The first appearance of The Lizard. The hits just keep coming. The splash has Liz commanding an army of alligators to attack our man. Another strong sales pitch! And this month’s villain wastes no time getting into the action:
This intro for The Lizard is pretty much interchangeable with any of the monster comics Marvel was producing before and during this period. He’d be on the cover and there’s be a title like “I Challenged… The Lizard!” or something. They have this kinda thing down, at this point. But this monster’s gonna have to fight a superhero. Love the idea that JJJ has challenged Spider-Man to fight a random monster all the way down in Florida. And it’s all for show, as Peter learns when he turns up at The Bugle hoping to be sent to Florida to “cover” it. JJJ freely admits he’s just trying to capitalize on the story. As a dejected Peter leaves, Betty says she thinks this Lizard thing could be a real scoop, again going out of her way to be nice to him. Peter then makes the rather puzzling choice to go learn about dinosaurs at The Natural History Museum just in case, because they were “the biggest” lizards. Uh, sure. Flash & Liz are already there, because of course they are. But as they listen to a lecture on dinosaurs, Peter’s Spider Sense warns him about 2 guys who’ve just stolen a ruby from “the idol” in another exhibit. The hoods notice him staring at them.
It’s funny, I know the “voice” of the characters is pretty subjective. I mean, you can tell that by how right or wrong you think each writer gets it, since the one thing they all presumably have in common is thinking they got it right. But to me, this banter is already “the classic Spider-Man” by issue 6. But, hang on, it’s time for an important first meeting.
The cushion thing is legit great. Despite firmly believing the artists did most of the work on these books myself, and that Stan Lee spent his career taking far more credit that he deserved, he surely does deserve some credit, and that’s a good example of the ways he enriched the pages. While calling himself “the writer” when he probably rarely contributed much to the plot was lame (And directly led to Ditko quitting), the dialogue is pretty crucial to the appeal and success of these comics. Such a complicated situation. At any rate, Spider-Man’s going to Florida, after all, tho not quite the way Peter had hoped. Peter goes home to ask Aunt May if he can go, and she says no until he tells her JJJ is going with her. Then they’re off. Peter’s brought news clippings and maps of areas The Lizard has been spotted in to study on the plane, and notes a reptile expert named Dr. Connors lives in the area, thinking he might get some help from that guy. When they land, Peter says he has to go buy some fresh film, and that’s his excuse to become Spider-Man.
The Lizard threatens our hero for a bit, and then Spider-Man makes the really dumb decision to grab his foe by the tail, allowing himself to be flung off into the distance. Landing in a tree, he estimates he’s been tossed half a mile. And just his luck, he’s landed right near a house he… just assumes is Dr. Connors’? And is right? Great stuff, Spidey. He decides he’d better warn the residents The Lizard is nearby, but only finds a crying woman inside, who says he doesn’t understand.
And so we have the setup for… well, basically every Lizard story. He’s a fun design, but it really is just “Curt has become The Lizard, his family is in danger, Spider-Man has to help” over and over and over most of the time. Speaking of Spider-Man having to help, he swings Billy to safety in a tree and tries to fight The Lizard, but finds his scaly skin is so hard he barely feels a punch. Then Martha runs out yelling for Billy and Lizard vanishes into the swamp. Spidey asks Martha to show him to her husband’s lab, thinking maybe he can review Curt’s notes and create an antidote. And after hours of work, he thinks he has. I mean, Peter must be pretty smart to duplicate and counteract Curt’s work in an hour. But right as he gets finished, the Lizard storms into the house looking for revenge. He hands the now-familiar test tube full of antidote to Martha to “try to reason” with her husband, and gets a whole desk thrown at him for his trouble. Half-trapped under the desk, Spidey is in no position to fight back as The Lizard beats on him for awhile. Assuming he’s dead, Liz leaves, saying he plans to give his serum to various other reptiles to build an army. But Spider-Man is actually fine, just knocked out for a minute. Spider-Man takes the antidote back from Martha, and promises to get Curt back before heading out into the swamp. His Spider Sense helps him track The Lizard to what appears to “an old fort,” not an uncommon sight in The South. He stops to snap some photos of Lizard and the small gang of alligators that seem oddly obedient to him, but the old fort betrays him, and the stones he’s sticking to crumble, dropping him to the ground and into battle.
The battle continues inside, with Spider-Man mostly on the defensive, especially when the alligators get back in the game. Eventually he crawls to the top of one of the towers, but Lizard follows him up.
Nice and tidy.
Why would he make up that story? Why would JJJ decide there’s no Lizard just because he’s not seen one in his hotel? Kind of an awkward end to this.
That must’ve been one awkward plane ride. You think Betty wrote that letter? Seems weird for Peter to have actually done it. Even the resolution to The Lizard’s story seems pretty in line with the Marvel monster comics. The “I tampered with forces beyond our control” and such. It just had a Spider-Man in it. Liz’s thing for Spider-Man is a pretty funny, and the relationship between Spider-Man and JJJ has really ratched up. Things are coming together. Before we get to that return of The Vulture, though, it’s time for another detour. And before we get to that, here’s the 2nd reprint cover, again by Frenz & Milgrom: