Unless you spend as much time as I do obsessing over movies, and news about movies that have yet to even be made, you may have missed some potentially big news about the upcoming sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming. Nothing is official, as of this writing at least, but it seems like the next villain that’s going to be harassing our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is going to be none other than the mystical Mysterio! Now, I’ve talked about Spider-Man several times during these Marvel Madness articles, and we’ve discussed several of his classic rogues, but I haven’t talked nearly enough about the exploits of Mysterio. He’s one of my absolute favorite Spider-Man villains, probably only second to Doctor Octopus. But, while I love Doctor Octopus thanks to decades of incredibly solid stories, I love Mysterio because just about every single one of his stories could be featured on this project. Because Mysterio is insane. In case you’re not familiar with him, Quentin Beck used to be a stuntman/special effects wizard, and he uses those skills to create elaborate illusions in order to appear magical. We’ve already talked about a story where he tricked Spider-Man into thinking he was having a nervous breakdown by sticking him in a building that essentially became a carnival fun-house. It’s all just so ridiculous, and I love it. Mysterio certainly doesn’t deliver the pathos that other Spider-Man villains do, but the campy theatricality that he brings to every story he’s in delights me to no end. So, I figured I’d share a particularly silly story that has Mysterio in his full glory, strutting around in his wonderfully absurd costume and pulling out all of his spectacular tricks.
This story begins with Mysterio proudly walking around in his new hideout, marveling over the fantastic workmanship he put into a scale-model of an amusement park. He’s recently sprung himself from prison, simply by dropping one of his smoke bombs and then hopping onto the roof of a departing laundry truck, which really makes you question the quality of the prisons being operated in the Marvel Universe. And, since he’s recently gotten out of prison, he knows it’s time to get revenge on the person who put him there. Spider-Man. So, he’s built up his little model amusement park, and even does a bit of a monologue to himself about some special ray gun he’s invented, and sets out onto the streets to trap his nemesis. But, to do so, he’s going to have to lure him to his doom, which will necessitate him pulling off a crime to catch the old webhead’s attention.
And while Mysterio begins his quest for vengeance, we check in on Peter Parker, seeing what he’s up to. And, as usual, the answer to that question is: Peter is being tormented by his own bad luck. He’d recently gone up against two different versions of the Vulture, and in the process dislocated one of his shoulders. But, he’d at least gotten some good pictures of the fight, and his camera was intact, so he decides that that’s a win. Peter then heads home and has a lovely night of dreaming about all the horrible things going on in his life, like the fact that at any moment Norman Osborn may remember he’s the Green Goblin and come to kill him and that Gwen Stacy currently hates him for turning her father in to the police, which was all a big misunderstanding. Because comics are super dramatic.
To make matters worse though, the next morning Peter heads into the Daily Bugle to try and sell his photos of the Vulture fight, only to find that J Jonah Jameson is in a particularly crappy mood. Jonah announces he’s never buying pictures from Peter again, because he has a new photographer who will get him even better pictures of Spider-Man. Peter then dejectedly leaves the office to pawn his terrible motorcycle so that he can get enough money to eat, and Jonah proudly check out his new photos. Which are terrible. The new photographer panicked at the battle and didn’t get a single usable photo. Jonah demands that they get Peter back in the office, but he’s busy sulking the streets of New York, lamenting his departed motorcycle, when something odd happens.
Yeah, Mysterio just starts strutting around the streets of New York in his costume, proudly proclaiming his identity and his plans to destroy Spider-Man. And…that’s it. Earlier he said that he was going to pull off a crime to get Spider-Man’s attention, but all he does it walk around in his costume. Which is a crime? Eh, I don’t know. Mysterio struts around for a bit, and then promptly vanishes into a cloud of mist. I’m not sure why he thought this would catch the attention of Spider-Man, but as luck would have it, it works, since Peter just so happened to be right there. Peter then decides that he’s going to go suit up and track down Mysterio, figuring that he’s up to something nefarious.
Peter then promptly forgets all about Mysterio and gets drawn into his own personal drama. Like he always does. Things start when he runs into Gwen Stacy, who now has realized that everything that happened with her father (he was mind-controlled into committing crimes and Peter turned him in) and she wants to make up. So, they go have dinner together and rekindle their romance, only for Peter to run into Harry Osborne, who is involved in all the ongoing Goblin shenanigans. And, to top things off, when Peter stops by Aunt May’s home he hears her scream in panic. Peter breaks into the house, only to find that May is having a strong reaction to something she’s seeing on the television. And, lo and behold, it’s Mysterio.
So, Mysterio has managed to hack into all of the TV signals, like that weirdo in the Max Headroom mask from the 80’s, and is threatening the people of New York with the prospect of destroying landmarks. But, as he quickly establishes, he explains that it’s all just special effects and that these are models. He doesn’t actually have any plans to destroy bridges in motion, he just wants the city to know that at any time he possibly could. And, the only way he’ll stop his plans is if Spider-Man agrees to meet with him and battle to the death. Just a totally normal villain plan.
Peter hears Mysterio’s taunts, and decides to take the threats seriously. He says goodbye to Aunt May, puts on his costume, and starts swinging down to the warehouse that he first caught Mysterio in, which was implied to be the location of their meeting. He breaks into the warehouse, and sure enough finds Mysterio waiting for him. The two then immediately start fighting, with Spider-Man not really paying much attention to his surroundings. He doesn’t notice the big model amusement park, and just starts swinging wildly at Mysterio, who coats the whole warehouse in a thick layer of the fog he creates. Spider-Man starts to panic at this point, but he eventually finds Mysterio again, and attacks the criminal with everything he’s got. Unfortunately, this was all a trick, and when Spider-Man tackles what he thought was Mysterio he just gets tied up in a trick cloak, giving Mysterio the time he needs to blast Spider-Man with his mysterious ray gun. It knocks Spider-Man out immediately, and when he wakes back up he finds something shocking.
