Amazing Spider-Man #20
Issue(s): Amazing Spider-Man #20
Luckily, the genetic scientist also happened to have a synthetic scorpion tail laying around. The Scorpion hunts down Spidey for JJ and defeats him. But then he turns on JJ (he's having a bad reaction to Stillwell's experiment). Spidey comes back and defeats the Scorpion but winds up with a lot of hard-to-explain bruises and cuts.
Jameson is crossing a line in this issue. Up until this point we could see him as a blowhard who either believes what he says about Spider-Man and has legitimate concerns about vigilantes or is just trying to sell papers, but with this issue he's little better than a super-villain. It's not a good direction for the character.
Something's wrong with the Scorpion's tail. You can see it right on the cover and the opening splash panel. It's not connected right. The facemask is also very awkward looking.
He's also got some weird finger-powers that you don't hear about very often.
Stillwell dies this issue, but we'll eventually meet his brother Harlan, who will also die in his first appearance.
The jokey business in the credits of the opening splash also reflects the continued real-life tension between Lee and Ditko.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Marvel Tales #158
Inbound References (11): show
Frank Brunner has a letter here.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 24, 2013 6:20 PM
Man, I love the Scorpion. I just like the symbolism of spider vs. scorpion. Plus I thought the fight was great, awesome introduction for the Scorpion so I'm sad he puttered out.
Posted by: David Banes | November 5, 2013 5:20 PM
I love to use the inflation calendar on dollar amounts mentioned in old books, movies, and TV shows. JJ's $20,000 investment would be almost $150,000 today.
Posted by: Todd | November 5, 2013 11:51 PM
This is definitely one of my favorite Ditko-era issues. The Scorpion was really sold as a genuine threat, and it's a shame that he ended up becoming one of the lesser villains in Spidey's rogue's gallery. I also like how Jameson's line at the end about power corrupting a person adds yet another reason for his feud with Spider-Man (though he clearly misses the irony of how he himself might embody or enable that corruption).
Posted by: TCP | September 23, 2014 4:21 PM
Amazing Heroes #158 contains a strange notation: apparently Marvel in 1965 was considering a 3-D Spider-Man book with a backup feature called simply "The 3-D Man". Roy Thomas supposedly took the name for his own creation a dozen years later.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | January 24, 2015 4:35 PM
I love the Scorpion. Although the costume is simple, I always liked it. He's one of the versions of "just like the hero, but stronger" type villains that ended up not getting as much respect as they should. Like Spidey, the Scorpion has the powers of an arachnid. He is augmented by technology - Spidey has his webshooters, and Scorpion has his tail stinger. But he is far stronger. He also should a formidable foe - as a private detective good enough to be hired by JJJ, he should not be a fool even under the influence of criminal insanity.
I always wanted the Scorpion to be a serious contender for Spider-Man's greatest villain - up there with Doctor Octopus and the Green Goblin/Hobgoblin. Writers seemed to like using him, but did not write him well.
Posted by: Chris | May 2, 2015 8:16 PM
The Scorpion as Peter's archenemy fits perfectly thematically, but I think that because he's kind of like a pawn from the start, and he's mainly a bruiser rather than a mastermind like Ock or the various goblins, writers would use him, but rarely as more than a guy who uses his tail, so tear off the tail, story over.
Has the Scorpion even ever been part of the Sinister Six? Because he definitely belongs in the enduring Ditko creation gallery of foes. I find it interesting that Millar merged Venom's symbiote with Gargan because now you had two brawlers combined with a real hate for Spidey. But of course once they did that, Venom also became more of a pawn.
Anyway, love the opening splash here, great dynamism. I love Ditko on Spider-Man but oddly I never really like much of post Spidey Ditko. Even though when comparing the art it actually is very similar, yet here the faces look just right, and in the 80s they look out of place even when I imagine it is the 60s. My Ditko love started with the Essentials though, so maybe it is the stark black and white beauty versus when it's colored that makes the difference.
