Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #2

 Posted: Aug 2019
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)


I originally wrote and posted this review back in 1996. I think it’s time for a tune-up, don’t you?

The original Green Goblin only appeared as Spider-Man's main adversary in 13 issues total. These 13 can be divided up into 4 major story arcs. The first dealt with the mystery of the Goblin and climaxed in Amazing Spider-Man #39, August 1966 and Amazing Spider-Man #40, September 1966. The third appearance was the famous "Comics-Codeless" drug issues in ASM #96, May 1971, ASM #97, June 1971 and ASM #98, July 1971. The fourth appearance was the death of Gwen Stacy in ASM #121, June 1973 and ASM #122, July 1973. And the second appearance was....err... well, this one. The Spectacular Spider-Man #2. Not the Spectacular Spider-Man comic book but something a little bit different.

Back in 1968, when only one Spider-Man comic came out each month (hard as that is to believe) and no comic book shops existed, Marvel decided to branch out to the magazine racks with a new quarterly publication. Dubbed "The Spectacular Spider-Man," it was a magazine-sized, square-bound book selling for the, at the time, exorbitant price of 35 cents. (Ten cents more than the Annuals!) The first issue was 62 pages of story in black and white (Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #1 (Story 1) and Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #1 (Story 2)). The second issue, this issue, was 58 pages of story in color. The third issue...well, the third issue never came out.

So, let's look at the magazine's swan song. Appearing at the time of Amazing Spider-Man #66, November 1968 and sporting a wonderful John Romita painted cover (and interior art), here is the Green Goblin's first appearance since losing the memory of his identity in Amazing #40.

And, by the way, Mark Waid, in Avengers: No Road Home #4, May 2019 calls this issue "the most suspenseful Silver Age Marvel story of all." Let's see if we agree.

Story Details

Before we get to the story, let’s look at that wonderful Romita painted cover again. What’s the first thing that catches your eye? Well, maybe it’s that “Now in Full Color!” blurb in blue on a white background. If your eyes go there, then they slide down to the “Spectacular Spider-Man” logo. Then they slide over to the Green Goblin whose head is on the same level as the logo. His mouth is open in a triumphant laugh. As your eyes slide down the Goblin, you follow his right arm with its pointing finger that is shooting a mass of glowing sparkles at Spider-Man who is recoiling. The Goblin is clearly in the superior position here. As your eyes lead down to Spidey, it notices the smoke trail from the Goblin’s glider and if you follow that around the bottom of the page, it leads to the cityscape, which is glowing with its own light and is tilted to the left. So, the view of the battle is skewed, which increases the sense of disequilibrium of the situation. Great stuff. (But where is the issue number? It isn’t on the cover at all.)

You’ll recall that Spectacular Spider-Man #1 had three ads: the latest Mothers of Invention album on the inside front cover, Kawasaki motorcycles on the inside back cover, and Jade East Golden Lime aftershave on the back cover. The Kawasaki and Jade East ads are in their places once again but not the Mothers album, probably because the album was no longer new. So, instead, there is a greytone recap of Spidey’s origin called “The Spider-Man Saga.” It features 7 illustrations. One shows Peter as a “shy and studious High School senior” being taunted by Flash Thompson, Liz Allan and…Harry Osborn (whom Peter didn’t meet until college). The others show Uncle Ben with Aunt May, Peter’s palm with the radioactive spider in it, Peter leaping high on a wall to avoid a car, Peter smashing a lamppost, a dead Uncle Ben (unless it’s an unconscious Burglar) and Spidey shooting out a web. The final caption reads, “Feeling himself responsible for the death of his Uncle Ben, Spider-Man vowed to devote his life to the cause of justice – no matter what the cost!” That’s got me juiced! On to the story!

Wait! Not so fast. First there’s a contents page just like the one in issue #1 but in color. The four Spidey figures and Spider-Signal are the same as last issue, if not necessarily in the same place. The sidebar on the right shows three images from the story; page 50 panel 3, page 17 panel 1, and part of the double-page spread on page 45-46 but with the hallucinogenic green Goblin hand recolored as the purple of the Goblin’s glove. And, like last issue, a “thumbnail of the cover with art credits, just like a real magazine” only this time, like the issue itself, in color.

Okay. Now, let’s get to the story! It begins with a double-page spread with the title across the top. The title ends halfway through the second page, allowing space for the credits but also leaving us space to look at a battle between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin. So what is this? Well, it’s New York's exclusive Executive Club, and Police Capt. George Stacy, Retired, is giving a seminar on "The History of Super-Villains." In attendance are Peter Parker, J. Jonah Jameson, Harry Osborn and his father Norman. The battle that fills up the second page is a slide of a previous Spider-Man-Green Goblin battle and this picture is giving Norman a bad case of the sweats, though he doesn't know why. Jonah Jameson, in a statement harsh even by his standards, says, "That blasted Web-Slinger should have been killed...just like the Goblin was."

Captain Stacy continues his lecture. "To this very day, the Goblin’s true identity is still a mystery,” he says, “All we are sure of is the fact that he perished in a fire at the Osborn Chemical Plant." Peter is the only one in the room who knows that Norman Osborn is the Green Goblin. Aware that Norman is exhibiting signs of agitation, Peter thinks, “The blow he received…during that final battle…gave him a case of limited amnesia! But, I dread what would happen…if he ever again remembers!” I suppose that “limited amnesia” means he has only forgotten select things…like all of his Goblin memories. But what about this “blow he received?” Well, if wasn’t really a “blow.” If we look back at ASM #40, September 1966, we see that Spidey kicks the Goblin, “knocking those live wires into the vials of chemicals.” He then gets ‘the full effect of the electro-chemical charge.” This is a better explanation for his amnesia than a “blow he received,” though I suppose Spidey should consider himself lucky that the “electro-chemical” combination didn’t turn the Goblin into the Flash. Peter thinks back to his first battle with the Green Goblin (in ASM #14, July 1964), only his memory is faulty because that battle took place in a New Mexico cave, not in Manhattan, the only weapons the Goblin used were stun-bombs (no flying missiles as shown here) and the Goblin flew on his mechanical broomstick, not on his glider. Still, Peter can be excused if he’s conflating a number of battles because he’s very worried about Norman Osborn. As Captain Stacy continues his lecture and shows a picture of Spider-Man, Norman can no longer bear to sit still. He tries to bolt from the lecture but collapses before he can get out of the room. A doctor is summoned as a huge head shot of the Goblin seems to gloat over Norman from the slide show screen.

The doctor must be a member of the club because it is only “a few frantic moments later” and, already, Norman has been sedated. JJJ and George Stacy confer with George offering the opinion that Norman should “seek psychiatric help.” “Balderdash! You’d never get me to a head shrinker!” says Jonah. “Too bad,” George says. Harry tells the group that they should go back to the lecture. He, however, is going to stay near his father, who has been placed in another room. Jonah is anxious to hear more of George’s lecture. “I wanna see some more scenes of that crummy Spider-Man getting his lumps,” he says. But Peter has had enough. He heads out to his motorcycle while “All the old memories, the old fears keep coming back to me.”

Waitaminute, did I just say he headed out to his motorcycle? Didn’t he sell that cycle in ASM #66, November 1968. This is the first indication that this part of the story takes place before that issue. Let’s see if we can dope out the continuity as we go along.

As he rides his cycle, he thinks back to his last tussle with the Goblin in a flashback that takes up 3-plus pages. (You think maybe Stan was padding the story here a little bit?) Peter relives the time when the Goblin deadened his spider-sense and followed him home, learning his identity. He recalls the capture and the Goblin revealing his own identity. He remembers the fight, in which the Goblin took the full effect of the electro-chemical blast which obliterated his memory. He reminds himself of how he got rid of the Goblin costume and made Norman appear the hero. Again, there are a few flaws in Peter’s memory from how things went in ASM #39, August 1966. The smoke that kept Aunt May from seeing the battle from her house was the exhaust from the Goblin’s glider not the gas that later knocked Peter out. When Norman reveals himself, Peter does not think, “Mr. Osborn! My best friend’s father!” as he does here because Harry was not yet his best friend. In ASM #40, the Goblin doesn’t allow Peter to break free as told here, but actively releases him. (“It would have been an empty victory to defeat a foe who is helplessly shackled!”) But at least he finally gets the “electro-chemical” deal right.

In the origin of the Goblin, in ASM #40, Norman has a chemical experiment blow up in his face. He ends up in the hospital for weeks and the best surgeons perform brain surgery. (“The damage is deep within his brain! But there’s no way we can reach it!”) This is what turns him into the Goblin; something Peter thinks of now as “the illness that caused him to become the Goblin.” The truth is that Norman is a pretty ruthless business-type who doesn’t treat Harry very well even before he gets the brain damage. But at this point, the absence of the Goblin has turned him into a pretty decent guy which makes it all the more troubling to see him devolving back to his super-villain persona.

Peter stops by his Aunt's house (“a small suburban cottage” according to the caption) and one of those wonderfully daffy conversations of theirs ensues. "Say I must be at the wrong address," Peter says, "I thought my Aunt May lived here... not this glamorous fetching female who stands before me. Tell me...didn't I see you on the Dating Game recently?" To which May replies, "I declare Peter...you'll have me blushing like a teeny-booper."

Meanwhile, Norman Osborn has been taken to the hospital for observation. He has become feverish with images of the Goblin and Spider-Man circling around in his brain. Suddenly, the fog lifts from his mind. He sits up straight in his bed, raises a fist in the air, and screams, "At last...I know! The Green Goblin isn't dead! He never died! I am the Goblin!" It is a great Romita panel with the “ghost” of the Goblin rising up behind Norman’s raised fist.

Norman hurriedly dresses and leaves the hospital, shoving the worried, faithful Harry aside. Something draws him to a bad section of town. (“One of the most sordid slum areas which infest the savage, sprawling city.”) There he finds a dimly-remembered Goblin hideout. It appears to be an old hotel, since there is a sign for “Rules” posted on the wall. But, if so, shouldn’t his stuff have been cleaned out for lack of rent? Maybe it’s closed down and owned by Osborn Industries. He enters a room where a full can of trash awaits him. Oh, but also a goblin glider, a Goblin costume and a bag of tricks hanging on a coat rack…and a lab complete with beakers, a flashlight, and a protractor hanging on a wall. There, he dons his costume once again, vowing revenge on Spider-Man..."The most excruciating revenge the world will ever know!" (I love the shadow on Norman’s face on the bottom of page 16. Nice coloring here by Frank Giacoia. Norman is garbed entirely as the Goblin except for his mask. When you turn to page 17, the first panel is a close-up of the now masked Goblin, so that we almost feel like we watched him put the mask on. The Green Goblin has returned!)

At Empire State University, Peter joins Gwen in science class. Peter is now walking so he has likely sold his motorcycle. He is also on good terms with Gwen. He sold his bike on page 7 of ASM #66. Let’s see where the continuity leads us from there. As soon as he leaves the motorcycle shop, Mysterio appears. Peter chooses not to confront him. As he continues his walk, he runs into Gwen who tells him that she learned from her father that Peter wasn’t to blame for striking him. He goes to the Coffee Bean with Gwen, then takes a bus home. As he gets off the bus, he runs into Harry who has been searching for his dad. They drive to Osborn Industries, where Norman, in his Goblin suit, watches them from his office. Harry drives Pete to May’s house where he hears her scream. He smashes in the front door and finds her watching Mysterio on TV. Mysterio challenges Spidey, who takes the bait and immediately goes to the “old studio building.” Their battle continues into ASM #67, December 1968, during which Aunt May’s door is still broken and Aunt May herself is still recovering. Right after Spidey defeats Mysterio, he swings past a student demonstration that will lead to the doings in ASM #68, January 1969. But that issue begins with four and a half pages of the Kingpin before getting to Spidey. Stan’s caption says, “And speaking of our woebegone web-spinner who, only last issue, defeated the maniacal Mysterio” and Spidey says, “I oughtta have my head examined! I didn’t take a single picture of my last battle! Which means I’ve nothing to sell to Jonah’s’ rag!” Now, even though Stan references the Mysterio fight in the caption, Spidey makes no mention of the fight to which he’s referring. So the “last battle” could be the fight with the Goblin and he wouldn’t take any photos because he is trying to protect the Goblin’s identity. Aunt May’s front door is repaired in ASM #68 but, then again, it’s also repaired in this issue. I suppose you could argue that the Goblin story takes place after ASM #68, but by that time we’re well into the Kingpin/Petrified Tablet tale and there’s not much point in trying to wedge it in.

So, it looks like all of ASM #66-67 take place between Norman’s donning of the Goblin garb on the top of page 17 and Peter’s arrival at ESU on the bottom of page 17. We do have the slight problem of Norman, in his office in ASM #66 wondering why the thought of Peter makes his blood boil and saying, “I won’t be in the dark much longer! My memory gets clearer with each passing second!” But there’s nothing in the first 17 pages here that tell us that Norman has reacquired all his memories yet. So, yes, there are some rough edges but overall I think it works pretty well.

