Spider-Man unmasked! Not a hoax! Not a dream sequence! Not a What if?! That’s right, readers – this isn’t the story you demanded – this is the tale you dreaded, the story you feared, the yarn that may indeed unravel the hero we all love and hold dear. Is this the end of Spider-Man? And who is the mysterious stranger in the Spider suit next to our favorite Daily Bugle photog?
All these questions will be answer, dear readers – and more! For it is a tale that we tread into most hesitantly – a tale that could only be called…
UNMASKED AT LAST!
I always did want to be a Marvel hype man. Keep reading to see how Amazing Spider-Man #87 wasn’t only a fun read then, but has lasting impact in the webbed titles today.
A bit of the basics: this issue is dated August 1970 (I’ll still have a few months before I burst on the scene) and is written by Stan Lee and art is by both John Romita Sr. and Jim Mooney. Mooney used to work for DC, but had at this point recently joined Marvel. In his words, his early work on Spider-Man was just “finalizing” Romita’s layouts. He will soon go on to be an artist on the secondary titles.
I guess first of all we need to take Stan to task for the title – “Unmasked at Last”. Why? Because this isn’t the first time Spidey has had his identity revealed. In fact it is not the second. Or the third. Yep – Spider-Man’s identity has been discovered four times by this point. Let’s run it down:
ASM – 8 – The Living Brain figures it out, but due to his inability to write in English, nobody else knew. The Brain goes crazy because a few thugs think they can make easy money by having it predict sporting event outcomes. Peter just trashes the printout and tells everyone he lost it in the big kerfuffle*.
ASM – 12 – Doctor Octopus unmasks him, but decides that it couldn’t really be a teenager. In reality, Peter Parker has the flu and it made him lose all his powers. Since Ock had Betty hostage, he dressed up as Spider-Man and went to save her anyway. He got his butt handed to him. Click the link to read an older Cobwebs post about it. I still love that policeman, don’t you?
ASM – 39 – The Green Goblin learns of Peter’s identity, but luckily nobody thinks it is odd that there is a masked man tormenting a high school kid in their neighborhood, so nobody bothers to look out their windows. Well, Aunt May does, but she assumes all the smoke she sees is just fog. Then, since he has the advantage of knowing Spidey’s identity, the Green Goblin plays nice and shares his secret identity too.
So what is different about this time? This time Peter unmasks himself. Why? Well, let’s break down the comic.
It starts with a full splash page showing a sick Peter Parker reminding the reader that he has been getting weaker lately. His thought is that he is losing the radiation that gives him his powers. The only problem that he is so weak, that he cannot focus his eyesight on the blood sample he has in the microscope.
POP QUIZ TIME!
Who does Peter Parker trust enough to take his blood sample to?
a. Dr. Reed Richards
b. Dr. Curt Connors
c. Dr. Bromwell
d. Dr. Miles Warren
Click the image below to see the answer:
O.K., since the good doctor is not around, Peter is left on his own, getting weaker by the moment. He realizes that he is about to lose all of his spider strength and abilities, so he decides to do one last thing as Spider-Man.
POP QUIZ TIME!
What does Peter do as his last act as a super powered person?
a. save an old man (to redeem himself at last for not saving Uncle Ben)
b. swings by the Daily Bugle (to harass JJJ one last time)
c. fights the vulture (who was robbing a bank near by)
d. break in and rob a jewelry store (to get a gift for Gwen Stacy)
Click the image below to see the answer:
Meanwhile, at the Stacy house, the gang’s all there and Gwen is pouting because Peter hasn’t shown up for her birthday. Harry remarks that Peter would be late for his own funeral. MJ tells Gwen that Peter isn’t worth it (wow! Maybe Slott’s portrayal isn’t so off after all). The party goes on and Gwen puts on a brave face until finally everybody is gone except Harry, MJ, and Captain Stacy. At this point she begins to cry and in walks Peter!
Captain Stacy covers a bit for Peter by pointing out that “the boy is ill – feverish! There’s something wrong with him!” which lends some thought that maybe Captain Stacy already knows or at least suspects Peter’s true identity. We do know that for some time now, George Stacy and Joe Robertson have been trying to solve the mystery of Spider-Man’s identity as a hobby. With Peter in his street clothes and only carrying the mask, Stacy gives Peter an out. However Peter is currently not in his right mind and it is only Gwen’s hysterical cries that forces him to run out of the house. Harry remembers when Peter was unmasked by Doctor Octopus way back in ASM #12 (that’s called a flashback, kids), even though Harry didn’t know Peter at the time (having only been in the comics since issue #31).
Luckily for Gwen, she was surrounded by friends full of sympathy and good will.
Meanwhile, the web head checks into a street clinic and gets a doctor who could care less about how he is dressed, although the nurse gives him a rough go of it. He doesn’t even want to hear anything Spider-Man has to say about radioactivity or anything he may have come contact with. Why? Because this man is evidently a master with the stethoscope. Peter either passes out or falls asleep. Either way, when he comes to, we find out the source of the loss of his powers.
What could it have been that took away his powers? Green Goblin gas?
What could have turned Spider-Man into a jewelry store robber? Flash backs from when he was working with Doctor Octopus to get the nullifier? Webbed kryptonite?
No and no.
What was so awful that Spider-Man thought he was going to die and so told his dearest friends and captain of the police force his secret? They caught him in a lie? A persuasive Iron Man? Martin Goodman telling Stan Lee that people can’t identify with a masked hero, so he should unmask as often as possible?
No, no, and no.
It was . . .
That’s right. The flu. He was sick – just like the last time he lost his powers. Too bad he didn’t remember that last time he got sick and lost his powers back in ASM #12. I mean, Harry remembered it and he wasn’t even there! This doctor is a pretty cool cat (getting into my ‘7s lingo). When Spidey says, “I’ll never forget you,” the do just walks out saying, “Forget me! Forget me! I have enough friends already!”
