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Amazing Spider-Man #20: Review

Jan 1965
Stan Lee, Steve Ditko

Story Name:

The Coming of the Scorpion!

Review & Comments

4 stars

Amazing Spider-Man #20 Review by (January 17, 2024)

Review: Here we have the debut of another classic Spidey foe, with the introduction of the Scorpion! He really first appeared last issue, but actually becomes the Scorpion in his one, so I always count it. Scorpion is an odd case, I always thought. In this issue, he’s specifically designed to stop Spider-Man, doing a pretty good job of it twice in this issue. However, he’s rarely quite that formidable again, quickly being surpassed by Spidey, and acting as much more of a fodder villain as the years go by. Even in this issue, Spidey doesn’t have too hard of a time once he starts fighting smarter rather than harder! He never really gets too interesting so it’s not something I’m particularly broken up about. His costume does eventually improve though, as I’ve always thought this original one was really goofy looking. Adding the spike to the tail later is a great addition too.

Meanwhile, Peter and Betty’s relationship is kind of trudging along, with both of them still secretly interested in each other, but both sort of dancing around it on account of Ned. I’ve made it no surprise that this little subplot hasn’t been my favorite of the recent issues, and it won’t take too much longer for their relationship to fizzle out completely. The real big topic for this issue though is Jameson, going kind of overboard in his vendetta against Spider-Man. While Scorpion will come back at menace Jameson periodically, Jameson never really faces any legal repercussions for his involvement in Scorpion’s creation, though I’m unsure what exactly he would charged with. Still, it’s interesting that Jameson thinks his secret is safe for now, even though Scorpion could easily tell anyone that Jameson bankrolled the whole thing. Jameson does start to get a little bit more interesting of a motivation, seeing it as his duty to stop Spider-Man, thinking that anyone with power will eventually be corrupted. It’s not an unfounded notion, but it also shows Jameson not learning anything from the day’s events. A good issue, with Spidey suffering a worse initial defeat than usual and establishing a strong new villain, even if he doesn’t necessarily stay that way!

Comments: First appearance proper of the Scorpion in his costumed identity, as well as his origin and first battle with Spider-Man. First appearance and death of Dr. Stillwell.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Amazing Spider-Man #20 Synopsis by Anthony Silvestro

Picking right up from last issue, Peter Parker notices that a mysterious figure keeps following him around. Back at home, Peter waits until the man leaves, presumably to report to his boss, before switching to Spider-Man and in turn tail him! Spider-Man is unable to learn anything and is forced to distract the man with a bat made out of webs, allowing Spidey to swing back into his room without being seen. Peter accidentally bumps into the wall, however, alerting Aunt May, who he gives a quick excuse to. The next day, Peter heads to the Daily Bugle, while trying not to do anything to arouse his follower’s suspicions. At the Bugle,  J. Jonah Jameson sees a report about a Dr. Farley Stillwell, a brilliant scientist who has been able to successfully cause mutations in animals, and gets an idea that this man can help him with his Spider-Man problem.

As Peter gets to the Bugle, the mysterious man following him decides to go report to his boss, who is none other than Jameson himself! Jameson had hired the man, named Mac Gargan, to find out how Peter takes the amazing photos that he does, but tells Gargan that he has a better use for him and they depart. Meanwhile, Peter runs into Betty Brant and Ned Leeds and Betty tells Pete that Ned will be out of town for months on an assignment, to Peter’s secret joy. We then cut to Dr. Stillwell’s laboratory, where Jameson proposes the idea to run his experiments on Gargan, turning him into a being capable of stopping Spider-Man. Though reluctant, Stillwell feels he can’t turn down the money Jameson is offering him. He imbues Gargan with energy, increasing his strength, and builds for him a mechanical tail and suit, transforming Gargan into the Scorpion!

After Peter and Betty see Ned off at the airport, Peter switches to Spider-Man to pay Jameson a visit, to see if he can find out what Jameson’s connection to his follower is. Jameson seems too welcoming though, secretly trying to stall Spider-Man until the Scorpion gets there, causing Spider-Man to swing off. However, the Scorpion does arrive right at that moment, and the two begin to fight, with Jameson spectating. Scorpion lays into Spidey, as Spidey quickly realizes that Scorpion is likely even stronger than he is. Spidey flips back, covering Scorpion in his webs, but Scorpion is able to easily rip through them, throwing the remaining strands at Spider-Man, tangling him up. Scorpion is able to use this opportunity to soundly defeat Spider-Man, throwing him into an old water tower, as back at his office, Stillwell discovers that Scorpion will become more evil and dangerous over time, and rushes out with an antidote to try and cure him.

Scorpion realizes how powerful and free he feels, abandoning Jameson’s mission for him, as he jumps down to rob an armored car. Spider-Man awakens and heads off to go tackle Scorpion again. Meanwhile, Stillwell catches up to Scorpion and tries to convince him to take the antidote, which Scorpion refuses, climbing up a building to escape the man. Stillwell foolishly tries climbing up after Scorpion but ends up falling to his death, unable to hit Scorpion with the antidote. Spider-Man shows up too late to save Stillwell and tackles Scorpion again, as Scorpion becomes more and more unhinged. Back at the Bugle, Jameson hears of Stillwell’s death, wracked with guilt over his involvement in all of this. Scorpion is able to stun Spider-Man once again, as he heads off to take care of Jameson, the only one who still knows who he is!

Spider-Man collects himself once more and rushes to the Daily Bugle, to stop Scorpion from killing Jameson. Spidey swings in through the window, dodging around Scorpion’s tail strikes. Spidey webs Scorpion in the face, blinding him, before also webbing his feet to the floor, restricting his movement. Spidey is then able to rip Scorpion’s mechanical tail right off him. He then uses a combination of his spider sense and agility to dodge Scorpion’s blows and lay into Scorpion, eventually defeating him. Spidey leaves Jameson to stew in the irony of being saved from the one he created, by the one he wanted to stop. After the battle, Flash Thompson chides Peter for his roughed-up face, causing Peter to almost lose his temper against Flash. Our story ends with Jameson doubling down on his self-imposed mission to stop Spider-Man, as Peter takes on the arduous task of sewing up his damaged costume, blissfully unaware of Jameson’s involvement in the whole affair!

Steve Ditko
Steve Ditko
Stan Goldberg
Steve Ditko (Cover Penciler)
Steve Ditko (Cover Inker)
Stan Goldberg (Cover Colorist)
Letterer: Sam Rosen.


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

J. Jonah Jameson
J. Jonah Jameson

(JJ Jameson)
May Parker
May Parker

(Aunt May)

(Mac Gargan)

(Peter Parker)

Plus: Betty Brant, Dr. Farley Stillwell, Liz Allan (Liz Osborn), Ned Leeds.

> Amazing Spider-Man: Book info and issue index

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