Posted by: PeterA | February 13, 2016 1:39 AM
Scorpion was a member of the Sinister/Insidious Six in Spider-Man: The Animated Series.
And he was a member in the awful Spider-Man: Reign (aka The Dark Knight Returns featuring Spider-Man).
Only time in canon was in Mark Millar's Spider-Man when he joined Green Goblin's Sinister Twelve but as Venom.
There was a Sinister Seven during the Clone Saga that had Scorpia (the female Scorpion wannabe who went nowhere).
Posted by: AF | February 13, 2016 5:14 AM
My era of Scorpion was when McFarlane improved his design, giving him a superior look with the armor gleam and the spike (yes!!) on the end of his tail. I always took Scorpy as a top-level threat in all the stories I saw him in (the Todd then Larsen eras) and I had no idea he was Venom, I thought Flash Thompson was Venom, day-umm! These entries are really helping me see the early days so once again a big shout out to my boy fnord but I really think these characters evolved into their best forms in the modern era. From what I see on the splash page with this issue it looks like Scorpion's tail is coming out of his back?! I'm curious why Stan never thought to put up Scorpion against characters like Daredevil and Iron Man, seems like Doc Doom etc could jump around the MU but Spideys rogue gallery stayed strictly Spidey. Hmm interesting...
Posted by: Brimstone | February 13, 2016 6:06 AM
Posted by: AF | February 13, 2016 6:12 AM
Thanks... but I just read it and it says it's a robot so it doesn't count even if it's in continuity...
Posted by: Brimstone | February 13, 2016 6:14 AM
What is really insane is that after his second appearance it took over 100 issues before Scorpy was used again in ASM and after that, almost 200!
Current Venom is indeed Flash Thompson, Brimstone, but for a few years the symbiote bonded with Gargan. Then I think they split in New Ways To Die and I forget how Flash has him bonded to him now. Does that mean Flash knows Peter is Spidey since the synmbiote does?
Mysterio is a foe I wish were used more in other books. And the Sinister Six versus a nice team of Avengers would be fun for a summer event. On the other hand I can see how a lot of Peter's enemies become obsessed with him and so they rarely venture out of his sphere.
Posted by: PeterA | February 13, 2016 6:31 AM
The Scorpion vanished from Spider-Man's books and bounced through several issues of Captain America, specifically #122 and #151-152. When Scorpy came back to fight Spidey in ASM #145-146, it was treated like a "long time, no see" situation. (Interestingly, nearly all of Scorpion's 1970s appearances -- robot or otherwise -- were written by Gerry Conway regardless of the book he appeared in.)
Posted by: Omar Karindu | February 13, 2016 6:32 AM
PeterA that's a great idea, bruh... I think if the Sinister Six had fought that Silver Age version of the Avengers that didn't have Thor and Iron Man...? The one with Cap, and Hawkeye, and Quicksilver & Wanda... that might've been a great story!! Maybe I should pitch writing it to Marvel for an "Untold Tales" issue LOL
Posted by: BRIMSTONE | February 13, 2016 6:37 AM
Great issue. Love the Scorpion! He's one of my favorite Spidey villains. Also this issue has another example of Spidey getting creative with his webbing, making a very cool web-bat that he uses to distract Gargan.
Posted by: Robert | February 14, 2016 4:09 PM
Another far-ranging story. The first time (but far from the last) that JJJ would be 100% responsible for unleashing the villain. The Scorpion would return in #29, destroying the Daily Bugle, and shaking Betty so badly that Ned had to take her to safety, at which point he proposed, and the long, slow dissolve of Peter and Betty's relationship would commence.
It was already happening. Maybe she was only dating Ned to make Peter jealous and get back at him for Liz (and later, Dorrie and Mary Jane.) Maybe she realized Ned wasn't the sort of person who would put on a garish outfit and get into battles high above the rooftops.
