Here it is, the new earliest Spider-Man comic I have. Back when this blog started in 2019, my oldest issue was 30, but no longer! Obviously not the nicest copy, it may not have a cover, the last (all ads) page may be torn in half, but I got it for less than $25! ASM 8 for like $23! I’ll take it. Part of the reason is this is the least important issue of the initial run. No timeless villain here, although, it’s comics, so “The Living Brain” has obviously come back. But, anyway, this one’s promising a lot, so let’s take a look. It does have one rather pivotal moment, right on page 2:
The end of Peter Parker’s glasses. Also, the scientist from AF15 that eventually got named something else I’ve already forgotten is now “Mr. Warren.” Whoops! Also also, “ICM.” That’s funny. You think it was weird for Peter to finish high school studying with Mr. Warren and go to college to study under a different Mr. Warren? “I only learn from Warrens.”
That one girl must be really good with heights! Lucky for Peter, he’s informed the answer comes in “mathematical code symbols,” which he’s tasked with decoding overnight. But Flash demands the paper, and when they fight over it, Mr. Warren suggests… they settle their differences with a boxing match. Can you even imagine that happening today? That seems insane for any time period. So, we’re soon in the gym, and Peter is really scared he’s gonna hurt Flash, while Flash is very excited to finally get to pound his rival. However, in a couple of pretty famous panels…
I just realized there’s no staples in this book. As the fight gets back underway, one floor above, those guys make their move, punching out the guys from “ICM” and trying to steal The Living Brain. But in trying to disconnect it, they make it go haywire. It begins a rampage through the school, its big weird arms swinging all over, endangering everyone. But back in the gym…
The ol’ Parker luck. Can’t change the power dynamic tooooo much.
The Brain begins probing the web, testing its strength, and then smashes right through it to continue its rampage. Spidey tests it again, making sure it can hear him following it to see what it does, and what it does is spring around and start chasing him, having ID’d him as an enemy. And it’s fast, faster than he anticipated, and it soon has him cornered. He leaps over it at the last minute, but as he runs, he finds more kids in harm’s way, saying the exit door is jammed shut. He smashes the door open for them, but that lets the Brain get the drop on him, knocking down another door right on top of him.
Ditko is really getting into the groove of fight scenes. Spider-Man escapes the shattering door, but he has no idea what to do. He webs the thing’s head, trying to hold it back as it runs to another door, but it spins super fast, pulling him in and throwing him back away. Then it just leaves, having determined he can’t hurt it. But there are still more kids in its path, so Spider-Man leaps on its back and begins trying to reach its control panel. Just as it’s about to chuck him down some stairs, he manages to shut it off, but now it’s gonna fall down said stairs still holding him.
A simple solution to several issues at the end of this one. Not the most enduring villain, but Peter & Flash’s fight is well-known, which makes having an original copy of this pretty fun. We’ve already seen the bizarre tribute issue to this one in WEB 35. But wait, as the blurb at the bottom says, this issue has a 2nd story.
Now why is this happening? And why is Kirby doing it? I have a theory about the 2nd part. Pure conjecture on my end. But it’s well known that Ditko’s obsession with Ayn Rand’s dumb Objectivist philosophy made its way into even Spider-Man, though it would become far, far more the focus in later work like Mr. A. An aspect of that was Ditko abhorred the team-ups Marvel was quickly becoming famous for, believing his hero shouldn’t need help from anyone to win his battles. You’ll note that Spider-Man’s encounters with other heroes haven’t been the usual so far. So maybe Stan wanted a Torch team-up and Ditko refused? Again, I have no special knowledge of this short story or how it came to be, but it would make sense to a degree. Another possibility is this was to be a 2nd meeting in Torch’s own strip, which might explain why it’s so short and why Spider-Man is kind of the bad guy in it. For whatever reason, we get a few more rare pages of Kirby Spider-Man. As always, he is inked by the main artist of the Spider-Man title to try to smooth out the look. Spider-Man, really turning on the charm, spies on their party from outside, and then decides to make giant bat out of web to toss in there and scare everyone. When Johnny hits it with a pillow, he comes apart, covering him in web as Spider-Man bops in to make fun of him for it. Everyone obviously wants Spider-Man to leave.
I mean, Spider-Man’s behavior sure makes it seem like this would be better off in a book he’s not the hero of. A furious Johnny really begins unloading his power, shooting flame into the ground to make it erupt and making giant flaming sawblades. Spider-Man starts to think this was a mistake even as Johnny thinks maybe he’s being too hard, but neither of them is willing to back down as Johnny makes a “fire net.” Kirby really did some wacky things with his fire.
Well, now. That was a weird time. Kirby action at its wildest, tho, you can’t go wrong with that. While my copy of this issue may not have a cover, the newspaper reprints gave it three! For some reason, they split this one into 3 parts instead of the usual 2, causing the first story to wrap on the first 2 pages of their 3rd book. That’s not confusing at all for people who missed the previous one, wow. But behold below the original cover, plus new ones by Frenz & Milgrom and Coipel, Morales & Sotomayor: