Wednesday

OMU: Hulk -- Year Five

The Hulk continues to wander far and wide over the next twelve months in the character’s life, making his way from the frozen wastes of the Arctic to tropical islands in the Atlantic and from Montreal, Canada, to Sydney, Australia—not to mention visits to other planets, dimensions, and time periods. In fact, Hulk largely loses touch with his supporting cast, seeing them only briefly here and there in the course of his adventures. As such, his book follows two mostly separate tracks during this period, with a new character, Colonel John D. Armbruster, added to the mix but remaining just another anonymous soldier as far as Hulk is concerned. Artist Herb Trimpe continues his landmark run here, working primarily with writers Steve Englehart and Roy Thomas (with some assistance from other members of the Marvel Bullpen), giving the book a nice, consistent feel.

Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale.) Some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.


Continuing on with… The True History of the Incredible Hulk!


January 1966 – The Hulk wanders the snowy forests of Quebec, Canada, keeping a relatively low profile. Early in the month, he takes refuge within a cave and finds a newspaper on the ground. The headline announces a “battle of the sexes” in New York City between the Thing and a mystery woman called Thundra. Hulk recognizes his old foe, the Thing, but is confused as to why he would want to fight a girl.

February 1966 – Hulk is about ten miles north of Montreal when he stumbles upon a military convoy and assumes they have come to attack him. He flips over the last personnel transport truck, sending it sliding into a ravine. Spider-Man appears a moment later and helps the soldiers as they open fire on the Hulk. Enraged, Hulk leaps away, landing at the Maskattawan Dam several miles down the Saint Lawrence River. There, Spider-Man attacks him again, then enters the control tower and causes water to start streaming through the dam. Frustrated by the “leaking wall,” Hulk smashes the control tower, causing a rain of boulders to carry him and Spider-Man into the ice-cold water. Hulk throws some of the boulders back to shore, then creates a large wave that swamps the convoy on the riverbank. Tired of fighting, Hulk leaps off to the south and soon comes upon a construction site on an island in the river, which is to be the site of next year’s International and Universal Exposition. Since the workers have all gone home for the evening, Hulk decides to spend the night there. A little later, though, a taxi nearly crashes into him as he is wandering around. Annoyed, Hulk rips up the road surface, flipping the taxi over. Almost immediately, Spider-Man turns up again and they continue their fight, causing tremendous damage to the fairgrounds. When some military helicopters arrive and start shooting at him, Hulk leaps away, losing his enemies in the darkness. Fed up, Hulk makes his way back to the wilderness.

March 1966 – Hulk moves north through Quebec, circling around Hudson Bay, then continues on into the Northwest Territories and soon crosses the Arctic Circle. Though he enjoys the peace and quiet, the harsh conditions prevent the Hulk from changing back into Bruce Banner.

April 1966 – Hulk is taken by surprise when a trio of U.S. Air Force fighter jets finds him wandering around the Arctic. While trying to escape the jets’ missile barrage, Hulk crashes through the polar ice cap and finds himself within a huge cavern. He is shocked to see a small city, with towers the size of office buildings, completely hidden under the ice. Five Russian soldiers in bulky suits of armor fly out of one of the buildings and attack the Hulk, managing to knock him out with a powerful sedative gas. When he wakes up, Hulk finds himself a prisoner of the Gremlin, a deformed genius who explains that his father was the Gargoyle, whom the Hulk encountered four years ago. Blaming the Hulk for his father’s death, the Gremlin intends to get revenge, but only after conducting a battery of tests on the Hulk for his own super-soldier project. However, a couple days later, the Gremlin administers too high a dose of the gas that was keeping the Hulk docile, causing him to change back into Bruce Banner. Confused and disoriented, Bruce is led to a holding cell, where he discovers that General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross is also being held prisoner. Bruce is struck by the irony when Ross insists that the Hulk is their only hope for escape. The next day, Bruce starts a fight with the guards when they escort him back to the Gremlin’s laboratory, and, as he hoped, the stress triggers his transformation again. Unfortunately, Hulk then refuses to break Ross out of his cell, thinking of him as his greatest enemy, and leaves the old soldier behind as he smashes his way out of the Gremlin’s complex and makes his way back to the surface.

Hulk crosses the polar ice cap and reaches the Arctic Ocean, intent on finding his way back to the deserts of New Mexico. After leaping from iceberg to iceberg for a while, he finally drops into the frigid water and starts swimming. A few hundred miles from shore, Hulk encounters a U.S. Navy submarine and punches a hole in the hull. The sub starts sinking, only to be captured by a gigantic vessel that rises from the ocean depths. Hulk is captured as well, stunned by an energy beam, and finds that the crew of the mysterious vessel is made up entirely of oddly large, squat men. The captain, however, is a rail-thin old man who introduces himself as Nathaniel Omen. He explains that his crew’s distorted physiques are due to life on the bottom of the ocean, which he is surveying in hopes of staking a legal claim to it. Hulk breaks out of the ship and tries to swim to the surface. However, he quickly gets the bends and passes out. When he comes to, he is Bruce Banner again and the shackled prisoner of Captain Omen. Bruce is shocked when Omen reveals that his submarine left the surface world behind at the end of World War I and has not surfaced since that time. In fact, most of his current crew has never even seen the sun, having lived their entire lives aboard the vessel, which has been greatly enlarged and upgraded over the decades. However, Omen’s abuse of his crew causes Bruce to change back into the Hulk, prompting Omen to order his men to attack him. The scene of the fight is then isolated from the rest of the ship and ejected into the ocean. Hulk breaks free, but quickly realizes that was a mistake—he’s now trapped on the ocean floor with only a quick lungful of air. Omen drops the Hulk an oxygen helmet and orders him to follow the vessel on foot, like the slave he now is. Hulk grumbles but, seeing no way to escape his predicament, decides to comply.

Sometime later, Hulk is rescued by rebel members of the crew and brought back aboard. He is taken to a secret meeting of a revolutionary sect led by Captain Omen’s son Filius, where he is hailed as their savior. Filius explains that his group wishes to escape from the captain’s tyranny and live on the surface world like normal people. Though he is befuddled by their reverence for some half-century-old surface-world trash, Hulk agrees to help them take over the ship. However, Omen is ready to deal with the mutiny and releases a massive half-man, half-fish creature called Aquon to battle the Hulk. After doing tremendous damage to the vessel, Hulk defeats Aquon, prompting Filius to declare victory. Reluctantly, Omen orders the ship to surface, whereupon Filius leads his group to a nearby tropical island. Hulk goes ashore with them, only to be horrified when the relatively low air pressure causes their bodies to explode into bloody pulps. To prevent the rest of his crew from meeting the same gruesome fate, Omen orders his ship to submerge. Left alone on the island, Hulk watches Captain Omen’s ship disappear beneath the waves, having completely forgotten that the crew of the Navy submarine is still trapped aboard.

After swimming halfway across the Atlantic Ocean, Hulk pulls himself up onto a pier in the New York City harbor. Tired, he sits down behind some crates and falls asleep, changing back into Bruce Banner. When he wakes up, Bruce finds himself caught up in a crowd of people fleeing from a large monster—a humanoid form made of pure electricity calling itself “Zzzax.” The stress causes him to turn into the Hulk again, but their battle along the waterfront faces continual interference by the masked archer known as Hawkeye. Finally, Zzzax throws Hawkeye into the harbor, but the former Avenger shoots a cable-arrow through the monster’s form. When the arrow hits the water on the other side of the pier, Zzzax is apparently destroyed. Unable to see Hawkeye in the water, the bystanders assume the Hulk defeated Zzzax and cheer his victory. Annoyed, Hulk stomps off down the street, telling the puny humans to leave him alone. Hawkeye follows him, though, enraging the Hulk further. Luckily, the Sub-Mariner and Valkyrie turn up and prevent them from getting into a fight. Instead, they all head over to Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum, where they are greeted by Clea and Wong. When an Atlantean warrior arrives with news that Attuma and his barbarian hordes are about to attack Atlantic City, New Jersey, Hulk agrees to join the Sub-Mariner, Valkyrie, and Hawkeye in opposing them. When they reach the beach, Hulk enjoys smashing the giant mutated crabs Attuma has brought with him, but the fight is cut short when the Sub-Mariner is captured. The villain forces Valkyrie and Hawkeye to surrender and board his warship. However, Hulk recognizes the vessel as a submarine and refuses to go aboard, not wanting to repeat the experience he had with Captain Omen. Instead, he leaps away and returns to New York City, where he stalks the back alleys for the next couple of weeks.

May 1966 – Hulk is finally summoned back to the Sanctum Sanctorum by the astral projection of Doctor Strange. When he arrives, Hulk finds the Silver Surfer is there, too. Doctor Strange is concerned by the disappearance of the Sub-Mariner and the Valkyrie and, with the help of a magic spell, gets the Hulk to describe their battle with Attuma. The sorcerer then causes the Hulk to fall into a peaceful slumber, and when he awakens, Hulk sees that Attuma’s three captives have been rescued. He is annoyed to have been tricked, but decides to postpone getting back at Doctor Strange so he can help rescue his friend, the Black Knight, from the enchantment that turned him to stone. Using the Orb of Agamotto, Doctor Strange calls forth the voice of the Black Knight from the void where his spirit is adrift. The voice reveals that their only hope to rescue the Black Knight is the ancient artifact known as the Evil Eye of Avalon. Though the Silver Surfer relates the tale of the Evil Eye’s recent destruction by the Human Torch, Doctor Strange is convinced it must still exist in some form and that the Defenders must find it, no matter what the cost. A friend of the Black Knight’s from their days in the Avengers, Hawkeye vows to join them on their quest, so the Defenders welcome him into their ranks. The Orb then reveals more of the history of the Evil Eye and its owner, the man known as Prester John. Next, it shows how, when the Evil Eye exploded in the Himalayas two and a half years ago, it split itself into six segments that were scattered across the globe. Doctor Strange sends the Hulk to retrieve the section located in Los Angeles, California, while the rest of the Defenders gather the other five pieces.

Drawn to the Evil Eye’s hiding place by one of Doctor Strange’s spells, Hulk digs it up in the courtyard of a posh hotel. However, Thor arrives on the scene and demands that the arcane object be surrendered to him. Still harboring some bitterness over the way the Avengers treated him in the past, Hulk punches Thor in the face, sending him crashing into a brick wall. Thor retaliates, but the Hulk doesn’t become truly enraged until the thunder god claims to be his superior in battle. The ensuing fight tears up the street, but the two combatants quickly find themselves in a stalemate, each one’s super-strong muscles straining against the other’s as they grapple. Finally, their teammates show up—Doctor Strange, Sub-Mariner, Silver Surfer, Valkyrie, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Captain America, Scarlet Witch, Black Panther, Vision, Swordsman, and Mantis—and convince them to stand down. The Defenders and the Avengers then compare notes and realize that Thor was fighting Loki in Rutland, Vermont, last Halloween at the same time that the Defenders were battling Dormammu there. They speculate that the two arch-villains must have teamed-up. Their suspicions are confirmed when the six segments of the Evil Eye are suddenly stolen by Dormammu’s servant Asti the All-Seeing. Despite the best efforts of the assembled heroes, Asti escapes with the segments into another dimension.

Almost immediately, the city around them begins to transform into a nightmarish world of horror, the people metamorphosing into monstrous demons. An image of Dormammu’s flaming head appears in the sky, announcing that he is using the Evil Eye to bring Earth into his Dark Dimension, thereby enabling him to conquer the planet without violating his oath to never invade our universe. The Defenders and the Avengers vow to prevent this at any cost. However, the transformed bystanders begin to attack the heroes, forcing them to fight back. Hulk helps keep the monsters at bay while Doctor Strange casts a spell to prevent any of the 14 superheroes present from changing into monsters themselves. The sorcerer then tries to convince Captain America that both teams need to take the fight directly to Dormammu in the Dark Dimension. Cap is reluctant to abandon the earth in such a time of crisis, but relents when Nick Fury and the forces of S.H.I.E.L.D. arrive on the scene. Leaving Fury and his agents to deal with the monsters, Doctor Strange casts a spell to transport the Defenders and the Avengers into Dormammu’s realm.

In the weird landscape of the Dark Dimension, Doctor Strange yells at the headstrong Avengers to keep them from blundering to their doom, prompting Thor to order his teammates to defer to the sorcerer’s expertise. Then, after beating off the numberless hordes of the Mindless Ones, the heroes find Dormammu, brandishing the Evil Eye, with Loki imprisoned in a cage of flames. To everyone’s surprise, the Watcher is also present, looking on enigmatically. Doctor Strange manages to breach the mystic barrier separating them, but with one wave of his hand, Dormammu’s augmented magic instantly renders the six Defenders unconscious. When Hulk comes to, he learns that the villains have already been defeated. The Watcher explains that the Scarlet Witch cast a last-second hex that caused the Evil Eye to malfunction, absorbing Dormammu’s flaming form and blasting it out again straight through Loki’s brain. Though the energies restored his lost sight, Loki’s mind was shattered in the process, leaving him with the intellect of an infant. Furthermore, the Watcher reveals, Dormammu will remain as scattered molecules until the psychic energy from his many worshipers eventually allows him to reform. Finally, the Watcher congratulates the 14 heroes on their great victory. Doctor Strange retrieves the Evil Eye, still intent on using it to rescue the Black Knight, and casts a spell that returns the two teams to Los Angeles.

The Defenders and the Avengers materialize on the same street in L.A. to find the crisis is over. The people who had been transformed into monsters have reverted to normal and are wandering around the rubble-strewn streets in a daze. Nick Fury offers the two teams his congratulations on their victory. However, wishing to keep the existence of the Defenders a secret, Doctor Strange removes all memory of their involvement from Fury and his agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as any bystanders who witnessed their presence earlier in the day. Furthermore, he combines the power of the Evil Eye with his own sorcerous might to undo all damage and destruction the world over caused by Dormammu’s scheme, leaving everyone believing they had just suffered a mass hallucination. Finally, after bidding farewell to the Avengers, Strange teleports his team back to the Sanctum Sanctorum to attend to the Black Knight.

Using the power of the Evil Eye, Doctor Strange attempts to locate Dane Whitman’s astral form again, but it has disappeared. He has only begun to explain the enigma to his teammates when they are suddenly enveloped in a nimbus of energy that carries them across space and time to deposit them in the Middle East in 1190 A.D. Here they discover that the Black Knight has taken physical form by possessing the body of his own ancestor, Eobar of Garrington, and has joined King Richard the Lionheart in fighting the Third Crusade. After a clash with an Arab army and a contingent of super-powerful gnomes, the Black Knight fills the Defenders in on what’s happening. The gnome alliance is due to the involvement of the spirit of Mordred, the villain of Camelot, who is aiding the wicked Prince John in his bid to overthrow King Richard. Since Mordred has manifested physically, a spell cast by Merlin plucked Dane Whitman’s astral form from limbo to give Eobar an advantage against his magical foe. The Defenders agree to help the Black Knight free King Richard from an Arab prison and defeat the gnomes. During the ensuing battle, the villains manage to get the upper hand when Prince John seizes the Evil Eye. He is about to turn its power on the Defenders when an elderly Prester John suddenly materializes and reclaims his weapon. After knocking the villains out, Prester John convinces the Black Knight to remain in the 12th century to help King Richard. Excited by the prospect, and glad to have regained the Ebony Blade from the Valkyrie, Dane Whitman agrees. Finally, Prester John uses the Evil Eye to return the Defenders to their own era. Back in the Sanctum Sanctorum, Hawkeye elects not to continue his association with the team. Hulk, the Sub-Mariner, and the Silver Surfer also go their separate ways, leaving Doctor Strange and the Valkyrie wishing them well.

June 1966 – Hulk suddenly finds himself teleported to a ghost town in the southwestern United States, where he gets into a fight with the Thing. Their battle lasts about 20 minutes and demolishes several buildings. Hulk realizes that his foe seems much stronger than he was in the past. Suddenly, a spaceship appears overhead and draws the Hulk into its cargo bay with a tractor beam. The Thing grabs Hulk’s ankle is carried aloft with him. Aboard the ship, they encounter an alien called Kurrgo, whom the Thing accuses of having artificially enhanced his strength so he could beat the Hulk. Angered, Kurrgo sends his robot servant to attack them. Hulk and the Thing smash the robot, but it crashes into a control panel, setting the ship on fire. When the Thing jumps out through the cargo bay door, Hulk follows him. Tired of fighting the Thing, Hulk leaps away as the spaceship blows up behind him. Feeling that he misses Betty Ross Talbot, Hulk decides to finally resume his search for her.

