Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #49

 Posted: 2009
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)


Spidey's been left for dead in the snow by the Vulture, remember?

Story 'From the Depths of Defeat!'

Pretty straight-forward cover this time, showing Kraven putting a hammerlock on Spidey while the Vulture socks him in the jaw. (But look how big the Vulture's fist is. Accompanied by the "shimmering star" visual effect, this really makes you "feel" the impact of the blow. So, even in a straight-forward cover, Johnny gives you a little bit of oomph.) Only problem is, Kraven is standing on a big branch or trunk of a tree with green leaves. Wasn't it winter last time we looked? Guess we'll have to read the story to find out what's up. Longtime FTB readers know my fondness for minimal cover blurbs. This one has just seven words: "You name it...this one's got it!" Who cares if that's probably not true? I appreciate the brevity!

Now let's pick up right where Amazing Spider-Man #48, May 1967 left off. The splash page shows a beaten Spidey lying in the snow with the heads of Jonah Jameson, Mary Jane, Harry, Gwen, Aunt May, the Vulture and Kraven swirling around him. (A nice effect but why are MJ, Gwen, and Harry smiling?) There's even a note that says, "Also re-introducing: Kraven the Hunter" in case your memory does not go much past the previous issue. Anyway, the temperature is dropping to dangerous levels, but instead of freezing our hero to death, the increasing cold actually revives him. (Not sure I'd want to test that but, well, okay, I'll accept it.) Still dizzy, Spidey slowly gets to his feet and unsteadily climbs down a nearby fire escape. Too weak to web-sling, he walks back to his apartment. He stays in the shadows but is glad that "at this hour, the streets are mostly deserted." (If you think I'm going to complain that it shouldn't be late at night because the last issue left off in the middle of the day, you're wrong. After all, Spidey could have been out for hours. But I never really buy this business of the New York streets being deserted. Have you ever seen a deserted New York street at any time of the day or night?) Spidey climbs in a window of his apartment, relieved to see that Harry isn't home. "Must be on a date," Pete thinks. (So, it's not even all that late, then.) Peter has removed his mask but not the rest of his outfit when Harry walks in. Using the last vestige of his speed, Pete dives into bed and covers up before Harry's eyes can adjust to the darkness. He tells Harry that he is feeling much better from his cold but the little Tinkerbelles hovering over his head indicate otherwise. Harry tells him he'll see him "in the A.M."

Elsewhere, Kraven the Hunter is watching the news on a bamboo-styled TV that looks like something the Professor put together on Gilligan's Island. He is filled with jealousy over the newfound notoriety of the new Vulture, who is "now considered the city's deadliest menace." Seething that "I'm the one who first beat Spider-Man." and "No wing-flapping, flying fool can steal my glory from me!", (smashing a big vase with a swipe from his hand while standing on a tiger-skin rug with a big elephant head mounted on his wall). Kraven then takes his frustrations out on his tiger Rajah. He releases the big cat, grapples with it, wraps his hands around its neck, throws it around, and allows it to slink back to its cage while shaking his fist at it. "Next I shall crush the Vulture", he proclaims, his fists clenched before him. He ventures out, scaling a building by hand. "Wherever the Vulture may fly, Kraven will bring him down," he says, "So, let the hunt begin."

So, now, is it the next day, or what? It must be, since Harry came home in the middle of the night and now May and Anna are showing up for a visit. I don't know why they're doing this since he wasn't even home for their last visit...whenever THAT was...but that's what they're doing and they are sorry to see him still in bed, "with his Spidey suit on, no less!" (Although they don't know that part.)

Okay, hold it. If it is the next day, why didn't Pete change out of his Spidey suit sometime during the night? Did he just pass out after talking to Harry? And if it's not the next day, why are May and Anna visiting in the middle of the night? May is surprised that Pete is still in bed and Pete claims he's about to talk a nap, so it can't be the middle of the night, right? Except when May worries over him, he tells her all he needs is a good night's sleep which implies that he didn't just have one so it seems that May and Anna are visiting in the middle of the night. Just what exactly is going on? What time is it? I've got no answers for you. I'm moving on.

