonah calls his bluff, telling him he can "have your crummy photos". Peter calls his bluff, saying "Thanks! The Globe pays more than you do, anyhow!" Jonah pretends that the Globe wouldn't be interested in Pete's photos "but just because I like you too much to let them turn you down, I'll take those shots off your hands!" Then he writes a quick check and tells Pete to get out. But he can't resist further grousing. "You call yourself a photographer?" he says, "Horse thief is more like it! You robbed me!! Everybody robs me... because I'm so easy going!" As usual, though, JJJ "only paid half what the pictures are worth" but Peter doesn't care. His face lights up in a smile as he thinks about how pleased Aunt May will be to get the money. (And, besides, he can't go to the Globe to get more money since Picture Editor Barney Bushkin is much too nosy, as we saw in ASM #27, August 1965.)

So, as it begins to grow dark, Peter leaves the Daily Bugle. Above him, the Goblin hovers, carrying a shotgun microphone with which he eavesdropped on Peter's Bugle conversations. "I heard him call himself Peter Parker," he thinks, "So now I know his name!" (And, sure enough, on the previous page, as mentioned in the previous paragraph Pete tells Ned, "As of now, Peter Parker is out of the race!") Back on the street, Peter gets back that feeling of danger. As he arrives at his Forest Hills home, he decides that he probably only needs a good night's sleep but he still can't shake that sensation of being watched. Just before Peter steps up on the front porch a "raucous, cackling voice" comes from out of the sky. It is the Goblin, finally making his move. "No need to go inside, Parker," he says, "I'll just have to go after you and drag you out again!" Then the Goblin announces that Peter's "web- slinging masquerade is finally finished and so are you: Spider-Man!"

The Goblin lowers his glider so that he hovers just a few feet off the ground. Peter faces him in a crouch, preparing for an attack. But inside he is reeling. The Goblin knows his identity. Somehow he has to defeat him. He can't let him escape with that knowledge. Then, wide-eyed (and blue-eyed at this point in the series), he remembers that it's more serious than that. If Aunt May gets any sudden shocks, it could be fatal. "What if she learns about this?" he thinks. Desperately, Peter decides to ensnare the Goblin in his webbing. He reaches his arms out and presses his finger on his palm... to no avail, since he isn't in his costume and isn't wearing his web-shooters. The Goblin enjoys every minute of this. He taunts Peter, asking him, "Are you beginning to realize how hopeless your pitiful plight is?" Pete knows he hasn't time to switch to his spider-suit. He also knows that Aunt May could come to the window at any time and see the fight. All of this worry slows down Pete's reflexes, allowing the Goblin to launch his attack. He begins by flying around Peter with the exhaust of his glider emitting a smokescreen that chokes our hero. "The great Spider-Man: nothing more than a callow youth, a pathetic stripling" says the Goblin, "It is almost an insult to my own great powers for me to battle one as out-classed as you are! But, how you shall now pay to make up for the many times you've escaped me in the past!"

Inside the house, Aunt May sits in an armchair and knits. She doesn't know if it's her imagination but she thinks she hears "the strangest sounds" outside. She goes to the window to check but all she sees is "some sort of dense fog". This surprises her since "it was a clear Spring night just a few minutes ago" but she doesn't worry too long about it. Instead she worries about Peter who is still out on "such a dark fog-shrouded evening".

The "fog", of course, is actually the exhaust from the Goblin Glider. Peter decides he must "get above the smoke and thereby clear my lungs" so he uses his spider-powers to stand upside-down on the underside of a tree branch. (And his sticking powers work right through his shoes, which is pretty impressive.) His shirt has gotten half-unbuttoned revealing his Spidey uniform underneath. He knows he should "hurl [himself] headlong into a full-fledged attack" but he is afraid that Aunt May will see. So, he continues to react defensively, leaping out of the way of a potent Goblin fingertip blast. As he sprawls on the ground after the leap, the Goblin follows up with a jet-propelled Bat missile. (Which he keep next to his Batarang and his Bat anti-shark repellant. No, no, just kidding.) I'm not sure what the danger with the bat missile is but Peter is pretty certain that he must avoid it so he uses his great speed to twist out of the way just in time. With the Goblin gliding close by, he takes his chance and leaps, arms outstretched, at his foe. But the Goblin blinds him with some sparks from his fingertip and then tosses a miniature ghost at him from his bag of tricks. The ghost turns out to be an asphyxiation grenade. In case you'd forgotten (I sure had), the Goblin reminds us that he used one of these grenades on the Human Torch (back in ASM #17, October 1964, page 17 panels 6-8). And it does the trick. Reeling backward from the sparks, Peter takes a full dose from the ghost and is temporarily stunned. Working quickly, the Goblin takes a coil of steel alloy (which he produced from nowhere) and wraps it around and around Peter's torso, pinning his arms to his sides. By the time Peter is recovered he discovers himself bound and pulled through the air. (Which is our cover but seen from a different angle.) He doesn't know where the Goblin is taking him but he's grateful that it will be away from Aunt May.

Moments later, the Goblin arrives at the waterfront and takes Peter into his hideout. There ("exactly forty seconds later", according to Stan) he swiftly gets Peter tied to a big iron chair. (I don't know how he managed to do this with Peter now fully awake and ready for battle... and in forty seconds yet!... but that Goblin is a resourceful guy.) Peter works on the steel alloy, trying to break it, as the Goblin goes over to a Chemistry set-up and starts playing with beakers. Playing for time and using reverse psychology, Peter tells the Goblin that he "might as well finish me off right now because if you delay, I'll end up beating you as I did in the past". This gets the Goblin sputtering about how he was never beaten and won't be rushed into his final triumph now. Then he points a gloved finger at Peter and tells him he's got "one final surprise in store for you". Pete is happy for the ranting since it gives him time to work on his bonds. But he soon loses interest in that because the Goblin, announcing "Since you'll never live to betray me to another soul, it's only fitting that you learn the identity of the one who has beaten you", starts to remove his mask. "And so at long last, the Green Goblin will introduce himself" he says as he completes the move. "Take a look, Parker. A good, long look. It's the last face Spider-Man will ever see. It's the real face of the Green Goblin. The face of Norman Osborn!" And Peter is shocked to realize that he knows this sweating wild-eyed man. "Those features!!" he says, "That name! Of course, you're related to my own classmate! You're Harry Osborn's father!"

I'm not sure if I can fully convey the disappointment of this revelation when read by all of us back when this issue first came out. Norman Osborn? Who? That guy who only first appeared two issues ago? The guy who seemed so obvious that it just couldn't be him? I mean, we'd been following the story of the Goblin for over two years, guessing, arguing, trying to figure out who he could be. Some though he had to be J. Jonah Jameson, some thought Ned Leeds, some thought Frederick Foswell until he turned out to be Patch in ASM #27, August 1965, and some thought he was nobody we knew just like Ditko did it with the Crime-Master. He could have even been Doc Bromwell, or Professor Warren, or Mister Warren or Principal Davis or even Merriweather, that guy at JJJ's club who showed up in ASM #23, April 1965. But Osborn? The guy who just recently showed up (so it seemed to us) and was played as an obvious suspect right from the start? Don't ever let anyone tell you that the resolution of the Goblin mystery was a high point for the Amazing Spider-Man series. It wasn't. As far as we were concerned, it simply sucked.

In his interview in Comics Creators on Spider-Man, John Romita says, "I didn't know there was any doubt about Osborn being the Goblin. I didn't know that Ditko had just been setting Osborn up as a straw dog. I just accepted the fact that it was going to be Norman Osborn when we plotted it. I had been following the last couple of issues and didn't think there was really much mystery about it. Looking back, I doubt the Goblin's identity would have been revealed in Amazing #39 if Ditko had stayed on." And that's just the problem. JR is right. It probably wouldn't have been revealed and it wasn't much of a mystery. After all this time, the Goblin mystery ends with a thud. (And Stan doesn't make it any better by adding, "Next Issue: Spidey Saves the Day!" at the conclusion. Yeah, we pretty much know he will but stating it like that seems to take some of the edge off the wait, doesn't it?)

Believe it or not... in spite of all the years and the movie and everything else, the Goblin's I.D. is reversible anytime Marvel cares to do it. Hell, the Hobgoblin's I.D. was changed; the Goblin's could be too. But there really wouldn't be any point in doing it unless Steve Ditko came out with his original idea and Steve isn't talking. Too bad. I'm quite sick of where Norman Osborn has been taken in the series. I would love to dispense with him and find out who the Green Goblin really is.