A few days later, Hulk is in a swampy marshland near John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York when he is found by Jim Wilson. Having a friend to talk to gets Hulk to relax, causing him to finally change back into Bruce Banner. Jim fills Bruce in on some of the things that have been happening the past few months, revealing that Major Glenn Talbot was killed while rescuing General Ross from the Russians. As a result, Betty had a complete mental breakdown and is currently getting treatment at a sanitarium on Long Island. Blaming himself for her woes, Bruce goes to see Betty, but she reacts violently. The stress triggers Bruce’s transformation into the Hulk, who is confused as to why Betty is hitting him. At first, he runs away but then decides to take Betty some flowers so she will like him again. When he returns to the sanitarium, Hulk finds M.O.D.O.K., wearing a giant prosthetic robot body, apparently spying on Betty. Hulk starts tearing the robot’s limbs off, forcing M.O.D.O.K. to flee. When Hulk goes into Betty’s room, however, he finds she has disappeared. The police and the sanitarium staff drive Hulk away, so Jim gives him a ride in the back of a pick-up truck out to the suburbs of Newark, New Jersey. There, Hulk meets Jim’s girlfriend, Talia Green, who isn’t too happy with Jim’s plan to have the Hulk hide out in her basement. Annoyed by Jim and Talia’s squabbling and intent on finding Betty, Hulk makes his way back to Manhattan, where he is attacked by a gigantic green bird-monster calling itself the Harpy. During their battle, Hulk is shocked to see that the Harpy has Betty’s face, enabling her to knock him out with a powerful energy blast.

When he regains consciousness, Hulk finds himself and the Harpy in a strange city in the clouds, its only inhabitant a bizarre two-faced creature called the Bi-Beast. After a brief three-way battle, the Harpy is knocked out and the thin air causes the Hulk to change back into Bruce Banner. Learning that Bruce is a scientist, the Bi-Beast takes him to a laboratory and charges him with repairing the floating city’s decaying systems before it crashes back to earth. However, Bruce instead creates a device he hopes will restore Betty to her normal self. Unfortunately, the Bi-Beast discovers what he’s up to and angrily confronts him just as he’s activating the device. Bruce turns into the Hulk and fights with the Bi-Beast until the Harpy hits him in the back with an energy blast and knocks him out. When he comes to a few minutes later, he is Bruce Banner again and finds the Bi-Beast has been killed in a gun battle, but there is no sign of his assailants. The city is shaking itself apart, so Bruce pulls the dazed Harpy outside, thinking that at least she will be able to save herself by flying away. However, the cure finally takes effect and the Harpy changes back into Betty Talbot just as the ground caves in under them. As Bruce and Betty plummet to the ground eight miles below, the floating city is destroyed in a massive explosion.

On the way down, Bruce turns into the Hulk, cradles Betty in his arms, and makes an explosive landing on a remote volcanic island. As a monsoon blows in, they take refuge in a cave, but Betty panics and flees into the jungle. Hulk searches for her for many hours and finally finds her being menaced by an alien rock monster. Hulk drives the creature off, then carries Betty back to the cave as another squall hits. As night falls, Betty becomes feverish and delirious and, after a hysterical fit, collapses into a restless sleep. Confused and worried, Hulk watches over her throughout the night. In the morning, she is in a calmer state of mind, and so they spend most of the day searching for food. At one point, they encounter a second monster lurking in a pool of water, but Hulk dispatches it with ease. Even so, Betty remains wary of the Hulk and recoils from his childlike affection. That night, after the Hulk has dozed off, Betty sneaks out of the cave, only to be captured by more of the alien monsters. When he discovers she is missing, Hulk tracks Betty and her captors to the island’s central volcano. He knocks the monsters into the lava, where they burn to death. As the volcano begins to erupt, Hulk grabs Betty and leaps to safety, landing in the jungle about a mile away. Luckily, the eruption draws the attention of a military search-and-rescue helicopter, which picks Betty up. Hulk grabs onto its landing struts as it takes off, then stows away aboard the Air Force jet that returns Betty to Hulkbuster Base in New Mexico.

Hulk dozes off aboard the jet and changes back into Bruce Banner, who then finds a spare Air Force uniform and sneaks into the base’s underground complex. Overcome with exhaustion, Bruce falls asleep in an emergency bunker. When he wakes up 14 hours later, Bruce realizes that the base appears to be abandoned. He soon discovers Betty, General Ross, and other personnel locked in one of the containment cells meant for the Hulk. Before he can free them, though, he is caught by the Abomination, and the stress triggers his transformation into the Hulk. Suddenly, Hulk is attacked from behind by the Rhino, and he realizes two of his enemies have teamed up against him. Hulk retreats to the surface, where he finds Jim and Talia sneaking around the deserted base. Jim devises a plan to use Talia as bait to draw the Abomination and the Rhino to the surface, where Hulk can fight them out in the open. Though Talia objects to the idea, Jim is able to talk her into it. The plan works and, after a fierce brawl, Hulk is victorious when the Abomination and the Rhino crash into each other and are knocked out. As military reinforcements arrive, Jim emerges from the underground complex, having freed the base personnel. A TV news crew tries to interview the Hulk, but he does not cooperate. However, General Ross shakes the Hulk’s hand and expresses his gratitude for saving them from the two supervillains. Before Hulk can react, he is suddenly caught in a cage and gassed into unconsciousness.

When he comes to, Hulk finds himself trapped in one of Hulkbuster Base’s containment cells. Convinced that General Ross tricked him, Hulk tries to smash through the cell walls. Then, Peter Corbeau appears behind a sliding panel and fires an energy beam that transports the Hulk into another dimension. However, he rematerializes inside the cell a moment later, but with the Juggernaut at his side. Though wary of trusting the Juggernaut, Hulk agrees to work together to break free. Their efforts are successful, and they fight their way through everything the Air Force throws at them and escape into the desert. Later that night, though, Hulk comes upon the Juggernaut menacing a family whose camper has crashed. Hulk fights with the unstoppable villain for several minutes, growing increasingly angry and frustrated. Finally, Hulk manages to tear off the Juggernaut’s helmet and smash him into a butte, knocking him out. Satisfied, Hulk drops the helmet and wanders off into the desert.

August 1966 – After making his way east for several weeks, Hulk is attacked by Xemnu the Titan and knocked unconscious with a series of painful mental blasts. Sometime later, Hulk hears Doctor Strange’s voice in his mind, urging him to wake up and free himself. Realizing he is trapped inside a statue, Hulk breaks out and finds himself in the small Midwestern town of Plucketville, where Xemnu is directing the townsfolk into a nearby spaceship. Doctor Strange and the Valkyrie are held prisoner by contorted lampposts and can only watch helplessly as Hulk battles Xemnu. Unable to defeat his angry foe a second time, Xemnu decides to retreat and levitates himself into the sky. However, Hulk picks up the spaceship and throws it at him, causing a tremendous explosion. With Xemnu apparently destroyed, Doctor Strange and the Valkyrie are finally able to free themselves. They then convince the Hulk to accompany them back to New York City.

Arriving at the Sanctum Sanctorum, Doctor Strange takes the Hulk into the dining room for a meal Wong has prepared, as the Valkyrie and Clea talk in the outer chamber. However, to Hulk’s surprise, he suddenly fades away in the middle of his repast and finds himself inside a tiny space capsule. Bursting out of the capsule, Hulk is left adrift in a featureless void and becomes distraught. Suddenly, he is transported to a star field where the Sub-Mariner is battling ghostly warplanes. After destroying all the airplanes, the confused pair passes through a dimensional warp into a mind-boggling mystical environment where Doctor Strange is being menaced by a phantom with a handgun. They rescue the sorcerer, who is bleeding profusely from a bullet wound, enabling him to cast a spell that returns them all to the Sanctum Sanctorum. There, Clea apologizes for inadvertently trapping them in the mystical void, and Strange admonishes her to be more careful in the future. As the Sub-Mariner is teleported back where he came from, Hulk returns to his dinner while Doctor Strange heals himself. The Defenders are able to convince the Hulk to hang around the Sanctum Sanctorum off and on for the next couple of months, hoping to keep him out of trouble.

October 1966 – While getting some exercise, Hulk drops into the middle of a construction site on the New Jersey Palisades, frightening the workers. When they try to drive him off, Hulk retaliates, destroying some of their equipment. Suddenly, he is afflicted by a strange buzzing sensation in his inner ear and leaps off in search of its source, determined to smash it. The buzzing grows more intense as he approaches the Catskills, and when the Human Torch drops out of the sky, Hulk suspects the young hero is the cause of his discomfort. However, the Torch leads the Hulk to an alien called Blastaar, who is wrecking a nearby factory with explosive energy blasts from his hands. Realizing that Blastaar is somehow to blame for the buzzing in his ears, Hulk attacks him, giving the Human Torch a chance to evacuate the last few people from the factory. At the Torch’s suggestion, Hulk wraps Blastaar up in a ball of metal wreckage from the factory and sends it hurtling toward the Atlantic Ocean some 600 miles away. As the buzzing in his ears fades, Hulk is glad that the Human Torch was able to help him solve his problem. He soon returns to the Sanctum Sanctorum and his other friends.

November 1966 – Hulk and the Valkyrie are listening to Doctor Strange’s tales of the occult when the Sanctum Sanctorum is invaded by a costumed man who battles them when they try to drive him off. Finally, Doctor Strange stops the fight and gives the man the opportunity to speak his piece. The man introduces himself as Nighthawk, former member of the supervillain team known as the Squadron Sinister. He has come seeking help to stop his evil associates from flooding the earth with a doomsday weapon they have created with the help of an alien speculator called Nebulon, the Celestial Man. Nighthawk had sought out the Avengers first, he explains, but Nebulon’s powers had rendered him invisible and intangible as soon as he entered Avengers Mansion. Luckily, he overheard the team discussing the Defenders’ role in defeating Dormammu and Loki a few months ago, and so he rushed over to find them. Suddenly, Nighthawk is apparently disintegrated right before their eyes. Faced with this impending crisis, Doctor Strange forcibly recruits the Sub-Mariner over the Atlantean monarch’s strident objections. Namor is furious, but the Valkyrie convinces him to stay and fight by their side. Hulk is curious about Namor’s new black costume, but he refuses to discuss it.

By dawn, the Defenders locate the Squadron Sinister and their doomsday device somewhere in the Arctic, and to their surprise find Nighthawk being held prisoner there. After an initial skirmish with the Squadron Sinister, the Defenders are captured by Nebulon and imprisoned within a spherical force field. Intending for them to witness the destruction of their world, Nebulon sends Hulk, Doctor Strange, Sub-Mariner, Valkyrie, and Nighthawk into orbit. However, they manage to break out of the force field and return to the Arctic in time to delay completion of the doomsday weapon. Doctor Strange’s magic then reveals Nebulon’s true form, that of a hideous non-humanoid creature. Nighthawk takes advantage of the distraction to activate the doomsday device and turn it against Nebulon. The alien creature disappears in a massive implosion, taking the Squadron Sinister with him. However, the weapon overloads and explodes before Nighthawk can jump clear. He is mortally wounded in the blast and lies close to death as the Defenders gather around him. Doctor Strange says Nighthawk’s only hope is if each of the Defenders sacrifices a small portion of their own life-essence, to be channeled through his magic amulet to heal his wounds. They agree, moved by Nighthawk’s heroic self-sacrifice. The spell is successful and Nighthawk recovers immediately. Out of profound gratitude, Nighthawk asks if he might join their team. Doctor Strange tries to explain that they’re not really a team as such, but Namor interrupts angrily, saying that he is terminating his association with the Defenders, so they might as well accept Nighthawk as his replacement. Namor flies off, and the remaining Defenders agree to give Nighthawk a chance. Though Doctor Strange, Valkyrie, and Nighthawk head back to New York City, Hulk decides to strike out on his own again.

A week or two later, Hulk stows away aboard a ship after being chased out of San Diego, California, by the Army. After changing back into Bruce Banner, he meets another stowaway named Ted. They manage to evade the crew for a few days but are finally captured and taken to face the commander of the expedition, former Stark Industries scientist Ralph Roberts, who turns out to be Ted’s older brother. After explaining about his past misadventures as the Cobalt Man, Ralph reveals that they are headed to the site of an upcoming French atomic-bomb test in order to protest such above-ground nuclear detonations. When they arrive, though, Ralph refuses to enter the radiation-proof chamber in the ship’s hold and instead exposes himself to the radiation from the nuclear blast. Ted runs out on deck to stop his brother, prompting Bruce to try to shield him from the radiation with his own body. Bruce is reminded of the day almost five years ago when he had to save another young man, Rick Jones, from a nuclear bomb. Ralph is mutated by the radiation into a superhuman form and quickly dons his redesigned armor to become Cobalt Man again. The stress causes Bruce to change into the Hulk, though the radiation he absorbed makes it difficult to maintain his transformation. In the brief time that he is the Hulk, his battle with Cobalt Man sinks the ship, but before Bruce drowns in the ocean, Cobalt Man rescues him and leaves him in a lifeboat with Ted and the crew. Ted tries to convince his brother to go to a hospital for treatment, but Cobalt Man ignores him and swims off. Dazed and exhausted, Bruce passes out.

When he regains consciousness, Bruce finds himself in a hospital room in Sydney, Australia. Both General Ross and Betty are there, having heard what happened from the ship’s crew. Bruce becomes very agitated when he learns that Cobalt Man is still on the loose, but the doctors are able to sedate him before he changes into the Hulk. Later, though, Betty gives him a mild stimulant to counteract the sedative’s effects and leads the groggy Bruce to the hospital’s roof. She nearly pushes him off the building before he realizes what she’s doing, but in the ensuing struggle he stumbles over the edge anyway. Bruce turns into the Hulk before he hits the ground and stomps off down the street, confused and angry. When he comes upon Cobalt Man ranting and raving high atop a suspension bridge, Hulk attacks him despite his own radiation-induced weakness. However, Hulk’s strength increases as his anger grows, leading Cobalt Man to fly him straight up into the sky, hoping to suffocate him. Instead, Cobalt Man suddenly unleashes a powerful explosion when the energies in his body reach a critical point, propelling Hulk across the sky at the very edge of space. Hulk finally crashes back to earth some 6,000 miles away in the Himalayas.

Bruce Banner crawls out of the hole in the ground made by the Hulk and is surprised to find the royal family of the Inhumans—Black Bolt, Gorgon, Karnak, Triton, Crystal, and her fiancé Quicksilver—on the scene. Triton identifies Bruce from the Fantastic Four’s records, so they escort him back to the Great Refuge. There, Bruce is astonished by the large spacecraft they have constructed. Karnak explains that they have discovered the existence of Counter-Earth and are considering immigrating there. Bruce decides to take a walk and wonders if he should ask to join the Inhumans if they decide to move to another planet. However, he is accosted by a gang of malcontents in the street, and the stress causes him to turn into the Hulk. Gorgon, Karnak, Triton, and Quicksilver try to subdue the Hulk without success. Finally, Black Bolt is forced to intervene and manages to knock the Hulk out with his super-powerful voice, although the shockwave demolishes several buildings as well. When he regains consciousness, Hulk finds the Inhumans have launched him into space aboard their colony ship. He lashes out at his high-tech prison, causing damage to its navigational and propulsion systems, but eventually settles down when he realizes he is trapped aboard a spaceship.

December 1966 – When the Inhumans’ colony ship finally splashes down on Counter-Earth, Hulk is lulled to sleep as it bobs on the surface of the ocean, whereupon he changes back into Bruce Banner. Bruce awakens sometime later in a military hospital, where he is accused of being an impostor and interrogated about a superhuman menace called “Adam Warlock.” The stress causes Bruce to change back into the Hulk and rampage through the planet’s counterpart of Washington, D.C. His battle with the armed forces results in the destruction of their Washington Monument, but the Hulk is then knocked out and captured by a quartet of the High Evolutionary’s New Men. He comes to later as Bruce Banner to find the New Men are experimenting on him under the direction of their leader, the Man-Beast, which quickly causes him to turn into the Hulk again. He escapes the laboratory by breaking through the floor into a labyrinth of tunnels under the city, where he is met by another group of New Men. Hulk recognizes their leader, Porcunius, from his brief visit to Counter-Earth last year, and agrees to accompany them to their secret base in an abandoned power station. There, Hulk is introduced to Adam Warlock and an alien robot called the Recorder.

