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Spider-Man in the Mid-1960s: The Green Goblin is Unmasked As John Romita Debuts!

Updated on November 4, 2014

Marvel Masterworks Amazing Spider-Man No. 4: The End of the Steve Ditko Era!

Marvel Masterworks the Amazing Spider-Man volume 4 contains issues 31-40 of his original series. This 10-issue collection starts out with a magnificent three-part fight against Dr. Octopus and ends with a two-part tale in which the Green Goblin finds out spider-man's secret identity and we finally find out his! In between are some very decent tales, none of which disappoint.

One reason this collection is significant is that it contains the final issues drawn by Steve Ditko, who quit the book after becoming increasingly estranged from writer Stan Lee. Here are some highlights from the volume. ISBN: 0785142800.

Amazing Spider-Man No. 31 Gwen Stacy Harry Osborn
Amazing Spider-Man No. 31 Gwen Stacy Harry Osborn

The Master Planner Attacks! Peter Parker Starts College!

Amazing Spider-Man No. 31, the Start of a Classic Three-Part Saga!

Amazing Spider-Man No. 31 starts a great multi-part fight against Dr. Octopus (who is known only as the Master Planner in this issue and actually isn't revealed as the bad guy until issue No. 32). Spider-Man doesn't tangle with his enemy directly in this issue, fighting only his underlings. But this comic is important for two events in Spider-Man's private life.

First, as Peter Parker he starts college. This introduces a number of people into the supporting cast that would become very important in this series. Gwen Stacy, who would replace Parker's first girlfriend Betty Brant and become the love of his life, debuts (see accompanying panel). Also introduced is Harry Osborn, who would become Parker's best friend and roommate.

Second, his aunt may falls deathly ill, which sets up Spider-Man's need to find a serum that Dr. Octopus has stolen.

Amazing Spider-Man No. 33 Steve Ditko
Amazing Spider-Man No. 33 Steve Ditko

One of the Most Iconic Sequences of the Early Series!

Spider-Man Breaks Free in Amazing Spider-Man No. 33!

This issue begins with five pages of Spider-Man trapped under debris in Dr. Octopus's wrecked underwater headquarters. He needs to escape to bring much-needed serum to the hospital to save Aunt May.

The hero, faced with drowning, puts aside his doubts and despair and slowly resolves to break free. He finally does in a dramatic full-page scene (see accompanying panel). He needs to survive to bring much-needed serum to the hospital to save Aunt May. Needless to say he does, but the way Ditko portrays his struggle really shows the artist's greatness.

Ditko's art is masterful here, with the images growing larger as Spider-Man's confidence grows until finally there is the full-page scene that screams Freedom! Over the years, some critics have said the captions and monologue by writer Stan Lee was too overdone and distracted from the art, but they never bothered me. Check them out for yourself!

Amazing Spider-Man 39 Green Goblin John Romita
Amazing Spider-Man 39 Green Goblin John Romita

The Goblin and Spider-Man Unmasked! Plus the Debut of John Romita!

The John Romita Era Begins in Amazing Spider-Man No. 39!

This issue, the start of a two-part tale, is a classic that would have a large impact on the Spider-Man series for years to come!

The Green Goblin, who has been haunting Spider-Man since issue No. 14, finally discovers the superhero's secret identity, Peter Parker. The villain attacks Spider-Man while the hero is out of costume, walking home to his house one night (see accompanying panel). Spider-Man is defeated and the Goblin brings him back to the villain's secret HQ, where he reveals himself to be Norman Osborn, the father of one of Parker's college classmates!

The other reason this issue is so significant is that it is the first by artist John Romita, who took over after Steve Ditko left. Romita would give Spider-Man a very different look, making the hero bigger and stronger (and handsomer in his private life). In fact, Romita's version became the most-popular image of Spider-Man for years and years to come.

Amazing Spider-Man 40 Green Goblin Unmasked
Amazing Spider-Man 40 Green Goblin Unmasked

The End of the Green Goblin!

Spider-Man No. 40

This issue recounts the many battles the Green Goblin and Spider-Man have fought and explains the Goblin's origin. The fight scenes are well done, and in the end the Goblin suffers an ''electro-chemical'' charge that leaves him defeated and with amnesia.

Osborn doesn't remember anything about being the Goblin, or who Spider-Man is, so the hero's identity is secret once again. Spider-Man, deciding that perhaps the amnesiac Goblin can lead an honest life now, destroys the costume and allows the Goblin's secret identity, Norman Osborn, to be seen as a victim. The decision would come back to haunt Spider-Man years later.

This is a great example of John Romita art from the issue.

Steve Ditko Vs. Johnny Romita - Who Was the Better Spider-Man Artist?

Spider-Man 33 Steve Ditko
Spider-Man 33 Steve Ditko

This is a Steve Ditko panel from Amazing Spider-Man No. 33

Which Spider-Man artist do you prefer?

See results

Marvel Masterworks Books on Amazon - Start Your Collection Today!

A search on Amazon for ``Marvel Masterworks'' returns more than 900 books! The series reprints many of the Marvel Comics originally published starting in the 1960s, as well as some pre-Marvel series from the 1940s and 1950s. The volumes are in full color on high quality paper, making for some fun reading. Check them out!

The Death of Gwen Stacy

Gwen Stacy, introduced in the first issue of this collection, would become Spider-Man's great love over the next few years. She would be murdered in issue No. 121. I remember reading that comic in 1973 as if it were only yesterday. Here are some reflections on it:

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Of Comic Books and Family Vacations: Who is GoldenRuleComics?
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Thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoyed reading about some of the early issues of Spider-Man as much as I enjoyed writing about them.

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    • ismeedee profile image

      ismeedee 4 years ago

      These are brilliant!