Monday

OMU: Spider-Man -- Year Four

The fourth year of Peter Parker’s career as Spider-Man nearly turns out to be his last—not because of some murderous super-villain, but due to his blossoming romance with Gwen Stacy. As their relationship becomes more serious and committed, we see Peter start drifting away from his costumed identity and looking forward to taking on more typical adult responsibilities. It is during this period that Stan Lee completes his run as scripter, with a little help from Roy Thomas, before turning the reins over to 19-year-old Gerry Conway. Paired with veteran illustrator John Romita, Conway gets off to an impressive start, staying true to the large cast of supporting characters, while also writing the new companion title Marvel Team-Up. Despite a few setbacks and hardships, this is clearly the best year of Peter Parker’s life so far, and perhaps the best for quite some time 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 1965 – Peter Parker starts the second semester of his sophomore year at Empire State University, along with his roommate, Harry Osborn. Peter is depressed about his failed relationship with Gwen Stacy, who has gone to live with relatives in London, England. Thus, Peter has little sympathy for Harry’s rocky romance with aspiring actress Mary Jane Watson, though he is concerned by Harry’s habitual over-reliance on prescription medicines. However, Peter is relieved that his aunt, May Parker, seems much happier after moving in with Mary Jane’s elderly aunt, Anna Watson. Too melancholy to go into action as Spider-Man lately, Peter has had no crime photos to sell to the Daily Bugle, and, as such, has little in the way of spending money. Learning that his friend is flat broke, Harry insists that Peter accept the part-time job his father, Norman Osborn, offered almost a year ago. Peter thinks it might enable him to earn enough money to fly back to London to find Gwen, so he accepts the position, even though he worries that associating with Norman Osborn might restore his memory of being the Green Goblin. Peter’s fears prove justified when Osborn’s memory does return while Mary Jane is performing in a theatre that used to be one of Osborn’s warehouses. After the audience has left, Peter changes into Spider-Man and tracks Osborn to a hidden storage room, where his old foe has retrieved his costume and weapons. Spider-Man and the Green Goblin then fight across the rooftops of the city, until Spidey becomes disoriented by the Goblin’s “sparkler spray” and hides under a ledge, waiting for his senses to clear. Assuming that Spider-Man has fallen to his death, the villain flies away on his goblin-glider. Peter heads home, worrying that Osborn will expose his secret identity. When he arrives, Peter finds Harry agitated and paranoid, and they argue about Mary Jane’s incessant flirting with Peter.

After spending a day and a night searching for the Green Goblin, Peter returns home to discover that Harry is in need of medical attention due to his drug abuse. Suddenly, the Goblin crashes through the window, intent on killing Peter, but when he sees the unconscious Harry, the villain retreats. Relieved, Peter calls an ambulance and goes with Harry to the hospital. On campus later that day, Peter runs into the pusher who sold Harry the drugs he overdosed on. Enraged, Peter beats up the pusher and his thugs using simulated karate to protect his secret identity. He then changes into Spider-Man and resumes his hunt for the Green Goblin. Soon, his foe finds him and launches a vicious attack, using a chemical mist that partially neutralizes Spidey’s powers. Nevertheless, Spider-Man is able to force the Goblin to fly his glider up to the window of Harry’s hospital room, where Norman Osborn’s personality reasserts itself. Osborn passes out from the mental strain, so Spidey takes him home and throws his Green Goblin costume in the incinerator. After changing back into his civilian identity in an alley near his apartment, Peter is about to head inside when Gwen Stacy comes running up to him. Peter and Gwen embrace and kiss, then spend the rest of the night talking. Peter is relieved that Gwen has worked through most of her bitterness over Spider-Man’s involvement in her father’s death, and he feels they can finally move forward in their relationship.

Wanting to be in a position to ask Gwen to marry him, Peter resolves to improve his situation at the Daily Bugle so he can support a wife. Meeting with editor-in-chief J. Jonah Jameson and city editor Joe “Robbie” Robertson, Peter successfully negotiates his way into a part-time job as a staff photographer. His first assignment under the new arrangement is to cover a riot at the city jail, where the inmates have taken the warden hostage. After changing into Spider-Man, he heads to the jail, rescues the warden, and helps resolve the situation with a minimum of violence. Pleased with himself, Spidey swings back toward the Daily Bugle, only to be flagged down by Johnny Carson, who books him on The Tonight Show. However, Peter’s plans to take Gwen out on the town are frustrated when Robertson informs him that, since he now has a staff job rather than working freelance, he won’t get paid until the end of the week. Peter is left depending on the money from his television appearance, but unfortunately the police chase Spider-Man out of the studio before he can collect his fee. Dejected, Peter goes to Gwen’s new apartment and apologizes for not having the money to take her out. Gwen reassures him that she’s already made them dinner and planned an evening in so they can be alone together. That night, Peter and Gwen have sex for the first time, losing their virginity to each other.

Soon after, Spider-Man gets some spectacular photos of the Human Torch and the Thing brawling in the city streets. When he arrives at the Daily Bugle, Peter finds Jameson and Robertson arguing about whether the Fantastic Four are menaces to the city. Peter is impressed that Robertson stands up to his bellicose boss and refuses to write an editorial excoriating the FF.

