OMU: Spider-Man -- Year One

As Marvel’s most popular superhero, Spider-Man and his origins as a character have been discussed extensively since his debut on newsstands in the summer of 1962. Fans have picked through conflicting accounts given by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, and others about who was responsible for which aspects of the character’s creation, and in the process even debated what it means, precisely, to “create” a character. I see no need to go over all that ground again here. What is of interest to me now, however, is Spider-Man’s diagetical origin story, beginning with his debut in the final issue of Stan Lee & Steve Ditko’s anthology title Amazing Adult Fantasy and continuing in the early issues of his own title. The way most people tell it, Spider-Man was so overcome by guilt over the death of his Uncle Ben that he gave up a career in show-biz to become a superhero. This is essentially incorrect.

A close reading of the stories, aided by plugging them into my timeline for the Original Marvel Universe, reveals that Peter Parker never set out to be a superhero, or even a crimefighter, but kind of fell into it through the back door. After discovering his super-powers, his first instinct was to use them to earn money, and this continued to be his main motivation much longer than most people realize. After giving up on trying to resuscitate his show-business career, his Spider-Man identity became a way for Peter to use his powers in public in order to get the spectacular news photos he sold to the Daily Bugle. His battles with super-villains such as the Vulture, Doctor Octopus, the Sandman, and the Green Goblin invariably resulted from his trying to make money, and he fought mainly in self-defense. He did not set out to bring these criminals to justice; he wanted to cash in on their notoriety. He was essentially a super-powered paparazzo. Even when he set out to capture Electro, Spidey was acting pretty much as a bounty hunter, hoping to get the reward money. His much-ballyhooed sense of responsibility, stemming from Uncle Ben’s death, is a comparatively minor concern that comes into play only occasionally, as when he goes out of his way to rescue Flash Thompson or Betty Brant from the clutches of some villain. Although this balance shifted over time, during the first twelve months of his career, Peter’s main concern was earning a living to help Aunt May pay the bills, and in pursuit of that goal, he displayed some surprisingly flexible ethics.

For Peter Parker, it was all about the Benjamins.

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.

Now presenting, for the first time anywhere… The True History of the Amazing Spider-Man!

January 1962 – Peter Parker, a high-school junior in the Forest Hills section of Queens, goes into Manhattan with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben to see an exhibit of saber-toothed cats at the American Museum of Natural History. Peter has been living with his uncle and aunt since the deaths of his parents when he was three years old. He has shown a natural aptitude for science since a young age, and his guardians do their best to encourage it. They have high hopes that Peter will have a successful career as a scientist one day. In recent months, Peter has avidly followed the media frenzy surrounding the debut of the super-powered adventure team known as the Fantastic Four.

February 1962 – Peter attends a science exhibition at General Techtronics Laboratories East, where the staff is demonstrating the safe usage of high-energy rays in a controlled setting. However, a small spider is caught in a burst of radiation and drops onto Peter’s hand, biting him as it dies. Seeing the spider, Peter immediately feels woozy and light-headed as a bizarre mutagenic change sweeps through his cellular structure. He wanders out of the building and through the neighborhood, paying little attention to where he’s going. He steps into the street as a car races around the corner and, without thinking, Peter jumps out of the way. However, the force of his leap carries him over a dozen feet in the air, and he finds himself clinging to the side of a building. Astonished, Peter skitters up the wall until he reaches the roof, where he easily crushes a steel pipe in his hand. Trying to get a grip on himself, Peter reasons that the bite of the irradiated spider must have somehow transferred the spider’s innate abilities to his own body.

Later, Peter decides to put these strange powers to the test at an amateur wrestling competition. Afraid of being publicly humiliated, Peter dons a makeshift disguise and steps into the ring with professional wrestler “Crusher” Hogan. To the crowd’s delight, Peter easily defeats Hogan using his enhanced strength and agility, then carries his muscle-bound opponent high up a pole. Not only does Peter win $100, but he meets a booking agent named Maxie Shiffman, who promises to get the lad on The Ed Sullivan Show. Thrilled, Peter returns home and spends his winnings to create an elaborate red-and-black costume to wear for his television debut. He decides to call himself “Spider-Man,” and, struck by inspiration, he builds two “web-shooting” devices using polymers he had been experimenting with for a school project. Still nervous about making a fool of himself, Peter decides to keep his new identity a secret.

Shiffman comes through with a booking, and Peter soon finds himself in a downtown television studio, dressed in his Spider-Man costume. He demonstrates his spider-like powers for a studio audience, and the show is broadcast live throughout New York. Besieged by reporters backstage, Peter is feeling pretty cocky. Heading back to his dressing room, he nearly collides with a rough-looking blond man fleeing a security guard. Spider-Man does not interfere and the criminal escapes. The security guard berates the costumed youth, but Spider-Man just blows him off. Before leaving the studio, Shiffman gives his client a small cash advance and fills his head with promises of the riches to come. When Peter returns home, Aunt May and Uncle Ben present him with a new microscope, for which they have spent months scrimping and saving. Peter smiles to himself, believing he’ll soon be able to repay them handsomely for all their kindness.

Spider-Man becomes an overnight media sensation, and in the weeks that follow, his performances draw huge crowds. Maxie Shiffman is as good as his word, and Spider-Man is soon booked on The Ed Sullivan Show. His inexplicable abilities, mysterious identity, and unknown origins make him the talk of the town. Through it all, Shiffman continues to give Spider-Man small cash advances, with more promises of a big payoff soon to come. Peter is riding high, convinced that he has hit the jackpot.

March 1962 – After making a personal appearance as Spider-Man, Peter returns home one evening to find a police car parked in front of his house. An officer outside gives Peter the terrible news: Uncle Ben has been shot and killed by a burglar. The officer tries to reassure the grief-stricken lad, telling him that his aunt is safe with the neighbors and that the police have the burglar pinned down inside the old Acme warehouse on the other side of town. Shaking with rage, Peter runs into the house, changes back into his Spider-Man costume and goes to hunt down Uncle Ben’s killer. His fears are confirmed when he reaches the darkened warehouse and finds the police are unable to charge the building without getting shot by the desperate fugitive. However, his new powers allow Peter to enter unobserved and attack from above. The sight of Spider-Man sends the burglar into a panic and he tries to flee, but Peter beats him into unconsciousness. Only then does he see the killer’s face—the face of the criminal he had allowed to escape in the TV studio weeks before. After leaving the burglar for the police, Peter wanders off into the night, overwhelmed with guilt and shame.