Hell. Yes. Mysterio has apparently created a shrink-ray, has blasted Spider-Man with it, and has now trapped him inside of a tiny amusement park that is now full-scale to Spider-Man. This is why I love comics, folks. Any time a supervillain brings a shrink ray into the equation it’s going to mean things are about to get wonderfully wacky. And, before Spider-Man can get his bearings and come to terms with the fact that he’s been shrunk to the size of an actual spider, Mysterio begins attacking. He just starts smashing his enormous fists down around Spider-Man, causing the hero to leap to his safety, fleeing as fast as possible. Mysterio starts crushing all of the rides and structures that Spider-Man hides in, but Spider-Man continues to keep one step ahead of he enormous madman.
Peter keeps trying to tell himself that this can’t possibly be happening, but every time he tries to scurry off somewhere and catch his breath Mysterio sets off another flurry of attacks. He figures that this must all be some sort of trap, but he just can’t find time to think things through, and starts looking for somewhere to hide. Luckily, he ends up finding a house of mirrors in the the amusement park, and ducks inside to get away from Mysterio. Which, unfortunately, is exactly what Mysterio had in mind. Because, as you might have guessed, this too was a trap. As soon as Spider-Man gets inside the house of mirrors Mysterio presses a button and the mirrors begin moving, trapping Spider-Man and threatening to squeeze the life out of him.
But, before Peter has do deal with some sort of mirrored Dianoga, he manages to come up with a plan. He notices that the machinery that’s moving the mirrors is all positioned on the ceiling, and starts spraying as much webbing as he can onto them, gumming them up to the point where they won’t move anymore. Peter then covers his forearms in webbing, giving himself protection against any slicing glass, and punches through the mirrors, shattering them and giving him a way out of the house of mirrors.
Unfortunately, that Parker Luck continues, because as soon as he smashes through the mirrors he finds himself dropping down into a churning pool of water, swirling him around, unable to get his bearings yet again. Peter is completely baffled by everything that’s happening around him, but does accept the fact that this all seems to be Mysterio’s plan, making it so that he can never stop and think up a way out of this. He does finally get out of the water though, only to be attacked by some spinning axes. His spider-sense keeps him safe from the axes though, and he ends up in some sort of grotto, where the massive Mysterio shows back up to continue mocking him.
And, once Mysterio is done mocking Spider-Man, he sets off his next trap, which you can also see in that panel. He’s created a pair of deadly robotic sea serpents, and has them wrap around Peter and start choking the life from him. These serpents actually do give Spider-Man some problems, but he’s eventually able to rip them apart, and starts fleeing fleeing again while Mysterio continues just trying to smash him. Which, starts to get Peter thinking. It appears that the serpents were the last trick Mysterio has planned, not thinking that Spider-Man would have made it this long. So, knowing that Mysterio must be out of tricks, he knows that he can finally start out-thinking him.
Peter starts convincing himself that this is still all a trick, and that the giant Mysterio has to be an illusion. And, to confirm this, he decides to physically attack Mysterio. He manages to launch himself full-steam at the towering Mysterio, and he passes right through him. Yep, it’s all just a trick! Spider-Man then figures that if Mysterio is actually pulling off this sort of illusion, he’d need to be broadcasting from somewhere high up. And, as luck would have it, there’s one giant tower that’s covered in lights in the park. So, Spider-Man swings up to the tower, rips the roof off, and sure enough finds Mysterio inside working on a panel that’s controlling everything. It turns out that Spider-Man wasn’t shrunk down, Mysterio just built an entire goddamn theme park in order to trick him! And, Spider-Man does not appreciate this effort. So, he beats the bajesus out of Mysterio, makes him watch while Spider-Man burns all of Mysterio’s gear, and the swings off to have more adventures.
There’s not exactly a whole lot to this story, but it sure is fun. As I’ve said, I love Mysterio, and he is in rare form in this story. He breaks out of prison, builds an entire theme park, also builds a smaller model of that theme park, pretends to hold the city hostage in order to get Spider-Man to show up, and then pretends to shrink him with a weird ray gun before tormenting him. Mysterio essentially takes a page from Arcade’s book, sticking Spider-Man in an elaborate death-trap just for the hell of it. I guess Mysterio’s endgame is killing Spider-Man, but it honestly just seems like he wants to mess with him. Mysterio is just kind of an asshole like that. He’s never going to be the type of villain who will kill one of Peter’s loved ones, or switch brains with him. Instead, he’s going to mess with Spider-Man’s mind and make him think that he was shrunk down to the size of a bug. I think Mysterio has a lot of potential to be a great source of fun stories like these, without a whole lot of extra-drama pushed in. He’s the sort of villain who could blend with any type of story, messing with Spider-Man and questioning his own reality. He’s just a fun character, and stories like this remind me how fun comics can be. I’m hoping that whatever they do with Mysterio in the next Spider-Man movie lives up to the wonderful potential that the character demonstrates in silly stories like this.
The Amazing Spider-Man #66 & 67 were written by Stan Lee, penciled by John Romita, inked by Don Heck, Mick Demeo, and Jim Mooney, and lettered by Art Simek, 1968.
Categories: Marvel Madness