Cover Date: January 1964
Cover Artist: Steve Ditko
“The Terrible Threat of the Living Brain!”
Plotters: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Scripter: Stan Lee
Penciller: Steve Ditko
Inker: Steve Ditko
“Spider-Man Tackles the Torch!”
Plotters: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Scripter: Stan Lee
Penciller: Jack Kirby
Inker: Steve Ditko
What’s Going On?
A robot with cutting-edge processing power was brought to Midtown High School for a demonstration. Unfortunately, someone accidentally short-circuits the robot, and it begins to rampage through the school. Can Spider-Man outwit the greatest mechanical brain ever built?
Is It Good?
This was a fun issue. The fight against the Living Brain was fine, but nothing special. The fight between Peter and Flash, though, was very cathartic and fun. It wrapped up a little too neatly for my tastes, but that’s a minor complaint. Ditko’s art was great in this issue. Flash Thompson’s expressions while Peter is punching him are a little cartoony, but they totally work for pseudo-Archie look Ditko gives the high school characters.
The back-up story was Spidey (basically) picking a fight with the Human Torch. That was fun, too, even if readers saw the two heroes fight not too long ago (Strange Tales Annual #2). The Torch definitely put up a better fight in this issue; I wonder how much of that was because Spider-Man beat him so easily in their last meeting. Anyway, modern Spider-Man doesn’t go off half-cocked, so it was fun to see him act like a hot-head.
- The Living Brain is a robot controlled by an advanced computer. Why they gave their smartest computer arms and legs, I don’t know.
- Peter’s class is encouraged to ask the Living Brain a question, since it is supposedly the smartest mind on the planet. The class decides to ask what Spider-Man’s secret identity is. The robot provides an answer, but it is encoded; luckily, the teacher assigns Peter to decode it.
- Flash Thompson breaks Peter’s glasses and gets defensive when Peter is upset.
- The two continue to butt heads until Mr. Warren decides they need to settle their problems in the boxing ring.
- In the boxing ring, Peter worries about doing Flash serious damage. Even pulling his punches, Peter knocks Flash out of the ring.
- Meanwhile, the two hired hands that wheeled the Living Brain into the classroom decide to steal the robot. A scuffle ensued when they were interrupted in their theft, and they quickly lost control of the robot.
- Peter eventually figures out how to win the fight and not actually injure Flash —- he will flick his wrist instead of punching —- and is successful. Flash’s friends cry foul, though, because Flash was distracted right before Peter knocks him out.
- The Living Brain is able to learn and anticipate Spider-Man’s moves. Spidey is eventually able to overpower the robot, though.
- Peter later suggests that Flash Thompson is secretly Spider-Man. This takes some pressure off of Peter, and thoroughly confuses Flash.
- Spider-Man decided to drop in on the Human Torch’s girlfriend to show off, only to find that she was throwing a party —- and the Torch was in attendance.
- Spidey crashes the party and goads the Torch into chasing him around. Right when he has gotten Johnny really mad, the Fantastic Four show up. Spider-Man assumes they are there to side with Johnny, so he immediately attacks.
- Sue stops the fight before it can go too far. The two sides more or less agree to a truce.
- This is the first appearance of the Living Brain.
- It is implied that Peter doesn’t need to wear glasses now, because his vision improved when he became Spider-Man. Readers could have concluded this on their own (Peter doesn’t wear glasses under his Spidey mask, after all), but it’s nice to have a more concrete reason given in the comic.
- This is the second time someone other than Peter Parker has been mistaken for Spider-Man. Both times, it has been Flash Thompson!
Comics Are Goofy:
- There are a few things in this panel that are worth savoring. First, and most obviously, Liz calling Flash a “he-man;” even if Ditko drew him as a hulking mass of hormones and muscle (he doesn’t), that would still amuse me. Second, Flash’s unnamed friends are both wearing bow ties because high school bow ties are the uniform of high school lackeys and snitches. That was harsh and probably not true, but it feels right in this context, so I’ll stick with it. Finally, it is hilarious that no one comments on how obviously fit Peter Parker is. They must have expected him to be skinny and frail, but Ditko draws him as at least the muscular equivalent of Flash and no one bats an eye.
- These guys decide to steal the Living Brain when they learn it can answer questions; they want to ask it about sporting outcomes. Where they got the impression that this machine can accurately predict the future, I have no idea.
- I absolutely love that Flash’s friends believe he could be Spider-Man. Ignoring the likelihood of a braggart like Flash concealing his identity with a mask, the mental gymnastics needed for someone to believe this are mind blowing. Remember when the Lizard or the Sandman attacked the school, and Flash was with you the entire time?
- Remember when Spider-Man was told by the Fantastic Four (back in Amazing Spider-Man #1) that they don’t receive a salary? Maybe they were lying.
- How did Spider-Man know who Johnny Storm’s girlfriend was, and how did he know her address?
- Sue defuses the fight with Spider-Man by flattering Spidey. It’s weird that Reed and Johnny don’t respond to their flirtation at all.
Well, That Aged Poorly:
- This is the “Tribute-to-Teen-Agers” issue. Stan Lee has never been above pandering to his audience, but yeesh.