And yes, I did say, in my review of ASM #66, “All of which makes no sense whatsoever within the context of Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #2. I was wrong and I have revised it.

Let’s see. Where were we? Oh right. Peter and Gwen are in science class where Peter is so worried and distracted that Professor Warren chides him with "Mr. Parker, if you must sleep in lab, at least be good enough to shut your eyes while you do so." Professor Warren last appeared in ASM #63, August 1968 and he doesn’t appear again until ASM #88, September 1970! That’s almost two years without the Prof and even worse than what Stan does to MJ. (More on that later.) No wonder he went screwy.

After class, Pete and Gwen visit Harry who tells them that his Dad has disappeared. (Peter tells Gwen, “Let’s drop in on the way home and see how he is.” Since Harry’s home is also Peter’s home, that must mean Harry is staying at his father’s place.) This news cinches it for Peter. He knows the Goblin has returned. He also knows the Goblin knows his identity. (We know it, too.) Gwen silently psychoanalyzes Peter…incorrectly. “Not having a father of his own, Peter is probably empathizing with Harry and taking it twice as hard,” she thinks, even as Peter thinks, “If he’s already become the Goblin…whenever they find him…it will be too late!” After taking Gwen home, Peter is so jumpy that he thinks a child's errant toy airplane is a Goblin attack. (And he adds an “e” to “Osborn” in his tortured thoughts.) He uses his Spider-ability to leap high into a tree with, fortunately, only one very small boy (Joey) witnessing the event; a witness so young he can't get his older friend (Tommy) to believe him.

That night Peter has a full-fledged (and full-page) nightmare of the Goblin capturing him and revealing his identity to Aunt May, through which he talks out loud. “No Aunt May…no! Don’t look! You mustn’t see me…you must never know who I really am! You know how the doctor warned us of your weak heart! You mustn’t have any shocks…anything to startle you! I tried to spare you this…but I couldn’t! I couldn’t! It can’t end this way! It mustn’t! I won’t let it! I wont let it!” (Good thing Harry isn’t there to hear all this.) He leaps out of bed, determined to stop playing the victim and to take the offensive. He puts on his Spider-suit and goes out into the city searching for his enemy, stopping at the scene of their last battle (in ASM #40) but finding “no sign of life.” The Goblin actually DOES pass by behind Spidey but thinks, "Not yet, Spider-Man! Not yet... So long as I know your true identity...you can never escape." Before Peter's spider-sense can fully tingle, the Goblin is gone. Spidey heads home (“your dull apartment” as the Goblin puts it) and the Goblin moves to the next step of his plan.

Turns out that, yes, Harry is keeping vigil at his father's “luxurious eastside apartment.” Suddenly, Norman shows up at the door. He claims that he was delirious when he left the hospital but his fever has broken now. He tells Harry he wants to hold a party to celebrate and asks for Gwen, Mary Jane and Peter to be his guests. When Harry invites Peter the next day, he is not fooled. He knows Norman is the Goblin again but he still agrees to go. (You know, he could turn this invitation down. What would Norman do next?)

Peter webslings over to the Stacy home. As he walks to the door, he says, “Those few minutes of rooftop hopping helped to relax me a little!...So how come my heart’s still pounding like sixty?” A heartbeat of sixty a minute is pretty calm and normal, so what does this mean? Well, it turns out it’s an old expression that means “with great force.” Here’s more on that from the Word Detective. Captain Stacy lets him in and Gwen, resplendent in a red mini-skirt, red purse, and red heels, along with a chinchilla coat and fishnet stockings, wows him. "How can I subject this gorgeous creature to the Green Goblin?" he thinks. (Little does the poor sap know.)

On the way to the party, the young couple banter. First Gwen says, “Is it true you’re only dating me because Raquel Welch stood you up?” (Ah, that famous poster!)

Peter gets mushy which forces Gwen to say, "Whoa, Lad! Better drop anchor while you can! Keep talking like that and I'm liable to lead you to the preacher instead of the party." (Excuse me a moment while I get choked up here. I always did prefer Gwen to Mary Jane, even with the slightly-bizarre Stan Lee "hip" dialogue. If moments like this don't make you wonder "What If?" I suspect nothing in comics will.)

Peter and Gwen show up at Norman's apartment. Harry and MJ are already there. (MJ still has her “ginchy new hairdo.”) As the party gets underway, Norman begins a verbal joust with Pete, taunting his young opponent with comments like, "Tell us about yourself, Parker. I understand you sometimes leave the apartment for a few days at a time." (Peter replies, “I occasionally stay with my Aunt.”) As dinner continues, Norman gets more and more reckless, at one point saying, "We ALL have secrets which we hide from the world! Strange secrets known only to ourselves...Don't you agree, Parker?"

After dinner, Norman pulls Peter aside, putting one arm around him in what appears to be a friendly gesture while he secretly uses the other arm (well, fist, actually) to deliver a stiff punch to the gut. Peter realizes that Norman is getting too reckless and that anyone in the group could get hurt. Quickly, he excuses himself, saying he has to call his Aunt May. As MJ and Harry dance, Norman keeps an eye on Pete but does not actually follow him into the other room. He then becomes so confident that he walks away, not bothering to watch anymore. Taking advantage of this, Pete pretends to call his Aunt, all the while wrapping some webbing around one of his rolls of film and tossing it into the fire. (What is a fire doing in a fireplace in a room that is not being used? I guess the Goblin works in mysterious ways.) "I've made the perfect smoke bomb," Peter thinks. He goes back to the party but is so stiff and tense that Gwen tells him, "You dance very well, Mr. P.....for a statue."

Moments later, the web bomb takes effect as smoke fills the apartment. Harry leaves with MJ and Gwen. Pete uses the smoke as cover to climb out the window but Norman calls after him, "You fool! I don't even have to search for you. Not when I can make you come to me simply by heading for your Aunt!" Peter doesn’t put on his costume but he does take the time to tie his shoes together and hang them off his arm as he scales a wall in socks and civvies. (It’s very reminiscent of pages 19-22 of the first Spectacular Spider-Man.)

The fire department comes and discovers the false alarm (just some smoldering cellophane, according to one of the firemen). Harry wonders what happened to Pete and his father while Mary Jane muses that, "Maybe they found a cooler party." What they've both done, of course, is get into their flashy costumes, both of them heading to Aunt May’s home. (“Luckily my nearest hideout was only seconds away!” says Norman. Really? Where is Norman’s place anyway? Upper East Side? He has a ratty-looking hideout there?)

By the time Spidey shows up, the Goblin is already there, circling the house. (And where is Aunt May’s house? It’s always been in a Forest Hills neighborhood. Here it seems surrounded by high rises. And since we’re on this track, where is George Stacy’s house? Peter and Gwen seemed to have walked from it to Norman’s apartment. Stan’s Manhattan is starting to confuse me.)

And so, finally, on page 39, the battle begins. The Goblin has added a boring weapon to the front of his glider (which is to say, a weapon that drills through objects, not a tedious one) and he uses it to try to skewer Spidey. (Ah, if only he knew!) Peter dodges that (in another nice full-page spread that makes it look like Aunt May lives on the edge of Central Park or something) but gets hit by a finger blast. (Um...that is, that laser type thing that comes out of the Goblin's finger....you know what I mean!) Norman moves in for the kill but Spider-Man is playing possum and he nails his opponent with a strong left hook (in a great oversize panel where you can almost feel the impact). Gobby is staggered but Spider-Man is paralyzed by indecision. Yes, he is on the verge of winning but he doesn't know what to do then. He can't just turn the Goblin in. Norman will reveal both their identities. He decides to flee in an attempt to lead Gobby away from Aunt May. (And, hey, before we go any further, Spidey says of Gobby’s “spiral skewer,” “He’s added new weapons to that blasted contraption.” When did he find time to do that? Hasn’t he been Norman Osborn since ASM #40?)

Now, the Goblin unleashes another new weapon. He calls it his "psychedelic pumpkin" and it emits vapors that Spider-Man breathes. The webhead immediately hallucinates a double-page spread of the Goblin and some lumpy-looking monsters attacking and threatening to reveal his identity to the world. The shapes change to the faces of Harry, Gwen, J. Jonah Jameson and Aunt May, all shocked by the news of Spidey's identity (though Gwen looks perfectly normal), then on to gigantic figures of the Kingpin, Kraven the Hunter, the Rhino, the Vulture, Doc Ock and the Goblin, ready to attack. A giant Goblin hand reaches down to crush Spidey but Pete uses his willpower to convince himself that none of this is real. With that the hallucinations fade. Suddenly Spidey knows the way to defeat the Goblin.