Over the next few days, Hulk stays with Adam Warlock and his followers, enjoying their philosophical discussions and learning of their plans to overthrow the Man-Beast’s tyrannical regime. However, during supper one night, Hulk is driven berserk by a brain implant the Man-Beast had placed in his skull while he was unconscious. Lashing out in a blind rage, Hulk attacks his friends, providing a distraction that allows the Man-Beast and his minions to storm in and capture them all. The implant’s control unit is destroyed in the fight, but the Man-Beast has another weapon that renders all the rebels, including the Hulk, unconscious. Bruce Banner comes to the next day in a holding cell, where he remains for the better part of a week, kept sedated to prevent him from turning into the Hulk. Bruce is horrified to learn that the Man-Beast, while disguised as a man named Rex Carpenter, is actually Counter-Earth’s President of the United States. Finally, Bruce is taken to witness Warlock’s public execution on the White House lawn, where “President Carpenter” has assembled a bloodthirsty mob of supporters. Pinned to a large ankh-shaped platform, Warlock cries out for the High Evolutionary as he dies in agony under a barrage of lethal rays. As the life leaves his body, a cocoon of some unknown material completely envelops Warlock. The sheer horror of the spectacle enables Bruce to overcome the sedatives in his system and change into the Hulk. After scattering the police and defeating the Man-Beast’s lieutenants, Hulk grabs Warlock’s cocoon and leaps off into the surrounding countryside. Wishing Doctor Strange were there to advise him, Hulk tries to revive his fallen friend, without success. He finally gives up and sits with the cocoon through the night, overcome with grief.

Just before dawn, Adam Warlock’s followers find the Hulk, having escaped from their captors during yesterday’s chaos. They move the cocoon into a nearby cave and spend the day in mourning. The following day, they receive word that the Man-Beast is intent on starting a nuclear war. Hulk joins them on a raid of the villain’s command center, where his destructive fight with the Man-Beast is suddenly cut short when Adam Warlock turns up alive. Hulk is shocked, but glad to see his friend is not dead after all. More powerful following his resurrection, Warlock releases a blast of energy that causes all the New Men, including the Man-Beast, to devolve back into their original forms. The wolf that had been their foe then runs out of the room with its tail between its legs. Warlock announces that he must leave Counter-Earth to seek his destiny among the stars. Feeling strangely at peace with himself, Hulk watches as Warlock rises into the sky and soon disappears from sight. The Recorder then takes charge of the Hulk, and, after conferring with the High Evolutionary, convinces him to return home, as they feel his continued presence on Counter-Earth would be too disruptive. A lunar exploration rocket is modified for the long journey around the sun and soon blasts off from their version of Florida, carrying the Hulk back toward Earth.


Notes:

January 1966 – Hulk makes a cameo appearance in Fantastic Four #133.

February 1966 – While in Canada, Hulk runs into Spider-Man in Amazing Spider-Man #119–120.

April 1966 – Hulk’s adventures pick up again in Hulk #163 and Defenders #7. The hidden city beneath the polar ice cap where Hulk meets the Gremlin is probably the abandoned refuge of the Kallusians, last seen in Avengers #14.

May 1966 – Hulk guest-stars in Avengers #116–118 as part of the Avengers/Defenders crossover event.

June 1966 – Hulk and the Thing have their third battle royal in Marvel Feature #11. Hulk seems to remain unaware that the Leader is responsible for teleporting him to the ghost town for the fight. In Hulk #169, the Bi-Beast is killed when M.O.D.O.K. and his A.I.M. commandos try to take over the floating island, but they retreat before Bruce regains consciousness. As a result of her transformation into the Harpy, Betty Talbot actually spends the entire next issue completely naked, but her modesty is preserved thanks to the Comics Code Authority. At the end of Hulk #172, Professor X, Cyclops, and Marvel Girl turn up to deal with the Juggernaut, but the Hulk has already left the scene.

August 1966 – Hulk, Doctor Strange, and the Sub-Mariner fall victim to Clea’s wayward spell in Giant-Size Defenders #1.

October 1966 – Hulk joins forces with the Human Torch to defeat Blastaar in Marvel Team-Up #18.

November 1966 – In the Original Marvel Universe, Ted Roberts dies of radiation poisoning about a year after the events of Hulk #173. Interestingly, in Hulk #175, Black Bolt essentially condemns the Hulk to death, since the Inhumans reprogram their spaceship to miss Counter-Earth and fly off into interstellar space. It is only because Hulk starts damaging the ship’s control systems that it reverts to its original course.

December 1966 – While the death and resurrection of Adam Warlock is an obvious homage to the Passion of the Christ, the Man-Beast’s four lieutenants are based on the Watergate figures John Mitchell (Barachuudar), H.R. Haldeman (Cobrah), John Erlichman (Weezhil), and John Dean (Snakar). Porcunius is misidentified as “Porcupinus” throughout the story. This brings us up to Hulk #178 and Defenders #14.


Jump Back: Hulk – Year Four

Next Issue: Daredevil – Year Five


Saturday

OMU: Fantastic Four -- Year Six

The Fantastic Four continue on a downward spiral, barely managing to hang together as a team, under the guidance of editor Roy Thomas and writer Gerry Conway. Without the Invisible Girl, the group soon splinters, with Mister Fantastic suffering from severe depression, the Human Torch likewise heartbroken and adrift, and the Thing increasingly striking out on his own. If Susan Storm Richards was the glue that held the Fantastic Four together, her replacement, the cool, detached Inhuman Medusa, is not equipped to do the same job. And unfortunately, over the course of the next twelve months in the characters’ lives, matters merely go from bad to worse. During that time, members of the team have strange run-ins with some of their more obscure early foes, such as the Miracle Man, the Molecule Man, the alien dictator Kurrgo, and billionaire Gregory Gideon, not to mention the Mole Man and Doctor Doom. This lends an air of nostalgia to the proceedings that suggests the Fantastic Four’s best days may be behind them.

Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale.) Some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.


Let us continue with The True History of the Fantastic Four!


January 1966 – Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters are in Manhattan’s Times Square to ring in the new year. Medusa has accompanied them, wanting to witness the annual ritual, and has dragged Reed Richards and Johnny Storm along, even though they are both very depressed. The event is disrupted by Thundra, who issues a public challenge to the Thing to meet her in combat in three days at Shea Stadium. The illuminated sign on the Allied Chemical Building reads out the details of the challenge for all to see. Ignoring the danger to the innocent bystanders, Johnny flames on and attacks Thundra, but she easily defeats him and sends him crashing into his teammates. Thundra then grabs Alicia and flies off with her on a large anti-gravity disk, obviously provided by her associates in the Frightful Four. The Thing is enraged as the Fantastic Four race back to their Baxter Building headquarters to see if there’s a way to track Thundra to her hideout. Unable to help in the lab, the Thing starts training for the grudge match, and is frustrated when his teammates fail to find where Alicia is being held. Over the next couple of days, there is a media frenzy over the upcoming “battle of the sexes,” which some newspapers are touting as “the fight of the century.”

Before dawn on the morning of the fight, the Thing and the Human Torch help the grounds crew at Shea Stadium clear the ballfield of snow under the harsh stadium lights. While they work, the stadium fills with eager spectators who have braved the cold to witness the battle. As the first rays of light streak the sky, Thundra descends on her anti-gravity disk to meet the Thing in the infield. She announces her intention to defeat the world’s strongest man in full view of the public, though her motivations remain mysterious. As they start to fight, the Thing is astonished by his opponent’s sheer strength and realizes he can’t afford to think of her as “just a woman.” Then, to the consternation of the crowds, Thundra picks the Thing up and hurls him out of the stadium, sending him crashing to the ground in Flushing Meadows Park across the street. They continue their fight atop the Unisphere, where Thundra clearly gets the better of him, though Ben refuses to concede defeat. Finally, Mister Fantastic arrives and shoots an energy beam at the Thing that temporarily changes him back to his human form. Outraged at being cheated of her victory and saying it would be “unfeminine” to hurt a weakling, Thundra flies off. The Thing is unconscious for several minutes, but when he comes to, he sees Johnny escorting Alicia toward him. She reports that Thundra forced her compatriots to release her, and Ben is impressed with Thundra’s code of honor. The Fantastic Four then return home, wondering why Thundra was so eager to beat the Thing in a duel.

Some days later, Luke Cage, the “Hero for Hire” who’s been working out of Times Square the last few months, storms into the Baxter Building and requests help getting to Latveria, as Doctor Doom owes him money and he means to collect. Amused, Reed agrees to lend Cage an airship, overruling Ben’s objections. He programs an experimental drone plane to fly Cage to Doctor Doom’s kingdom on autopilot. Several hours later, Cage returns and strides back into their headquarters. Reed at first assumes that something went wrong and Cage didn’t make it to Latveria, but Cage assures him that everything went smoothly and the matter is resolved. Ben follows Cage out of the building, pressing him for more details of his encounter with Doctor Doom, but Cage remains tight-lipped. Reed examines the rocket’s flight logs and sees that Cage did indeed spend a couple hours in Latveria before returning to New York. Impressed, Reed thinks better of Cage’s offer to lend a hand should the Fantastic Four ever need his help. Ben is flabbergasted when the late edition of the Daily Bugle reports that Doctor Doom has fought off a robot rebellion to retain control of his kingdom and wonders what Cage’s role in the incident was.

Meanwhile, Susan Richards and her 17-month-old son Franklin are living on a horse farm in rural Pennsylvania owned by Sue’s childhood friend Carol Landers and her husband Bob. Sue devotes herself to raising Franklin, though she also helps out with the horses. She is concerned from time to time by Franklin’s odd behavior and wonders if he might be autistic. Her brother Johnny flies out to the farm periodically to visit her and Franklin and to bring news of the Fantastic Four’s activities. Sue is sympathetic to Johnny’s broken heart, for he’s lost his girlfriend Crystal to another man—the obnoxious former Avenger called Quicksilver. Sue also explains to Johnny some of the issues that are keeping her and Reed apart, and he remains steadfastly supportive of his sister.

February 1966 – Johnny is home alone at the Baxter Building one Sunday morning when Spider-Man mysteriously appears in the laboratory housing Reed’s time machine. Spider-Man explains that he was attempting to help Iron Man penetrate a force field surrounding Avengers Mansion when they fell into a strange dimension, where they were picked up by a time-traveler named Zarrko. He took them to 23rd-century New York to help fight off an invader from even further in the future. That turned out to be Kang the Conqueror, who was holding the rest of the Avengers prisoner. Kang incapacitated Spidey and Iron Man, but then Zarrko entered and revealed that he was just as much a villain as Kang. Having read about Zarrko in the Avengers’ files, Johnny laughs at Spider-Man’s ineptitude. The wall-crawler continues, revealing that Zarrko has sent three chronal-displacement bombs to the present day, hoping to steal America’s nuclear arsenal during the resulting chaos. The bombs should soon be materializing in Greece, Japan, and Venezuela, Spidey reports, and he hopes the Fantastic Four can locate and destroy them. Johnny agrees to help, but notes that the rest of the team is unavailable so it’s up to the two of them. Spider-Man whines about that, clearly having hoped to pass the buck to the Fantastic Four, but Johnny lays a guilt trip on him. And so, while Spidey heads to Venezuela, Johnny launches the team’s Pogo Plane and flies to Japan. Arriving a few hours later, the Human Torch flames on and flies around the archipelago until he comes across the time-distortion effect caused by Zarrko’s bomb. Finding the bomb inside a barn, the Torch starts to black out as he approaches it, so he quickly melts the device into slag. As he takes the Pogo Plane to rendezvous with Spider-Man in Venezuela, Johnny notes that there was something familiar about the waves of energy emanating from the chronal-displacement bomb.

Many hours later, the Human Torch finds Spider-Man on a pier near Simón Bolivar International Airport outside Caracas. A second chronal-displacement bomb is producing the same distinctive energy waves, and Spider-Man is clearly being affected by it just as Johnny was. Thus, the Torch melts this bomb to slag as well. After comparing notes, the two heroes take the Pogo Plane to Greece, where they again get caught in chronal-displacement waves. After crash-landing the Pogo Plane, the Torch is about to melt the third bomb when Spider-Man stops him. The wall-crawler merely switches the device off instead, pointing out that they need to examine it for clues. Johnny then realizes where he’s encountered that type of radioactivity before—it’s very similar to the force field Maximus generated around the Great Refuge of the Inhumans a couple years ago. However, Johnny is unwilling to go to the Great Refuge, since he doesn’t want to see Crystal—especially with it being Valentine’s Day. Leaving Spider-Man with detailed instructions on how to find the Inhumans’ hidden city in the Himalayas, the Human Torch departs, confident that Spidey and the Inhumans can rescue the Avengers and defeat Kang and Zarrko. Johnny spends the next few days enjoying the Greek Isles while making repairs to the Pogo Plane. When he finally returns to New York, Johnny finds his teammates were too wrapped up in their own affairs to even notice his impromptu vacation.

March–April 1966 – As Black Bolt requested, Medusa spends much of her time studying the social mores of New York, taking the city as representative of human culture, with an eye toward determining how to reveal the existence of the Inhumans to the world at large in the most productive way possible. However, her efforts are hampered somewhat by her refusal to be seen without her ceremonial facemask, the mark of royal status among her people. Also, she is frustrated that the Fantastic Four aren’t really doing anything, as Reed Richards is too depressed to do more than putter around in his laboratory at all hours of the day and night. For his part, Reed focuses on trying to perfect a cure for Ben, encouraged by the temporary change effected in early January. Aside from distracting him from his marital troubles, Reed feels he owes it to his old friend not to wreck his life too.

May 1966 – The Fantastic Four finally go into action as a team when people all around the world inexplicably start changing into hideous, demonic monsters. Soon, New York itself also starts to transform into a weird, alien landscape. While trying to contain the rampaging monsters in the streets, the Fantastic Four run into Spider-Man, and they coordinate their efforts. Less than an hour after it began, the city suddenly changes back to normal and the demons revert to their ordinary human forms. A couple minutes later, all the tremendous damage done to the city during the battle is abruptly undone, as if by magic. Later, the Avengers report that the entire incident was merely a mass hallucination created by a super-villain whom they have defeated, but Reed suspects there’s more to the story than that.

In response to an urgent summons from Agatha Harkness, the Fantastic Four fly up to Whisper Hill, but they find only a large smoking crater where the house had been. To Ben’s consternation, Reed gives up on the investigation almost immediately and decides they should return to the Baxter Building. En route, the Fantasti-Car is hit by an energy beam that causes it to crash in a meadow. After searching briefly for their unseen assailant, the four heroes slowly make their way back to Manhattan. When they arrive, Reed receives a call from a frantic Carol Landers, who reports that Sue and Franklin have been kidnapped by Dragon Man. He departs immediately in one of the older Fantasti-Cars, leaving Ben, Johnny, and Medusa behind. On his way to Pennsylvania, Reed is notified by his contacts at the Strategic Air Command that they’ve tracked Dragon Man to a research installation on Long Island, so he changes course. When he arrives, Reed spots Dragon Man lying unconscious outside the facility and lands near the android. However, he is taken by surprise by a squad of security guards and gassed into unconsciousness. A short time later, Ben and Medusa arrive on the Jet-Cycle, having traced the Fantasti-Car’s homing signal. Before they can begin their search of the grounds, though, the pair is captured as well.

Meanwhile, Johnny has gone to the Bronx to look up his old girlfriend Dorrie Evans. He is shocked to find that Dorrie has gotten married and already has two small children. Embarrassed, Johnny makes up an excuse and leaves quickly, only to be attacked down the street by the same kind of energy beam that crashed the Fantasti-Car earlier. Spotting the flying drone that is firing at him, Johnny flames on and follows the small craft to the Long Island research installation, where he finds Dragon Man lying in the grass. However, the android creature revives and blasts the Torch into unconsciousness with his flame-breath. When he comes to, Johnny discovers that he and his teammates have been taken prisoner by Gregory Gideon, the wealthy financier with whom the Fantastic Four clashed about three years ago. Medusa explains that Gideon and his son Thomas are dying of radiation poisoning, and Gideon believes he can find a cure by absorbing the Fantastic Four’s radiation-spawned powers into himself. While Gideon subjects the unconscious Reed, Sue, and Franklin to his “Eternity Machine,” the Thing, the Human Torch, and Medusa break free and start fighting the security guards. Thomas Gideon enters during the fray and begs his father to stop, but the older man ignores him. Using her prehensile hair, Medusa manages to disable the brain implant Gideon was using to control Dragon Man. The creature goes berserk, turns on its master, and wrecks the Eternity Machine. The resulting explosion kills Gregory Gideon and puts Dragon Man into a coma. Sue revives first and, wanting to avoid a confrontation with Reed, takes Franklin and leaves the facility. After several minutes, Ben, Johnny, and Medusa become concerned that Reed has yet to regain consciousness, so they rig the wrecked Eternity Machine to discharge the energies that it absorbed. As they hoped, the jolt of energy revives Reed, though he is disoriented and confused at first. After making a cursory examination of the inert Dragon Man, Reed invites Thomas Gideon to accompany them back to the Baxter Building, offering to try to devise a cure for his radiation sickness. Gideon accepts, and they depart. Ben, Johnny, and Medusa honor Sue’s parting request that they not tell Reed that she and Franklin were there.

On their way back to the Baxter Building, though, a strange wave of energy sweeps past them, causing the Fantasti-Car and the Jet-Cycle to crash in a wooded area of suburban Long Island. To their astonishment, the Fantastic Four are then attacked by a group of young men dressed like a 1950s biker gang, riding on flying motorcycles and shooting laser guns. Mister Fantastic and the Thing fight the bikers very aggressively, though the Human Torch and Medusa feel sympathetic to the young men. Thus, when the bikers retreat after having grabbed Thomas Gideon, Johnny and Medusa go with them. The authorities, in the form of middle-aged men with crewcuts and 3-D glasses, arrive in flying Edsels and complement Reed and Ben on fighting off the youngsters. They escort the two heroes to their domed fortress, which reminds Reed of a fallout shelter, and interrogate them. Meanwhile, the biker gang takes Johnny, Medusa, and Thomas Gideon to their hangout in a local malt shop, where they meet the gang’s leader, “Wildman”—a combination of Elvis Presley, Marlon Brando, and James Dean. Johnny begins to realize that they are trapped in some kind of nightmare version of the Fifties, though of course it’s all lost on Medusa. After being indoctrinated by the warring factions, the two halves of the Fantastic Four are sent out to fight over a doomsday weapon created by a reclusive genius. Luckily, Reed and Ben quickly shake off their mental conditioning and are able to bring Johnny and Medusa out of it after a brief scuffle. The doomsday weapon turns out to be a giant gorilla with a head like Sputnik, which the Fantastic Four battle at a drive-in movie theater. Reed deduces that they’re being manipulated by some outside force capable of twisting the very fabric of reality, and he is proven right when a bizarre-looking alien calling himself the Shaper of Worlds reveals himself. The Shaper apologizes for creating such a violent scenario, admitting that his source—one of Gregory Gideon’s henchmen—was not worthy of having his dreams manifested. The Shaper then offers to replace him with Thomas Gideon, who will be cured of his terminal illness in exchange for the use of his imagination. Gideon accepts the offer and teleports away with the Shaper. The Fantastic Four suddenly find themselves back in their vehicles heading toward Manhattan.

When they enter their headquarters, the Fantastic Four are surprised to find Wyatt Wingfoot waiting for them. Wyatt has come to invite them to attend his graduation from Metro College tomorrow, and also hopes they will be willing to fly out to Oklahoma afterwards as he believes his tribe’s reservation is under threat. Johnny, Ben, and Medusa agree immediately, but Reed declines, though he is impressed that Wyatt completed his undergraduate degree in only three years. Retiring to his laboratory, Reed leaves the others to get caught up. He is worried that the house on Whisper Hill may have been destroyed by Franklin’s mutant powers running amok. He theorizes that the energies of Annihilus’s cosmic control rod, to which Franklin was exposed at birth, may have altered the boy’s genetic structure and could cause his mutant powers to manifest well before puberty. Thus, Reed starts working on developing a means to shut down those powers should it become necessary. He will work on the problem obsessively for the next several months.

The next morning, Ben, Johnny, and Medusa fly Wyatt to the Metro College campus in the Pogo Plane. During the graduation ceremony, Johnny becomes wistful, regretting somewhat his decision to drop out of college. He feels extremely proud of Wyatt as he receives his diploma from the college president. After the ceremony, Ben and Johnny accompany Wyatt to a reception for the honors graduates while Medusa is given a tour of campus by some fraternity guys who are fans of hers. At the reception, Johnny runs into the football coach, Sam Thorne, who laments never having managed to convince Wyatt to join his team. Before Coach Thorne gets a chance to talk to his old classmate Ben Grimm, though, Wyatt is informed that his grandfather has telephoned with news of an emergency on the reservation. Ben, Johnny, and Wyatt collect Medusa and race to the Pogo Plane, then take off for Oklahoma.

When they arrive at the Keewazi Indian Reservation, they are greeted by Wyatt’s grandfather, Chief Silent Fox, who tells them that a demon from the Dark Hills has just destroyed a nearby village, forcing the inhabitants to seek refuge with Silent Fox and his neighbors. The “demon” turns out to be the Miracle Man, whom the Fantastic Four defeated over four years ago. At first, Ben and Johnny laugh off their foe’s attacks, taking him to be a mere illusionist. However, the Miracle Man reveals that he has gained actual mind-over-matter powers from the legendary Cheemuzwa tribe, reputed to be a race of immortal sorcerers. Escaping from the Miracle Man’s death-traps, the Thing, the Human Torch, and Medusa fight a hopeless battle against their raving foe, who seems to only grow more powerful. Suddenly, the Miracle Man is teleported away by the ghostly Cheemuzwa elders, who take responsibility for his rampage and promise to try to cure him of his insane lust for power. After enjoying some Keewazi hospitality, Ben, Johnny, and Medusa say goodbye to Wyatt and return to New York.

While out for an evening stroll, the Thing is tricked into fighting Captain Marvel by the Super-Skrull, who fools each hero into thinking the other is a Skrull impostor. After a battle that wrecks a tenement building in Hell’s Kitchen, the Thing and Captain Marvel realize their folly. Hearing a horrible, inhuman scream, they race up to the top floor and break down a door, finding a Skrull who’s been turned to stone. A massive, craggy-faced alien steps out of the shadows, claiming responsibility for the Skrull’s fate. He introduces himself as Thanos, king of Titan and soon-to-be emperor of the universe. Ben is not impressed by the alien’s boasts, but just looking at the mysterious hooded figure behind Thanos gives him the chills. Even so, the Thing charges at Thanos, only to be knocked out by a powerful blast of energy. When he comes to, Ben finds himself alone. Unable to locate Captain Marvel, Thanos, the Super-Skrull, or their mysterious associate, the Thing heads back to the Baxter Building, thinking that the alien superhero is in for the fight of his life.

On another evening, Spider-Man drops by the Baxter Building to present the Human Torch with a unique opportunity—the chance to design and build a “Spider-Mobile” from scratch to promote an experimental non-polluting engine created by Corona Motors. Spidey explains that he’s been offered money for the project by an advertising firm representing Corona, but lacks the mechanical engineering skills to pull it off. Amused by the notion, Johnny agrees to kick some ideas around. They end up working late into the night, drawing up some initial plans and schematics, and Johnny becomes impressed by Spider-Man’s scientific aptitude. However, the web-spinner seems uncharacteristically glum, and Johnny wonders what his problem is. Eventually, one of Reed’s police scanners goes off, reporting a break-in at a nearby nuclear laboratory by a man with a super-leaping ability. Claiming that it’s a personal grudge match, Spider-Man leaves to capture the crook, declining Johnny’s offer of help. Though he doesn’t return that night, Spidey does show up on a semi-regular basis through the summer to continue working on the Spider-Mobile. Johnny has fun with it, treating the entire scheme as an elaborate joke.

June 1966 – Ben infuriates Reed when he intentionally wrecks the machine meant to change him back to his human form, saying he couldn’t stand the thought of yet another failed cure. A few minutes later, the Thing suddenly finds himself teleported to a ghost town in New Mexico by the Leader, who declares that he’s been chosen to fight as the champion of Kurrgo, the former dictator of the planet Xanth. The Leader, naturally enough, has chosen the Hulk to fight for him. Ben refuses, but the Leader claims to have planted a time bomb on the other side of town capable of destroying all life on earth. Thus, when the Hulk suddenly materializes, the Thing tries to overpower him. They fight for about twenty minutes, as the Hulk refuses to listen to reason. Finally, the Thing manages to punch the Hulk in the back of the head, sending him crashing into a building that then collapses. Surprised by the force of his blow, Ben quickly locates the time bomb and smashes it, only to discover that it’s a fake. Kurrgo’s spaceship then descends from the sky and seizes the Hulk in its tractor beam. The Thing grabs onto his foe’s ankle and is lifted into the ship as well, where he finds Kurrgo waiting for them. Ben accuses Kurrgo of cheating, having realized that his strength was being artificially enhanced during the fight. Thus, the Leader claims victory by forfeit, but Kurrgo refuses to concede defeat. He sends his robot bodyguard to subdue the Thing and the Hulk, but they knock it into an instrument panel, starting a fire. Ben dives out of the cargo hatch and the Hulk follows him, just before the ship explodes and crashes to the ground, killing Kurrgo. Having lost interest in the fight, the Hulk leaps away and disappears into the distance, leaving the Thing to begin a lonely trek across the desert.

After several hours, the Thing sees Iron Man streaking by above him and tries to wave him down. Annoyed that his call for help is ignored, the Thing follows Iron Man, intent on giving him a piece of his mind. He soon arrives at a high-tech installation hidden inside a mesa, where he finds Iron Man fighting two savage aliens called the Blood Brothers, who turn out to be a pair of space-vampires in the employ of Thanos. After a vicious brawl, the Thing and Iron Man are able to defeat the Blood Brothers. The unconscious aliens are then either teleported away or disintegrated by their angry boss, but Ben has little sympathy for them. He suggests that Iron Man could give him a ride back to civilization, but the Golden Avenger insists that his power levels are too low to carry him any distance. As Iron Man flies off, the frustrated Thing stomps off into the gathering darkness. By morning, the Thing finally reaches a dusty crossroads and buys a bus ticket to New York City. However, he changes his plans when he sees a report in Time magazine about a Florida swamp monster called the “Man-Thing.” Angry that his brand is being diluted, the Thing intimidates the hapless shopkeeper into changing his ticket so he can go to Miami instead.

Thirty-six hours later, the Thing arrives in the Florida Everglades, where he is ambushed by a man claiming to be the son of the Molecule Man. Their fight draws the attention of the Man-Thing, who turns out to be considerably stranger than Ben expected. Suddenly, the Molecule Man fires an energy beam from his wand that changes the Thing and the Man-Thing back to their human forms. The villain teleports away, leaving Ben Grimm to explain to a very confused Ted Sallis what’s going on. Worried that the Molecule Man will seek revenge on the rest of the Fantastic Four, Ben convinces Sallis to help him. Sallis agrees to lead Ben to his laboratory elsewhere in the swamp, thinking he’ll be able to devise some scientific means of defeating the Molecule Man. However, they end up hiking aimlessly around the swamp until dawn, when they find themselves on the outskirts of Citrusville, Florida. Ben is fed up with Sallis, who talked non-stop all night long, and they argue. However, the Molecule Man appears and kills an innocent bystander by changing him into a doppelgänger of Mister Fantastic and stretching him to death. To taunt his foes, the villain then changes them back into their monstrous forms, but the Thing is too angry to care. When the Man-Thing mindlessly attacks him, the Thing rips out a handful of the creature’s sludge and throws it at the Molecule Man’s smirking face. He misses, but the muck knocks the Molecule Man’s wand out of his hand. Immediately, the Molecule Man collapses and ages into a withered husk that rapidly turns to dust. The Thing is shocked, but feels no compassion for the heartless villain. When the wand proves to be useless, the Thing tosses it to a little boy to play with. The Man-Thing then shambles back into the swamp, leaving Ben with a new appreciation of Ted Sallis’s tragic fate.

Returning to New York City, Ben takes Alicia out on the town to celebrate his 41st birthday. He decides not to tell her that he gave up the chance to be a normal man again in order to stop the Molecule Man’s rampage. Alicia is happy that her career as a sculptor has been going very well, but she worries about the effect Reed and Sue’s separation is having on the team.

July–August 1966 – Sue celebrates her 27th birthday with a picnic on the Pennsylvania horse farm with Bob and Carol Landers and their friends. She’s still concerned by Franklin’s occasional bouts of odd behavior, which often manifest as moments of intense focus on seemingly random details of the world around him. But for the most part, he seems like just an ordinary toddler. She is grateful to have had time over the last few months to also focus on personal growth and to cultivate a new feminist consciousness. A few weeks later, Sue has a little party for Franklin’s second birthday, which Johnny flies out to attend. Ben and Alicia come too, though Ben feels awkward being there when Reed has not been invited. Medusa decides to stay with Reed in the Baxter Building, not particularly interested in the rituals of human child-rearing. Reed has grown increasingly reclusive as the summer has worn on, and when his own 44th birthday rolls around, he doesn’t bother to celebrate it.

September 1966 – Johnny pulls an all-nighter with Spider-Man to work on the Spider-Mobile. They have a good time, though Spidey is clearly still down in the dumps and refuses to talk about it. Although Spider-Man originally envisioned creating a sleek sportscar, Johnny has decided to turn the Spider-Mobile into a dune buggy instead. Shortly afterward, Johnny, Ben, and Medusa fly out to Oklahoma again to visit Wyatt. While they are there, Ben is saddened to learn of the tragic death of his old friend Desmond Pitt, a fellow Air Force test pilot who once saved his life after a crash. Wanting to learn more, Ben phones some contacts in the military, who tell him the case has been designated top secret—apparently Pitt had been selling military secrets to a foreign government to pay his wife’s medical bills, and when she died, he became careless and was killed by spies. Shocked that his old friend could turn traitor, Ben can’t quite bring himself to believe that it’s all true.

Meanwhile, at the Landers’ horse farm in Pennsylvania, Sue is frightened when Franklin suddenly goes glassy-eyed and emits a high-pitched scream before passing out. At first, she refuses to call a doctor, trying to assure herself that the boy is fine now. However, Sue worries all night and decides in the morning that she had better contact Reed. At the Baxter Building, Reed is frustrated that he made a careless mistake and wrecked the prototype for the device meant to neutralize Franklin’s mutant powers. Ben, Johnny, and Medusa return from Oklahoma, bringing Wyatt with them, and they all get into an argument about Reed’s attitude lately. They are interrupted by Sue’s call, which is abruptly terminated, sending Reed into a panic. When Ben and Johnny are unable to restrain Reed, Medusa merely picks up a wrench with her hair and wallops Reed in the side of the head, knocking him out. Ben and Johnny are both annoyed by Medusa’s notable lack of empathy. Thinking Reed may have hung up on her, Sue decides to drive Franklin back to the Baxter Building, but her car is hijacked along the way by Agatha Harkness. Agatha admits that she inadvertently caused Franklin’s strange fit yesterday while trying to contact them through mystical means, then lures Sue and Franklin from their car and teleports them away.

In New York, Reed, Ben, Johnny, Medusa, and Wyatt have resumed their argument, but they are interrupted when Triton brings the injured Sub-Mariner to them for help. Reed determines that Namor has been exposed to an experimental nerve gas that has caused a cellular transmutation in his body, leaving him unable to survive outside of a marine environment. Thus, Reed designs a special suit for Namor to wear, a refined version of the one Triton uses. When Namor regains consciousness, he is grateful for the Fantastic Four’s help, though he still views the surface world as a threat to his kingdom. Leaving Wyatt behind, the Fantastic Four then fly out to the Landers’ horse farm to check on Sue and Franklin. Carol is worried, as Sue left several hours ago and should have reached Manhattan by now. Reed soon locates Sue’s abandoned car and determines that the ground is saturated with the peculiar sort of anti-matter particles found only in the Negative Zone. Worried, they race back to the Baxter Building, only to be ambushed by Annihilus.

The defeated Fantastic Four come to in their foe’s citadel in the Negative Zone, where they find Sue, Franklin, Wyatt, and Agatha Harkness are also being held prisoner. Annihilus gloats about his triumph, revealing that he’s been plotting for two years to get revenge on the Fantastic Four for stealing the energies from his cosmic control rod that formerly made him immortal. He expended a great deal of time and resources, he explains, to construct a gateway between the Negative Zone and Whisper Hill in order to kidnap Agatha, though in the process her house was completely destroyed. After holding the witch prisoner for months, Annihilus was finally able to compel Agatha to kidnap Sue and Franklin and bring them to the Negative Zone, where he plans to absorb the boy’s cosmic energies back into himself. While Annihilus is setting up his machines to do that, Reed, Ben, Johnny, Medusa, and Wyatt escape from the villain’s dungeon and regroup outside the citadel. There, Reed finally confides in the others that he’s been worried about the effects the cosmic control rod’s energies may have had on Franklin when he was born and has been working on the problem for many months. However, when they storm into their foe’s laboratory to rescue the others, Reed sees that they are too late—Annihilus has already triggered a chain reaction within Franklin’s cells. He immediately deduces that if the process isn’t stopped, Franklin will explode, releasing a blast of psychic force that will kill every living creature in the solar system. Medusa, Johnny, and Ben manage to overpower Annihilus and knock him out, enabling them to free Sue and Agatha. They are concerned by the eerie light shining from Franklin’s eyes, but Reed has Agatha teleport them all back to Baxter Building as quickly as possible. Without stopping to explain, Reed grabs his defective prototype, which looks to the others like a large gun, and fires an energy beam at Franklin. Sue screams as the weird light in her son’s eyes dies out and he lapses into a coma. Distressed, Reed is at a loss for words as Sue lashes out at him. Ben, Johnny, and Wyatt, also shocked and horrified, then follow Sue out of the building. Only Medusa remains by Reed’s side, believing his actions were justified.

As Reed and Medusa necessarily set to work repairing the Negative Zone portal, the distraught Sue drives Franklin back to the Landers’ horse farm in Pennsylvania, where Bob and Carol are stunned by Reed’s apparent callousness. Ben checks into a Manhattan hotel and sinks into a depression, believing the Fantastic Four will never be able to be a team again. Johnny and Wyatt, who has borrowed the Jet-Cycle, fly out to the campus of Metro College to seek advice from Sam Thorne, expecting him to condemn Reed’s actions. However, Johnny becomes annoyed when Coach Thorne sees Reed’s side of the issue and is sympathetic to the terrible choice he was forced to make. Later, Johnny and Wyatt retreat to the Catskill Mountains for a camping trip, where they celebrate Johnny’s 22nd birthday. Wyatt tries to get Johnny to let go of the idea that Reed betrayed them all, arguing that he was put in an impossible situation. Even so, Johnny remains resolutely on Sue’s side.

October 1966 – One night, Reed finds Spider-Man caught by one of the Baxter Building’s security devices. Assuming the wall-crawler has come to work on the Spider-Mobile, Reed informs him that the Human Torch is out of town—in fact, the Fantastic Four have disbanded. Spider-Man is incredulous, but Reed refuses to discuss the matter. However, Spider-Man reveals that he’s actually come for help tracking down Captain Marvel, who disappeared while they were fighting a supervillain called the Basilisk over two Kree power crystals. Depressed, Reed is at first disinclined to help, but Spider-Man shames him into changing his mind. Modifying a device meant to track Kree Sentry robots, Reed detects the power crystals in Subterranea. He then flies Spider-Man in the Fantasti-Car to the wreckage of the strange house in the country where the Mole Man’s drop tube is located. No sooner have they arrived in the underground realm than they are overwhelmed by a horde of Subterraneans and dragged into the Mole Man’s throne room. The Mole Man rants about his plan to use a gigantic laser-cannon, powered by the Kree crystal in which Captain Marvel is trapped, to destroy the surface world. He orders the Subterraneans to throw Mister Fantastic and Spider-Man into a nearby open pit of magma, but the two heroes save themselves. Suddenly, the Basilisk appears and gets into a fight with the Mole Man and his Subterraneans. During the fracas, Captain Marvel escapes from the giant crystal by transforming into his human alter-ego Rick Jones, the energy released by their interdimensional transposition disrupting the crystal’s molecular matrix. Reed uses the distraction to alter the laser-cannon’s controls, causing it to self-destruct. The resulting explosion triggers a violent eruption in the magma pit, and both villains are lost in the ensuing conflagration, along with the Kree power crystals. Mister Fantastic, Spider-Man, and Rick Jones race to the Fantasti-Car as the tunnels collapse behind them. Once they have reached the surface, Jones changes back into Captain Marvel and flies away. Mister Fantastic then gives Spider-Man a lift back to Manhattan.

In the Catskill Mountains, Johnny and Wyatt discover Blastaar trying to destroy a computerized factory called F.A.U.S.T.—the Fully Automated Unit of Structural Technology, designed by an old friend of Reed’s named Paxton Pentecost and built out of secondary adamantium, a weaker alloy of the indestructible metal. Blastaar shrugs off the Human Torch’s fiery attacks and sends him hurtling away with a powerful concussive blast. As luck would have it, the Hulk is in the area and catches Johnny before he hits the ground. Seeing that the Hulk is agitated by a painful buzzing in his ears, Johnny convinces him that Blastaar is to blame. Thus, the Hulk follows Johnny back to the factory, where he fights with Blastaar. The Torch flies into the factory to make sure it has been evacuated, only to find Pentecost and some henchmen holding his former business partner, financier Ferguson Blaine, at gunpoint. Johnny convinces Pentecost to abandon his revenge scheme and hurries them out of the building. Remorseful at having unleashed the unstoppable Blastaar on the world, Pentecost suggests that they may be able to imprison the villain in the metal wreckage. Johnny tells the Hulk to do just that, so the green behemoth wraps Blastaar in a large ball of adamantium scrap and hurls him into the Atlantic Ocean some 600 miles away. After the Hulk has left, Pentecost is taken into police custody, but Johnny berates the greedy Blaine for driving the scientist to desperation in the first place.

Ben receives word that Alicia has traveled to Transylvania for an experimental new surgical procedure that may restore her sight, so he flies out immediately to join her. When Ben arrives, Alicia introduces him to the surgeon, Dr. Hans Stuttgart, but they are distracted when people on the street seem to flee from the sight of the Thing. Alicia assures Ben that they’re actually superstitious about a legendary demon said to stalk the countryside at night. Even so, after dropping Alicia off at the hospital and starting back toward his hotel, Ben worries that she’ll find him repulsive once her eyesight has been restored. Suddenly, he is ambushed by Darkoth, the Death-Demon, who purports to be a devil from the pits of Hell. Ben is unimpressed, though Darkoth does prove to have superhuman strength as well as other powers. The fight ends abruptly when gas lines under the street are ruptured and sparks from Darkoth’s metal claws cause an explosion. The Thing is stunned, and when the smoke clears, he finds that Darkoth has fled. Ben wonders how Darkoth knew personal details about him and suspects he may be working for Dr. Stuttgart, since few other people even know the Thing is in the country.

Back at the Baxter Building, Medusa decides she must attempt to cheer Reed up, noting that he is nearly overwhelmed with grief at being separated from his wife and son. Believing a change of scene will do him good, Medusa convinces Reed to take her out to dinner at a nice restaurant. Though he feels it is an exercise in futility, Reed relents and agrees to go. Medusa realizes that, to avoid drawing undue attention to herself, she must finally remove her mask and adopt the fashions of New York City, thus she slips into a tight yellow minidress and high-heeled shoes. She has determined that her sex appeal is likely to take Reed’s mind off his troubles. As they are getting ready to leave, Medusa finds an invitation to a class reunion dinner that Reed has recently received. He had decided not to go, he says, but Medusa insists that he will attend, even if she has to drag him there. Throughout dinner, Medusa tries to charm Reed, but he is unresponsive.

The next day, Ben arrives at the hospital, only to be informed by Dr. Stuttgart that Alicia has already been sedated and is being prepped for surgery. He spends the next few hours in the waiting room feeling dejected. Eventually, Ben grows suspicious and bursts into the operating room to find it is completely empty. He is attacked from behind by Darkoth and realizes the whole thing has been a set-up. Darkoth forces the Thing through a hidden passageway into a series of caverns, where he finally rakes his foe’s rocky hide with poisoned claws. The drug hits the Thing’s system a minute later, and he drops to the ground, unconscious. When he comes to later, Ben finds himself trapped in a power-dampening force field inside a large laboratory complex. Strangely, Darkoth is also imprisoned in a similar device nearby. Numerous scientists and technicians bustle around the lab, but they completely ignore their monstrous captives. Worried about Alicia, Ben struggles to escape, but to no avail.

Two days later, Reed and Medusa get dressed up again and go to the alumni dinner at a high-rise building in Manhattan, where they find Coach Sam Thorne and his wife Belle. Reed and Sam are happy to see each other, noting that it’s been about ten years since their last encounter. Sam mentions running into Johnny not long ago, but before they can continue their conversation, they are all escorted into the dining room. Reed and Sam are shocked to see their old classmate—Doctor Doom—standing at the head of the table. Intent on protecting the Thornes, Reed and Medusa immediately attack Doom, but he calmly activates a trap door that sends them tumbling into a chamber below. Doom then leads his captives into the large laboratory where the Thing and Darkoth are imprisoned, boasting of the ease with which he has defeated the Fantastic Four. He also reveals his plan to use an orbiting satellite to brainwash everyone on earth, demonstrating its effectiveness by making two minions who have betrayed him shoot each other in the head. Then, leaving to prepare the satellite for launch, Doom orders that Reed, Ben, and Medusa be locked in power-dampening cells on a lower level, where they can witness his ultimate triumph. However, Darkoth enters the cell block a little while later, dismisses the guards, and deactivates the force fields. He explains that he has learned that he is not, in fact, a demonic creature of legend but one of Doom’s lackeys transformed into a monster three weeks ago. Wishing revenge on Doctor Doom, Darkoth leads Reed, Ben, and Medusa down into New York City’s sewer system, where they make their way back towards the Baxter Building.

Meanwhile, Doctor Doom captures Johnny and Wyatt outside Buffalo, New York, and brings them back to his high-rise headquarters in Manhattan. Trapped in a transparent cylinder, Johnny is worried for Doom’s other prisoners, Alicia and Sam and Belle Thorne, but is relieved to learn that Reed, Ben, and Medusa have already escaped. Enraged, Doom sends a synthetic creature called the Seeker into the sewer system to pursue them. With Darkoth’s help, Reed, Ben, and Medusa defeat the Seeker and take it to Reed’s lab in the Baxter Building. While Reed attempts to reprogram the Seeker, though, Doctor Doom launches his satellite into orbit and activates it. Having run out of time, Reed disassembles the Seeker, turning it into a makeshift disguise for Darkoth to wear so he can infiltrate Doom’s stronghold. This enables Darkoth to break in and free Johnny and Wyatt before attacking Doom. When the Thing smashes through the wall, Doctor Doom chooses a strategic retreat, but Darkoth follows him. Suddenly, the building starts to crumble, forcing Ben and Johnny to focus on getting Alicia, Wyatt, and the Thornes to safety. On a rooftop across the street, they all watch as Doom’s spaceplane, camouflaged as the building’s tower, blasts off, causing the rest of the structure to collapse. At the Baxter Building, Reed and Medusa monitor the spaceplane’s ascent and are surprised when it explodes on the edge of space, destroying the mind-altering satellite as well. When no trace of Darkoth is found in the rubble, Reed theorizes that he must have stowed away aboard the spaceplane and caused it to blow up, thereby saving everyone on earth from becoming Doctor Doom’s slaves. Reed suspects Doom may have escaped, though there’s no sign of him either. Soon after, Wyatt goes home to Oklahoma.

November 1966 – Feeling conflicted about the phony blindness cure—he is actually relieved though Alicia is disappointed—Ben sinks into a funk. Johnny tries to cheer him up by taking him to an action movie, but Ben doesn’t enjoy it and seeing all the winos and prostitutes in Times Square just makes him feel more depressed. After Johnny has left, Ben gets into a fight with a super-strong young man who drops out of the sky and demolishes a parked car. During their destructive battle in the streets, Ben begins to suspect that his unspeaking opponent may be mentally disabled. Suddenly, the Sub-Mariner and his cousin Namorita arrive on the scene to break up the fight. Before the two Atlanteans can explain themselves, a large spacecraft descends and disgorges a pair of gun-toting aliens and their giant killer robot. They identify the young man as Wundarr, a potential political agitator they have come to eliminate. Working together, the Thing and the Sub-Mariner destroy the robot and drive the aliens away. However, claiming that Atlantis is in imminent danger, Namor and Namorita leave Wundarr with the Thing, explaining only that he has the mind of an infant in an adult body. Frustrated, Ben takes Wundarr back to the Baxter Building, where Reed confirms that he is indeed from another planet. Alicia agrees to help Ben take care of his helpless charge. Johnny finds the whole situation to be very amusing, though Medusa wants nothing to do with any of it.

December 1966 – A few days before Christmas, Spider-Man wakes Johnny up early in the morning, eager to pick up the completed Spider-Mobile. They load the dune buggy into a freight elevator and take it down to the alley behind the Baxter Building, where Johnny points out all the specialty controls on the instrument panel, including activators for the car’s spider-signal and web-shooters. However, when Spidey takes it out for a test drive and almost slides into oncoming traffic before swerving up onto the sidewalk, Johnny realizes the web-slinger has no idea how to operate a motor vehicle. Spider-Man sheepishly admits he never took driver’s ed, so Johnny spends the next few hours giving him basic driving lessons. Both of them get stressed out and tempers run high, but eventually Spidey gets the hang of it and Johnny sends him on his way.

The Fantastic Four celebrate an awkward Christmas morning, mainly for Medusa’s edification. Ben and Alicia give several wrapped gifts to the uncomprehending Wundarr as the others look on. Johnny and Medusa soon decide to go out to lunch, but Reed drifts off into his laboratories again to spend the day tinkering aimlessly with various projects. Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, Sue cares for the comatose Franklin, feeling utterly isolated and alone and filled with rage over what Reed has done to their son. As far as she is concerned, their marriage is over.


Notes:

January 1966 – The Fantastic Four’s adventures resume in Fantastic Four #133 and following. Luke Cage pays a visit to the Baxter Building in Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #9.

February 1966 – The Human Torch lends a hand to Spider-Man in Marvel Team-Up #10. The Pogo Plane does not actually appear in the issue, but it’s the only way to make the logistics of the globe-spanning story make sense. Ironically, Quicksilver is being held prisoner by Kang along with the rest of the Avengers and is not even in the Great Refuge, a fact of which Johnny is unaware.

May 1966 – The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man team up against the demon hordes of Dormammu in Avengers #118. Doctor Strange undoes all the damage caused during the battle by augmenting his magic with the power of the Evil Eye of Avalon. However, in order to keep the Defenders’ involvement a secret, the Avengers are necessarily vague about what actually happened. The Thing encounters Captain Marvel and the Super-Skrull in Captain Marvel #26, where he also meets Thanos. The Mad Titan’s mysterious associate is, of course, a manifestation of Death itself. Spider-Man asks the Human Torch to help him build the Spider-Mobile in Amazing Spider-Man #126. The wall-crawler is depressed about the death of Gwen Stacy, and the villain he goes off to stop is the ill-fated Kangaroo.

June 1966 – At this point, the Thing received his own team-up series, which debuted in Marvel Feature #11–12 before settling into Marvel Two-in-One for a long run. Interestingly, Marvel Two-in-One #1 has an early indication of “Marvel time”—Ben says it’s been five years since he last encountered the Molecule Man, even though that issue was published just over ten years before. On my OMU timeline, it occurred just under four years ago. Though the Molecule Man believes himself to be the son of the original here, that eventually turns out to not be the case. When his original body dies, the Molecule Man’s consciousness takes refuge within his wand and starts possessing a series of host bodies. Eventually he creates a new body for himself, as seen in Avengers #215.

September 1966 – The Human Torch and Spider-Man continue working on the Spider-Mobile in Amazing Spider-Man #127. The Thing discusses the apparent death of Desmond Pitt in Fantastic Four #193, where it is revealed that it was Pitt whom Doctor Doom transformed into Darkoth, the Death-Demon. Mister Fantastic creates Namor’s new black costume in Sub-Mariner #67.

October 1966 – The scenes of Alicia leaving her apartment and traveling to Eastern Europe, seen in Fantastic Four #135, 138, and 141, actually all occur at this point in the timeline. The comics show them out of sequence for dramatic effect. Transylvania is not identified in the comics, but it is the most likely of Latveria’s four neighbors to be the setting of the story. Mister Fantastic and Spider-Man team up against the Mole Man and the Basilisk in Marvel Team-Up #17, with the Human Torch and the Hulk battling Blastaar in the following issue. The collapse of Doctor Doom’s latest scheme to rule the world brings us up to Fantastic Four #144.

November 1966 – The Thing, the Sub-Mariner, and Namorita rescue Wundarr from some interplanetary assassins in Marvel Two-in-One #2. The movie Ben and Johnny see at the beginning of the story is probably The Professionals with Burt Lancaster and Lee Marvin, rather than a kung fu flick.

December 1966 – The Human Torch teaches Spider-Man how to drive in Amazing Spider-Man #130.


Jump Back: The Fantastic Four – Year Five

Next Issue: The Hulk – Year Five


Wednesday

OMU: Spider-Man -- Year Five

The life of Spider-Man takes a dark turn in the fifth year of his superhero career when his girlfriend Gwen Stacy is murdered by the Green Goblin. To make matters worse, the story makes it clear that Spider-Man could have saved her. Shoved off one of the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge, Gwen was falling toward the East River. Spider-Man shot out a web-line and snagged her legs, but the sudden stop snapped her neck. Like so many deaths, the tragedy is in the details—make any number of minor changes to the sequence of events and Gwen lives. Instead, Peter Parker’s life completely unravels, sending him into a tailspin of nihilism. Gwen’s death also sets off a cascade of repercussions that will plague Spider-Man for years to come.

Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale.) Some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.


Continuing on with... The True History of the Amazing Spider-Man!


January 1966 – On the first day of the year, Spider-Man hears about an upcoming grudge match between the Thing and a mystery woman called Thundra. Having heard that Thundra kidnapped the Thing’s girlfriend, Alicia Masters, last night as the Fantastic Four watched helplessly, Spidey wonders if the Thing will be able to win the fight. Three days later, the fight ends inconclusively when the Thing unexpectedly reverts to his human form. Alicia is released unharmed shortly afterwards, and the public considers the much-hyped “battle of the sexes” to be rather anticlimactic.

A couple of weeks later, Peter Parker starts the second semester of his junior year at Empire State University, along with his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy. They sign up for another course with Professor Miles Warren. Peter is concerned about his roommate, Harry Osborn, who is still a semester behind and continues to miss classes due to his drug problem. Things are looking up for Flash Thompson, though, who returns to campus to finally finish his freshman year. Peter also takes a philosophy course and is surprised to find Mary Jane Watson in the same class. Peter continues to worry about his Aunt May, who is working as a housekeeper in the Westchester County mansion owned by Doctor Octopus. Though the villain is currently in prison, Peter knows that members of his gang still use the mansion as a meeting place. Stubborn as ever, Aunt May seems oblivious to the fact that the men are hardened criminals. Busy with school and spending most of his free time with Gwen, Peter seldom goes out to patrol the rooftops as Spider-Man. He continues to think it may be about time to retire his costumed identity once and for all.

February 1966 – On a Sunday morning near the middle of the month, Peter sees a TV news report of trouble at Avengers Mansion and decides to lend a hand when Harry proves to be in a belligerent mood. When he arrives at the scene, Spider-Man finds Iron Man trying to blast his way through a force field that has enveloped the mansion. Iron Man initially rebuffs Spidey’s offer of help, but when a hole seems to open in the field, the two heroes leap through it. However, they suddenly find themselves falling through a strange dimension, where they are picked up by a spaceship. The pilot introduces himself as Zarrko and recruits the two heroes to help him save the 23rd century from an invasion by an army from even further in the future. When the ship materializes in Zarrko’s time period, Spidey is surprised to find the Empire State Building is still standing. Zarrko drops them off at a fortified citadel a few blocks away, and Spider-Man and Iron Man fight their way inside, only to discover Thor, Captain America, Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, the Black Panther, and the Vision, as well as the Avengers’ butler, Edwin Jarvis, being held prisoner by Kang the Conqueror. Kang immobilizes Spider-Man and Iron Man with a paralysis ray just as Zarrko enters the chamber. Rather than help the heroes, though, Zarrko brags to Kang about his plan to conquer the 20th century for himself and replace Kang as the master of time. Learning that Zarrko has sent back in time three chronal-displacement bombs to strike in Greece, Japan, and Venezuela in order to destroy civilization, Spidey manages to creep out of the chamber, find Kang’s time machine, and transport himself back to the day he left.

Materializing on the glowing platform of the Fantastic Four’s time machine inside their Baxter Building headquarters, Spider-Man recruits the Human Torch to help him find Zarrko’s chronal-displacement bombs. As the Torch streaks off to Japan in the team’s Pogo Plane, Spidey heads to John F. Kennedy International Airport and stows away aboard a jet bound for Venezuela. About nine hours later, the plane lands at Simón Bolívar International Airport outside Caracas, just minutes before the bomb goes off. Spidey is caught in the waves of strange energy emanating from the device and starts to black out, but the Human Torch arrives and melts it to slag. The Torch reports that he was able to destroy the bomb in Japan as well. The two heroes then fly to Greece together in the Pogo Plane, where they again get caught in chronal-displacement waves. Spidey stops the Torch from melting the third device and merely switches it off instead, so they have something to examine for clues. The Human Torch remarks that the chronal displacement waves remind him of a certain force field he encountered in the Great Refuge of the Inhumans a couple of years ago, but he’s unwilling to accompany Spider-Man there since it’s where his ex-girlfriend lives and he doesn’t want to see her. After giving Spider-Man detailed instructions on how to find the Inhumans, the Torch returns to New York. Spidey is annoyed that the Human Torch has abandoned him in Greece in the middle of a critical rescue mission.

Nevertheless, Spider-Man is able to arrange transport to a mountain pass in the Himalayas near the Great Refuge, from which he makes his way into the fantastic city of the Inhumans. He is captured by sentries and brought to the throne room of the king, Black Bolt, where the royal advisors Gorgon, Karnak, and Triton interrogate him. Fortunately, after hearing Spider-Man’s story, the Inhumans agree to help. To Spidey’s dismay, it is left to Black Bolt’s brother, Maximus the Mad, to devise a means of turning the chronal-displacement bomb into a time machine to return them to Zarrko’s era. Though he is clearly insane, Maximus is successful, and Spider-Man, Black Bolt, Gorgon, Karnak, and Triton soon find themselves transported to Kang’s citadel in 23rd-century Manhattan. After fighting their way inside, the five adventurers confront Kang and Zarrko. Black Bolt makes short work of the villains by uttering a single word—the destructive power of his voice wrecks the building, knocks out Kang, and frees the Avengers from their stasis cells. Zarrko flees, but Spider-Man chases him down and gives him a beating. Returning to the others, Spidey discovers that Kang is just an empty suit of robotic armor. The voice of the real Kang then mocks them over the loudspeaker. Zarrko is turned over to the local authorities, then the thirteen time-travelers return to their own era. Outside Avengers Mansion, Thor expresses the team’s gratitude to the Inhumans—and to Spider-Man—for rescuing them. Departing with a wise-ass remark, Spidey heads for home. He soon discovers that he has been gone for two days and completely missed Valentine’s Day. He reassures himself that he can make it up to Gwen next year.

A week later, Aunt May’s friend, Anna Watson, gives Peter a telegram sent to the Parker house in Forest Hills, Queens, so Peter decides to take it to Aunt May in Westchester. He is suspicious as to why Doctor Octopus has shown so much interest in a sweet old lady who has nothing a criminal mastermind could possibly want, so when he overhears one of the villain’s henchmen talking on the phone about waiting to receive an important telegram, Peter decides to leave it in his pocket until he’s had a chance to see what it’s all about. After visiting with Aunt May for about an hour, Peter heads back to Manhattan. As soon as he’s back in his apartment, Peter opens the telegram and discovers it is from Jean-Pierre Rimbaud, an attorney in Montreal, Quebec. Mysteriously, Rimbaud requests that Aunt May come to Canada to discuss a sensitive matter. Intrigued, Peter heads down to the street, where he runs into Harry and his father. When Harry collapses suddenly, Norman Osborn goes into a fit of rage, making Peter worry that the Green Goblin persona may be resurfacing. Thinking it would be a good idea to leave town for a few days, Peter hurries off to the Daily Bugle building, where he convinces J. Jonah Jameson to finance his trip to Montreal by promising him photos of the Hulk, who’s been terrorizing Canada lately.

A couple hours later, Peter arrives in Montreal and goes directly to Rimbaud’s law firm, only to find the attorney is unavailable. Claiming his aunt is too sick to travel, Peter convinces Rimbaud’s secretary to discuss the matter with him over dinner. He then heads to his hotel, where he finds Air Force General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross giving a press conference regarding the Hulk’s rampage. Acting as an advisor to the Canadian military on the situation, Ross then leads a contingent of soldiers to intercept the Hulk at a power station on the Saint Lawrence River about ten miles north of the city. Peter joins the press corps going with them, and, about an hour later, the Hulk attacks the convoy in a wooded area. The Hulk flips over the truck carrying the reporters, but Peter, alerted by his spider-sense, manages to tumble into a ravine, where he quickly changes into Spider-Man to draw the Hulk away. Their fight leads them to the Maskattawan Dam a few miles away, which the Hulk nearly destroys before leaping off into the darkness. Spider-Man then hitches a ride on the helicopter taking General Ross back to Montreal. Once in the city, Peter heads over to meet Rimbaud’s secretary, only to discover that one of Doc Ock’s men is tailing him. Slipping into a dark alley, Peter changes back into Spider-Man and roughs up the crook, now convinced that the telegram has something to do with Doc Ock’s designs on Aunt May. However, General Ross and his troops show up and try to capture Spider-Man, believing him to be in league with the Hulk. Annoyed, Spidey swings off to meet Rimbaud’s secretary for their dinner date. However, it turns out that she has been unable to find any documentation pertaining to the case, so she offers to take Peter to meet Rimbaud at the construction site for the 1967 International and Universal Exposition, where he’s meeting with a client. As luck would have it, their taxi runs into the Hulk upon arrival. Both the taxi driver and the secretary are knocked out when the Hulk flips the car, giving Peter the chance to become Spider-Man again. This time their battle causes tremendous damage to the fairgrounds, and the Hulk is about to crush Spidey when military helicopters arrive and drive the jade giant off. Quickly changing out of his costume, Peter finally meets Jean-Pierre Rimbaud, but, before he can reveal Aunt May’s secret, the attorney is shot and killed by a sniper. The killer, whom Peter assumes is working for Doctor Octopus, escapes from the soldiers who pursue him. A little while later, the secretary drops Peter off at the airport, where he catches the red-eye flight back to New York. Though the telegram remains a mystery, Peter at least has some photos of the Hulk to sell.

In the morning, Peter goes to Norman Osborn’s townhouse, where he finds Harry being treated at home for a complete psychotic break. Gwen and Mary Jane are also there, talking to the Osborns’ family doctor, and Peter is shocked to learn that Norman has insisted that Harry not be taken to the hospital because he wants to keep his son’s abuse of LSD a secret. Norman then storms in and rages at Peter, blaming him for Harry’s condition. He tells Peter, Gwen, and Mary Jane to get out of his house, so they leave immediately. Gwen is very upset and even Mary Jane seems uncharacteristically subdued, so they head to ESU for their morning classes. A few hours later, Peter goes to the Daily Bugle building to sell his photos, but realizes he must have caught the flu while in Montreal. Jameson yells at him for bringing germs into the office, but city editor Joe “Robbie” Robertson agrees to buy the photos of the Hulk. Then, in a nearby alley, Peter changes into Spider-Man and web-swings back to his apartment. When he arrives, Peter is horrified to find the place has been ransacked, and one of the Green Goblin’s pumpkin bombs has been left sitting atop Gwen’s purse. Realizing the Green Goblin has kidnapped Gwen, Spider-Man makes a quick search of the city, despite his nausea and dizziness. He soon finds them on top of the Brooklyn Bridge, where the Green Goblin immediately starts taunting him, calling him “Mr. Parker.” Enraged, Spider-Man attacks, trying to drive the villain off so he can get the unconscious Gwen to safety. However, the Green Goblin swoops around on his Goblin Glider and knocks Gwen off the bridge, sending her plummeting toward the water below. Spider-Man manages to snag Gwen’s legs with his webbing, but when he pulls her back up, she is dead.

Overwhelmed with rage and grief, Spider-Man swings over to a nearby dock, where he gently lays Gwen’s body down before attacking the Green Goblin with uncharacteristic savagery. After the villain breaks away from him and flees the scene, Spider-Man returns to the dock, finding a crowd has gathered around Gwen’s body. As a police car arrives, Spider-Man drives the crowd back, then cradles Gwen in his arms, grieving over her until the ambulance arrives to take her away. The police try to take Spider-Man in for questioning, but he loses his temper and swings off to hunt down the Green Goblin. Changing out of his costume, Peter goes into the Osborns’ townhouse to see if he can find any clue as to where his foe might be hiding. Instead, he finds Harry in the middle of another psychotic episode. Harry begs Peter not to leave him alone, but, consumed with vengeance, Peter storms out. Minutes later, Spider-Man arrives at the Daily Bugle to pump Joe Robertson for information on Osborn. Robertson has already seen the police report on Gwen’s death and informs Spider-Man that the authorities are already blaming him for it. Spider-Man refuses to discuss it, and, after making a few phone calls, Robertson reports that Osborn was just seen outside one of his warehouses in Chelsea. Spider-Man heads there immediately, breaks in, and attacks the Green Goblin. To prevent his foe from escaping, Spider-Man damages his glider, then beats the Green Goblin to within an inch of his life, lost in a paroxysm of rage. Suddenly realizing that he’s completely lost control of himself, Spider-Man staggers back in horror, giving the Green Goblin a chance to activate his glider’s remote-control mechanism. Thanks to his spider-sense, Spider-Man dodges the glider before it can stab him in the back, but it impales the Goblin, pinning him to a brick wall. The Green Goblin dies almost instantly and crumples to the floor as the glider loses power. Leaving his foe’s body on the warehouse floor, Spider-Man stumbles outside, feeling absolutely gutted. After changing into Peter Parker, he heads home and finds Mary Jane waiting for him in his apartment. She offers her sympathy, but Peter throws it in her face, calling her a shallow party girl, and tells her to get out. Mary Jane starts to go, then decides to stay and comfort the sobbing Peter whether he wants it or not.

Three days later, Peter and Aunt May attend Gwen’s funeral along with the Watsons and various friends from college. People from the Daily Bugle have also come out to support Peter, though Jameson is conspicuously absent. Robertson tries to pass on Jameson’s condolences, but Peter responds with bitterness. He is annoyed that one of Doctor Octopus’s thugs has escorted Aunt May to the funeral. After everyone else has left, Mary Jane takes Peter out for coffee, where he admits that he feels totally lost without Gwen. Later, Spider-Man swings aimlessly around the city, realizing his heart has gone out of the superhero game, and he can’t even bring himself to care about who removed the Green Goblin’s costume before the body was discovered. Suddenly, he’s tackled by Luke Cage, the “hero for hire” who’s been working out of Times Square the last few months. Cage reveals that he was hired by Jameson to bring Spider-Man to justice. They fight on the rooftops for several minutes, but Spider-Man quickly loses interest after his initial rush of anger dissipates. He knocks Cage through a skylight, then swings off and heads for home. When he arrives, Peter is surprised to find Harry in the living room, but Harry just glares at him and continues reading the newspaper. Assuming Harry is angry with him for walking out on him the other day, Peter leaves and soon meets up with Mary Jane. She drags Peter to a dance party on campus, hoping to distract him from his grief. The event is disrupted when Luke Cage bursts in looking for Spider-Man, whom he knows is often seen around campus. In the mood for a brawl, Peter slips into the men’s room, puts on his costume, then confronts Cage. Leading Cage away from the dance hall, Spider-Man and the super-strong mercenary trade punches for several minutes, but Peter soon realizes how pointless it all is. He throws Cage onto some cement steps and webs his hands down, trapping him. Unable to break free, Cage agrees to listen to what Spider-Man has to say. They talk for a while and get to know each other a little, until Cage finally agrees to turn down Jameson’s offer. They go their separate ways with no hard feelings, and Peter leaves feeling a little less alone in the world.

March 1966 – Peter goes to the Daily Bugle and asks for an assignment that will take him out of town for a few days. Though basically sympathetic to Peter’s situation, Jameson is annoyed that he doesn’t have any kind of proposal to offer. Luckily, Robertson suggests that they do a Sunday photo spread on Daredevil and the Black Widow, taking advantage of Peter’s skill in capturing superhero action. Jameson agrees, and so Peter catches an early morning flight out to San Francisco. Arriving an hour or so before dawn, Peter decides to change into Spider-Man and check out the view from the Golden Gate Bridge. While he is there, though, Spider-Man is suddenly attacked by a werewolf. After a brief struggle, the werewolf falls off the bridge into the water below and doesn’t resurface. Astonished to have encountered a real-life werewolf, Peter finds an all-night diner and orders breakfast, only to realize everyone in the restaurant appears to be in a trance. The werewolf comes crashing into the building and attacks him again. Peter takes the fight outside and swings up to the roof to change into Spider-Man. He is relieved when the werewolf stumbles into a parked car and knocks itself out. As dawn breaks, the werewolf changes into its human form, so Spider-Man carries the man up to the roof where they can talk in private. Surprised to see the wall-crawler in San Francisco, the man introduces himself as Jack and explains that he came to the city with his sister and his best friend, only to be captured by a sorcerer calling himself “Moondark.” Spider-Man agrees to help Jack rescue his sister and best friend, so they head to the theater where Moondark works as a stage magician. However, as they head into the basement, Jack turns back into a werewolf and attacks him again. They crash into a large room where Jack’s sister and friend are standing on a large pentagram, entranced by a magic spell. Moondark gloats about his impending triumph, clearly believing that Spider-Man has come to San Francisco specifically to thwart his plans. Noticing that Moondark is standing in front of the magic portal he used to send the werewolf after him, Spider-Man flips around and kicks the villain through it. Spider-Man’s momentum carries him through as well, and he is surprised to find they have been teleported back to the Golden Gate Bridge. Though Spider-Man manages to grab onto a support cable and save himself, Moondark plummets into the strait and is apparently killed on impact.

Returning to the city, Spider-Man makes his way to the north shore mansion where the Black Widow is known to live and waits for her to appear. When the Black Widow and Daredevil finally show up, Spider-Man changes back into Peter Parker and approaches her Russian chauffeur, who’s working on their car in the garage. After claiming that he would make a much more exciting interview subject, the chauffeur directs Peter to the front door. He is met there by the Black Widow, and she invites him inside. Peter explains about his assignment, and the two heroes are happy to cooperate. As they escort him to a large library on the mansion’s third floor, Peter is impressed by the elegant décor, though Daredevil insists they’re just renting the place. Before the interview can begin, though, a man calling himself “Ramrod” comes crashing through the wall. Despite their best efforts, Daredevil and the Black Widow are unable to prevent Ramrod from tearing open a wall safe and making off with a box of important documents. Having gotten some great action photos, Peter follows the two heroes outside to make sure they are all right. Undaunted, Daredevil and the Black Widow set off in pursuit of their foe, but Peter realizes they will probably need some help to capture him. Thus, he changes into Spider-Man and swings off after them. His spider-sense leads him directly to Ramrod, who’s muttering to himself on a rooftop. Snagging the document box with his webbing, Spider-Man swings off, only to see Ramrod leaping after him like a bargain-basement Hulk. Daredevil and the Black Widow then catch up to them and join the fray. Daredevil tells Spider-Man to take the document box somewhere safe, but he is reluctant to leave the pair to face Ramrod since neither of them seems to have any super-powers. Nevertheless, he swings off to the Transamerica Pyramid, but the relentless Ramrod soon catches up to him. Towards the top of the tower, Spider-Man webs Ramrod up and kicks him in the face. Ramrod is startled when Daredevil and the Black Widow arrive and loses his footing. The villain falls off the building but, despite a drop of nearly 50 stories, is merely knocked unconscious when he hits the ground. Returning the document box to Daredevil, Spider-Man swings off. He quickly changes back into Peter Parker and meets Daredevil and the Black Widow down on the street. As they stroll along the Embarcadero, Peter conducts a proper interview with the two superheroes, though he feels more than a little jealous of their glamorous lives. Finally, he heads to the airport and catches his flight back to New York City.

Depressed about Gwen’s death, Spider-Man goes out looking for some criminals to beat up. This leads him to a battle between Captain America and numerous agents of Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.). Though not usually one to butt into other people’s fights, Spider-Man is determined to blow off some steam and dives into the fray. Captain America does not object, and the villains are quickly defeated. However, when Cap calls in S.H.I.E.L.D. for the mopping-up operation, Nick Fury brings both superheroes aboard the Helicarrier for a briefing. Fury reveals that A.I.M.’s mission was to steal any one of three copies of a new guided-missile telemetry system from the U.S. government, and though Spider-Man helped Captain America safeguard one copy and S.H.I.E.L.D. agents at Cape Kennedy protected another, the third was successfully stolen from an installation in the Midwest. A tracking device hidden inside the system shows that it has been brought to Queens and appears to be currently located beneath the Science Pavilion on the grounds of the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Park. Fury convinces Spider-Man to help Captain America recover the stolen device, so the two heroes break into A.I.M.’s underground complex, where they find the subversive organization is working with the Grey Gargoyle to launch a weapon into orbit. Badly outnumbered, both heroes are quickly knocked out and turned to stone by the Grey Gargoyle’s petrifying touch. Luckily, their altered metabolisms cause the effect to wear off much sooner than usual and they are able to break free before being launched into space. As A.I.M.’s missile takes off, one of the chains used to bind the heroes gets tangled around the Grey Gargoyle’s ankle and he is hauled away into the sky. Without their super-powered ally, the A.I.M. agents are quickly defeated. Seeing that Captain America has the situation under control, Spider-Man says goodnight and heads for home.

April 1966 – Early in the month, Peter finally returns to the ESU campus, not having attended any of his classes since Gwen’s death. Even so, his mind is not on his studies. He is confused as to why the police have not yet discovered that Norman Osborn was the Green Goblin—or why they would think Spider-Man was involved in Osborn’s death, as the Daily Bugle claims. He is also extremely self-conscious about facing his classmates, dreading their sympathy, and so he blows up at Mary Jane and Flash Thompson when they try to draw him out of his funk. Stressed out by the situation, Peter storms off and wanders around the rainy streets for a few hours. Eventually, he comes upon a newspaper dispenser and becomes enraged by the Daily Bugle’s new series, “The Spider-Man Menace.” Intent on showing Jameson just what a menace he can be, Peter changes into Spider-Man and swings over to the publisher’s apartment building. When he arrives, Spider-Man is shocked to see Jameson being attacked by a silver-gray werewolf. Noting that he recently encountered a werewolf in San Francisco, Spider-Man swings in and attacks the monster, trying to drive it off. However, the werewolf overpowers Spider-Man and knocks him out. When he comes to, he finds the creature has fled, leaving Jameson unharmed. Ready to go after the werewolf, Spider-Man is surprised when Jameson tries to coerce him into leaving the monster alone. Telling Jameson he has a weird sense of gratitude, Spider-Man swings off into the night. A couple of hours later, while Spider-Man is stalking the rooftops, the werewolf attacks him again. As they struggle, Spider-Man notices the werewolf is wearing a gemstone at its throat that looks strangely familiar. However, the werewolf bolts into an alley and disappears when the moon starts to set. Spider-Man tries to pursue the creature but stumbles into some garbage cans, having lost a lot of blood from a nasty gash in his chest. He staggers back to his apartment, bandages himself up, and collapses into bed wondering why Jameson would want to protect a monster that tried to kill him.

In the morning, Spider-Man goes to the Daily Bugle offices to confer with Joe Robertson but is chased off by the police. Having inhaled some tear gas, Spider-Man changes into Peter Parker and takes refuge at Mary Jane’s apartment, but they argue and he storms out thinking she is just a shallow party girl after all. Later, while web-swinging around the city, Spider-Man deduces that the werewolf he fought last night may be Jameson’s son, Colonel John Jameson. He swings over to the astronaut’s apartment building and, sure enough, finds the werewolf attacking a young woman. After a brief struggle, Spider-Man manages to rip the gemstone from his foe’s throat, only to realize that it was grafted to the creature’s skin. Howling in agony, the werewolf collapses and changes into Colonel Jameson. After hurling the gemstone into the Hudson River, Spider-Man tells J. Jonah Jameson, who has emerged from the apartment building, to get his son to the hospital. When Jameson frets about negative publicity, Spider-Man yells at him and walks off in disgust.

Realizing that fighting is the only thing that makes him feel better, a grim Spider-Man haunts the rooftops and back alleys of the city for the rest of the month. However, the petty street crime he finds offers little challenge.

May 1966 – Peter returns to the ESU campus only to have the people around him inexplicably start changing into hideous, demonic monsters. Soon, the city itself also starts to transform into a weird, alien landscape. Changing into Spider-Man, he tries to contain the rampaging monsters. As the fight spills out into the streets of New York, Spider-Man runs into the Fantastic Four—Mister Fantastic, the Thing, the Human Torch, and their newest recruit, Medusa—and they coordinate their efforts. Less than an hour after it began, the city suddenly changes back to normal and the demons revert to their ordinary human forms. A couple of minutes later, all the tremendous damage done to the city during the battle is abruptly undone, as if by magic. Later, the Avengers report that the entire incident was merely a mass hallucination created by a super-villain whom they have defeated.

When he comes upon Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner fighting with some muggers in an alley, Spider-Man assumes the undersea monarch is in New York to cause trouble again. However, he quickly learns that Namor is in fact trying to hunt down the villains who killed his father. Sympathetic, Spider-Man agrees to help the Sub-Mariner seek justice. His spider-sense leads them to a seemingly abandoned trawler floating outside the 12-mile limit, in which they discover an elevator shaft to the villains’ lair on the ocean floor. Breaking into the hidden complex, Spider-Man and the Sub-Mariner are captured by Tiger Shark and the mad scientist Dr. Lemuel Dorcas, who is trying to animate a group of “men-fish” he has genetically engineered. The heroes help each other escape confinement, and the subsequent battle wrecks the installation. The base is completely destroyed, causing the trawler and its elevator shaft to explode, but Spider-Man and the Sub-Mariner make it out in the nick of time. Namor seems unsatisfied with his revenge, though, as he takes Spider-Man back to shore.

On his way to ESU one morning, Spider-Man is flagged down by a couple of advertising executives. They try to convince him to create a “Spider-Mobile” using an experimental non-polluting engine made by one of their clients, Corona Motors. Thinking it’s a stupid idea, Spider-Man rejects their offer and continues on his way. When he arrives on campus, he changes back into Peter Parker and runs into Professor Miles Warren, who chides him for not attending class. Peter apologizes sheepishly, then blows up at Mary Jane and Flash when they try to coax him out to the campus coffee shop. After a miserable day, Peter returns home to find an eviction notice, revealing that the rent hasn’t been paid since Norman Osborn died. Peter had assumed that Harry was taking care of it, but they’ve hardly spoken lately since his roommate has been spending most of his time at his father’s townhouse. Since he hasn’t sold many photos to the Daily Bugle for a while, Peter knows he can’t cover the rent on his own and worries about losing the apartment.

Thus, the next morning, Spider-Man heads back to the advertising agency and accepts their offer in return for a $1,000 cash advance. When he asks about getting blueprints for the car, though, the ad men tell him he’ll need to design and build the vehicle himself. Realizing that would be beyond his mechanical engineering skills, Spider-Man decides to seek help from the Human Torch, a well-known sportscar aficionado. On his way to the Baxter Building, Spider-Man is ambushed by the Kangaroo, whose powers have been augmented since the last time they clashed. However, the Kangaroo suddenly abandons the fight when he develops a severe headache, and Spider-Man, not interested in a grudge match with a third-rate super-villain, decides not to pursue him. At the Fantastic Four’s headquarters, Spider-Man finds the Human Torch in a foul mood, but his interest is piqued by the idea of building a “Spider-Mobile” from scratch. They work on some design ideas for a couple of hours, but then a report comes in that the Kangaroo has broken into a nearby nuclear laboratory. Still annoyed with the Torch for abandoning him in the middle of a rescue mission a few months ago, Spider-Man insists that his fight with the Kangaroo is a personal matter and he doesn’t need any help. Arriving at the Hudson Nuclear Laboratories, Spider-Man confronts the Kangaroo, who has been hired to steal some dangerous radioactive isotopes. Ignoring Spider-Man’s warnings, the Kangaroo charges into a highly radioactive vault and dies instantly. Horrified, Spider-Man seals the vault with his webbing just as the police fire tear-gas canisters into the lab. Slipping past the police, Spider-Man then web-swings aimlessly around the city for a few hours, feeling lonely and dispirited. The next day, Peter settles up with his landlord so he won’t be evicted from his apartment.

As the semester ends, Peter learns that he’s failed all his classes due to non-attendance and becomes even more depressed. Worried about flunking out of college and letting Aunt May down, he heads to a secluded arbor on campus to change into Spider-Man. Though his spider-sense starts tingling, Peter doesn’t see anyone nearby and decides to ignore it. He changes into his costume and swings off for home, lost in his troubled thoughts. Not long after, Peter has his 21st birthday and, though he’d rather spend it alone, Mary Jane insists on taking him out to dinner. She apologizes for the fight they had at her apartment last month and reveals that Harry had just dumped her, which is why she was so unsympathetic towards Peter. He tells her about his own strained relationship with Harry, and agrees to hang out with Mary Jane occasionally over the summer.

June 1966 – Mary Jane drags Peter to a motorcycle stunt show at Madison Square Garden, though she insists that he buy their tickets. Peter is not enthusiastic about being there, but nevertheless becomes fascinated by the stuntman called “Ghost Rider,” who wears a creepy “blazing skull” helmet and performs spectacular leaps. During the show, a villain wearing a large “eyeball” helmet and his half-a-dozen henchmen come riding into the arena. However, when the villain starts putting the audience into a hypnotic trance, Peter realizes it’s not part of the act. Alerted by his spider-sense, Peter avoids being hypnotized, then slips off and changes into Spider-Man. As he attacks the henchmen, Spider-Man is surprised when Ghost Rider starts shooting fire out of his hands and assumes he must be wearing a flame-thrower rig under his leather suit. The villain, calling himself the Orb, kidnaps one of Ghost Rider’s assistants, a cute blonde named Roxanne Simpson, and offers to exchange her for complete ownership of the motorcycle stunt show. Ghost Rider is ready to capitulate to save Roxanne’s life, but Spider-Man is confident they can track the Orb to his lair and take him by surprise, since he was able to tag the villain with a spider-tracer during the fight. Sure enough, Spider-Man and Ghost Rider trail the Orb to an old power room on an abandoned subway spur. While Spider-Man is fighting with the henchmen, though, the Orb rides off with his hostage and Ghost Rider pursues him. After webbing up all the henchmen, Spider-Man takes one of their motorcycles and goes after his spooky partner, though he finds the bike much harder to control than the one he used to ride to and from campus. The chase leads them right through Grand Central Station, where Spider-Man finally manages to snag Roxanne with his webbing and pull her off the Orb’s bike. She sails through the air and lands safely in Spider-Man’s arms. Ghost Rider chases the Orb back inside the building. When he comes back out a few minutes later, Ghost Rider reports that the Orb tried to escape back down the subway tunnel but was hit by an oncoming train. Ghost Rider managed to save himself, though his motorcycle was crushed under the train. As the leather-clad couple walks off down the street, Spider-Man swings away, freaked out by the fact that Ghost Rider’s head looks much more like a real flaming skull than a mask or a motorcycle helmet.

July–August 1966 – Peter and Mary Jane continue to see each other socially and get to know each other better, though Peter spends much of his time in search of newsworthy photos he can sell in order to pay the rent. On a semi-regular basis, Spider-Man heads over to the Baxter Building, where he and the Human Torch continue working on their Spider-Mobile project.

September 1966 – When the fall semester starts at Empire State University, Peter is frustrated that he has to repeat his classes from the spring in order to finish his junior year. To make matters worse, Professor Warren treats Peter with thinly-disguised contempt, often berating him for his cavalier attitude toward his studies. While web-swinging around after midnight one night, Spider-Man comes across a crime scene right outside Mary Jane’s apartment building. A young woman has been murdered on the sidewalk and Mary Jane is a witness. However, she’s too afraid to go to the police, believing the killer will come after her. When Peter fails to convince Mary Jane to come forward, he changes back into Spider-Man and goes looking for the killer. It is not long before he is ambushed by the Vulture, who is being uncharacteristically aggressive. Admitting that he killed the woman, the Vulture manages to knock Spider-Man out, then flies off, leaving him for dead. When he comes to, Spider-Man heads over to the Baxter Building, where he and the Human Torch pull an all-nighter working on the Spider-Mobile. At dawn, Spider-Man goes home to get a couple hours of sleep before attending Professor Warren’s class.

Grabbing a quick breakfast before heading to campus, Peter is surprised to find Harry in the apartment, but Harry is belligerent, insisting that while they may have been roommates, they were never really friends. Stung, Peter makes his way to ESU, where Mary Jane claims to have been lying about witnessing the murder. Before Peter can press her on the matter, Flash Thompson offers them a ride in his new car. However, the Vulture swoops down and plucks Mary Jane right out of the convertible and flies off with her. Distracted, Flash drifts over the center line, swerves to avoid an oncoming van, and crashes into a telephone pole. Saved from injury by his superhuman reflexes, Peter leaves the unconscious Flash and quickly changes into Spider-Man. He rescues Mary Jane when the Vulture drops her, but accidentally calls her “Gwen” and worries that he may have compromised his secret identity. He catches up to the Vulture in one of the biology labs, where the villain is menacing a lab assistant. After a brutal battle, Spider-Man manages to drive the Vulture off. He then changes back into Peter Parker and returns to the wrecked lab, hoping to question the lab assistant. Unfortunately, she has already left, and Peter finds only Professor Clifton Shallot, a biochemist that he’s heard good things about. They chat briefly, then Peter leaves to continue his investigation. He soon learns that the lab assistant was one Christine Murrow, who turns out to have been the murdered girl’s roommate. Later, at the Daily Bugle offices, Peter discovers that the original Vulture, Adrian Toomes, is still in jail, meaning he must be dealing with an impostor. Changing into Spider-Man, he then persuades an underworld informant to reveal that the new Vulture has been seen hanging around a particular ship on the waterfront. Heading to the docks, he has a look around as Peter Parker, only to be grabbed by the Vulture. The villain complains that it’s the second time he’s caught Peter snooping around, then drops him into the river and flies off. Peter is confused by this comment until he realizes that the phony Vulture must be Clifton Shallot, apparently having mutated himself into a doppelgänger of Toomes, probably with help from Christine Murrow. Peter reasons that Shallot, driven to crime when his research money ran out, must have decided to kill off Murrow to protect his secrets but accidentally murdered her lookalike roommate instead.

