Cobwebs 45: Villain Profile – The Tinkerer

Well, the Terrible Tinkerer is back!  But has he been?  Where did he come from?  Why do we care?  Read on, true believers!  We are about to explore the man, the legend, the master villain known as Spidey’s most dangerous foe ever! (You can trust me on this!) Excelsior!


It all begins in issue #2 of Amazing Spider-Man with

The Uncanny Threat of the Terrible Tinkerer!

You know this guy is bad news for the wall crawler, because Lee and Ditko made him and Spider-Man even proclaims it in the splash panel!

And that’s saying something!  Here is the run-down of other menaces he’s faced so far at this point in his history:

  • A man with a gun whose biggest strength is the ability to outrun old security guards
  • The Fantastic Four defense systems – the plexiglass tube is no joke, bunky!
  • The Chameleon – If you can spot him, not so hard
  • The Vulture – an old man who can fly

Now the Tinkerer doesn’t warrant a whole issue to himself.  Amazing Adult Fantasy used to be five stories each issue.  Spider-Man’s first issue with it was broken into parts, with Spider-Man not taking up all of them.  The first issue of Amazing Spider-Man is two parts and so is this one.  Stan Lee doesn’t devote a whole issue to one story until the the introduction of Doctor Octopus (who then becomes the new greatest menace Spidey’s ever faced) next issue.

This story starts with the science teacher getting Peter Parker a chance to spend the weekend with a strange man, who, thankfully enough, is a premiere electronics expert.  I am sure that this encounter put Peter on the path to being the tech savvy businessman he will become.  The man asks Peter to, on his way to the lab, pick up his radio which is being repaired.

The repair shop is run by no other than Phineas Mason, A.K.A. THE TERRIBLE TINKERER!  Of course, Peter blows him off as some “second-hand cream puff”.  But he can’t ignore his spider-sense, which leads him to discovering strange electronics in the radio.  But that’s not the only strange thing going on –

That’s right folks.  This radio shop is the launching base of an alien invasion and the Tinkerer is leading them! Oh no!

The most farfetched thing about this issue is not the aliens, but that the electronics expert that Peter is working for needs his radio repaired at a local shop.

A funny side note about this issue is that Spidey keeps calling his spider-sense “those funny impulses”.

Back to the issue at hand, Peter’s funny impulses lead him to examine the radio further and discover that there is more to it than just a radio.  He sneaks into the radio repair shop as Spider-Man and overhears the Tinkerer explain to an alien their plan, even though the aliens already know it.  There are radios in the homes and offices of all sorts of important people and the aliens are using them to find their weakness before invading the planet.

Well, Spidey is caught and put in a resisto-glass enclosure, but breaks out, of course (hey, if the FF plexiglass can’t hold him, this little alien resisto-glass is nothing).  The Tinkerer, plan spoiled, gets out of there.  In fact, all these aliens are so freaked out by Spider-Man’s escape that they run away faster than Yoda did after getting his little green butt handed to him by Palpatine.

Somehow all the radios magically go back to normal (Peter looks at the electronics guy’s radio and all the alien gadgets are gone now for some reason).  Peter ends the issue showing us the Tinkerer’s mask, revealing that the Tinkerer too was an alien!

He gets his own pin up in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1.

And that’s that.  Well, until 157 issues later.  Then it is revealed that it was all a hoax and that they used alien masks and fake space ships to fool people.  In fact, these guys must be commended since they were so committed to their role, they stayed in character even when there was no one around to see them.

The return of the Tinkerer also coincides with the return of the Spider-Mobile (because fans demanded it!).  The Tinkerer takes control of the buggy and uses it to attack Spider-Man.  This is a storyline that would later be ripped off in Batman 2 when the Penguin does the same thing to the Batmobile.

A story this good can only have a title worthy to match it.  So, we get “My Killer, My Car!”

It is scary how many times I somehow return to the Spider-Mobile in these posts.

To make matters even more clear, the aliens pop up later in Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man going after the gold that is hidden in Aunt May’s house.  They even kidnap poor Deb Whitman (dang, everything comes full circle with me) and eat Hostess fruit pies! (OK, I’m lying on that one.)

Turns out they work for Mysterio.

After that, the Tinkerer pops up here and there, usually in the background, usually making weapons for A listers.  You really tough people like Big Wheel, Grim Reaper, Rocket Racer, Grizzly, Whirlwind, Stilt-Man, Blizzard, Constrictor, Jack O’Lantern, and Clash.

Phineas Mason also pops up a lot in Wolverine comics also suppling different villains with tech.

He has a son – Rick Mason, known as The Agent.  Once a group kidnapped him to force the Tinkerer to work with them, but he hired Luke Cage and Dakota North (now there is a name we don’t run across very often) to free him.  Rick’s dead now, most likely (it is comics, by the way, but I’m quite sure that nothing short of a deal with the devil would bring him back and even the Tinkerer is not that evil).

When Civil War came around, the Tinkerer ran afoul of the Punisher since he made the “newly reformed” Stilt-Man a new pair of legs.  Punisher blew Stilt-Man’s legs off and then tracked down Phineas Mason and, rather than kill him, he jams a screwdriver in his back to paralyze him.

He also spent some time in the Negative Zone prison and helped the Fantastic Four escape the Negative Zone.

Since then, he’s been sitting quietly until Chip Zdarsky dragged him out to deal with his brother, Hophni Mason.  If you are wondering where that name comes from, it is a biblical allusion.  A priest named Eli had two rotten sons – Phineas and, you guessed it, Hophni.  My guess is that this is a hint that Hopni Mason is in cohorts with his brother Phineas and will be revealed as a bad guy later on.  Otherwise, I see no reason to name him this.

So now you know and you are ready to enjoy Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man with all the knowledge you need to truly appreciate the menace that is THE TINKERER!   And you can see why everyone is so excited that the Tinkerer is now a part of the MCU!  What devious disasters await our cinematic heroes with him in the mix!


Read more Villain Profiles on Crawlspace!



“Agent (Rick Mason).” Marvel Universe Wiki, Marvel, 2017,  Accessed 26 Sept. 2017.

Cronin, Brian.  “The Abandoned an’ Forsakened: So the Tinkerer Is an Alien!?” Comic Book Resources, 2017, Accessed on 26 Sept. 2017.

“Phineas Mason (Earth-616).” Marvel Database, Fandom, Accessed 26 Sept. 2017.

“Tinkerer.” Comic Vine, CBS Interactive, 2017,  Accessed 25 Sept. 2017.

“Tinkerer.” Marvel Universe Wiki, Marvel, 2017, Accessed 26 Sept. 2017.



All scans are from Marvel Unlimited


Credible Hulk



‘Nuff Said!

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(5) Comments

  1. hornacek

    I've read more than once that Stan and Steve knew that AF was being cancelled when they wrote the Spider-Man story for issue #15. So I don't think they would have written the stories for ASM #1-2 expecting it to be in AF#16 on. Maybe they thought there would be a different anthology book to replace AF?

  2. Jeff Gutman

    I'm fairly confident that Asm #1 and #2 contain all of the half issue length stories that Stan and Steve had prepared for amazing fantasy. Had it not been cancelled, these stories would have been in amazing fantasy #16 and so on (although I don't have any proof of this).

  3. hornacek

    It was issue #51 where "the truth" was revealed!

  4. Mark Alford - Post author

    @hornacek - Yeah, they really did need to get away from that old format. I wish they had stayed aliens and eventually kept coming back. Then we go as far as saying that only Spider-Man ever catches them. The Avengers and all others never know of their existence and when Spidey tries to tell them, they all blow him off.I should have put that Murray panel in the post!

  5. hornacek

    "This story starts with the science teacher getting Peter Parker a chance to spend the weekend with a strange man" Oh, this could have easily gone is much darker direction."these guys must be commended since they were so committed to their role, they stayed in character even when there was no one around to see them." I loved the panel in PPSSM #50 (?) where it recreates this ASM #2 panel and continues the scene with one of the aliens saying something like "Oh, can it Murray! No one's around, we can talk normally." Thank you Uncle Roger for that unnecessary, but welcome retcon.It really is crazy that Spidey fought aliens in his second issue and because it's the 60s, he doesn't freak out about it or barely mentions it in future stories. It reminds me of the Jerry Seinfeld bit where he talks about movies where aliens attack the Earth but no one ever stops and says "Aliens? What aliens? Aliens don't exist!"This story really does read more like an Amazing Fantasy or Strange Tales issue (aliens attack and only one man can stop them). I think with the following issue (and the full-issue size of the story) Lee/Dtiko get away from that type of story and into more traditional Spidey stories with super-villains instead of monsters and aliens.

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