There's not much worth reporting from the Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page ("Items of Lasting Insignificance from the Four Corners of Marveldom!") this time. There is an ironic little blurb that reveals that inker Frankie Ray is really Frank Giacoia, then finishes up touting inker Mickey Demeo who, it doesn't tell you, is actually Mike Esposito. And there's a reminder that the Marvel Mini-books are "still on sale in vending machines from coast to coast". (We'll get to the Spidey one in a couple of months.) But the best item is the announcement that Peter Asher "of the famous British singing team of Peter and Gordon" dropped in on the Bullpen. (You remember Peter and Gordon, right? With their big hit, "A World Without Love"? Or was that Chad and Jeremy? And wasn't it Peter's sister Jane Asher who was once romantically linked to Paul McCartney?) Anyway, Stan writes that "Pete's as nice a guy as you'll even wanna meet and his Beatle-cut head of flaming red hair is just the coolest! Believe it or not, he's opening a bookstore in jolly ol' London and wants to sell our Marvel masterpieces - as well as the works of Shakespeare, Sartre, Salinger, and other equally well-known literary lights! Naturally, we were pleased and flattered and gave our permish. By the way, Pete told us that the Beatles themselves, who are friends of his, are also Merry Marvelites - which came as no surprise to us. After all, isn't EVERYBODY?"

The 26 M.M.M.S. members this issue are Carey Frank of Union, New Jersey; Douglas Karlson of Highland, Indiana; Allen Jay of San Francisco, California; Nick Keller of Seattle, Washington; Paul Brandyberry (love that last name) of Scarboro, Maine; Anthony Casolari of Rochester, New York; Mitchell Goldstein of Merrick, New York; Mike Brislawn of Spokane, Washington; Thomas Breaux of Bunkle, Louisiana; John Johnson of San Mateo, California; Nancy Joseph of Hubbard Lake, Michigan; Jesse Kearney of St. Louis, Missouri; William Kostruko of Stratford, Connecticut; Louise Gumbridge of Sciotville, Ohio (two women on the list!); Gary Cotrell of Lake Bluff, Illinois; Rick Carlson of Southgate, Michigan; Sam Brice of Gainesville, Georgia; Ricky Jones of Camp Le Jeune, North Carolina; Stephen Hall of Greensboro, North Carolina; Michael Guiney of Brooklyn, New York; Erica Bressler of Huntington Woods, Michigan (a third woman!); Carl Bressler of Huntington Woods, Michigan (Erica's brother? Husband?); Dan Bain of Wichita, Kansas; Louis Barrios of Mendoto, California; Elin Bernardini of Bronx, New York (is this a fourth woman?); and Joel Cheak of Louisville, Kentucky.

The following page still flogs the Spider-Man pin-up for $1.99, the super-hero stationary kit for $1.00, the super-hero t-shirt for $1.60 and the "Here Comes the Incredible Hulk" sweatshirt for $3.15 but there is a new item. "The ever- lovin' blue-eyed Benjamin J. Grimm in all his natural beauty": a sweatshirt with the Thing on it, arms raised, and calling out "It's Clobbering Time!" "And wait'll you see what's on the back!!!" says the ad copy. (For those who don't want to wait, allow me to tell you that the back shows the Thing from behind with "It's Clobbering Time" written backward in the dialogue balloon. On his blue trunks, it says, "If you can read this, you're too darn close." There are two sizes: Monstrous (Youth) and Gargantuan (Adult). I have this suspicion that both sizes would be too small for me, in spite of what Stan's calling them.

It's "The Spider's Web" time: Mrs. Melanie Skinner of Delta Junction, Alaska writes, "For almost a month now I've been meaning to write to Marvel Comics; and after reading an issue of The Amazing Spider-Man for almost the dozenth time, I am finally at it. I am a housewife and mother, so am probably not considered one of the comic set. I usually prefer a good hard-bound novel, but occasionally will fudge and read a good science fiction story. Since a child, I have never liked the popular run of comic heroes which get more ridiculous yearly. Some neighborhood children left a large stack of the usual nonsense in my living room and as I gathered them up for the incinerator, a dingy, well- worn, but intact issue of Spider-Man fell to the floor. It was the title that first caught my eye, so I picked it up to see what other oddball hero had invaded the comics and was very much surprised to see such wit and humor in this type of comic. Sadly, Spidey is not available locally at the base PX or in Fairbanks. The newsstands are either sold out by the time we get there or they just look at you like you're crazy when the title is mentioned. But we are going to subscribe." Well, I think it's great that Mrs. S. got turned on to Spidey but it sounds like some of those poor neighborhood kids had their comics thrown into the incinerator! Meanwhile, let's hope that what prompted Mrs. S. to get a subscription wasn't the plots put together by Steve Ditko.