April 1962 – With Uncle Ben dead, the Parker household goes into a financial tailspin. The money Peter has gotten from Maxie Shiffman runs out all too quickly, and he pressures the agent to make good on his promises. Meanwhile, he offers to quit school and get a job, but Aunt May won’t hear of it. Peter briefly considers turning his spider-powers to crime, knowing he could steal all the money they would ever need, but he realizes he just doesn’t have it in him to be a crook. He calls Shiffman, who arranges another show for that weekend. After the show, Shiffman finally agrees to cut him a check for the full amount of his earnings. Trying to protect his secret identity, Peter tells him to just make the check out to “Spider-Man.” Shiffman agrees, knowing full well his client will be unable to cash it. And sure enough, when Peter goes to a bank in his Spider-Man costume, the teller refuses to accept it without proper identification. Frustrated, Peter intends to get Shiffman to make some other arrangement, but when he arrives at the theater for his performance the next night, his agent tells him his show-business career is finished. He shows Spider-Man an editorial published that day in the Daily Bugle, written by the newspaper’s influential editor-in-chief, J. Jonah Jameson. The editorial blasts Spider-Man as a menace to society, a lawless vigilante, and a danger to children, who might try to imitate his superhuman feats. Jameson has people so riled up, Shiffman claims, that Spider-Man is now box-office poison. Stunned, Peter returns home, and seeing his opportunity, Shiffman skips town with his client’s money.

In the days that follow, Jameson continues his attacks on Spider-Man, giving lectures around town in addition to his series of editorials. Throughout, the publisher promotes his own son, astronaut John Jameson, as a true hero and role model for the nation’s children. Meanwhile, Peter’s search for a part-time job is fruitless, and he begins to see the true dimensions of their financial crisis when he spies Aunt May in a pawn shop, trading her jewelry for cash. Growing angry and bitter, Peter racks his brain to come up with a way to make Spider-Man marketable again. The answer seems to come soon after when John Jameson is launched into space to test a new capsule and suffers a serious mechanical failure. The military’s attempts to rescue the out-of-control spacecraft have failed, but Peter believes that Spider-Man can rescue the hapless astronaut and thereby gain the gratitude of the elder Jameson, which should then enable him to resume his show-biz career. Thus, Spider-Man soon appears at mission control and convinces the head of the rescue operation to give him a chance. Familiar with the costumed heroes of World War II, the old soldier agrees to give Spider-Man the replacement guidance unit, despite J. Jonah Jameson’s objection. Spider-Man races to a nearby air field and convinces a fighter pilot to take him up in his jet and intercept the capsule. Once in the air, Spider-Man pulls the craziest stunt of his life, snagging the passing capsule with his web, then using his super-strength to pull himself onto the plummeting craft, where he replaces the faulty component. Lieutenant Jameson regains control of his ship and immediately activates the parachute. Spider-Man rides the capsule back down to earth, convinced that he’ll be hailed as a hero. But to his dismay, Peter finds in the paper the next day that Jonah Jameson has accused Spider-Man of sabotaging the capsule in order to stage a rescue and thus steal the glory for himself. The public turns against him and Peter is left feeling bewildered and helpless.

May 1962 – Peter struggles to focus on his schoolwork and pass his final exams as his junior year comes to an end. Despite their dire straits, Aunt May does her best to make Peter’s 17th birthday a happy one. Although he does not put on his Spider-Man costume all month, he can’t help but tinker with his web-shooters and web fluid, refining and improving the design of each. He also begins to realize he has developed a form of extrasensory perception, a strange tingling sensation in his head that alerts him to danger. For lack of a better term, he dubs it his “spider-sense.” Meanwhile, believing his crusade against Spider-Man to have been successful, J. Jonah Jameson turns his attention to other matters.

June 1962 – Still looking for a summer job, Peter is baffled when other super-powered adventurers, such as Ant-Man, Iron Man, and Thor, are lauded as heroes in the news and accepted by the public at large. He becomes jealous of their success, most especially of the Fantastic Four, who have their own skyscraper headquarters. Peter’s stress level only increases when he learns a grand jury has been convened to look into Jameson’s allegations against him.

July 1962 – After viewing a new documentary film about the Fantastic Four, Peter sees an opportunity for Spider-Man to join their organization, believing they will offer him a generous salary and benefits. He dons his costume once again and makes his way to the Baxter Building in midtown Manhattan. His approach triggers the team’s defensive systems, and when he swings through an open window, the Fantastic Four are ready for him. Spider-Man fights with Mister Fantastic, the Invisible Girl, the Human Torch, and the Thing to give them a demonstration of his abilities. However, the Fantastic Four soon disabuse him of the notion that they have a job to offer, stating that they are a strictly non-profit group. When they mention that he is wanted by the police, Spider-Man makes a hasty exit. The incident makes the news later that evening after the Human Torch makes off-the-record jokes about it with some reporters.

Peter tries to distract himself by checking out an exhibit on spiders at a neighborhood museum. While there, he receives a mysterious message promising him a lucrative opportunity. He follows the instructions and arrives at the Lark Building at precisely 10 p.m. Spider-Man notices a helicopter taking off as he approaches, but doesn’t think much of it until several security guards burst onto the roof and accuse him of stealing some secret plans. Realizing he’s been set up, Spider-Man chases the helicopter across the city. When the chopper flies out over the sea, Spider-Man commandeers a speedboat and follows it all the way into Lower New York Bay, where a Soviet submarine surfaces to meet it. Using his webbing, Spider-Man jams the sub’s hatch and snags the helicopter. The sub quickly submerges and the helicopter tries to shake him loose, but Spider-Man manages to tear off the door and capture the pilot. He finds the spy is indeed wearing a copy of his Spider-Man costume and had tried to frame him. Angry, Spider-Man forces the spy to return to the Lark Building to be turned over to the police. However, once the helicopter has landed, the spy makes a break for it, disappearing inside the building. As they mount a search, Spider-Man realizes the spy has disguised himself as a policeman in order to slip away, and uses his spider-sense to home in on his quarry. Just as he catches up to him, though, the spy causes a blackout. Despite having used up all of his web fluid, Spider-Man still manages to grab his foe, though the wily spy claims that Spider-Man is “the Chameleon,” prompting the cops to grab the hapless hero. Enraged, Spider-Man breaks free and escapes through a window, skittering up the wall to the roof. Only later does the frustrated Peter learn that he had managed to tear a hole in the Chameleon’s disguise, and so the spy was at last captured by the police on the scene.

August 1962 – Following this incident, the Daily Bugle resumes its crusade against Spider-Man, now calling him a traitor who is in cahoots with Communist spies. The Parkers’ financial situation becomes increasingly desperate, and Peter’s failure to find summer employment weighs heavily on him. However, with a new school year approaching, he knows it is now too late and he becomes depressed. He finds the only thing that takes his mind off his troubles is web-swinging among the high-rise buildings of the city. Occasionally, he comes across a mugging or other crime in progress and takes out his frustrations on the hapless criminals.