In the days that follow, Peter realizes that being Spider-Man has lost much of its appeal, and he attributes this change of attitude to having grown up and started to look forward to a life with Gwen. Knowing he can’t reveal his secret identity to Gwen without risking their relationship, Peter decides to use the untested formula he created with help from Dr. Curt Connors to get rid of his spider-powers permanently. Back at his apartment, Peter uses the formula to create a serum, willing to risk it for Gwen’s sake. He drinks the serum and immediately falls into a hallucinogenic fugue. When he comes out of it, Peter is horrified to discover that the serum has not removed his powers, but has instead caused him to grow four extra arms. While trying to figure out what to do, Peter receives a phone call from Gwen. She suggests they go see a movie, but Peter is forced to decline, saying he may be out of town for quite a while. He can hear in Gwen’s voice that she is crushed, and he realizes she must think he’s giving her the brush-off now that she’s had sex with him. Teetering on the brink of despair, Peter then gets a call from Joe Robertson, offering him a new photo assignment. Peter claims to be ill with mononucleosis, then phones Dr. Connors at his lab in Florida. After securing permission to hole up in Connors’ summer home in Southampton, Spider-Man heads out to Long Island, though web-swinging proves difficult with his extra limbs flailing around. Arriving at the break of dawn, Spidey then works for two days straight in Connors’ lab trying to develop an antidote.

Finally, exhausted and frustrated, Spider-Man begins to lose hope of finding a cure for his bizarre mutation. Suddenly, he is attacked by a vampire-like man calling himself Morbius. Barely able to stand, let alone fight, Spidey is quickly knocked out. When he comes to, he finds Morbius locked in a savage battle with the Lizard. Morbius ultimately triumphs and bites the Lizard’s neck, but Spidey kicks the vampire off before he can drink any blood. Morbius decides to find easier prey and soars out a window, disappearing into the gathering dusk. Luckily, Spider-Man is able to tag the vampire with an electronic spider-tracer before he escapes. The Lizard then partially transforms back into Curt Connors due to some mysterious enzyme secreted by Morbius’s fangs. This allows Connors to work with Spidey to isolate the chemicals from the vampire’s bite and prepare an antidote. Needing more of the enzyme to complete the formula, Spider-Man and the Lizard track down Morbius in Manhattan. Taking the vampire by surprise, Spidey pummels him into unconsciousness, allowing Connors to prepare an injection using a sample of Morbius’s blood. Administering it to himself first, Connors immediately reverts to his fully human form. Unfortunately, Morbius recovers and snatches the remaining serum, forcing Spider-Man to pursue him across the city. The web-slinger finally retrieves the antidote, but loses Morbius in the river. Assuming the vampire has drowned, Spidey returns to Connors, who uses the serum to cure Spider-Man’s metamorphosis. The next day, Peter finally works up the nerve to call Gwen. Not wanting to lie to her, Peter just apologizes but says he can’t explain where he’s been the last four days. Happy to have him back, Gwen accepts his non-explanation graciously.

February 1965 – Spider-Man is suddenly accosted by the Human Torch one night, causing him to lose hold of his web-line and fall. Though he easily saves himself, Spidey is annoyed by the Torch’s clumsy attempt at being friendly and tells him to get lost. Soon after, though, Spider-Man is ambushed by the Sandman, the Wizard, and the Trapster and placed in a hypnotic trance. They lead him to the Baxter Building and force him to attack the Human Torch. Once the Torch has been taken prisoner, the villains break into the laboratory that houses the portal to the alternate universe known as the Negative Zone. When the Wizard tries to harness the energies of the strange dimension, it draws the attention of an armored creature called Annihilus. The villains panic as Annihilus nearly breaks through the dimensional barrier to Earth. Luckily, Spider-Man shakes off the mind-control in time to help the Human Torch defeat their foes and prevent Annihilus’s invasion. Later, Spidey and the Torch do hang out and talk about their recent travails.

Mary Jane visits Peter to apologize for her recent behavior, feeling partly to blame for Harry’s breakdown. However, Peter hurries her out of his apartment so he can change into Spider-Man and investigate a disturbance in Central Park. When he arrives, Spidey finds Daredevil brawling with Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner. A large, glowing, metallic object is levitating nearby, and Spidey assumes it is some sort of Atlantean weapon. He joins the fray, but succeeds only in driving Namor into a rage. The fight is interrupted when the object emits a blinding radiance, from which a beautiful woman emerges and commands Spider-Man and the Sub-Mariner to follow her back to her own dimension. There, Spidey learns that Namor’s true love, Dorma, has died and Namor has abdicated the throne of Atlantis. The beautiful woman identifies herself as Princess Tuvia of the Black Sea People, a race known in Atlantean legends for their formidable psychic powers. She calls on Namor to fulfil his debt of honor to defend her people from a usurper named Turalla, who would lead them into a disastrous war with Earth. Spidey is determined to help Namor defeat Turalla, but their foe proves to be more powerful than expected. Turalla unleashes a blistering telepathic attack that knocks both heroes unconscious. However, when they come to, they find that Turalla has been struck dead by a psychic blast from somewhere in the vicinity of New England. Grateful for their help, Tuvia sends Spidey and Namor back to Earth. Namor decides to head for New England to investigate, and Spidey wishes him luck. They part on friendly terms.

Peter heads to Stark Industries when a group of anti-war protestors storm the facility and are fired upon by a Stark employee in green armor calling himself the Guardsman. When Peter arrives, he finds the police are on the scene and the protestors are throwing rocks. Iron Man emerges from the administration building and gets into a fight with the Guardsman. Peter gets some spectacular shots of their battle, which he delivers to the Daily Bugle.

