Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #20

Credits:

Cover Date: January 1965

Cover Artist: Steve Ditko

“The Coming of the Scorpion! or Spidey Battles Scorpey!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Steve Ditko

Inker: Steve Ditko

What’s Going On?

J. Jonah Jameson hates Spider-Man so much that he is willing to pay a guy to be the human subject in a dangerous and untested experiment to give a normal person super powers. The experiment is successful, and the Scorpion is born! Too bad a side effect of the experiment is that it makes its test subjects evil…

Details:

  • The random guy that was spying on Peter at the end of last issue didn’t escape Pete’s notice. Peter tries to find out more about his shadow, but no luck.

  • Meanwhile, J. Jonah Jameson learns about a scientist that can cause artificial mutations, which gives him an idea…

  • It turns out that the person shadowing Peter was hired by J. Jonah Jameson. Mac Gargan was following Peter in an attempt to learn how he gets his Spider-Man photos. Jonah has lost interest in the photos, but has another lucrative (and dangerous) job in mind for Gargan…

  • JJJ now wants to create a super-human with powers greater than Spider-Man’s. He finds someone, Dr. Stillwell, studying artificial mutation in lab animals, and offers him money to do human testing —- and he provides a willing test subject in Gargan!

  • Now that he has super powers, Gargan is the Scorpion. He is very strong, but he doesn’t want to spend time training before going after Spider-Man.

  • And why not? The Spider-Man seems to be outmatches by the Scorpion.

  • Meanwhile, the scientist that created the Scorpion realizes that Gargan will become more and more evil the more he uses his powers. Luckily, the scientist has an antidote!

  • Scorpion knocks Spider-Man out, but leaves him unconscious (rather than killing or unmasking him). His reasoning: why should he care about Spider-Man when he can obviously do whatever he wants with his newfound power?

  • JJJ realizes too late that he might get in some trouble if the Scorpion starts committing crimes.

  • Dr. Stillwell tried to convince Gargan to take the antidote before he becomes permanently evil. Gargan is not interested.

  • Dr. Stillwell dies in an unsuccessful attempt to cure the Scorpion.
  • Elsewhere, the consequences of his actions are beginning to dawn on JJJ.

  • Scorpion and Spidey fight again, and again Scorpion is victorious. He decides to go after J. Jonah Jameson next. However, Spider-Man may be down, but he is not defeated.

  • In Jameson’s office, Spidey makes his move. Instead of trading blows with the stronger Scorpion, he uses his wits, agility, and spider-sense to defeat his opponent.

  • JJJ’s takeaway from all of this action is not that he should stop obsessing over Spider-Man.  No he concludes that, given his powers, it is inevitable that Spider-Man will eventually break bad.

Is It Good?

Yes, this is a good issue. While JJJ’s arc is predictable, it hasn’t been overdone in this title, and that makes up for its predictability. It was nice to see an issue that gave Jonah more of a spotlight, even if he spent the time being extra-terrible.

Plot-wise, I like the choice to create a villain with direct ties to J. Jonah Jameson. At this point in continuity, JJJ is just a first class heel, and this is a logical next step for his campaign against Spidey. I did like that he was more upset over the danger he has unleashed on the public, rather than the negative publicity he might get for his role in Scorpion’s creation.

Ditko’s artwork looks great in this issue. He draws multiple multi-panel fight scenes, and he really conveys the physicality of them. This is one of my favorite issues for his art so far.

Continuity:

  • This is the first appearance of Mac Gargan, the Scorpion. He has super-strength and a mechanical tail that responds to his thoughts.

  • This is the first and only appearance of Dr. Stillwell, who was the scientist whose experiment gave the Scorpion his powers. Stillwell dies in this issue, trying to cure the Scorpion.
  • Since Gargan was on Jonah’s payroll, you can argue that he is the second super villain to come from the Daily Bugle staff, after the Big Man.
  • Betty Brant is dating Ned Leeds, but not exclusively. Peter is jealous of how much time she is spending with the extremely friendly Leeds.

  • Flash Thompson’s back to acting like a jerk.

  • We have a pin-up!

  • In the letter pages, there’s some i formation about Marvel’s first official fan club, the Merry Marvel Marching Society. Interestingly, Stan makes sure that folks who can’t afford the club don’t feel left out. That’s pretty cool, but it seems counter-intuitive.

  • The letters page also includes an odd house ad, promoting Wally Wood…but not mentioning Daredevil?

Comics Are Goofy:

  • You didn’t know that Spider-Man can sculpt animals out of web fluid? How could you not know that? (aside from it never happening before, and likely not happening since, and wouldn’t it get stuck to his hands?)

  • Mac Gargan’s indifference to becoming a mentally unbalanced freak is great. For what it’s worth, $10,000 in 1965 dollars would be just under $80,000 in 2019.

  • Credit where credit’s due: J. Jonah Jameson could have experimented on himself, in the grand tradition of Marvel characters doing very dumb things with science. But he didn’t; he hired someone stupid to take the risk for him.
  • This doesn’t sound very scientific.

  • This is truly a fantastic amount of text in such a small panel. Does that matter? No. Is it kinda weird? Yes!

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