Anne Kong of Point Fortin, Trinidad, is definitely NOT a fan of Steve Ditko. "I take special interest in the art because I hope to be an artist." she writes. "I do think the girls in Spider-Man are downright homely." Stan assures her that, with "Ol' Ring-A-Ding Romita" on the artwork, this will no longer be the case.

Mike McBride of Raymond, Mississippi writes a letter that is such a wonderful example of the sixties that I have to reproduce it in its entirety. "I should like to disagree with a fan whose letter appeared in Spider-Man #35" he writes, referring to Art Raveson's letter quoted in our Lookback for that issue, "I do not want Spider-Man to 'go through college, being the first intellectual left- wing super-hero, helping to stop wars...' On the other hand, I do not want Spidey to go through college, become the first intellectual right-wing hero, starting riots, supporting W.A.S.P. and the Ku Klux Klan, singing '2, 4, 6, 8, we don't wanna integrate', and occasionally commenting on works in the John Birch Society journals. What I want, and I think most other fans want, is for Spidey to go through college, become an intellectual American, fighting in wars when necessary, fighting Communism, supporting American causes, singing 'America', 'The Star-Spangled Benner' and Roger Miller hits, and occasionally commenting on the works of Shakespeare, Stan Lee, and the Smothers Brothers. I agree that he should develop into a super-hero with a mind and personality of his own!" Fair enough, I suppose but, "singing... Roger Miller hits"? Shouldn't that be "Roger Miller hit"?

Stan blabs some more in the yellow "Next Ish" box about how great the conclusion to the Goblin story will be but he's already blown it with that "Spidey Saves the Day" blurb, so let's blow right past that, past Ben Rebhuhn promising to give you "Spaceman Strength and Endurance", past the "3 Complete Fishing Outfits" for $12.95 and past Norman Rockwell looking for people who like to draw and call it a wrap.

The Green Goblin, J. Jonah Jameson, Aunt May, Dr. Bromwell, Ned Leeds, and Harry Osborn all return, in some form or another, next issue. Plus there'll be nifty flashbacks to Mendel Stromm, the Human Torch, the Enforcers, the Crime- Master, and Lucky Lobo's gang. And don't forget the return of Anna Watson and... Betty Brant! But, meanwhile, what became of that paycheck Peter got from J. Jonah Jameson? Did it just get trashed in the battle with the Goblin?

General Comments

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

  1. First appearance of Dr. Bromwell's nurse.
  2. First heart-to-heart between Peter and Harry.
  3. First (and last?) appearances of "Boinard", Selwyn, and Blackie.
  4. Ned Leeds gets chummy.
  5. Stan eliminates the Peter/Betty relationship.
  6. And a little matter of the Green Goblin discovering Spidey's identity.
  7. And, oh yes, the Goblin's identity revealed as Norman Osborn.

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

John Romita - Mickey Demeo/Lee/Simek
"How Green was my Goblin" - Peter learns Aunt May can't survive sudden shocks. Spidey is captured and unmasked by the Green Goblin. - Green Goblin reveals id as Norman Osbern."

His id is Norman Osbern but his name is Norman Osborn.

Overall Rating

Oh, I hate to do this. The Green Goblin is my favorite Spidey villain and I've always just assumed that every one of his original appearances was an automatic five webs. But going through this issue has reminded me of my feelings at the time and I simply can't overlook them. Granted, I'm a huge Ditko fan but I think John Romita does such an admirable job replacing him that I can't complain. (And Anne Kong is right. Ditko's women are rather homely. JR changes that in a hurry.) And Stan pulls out all the stops bringing us the most suspenseful Spidey story since the Master Planner trilogy. The whole idea of the Goblin discovering Spidey's identity is just the sort of shock this series needed to compensate for the loss of the Plotter/Artist. But making Norman Osborn the Green Goblin after two years of guessing is too much of a letdown to let pass. Just imagine that last panel with J. Jonah Jameson under the mask or Ned Leeds or even Dr. Bromwell and think about how much more power that would have. As it is, Norman Osborn as the Goblin has to rob the story of one full web. As I said, I hate to do this to a story considered one of the classics but there you have it. Four webs.


Ready for the big finish? Not so fast! Marvel Tales #4 is next.

 Posted: 2005
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)