Cobwebs #12: Unmasked by Doctor Octopus!

asm12coverCovers showing exactly what is happening in the story is a rarity these days.  I may be one of the few that still think that the cover should reflect in some way, shape, or form the actual content of the comic.   I know, I know, that is such an old school way of thinking, but I’m old, so…

If you have not already read this comic, or don’t remember it, take a moment to complete the following assignment I used to give my writing students: assuming that the words and images on this cover are true, how could this happen and Spider-Man still have a secret identity at the end of the issue?  I encourage you to write your reply in the comments section BEFORE reading the rest of the entry.

Now read on to see how well you fared.  Plus, we’ll find out how strong Doc Ock is (maybe), why all of this is Reed Richards’s fault, and which one page of this comic is worth more than the entire comic in mint condition.

It’s the Silver Age baby!  Excelsior!



We’re parking the Delorean on May 10, 1964, since that is when this issue hit the shelves.  We’ll keep the recap short.  If you can get your hands on a copy, it’s a worthwhile read.

overratedThe story starts off with a reference to ASM #11.  The newspaper is prominently featured with the headline “Doctor Octopus Escapes from Spider-Man!”  In the last issue, Spider-Man, while not beaten, was unable to defeat Ock.  Betty Brant returned after a small hiatus and so Spidey swings by the Bugle to see her just as her replacement leaves shouting that Jameson doesn’t need a secretary, he needs a psychiatrist.  A pretty boring start, but sense the art of decompression hasn’t been invented yet, it is only the first page.

Doc Ock terrorizes the nation with a crime spree trying to draw out Spider-Man, but since Peter can’t get enough money to travel and couldn’t get away from Aunt May long enough to go across country to fight him anyway.  So Doc Ock comes to the Big Apple.

Peter comes by the Bugle to call on Betty only to come at the same time that Ock hits the Bugle to kidnap Betty.  He makes Jonah contact Spider-Man to meet him for their final battle if Jonah wants to see Betty alive again.  Peter doesn’t do anything because it would give away his secret identity (obviously he wasn’t rich enough to afford ninja warrior personal trainers). 

peter virus

Now here’s the rub.  Peter has come down with a cold and it is diagnosed as a virus (that is important – remember it) by some doctor that looks like he also works for the Red Skull part time. Strangely enough, this virus gets rid of all of Peter Parker’s spider powers.  More on that later, though.

The problem is, he is worried about Betty’s safety, so he still dons his costume and goes running (web slinging being too hard without powers) to the place to meet Doc Ock.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that Ock will win this round with ease and when he unmasks Peter, he cannot believe that his main adversary was just a teenager.  Add to the fact that Peter showed no signs of actual power or fighting ability, it is really not leap to assume that Peter is not Spider-Man.  Everyone thinks that Peter did it to save Betty and they either think he is stupid or brave for attempting such a feat.


It's amazing! It's like whoever drew the cover actually knew what was in the story! Or probably more accurate, the cover artist knew that, what was in the story was interesting enough to make us buy the comic.

It’s amazing! It’s like whoever drew the cover actually knew what was in the story! Or probably more accurate, the cover artist knew that what was in the story was interesting enough to make us buy the comic.


liz loves peteyIt certainly gives him some brownie points with Betty, but it also draws the attention of Liz, who will flirt with “Petey” for issues to come.


ock strengthDoc Ock is not satisfied and continues later to try and draw out Spider-Man.  The next day Peter’s powers are back and he goes out looking for him, and it is not hard to find him since Doc Ock is Letting out all of the zoo animals.

This time, Peter is able to pull out a victory after fight scene that last a full seven pages.  Pretty awesome stuff.  The end is very Ditko-esque as they find themselves in a sculptor’s studio, so the visuals are strange.  Plus, this sculptor works exclusively in flammable materials, so the whole plave goes upin flames and Spider-Man almost perishes because he is worried about getting Doc Ock out of the inferno (no, not The Inferno, the awful X-Men crossover that gave us Demogoblin).

We end with Peter blowing off Liz and walking off to take Betty out for a date.

O.K., I said I was going to keep it short, but you should see how much I left out.  There are tons of story in this issue, and it is all actual story, not sub plots to build up for a future one.  Bendis could have pulled a whole trade paper back out of this story.

So, a little analysis: This issue takes place during Untold Tales of Spider-Man #10 and the crime spree that Doctor Octopus is going through is reported over the radio.

Now the point of a secret identity is to keep your loved ones out of harm’s way, but in this case, Peter allows Betty to be taken hostage by a supervillain in order to protect his secret identity!  In the 1960s, this twist of logic was OK since it was a given that a hero must protect the secret identity at all costs, but I still think it seemed a little backwards thinking.