Using his amazing speed, Spider-Man jerks the Goblin's glider away with webbing before Norman knows what hit him. (Another couple of powerful kinetic panels here.) “My first step is to weaken him…shake his confidence in himself!” Spidey thinks. Then, he leaps and steals the Goblin's bag of tricks. To further shake Gobby's confidence, he yells out, "Goblin, you're a phony. I could have flattened you any time I felt like it! I was toying with you till now...but you're too dumb to realize it!" Enraged, the Goblin gets into a fist fight but he swings wildly and Spidey punches him out (“Have to keep pulling my punches! Don’t dare forget…he’s still Harry’s dad!”) and unmasks him. “I’ve got to take the biggest gamble of all,” he thinks, “Everything depends on how much I’ve weakened him…and on the fact that he’s mentally ill to begin with!” With that, he pulls a psychedelic pumpkin from the Goblin’s bag and subjects Norman to the pumpkin's strange vapors.

Spider-Man waves the Goblin's mask in the hallucinating Norman's face and tells him that Spider-Man and the Green Goblin are the two most horrible things in the world; things from which he absolutely must retreat. The plan works so well that Norman tears the Goblin costume from his body when he realizes, with horror, that he is wearing it. In self-defense, his mind shuts out all knowledge of Spider-Man and the Green Goblin once again. When he sees Spidey standing above him, he calls out, “Stay away from me, whoever you are!” This makes Spidey believe that Norman has regained his amnesia. “Now, the only question is…do I dare to hope that the effect will be permanent?” he wonders. To test it, he removes his masks and notices, “where he couldn’t bear the sight of Spidey, the face of Peter Parker has simply relaxed him…he’s starting to doze.” Still unmasked, he picks Norman up, puts him over his shoulder and goes web-swinging, all the while thinking, “If my guess is right, he’ll wake up unable to talk about…or even think about…anything to do with the Green Goblin…or Spider-Man! And at the same time, his own subconscious will shut out any memory of my dual identity! Which means my secret is safe…for as long as his brain is affected by the gas! And, due to the intensified exposure to which I subjected him…I’m hoping…for his sake, as well as mine…that the effects will be…permanent!”

Peter changes back to his civvies, removes all traces of the Goblin costume and rushes Norman to the hospital. (But, wait! Spidey’s civvies were on a rooftop but where did he find Norman’s clothes? And it’s not even all of Norman’s clothes. He seems to be wearing a t-shirt under his suit coat. What happened to his shirt and tie? Oh well. He had a vest on originally too but that disappeared sometime during the party.) Peter tells a nurse that Norman was, perhaps, “released from the hospital a little too soon” but, of course, he never was released. He ran off on his own.

Peter calls Aunt May from a pay phone to tell her the danger is over. This startles May who didn’t know there was any danger. Peter thinks fast and tells her he “really wanted to say that Mr. Osborn is in no danger! They found him! He’s all right!” Soon after, Harry, Gwen, and Mary Jane show up at the hospital thinking that perhaps Norman had a relapse and Peter took him there. That's just what Peter wants them to think and while Harry rushes to his father's hospital room, Peter is free to go out to the Coffee Bean with Gwen and Mary Jane. (MJ wants a sundae. Do they have those at the Coffee Bean?) "You must live right, Tiger," MJ tells him, “Here you are with two way-out chicks and not a care in the world.” But Peter, even after his great victory, is unable to relax and enjoy the night. He worries that the Green Goblin will one day return and, unfortunately, he has good reason to worry. This gives Stan the opportunity to use the old cliché, “The End…?”

Hey, check it out! A letters page! Actually, four pages, each with one third of the page devoted to the letters and two thirds devoted to ads. Mini-hanky, Weaver School of Real Estate, Lavoptik, the Medicinal Eye Wash, Chicago School of Watchmaking, Preparation H, Capra Gems, Borrow By Mail, Hear Whispered Secret Conversations…thru Solid Walls, Speak to Me in Japanese, Poems Wanted, Professional Investigators, Art Instruction Schools, Wyten “Dental Cosmetic,” Finish High School at Home, Save up to $50 a year by cutting your own hair, Frederick’s Cordless Vibrator (yes, really), more Lavoptik (in case the ad on the previous page didn’t sell you), more Borrow By Mail, Washington School of Art, the Post Office asking you to use a zip code, North American School of Drafting, and Career Institute’s course to improve your English. I don’t think I would trust a single one of these advertisements. Okay, maybe Preparation H. Maybe the Post Office.