Soon after, Harry is released from the hospital, but his father sends him to an exclusive rehab facility for six months. Peter continues to feel guilty about living in the apartment while Norman Osborn pays the rent, especially with Harry not even being there.

March-April 1965 – Wanting to spend as much time with Gwen as he can, Peter decides to focus on finishing up his sophomore year in college, and as a result does not go into action much as Spider-Man. He also starts to feel a bit ill a lot of the time, which contributes to his decision to put being a superhero on the back burner.

May 1965 – Peter and Gwen take their final exams and wrap up the academic year. Peter is pleased to get much better grades than he did his freshman year, which he attributes to his happy relationship with Gwen. Soon after, Peter receives a surprising offer from Joe Robertson at the Daily Bugle: J. Jonah Jameson is planning to lead an expedition to the Savage Land—the hidden prehistoric jungle in Antarctica ruled by Ka-Zar—to search for a gigantic monster that attacked a scientific research station, and he’s looking for an adventurous photojournalist to cover the trip. Aside from paying top dollar for the photos, Jameson is also offering a hefty cash bonus. Peter agrees immediately, thinking he could make enough money that he and Gwen could get married. However, Gwen is not keen on the idea of Peter traveling around the world without her, so Peter takes her with him to the newspaper offices, intending to make a grand gesture out of turning down the assignment. When they arrive, though, Jameson has a brainstorm and offers to pay Gwen handsomely to join the expedition. Excited by the prospect, Gwen agrees, over Peter’s objections. Jameson then introduces them to the inspiration for the trip, a naturalist named Richard Calkin who witnessed the monster’s attack.

Over the next couple of days, Peter and Gwen make their preparations for the long journey, while Jameson makes all the necessary arrangements. They visit Aunt May, who worries about the dangers involved but also feels proud of Peter for having landed such a high-profile assignment. Finally, Peter and Gwen meet Jameson and Calkin at John F. Kennedy International Airport and take a jet down to Rio de Janeiro. The next day, they board a ship which then sets sail for Antarctica. Early in the voyage, Peter celebrates his 20th birthday with Gwen. He feels unwell much of the time aboard the ship, but merely chalks it up to seasickness.

June 1965 – Five weeks later, Peter, Gwen, Jameson, and Calkin arrive at the scientific research station in Antarctica. After checking in with the base personnel, Calkin flies them over the mountains, through the thick cloud cover, and down into the Savage Land. They are amazed to suddenly find themselves in a primeval rainforest, complete with dinosaurs. Jameson has Gwen change into a red bikini, then tells Peter to take some cheesecake photos of her in front of a large stone idol shaped like a lizard. Assuming the idol was built by Ka-Zar, Jameson strikes the gong built into it, only to draw out a group of angry Swamp Men. Before they can attack the expedition, though, the Swamp Men are chased off by the appearance of Calkin’s giant monster, which the savages call “Gog.” The monster grabs Gwen and carries her off into the jungle. Peter tries to stop him, but the monster knocks him off a cliff into a fast-flowing river. Several minutes later, Peter finally manages to haul himself out of the water and, heedless of his secret identity, changes into Spider-Man and sets off in pursuit of Gog. Unfortunately, he almost immediately gets himself trapped in quicksand and has to be rescued by Ka-Zar and his saber-toothed tiger Zabu. Working together, Spidey and Ka-Zar track Gog to a clearing, where they find Kraven the Hunter ranting to Gwen about his plans of conquest. Before Gwen sees him, Spidey lures Gog away, leaving Ka-Zar to attack Kraven. In the jungle, Gog gets into a fight with a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and is then too tired to save himself when Spidey leads him back to the quicksand. Feeling guilty since Gog appeared to be in some way intelligent, Spidey tracks down his friends and finds that Ka-Zar has reunited Gwen with Jameson and Calkin. After changing back into Peter Parker, he joins them and claims to have been unconscious the whole time. Ka-Zar makes no mention of Spider-Man’s involvement, to Peter’s great relief, but does inform them that Kraven apparently fell to his death. After hiking back to their helicopter, Calkin flies Peter, Gwen, and Jameson back to the research station, where they begin the month-long journey back to New York.

August 1965 – Spider-Man arrives at the Daily Bugle building to find a group of protestors led by Randy Robertson and Josh Kittling. They’re angry that the newspaper is running stories about Ka-Zar and giant monsters rather than the serious social issues facing the people of New York City. When Joe Robertson arrives, he proves to be accepting of his son’s actions, so long as the protest remains peaceful. Jameson, however, is less tolerant and nearly comes to blows with Kittling, prompting Spidey to intervene. Leaving Jameson dangling from a second-floor fire escape, Spidey swings off, heading back to his apartment to help Aunt May set up for Harry’s coming-home party. Soon after Peter gets there, Gwen arrives with a bunch of friends from school. Among them is Flash Thompson, who has ended his tour of duty in Vietnam and returned to civilian life. Peter and Flash agree to forget about their high school rivalry and try being friends. Then, Norman Osborn brings Harry home from the rehab facility, and Harry is genuinely touched that so many friends have come to welcome him back. Peter spends most of the rest of the month hanging out with Gwen, and consequently spends little time as Spider-Man. Working part-time as a staff photographer for the Daily Bugle, Peter draws more mundane assignments than he is used to. Also, his bouts of illness occur with increasingly frequency, but he dismisses it as merely the flu.

