March 10, 1964
- As our story opens, we find someone committing crimes in the guise of Spider-Man! Obviously, we readers know it can't be him - but if not, then who? We might have wondered if it was the Chameleon, come back in disguise to get both rich and revenge - if, that is, the cover itself hadn't proclaimed the appearance of a new baddie inside. But though delaying the fact of a new villain's debut might have made for a more suspenseful story once purchased and in the readers' hands, allowing us time for countless conjectures, we also can't deny that Mysterio's design is incredibly eye-catching, and might certainly have sold more covers than not. A more suspenseful story is thus squarely at odds with the sales appeal of an eye-catching cover - and, as it turns out, it's not the only opposed elements to be found herein.
We all knew it was coming: Pete's finally cracking up.
- And so, faced with eyewitness proof of this evil Spidey's crimes, Peter starts to wonder if he's losing his mind. Neat! Yes, others have dressed up in a Spider-Man suit before, but this one can climb buildings and shoot webs! So Peter decides to do the scientific thing and submit himself to diagnosis. But he does this by going in for a mental checkup from a psychiatrist - and in full costume, to boot! As the cover states, this is a development that no comics reader would ever have expected to see. But alas - we in fact don't, as Spidey has only begun to speak before realizing that in the course of such an exam he might accidentally divulge his secret identity. And so he ducks back out the doctor's window, only minutes after he'd popped in. What a tease!
Another of Ditko's great crowd shots. Characters in the foreground and back, from left to right,
with a full range of thoughts and reactions. It feels like a real New York street!
- In the wake of Spider-Man's terrible turn, the enigmatic Mysterio appears, offering his services to catch Spider-Man and make him pay. And for a Marvel villain, it's not a bad plan: to first collect the loot from the robberies, then rake in acclaim for catching the alleged perp! Interestingly, readers of Steve Ditko's other ongoing feature might have rightly seen Mysterio, complete with swirling smoke and seemingly magical powers, as belonging to the same sorcerous archetype as Doctor Strange. Which is why it's so frustrating to see this possibility immediately undercut by Lee's script, which finds Spidey coming up with instant scientific explanations for everything Mysterio does. ("How does he keep his balance that way without falling? I'll bet his shoes are magnetized!" "The web is dissolving - vaporizing!! As though sprayed with a fine chemical mist, too small for the eye to see!") Mightn't the story have been more suspenseful were we allowed to think of the villain as a powerful wielder of magic and mysticism, and completely out of Spider-Man's league - at least until the later revelation? It's another case of "two steps forward, one step back", and it makes one wonder if the writing so at odds with the art is a sign of the eventual rift between Lee and Ditko showing its first conflict here.
Check the note on the blueprint of the eyes:
"Two way mirror idea" "Cannot see in - can see out"
- Finally, a cute side note about this issue: As intended and as first received, this is the first appearance of Mysterio, yes? But it wouldn't stay that way forever! For 1981's Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #51 would reveal that Mysterio had been one of the "aliens" seen working for the Tinkerer in ASM #2, himself subject to an earlier retcon in ASM #160 from 1976, which established that the villain and the alien invaders were in fact just a bunch of crooks in disguise. The later revelations may not sit entirely well with the initial Tinkerer story as originally presented - but then again, given such ludicrous elements as the disguised alien's supposedly lifelike mask, the original story wasn't entirely flawless, either!
Like last issue's fight in the art studio, this time the action crashes into a movie set.
It may again be needless, but it's enjoyable and appreciated!