The letters page is not called “the Spider’s Web” but rather “Sock it to…Spider-Man.” And while it has its share of praise for Spectacular Spider-Man #1, it begins with three letters that have their complaints. First, Neal Christensen of Poughkeepsie, New York says, “I was willing to overlook discrepancies between the Marvel universe and the Spidey Spectacular universe. Then I read Daredevil #42, where both universes are neatly dovetailed together. The Spectacular, then, should dove-tail with the Amazing Spider-Man #63, or retain the same background at least. To put it succinctly, please maintain the continuity of Spidey’s life between his two mags.” Then, Andrew Smith of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania gripes, “I absolutely detest endings where the hero has just given his foe all that he has got, hoping that he clobbered him good enough so that he will stay down, because he has thrown everything he has got at him with no effect, and then the villain falls down and dies. Oh, come now, Stan! Surely you could think of better endings than that. The original story was not worth the paper it was printed on. By now, even the new readers are tired of reading the new version of these once oldtime greats, and us old readers dislike wasting out money on something almost as bad as reprints.” Finally, The Brothers of Zeta Psi, Psi Chapter of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York argue that “Taking the color out of Marvel is like taking Santa Claus out of Christmas! Let’s face it, Spidey just doesn’t have it in black and white. We feel it is reasonable to assume that most of your readership is, indeed, human, and with this in mind, we urge you to bring the exhilaration of color back to Spider-Man. P.S. If you find this request impossible, we suggest that, in the interest of realism, you change the name of Spider-Man’s next opponent to the Black and White Goblin.” Stan does not reply to tell the Brothers that they got their wish because Stan is still going with the notion that the letters should receive no replies. Which is a shame.

The issue concludes with a full-page "Next Issue" come-on. The illustration is of Spider-Man cowering by a TV camera, boom mike, spotlight and threatening shadow. The blurb says, "The Mystery of the TV Terror!" My friends, this story is still a mystery because the third issue never came out. But here’s what John Romita had to say in Comics Creators on Spider-Man when asked about the Prowler: “John Jr. actually came up with the name of the Prowler when he was thirteen years old. He had sent a drawing into Stan but the character had a silver costume with boots and a mask and everything. Stan wasn’t crazy about the costume but he did like the name. The costume we eventually used for the Prowler was originally meant for a character that we called the TV Terror, who was supposed to appear in the third issue of the Spectacular Spider-Man magazine, but it was cancelled after its second issue.” So, it wasn’t a total loss but I’d still love to know what that TV Terror story was going to be.

For all of you obsessive-compulsives out there (yes, you know who you are and you can count me among you), this comparison: "The Goblin Lives" was reprinted in Spider-Man King-Size #9, 1973 (Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual #9) but those who have read only that issue have not seen the full story. For the record, pages 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 17, 21, half of 22, 23, 24, half of 25, 27, 28, 29, 33, and 36 from this issue are NOT in Spider-Man King-Size. Double page spreads on pages 1 and 2 as well as pages 45 and 46 are reduced in the reprint to one page. New captions have been inserted to smooth over the missing pages. This has been a public service announcement.

Finally, I got this letter from Steve Mills in response to my ASM #65 review:

Hi Al,
It's back to my theory about Mary Jane being turned into a "bad girl." She looks very much like she's on the game in this comic. But after this issue (and Spectacular Spider-Man #2) she doesn't appear again until ASM #82, at which point she's back to being the happy go lucky "girl next door" without the ginchy new hairdo. So maybe MJ's road off the rails was something Johnny was trying to build up to that Stan spotted, abruptly ended and brushed under the carpet? This is almost up there with who did Ditko want to be the Goblin for ASM Silver Age mysteries.

You’re right, Steve! MJ disappears for almost 20 issues! In ASM #70, March 1969, it is mentioned that Harry is dating MJ “tonight” but by #82, she’s been in Florida with Aunt Anna. Also in #82, Harry shaves his Fu Manchu. It does seem like Stan has decided to smooth out the different characters’ rough edges. Good catch, Steve!

