Covers 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.
The 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).
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.
Doc 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.
In 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?
If 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.
- 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.
“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.