September 1962 – Peter begins his senior year of high school and finds himself once again the butt of jokes made by popular kids like “Flash” Thompson and Liz Allan. During science class, he overhears the other students discussing a recent crime spree by a flying man known only as “the Vulture” and bemoaning the lack of clear pictures of him in the press. Suddenly, Peter is struck with an idea to make money: he can use his spider-powers to get close enough to the Vulture to shoot some photos he can then sell to one of the city’s newspapers. After school, Aunt May helps him find an old miniature camera that had belonged to Uncle Ben. Peter then heads into Manhattan, dons his Spider-Man costume, and takes to the rooftops with his camera. He soon spots the Vulture gliding silently along and follows him, snapping pictures at every opportunity. However, the Vulture spots his pursuer, circles around behind him, and gives Spider-Man a good kick in the head. He is stunned by the blow, and the Vulture drops him into a rooftop water tower to finish him off. However, Spider-Man manages to escape, despite having run out of web-fluid again. He then retrieves his camera and goes home.

Peter is excited later after he develops his photos and finds several spectacular shots of the Vulture in flight. He decides it would be funny to sell the pictures to J. Jonah Jameson and make money off his principal antagonist. Also, unnerved by how easily the Vulture almost murdered him, Peter fashions a utility belt to hold spare cartridges of web-fluid. Further, he deduces that the Vulture must fly by means of magnetic power and works late into the night fashioning a device to counter it. The next day, Peter calls the offices of the Daily Bugle and is granted an immediate appointment with the publisher. Jameson is thrilled with the pics and baffled how a kid like Peter could get them when his best professional photojournalists had utterly failed. Peter refuses to divulge his secret and further declines receiving credit in print. Jameson accepts these conditions and cuts Peter a check for a handsome sum. As Peter is leaving the office, Jameson suggests he try to get some photos of Spider-Man while he’s at it.

The following day, Peter joins some of his classmates as they go into Manhattan to see if the Vulture can pull off the spectacular diamond heist he has announced. However, when Peter tries to slink away, in case he needs to change into his Spider-Man costume, the other kids notice and mock him as a coward. Despite all precautions, the Vulture succeeds in stealing the diamonds by emerging from a manhole and then escaping through the sewers. Peter realizes that now his photos will be worth even more than before, and so he dons his Spider-Man costume and goes in search of the Vulture, using his spider-sense to track the villain down. Again, the Vulture gets the drop on him and knocks Spider-Man off a roof, but he manages to snag the Vulture’s foot with his web. Then, as the Vulture tries to shake him off, Spider-Man activates his magnetic jamming device. His powers thus neutralized, the Vulture spirals down to a rooftop as Spider-Man swings to safety. As a police helicopter lands to take the Vulture into custody, Spider-Man continues taking photos from nearby. The next morning, Peter takes his newest batch of photos to J. Jonah Jameson, who is so happy he gives Peter a cash bonus in addition to buying the pictures. Overjoyed, Peter returns home and shares his earnings with Aunt May, promising her that their financial crisis is finally over.

A few days later, Peter is offered the opportunity to spend the weekend working as a lab assistant for a noted electronics expert named Professor Cobbwell and jumps at the chance. Cobbwell asks Peter to pick up a radio from a repair shop on his way over to the lab. And so, on Saturday morning, Peter makes his way to the Tinkerer Repair Shop, where he meets a wizened old man who calls himself “the Tinkerer.” Peter’s spider-sense goes off while in the dilapidated shop, but he dismisses it as mere paranoia. However, his suspicions return when the Tinkerer charges only a dime for the repair job. Later, at Cobbwell’s lab, Peter’s spider-sense is triggered again, and, after Cobbwell has left to give a lecture, Peter decides to investigate. He discovers strange high-tech components have been hidden inside the radio, which leads him to pay another visit to the repair shop, this time as Spider-Man. Slipping inside through a skylight, Spider-Man sneaks down to the basement, where he finds the Tinkerer and what he believes to be aliens from outer space, conspiring to take over the world. The aliens gang up on him, and though he fights them off, Spider-Man is felled by a directed-energy weapon fired by the Tinkerer. He regains consciousness moments later to find himself trapped in a large vacuum chamber, from which the air is being extracted. Nevertheless, he manages to break free and attack his captors, causing one to fire his weapon wildly. The beam shorts out the main control panel, starting a fire. As smoke fills the room, Spider-Man grapples with the Tinkerer, but the old man manages to escape, leaving behind a full face-mask. Peter is convinced that the Tinkerer must have been an extraterrestrial as well. He returns to Professor Cobbwell’s lab, only to find the components inside the radio have self-destructed. Then Cobbwell returns from his lecture claiming to have seen a UFO ascending to the heavens.

With the money Peter earns from Cobbwell and the remaining cash from Jameson, he purchases a new miniature camera which he can attach to the buckle of his utility belt. He also buys a small but powerful searchlight, which he modifies into a “spider-signal” and attaches to his belt as well. Over the next week, he enjoys using the signal to frighten small-time crooks before attacking them, and his reputation among the city’s criminal element grows. Concurrently, Peter begins to feel a little cocky and finds himself almost wishing for an opponent who can offer a real challenge.

Then, Peter receives a call from J. Jonah Jameson, who offers him an assignment after his staff photographers have all failed. Jameson wants pictures of an atomic scientist named Otto Octavius, who has had four mechanical arms grafted to his body in a freak accident. Thus, Spider-Man immediately heads for the Bliss Private Hospital. Peering in through an upper-storey window, he discovers that Octavius, now deranged and calling himself “Doctor Octopus,” can control his metal arms as if they were his own limbs. When Octavius begins roughing up a hospital administrator, Spider-Man leaps through the window to the rescue. However, Doctor Octopus proves more than a match for him, and Spider-Man is ignominiously defeated. Humiliated, Peter abandons the assignment and returns home.

The next morning, learning that Doctor Octopus has seized control of an atomic research center, Peter becomes even more depressed. When the Human Torch gives a motivational speech at the Forest Hills high school, Peter is emboldened to take on the villain again. And so, that evening, Spider-Man sneaks into the atomic plant and battles Doctor Octopus until he manages to knock out the portly scientist with a good solid punch to the jaw. Leaving Octavius for the police, Spider-Man then tracks down the Human Torch and thanks him for his help, though the Torch is completely baffled.

Feeling particularly confident after defeating a powerful opponent like Doctor Octopus, Peter works up the nerve to ask Liz Allan out on a date. To his surprise, she agrees, and they make plans for Friday night. Days later, Spider-Man encounters the wanted fugitive Flint Marko, a.k.a. the Sandman, on a rooftop in midtown Manhattan. Attempting to apprehend the criminal, Spider-Man is shocked by Marko’s weird ability to change his body into particles of sand. Unfortunately, the Sandman manages to knock Spider-Man down into a tangle of utility cables, ripping his mask. Fearing the exposure of his secret identity, Peter flees the scene as the Sandman taunts him. That night, the Sandman’s crime spree continues as Peter tries to sew up his mask.

