Too many characters in the issue squeezed JJ out?
Ending my quasi-threadjack, after beating bushes in Google I found a discussion tangentially related to the Master Planner:
The Crime Master (ASM #26-27) is revealed to be someone the fans didn't already know*. In the opinion of the poster Stan didn't want to repeat this because he supposedly got a lot of complaints from fans who wanted it to be someone they already knew. The discussion was related to the supposed friction about Norman Osborn being the Green Goblin instead of someone we didn't know.
If this was Stan's bias, I can see that he may have had the Master Planner changed from a new mastermind to an old mastermind for that reason.
* During a confrontation with the Green Goblin, CM claims to have proof of Gobby's identity in a safe deposit box that would be opened if he died. Nothing came of it, so I guess he was lying (or Stan forgot). Skimming the Crime Master tale, they dropped a lot of misdirecting breadcrumbs about who he might be. This may have irritated some of the letter-writers who felt they had been tricked.
If every villain was an old villain there'd only be one bad guy in the whole franchise. Which cartoon shows seem to love. Like the 90s Spider-Man where every villain was connected to Oscorp.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #60 (05/68)
Writer – Stan Lee – Co-Plot-John Romita – Penciller - & Don Heck
Inker – Mike Esposito
Cover Art – John Romita
Another wonderful Romita cover, simple but so very dramatic. Credit again to the colouring, the green behind the masthead Spidey and the ‘Marvel’ word adding to the green coloured Kingpin’s dominance of the entire cover.
Inspired, albeit a familiar concept.
Inside and we pick up right where we left off, the ‘Brainwasher’ revealed to be the Kingpin fights Spider-Man as the brainwashing of Captain Stacey caries on behind.
Notable is the third panel of the third page, other than the Kingpin wearing his more usual white coat, it’s a frame lifted for the cover, a detail I loved in comics then and miss from today’s covers.
Did the Kingpin coloured green on the cover to prevent a black background and a white coat seem too monochromatic?
Spidey gets an electric shock and has to exit the fight, exhausted while the now mind-controlled Captain Stacy returns to his party in the club.
The rest of the supporting cast getting more used to Peter’s disappearances and believing he’s probably gone in search of a news story.
Spidey suffers from the after effects of the shock with double vision and retreats to his home where he worries about his lot in life.
Peter realises in his disturbed sleep that he may have to fight a Kingpin-controlled Captain Stacy…
”How can I battle the father of…the girl I…I…Love?” which leads to a watershed moment –
“The Girl I Love! It’s …the first time…I ever admitted it to myself!”
- We knew, but it’s a dramatic revelation for Peter that he needed to mark.
Feeling better the next day Peter visits Gwen and her father, trying to see what influence may be being exerted on the good Captain.
Uncharacteristically violent, Captain Stacy actually raises his walking stick in anger against the snooping Peter only to be swatted away with ease “Oh No! I forgot my own strength!" -- And then….you guessed it didn’t you … Gwen enters to see her boyfriend knocking her elderly infirm father to the ground!!
Gwen naturally can’t work out why Peter would have done this deed and throws him out – of the house and her life!
“How? How could I ever have thought that I cared for you..??” “Get out, Peter…Get Out! And never come back! I never want to see you again ---ever!”
The shock and angst on Peter’s face is wonderfully realised and this whole scene has been a triumph of drama and emotion so perfectly crafted in those days.
Once Parker has left Captain Stacy alerts the Kingpin to his meddling suspicions and old Kingy sets his henchmen (thankfully and definitely not looking like Frederick Foswell – someone must have warned Romita off!) after our hero’s alter ego.
Peter visits his aunt and the Kingpin’s men visit Harry at his flat and push him around looking for Pete.
When Peter returns to the flat Harry tells him of the visit and instead of moaning at Peter bringing trouble to his door, like he may have a few issues ago, Harry steps up as Peter’s friend in deed “No dice, Pete! I’m not chickening out when you may need me!”
This is a nice piece, Peter and Harry are/should be portrayed as best friends – and that status quo is a welcome return.
So Spidey hits the streets and catches brainwashed-Captain Stacy stealing police records from HQ using his privileged position – but has to sell pictures of the event to the Daily Bugle to get the theft in the public eye – further upsetting Gwen as she quickly notices it is his pictures proving the story in the paper the next day that her beloved father is a crook!!.
Angst on top of angst!
The cover then shows an in context shot of Spidey vs the Kingpin, but the main action in this issue is the Peter-Gwen relationship. He realises he loves her and gets shoved further and further away from her side.
Wondrous pathos worthy of Shakespearian tragedy!
I approached this storyline without much memory of it – just going by the –seen-it-recently covers but the twists and turns of the human drama behind those covers make this a truly memorable sequence.
Beautiful artwork – how many more ways can I describe it – Captain Stacy’s confusion and anger, Gwen’s upset and rage and even JJ’s joy at seeing the photos are perfection in a panel.
