"Once Upon A Time, There Was A Robot...!"
Scripted by Stan Lee.
Plotted, drawn and inked by Steve Ditko.
Lettered by Artie Simek.
If I confess that I fell asleep while reading this tale it shouldn't be taken as proof that I didn't like it. It's just proof that I'm not always bright enough to get any sleep the night before and that our past actions have a knack of catching up with us.
Norman Osborn could tell you about that. His past actions have well and truly caught up with him as, cheated of his inventions by the businessman, Professor Stromm is out for revenge.
Who he? Well, the truth is that, apart from a few brief cameo appearances by Osborn, we've never heard of either character before. But we have heard of Norman's son Harry Osborn and, for those of use familiar with later events, it's odd to see how unpleasant Harry is in this tale. Within just a few issues of it, he's Peter Parker's best friend in the whole wide world but, here, he's a complete jerk and really does look weird. You do have to wonder if Steve Ditko's plan, even at this stage, was to reveal that Harry was the Goblin. He's certainly drawn in a way that suggests it was.
Then again, maybe it was just Ditko throwing us a curve ball.
As for Norman, from the outset we're left in no doubt that he's not on the side of the angels, revealing that he ripped off Stromm, talking of, "dealing with Stromm," hoping that Stromm's robot will kill Spider-Man and then, just to let us know he's up to no good, bashing Spidey over the back of the head when the webbed wall-crawler's trying to save him!
The big mystery of the tale is that, after Spidey sees off Stromm's robots and is about to administer some justice to the sinister scientist, some unknown assassin tries to shoot Stromm dead from a window that could only be accessed by a person who can fly, a person who can move fast enough to vanish from the scene before Spider-Man can even reach that window to investigate. On the next page, the would-be assassin's revealed to be Norman Osborn, which is hardly a shock, bearing in mind his behaviour all through the story.
I have to say this tale's much better than most recent offerings from Ditko, and proof there could still be lead in his plotting pencil as he approached the end of his reign. After far too many issues that have been nothing more than protracted punch-ups, we get one with barely a punch-up in sight as Ditko concentrates instead on introducing us to Norman Osborn and letting us wonder just what the deal is with him. OK, so Spidey has a couple of battles with distinctly odd looking robots but neither battle could accurately be labelled a punch-up and neither outstays its welcome. I also have to praise the art too. It's startlingly fluid and clean-looking in this tale. It really does feel like Ditko's style is changing slightly from tale to tale and, here, it's at its most elegant. His figure work on Spidey is particularly impressive.
But, let's see... ...Norman Osborn was at a window that could only be accessed by a man who could fly, and he left the scene so fast that Spider-Man could find no trace of him mere moments later. Norman Osborn can fly? He has a high-speed mode of transport? Whatever can it all mean?