Pete is very nervous that someone will pull off his bedcovers and reveal his duds, but all Aunt May does when she approaches is feel his forehead. She discovers that Pete still has a fever. Over her nephew's protestations, May calls Dr. Bromwell to request a house call. ("You don't want to worry your Auntie," she says. "Auntie?" She calls herself "Auntie?") On the phone to Bromwell, May discovers he is in surgery. She asks that he come over as soon as possible. (The guy is a surgeon and he does house calls! Where can I find a doctor like that?) As all the others finally leave his room, Pete leaps up to remove his Spidey suit. ("I'm sure lucky the Doc is busy," he says, "Now's my chance to peel off my Spidey suit" as if Bromwell will teleport over instantaneously.) He discovers that he is already feeling MUCH better but, even so, he must stay in bed and wait for Dr. Bromwell in order to satisfy Aunt May. He climbs back under the covers, props his head on his fist, and considers it lucky that "the Vulture isn't acting up along about now!"

But out in the city, the Vulture attacks an airborne helicopter by hurling himself at it like a battering ram. And, believe it or not, this technique works! (But first he brags that he's about to commit "the most unusual crime of all time, the world's first air-borne act of piracy!" and I'm not sure either one of those statements are correct. We are talking about the Marvel Universe here, after all. There have been plenty more unusual crimes than this, I'd think and guys like the villainous Black Knight probably engaged in air-borne piracy before this one. Oh, and Vulch calls out, "Ahoy the ship! Stop your engines!" to the crew before he attacks. I love this. "Ahoy the ship!" Priceless. But not as priceless as ordering, "Stop your engines!" to a helicopter. Yeah, they'll do that right away.) Anyway, there is a passenger aboard carrying an attache case filled with uncut diamonds and the Vulture demands the case or else. Fearing that another ramming will send the helicopter into a deadly dive, the pilot throws the case out to the villain. The Vulture soars off, gloating, "A man with wings can do anything!" (The Vulture says this or variations on this so many times, you can't wait for him to be beaten just so he'll shut up.) Kraven arrives on the scene just as the Vulture flies off. He has missed his prey but he has gotten a good look at him. He's also gotten the scent.

At the Bugle, Fred Foswell tells JJJ that they need good photos of the Vulture. Jonah tells Betty Brant to "get that creep Parker on the phone". (My, Jonah was so harsh back then, wasn't he?) Betty's call is answered by Harry who tells her that Pete can't come to the phone. He doesn't care who wants him. "Jameson doesn't cut any ice with me," he says. May, clueless as ever, overhears and says, "Oh, is it that sweet Jonah Jameson?...He's just the dearest soul." The doorbell rings. It is Gwen and Mary Jane, ready to cheer Peter up. Pete doesn't leave his room but Harry is plenty cheered up. "I feel like I won a raffle!" he says. MJ puts a record on the hi-fi ("Here's a beat that'll blast him out of bed like gangbusters," she says.) but Harry nixes that. Pete needs absolute quiet and NO visitors. So, MJ and Gwen leave, escorted by Harry while a perfectly healthy Peter Parker must stay in bed, waiting for the Doctor.

And back in the sky, the Vulture soars. (He doesn't have the case full of diamonds with him anymore and I get this feeling that it's never recovered. Could be a story in that, huh?) Suddenly, his foot is snagged by a rope thrown by Kraven the Hunter, who is standing on a snowy rooftop. Kraven yanks the Vulture down to his level but Blackie pops Kraven in the jaw and slips the rope. The Vulture brags that his wings make him "the master of anyone" and this thrills Kraven. "You really believe it!" he says, "Then I have truly found the opponent I seek!" The Vulture starts to fly away but Kraven leaps onto a chimney and propels himself at Blackie's feet. He hangs onto one ankle (the left one, for all you detail-lovers) and the Vulture takes to the skies. The Vulture thinks he has the upper hand but Kraven has the whole battle planned. He shifts his weight just so...and the two of them topple down through the building's skylight.

Back in his room, Pete listens to a transistor radio. ("And it comes in a leatherette case with holes in it so you can listen right through the case," as Allan Sherman put it in his "Twelve Gifts of Christmas.") There is a news bulletin that Kraven and the Vulture have crashed into the Explorers' Exposition at Exhibition Hall. Pete sneaks a peek into the living room and sees that May and Anna are both dozing. Now he can slip out. He has completely recovered from his illness. "I don't know whether it's my own stamina or Aunt May's chicken broth," he says, But, whatever it is, I'm rarin' to go now!"