At school the next day, Liz reminds him of their date, but Peter feels he must back out in order to go after the Sandman again, as he needs to get some photos to sell to Jameson. Insulted by the lame excuse he offers, Liz refuses to speak to him. Then, as fate would have it, the Sandman bursts into the school, looking for a place to hide and catch his breath. Peter changes to Spider-Man and attacks, and their brawl carries them all through the school. Finally, in the basement, Spider-Man manages to capture the Sandman with an industrial-strength vacuum cleaner. Then, using a bucket of sand he finds nearby, Peter fakes some photos he can sell to Jameson, convincing himself that it’s not unethical since he’s “recreating” something that just happened. Outside, he turns the canister containing the Sandman over to the police and then emerges as Peter Parker to rejoin his classmates. He tries to smooth things over with Liz, but she tells him to get lost. Later, spending the evening alone, Peter is frustrated by the public’s continuing ambivalence towards Spider-Man, and he begins second-guessing himself and his true motives for maintaining his costumed identity.

On Saturday evening, Peter accompanies a group of his classmates to a bowling alley. While there, they see a television program featuring J. Jonah Jameson entitled Spider-Man: A Force for Good or Evil? in which the publisher again makes his case against the web-slinger. To bolster his secret identity, Peter voices support for Jameson’s views, but his attitudes are jeered by Flash Thompson, who claims to be Spidey’s biggest fan. At the conclusion of the program, Jameson offers a $1,000 reward for the disclosure of Spider-Man’s true identity. Later that night, Peter detects a series of mysterious impulses with his spider-sense and discovers that he can follow the impulses back to their source. Finally, at an abandoned building on the waterfront, Spider-Man finds that the impulses were a summons from Doctor Doom, the fearsome armored nemesis of the Fantastic Four. Doom proposes that Spider-Man join him in bringing down the FF, but Spidey rejects his offer and covers the villain with his webbing. However, another Doom appears, revealing that Spider-Man had been talking to a robotic duplicate of Doom, or “Doombot.” This Doom attacks Spider-Man, who leaps through a plate-glass window and dives into the harbor below. Moments later, Spidey tries to sneak up on Doom, but just before he re-enters the villain’s lair, enormous explosions destroy the upper floors of the building. Pausing to snap some photos of the raging fire, Spider-Man is then spotted leaving the scene. Returning home, he worries that Jameson will now call him an arsonist.

That night, Peter realizes that both Doctor Doom and the Chameleon found some way to transmit signals that he could detect with his spider-sense. Inspiration strikes him and he envisions a tracking device that operates on the same principle, which would be a handy tool for crimefighting. He begins trying to figure out how to make such a “spider-tracer” work, but will find the answer elusive.

The next afternoon, Peter stops in to the offices of the Daily Bugle to try selling his photos of the fire to Jameson. Sure enough, the newspaperman is trying to figure some way to pin the blaze on Spider-Man. During the meeting, Peter first notices that he finds Jameson’s secretary, Betty Brant, to be very attractive, even though she is a couple of years older than him. On the way home, he broods about never being able to get a date and convinces himself that a professional woman like Betty would never go out with a high school kid like him. When he enters the house, he finds Aunt May watching The Ed Sullivan Show. However, the broadcast is suddenly interrupted and the program is replaced with the frightening visage of Doctor Doom, who announces that he holds Spider-Man prisoner and will execute him in one hour if the Fantastic Four do not surrender themselves to him. Peter is flabbergasted. Immediately, he receives a phone call from Liz Allan, who reports that Flash Thompson disappeared earlier while wearing a Spider-Man costume—“to play a joke on somebody”—and she is very worried. Initially, Peter blows her off, but soon realizes he can’t stand by and let Flash Thompson meet such a grisly fate. Aunt May is reluctant to allow Peter out of the house, so he sabotages the fusebox and tells her he needs to run to the store. Once outside, he changes into his Spider-Man costume and goes off in search of Doctor Doom’s new hideout.

Deducing that Doom needed enormous amounts of electrical power to hijack the television signals, Spider-Man tracks his foe to an abandoned factory, mainly by using his spider-sense, and arrives before the allotted hour is up. He sneaks in through an air vent and confronts Doom, who immediately attacks. Spider-Man survives all of Doom’s death-traps and fights the villain to a standstill. Just as Doom gains the upper hand, however, the Fantastic Four arrive on the scene. Doctor Doom flees at once, and, remembering that Aunt May is waiting for him in the dark, Spider-Man makes a hasty exit as well, leaving Flash to be rescued by the FF. Naturally, when Flash returns to school on Tuesday, he claims credit for Doctor Doom’s defeat and brags incessantly about his adventure. That night, Peter is glued to the television set after the Human Torch nearly dies preventing an atomic explosion over Long Island, and is relieved when reports come in that the young hero will recover.

The next weekend, the new issue of Life magazine features a cover story on Spider-Man, but Peter’s happiness is short-lived. The morning papers announce that Spider-Man is wanted for the theft of a priceless Leonardo da Vinci painting, stolen from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where remnants of his webbing were found. Realizing he’s been framed, Spider-Man seeks out the help of the Human Torch, finding him at his house in suburban Glenville, Long Island. However, the Torch initially tries to capture Spider-Man, and their battle takes them all across the small town. Finally, Spider-Man traps the Torch in a fireproof web and gets away. Later, the Torch reconsiders and the two heroes meet atop the Statue of Liberty. There, the Torch informs Spider-Man that the police suspect the true culprit is a master thief named Reynard Slinker, a.k.a. the Fox. Returning to Manhattan, the pair hunts down the Fox and recovers the painting.

Days later, the Daily Bugle prints a challenge to Spider-Man to defeat “the Lizard,” a mysterious creature terrorizing the Everglades in Florida. Peter tries to convince J. Jonah Jameson to send him to the swamp on assignment, but Jameson refuses, saying he believes the Lizard is just a hoax. Nevertheless, Peter joins his classmates on a field trip to the American Museum of Natural History to learn more about lizards and dinosaurs. While there, he dons his costume to rescue Liz Allan from a pair of jewel thieves, and she is instantly smitten with the mysterious hero, much to Flash Thompson’s chagrin. Later, Spider-Man pays a visit to Jameson in order to accept the paper’s challenge, and so Jameson changes his mind and tells Peter to prepare for a trip to Florida. Returning home, Peter talks Aunt May into giving him permission to go.

The next morning, both publisher and photographer board a plane and fly down to Miami. During the flight, Peter studies maps of the Everglades as well as a file of newspaper clippings he has compiled. Then, while Jameson checks into the hotel, Peter claims to need to go off to buy some film. Instead, he changes into Spider-Man and sets off in search of the Lizard. The Lizard finds him first, though, and during a brief battle, Spider-Man is astonished by his foe’s power and savagery. He sees a house nearby and goes to warn the inhabitants of the danger posed by the monster. There he meets Martha Connors, who reveals that the Lizard is really her husband, Dr. Curt Connors, a noted herpetologist. She tells Spider-Man how her husband had lost his arm during the Korean War and studied reptiles in hopes of regenerating his lost limb. However, his experiments instead transformed him into the Lizard. Armed with this knowledge, Spider-Man studies Connors’ research and concocts an antidote. He then tracks the Lizard deep into the swamp, finally finding him in an old Spanish fort. There, after a violent struggle, Spider-Man forces the Lizard to ingest the antidote, and the monster reverts to his human form.

By the time Spider-Man gets Dr. Connors back home, it is quite late, and as the web-slinger is thoroughly exhausted, he accepts their offer to spend the night. After Connors burns all his notes, Spider-Man agrees to keep their secret, satisfied that the menace of the Lizard is ended. After having breakfast with the grateful family—a huge thrill for their young son Billy—Spider-Man returns to Miami and, having changed out of his costume, finds J. Jonah Jameson. The publisher is furious that Peter disappeared all night and is not impressed with the photos of the Lizard, which he believes are fakes. They fly back to New York immediately, and Jameson refuses to pay Peter for the fruitless assignment. After settling in at home, Peter is astounded to learn that, during his absence, the Sub-Mariner invaded New York and conquered Manhattan until being driven off by the Fantastic Four.

October 1962 – Finding that he can’t get the smell of the swamp out of his costume, Peter decides that it’s too worn out to keep and makes himself a new one. This time he substitutes dark blue for black, hoping that being more colorful will help improve his public image. Peter also uses the antidote he created for Curt Connors as a basis for research into a formula to rid him of his spider-powers, should that ever become necessary, as he is worried about the long-term health effects of his radioactive blood.

Spider-Man gets the chance to try out his new costume when the Vulture escapes from prison. Convinced that he can easily defeat the villain with his magnetic jamming device, Spider-Man scours the city until he finds the Vulture committing a series of robberies. However, the Vulture has found a means to counter the effects of Spider-Man’s device, and, catching the hero off guard, beats the tar out of him in full view of the crowds below. Spider-Man plunges from a great height and lands hard on a rooftop, suffering a bad sprain in his right arm. He limps home in defeat and must further suffer the taunts of his classmates when he shows up for school the next day with his arm in a sling. Later, while Peter is at the Daily Bugle trying to sell the photos he managed to take before the fight, the Vulture flies through the window of J. Jonah Jameson’s office, intent on stealing the company’s payroll. While a desperate Jameson argues with the gun-waving crook, Peter slips away and changes to Spider-Man. He uses a nearly-invisible strand of webbing as a sling, hoping no one will notice his injury, then leaps through Jameson’s window and attacks the Vulture. Their battle rages throughout the newspaper’s offices and down into the cavernous press room. Unable to shake his opponent, the Vulture carries the conflict outside, where he seems to have the advantage. High above the city, however, Spider-Man manages to pin the Vulture’s wings with his webbing, and as they begin to plummet towards the ground, he weaves a web-parachute. The people in the street witness the villain’s defeat, and Peter believes he has saved his reputation. When Jameson yells at the wall-crawler from his window, Spider-Man webs the publisher’s mouth shut, then sneaks inside the building to emerge as Peter Parker. Finding Betty Brant hiding behind a desk, Peter joins her and, emboldened by his victory, begins flirting.

A week or so later, after Peter’s sprained arm has healed, he learns that the Sandman, too, has escaped from jail. Soon, Spider-Man is once again swinging through the city, searching for his dangerous foe. On the second day of his fruitless manhunt, Spider-Man hears reports that the Sandman is battling the Human Torch at the Empire State Building. By the time the web-slinger arrives on the scene, however, the Torch has defeated the Sandman, and, watching from the shadows, Peter feels somewhat annoyed at the Torch for horning in on his territory.

A few days later, Peter’s science class is treated to a demonstration of a new supercomputer, which has been installed in a crude robot body. As the demonstration is being set up, Peter and Flash Thompson almost come to blows when Flash shoves Peter and accidentally breaks his glasses. Flash is frustrated that Peter has been standing up to him more and more lately and making wisecracks at Flash’s expense. Peter, for his part, decides to finally stop pretending to need his glasses, since the emergence of his spider-powers has corrected his vision and he is tired of being perceived as a “pantywaist.” Then, the teacher asks the class to come up with a question to test the computer’s abilities, and Liz Allan proposes that it figure out Spider-Man’s true identity. Peter is nervous as the class comes up with all known facts about Spider-Man to be fed into the computer, fearful that his secret will be exposed. Luckily, the answer is printed out in a computer language and Peter is given the task of translating it for homework. However, Flash and Peter end up fighting over the printout, and the teacher tells them to settle their feud in the gymnasium’s boxing ring. As the impromptu match begins, Peter finds that his spider-powers make it difficult not to beat Flash too easily. He fakes his way through the fight, until Flash is distracted by a sudden commotion and Peter accidentally knocks him out. The other students cry foul, but the fight is over. Learning that the robot has gone on a rampage, the students panic and evacuate the school. Peter carries the unconscious Flash to the locker room, then changes to Spider-Man to investigate. The robot proves to be more of a challenge than he expected, but finally, Spider-Man gets in close enough to reach the control panel and deactivate it. The crooks who inadvertently caused the robot to run amok while trying to steal it flee through the locker room and stumble over Flash, who is just recovering, and crack their heads on the floor. Seeing his opportunity, Peter tries to convince his classmates that Flash Thompson must be Spider-Man. They take the idea and run with it, and Peter returns home laughing at his own private joke. He destroys the computer printout and claims it was lost during the all the chaos.

November 1962 – While capturing some crooks in the city, Spider-Man is visited by a phantom-like image of Iron Man, who is searching for the Hulk. Never having encountered the green-skinned brute, the web-slinger can offer no help to his fellow superhero. Days later, Aunt May falls ill and must be hospitalized. Peter is very worried when he learns she needs surgery, as they don’t have enough money to cover the cost of the procedure. Visiting her after school, he is surprised to find Betty Brant has stopped in. However, after a short time, Peter excuses himself, changes to Spider-Man, and goes out looking for photos he can sell to the Bugle. Unfortunately, a fierce thunderstorm ruins his plans, and he returns home to a strangely empty house. Peter tries vainly to study for his upcoming midterm exams, but he just can’t concentrate.

The next day, a new super-villain appears on the scene, calling himself “Electro.” For some reason, J. Jonah Jameson becomes convinced that Electro and Spider-Man are the same person and trumpets his accusations in the afternoon edition of the Daily Bugle. Peter is angered but has more important matters on his mind. When Jameson refuses to loan him the money he needs for Aunt May’s operation, Peter decides his only recourse is to bring in Electro and collect the reward money. Thus, into the wee hours of the morning, Spider-Man searches for the costumed criminal. Finally finding Electro burglarizing an apartment building, Spider-Man stops to get some photos. Electro spots him, though, and hurls lightning bolts at him, which Spider-Man narrowly avoids. Trying to tackle Electro only gets the hero very nearly electrocuted, and when he comes to, the villain is gone. In desperation, Peter decides to stage a scene to back up Jameson’s assertions.

Sure enough, the next morning, Jameson is thrilled to pay for Peter’s photos of Spider-Man and Electro in the same place at the same time, offering them as proof that they are the same man. Peter is ashamed of himself, but takes the money and heads for the hospital, ignoring reports that Electro is still wreaking havoc. Peter remains there all day while Aunt May is in surgery. To his surprise, Betty Brant arrives to wait with him. Finally, the doctor comes out to report that the operation was successful. Relieved, Peter changes into Spider-Man and goes to deal with Electro. Having learned that the villain has broken into a city jail to recruit his own private army of henchmen, Spider-Man smashes his way into the facility and succeeds in quelling the riot and short-circuiting Electro, who is taken into custody.

When Peter returns to the Daily Bugle later on, Jameson is in a rage that his accusations have been proven false. However, the irate publisher is placated when Peter offers him spectacular photos of the battle inside the prison. They make a deal to exchange the new photos for the previous batch, which assuages Peter’s guilty conscience. Outside, Betty is upset that Peter went to the prison to get his photos when she had asked him not to. Feeling rejected, Peter leaves the office. After visiting Aunt May, a depressed Peter heads for home, realizing how much Betty means to him. Just down the street, though, Betty comes running up to him and apologizes. They talk long into the night as Peter walks her home. It is nearly dawn by the time he makes it back to his house in Forest Hills. The next morning, Peter is frustrated to learn that Electro has easily escaped from the police and vanished into the night.

In the days that follow, a massive crime wave hits the city, as a masked character calling himself “the Big Man” tries to take over all of New York’s underworld. Aided by three henchmen known collectively as the Enforcers, the Big Man is more successful than anyone had thought possible. Meanwhile, Peter has his own problems when Aunt May’s doctors decide she needs a blood transfusion and ask Peter to be the donor. Worried about what effect his mutated physiognomy will have on Aunt May, Peter nevertheless agrees to the procedure. Afterwards, the doctors tell Peter to take it easy for a few days. Aunt May is discharged from the hospital and joins her neighbors, the Abbotts, on a trip to Florida so she can recuperate in the warm weather.

Having finally gotten used to it, Peter finds he enjoys having the house all to himself, and it certainly makes it much easier for him to go out at night as Spider-Man. He sets himself the task of discovering the Big Man’s true identity and bringing down his fledgling criminal empire. His mission takes a personal turn, however, when he comes across Betty Brant being intimidated by the Enforcers outside the Daily Bugle building. When Betty refuses to confide in him, Peter is hurt and turns his anger against a hapless stooge, terrifying the small-time hood into revealing the location of the Enforcers’ hideout. Spider-Man immediately makes his way there and brawls with “Fancy Dan,” “Montana,” and “the Ox,” but finds himself getting woozy due to the blood transfusion. He causes a power failure and slips away in the darkness. When he then spots J. Jonah Jameson on the street outside, Peter’s suspicions are aroused. They only grow when Jameson, undaunted by his recent experience with Electro, starts claiming that the Big Man is really Spider-Man and assigns Bugle columnist Frederick Foswell to write an exposé to that effect. Peter begins to wonder, could Jameson himself be the Big Man? Also, he is concerned and frustrated when Betty suddenly leaves town without a word to anyone. Not wanting to feel like a superhero wash-out, Peter finally settles on a dangerous course of action.

And so, the next day, Peter starts bragging to everyone at school that he has figured out the Big Man’s identity and is ready to tell the police his theory and collect the reward money. Sure enough, the Enforcers pick him up later that evening and take him to a mob-owned parking garage, to find out what he knows. Luckily, it is there that the leaders of all the city’s gangs are meeting with the Big Man. Peter changes to Spider-Man, escapes the room he was locked in, and recklessly attacks the army of crooks. However, even in light of their overwhelming numbers, the gangsters are no match for Spider-Man, and by the time the police arrive, the criminals are ready to surrender. However, the Big Man himself slips away, and Spider-Man heads for the Daily Bugle building to test his hypothesis. He finds Jameson just returned to his office, in an agitated state, and then sees Foswell enter, followed by the police. Before Spider-Man can congratulate himself, though, he watches as the police arrest Foswell, having found the Big Man disguise in his car, which they followed over from the parking garage. Kicking himself, Peter returns home, where he broods about the situation with Betty Brant.

A few days later, Spider-Man overhears the rantings of a man known as “the Rabble Rouser,” who is directing his latest venomous tirade against the Human Torch. Feeling sympathetic, Spider-Man swings by the Baxter Building to offer the Torch some advice on dealing with bad press. However, the Torch is merely angered by Spider-Man’s attitude and drives him off. Annoyed, Peter decides to let the Torch deal with his own problems from now on.

Next, Peter is astonished by reports in the media about the miraculous return of the original Captain America, lost during the closing days of World War II. Having grown up reading about Cap’s exploits in books, magazines, and comics, Peter is excited by the prospect of one day fighting alongside his idol. In the days that follow, he marvels at reports of Captain America joining the Avengers and the Fantastic Four for an epic battle with the rampaging Hulk on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. He wonders if he could ever have a place among such “big league” superheroes, but his insecurities get the better of him. Shortly afterward, Aunt May returns from Florida, feeling much recovered, and she and Peter celebrate a modest Thanksgiving together.

December 1962 – Peter becomes concerned when he hears a report on the radio that Doctor Octopus is to be released from jail. He pays a visit to the prison as Spider-Man, where he tries to convince the warden that “Doc Ock” is too dangerous to be set free. The warden angrily tells Spider-Man to get lost. Returning home, Peter decides to follow another course of action. He prepares one of the tracking devices he has been working on, which is shaped like a spider. He has not yet found a way to create signals that are detectable by his spider-sense, but instead uses a handheld electronic receiver. He then lurks outside the prison, waiting for Doc Ock to emerge. When the villain finally appears, Spider-Man is astonished to see the car waiting for Octavius is driven by none other than Betty Brant. He manages to affix his spider-tracer to the roof of the car as it speeds off. As luck would have it, he then finds a road map that fell out of the car when Doc Ock opened the door. The map is of Philadelphia, and since the car had Pennsylvania license plates, he deduces that that must be their destination.