September 1965 – Peter continues to feel worse and worse as he starts the first semester of his junior year at Empire State University. He and Gwen take another class with Professor Miles Warren. Due to a scheduling problem, Peter has to take his upper-level biology seminar with Professor Hans Jorgenson as a night class. Harry also returns to school, though he is now a semester behind. Peter is surprised that Flash elects not to return to college, and worries that the reclusive former soldier is having readjustment problems. When he gets too stressed out about school, Peter makes time to do some night patrols as Spider-Man.

October 1965 – While web-swinging toward the college campus, Spider-Man suddenly has some kind of spasm and barely saves himself from a deadly fall. He presses on to make Professor Jorgenson’s night class, though he feels sicker than ever before. When he arrives on campus, Spidey finds the Human Torch questioning Jorgenson about his former colleague Michael Morbius. Spidey insists that Morbius drowned in the river months ago, but discovers he was wrong when the vampire kills a man in a nearby park. Drawn by the victim’s screams, Spider-Man and the Torch attack Morbius, but their fight is interrupted by a group of college students who think the two superheroes are trying to murder someone. Morbius kills one of the students and flees the scene. The Human Torch tries to comfort the dead student’s brother, but Spider-Man can only stagger off into the darkness, feeling shaky and exhausted.

The next day, Peter accompanies J. Jonah Jameson to JKF Airport, where the military is bringing the Hulk into New York City to stand trial. Jameson tries to bully his way past the police line, but the officers on the scene are not impressed by his bluster. Peter notices the Fantasti-Car landing nearby, bringing the Human Torch, Mister Fantastic, the Invisible Girl, and the Thing to witness the Hulk’s arrival. Shortly after the Air Force 747 touches down, though, the Hulk smashes out through the hull, prompting the Fantastic Four to rush in to confront him. As Daredevil also suddenly appears, Peter rushes into a nearby maintenance building and changes into Spider-Man. Due to his illness, Spidey isn’t able to offer much help, but Mister Fantastic soon brings the Hulk down with some kind of ray gun. As S.H.I.E.L.D. takes the unconscious Hulk into custody, Spidey slips off and changes back into Peter Parker, feeling pretty useless. Jameson then chastises Peter for accepting an assignment he’s clearly too ill to complete.

Still horribly sick the next morning, Peter begins to wonder if Morbius is the cause of his chronic illness. He goes out as Spider-Man to pay a visit to Professor Jorgenson. Unfortunately, the professor is missing and his apartment has been ransacked. Finding several pages of Morbius’s formulae, Spidey gathers them up and takes them with him as he searches the city for Jorgenson. Eventually, he is forced to give up and return to his sickbed. After sleeping through most of the following day, Peter drags himself out of bed to resume his search for Jorgenson. Still dizzy and feverish, Spider-Man is caught off guard by Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel, and Iceman, who suddenly attack him. He tries to fight them off, but quickly passes out.

When he regains consciousness, Spider-Man finds himself in a laboratory in the X-Men’s secret headquarters, and he is shocked to find an unconscious Morbius strapped to the examination table next to him. Hans Jorgenson is there, along with the mutants’ mysterious leader, Professor X. They explain that the serum Curt Connors injected Spidey with back in January interacted with his mutated biochemistry to produce a toxic byproduct that built up in his body over time, making him sicker and sicker. The X-Men had attacked Spider-Man because the Daily Bugle blamed him for Jorgenson’s disappearance, but in the course of events, they realized that Morbius was the true kidnapper. After rescuing Jorgenson and capturing Morbius, the X-Men brought Spidey back to their headquarters to try to save his life. Using Morbius’s papers that Spidey had been carrying, Jorgenson was able to develop a cure. Overwhelmed with relief and gratitude, Spider-Man plants a kiss on Marvel Girl’s lips, smashes through a window, and swings off into the night. When he reaches Manhattan, though, Peter realizes he can’t remember where the X-Men’s headquarters was and thinks that they must have somehow messed with his mind.

The next evening, Spidey is attacked by the latest Spider-Slayer robot, built by Spencer Smythe and remote-controlled by J. Jonah Jameson. While fighting the robot in a computer lab on the east side of town, Spidey is knocked out and doesn’t come to until the next morning. He returns to the rooftop where he left his clothes and starts to change back into Peter Parker. However, his spider-sense alerts him to a network of surveillance cameras the NYPD has installed on rooftops across the city. After pulling off a complicated scheme to protect his secret identity, Spidey swings over to the Daily Bugle building, where he is surprised to find Jameson now leading a group of college students in protesting the surveillance cameras. That evening, Gwen convinces Peter to pay a visit to Flash Thompson, who, though clearly disturbed about something, is very evasive. After dinner and a movie, Peter drops Gwen off at her apartment, then changes into Spider-Man and heads back to talk to Flash alone. Unfortunately, he is captured along the way by an even larger Spider-Slayer robot, this one controlled by Smythe himself. Spidey is taken to the scientist’s lair, where he learns that Smythe is now trying to set himself up as a major crimelord by hijacking the city’s network of surveillance cameras. After being held captive for several hours, Spider-Man breaks free, alerts the police to Smythe’s plan, and sabotages the Spider-Slayer robot. Smythe and his accomplices are taken into custody, forcing Jameson to swear he’s done trying to use Smythe’s robots to capture Spider-Man. In the days that follow, the police dismantle all the surveillance cameras.