Quickly, Spidey reaches Exhibition Hall. Kraven has chosen the location because the Explorers' Exposition is decked out to resemble a jungle. (And this explains the big leafy branch on the cover.) He's even managed to cover the skylight with a net so the Vulture cannot escape. (Just when he did this, in the middle of his fight, is anybody's guess.) Spidey sets up his camera, parts the net, and joins the party by sitting in a web-sling, clapping, and declaring, "Great fight, fellas! I'm sure glad I got me a ringside seat!" The Vulture is outraged that Spidey would dare show his face but Kraven's wrath is reserved for Blackie. "You fraud!" he says as he leaps at him, "You claimed to have finished him! Just as I will finish you!"

The Vulture wonders if it is a different man in the Spidey costume but Kraven's jungle senses assure him that it is the real deal. "You are in luck, my wing-flapping friend," Kraven says as he shoves Vulchy away. He has decided he must defeat the stronger foe of the two and that stronger foe is your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, who takes advantage of the moment to leap down and clobber both of them with simultaneous punches. The Vulture, who was struck in the shoulder, is stunned but Kraven springs back immediately and attacks. Spidey flips Kraven aside with his feet but hears the Vulture's wings coming up behind. Blackie makes the mistake of bragging one too many times about how great his wings are, giving Spidey (who is perched on the same branch Kraven was on before) the idea to grab him by the wings and toss him to the ground. The Webslinger tells the Vulture that he was sick when they fought last. "Even Doris Day could'a knocked me for a loop that time!", he says. (Everybody remember Doris? "Que Sera Sera?" Movies with Rock Hudson? Had her own TV show? Ring any bells?) As the Vulture tumbles, Spidey senses Kraven sneaking up from behind but still can't move fast enough to stop him. Kraven gets him in his "unbreakable python grip!" (Not the unbreakable python grip!) which gives the recovering Vulture a chance to sock Spidey in the jaw. This doesn't please Kraven, who announces, "Stay back! He belongs to Kraven!" (Yeah, he uses that third person stuff when referring to himself.) "It's real flattering to be fought over this way, gents," says Spidey, "but...neither of you are my type." He then uses judo to break Kraven's grip. (Well, Spidey calls it judo but it looks like he just shoves an elbow into Kraven's gut to me.) He follows this up with a punch that knocks Kraven off the branch. The Vulture proposes a partnership to take out the web-spinner but Kraven won't hear of it. Instead he uses his double-barreled paralyzer ray from Amazing Spider-Man #47, April 1967 but Spidey leaps out of the way and the ray hits the Vulture, putting him out of the fight for good.

Spider-Man rushes Kraven ("And now, you predatory packrat!" he says. Does this mean that Kraven is a collector?) and rips the paralyzer ray out of his costume. Even so, Kraven kicks him away. It is time for "the ultimate confrontation, the ultimate reckoning" and the jungle villain is confident that his is the greater strength. But Spidey "whumps" him "with the kinda whump that once staggered the Hulk!" Kraven's eyes go wide with shock for a moment...then he topples over with a "thump!"...out cold.

Spidey webs the two villains to the floor, takes a photo for Jolly Jonah, then hurries back to bed before the Doctor arrives; which he does 3 minutes and 22 seconds later. (Hey! That's what Stan said! In other words, it's a close call.) Bromwell pronounces Pete completely healthy, May tells Bromwell that Peter is very fragile, Bromwell tells May "he's the picture of robust health," May almost believes that Bromwell actually means it then calls him a "pussywillow" after Bromwell has left. Peter tells May the expression is "pussycat" but May says she likes her way better. Anna Watson says, "The more May says it, the more it sounds right to me." Peter offers to take May and Anna to a "way-out Western at the Bijou". "That would be nice, Peter!", May says, "You've been cooped up so long, you can use a little excitement." Awww. You gotta love the cute ending.

Next: Spider-Man No More! Oooh. I don't like the sound of that.

It's time for the Bullpen Bulletins page: "Dazzling Data, Dizzy Dispatches, and Dangerous Declarations of Rather Dubious Distinction!" The lead-off item announces, "As though we don't have enough mags to publish now, all you madcap MMMS'ers have already received the first great issue of out newest and our most exclusive publication – The Merry Marvel Messenger." And I have to admit that I have never seen one of these. Do they really exist? If I can get my hands on one, I promise to review it.