Let’s take a moment to discuss Peter’s virus.  Peter has gotten sick since and all he complained about was how messy it was to have a runny nose while wearing a mask.  So what gives?  Well, we could just chalk it up to “comics” but what would the fun of that be?  Obviously we just need a chance for Peter to prove his heroics without his powers.  This is a common enough trope.  In fact, they just did it on Supergirl TV show.  But what if this virus is more than just a common cold?

In the month prior, Fantastic Four #25 came out which also had a virus story. Here’s a few select panels.  I think you’ll be able to get the gist of what is going on.




 So it seems likely to me that we can make a case that the virus Reed was working on somehow infected Peter Parker too.  It’s not like Reed is known for his safety precautions.

Right as Spider-Man catches the last of the escaped zoo animals and places it in a net for the police, some guy says, “Boy! That Spider-Man is a poor man’s Frank Buck!”  This is a reference a bit dated even at the time of publication.  Frank Buck was an animal collector famous for his book, Bring Them Back Alive.  The guy was a sort of Steve Irwin of his day.

ock snaps woodIn one panel, we hear Spidey saying that Doctor Octopus is stronger than he is with those metal arms.  Then we get this panel that shows him snapping a piece of wood in two.  So I sent the carpentry teacher at the school I teach at an email asking about this wood and what it would take to snap it.  He said it was a 6×6 post, possibly a barn timber or landscape timber, so it would be treated.  Probably hemlock.  It would take 50,000 or 60,000 pounds of hydro pressure to snap it.  Probably the strangest email he’s ever gotten at work. 

Officially, the Marvel Wikia has his official strength rating at a 2 (out of 7).  For comparison, Spider-Man is only rated a 4.  Hawkeye is rated a 3.   I am assuming that maybe they are not taking into account his arms, but I’m not sure why they would do that.  Maybe the people who run the Wikia are not readers of Spider-Man comics.   The Marvel Database does have an entry on the tentacles, and while it does not give a strength rating, it does say that they can strike with the force of a jackhammer.  How much force is that?  Well, the average 90lb hammer delivers about 23,000 PSI per blow.  So what does this mean?  My best guess is that nobody really knows how strong he is.  He’s as strong as the writer and artist want him to be, I guess.  Can anyone out there think of another panel somewhere that would clue us in on how strong Ock’s tentacles are?

HAIf you want to buy this comic in mint condition, be prepared to shell out $1,800.  That’s quite a lot of cash.  However, the splash page of this comic is worth more than the whole.   Well, if you have the original art by Ditko for it, that is.  The original splash page by Steve Ditko sold for $137,425.00 at Heritage Auctions in November of 2012.  What? You don’t trade in original art and not sure if it is a good deal or not?  Well, that price makes it one of the top five most expensive pieces of original comic book art. 

The image is not all that, well, amazing to me.  Maybe because it features so many Spider-Man characters.  I would have thought that a fight scene would be what people wanted more.  Any of you out there deal in original art that can shed some light on this? 



So all in all, a good read, a fun fight scene, and (in my opinion) a clever story.  While simple in its delivery, I think it still holds up well to today’s standards.  So if you are tired of the global CEO Peter, give this issue a spin.  You won’t regret it.  I’ll leave you with a panel that depicts the most naive police officer in Marvel.  This has to be his first day on the job.


*Favor* I’m looking for the letters pages from two old Wizard magazines to use in a future Cobwebs post about the creation of Venom:
  • Wizard #21 May 1993 – has a letter from David Michelinie
  • Wizard #23 July 1993 – has a letter from Eric Larsen

They deal with a dispute over who created Venom. They both get mentioned everywhere, but the letters are not reprinted anywhere that I can find. If anyone has these and is willing to scan them/photograph them, I would give you credit in the post and be forever thankful.  Leave me a note in the comments section and I’ll tell you how you can reach me.

credible hulkSources:

Amazing Spider-Man #12.” Comics Chronology. SuperMegaMonkey, N.d. Web. 17 Jan. 2016.

“Comic Book Values – Spider-Man Issues #1-#40.”  Hobbizine. Node Thirty-Three Design, N.d. Web. 19 Jan. 2016.

Dalhgren, Jack. “Power Tools: How Much Force Does a 90lb Compressed Air Jackhammer Deliver to a Point in a Single Pulse?” Quora. N.p. 1 June 2012. Web. 24 Jan. 2016.

“Doctor Octopus (Otto Octavius).” Marvel Universe Wiki. Marvel, 2016. Web. 20 Jan. 2016.

“Doctor Octopus’s Tentacles.” Marvel Database. Wikia, N.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2016.

“Hawkeye.” Marvel Universe Wiki. Marvel, 2016. Web. 20 Jan. 2016.

 “LOT #93192.” Heritage Auctions. N.p., 2016. Web. 16 Jan. 2016.

Sjoerdsma, Al, and Stuart Vandal. The Amazing Spider-Man: Official Index to the Marvel Universe. New York: Marvel Worldwide, 2010. Print.

“Spider-Man.” Marvel Universe Wiki. Marvel, 2016. Web. 20 Jan. 2016.

Therman, Robert. Carpenter. Personal Interview. 19 Jan. 2016.

Untold Tales of Spider-Man #10.” Comics Chronology. SuperMegaMonkey, N.d. Web. 17 Jan. 2016.



All scans are from Marvel Unlimited.

Ditko Splash Page Auction

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(11) Comments

  1. Mark Alford - Post author

    @#8 - I agree with the caption assessment I think it helps define the idea behind the "Parker luck" theme in the books.However, I am going to have to disagree with this: "As for Reed’s virus being the same as Peter’s, from a continuity POV I don’t think we should start bringing in unmentioned events from outside one series to explain errors."While I do not think I can definitively say it is canon, I think that Marvel has encouraged us to look at their universe as a shared universe with one book affecting the others at least since the beginning of the silver age. Since they have established that in their books by making references to other heroes on a regular basis, I feel that it is fair game for readers to continue that shared universe with their speculations (and not only fair game, but the duty of the Marvel zombie). To me it brings the books closer together and makes the stories richer. But I will concede that it is only speculation and not an assertion that it is to be considered canon. This isn't just a Marvel phenomenon, it exists in several fandoms. Disney fans try to set up elaborate theories on which movies exist in the same universe, Star Wars fans connect movies to cartoons to books to comics, etc.Plus it is fun. :)

  2. Al

    @#9: It's not really about the plan so much as the deepening of the rivalry, the iconicness of the unmasking, the rousing rematch at the end, etc. ASM #11 is lesser to me because it's not ABOUT Otto as much it's more focused upon Betty and Bennet and Gaxton.

  3. hornacek

    @8 - Of all Doc Ock stories I would rate this one as somewhere in the middle. He doesn't really have a plan that Spidey thwarts, he just wants to defeat Spider-Man. Which is a fine enough motive, but considering this comes right after ASM #11 which is an epic Doc Ock issue where Ock actually has a criminal plan that Spidey stops, it pales a bit in comparison. And Ock going all over the U.S. to draw out Spider-Man is not a good use of Ock's time since up to this point he has only been seen in NY (and Philadelphia last issue, I forgot about that). And him letting all the zoo animals out is just 60s silliness (how did those animals get up on top of those buildings?).It probably wasn't the same virus as Reed's virus, but considering Stan was writing every Marvel title he would often re-use plot points or topics in different books. He wanted a reason that Ock could defeat Spidey and unmask him without revealing his secret identity, and he probably had viruses on the brain because of the FF issue he had just written.

  4. Al

    Easily one of the best Doc Ock stories of all time. A true classic.Also it has (and I think I’ve mentioned this) one of the best ending captions ever, where Stan basically says Spider-Man isn’t about being a loser or being unhappy, he has ups and downs because he’s like all of us and that’s the point. I pull that out whenever folks like Dan Jurgens or Slott bang on about how Spider-Man is supposed to be unlucky. It’s not that he’s wholesale unlucky, but that he’s capable of having bad luck unlike 1950s DC heroes. That aspect balances out the positives and makes him more well rounded.I think you can chalk up Peter’s logic to both youthful naivete and the fact that Otto does make it clear he will not harm Betty.As for Reed’s virus being the same as Peter’s, from a continuity POV I don’t think we should start bringing in unmentioned events from outside one series to explain errors. The virus could be chalked up to Peter actually being more affected that he realized, and then between the time elapse and worry for Betty the virus’ effects got exacerbated and impacted upon his powers. I also don’t think his powers were ‘gone’ just weakened. Hence he was able to stick to walls and swing over to Coney Island.@#3: In ASM #11 Spidey showed up in Philadelphia to fight Otto.@#6: This got elaborated upon in Web of Death, but Doc Ock very much sees his rivalry with Spider-Man as a driving force. He’s still sore about being jailed by him and wants payback. He hasn’t lost often enough quite yet to realize staying out of his way whilst pursuing other goals is an effective method. He doesn’t live to defeat Spider-Man but his ego means he’s going to get around to it eventually and right now he’s fresh out of jail and had to flee from Spider-Man, not defeat him. He wants to settle the score and draw Spider-Man in on his terms. At the same time he’s probably enjoying all the access to the cash he’s lifting, probably embezzling it somehow to fund his future projects. This is likely how he was able to build his underwater base in the MP Trilogy.