General Comments

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

  1. Eighth appearance of the Green Goblin as the major villain. (Eleventh appearance overall, unless you count this issue before ASM #66, it which case it’s the tenth.) He’s back in ASM #96, May 1971.
  2. And that’s true of Norman, too, believe it or not. Gone until ASM #96.
  3. In the frontispiece, Harry appears with Flash and Liz in a picture depicting Peter in High School even though they didn’t meet until college.
  4. First story to begin with a double-page spread.
  5. First time that Norman Osborn regains his Goblin memories. He will do it again.
  6. Aunt May blushes like a teeny-booper.
  7. Peter is a real chatterbox in his sleep.
  8. Last time MJ has the “ginchy” new hairdo. (Except for the cover of and the “Where It’s At!” pin-up in ASM Annual #5, November 1968.)
  9. Peter races up a wall in his civvies in every issue of the Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine.
  10. Spidey wins, but worries. (And with good reason.)
  11. Second (and last?) appearance of Kawasaki and Jade East ads in a Marvel comic. If anyone wants to go through all the Marvel magazines to confirm this the last time for these ads, go right ahead.

The 1969 Marvelmania International Spider-Man Portfolio checklist entry for this issue. Yep, there is one:

Romita-Mooney/Lee/Rosen Full Color
“The Goblin Lives” – Norman Osborn remembers his Green Goblin identity and seeks revenge.

What else do you need to know?

Overall Rating

It’s 58 magazine-size pages in color, featuring Spider-Man’s first battle with the Green Goblin since Gobby lost his memory. Which makes it the Spidey comic of my dreams.

I like this version of Norman Osborn, the man who is kindly when he is in his right mind with the Goblin being this evil shadow that haunts him and does not reflect the real man. It makes Norman a tragic figure rather than just a villain. (Sadly, this view of the character is gone forever.) Through the first 13 pages, we watch Norman suffer - all sweaty and wild-eyed – and on some level we root for him so we feel a failure when the Goblin takes over. Our concern transfers to Peter who is now the sweaty and wild-eyed one. We share his fear and concern. When the Goblin strikes, he does so as Norman Osborn, holding a party and playing a cat-and-mouse game. The tension ramps up until the moment that Spidey finally takes a leap at the Goblin. It has taken 38 pages to get here and almost every page has been nervewracking.

What follows is a 15 page battle that fulfills our expectations. And through it all, Spidey’s thoughts remind us that he cannot just defeat the Goblin and take him to jail. He must, somehow, re-implant Norman’s amnesia. I know that some readers think the use of the psychedelic pumpkin to be a cop-out but Stan does a great job of setting it all up. When Norman is recovering his memory, the thought of Spider-Man battling the Goblin causes him physical and emotional distress. He flees Captain Stacy’s lecture, yelling, “Spider-Man! The Goblin! Battling again…right there…before our eyes…over and over again. I can’t take any more!” Even moments before remembering that he’s the Goblin, he says, “The Goblin…Spider-Man…spinning round in my brain…over and over…It’s happening again…and I can’t stop it!” So, when Spidey uses the psychedelic pumpkin and tells Norman, “They’re the two most horrible things in the world!! The Green Goblin…and Spider-Man!! Spider-Man…and the Green Goblin!! Their faces…their names…will haunt you… will turn you off,” he is playing on that torment. And remember, Spidey also notes, “Everything depends on how much I’ve weakened him…and on the fact that he’s mentally ill to begin with!” It is not unreasonable to assume that Norman will get so traumatized that he will tear the Goblin costume off when he notices it. Don’t tell me that the psychedelic pumpkin is a bit too convenient. It is in keeping with the kind of weapon the Goblin would invent. Rather than being a cop-out, I think the solution is well established and ingenious.

In spite of Spidey’s triumph, the story ends on a chilling low note. He believes that Norman will block out the Goblin “for as long as his brain is affected by the gas!” But how long will that be? It’s a big risk. Still, in spite of every indication that he should kill the Goblin to protect himself, he does not, for Harry’s sake and for his conscience’s sake. He knows this could come back to haunt him. (And we now know that it will in the most tragic way possible.) But he does it anyway and that decision makes him seem that much more heroic.

John Romita’s artwork is big and bold here. Gwen has never looked better, Peter has never looked so rattled, Norman has never looked so tortured. And those full-page and double-page spreads, all featuring some version of Spider-Man versus the Green Goblin, are a luxury afforded by the format of the issue. It’s a shame that the series doesn’t continue.

In the Background section, I mentioned that Mark Waid called this "the most suspenseful Silver Age Marvel story of all" and, you know, I think I agree with him. It is also one of the highlights of the Lee-Romita run.

Five webs.


Hey, whatever happened to the parents of Peter Parker? Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual #5 (Story 1) is next.

 Posted: Aug 2019
 Staff: Al Sjoerdsma (E-Mail)