Remember last ish when Stan eliminated the Mighty Marvel Checklist. This time he says, "It seems that we had merely tossed away one of [everyone's] favorite features!" I coulda told you that, Stan!

Ah, but the big news on the Bulletin page is the introduction of Stan's Soapbox. Here is the inaugural offering in its entirety: "Hang loose, heroes! Now that I've got your ear, I'm not lettin' go. Our first tintinnabulating topic is gonna be "The Marvel Philosophy." Whenever I get together with any of you frantic ones, the first question posed is usually, "What are you fellas really trying to DO in your mags? What message are you pushin'? Is the whole Marvel series just a big put-on or are you trying to TELL us something? Are you actually serious about your characters - do you really believe in 'em -? Etc." Well, just between us, we believe in our cavortin' characters a lot more than we believe in some people we know, and we do have a motive - a purpose - behind our mags! That purpose is, plain and simple – to entertain you! We think we've found the best formula of all – we merely create the type of fanciful yarns that we ourselves enjoy – and, if we like 'em, you oughtta like 'em too: after all, you're our kinda people! Now then, in the process of providing off-beat, entertainment, if we can also do our bit to advance the cause of intellectualism, humanitarianism, and mutual understanding... and to toss a little swingin' satire at you in the process...that won't break our collective heart one tiny bit! That's it, pussycat! Thanks for listenin'!" Words to live by, Stan. Words to live by.

There are 26 M.M.M.S. members to get to, so let's get started: Stan Kenah of Bethany, West Virginia; Harry L. Finlaw of Cincinnati, Ohio; Dennis Collins of Dallas, Texas; Randy Harris of Wichita Falls, Texas; Greg Lyman of Stamford, Connecticut; Natalie Fernandez of Wahiawa, Hawaii; David G. Gibson of Gardenia, California; Bill Keller of Tonawanda, New York; Wallace Falson of Dendron, Virginia; Robert Klep of Formosa, Ontario; Bruce Lux of Bement, Illinois; Jeffrey Levine of Bronx, New York; Craig Millspaugh of Wichita, Kansas; Dick Higgins of Boston, Massachusetts; Socarro Contreras of Visalia, California; James D. Morrison of Gunter AFB, Alabama; Mark Mease of Centerville, Iowa; Neil Neches of Brooklyn, New York; John Cox of Kitchener, Ontario; Larry Harris of Wichita, Kansas; Hugh J. McTighe of New York, New York; Burton Kensmore of Sudbury, Ontario; Paul L. Chadwick of Omaha, Nebraska (you don't suppose this is the creator of Concrete, do you? Could be. Could very well be.); Richard Menello of Brooklyn, New York; Howard Litwak of Allentown, Pennsylvania; and Terry Hughes of Windsor, Missouri. Is that it? Is that all you got? I'm not even tired! Bring 'em on! Bring 'em on!

And finally...The Spider's Web.

Chris Barth of Ambler, Pennsylvania is not pleased that Peter Parker got his own pad. "Beating villains like the Shocker will take second place to messing around with the gang. Soon the mag can be retitled as the 'Many Loves of Peter Parker.' Peter's private life will take up all the mag, and once every year, Spidey might be mentioned. In other words, get Peter back to the apron strings of that old nag, Aunt May." Chris has no idea how long those apron strings will be. In fact, Stan (who answers this letter by saying, "We thought every Spidey-phile from Albany to Asgard would be overjoyed that Web-Head finally has his own pad") has Peter back living with Aunt May in the Spider-Man newspaper strip even as I write this.

Lee A. Ruff of Newark, New Jersey likes the idea of Spidey aging only a few days for every month or so of issues but he's a little unclear on the concept: "If each ish spans only a few days in the life of your characters, it also spans only a few days in the life of the world. So if Spidey still looks 20 years old, say, 5 years from now, to be consistent, the cars, events, etc. within each story will have to be taken from 1966 even though, by then, it'll be 1971!" he writes. Stan's answer is spot on and is really all you need, rather than this craziness we now have where we pretend Peter was born in the 1990s. Stan says, "The only answer we can come up with is that we'll have to take some artistic liberties – even though Pete will age only a few days each month, the world around him will age at its normal rate in relation to our own time." What more do you need?