Heading home from his night class, Spider-Man comes across the android Avenger known as the Vision. Seeing the hero is having some kind of seizure, Spidey takes the Vision back to his apartment. Luckily, Harry is sound asleep in his room. Spider-Man convinces the Vision to go to the hospital, and they depart before Harry wakes up and sees them. Sneaking into a diagnostics lab, Spidey cobbles together some hospital equipment and determines that the Vision has two separate brainwave patterns, one of which is being broadcast from the vicinity of the Fantastic Four’s headquarters. They head over to the Baxter Building to investigate, only to be attacked by a large, murderous robot. Spidey at first assumes the robot was built by Mister Fantastic, but the Vision determines it was created by aliens called Skrulls. Having found a way to disable the robot, thereby solving his seizure problem, the Vision flies away. Spidey enters the Baxter Building and discovers the unconscious Puppet Master, who was controlling the robot. However, the Thing soon enters and yells at Spider-Man for trespassing. While interrogating the Puppet Master, the Thing learns of a possible cure for his girlfriend Alicia’s blindness, so he invites Spidey to accompany them to the villain’s old laboratory in Pennsylvania. En route, the Puppet Master tells Spider-Man of how he accidentally killed Alicia’s father some fifteen years ago and caused the explosion that blinded her. Afterwards, he married Alicia’s mother and tried to be a good step-father, devoting himself to searching for a cure for Alicia’s condition. But when his wife died a few years ago, he was twisted by grief into a super-villain. Spidey is sympathetic until they reach the abandoned laboratory and the Puppet Master suddenly betrays them, blasting Spider-Man and the Thing into unconsciousness with a hidden energy cannon. The two heroes track their foe into an underground bunker and split up to search for him. After escaping from a death trap, Spider-Man discovers the Puppet Master conspiring with the criminal mastermind known as the Mad Thinker. Webbing up both villains, Spidey then sees on the surveillance monitors that the Thing is trapped in an airless room and Alicia is being menaced by another giant robot. Knowing he can only reach one of them in time, Spidey races to save Alicia. However, when he finally makes it to the surface, he discovers that the Thing has escaped and defeated the robot himself. Suddenly, the bunker is destroyed by a powerful explosion. Alicia fears her step-father triggered a self-destruct mechanism in order to commit suicide, driven by guilt over his various crimes. On the way back to New York, Spider-Man decides the Thing isn’t such a bad guy after all, and realizes he may have misjudged the Fantastic Four.

Several days later, Peter runs into the thunder god Thor after stopping a mugging in a dark alley. Thor is impressed with Peter’s act of heroism, but while they are speaking, a strange effect washes over the city that turns the world into a living photographic negative. Thor generates a protective vortex with his enchanted hammer, and when he and Peter emerge from it, they find that time has stopped. As an army of Asgardian trolls invades the city, Peter surprises Thor by changing into Spider-Man. Thor recognizes the trolls’ leader as Kryllk the Cruel, an old foe of his. Spider-Man and Thor fight with the trolls until the creatures suddenly dematerialize. The two heroes then race to Avengers Mansion, where they find Thor’s teammates likewise frozen in place. Spider-Man rewires the Avengers’ monitoring systems so that, with a little help from Thor’s hammer, they are able to track the mystic energies of Kryllk’s Dark Crystal, which created the “negative time” effect. Seeing the trail leads to both Asgard and an asteroid orbiting Jupiter, Thor creates a dimensional vortex that transports Spider-Man to Asgard. As he materializes, Spidey sees that the legendary realm has also fallen prey to the weird “negative time” effect. Quickly finding Kryllk and his legions, Spider-Man tries to attack them, but they dematerialize once again. Suddenly, the Watcher appears and introduces himself, saying that he is the rightful owner of the Dark Crystal. The enigmatic alien then teleports himself and Spidey to join Thor on the Jovian asteroid, where the thunder god has defeated Kryllk. The Watcher explains that Spider-Man was fighting a mere “temporal echo” of the trolls. Taking possession of the Dark Crystal, the Watcher then teleports the two heroes back to New York City. Peter returns home, trying to make sense of the bizarre experience.

The next evening, Spider-Man is on his way to Gwen’s apartment when he witnesses an attempt to kidnap Flash Thompson by a gang of Asian assassins. Spidey rescues Flash and carries him to a nearby rooftop, where the former soldier explains that he has been blamed for the destruction of a hidden temple in Vietnam. After dropping Flash off with the military police for protection, Spidey swings back to his apartment to meet Aunt May for dinner. Soon after Peter’s arrival, though, Gwen enters, frantic about Flash’s situation. Aunt May suggests Peter and Gwen try to visit Flash and offer their support. The young couple agrees and heads over to the Federal Building, arriving at dusk. The assassins attack again, knocking out the power and plunging the building into darkness. Thinking Gwen would be suspicious if Spider-Man suddenly showed up again, Peter tries to fight off the kidnappers without changing into his costume. Unfortunately, he is kept busy by a seven-foot-tall bruiser in a chauffeur’s uniform while the others make off with Flash. Gwen is hysterical, which delays Peter from following them until he can stage a convincing exit. Then, Spider-Man swings across the city, only to have a mental summons divert him to Greenwich Village for a meeting with Doctor Strange. The sorcerer divines Flash’s location through mystical means and leads Spider-Man there in time to prevent his old rival from being beheaded. Doctor Strange then casts a spell that brings the high priest of the ruined temple out of his death-like trance, thereby exonerating Flash. The sorcerer departs, and Flash thanks Spider-Man for coming to his rescue and reuniting him with Sha Shan, a woman from the temple who nursed him back to health after he’d been wounded in combat. Nevertheless, Peter spends the rest of the night worrying that Flash will try to steal Gwen away from him.