So now he has a problem. He is completely healed and he has revealed his identity to his girlfriend, captain of the police force, best friend, and future
wife committed partner. What does one do in that sort of situation?
Obviously you go to Dr. Strange and get him to do some psychic blind spot one everyone. However, as Marvel was still the house of ideas at this point, they decided to go with something else.
That’s where the Dreaded Stalker comes in:
Well, it would have been the Stalker. That was the original name for the character. They changed it later to the Prowler. A good thing too. I don’t see the name Stalker going over too well in today’s climate. John Romita Jr. actually came up with the idea for this character when he was only twelve. He sent it to Stan Lee who used it in ASM #78. That must have been pretty cool for John Romita Sr. to get to draw his son’s creation.
Anyway, in ASM #79, Spidey gives Hobie Brown (a.k.a. the Stalker, a.k.a. the Prowler) a second chance to be a guy on the straight and narrow. He figures this means Brown owes him a favor. In a sequence that takes way too long, Spider-Man swings over to enlist his help. Luckily, Harry and MJ are over at the Stacy’s. It seems that MJ was hoping for more Peter/Gwen drama (man, MJ is a punk!). Then we get this sequence:
And there you have, it folks. Hobie Brown’s first time impersonating Spider-Man which leads to his current role in the comic today – a role that I personally would love to see more of. Which would you rather spend money on – a point one series about some voodoo wannabes or a point one series of Hobie Brown trying to be Spider-Man while Peter is jet setting? I know which one I’d rather be reviewing.
Hindsight also makes MJ more interesting in this issue. We know now, thanks to Parallel Lives, that MJ knew Peter was Spider-Man during this whole issue (ugh! I hate that retcon). Think about that as you re-read her lines:
She gives Betty Brant a run for her money. MJ KNOWS Peter really is Spider-Man and, instead of being concerned for what he is going through, she is revealing in the drama of it all.
The cover tells us that if you only read one mag this month, it has to be this one. So what else was Marvel putting out with the August 1970 date?
- Black Widow and the Inhumans sharing a comic (apparently that is what readers were demanding back then)
- Kazar and Dr. Doom sharing a comic (going by the cover, nobody was demanding that one)
- The Avengers fighting the Lethal Legion
- Captain America Satan’s Angels
- The Hulk trying to kill some college kids while Captain Marvel tries to stop him
- Some horror comic, but since it was approved by the CCA, it couldn’t have been that good
- Three (count ‘em – THREE) comics centering on Milie the Model plus a fourth one about Chili (Millie’s red headed rival – I’m NOT making that up)
- Daredevil facing off against the Stilt Man
- The Fantastic Four apparently die at the hands of the Skrulls
- The Hulk tries to kill Bruce Banner (what?)
- Iron Man fighting both the Titanium Man and Submariner
- Iron Man fighting the Controller (you mean Iron Man gets more titles than Spider-Man?)
- Kazar in his first issue (seems rather poor planning to put his first issue in a month that he is already starring in another issue)
- Kid Colt Outlaw getting bushwhacked by the Bellows Mob (I’m just presenting the material folks, not creating it)
- Reed Richards and Sue Storm hold off the Frightful Four by themselves
- A romance comic featuring a story titled “He’s Hers, But I Want Him”
- The Outlaw Kid shooting some bad guys
- The Rawhide Kid facing off against the Lost Legion (a lot of kids running around with guns in the wild west)
- Fury and the Howling Commandos in their greatest mission (it says so, right on the cover – plus Fury has two eyes!)
- The Submariner fights Brutivac (nope – didn’t make that one up either)
- Loki creates a hell on earth for Thor
- A cowboy collection featuring all of the non-outlaw kids including Ghost Rider (cowboy version – not motorcycle version), the Renegades, the Man from Port Rango, and Gunhawk.
You can see them all by clicking here.
That’s a lot of comics in one month! However, after looking at the covers, I might have to agree with Stan.
Comic Vine ranked this story as 67th in Spider-Man’s all-time 100 best stories. It’s a good story, but I’m not positive that I would rank it so high. Then again, there were several stories on that list that I don’t think I would have included at all.
All in all, I suggest you go back and read it. I think all who remembered this issue liked the inclusion of Hobie Brown as a Spidey stand in in the comics today. I could be wrong, though. I was once as a freshman in college. It is likely to happen again.
* – Hey! It’s a legitimate word! Bonus points for anyone who uses it in the comments section for somebody else’s post.
“1970, August.” Marvel Database. Wikia, n.d. Web. 15 May 2016. <http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Category:1970,_August>.
“Jim Mooney.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia, 26 Feb. 2016. Web. 15 May 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Mooney>.
Lee, Stan. “Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #87.” Marvel Unlimited. Marvel, 13 Nov. 2007. Web. 14 May 2016. <http://read.marvel.com/#/book/1429>.
The Poet. “Comic Vine’s Top 100 Spider-man [sic] Universe Stories.” Comic Vine. CBS Interactive, Aug. 2013. Web. 15 May 2016. <http://comicvine.gamespot.com/forums/spider-man-167/comic-vine-s-top-100-spider-man-universe-stories-1477170/>.
Saffel, Steve. Spider-Man the Icon: The Life and Times of a Pop Culture Phenomenon. London: Titan, 2007.
“Spider-Man Revealed! And Other Times Spider-Man Is Unmasked.” Comics Back Issues. n.p., 29 July 2011. Web. 13 May 2016. <http://www.comicsbackissues.com/spider-man-revealed-and-other-times-spider-man-is-unmasked/>.
All scans are from Marvel Unlimited