Finally, Peter Zanas of Brooklyn, New York, thinks he found a glitch in the scene from Amazing Spider-Man #46, March 1967 in which Peter fakes out Patch by putting his Spidey costume on a web-dummy. He writes, "When Peter swung it off, Patch was sure there was no connection between Spidey and Parker. The mistake was that Pete didn't put a sling on the fake Spidey. How come I noticed it and Patch didn't??" I didn't notice it either but I think the reason is that there were so many other things wrong with that scene that it was hard to notice them all. (Check my ASM #46 entry for my problems with it.) Actually, though, this may be one of the few items in the scene that doesn't bother me. The problem isn't that Patch would notice that Spidey doesn't have a sling but that Patch doesn't even bother to look until the web-dummy swings off. Since he hasn't really looked before, he may not even know that Spidey is wearing a sling. But he does know that Peter is wearing a sling. Maybe seeing both Pete and Spidey with slings would reveal the truth no matter how many web-dummies Peter dresses in his costume. So... maybe not putting the sling on the Spidey-dummy was the smartest thing Peter could do! Take that, Peter Zanas!

Last Call:

Blackie Drago returns in Amazing Spider-Man #63, August 1968, where he is thrashed by the original Vulture and gives up the wings for good. In his three issues, Blackie was zapped by Kraven and whipped by Vulchy but never actually defeated by Spidey. The original Kangaroo is another Spidey-issues villain who was never actually beaten by Spider-Man either in Amazing Spider-Man #81, February 1970 or Amazing Spider-Man #126, November 1973 (though he did get fried in an atomic inferno.) Oh, and the Persuader over in Spectacular Spider-Man #143, October 1988 is another (killed by the Punisher). Can anyone think of any others?

After a chunk of appearances in the first 50 issues, Kraven takes a bit of a break, not returning again until he faces Ka-Zar in Astonishing Tales #1, 1970 in which he gets to be drawn by Jack Kirby! Kraven doesn't surface in the wall-crawler's mag again until Amazing Spider-Man #103, December 1971, four and a half years after this one.

General Comments

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

  1. Kraven's seventh appearance.
  2. Blackie Drago's second appearance.
  3. Gazillionth time Vulture brags that "a man with wings can do anything!"
  4. Also the gazillionth time Aunt May calls someone a "pussywillow" (enough, Stan, enough!)
  5. Vulture's diamond theft never mentioned again.
  6. Vulture becomes the eighth villain featured in the series to be defeated by someone other than Spider-Man: after the Chameleon in Amazing Spider-Man #1, March 1963, the Big Man in Amazing Spider-Man #10, March 1964, the Sandman in Amazing Spider-Man #19, December 1964, Princess Python in Amazing Spider-Man #22, March 1965, (all caught by the cops), Crime-Master in Amazing Spider-Man #27, August 1965 (shot and killed by the cops), Xandu in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2, 1965 (zapped by Doctor Strange), and Professor Stromm in Amazing Spider-Man #37, June 1966 (shot at and killed...or so we Norman Osborn). Did I forget anyone?
  7. First Stan's Soapbox!

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

"From the depths of Defeat" - Spidey makes a comeback against the new vulture and Kraven.

Overall Rating

Hmmm. Well. So, that's it, huh? The cold actually rejuvenates Spidey instead of killing him. Kraven watches the Vulture on his Gilligan's Island TV, then beats up his tiger. Spidey either keeps his costume on all night when he could easily get rid of it or Aunt May is visiting at 3 AM. The Vulture thinks robbing a helicopter is "the most unusual crime of all time." His stolen diamonds get stashed away and never seen again. And Spidey doesn't even get to defeat the Vulture! On the other hand, JR's artwork is clear, crisp, and dynamic. The six page fight scene is thrilling and you've got to love the way Kraven's eyes go wide with shock before he collapses from a "whump that once staggered the Hulk." And I enjoy Peter's dilemma of being stuck in the bedroom pretending he's still sick rather than going out with Gwen and MJ (swept away by that sneak Harry!) or facing Kraven and the Vulture. I also like the set-up of the three issues. First, Kraven is the villain, then he's apparently forgotten while the new Vulture takes center stage but it winds up with the two together, with one even defeating the other. Only Stan was constructing story arcs like this back in the mid-60s and you've got to hand it to him. Still, it's not a completely satisfying payoff. I'm going to sit right on the fence with this one and give it three webs.


Next: With no pesky reprints or cameo appearances to get in our way, it's on to the fabulous fiftieth issue! (ASM #50)

 Posted: 2009
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)