Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #22

Credits:

Cover Date: March 1965

Cover Artists: Steve Ditko

“Preeeeeesenting…the Clown, and His Masters of Menace!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Steve Ditko

Inker: Steve Ditko

What’s Going On?

Spider-Man takes on the Circus of Crime again!

Details:

  • When the Circus of Crime is released from prison, Spider-Man decides to drop in on them and intimidate them a bit. He slips a spider-tracer into the Ringmaster’s hat and leaves.

  • The Circus didn’t like how wimpy the Ringmaster acted around Spidey, so Princess Python suggests that Clown should be their new leader. The rest of the Circus agrees; the Ringmaster is kicked out of the gang, and Clown is now in charge.

  • Later, the Masters of Menace decide to rob an art exhibition. Peter happens to be there, but he doesn’t have a chance to change into his Spider-Man duds before the criminals have escaped.

  • Assuming that the Ringmaster is involved with the heist, Spider-Man tracks his spider-tracer to the police station! The Ringmaster was brought in for questioning, but released because he had an alibi (and was actually innocent).
  • Not satisfied, Spidey follows the Ringmaster home and uses the Ringmaster’s hypnotic hat to interrogate him. He learns that the Ringmaster is legitimately innocent of this crime, and also gets a logical guess for where the Masters of Menace are hiding out.

  • When Spider-Man confronts the Masters of Menace, a fight breaks out. The villains use teamwork and fight more efficiently with Clown leading them, so Spidey actually has a challenge on his hands.

  • Princess Python eventually grabs Spider-Man. While he could break free, he doesn’t want to physically harm a woman, so he winds up in a bad situation: surrounded by enemies waiting to beat on him!

  • It’s counter-intuitive, but that plan doesn’t work for the bad guys. With them standing in (more or less) one spot, Spider-Man is able to use his vast strength to punch them out, one at a time.

  • That leaves only Princess Python standing, because Spidey won’t hit a woman. She tries to use her feminine whiles to wiggle out of jail time.

  • Of course, Spider-Man doesn’t fall for her act. But he does let her lock him in a room with her gigantic python. Spidey ties the snake in a knot.

  • All’s well that ends well, as the Masters of Menace are arrested —- along with the Ringleader, who tried to steal from them —- and Spider-Man saved the day.

Is It Good?

It is! I don’t like the Circus of Crime —- or whatever they want to call themselves —- but that didn’t keep this from being a fun issue. Ditko’s art (and lots of fight sequences) didn’t hurt, either.

There was something that stuck out to me in this issue. One of the main things that sets this title apart from the rest of Marvel’s stuff —- and Spider-Man is clearly their best title thus far —- is the great supporting cast. I absolutely, unironically, love that Spidey goes out of his way to avenge J. Jonah Jameson here.

Continuity:

  • The Circus of Crime last appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #16.
  • This is the first issue where Clown, Human Cannonball, and the Great Gambonos.  Most of these team members debuted in Amazing Spider-Man #16, but this is the first time they get meaningful dialogue with it.
  • The Circus of Crime, minus the Ringleader, are the Masters of Menace!  This is their first appearance.

  • Peter and Betty Brant finally get a moment to talk. Peter puts her jealous mind at ease about Doris Evans being a potential rival for his affections.

  • Spider-Man almost has his mask removed by Princess Python.

  • This is the first time we’ve seen Spider-Man violate his curfew. You’d think he would have called Aunt May because he was working at the Daily Bugle, but I guess not! Face front!

Comics Are Goofy:

  • I guess this was before HIPAA, where anyone who calls the hospital can get info on any patient, from whoever wants to answer the phone.

  • I mean, who hasn’t thought this exact thing before?

Well, That Aged Poorly:

  • It’s really grating on me, the way that Stan Lee uses the term “female.” He treats it like a synonym for “jackass,” and that’s not okay.

  • Wow, a Beatle and a Hollywood bombshell referenced in consecutive panels? That’s usually topical for Spidey.

  • It’s interesting to see a hero struggle with this in a comic. It’s a reminder of how Marvel likes to have female heroes fight villains (regardless of gender), but you rarely see a male hero hit a female villain. And that’s fair! I don’t want to watch Spider-Man, who can throw a truck, punch Princess Python in the teeth! But it’s weird to see this explicitly called out in the script.

  • Another pop-culture reference? Stan must have been ogling movie mags when scripting this.

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