Returning to Mary Jane’s apartment, Peter finds she is ready to go to the police, but on the way to the station the Vulture attacks them again, causing their taxi to crash. Mary Jane is knocked out and the driver is stunned, giving Peter a chance to tumble into a stairwell and change into Spider-Man. He protects Mary Jane with his webbing, causing the Vulture to fly off in a rage. Spider-Man then swings back to the waterfront and convinces the captain of the ship to turn over a sample of the chemicals he is transporting. Clipping the vial to his belt, Spider-Man heads to Clifton Shallot’s biology lab, where he finds the phony Vulture inside a mutation chamber being operated by Christine Murrow. She confirms his suspicions, then he and the Vulture fight until Spider-Man can force his foe to ingest the antidote. Thinking he’s been poisoned, Shallot collapses to the floor, reverts to his normal appearance, and passes out. Spider-Man chastises Murrow for doing nothing while Shallot was murdering people, but she denies any responsibility. Both Shallot and Murrow are soon taken into police custody.

October 1966 – On his way to see a movie one night, Peter spots a super-villain calling himself the Basilisk crashing through the wall of a museum. Quickly changing into Spider-Man, he confronts the Basilisk, only to find the villain’s eye-beams can burn right through his webbing. The Basilisk overpowers Spider-Man and beats him nearly unconscious, but luckily he is rescued by the alien superhero Captain Marvel. After the villain has been driven off, Captain Marvel explains that the Basilisk gained his powers from an ancient Kree artifact called the Alpha Stone and is now searching for its counterpart, the Omega Stone, to increase his power. Spider-Man agrees to help Captain Marvel track down the Omega Stone before the Basilisk gets his hands on it. Their search leads them to a construction site in Manhattan’s Financial District, where they clash with the Basilisk again. While Spider-Man keeps their foe busy, Captain Marvel unearths the Omega Stone, but it suddenly grows to gigantic size and completely envelops him. The crystal then disappears in a blinding flash, taking Captain Marvel with it. Frustrated, the Basilisk flies off, and Spider-Man decides to seek help from the Fantastic Four.

At the Baxter Building, however, Mister Fantastic informs Spider-Man that the team has disbanded. Clearly very depressed, Mister Fantastic is initially disinclined to help, but Spider-Man lays a guilt trip on him until he agrees to join forces to rescue Captain Marvel. Taking the Fantasti-Car, the two heroes trace the peculiar energy signature of the Omega Stone down to Subterranea, accessing it through a drop tube buried beneath some rubble out in a rural area. No sooner have they landed in the underground realm than Spider-Man and Mister Fantastic are captured by a seemingly numberless horde of creepy Subterraneans. Mister Fantastic suggests they pretend to be unconscious as they are carried into the throne room of the Mole Man. There, they find Captain Marvel, still trapped within the Omega Stone, which has been wired up to serve as the power source for the Mole Man’s gigantic laser-cannon. The Mole Man rants about his plans to use the weapon to devastate the surface world, then orders Spider-Man and Mister Fantastic thrown into a magma pit. They manage to save themselves, only to have the Basilisk turn up, determined to have the Omega Stone for himself. While the Basilisk is busy fighting the Mole Man and his Subterraneans, Mister Fantastic sets the laser-cannon to self-destruct. Captain Marvel escapes from the Omega Stone by transforming into his human alter-ego, Rick Jones. The destruction of the laser-cannon causes the magma pit to violently erupt, and the Omega Stone and both villains are lost in the resulting conflagration. Spider-Man, Mister Fantastic, and Rick Jones race to the Fantasti-Car as the tunnels collapse behind them. Once they have reached the surface, Jones changes back into Captain Marvel and flies away. Mister Fantastic then gives Spider-Man a lift back to Manhattan.

November 1966 – At ESU, Peter comes upon the aftermath of a fight between the Sub-Mariner and a man in an armored battlesuit calling himself “Force.” Though Force has fled the scene, the Sub-Mariner, wearing a new black costume for some reason, seems more interested in locating Professor Damon Walthers, a member of the physics faculty. Determined to find out what is going on, Peter changes into Spider-Man and confronts the Sub-Mariner. Not wanting to waste time fighting Spider-Man, Namor explains that his new costume is actually an elaborate life-support system designed for him by Mister Fantastic after he was exposed to an experimental nerve gas during a recent battle. The gas also threw the entire population of Atlantis into suspended animation, and Namor has come in search of Professor Walthers’ research on force-field technology. He intends to generate a force field around Atlantis to protect his citizens while he and his allies seek a cure for their condition. Spider-Man decides not to interfere, and the Sub-Mariner rushes off. Returning to his studies, Peter realizes that the Sub-Mariner’s loss of his entire kingdom kind of puts Gwen’s death into a new perspective.

December 1966 – In the middle of the month, Peter offers the Daily Bugle some routine photos of Spider-Man stopping an armored car heist, but Jameson rejects them, saying he needs pictures of a new vigilante in town known as the Punisher. While Peter’s in the office, Betty Brant invites him to the Christmas party she and Ned Leeds are throwing next week. Though he hasn’t exactly been feeling the holiday spirit, Peter says he’ll try to make it. He then changes into Spider-Man and goes looking for the Punisher, but it’s not long before the vigilante ambushes him. They fight on a rooftop, and the Punisher proves to be a surprisingly tough customer. Suddenly, another costumed figure calling himself the Jackal pops out of a chimney and rakes the back of Spider-Man’s head with electrified claws. Dazed, Spider-Man pitches off the roof, saving himself with a web-line that sends him swinging through a window in an office building across the street. When he returns to the roof several minutes later, Spider-Man is surprised to see the Punisher has left an obvious clue behind. He follows up on it after nightfall, only to discover that the Jackal has set a trap to frame the Punisher for the murder of a gun shop owner. Thanks to Spider-Man’s intervention, the Punisher is able to escape before the police arrive on the scene. Before slipping off into the darkness, the Punisher vows to get revenge on the Jackal for double-crossing him. Unfortunately, the police spot Spider-Man leaving the shop, meaning they will probably assume he was involved in the murder. Cursing his luck, Spidey heads for home.

A few days later, Spider-Man swings over to the Baxter Building to pick up the completed Spider-Mobile. Though he grumbles about the early hour, the Human Torch is proud to unveil the finished product—a dune buggy painted to match Spider-Man’s costume. They load the vehicle into a service elevator and take it down to an alley behind the building. There, the Human Torch explains the control panel for the car’s unique features: a spider-signal and high-capacity web-shooters. Excited, Spider-Man takes it out for a test drive, but careens erratically down the snowy street until the Torch forces him to pull over. When Spidey admits he’s never taken a driver’s education course, the flabbergasted Torch spends the next several hours giving him rudimentary driving lessons. Afterwards, a stressed-out Peter finally returns to his apartment. Thanks to a camouflage device that disguises it as an ordinary car, Peter is able to leave the Spider-Mobile parked in the street a few blocks away. Peter is on the phone with Aunt May when Mary Jane shows up unexpectedly, determined to make sure Peter doesn’t miss his physics final exam. As they head to campus together, Mary Jane talks excitedly about Ned and Betty’s Christmas party, which makes Peter feel pressured to attend. Over the next couple of nights, Spider-Man practices his driving skills.

On Christmas Eve, Spider-Man is cruising around in the Spider-Mobile when he comes across Hammerhead’s gang stealing boxes of files from a law firm. Though he snags most of the crooks with his car’s web-shooters, Spider-Man is caught by surprise when Hammerhead slams into the Spider-Mobile and upends it. Having been training for their inevitable rematch, Hammerhead manages to knock Spidey out, and the gang escapes before he comes to. Waking up to find a couple of beat cops examining the overturned dune buggy, Spider-Man webs them up, kicks the car over, and drives off. As he is leaving, though, he spots an envelope in the snow with Aunt May’s name on it. Snatching the envelope with a web-line, Spider-Man takes it with him as he drives over to Betty Brant’s apartment for the Christmas party. After activating his car’s camouflage system, he changes into Peter Parker and joins the other guests, mostly people from the Daily Bugle. However, Peter quickly excuses himself and retreats into the guest bedroom to open the envelope. He is shocked to find a copy of a letter written by the Montreal attorney Jean-Pierre Rimbaud informing Aunt May that she has inherited an island in Canada that contains one of the richest sources of uranium ever found. The island is also the site of a privately owned nuclear breeder reactor and, as such, is worth a fortune. Realizing that Doctor Octopus has been trying to get his hands on the property so he can manufacture his own nuclear weapons, Peter changes into Spider-Man and heads immediately to the villain’s mansion in Westchester County.

When he arrives, Spider-Man is stunned to see Doctor Octopus and Aunt May about to get married. However, the ceremony is disrupted when Hammerhead and his gang burst in, intent on kidnapping Aunt May. Doc Ock hustles his elderly bride out through an emergency exit, so Spider-Man swings around to the back of the house, hoping to intercept them. Unfortunately, his concern for Aunt May’s health makes Spidey careless, and Doc Ock is able to batter him with his metal tentacles. Since Aunt May is convinced that Doctor Octopus is protecting her from Spider-Man’s vicious attack, Spidey backs off, worried that the stress will give her a heart attack. Doc Ock hustles Aunt May into a helicopter and takes off, just as Hammerhead’s gunmen arrive and open fire. When their weapons prove ineffective, Hammerhead orders them to chase after Doctor Octopus in their own helicopter. As it takes off, Spider-Man hitches a ride on the underside of the craft, webbing himself in place for the long flight to Canada. On the way, Spidey reasons that Doc Ock must be planning to get Aunt May’s inheritance by marrying her and then most likely killing her off somehow. The villain must have intercepted the original letter that Rimbaud sent to Aunt May, he realizes, which explains why he kept her on at his Westchester mansion until he got out of jail. Hammerhead must have caught wind of the scheme somehow, which is why his gang was robbing the law firm that morning. But somehow they managed to drop the copy of the letter they were after near the Spider-Mobile. Spidey is grateful for this unlikely stroke of good luck. When they reach the island, Hammerhead’s helicopter rams Doc Ock’s, wrecking both aircraft. As a gun battle erupts between the two gangs, Spider-Man fights his way past Doctor Octopus and grabs Aunt May, who has fainted. He carries her to a nearby hanger, where he finds the island’s supply plane. Spider-Man quickly takes off and sets a course back to New York. Suddenly, the island is destroyed in a huge nuclear explosion. Roused by the sound of the blast, Aunt May comes to, but, seeing she is trapped in a small airplane with Spider-Man, she immediately faints again.

After a harrowing landing at a small airfield outside New York, Spider-Man changes back into Peter Parker and takes Aunt May to Anna Watson’s house in Queens. They spend Christmas Day with Anna and Mary Jane, and Peter explains to Aunt May about her lost inheritance and the plot to steal it. Though disappointed in Doctor Octopus, Aunt May is grateful for the new mink coat he had given her. Having waited up all night for Peter to return from wherever he disappeared to, Mary Jane spends much of the day asleep. Peter is relieved when Anna says she is happy to have Aunt May stay with her for the time being.

Two days later, Spider-Man meets with Dr. Curt Connors at his Long Island laboratory, where the scientist explains that his lab assistant, Vincent Stegron, has absconded with research they were conducting for S.H.I.E.L.D. involving cell regeneration with dinosaur tissue from the Savage Land. Connors fears that Stegron may be trying to replicate the experiment that created the Lizard and asks Spider-Man to go to the Savage Land and capture him. Spidey agrees to help and stops by S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, where he calls in the favor Nick Fury owes him for helping defeat the Grey Gargoyle back in March. Fury is obliging and loans Spider-Man a supersonic jet and two S.H.I.E.L.D. pilots. They set out at once for Antarctica. When they arrive the next day, Spider-Man parachutes down into the Savage Land, where he meets up with Ka-Zar and his sabretooth tiger Zabu. They are immediately captured by a horde of Swamp Men and taken to the Temple of the Lizard-King, where they find Stegron. Spidey is shocked to see that Stegron has used Connors’ formula to turn himself into a strange half-man, half-stegosaurus creature and is now planning to use dinosaurs from the Savage Land to conquer the world. Spider-Man and Ka-Zar break free but fail to stop Stegron from launching a huge ark-like airship full of dinosaurs. Snagging a passing pterodactyl with his web-line, Spider-Man reaches the flying ark, leaving Ka-Zar to deal with a dinosaur stampede the villain has initiated.

When the airship approaches New York City many hours later, Spidey tries attacking Stegron again, but the Dinosaur Man overpowers him and throws him off the ark. Luckily, Spider-Man is rescued by the Black Panther, who had come out to investigate the mystery ship in a Quinjet. After conferring with Connors, Spider-Man and the Black Panther work together to devise an extra-strong web formula to use against Stegron’s dinosaurs. Their work is cut short when a radio bulletin announces that the prehistoric horde has rampaged through Central Park and is heading toward Times Square. Racing to the scene, the Black Panther fights with Stegron while Spider-Man tries to web up the dinosaurs. Connors arrives soon after and tells Stegron that his transformation into a Dinosaur Man is irreversible, prompting the villain to flee the battle on a pterodactyl. Spider-Man pursues him, though, and ends up knocking him off the creature with a punch in the face. Stegron plunges into the harbor but is apparently too heavy to swim and sinks out of sight. Leaving the pterodactyl webbed to the Statue of Liberty, Spider-Man makes his way back into the city to rendezvous with Dr. Connors and the Black Panther. Though the city has been saved, Spidey feels dejected that he was unable to save Stegron.

Peter is relieved when he receives his grades and finds he managed to pass all his classes, finally completing his junior year at Empire State University. And though he’s glad he doesn’t have to worry about Aunt May being in danger anymore, Peter is still haunted by Gwen’s death and the painful hole it’s left in his life.


Notes:

January 1966 – Spider-Man starts the year with a brief cameo appearance in Fantastic Four #133.

February 1966 – The adventures of Spider-Man resume in Amazing Spider-Man #119 and Marvel Team-Up #9. The Fantastic Four’s Pogo Plane does not actually appear in Marvel Team-Up #10, but it’s the only way to make the logistics of the globe-spanning story make sense. After the Green Goblin is killed in Amazing Spider-Man #122, Harry Osborn gets rid of his father’s costume and calls the police. They arrive on the scene before Spider-Man’s webbing has evaporated, making the wall-crawler a ‘person of interest’ in the murder investigation. This cloud of suspicion will hang over Spider-Man for quite some time. Unhinged by his father’s death, Harry begins a slow descent into madness.

March 1966 – During his encounter with Jack Russell in Marvel Team-Up #12, Spider-Man never learns the names of Jack’s sister (Lissa Russell) or his best friend (Buck Cowan). Moondark is in fact killed when he hits the water under the Golden Gate Bridge, but he will be resurrected by one of the demons he serves, in exchange for his immortal soul. In Daredevil #103, Peter inadvertently reveals his dual identity to Daredevil, unaware that masks don’t mean anything to the blind superhero’s hypersenses. Seven years later, Spidey will finally learn Daredevil’s secret identity as well, as seen in Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #110.

April 1966 – It is Spider-Man who dubs John Jameson’s lupine alter-ego the “Man-Wolf.” Apparently, the name catches on in the media, as Jameson refers to himself that way in his next appearance.

May 1966 – Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four team up against the demon hordes of Dormammu in Avengers #118. Doctor Strange undoes all the damage caused during the battle by augmenting his magic with the power of the Evil Eye of Avalon. However, in order to keep the Defenders’ involvement a secret, the Avengers are necessarily vague about what actually happened. In Amazing Spider-Man #126, the Kangaroo is working for the disreputable scientist Jonas Harrow, who previously augmented Hammerhead. While changing into Spider-Man on the ESU campus at the end of the semester, Peter is observed by Miles Warren, who was sexually obsessed with Gwen Stacy and holds Spider-Man responsible for her death. The scene was revealed in a flashback in Spectacular Spider-Man #149. The revelation drives Warren to create the persona of the Jackal as he plots to resurrect Gwen and kill Peter.

June 1966 – Spider-Man and Ghost Rider remain unaware that the Orb’s weapons were provided by a shadowy cabal known as They Who Wield Power, made up of Prince Rey and the Keeper of the Flame from the lost city of El Dorado along with the Subterranean ceasar known as Tyrannus.

November 1966 – Spider-Man sticks his nose into Prince Namor’s business in Sub-Mariner #68–69.

December 1966 – It isn’t luck but rather the Jackal that gets Rimbaud’s letter into Spider-Man’s hands. While the web-slinger is unconscious, the Jackal plants the envelope next to the Spider-Mobile in the hopes that Spider-Man, Doctor Octopus, and Hammerhead will all destroy each other fighting over it. Later, Spider-Man, Ka-Zar, and the Black Panther remain unaware that Stegron’s ark-like airship has been provided by They Who Wield Power. This brings us up to Amazing Spider-Man #131 and Marvel Team-Up #20.


Jump Back: Spider-Man – Year Four

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