Shortly after dawn, Spider-Man meets an ape-like young man named Martin Blank, who considers himself a freak despite his superhuman acrobatic abilities. Too tired to do more than offer a few bromides, Spidey returns to his apartment building, changes back into Peter Parker, and stumbles inside to find that Aunt May and Gwen have waited up all night for him to return. Although they’re both clearly upset, Peter passes out on the couch and sleeps for twelve hours. When he wakes up and is unable to reach Aunt May by phone, Peter becomes worried and changes into Spider-Man to go looking for her. He soon comes across Martin Blank in an ape-suit, who announces that he is now to be known as “The Gibbon” and wants to be Spider-Man’s partner. Spidey laughs at the idea, which enrages Blank. After a brief scuffle, Spider-Man swings off and heads over to Aunt May’s home, where he finds a note indicating she’s decided to leave town for a while. Even so, Spidey persists in his search through most of the night, before finally returning home and collapsing into bed.

The next morning, Spider-Man continues to look for Aunt May. He is attacked again by the Gibbon, who appears to have taken some drugs that make him angrier and stronger than he was yesterday. The Gibbon tries to choke the wall-crawler to death, but Spidey defeats him and drops him off at the nearest hospital. Spidey resumes his search until lunchtime, ignoring any crimes he happens upon so as not to be distracted. Then, he changes into Peter Parker to try a different tack, and eventually winds up at the offices of the Daily Bugle. Joe Robertson, Betty Brant, and even J. Jonah Jameson are sympathetic about Aunt May’s disappearance, though Jameson is angry with Peter for not bringing in enough newsworthy photos to justify his salary. Outside, Peter runs into Mary Jane and her Aunt Anna, who suggests that May might have been forced to write the note. Not having considered the possibility, Peter changes back into Spider-Man and shakes down some mobsters for information. He learns that a gang war has erupted, which leads him into a battle with Doctor Octopus. Spidey is forced to abandon the fight when Doc Ock rips his mask right off his head. Slipping away into the darkness, Peter is relieved to have preserved his secret identity, but is then incapacitated by terrible stomach pains. Eventually, he drags himself back to his apartment.

When Peter wakes up, he finds that Harry has called in Dr. Bromwell, who diagnoses Peter with a duodenal ulcer and writes him a prescription. Later, Peter returns to the Daily Bugle offices, where Jameson shows off his latest trophy—Spider-Man’s bloodstained mask, which Randy Robertson found in an alley last night. Ned Leeds offers Peter some information on his aunt’s disappearance, sending him to a domestic employment agency on the Lower East Side. Peter changes into his costume and swings over there, stopping at a costume shop to steal a cheap cellophane Spider-Man mask. When he arrives, Spidey is immediately attacked by Doctor Octopus, but, despite his abdominal pain, manages to knock the villain out. Unfortunately, Doc Ock’s rival crime boss, Hammerhead, turns up and holds Spidey at gunpoint. Doc Ock suddenly revives and attacks them, causing Hammerhead to fire his gun wildly. A bullet grazes Spider-Man’s temple and he blacks out. He wakes up at Hammerhead’s base of operations, where the strangely flat-headed criminal tries to force Spidey to join his gang. Hammerhead then receives a phone call from one of his men, who reports that Doctor Octopus is holed up at a mansion in Westchester County with an old woman. Spidey wonders if it could possibly be Aunt May, as she knows Doc Ock from when he was a boarder at her house about a year and a half ago. He worries that Doc Ock may have discovered his secret identity and kidnapped his aunt as part of a revenge scheme. Thus, when Hammerhead and his men move out to hit Doc Ock’s headquarters, Spider-Man breaks free and follows them. When they arrive at the Westchester mansion, Spidey sneaks inside, only to have Aunt May crack him in the back of the head with a vase. As an all-out gang war erupts inside the house, Spider-Man desperately searches for his aunt. Coming across Hammerhead, Spidey tries to capture him, only to get pummeled by the crook’s weird anvil-like head. With his ulcer flaring up, Spidey decides to let Hammerhead escape so he can focus on finding Aunt May. Doctor Octopus then appears with Aunt May at his side, driving Spider-Man into a paroxysm of rage. Overcoming his foe’s metal tentacles, Spider-Man savagely beats Doctor Octopus into unconsciousness. He then realizes that Aunt May is holding a gun on him and shouting at him to stop. Startled by police sirens, Aunt May closes her eyes and fires blindly, allowing Spidey to leap out a window into the shrubbery. As the police round up the rival gangs, Spider-Man changes back into Peter Parker and heads outside, where Robertson, Leeds, and Gwen have arrived in one of the newspaper’s radio cars. Seeing Aunt May, Peter runs up to her, but she tells him she’s accepted Doc Ock’s offer to remain there as his housekeeper while he’s in jail. Peter is too stunned to react as Aunt May goes back inside the house. He finally rides back to Manhattan with the others in the Daily Bugle car.