As it is the weekend, Peter secures Aunt May’s permission for a trip to Philadelphia, “to see the historical sites.” Once in the city, however, he goes into action as Spider-Man, searching for the car with his portable receiving unit. Finally picking up the signal, he changes back into Peter Parker, to discretely search the neighborhood. On a quiet residential street, he finally finds Betty and convinces her to confide in him, which she is glad to do. She reveals that her brother, Bennett Brant, is the lawyer for a dangerous mobster called Blackie Gaxton and is under Gaxton’s thumb on account of being a compulsive gambler. Gaxton is in league with Doctor Octopus, and Betty was drawn into their schemes while trying to protect her brother. Peter is understanding and tells her that Spider-Man has also come to Philadelphia to deal with Doc Ock. Overcome with happiness at seeing Betty again, Peter decides that he will reveal his secret identity to her as soon as they are back home in New York.

Unfortunately, Spider-Man arrives too late to prevent Doc Ock from breaking Gaxton out of jail. Returning to Bennett Brant’s apartment, Peter fears the worst when he finds Betty has disappeared. Luckily, he is able to track the crooks’ car using his spider-tracer and finds everyone aboard a tramp steamer on the Delaware River. Despite spraining his ankle, Spider-Man apprehends Blackie Gaxton and his entire gang, although Bennett Brant is fatally shot in the melee. To make matters worse, Doctor Octopus escapes after a furious battle on a runaway pleasure boat. Afterwards, Peter realizes he can never reveal his secret to Betty now, as she believes Spider-Man’s interference led to her brother’s death. Later that evening, as Peter tries to comfort Betty, he realizes that her brother’s death has cast a pall over their relationship, perhaps permanently.

Monday morning, Betty returns to the offices of the Daily Bugle, and Jameson immediately hires her back, as no other secretary will put up with him. In the days that follow, Doctor Octopus stages a series of spectacular crimes as he moves from city to city, working his way west and confounding the authorities wherever he goes. Later in the week, however, he returns to New York and kidnaps Betty from the newspaper office, announcing his intention of leading Spider-Man into a trap. Furthermore, he orders Jameson to send a photographer to chronicle Spider-Man’s defeat, and Jameson naturally sends Peter to cover the confrontation at Coney Island. As Spider-Man makes his way across town, though, he begins to feel ill, and by the time he reaches the amusement park, he can barely stand. Realizing he is succumbing to a virus, Spider-Man attacks Doc Ock anyway, intent on saving Betty. But, with surprisingly little effort, Doctor Octopus pummels his foe into unconsciousness. As Betty, Jameson, and two police officers look on, Doc Ock pulls off Spider-Man’s mask. While startled to see that it’s Peter Parker, all present conclude that the teen has merely dressed as Spider-Man in order to rescue Betty. Furious, Doc Ock escapes and the police berate Jameson for not reporting Octavius’s whereabouts earlier. Peter gets a ride home in a squad car, where Aunt May immediately puts him to bed.

The next morning, Peter has fully recovered from his illness, and when Aunt May scolds him for pulling such a dangerous stunt, he lies and says he’s taking the costume out to burn it. Later, at school, word has spread of his misadventure, but Liz Allan is impressed by his courage and defends him from Flash Thompson’s jeers. After school lets out for the day, Spider-Man leaps into action as Doctor Octopus goes on a rampage and releases some wild animals from the Central Park Zoo. This leads to a spectacular battle across the rooftops of midtown Manhattan. Finally, the adversaries crash through a skylight into the studio of a sculptor, where their fighting causes some chemicals to ignite, catching the wooden building on fire. A heavy statue falls on Doc Ock, pinning his legs, and before he can free himself, the floor collapses. Spider-Man escapes the flames and swings away, to join the crowd outside as Peter Parker. Meanwhile, Doctor Octopus has managed to free himself but is suffering from smoke inhalation. Firefighters lead him out of the building and hand him over to the police. Liz invites Peter to a party that night, but he turns her down. After selling Jameson photos of the battle with Doc Ock, Peter is feeling pretty good about himself.

Peter’s mood darkens over the next few days as reports pour in of a Spider-Man crime spree. Convinced at first that no one could mimic his super-powers, Peter wonders if he’s going mad. He even pays a visit to a psychiatrist as Spider-Man, but thinks better of it when he realizes he might accidentally reveal his secret identity. To compound his problems, Peter and Aunt May have both spent too much on each other’s Christmas presents and there isn’t enough money in the bank to pay all the monthly bills. When Jameson once again refuses to give Peter a loan, he goes in search of more crime photos. However, Spider-Man is attacked by an angry mob, and, feeling discouraged, he heads for home. Saturday morning, Peter reads in the Daily Bugle that a character calling himself “Mysterio” has information on the web-spinner’s crime spree and has issued a challenge to Spider-Man to meet him atop the Brooklyn Bridge. Peter immediately dons his costume and swings over to the bridge, where Mysterio suddenly appears in a cloud of smoke. The strangely-garbed figure has found some way to counter each of Spider-Man’s powers and gives him a sound beating. Overwhelmed, Spider-Man leaps from the bridge to the river below and swims away, convinced that Mysterio impersonated him to commit the robberies.

The following day, Mysterio is treated to a victory parade, sponsored by the Daily Bugle. Celebrating Spider-Man’s humiliating defeat, Jameson introduces Mysterio to his staff. As Peter shakes hands with his unknowing foe, he slips one of his spider-tracers into the folds of Mysterio’s voluminous cape. Later, he tracks the villain to a studio that specializes in made-for-television movies and launches a surprise attack. First, Spider-Man goads Mysterio into making a boastful confession about the robberies, which he captures on a miniature tape recorder. Enraged at having been thus tricked, Mysterio attacks again, and their battle disrupts the filming of a science-fiction show. Spider-Man now has the advantage, however, and defeats his enemy. He turns both Mysterio and the cassette tape over to the police and goes home to develop the photos he shot of the battle. Peter then drops by the Daily Bugle, where Jameson is happy to have another scoop with exclusive pictures, even though Spider-Man has been exonerated. The publisher pays Peter more than enough to cover the household bills, and so the Parkers celebrate a festive, though bittersweet, Christmas.

