Issue: Spider-Man #1 – story B
Name: Spider-Man vs. the Chameleon
Published: March 1963 by Marvel Comics
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko
Letterer: John Duffi
The Good: Spider-Man
The Bad: Chameleon, Commies
The Undecided: Mr. Fantastic, Thing, Human Torch, Invisible Girl
In the B story of amazing Spider-Man number one, Spider-Man takes on the Chameleon. We also get a special appearance of the fantastic four.
It all starts with what I’m sure most people will consider a very funny blunder, but Spiderman’s alter ego is referred to as Peter Palmer in the very first panel of this story. I suppose Stan and Steve had a naming problem to begin with but we know they worked it all out down the road.
In any case, Peter is trying to figure out how he can make some money and he latches onto the concept that he can work for the Fantastic Four so he heads over to the Baxter building. As he climbs to the top of the building and breaks into a window, alarms go off in the Fantastic Four’s headquarters and they attempt to capture him. He breaks out of their trap and has a quick fight throwing the Thing into Human Torch and dealing with Reed and Sue pretty well too. Play time was over though and Reed became the voice of reason leading to Spider-Man unleashing his proposition. Little did Spidey know that none of the Fantastic Four get paid. Not only that, they believed what Jameson has been printing about Spider-Man being a criminal.
With that short interlude out of the way we now turn to the Chameleon where he’s disguising himself as a janitor to get into a restricted area of a defense installation. Getting in and then disguising himself as one of the professors he easily takes documents that seem to be top-secret. The Chameleon hears the news that Spider-Man is looking to join the fantastic four and realizes that the new hero must be short on cash. With this in mind, he decides to make Spider-Man the fall guy for his next endeavor.
The Chameleon sets up a meeting with Spider-Man on top of the Lark building and as Spider-Man prepares to meet him, the Chameleon steals the second part of the missile plans and then runs to the roof disguised as our hero. Of course everyone believes that the real Spider-Man is the one who stole the defense plans.
With the Chameleon getting away in a helicopter Parker creates a web slingshot and flies over to a boat and drives out to the submarine where the Chameleon is going to be giving the defense plans to the Commies. He jumps up on the helicopter has a quick scuffle with the Chameleon and catches him.
As they start bringing the Chameleon in he escapes and takes on the persona of one of the police officers. Fortunately, Spider-Man uses his Spidey sense for the first time and is able to figure out which one of the police is actually the Chameleon.
Then it gets kind of complicated – Spider-Man being wanted by the police starts being manhandled as he’s trying to bring the Chameleon in. As the police grab Spider-Man, he figures the only way to get out of this whole thing is to tear the Chameleon’s disguise and make it appear that the Chameleon is actually Spider-Man. With the Chameleon’s Spider-Man costume showing, the police believe he’s the man they’re looking for and they capture him instead of the real Spider-Man (maybe the Chameleon is Peter Palmer).
As the story ends, Peter is distraught. He can’t make money to support himself and Aunt May because people think he’s a criminal and his superpowers don’t seem to provide him any benefits. We leave the issue with another scene of the Fantastic Four worried about the possibility that Spider-Man could be very powerful if he decided to turn into a villain.
What did I learn:
- Jameson’s campaign to vilify Spider-Man has worked and everyone, even the Fantastic Four believe Spidey is a menace.
- Peter seems to be on the edge of turning to crime to support his family.
Even at this early stage of development it’s made abundantly clear that Marvel’s heroes share the same universe. Between this issue and Fantastic Four #12 in which the FF meet up with Hulk, it’s clear that these guys all live pretty close to each other. And they’ve all had their troubles early on. Both the Fantastic Four in issue #9 and Spider-Man here had money issues, and both have run into trouble with the authorities. The FF seem to have resolved their problem, though, while Spider-Man is still working on it…and with Jameson after him, I’m not sure he’s gonna easily solve any of his.
The Chameleon in this story seems like a prop put in place just to highlight the troubles Spidey is in. He doesn’t seem like much of a nemesis to our hero but instead uses the police’s desire to catch Spider-Man as a means for his escape. And Stan has brought back the Commies as the generic bad guy group as they wait out in the submarine.
In my mind, the biggest claim to fame for this story isn’t the fact that the Fantastic Four is in it, nor the first appearance of the Chameleon, but rather the fact that Peter Palmer was the name of our hero in this story. It’d be interesting to find out where the mistake occurred, but just are we are often reminded that our super-heroes are human, we’re shown that the creators are human as well.
This was a bit of a letdown after the A story but it was still a decent tale – and we get spider senses!
My Rating: B-
This comic can be found on Marvel Unlimited, Comixology or at your local comic book shop.