‘O Bitter Victory’ even the title bites home once you’ve read the issue!
I liked this story, but I always had a hard time with the Kingpin as a Spider-Man villain. Sure, he's stronger than most humans, but he's still human. Webbing alone should stop him, and if not, a quick "proportionate strength of a spider" punch should actually put Fisk in traction. A lot of times it seems as if people forget just how strong Spider-Man happens to be.
It's well established, though, that Spidey holds back a bit when he faces a non-powered foe like the Kingpin. In this story and many others he faces ordinary crooks and doesn't put them in traction when he punches them. I think subconsciously Spidey just doesn't hit Fisk any harder than he would any other run of the mill thug. That's all the opening the Kingpin needs to hold his own when they tussle because Fisk is very strong, deceptively fast, and also a skilled fighter, probably moreso than Spidey. If Spidey doesn't hold back - or use his webbing, as you point out - it would be over quickly.
This was another good issue - heavier on action and lighter on the soapy stuff, although we don't seem to go for more than a few pages without the Parker bad luck - double vision, Gwen walking in as Pete accidentally sends her dad flying, Pete torn about what to do with the pics of Stacy committing a crime. The brilliance of the series in this era was that Stan, Johnny and friends were adept at making both the main plots and subplots crackle and knew when to emphasize one more than the other. The main plots don't drag, the subplots never feel tacked on. It's brilliant storytelling, and in my opinion John Romita Senior doesn't get the recognition he deserves. It's no accident Spidey soared in popularity in the 60s with Romita on the artwork.
It did seem like Fisk was as strong or stronger than Spider-Man in his early appearances. Like the time Spidey thought he was breaking his wrist. Either Stan forgot how strong Spider-Man was or he wanted Fisk to be unnaturally strong.
I had original copies (as opposed to Marvel Tales reprints) of both #59 and #60 when I was quite young, but I didn’t acquire them until 1975 or so. Still, these issues along with a handful of others provided my first real exposure to Spider-Man (apart from the cartoon show).
It was a great issue. I had a couple of quibbles, though.
Peter admittedly still not being able to see well yet riding his cycle in traffic didn't seem very responsible.
Also, the only picture we see of Captain Stacy tampering with the police files could be a picture of him looking at any file in any location. I don't see how it rises to proof of wrongdoing. I can only assume there are more pictures we don't see that make it clear what he's doing.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #61 (06/68)
Writer – Stan Lee – Co-Plot-John Romita – Penciller - & Don Heck
Inker – Mike Esposito
Cover Art – John Romita
Now that’s a title every writer of Spider-Man since has considered and eliminated isn’t it?
I’m in two minds – is that a dramatic cover or is it a bit over-done and ‘TV-Batman-deathtrap’-weak?
I think maybe it’s the yellow colouring, does that add or take away from the menace here?
Anyway, I again approached this issue thinking it was a bit of a dud.
We start with a beautiful splash page with Peter deep in thought and all his support cast stuck in a web around him it is worthy of a poster.
The Stacys react to the newspaper accusations against the previously-good Captain and decide to go into hiding together.
Spidey arrives at their place to find a bunch of the Kingpin’s henchmen there and a fight ensues ending with Spider-Man getting no information from the brainwashed bad guys.
MJ and Harry discover the Kingpin’s club she was working for has been closed up and abandoned.
Returning to the support cast fold we see Norman Osborn being milked for his money by the Kingpin – who is getting Osborn’s employee Dr Winkler to work for him creating the brainwashing machine.
We are reminded of Norman’s lack of memory of being the Green Goblin, since #40 but feel the presence of the Goblin looming large…
The Stacys are captured at the airport, not by policemen as Gwen first feared but by more henchmen. (I miss henchmen wearing suits and hats don’t you?)
The Stacys are taken to the Kingpin and Spider-Man arrives to save them and fights the big guy.
Peter had taken precautions against the Kingpin’s gas-tie-pin and it worked out for the good. (Nice to show the same tricks don’t always work.)
Norman Osborne arrives to check out illicit use of his lab and actually fights on the side of good as Spidey just manages to save our Stacys from the falling vat from the cover illustration.
Everyone is saved, the police arrive, Osborne can attest that the Stacys are innocent pawns and Gwen is grateful to him and to Spider-Man…but still hates Peter!
This was a good enough thrill ride, clearing up the evil-Captain Stacy plot but more subtly nudging Norman Osborne back towards goblinhood…
Beautiful art as always too.
It has to be noted (but not dwelt upon!) that it was this gratitude towards Norman Osborne by Gwen that is picked up on many decades later as when she and Norman grow close …enough for the affair between them and the result of that affair.
(I try not to think about that storyline!)
So, status quo kindof resumed with everyone kindof happy…except Peter!
I'm not an artist but the perspective seems a bit off.
Dr. Winkler? So the Fonz went to work for Norman Osborn?