Though school is closed for the holidays, Peter runs into some of the kids from school outside the public library, where Liz continues to flirt with him, much to Flash’s consternation. But when Peter hears a news bulletin about a mysterious green figure flying over Manhattan on a broomstick, he heads off to investigate. Spider-Man soon intercepts the weird-looking character, the “Green Goblin,” who says he represents Hollywood movie producer B.J. Cosmos. He directs the web-slinger to the Plaza Hotel, claiming Cosmos has a lucrative offer for him. Spider-Man’s doubts are dispelled at the hotel, where the producer offers him $50,000 to star in The Spider-Man Story. The Green Goblin is to be the villain of the piece, along with characters based on the Enforcers. Intrigued, Spider-Man negotiates limited publicity for himself, and when Cosmos agrees to his terms, he signs the contract. Peter believes that with this money, he’ll finally be able to set Aunt May up for life. The producer then instructs Spider-Man to be at the movie studio in Hollywood by Friday.

The next morning, Peter visits the offices of the Daily Bugle, hoping to get Jameson to pay for his airfare. Jameson immediately gives him the assignment to cover the Spider-Man movie shoot, but insists on reimbursing him for his expenses. Peter is further irritated to learn that Betty has seen him hanging around Liz Allan and is jealous. Too busy to deal with the situation, Peter heads home to convince Aunt May to let him go to California. Since he is on winter break, Aunt May relents, realizing her nephew has grown up fast since Uncle Ben’s death. Thus, Peter takes the red-eye out to Los Angeles, and reports to the studio as Spider-Man first thing Friday morning. He sees the Green Goblin again at the first meeting of the cast and crew, as well as the actors playing the Enforcers, who look just like the real criminals. B.J. Cosmos announces they will spend the weekend filming on location in New Mexico.

The production arrives at the remote location Saturday morning, and as the camera crew starts setting up, the Green Goblin suggests to Spider-Man that they go off and rehearse their big fight scene. As they begin, however, Spider-Man realizes he’s fighting the real Enforcers and the Green Goblin is trying to kill him. Angry that he’s been tricked, he fights all four villains simultaneously, but soon realizes he’s overmatched. Spider-Man kicks up a huge dust cloud and ducks into a nearby cave. The Goblin spots him, however, and, once inside, the villains block the cave entrance so their victim can’t escape. Spider-Man uses the darkness to pick them off one-by-one, though, trapping each crook in turn in his webs. The situation suddenly takes a turn for the worse when the Goblin’s pumpkin bombs rouse the Hulk, who, quite by coincidence, has been lurking in that very cave system. Thinking they’ve come to capture him, the Hulk attacks, and only Spider-Man’s agility saves him from the green behemoth’s crushing blows. Finally, Spider-Man tricks the Hulk into smashing the stone blocking the cave entrance. Once outside again, Spider-Man evades the Green Goblin and escapes from the Hulk by hiding in a desert spring. Unable to find his foe, the Hulk shambles back into the caves. Spider-Man then sneaks in behind him and drags the Enforcers out of harm’s way, leaving them to be picked up by an Army helicopter. Unfortunately, the Green Goblin gets away on his flying broomstick.

Spider-Man returns to Los Angeles to confront B.J. Cosmos. However, having realized he’s been duped by the Green Goblin, the producer has already cut his losses on the film and has decided to make a movie about the Hulk instead. He informs Spider-Man that the fine print of his contract clearly states that no money will be paid if the film is not completed. Still, Cosmos gives him enough cash to fly back to New York. Peter decides to take a Greyhound Bus instead so he can give the remainder of the cash to Aunt May. Having no photos to sell to Jameson, the whole trip proves to be a bust, and Peter spends the remaining days of his Christmas vacation on the long ride back to New York.


January 1962 – Peter Parker was born on May 23, 1945. Although common lore has it that Peter was a sophomore when he gained his powers, chronological analysis reveals that he was actually a junior, and most of his early adventures occurred during his senior year. Peter notes in Amazing Spider-Man #14 that he is a high school senior. He is seen at the Natural History Museum with Aunt May and Uncle Ben in a flashback in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1.

February–March 1962 – Spider-Man’s origin is told in Amazing Fantasy #15, with further details provided in Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #60. Maxie Shiffman’s name is revealed in later stories. For a discussion of Spidey’s costume color scheme, read Black and Blue.

April 1962 – Spider-Man’s enmity with newspaper publisher J. Jonah Jameson begins in Amazing Spider-Man #1, with the web-slinger’s adventures chronicled in the issues to follow.

July 1962 – Peter’s viewing of the Fantastic Four’s documentary film (from Fantastic Four #9) is not mentioned in the story, but the timing is right and it makes sense. Likewise, the Human Torch is the one most likely to have leaked the story of their encounter to the press.

September 1962 – Interestingly, Uncle Ben’s miniature camera may well have originally belonged to Peter’s father, who was a secret agent. When Richard Parker died, it makes sense that his brother Ben, his only living relative, would come into possession of his personal effects. Peter was at this point unaware of his father’s career as a spy and wouldn’t have made the connection. However, Peter only used this WWII-era camera until he had earned enough money to buy a brand new model. The Tinkerer’s extraterrestrial cohorts, seen in Amazing Spider-Man #2, are later revealed to be merely men in costumes, among whom is Quentin Beck, soon to return as Mysterio. The Tinkerer face-mask is just another part of the ploy, and the geriatric inventor merely goes underground, where he continues creating technology for the city’s criminal element. The Human Torch’s well-publicized brush with nuclear annihilation is chronicled in Strange Tales #112, which Peter is likely to have watched on TV. The first of many team-ups between the Torch and Spider-Man is then featured in Strange Tales Annual #2. The Sub-Mariner’s invasion of New York, which must have terrified poor Aunt May, is seen in Fantastic Four Annual #1.

October 1962 – In Amazing Spider-Man #100, Peter mentions that he'd been working on a formula to get rid of his spider-powers since not long after he gained them. The Sandman’s battle with the Human Torch occurs in Strange Tales #115, in which Spidey makes a cameo appearance.

November 1962 – Spider-Man encounters Iron Man’s holographic image in Avengers #3. Electro’s escape from custody is not mentioned in the story, but he is at large very soon after, as seen in Daredevil #2. Clearly, the NYPD has not yet figured out how to hold super-powered crooks. Spidey then makes another cameo appearance in the Human Torch story in Strange Tales #119. Peter was certainly aware of Captain America’s return, which occurs in Avengers #4, as well as the following events of Marvel’s first epic cross-over tale in Fantastic Four #25–26.

December 1962 – It seems likely that B.J. Cosmos went on to produce the cheesy superhero movie Captain America Versus the Hulk, which Steve Rogers watched in Captain America #130. This takes us up through Amazing Spider-Man #14.

OMU Note: Spider-Man’s final canonical appearance is in Amazing Spider-Man #350.