Two days later, Peter throws Gwen a party to celebrate her 20th birthday. They have a good time, though Peter can’t help wondering if Gwen is more attracted to Flash, now a war hero, than to him. During the party, talk turns to the upcoming mayoral election, with Mary Jane throwing her support behind Democratic candidate Richard Raleigh.

A week later, Peter finally gets around to delivering his photos of the Doctor Octopus–Hammerhead gang war to the Daily Bugle. While swinging across town as Spider-Man, he gets into a fight with the Smasher, a ten-foot-tall muscle-man in body armor who is destroying a Raleigh campaign billboard. The Smasher escapes, so Spidey continues on his way. Arriving at Jameson’s office window, Spidey retrieves his mask from the publisher’s bulletin board and finally discards the cheap cellophane replacement. He then enters the offices as Peter Parker, but Jameson rejects the photos as old news and tells him to bring in pictures of the Smasher. Frustrated, Peter leaves, changes back into Spider-Man, and spends the rest of the evening searching the city for the Smasher, without success.

Spider-Man continues his search for the Smasher the following evening, but realizes he’s actually procrastinating about confronting Gwen about her feelings for Flash Thompson. Reaching Gwen’s apartment building, he changes back into Peter Parker and decides to ask her flat out if she’s in love with Flash. Gwen is actually relieved to learn that this is what has been bugging Peter, as she was afraid he was mad at her for arguing with Aunt May the night before she disappeared. She assures him that she is not at all attracted to Flash, and they have make-up sex. As a result, they are late for the Raleigh campaign event Mary Jane has invited them to. During dinner, Peter’s spider-sense alerts him that the banquet hall’s cement ceiling fixture has been sabotaged and is about to collapse onto the crowd. Feigning stomach trouble, Peter excuses himself and kills the lights, plunging the room into darkness. With no time to change into his costume, he webs up the crumbling ceiling fixture long enough for everyone to get clear. Peter then slips out a window and rejoins the crowd as they evacuate the building. After walking Mary Jane and Gwen home, Peter is frustrated to learn that Raleigh has gone on TV implicating Spider-Man in the attacks on his campaign.

The next evening, while looking for the Smasher, Spider-Man saves a Raleigh fundraising party in a penthouse apartment from three gunmen. He returns home to call Aunt May, trying in vain to convince her that Doctor Octopus and his “business associates” are all very dangerous men. Harry then invites Peter to accompany him to a youth rally for the candidate, where they meet up with Gwen and Mary Jane. Suddenly, an armored sedan appears, shooting tear gas into the crowd, and smashes into the grandstand. The mastermind behind the attacks on Raleigh’s campaign finally shows himself, a man in a mask and cape who calls himself the Disruptor. Peter changes into Spider-Man and tries to prevent the Disruptor’s henchmen from burning down the voter registration booths. Although Spidey is successful, the Disruptor manages to get away.

In the morning, Peter heads out to Southampton on Long Island to work as a laboratory assistant to the eminent biochemist and former Avenger Hank Pym, who has been collaborating with Dr. Curt Connors on a new research project. However, their work is interrupted when gangsters kidnap Connors’ son Billy in order to force Pym to surrender the experimental drugs they are studying. Pym changes into his original superhero identity of Ant-Man to accompany Peter to meet the kidnappers at the drop-off point. Ant-Man attacks the gangsters, but their leader, a French drug lord known as M’sieu Tête, reveals that Billy has been injected with a deadly virus and will soon die unless given the antidote. Ant-Man surrenders, and he and Peter are taken to M’sieu Tête’s hideout, where Peter is impressed by their highly advanced technology. Unexpectedly, Billy slips away, steals a car, and drives off into the night. Realizing he won’t get what he wants if Billy dies, M’sieu Tête sends Ant-Man to bring him back, while holding Peter hostage. Unwilling to trust the superhero not to betray him, M’sieu Tête injects Ant-Man and Peter with the same deadly virus. Once Ant-Man is gone, Peter changes into Spider-Man and defeats M’sieu Tête’s henchmen. Their boss nearly escapes with the antidote, but Ant-Man returns just in time to stop him. Peter changes out of his costume before Ant-Man sees him, then administers the antidote to himself, Billy, and Pym. Leaving Ant-Man with the captured criminals, Peter drives Billy to the nearest hospital, where the boy is reunited with his mother. Peter is relieved when the doctors confirm that Billy should make a full recovery.