  5. Mark Alford - Post author

    @#4 - Forgot to add - I wish I was the one who came up with the FF reference. I have to tip my cap toward SuperMegaMonkey site for that brainchild. They put all of Marvel's comics in chronological order.

  6. Mark Alford - Post author

    @#1 - I remember that one - or at least I think I do. Maybe I'm getting it confused with the Amazing Friends episode where Firestar convinced Falsh to dress up to use him as bait. Doesn't matter - trolling Flash was always fun in the old comics. Stinking bullies!@#2 - Now that I look at the cover, I see it says May 12, which means that #4 is right and it was probably released in March or even February. I just used what Marvel Unlimited said was the published date. Curses, Marvel Unlimited! Foiled again! (said while twirling evil looking mustache)@#3 - I didn't get Ock's logic, either. He was doing whatever he wanted out there and nobody was even trying to stop him. Why not just off the rest of the nation and retire? That is an awesome link! Goes perfect with that panel.@#4/5 - Yes! A gold star! When I was in school I always had to sit on that stool in the corner with one of those pointy caps. :( As far as naming the sources, I preach to my high school students the importance of properly citing your sources so much that I felt a bit like a hypocrite if I didn't do it here. I know. I'm a nerd....

  7. Spider-Dad

    Most importantly, nice overall article. Good job on the synopsis, the screen caps and naming your sources. Although I am not a teacher, I would give you a gold star. Overall a solid :) .

  8. Spider-Dad

    Well, I remember that issue very well, so I cannot really complete your assignment. However, I like the virus connection you made to FF#25. Nice touch.As to covers actually relating to the issue, I am also a fan of that method. One of the things that drove me crazy about the JMS run was the generic Spider-Man covers. Sure they were nice covers, but I prefer it to relate to the story somehow. Makes it easier for me to remember what happened in what issue when going through my back issues.METS NITPICK FOLLOW-UP: If you parked the Delorean on May 10, 1964, more than likely you would have not seen this issue on the stands. Instead issue #14 would have been there. For many comics and magazines, the month indicates the pull date for the newsstands to send back the unsold copies to the distributor, (when they could still do that). So this issue actually would have been on the stands in March and April and pulled by early May.

  9. hornacek

    The cover says "LOOK WHO'S BACK" as if it's a surprise to see Doc Ock. But he was in the previous issue, not much of a shock."Doc Ock terrorizes the nation with a crime spree trying to draw out Spider-Man, but since Peter can’t get enough money to travel and couldn’t get away from Aunt May long enough to go across country to fight him anyway. So Doc Ock comes to the Big Apple." I think they discussed this in Amazing Spider-Man Classics but what made Doc Ock think that he could draw out Spider-Man by committing crimes across the country when he's only ever encountered him in New York? By this point Spidey has only been seen in NY, right? He went to Florida to battle the Lizard but only Curt, Martha and Billy knew that Spidey was there. "All of my battles with Spider-Man have been in New York, so to draw him out, I'll go commit crimes in Seattle and Chicago!"I believe this was the first appearance of Betty's new hairstyle. I guess having her brother/boyfriend (another ASMC reference) killed in the previous issue made her change her look."This time, Peter is able to pull out a victory after fight scene that last a full seven pages. Pretty awesome stuff." You left out one of the funniest parts - Doc Ock lets a bunch of zoo animals out so we get scenes of Spidey corralling and riding various animals like a lion, a tiger and a bear (oh my!).That naive police officer grew up to become Frank Drebin:

  10. Thomas Mets

    For my money, that cover's almost as good as ASM 40. It's elevated by the presence of Peter's supporting cast.A small nitpick but the book probably didn't come out in May 10 1964. For whatever reason, Marvel seems to list older comics as coming out on the 10th. My guess is it's meant to be an approximation. May 10 1964 was a Sunday.I like that Spider-Man was considered less impressive than Frank Buck.

  11. herbiepopnecker

    Here's what I came up with before reading:It was SO long ago! Flash masqueraded as Spider-Man, JJJ decided Peter had done the same thing in order to get pictures of Spidey in action....ya know, something like that.Having now read the article, I guess I was thinking of Flash's deeds in the previous appearance of Doc Ock?Like I said - long time ago!

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