The Spider-Man Challenge: Monday through Friday, I read a Stan Lee-written issue of Amazing Spider-Man and write crap about it.
“Face To Face With…The Lizard!”
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko
Synopsis: Hearing news reports of a lizard man terrorizing Florida and after the Bugle issues a challenge to Spider-Man confront the monster, Peter asks JJJ if he can cover the Lizard/Spider-Man fight, but Jonah brushes him off. Deciding to do some research anyway, Peter ends up at the Natural History Museum and saves classmate Liz Allan from some thieves. Later, Spider-Man pins Jameson to the ceiling for a chat and goads him into sending a photographer.
Jameson, embarassed and angry at the wall-crawler, decides to go down himself and takes Peter with him. Arriving in Florida, Peter sneaks off as Spider-Man and finds The Lizard. Escaping, Peter realizes that the house of reptile expert Dr. Curt Connors is close by, arriving only to find his wife alone and crying. Spider-Man warns her it isn’t safe and she explains that her husband IS The Lizard. She goes on to tell him how his transformation was the result of an experimental serum derived from lizards, which he hoped would regrow his lost arm. The serum worked, but he began to mutate and, fearing for his family, fled.
Hearing a scream outside, Spider-Man races outside to find Connors’ son Billy and The Lizard. Billy saw a snake and not The Lizard and Spider-Man is able to get him away in time. The Lizard, angry that Spider-Man “took him” from him, fight until Mrs. Connors appears. The Lizard then runs off and Spider-Man uses to Connors’ notes to devise an antidote. The Lizard reappears long enough to trash the room and explain his master plan to mutate the world’s reptiles into an army obedient to him. Spider-Man decides to confront The Lizard in the swamps and finds him at an old Spanish fort.
The Lizard catches him spying on him and his alligator pets and a fight breaks out as they make they’re way in and around the old fort. Spidey manages to force The Lizard to drink the antidote, only it doesn’t appear to work. Helpless and suspended by his own web, The Lizard reverts back to Dr. Connors in the nick of time. Spider-Man assures the Connors’ that he’ll tell no one what he saw. Peter meets up with Jameson and tells him he got photos from “an old Indian guide”, Jameson calls them fake and rips them up. Back in New York, Peter calls up Liz Allan for a date, only to hear she’s waiting for Spider-Man to call. The issue ends with Betty Brant reading a letter from Spider-Man to Jameson:
Roses Are Red; Violets Are Blue…I’m still at large, so phooey to you!”
Jameson isn’t pleased.
- This issue really demonstrates one of the things I love about Spider-Man’s original rogues gallery, which is that they’re all the result of misuses of science. Sandman, The Lizard and Doc Ock were all given powers in an accident, like Peter. Even The Vulture and some of the later foes use technology purely for their own gain. It creates a good contrast with Spider-Man and his pledge to use his power responsibly.
- The Lizard is a cool villain, but, sadly, incredibly underused. This is probably the best lizard story there is, though I always liked his oddly child-like characterization in Secret Wars. He’s the first Spider-Man bad guy you can really call sympathetic. His initial appearance here is great, though they should’ve kept the creepy eyes from the cover.
- I think this is the first time Spider-Man ever “makes” something with his web, in this case those funky water shoes.
- Nice change of pace to see a Spider-Man story NOT set in New York for once. Ditko’s Florida isn’t especially detailed, but it does break the monotony abit.
- The Spider-Man/JJJ back and forth in this issue was great, the gag with Jameson telling Betty to get him a cushion, then falling, is classic. I can never get enough of Spidey pranking J. Jonah Jameson.
- The Lizard refers to reptiles as “the crawling hoard”. That is the best band name you’ve ever heard.
Final Thoughts: This is, to me, the most memorable early ASM issue and it’s still a favorite. While still following the standard Spider-Man formula, it breaks with it just enough to be interesting. Tomorrow, The Vulture’s back.