November 1965 – On Election Day, Spider-Man saves Joe Robertson from the Smasher and leads the villain away from the Daily Bugle building. When the Smasher mentions that he works for the Disruptor, Spidey tags him with a spider-tracer and lets him go, hoping he’ll lead him to the criminal mastermind. Peter then joins Gwen, Harry, and Mary Jane in the streets as they try to get out the vote for Raleigh. Unfortunately, the Smasher appears again and attacks their campaign van, tearing it apart with his bare hands. As his friends flee, Peter races into an alley and changes back into Spider-Man, then tracks the Smasher to a penthouse apartment uptown. There, Spidey finds the Disruptor with a scientist named Thaxton. The Disruptor reveals that he’s controlling the Smasher with some kind of electronic brain implant, activated by a handheld device. Despite Thaxton’s warnings, the Disruptor overloads the control device and it shorts out. The Smasher goes berserk and kills the Disruptor with one punch. The force of the blow causes the walls and ceiling to collapse, and Thaxton is killed by the falling debris. The Smasher then turns his rage on Spider-Man, who manages to evade his foe’s attacks until the brain implant shorts out and electrocutes him. The Smasher falls on his face, dead. Spidey then unmasks the Disruptor and is shocked to discover he is Richard Raleigh himself. The Smasher’s attacks on his campaign were clearly a scheme to garner the sympathy of the voters. However, realizing that the legend Raleigh had built around himself was too inspiring to be tarnished by the sordid, murky truth, Spider-Man disposes of the Disruptor’s costume. With Richard Raleigh dead, his Republican challenger, John V. Lindsay, wins the mayoral election.

A week after the assassination of Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley, Spider-Man is recruited to help capture the killer by a superheroine calling herself the Cat. After demonstrating her fighting prowess, the Cat explains that the assassin is former Olympic downhill skier Katrina Van Horn, now calling herself the Man-Killer. The Cat has tracked the Man-Killer from Chicago to New York and wants help bringing her in before her actions stain the cause of feminism. Finding the Cat extremely attractive in her slinky gold-and-black costume, Spidey agrees to help. They soon find their quarry attacking a power plant in Harlem with some kind of flying tank. While the Cat battles the Man-Killer one-on-one, Spider-Man captures her squad of underlings. Unfortunately, the Man-Killer manages to escape with a highly radioactive prototype generator, so Spidey pursues her while the Cat interrogates her accomplices. As dawn breaks over the city, Spider-Man catches up to the Man-Killer and they brawl in an alley. Finally, the Cat arrives and informs their foe that she’s been duped by the very men she hates, for the militant feminist organization that gave her superpowers is merely a front for Advanced Idea Mechanics. Stunned by this revelation, the Man-Killer suffers a complete psychotic break. Spidey returns the generator to its rightful owners while the Cat turns the Man-Killer over to the police.

As the school semester goes on, Peter finds less and less time to go out as Spider-Man, and finally admits to himself that he would rather spend what free time he has hanging out with Gwen. When Thanksgiving arrives, Aunt May is busy serving a turkey dinner to Doctor Octopus’s “business associates” in Westchester County, so, since all their other friends are spending the day with their own families, Peter and Gwen celebrate the holiday together in her apartment.

December 1965 – Busy with finishing up the semester and studying for his final exams, Peter does not become Spider-Man at all, and is surprised to realize that he doesn’t miss it. Finding fulfillment in his relationship with Gwen, he envisions a future without his costumed alter-ego. He continues to worry about Harry, though, as his roommate falls into a depression again once the semester ends. Harry starts spending a lot of time at his father’s house, but Peter is hesitant to go over there, as he’s trying to avoid Norman Osborn. Peter and Gwen are happy when Aunt May agrees to come down to Manhattan to spend Christmas with them. Peter buys Gwen a new handbag for one of her Christmas presents, and they all have a very enjoyable holiday. As the year draws to a close, Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy look forward to spending the rest of their lives together.


Notes

January 1965 – Spider-Man’s adventures continue in Amazing Spider-Man #96 and following. Peter Parker makes a brief cameo with J. Jonah Jameson and Joe Robertson in Fantastic Four #111.

February 1965 – Spidey and the Human Torch prevent ¾ of the Frightful Four from unleashing Annihilus on the world in Marvel Team-Up #2. He then joins Daredevil in brawling with the Sub-Mariner in Daredevil #77. The story continues in Sub-Mariner #40, where Namor and Spider-Man join forces against the extradimensional warlord Turalla. Peter’s presence at the Stark Industries riot is revealed on the splash page of Iron Man #46.

March 1965 – Towards the end of the month, Spider-Man finds himself dealing with the end of the world—along with everyone else on the disintegrating planet—during Thor #185–188, but luckily Odin erases those events from the timestream, so they never happened.

June 1965 – In Amazing Spider-Man #104, Ka-Zar is smart enough to put two and two together and figure out that Peter Parker and Spider-Man are the same person.

October 1965 – Spider-Man and the Human Torch battle Morbius the Living Vampire in Marvel Team-Up #3, then Peter appears briefly in Hulk #152–153. Following that, Spidey encounters the X-Men, the Vision, the Thing, and Thor in Marvel Team-Up #4–7. While telepathically scanning Spidey’s memories to know more of his history with Morbius, Professor X probably couldn’t help but learn that his real name is Peter Parker. Soon after, the Vision finds out where Spider-Man lives, and then Thor discovers what Spidey looks like out of costume (but doesn’t learn what his name is). Secret identities are certainly hard to maintain. The date of Gwen Stacy’s birthday was established in Amazing Spider-Man #87. Peter and Ant-Man work together in Marvel Feature #4, in which Curt Connors’ son Billy is erroneously called both “Timmy” and “Bobby.” M’sieu Tête’s technology has been provided by A.I.M., though Peter remains unaware of this.

November 1965 – The failure of Richard Raleigh’s scheme to become the next mayor of New York City brings us up to Amazing Spider-Man #118. Spider-Man then meets the Cat in Marvel Team-Up #8.


Jump Back: Spider-Man – Year Three

Next Issue: The Hulk – Year Four

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