April 1, 2023

Gabbing Geek

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Noteworthy Issues: The Amazing Spider-Man #22 (March, 1965)

Spider-Man takes on most of the Circus of Crime. Just most of them.

The Circus of Crime?  Really?  I mean, I know these books were aimed at young readers, but these guys seem like joke villains even if they aren’t supposed to be.

Issue:  The Amazing Spider-Man #22, March 1965

Writer:  Stan Lee

Artist:  Steve Ditko

The Plot:  The Circus of Crime…or the Masters of Menace…dump the Ringmaster but still have to take on Spider-Man!

Commentary:  OK, let’s set aside, for a moment, that the Circus of Crime are rather ridiculous as bad guys go.  You’d think that given their original MO of hypnotizing and then robbing all of the attendees to their shows that they’d get caught rather easily.  But that’s not the case.  I get the impression that they may not be the smartest crooks on the block.  Regardless, this issue has most of the Circus dumping the Ringmaster to try leadership under the Clown for a while and see how that turns out.

It turns out about as well as working with the Ringmaster.  At least his hypnotic hat grants him something like superpowers.  What do the others do?  Tumble?  Bash people with an iron helmet?  Keep a trained snake in another room?

Eh, I may be overthinking these guys.  Anyway, redubbing themselves the “Masters of Menace” despite the fact that they are still doing circus-themed crimes, the group tries to rob J. Jonah Jameson’s art show, during which human cannonball Cannonball bonks Jameson on the head and gives him a concussion.  Apparently, just sending a clown on a unicycle out to distract patrons isn’t enough to keep everyone from noticing the robbery was happening.  So, Spidey goes off to do what he does so well by looking first for Ringmaster, and then using the man’s own hypnotic hat against him to find out what was going on.

And here’s my main takeaway for this issue:  it really did treat Ringmaster poorly.  Yes, he’s a supervillain, but so many things happen here when he’s not really at fault for much of anything.  When the others rob the art expo, he even cooperates with the police because, yeah, he had nothing to do with it.  That doesn’t stop Spidey from leaving him in a trance until the webbing holding the hat in the air dissolves.  And sure, he decided to rob the Clown of the paintings, but up until then, Spidey was treating him like he was still a criminal when, again, he hadn’t really done anything.

Then again, even though Spider-Man was easily handling most of these Masters of Menace, Princess Python proved far too formidable simply because she could grab him and he couldn’t bring himself to hit “a female”.  C’mon, Spidey, just web her up next time.  Don’t wait until your webshooters are all jammed up to even try.  And I am sure he could restrain her without punching her if he really wanted to.

Anyway, I get the impression Clown wasn’t that much better of a leader, and that’s it for this issue.

Grade:  B+

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