I am convinced that Ditko wanted Peter and Betty to wind up together and threw every obstacle he could think of in their way, and it really works if you see JJJ as the one who created the Scorpion to destroy Spider-Man, and it worked if you see it as the Scorpion finally being the one to drive the love of Peter Parker's life into the arms of another man.
It's not like she's desperately in love with Ned. She's leaving him hanging while she tries to figure out Peter's "secret." Ned's obviously pissed about it and he winds up in an altercation with Peter. Then Betty runs again, and Peter and Ned only find out about it from each other in Ditko's final issue.
I can understand why Stan wanted to clear the deck of the Betty/Peter subplot after Ditko left, but I would like to have seen what would have happened otherwise.
Posted by: ChrisW | October 30, 2016 12:21 AM
I also like the Scorpion and wish he had been played up more. He fought Cap a couple of times and was briefly a member of the third version of the Masters of Evil.
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | October 30, 2016 10:28 PM
Part of the problem with the Scorpion is that he's not that interesting beyond his powerset: what does he want, exactly?
There's just not much there, especially compared to Doctor Octopus and the Norman Osborn and Harry Osborn iterations of the Green Goblin incarnations, all of whom work as foils to Spider-Man. Even 50+ years later, Mac Gargan's still not a well-developed character beyond "generic criminal with a grudge," so there's nothing much to work with.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | June 7, 2017 9:31 PM
And yet he appeared in two of the best issues of Ditko's run, which is really saying something.
The Scorpion works because he's a pawn used by JJJ to attack Spider-Man. He wasn't even a generic criminal (what retcons there may be notwithstanding) he was hired by JJJ to spy on Peter, and when JJJ found a better idea, Gargan was willing to go along with it. The fight scene even made it clear that (from memory) 'even Stillwell's serum would do no good now, Mac Gargan is gone, there is only the Scorpion.' "Spider-Man" #20 and #29 are among my favorite fight scenes in any medium whatsoever.
And JJJ is the one who made the Scorpion possible. You're right that there's not much that can be done with him, but those two Ditko issues make up for everything.
Posted by: ChrisW | June 7, 2017 11:54 PM
Well, exactly: the villain here, the one with motives and personality, is Jameson. The Scorpion is just a scheme that backfires in spectacular fashion, a living Spider-Slayer prototype.
Come to think of it, the plot outline here -- Jameson's money gets a relatively "innocent" scientist to do something extremely questionable by creating an agent JJJ can use against Spider-Man -- is almost identical to issue #25 as well. Though the first Spider-Slayer is played in a more lighthearted fashion.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | June 8, 2017 6:11 AM
Omar Karindu: I personally think the Scorpion is interesting (or at least, can be interesting) beyond his power set. At least its refreshing to have a Spider-Man villain whose primary focus for revenge isn't Spider-Man. I would point to Amazing Annual 18 as the best example (IMHO) of development of Mac Gargan as a character; he's psychotic, unstable, and unwilling to accept Jameson's money and let bygones be bygones. I personally enjoyed David Micheline's handling of the character in his Amazing run as well.
I don't think the problem with the Scorpion is that there isn't much to work with; it's that writers haven't always done the best job of giving him a consistent personality; at times he's motivated by revenge against Jameson; at times he's just an insane lunatic; at times he's pining to no longer be the Scorpion; and sometimes he's just a cheap thug (I think its the times when he's just portrayed as a cheap thug when his potential seems lowest, and then it appears there's not much to work with). But I feel there have been good Scorpion stories, and the character can be interesting, so long as a writer handles him properly (my ideal Scorpion is psychotic, motivated by revenge with occasional forays into greed, and a good brawler against Spidey).
Just my opinions, anyway.
Posted by: mikrolik | June 9, 2017 10:59 PM
I agree that ASM Annual #18 is awesome and is probably the best depiction of the Scorpion. I also think he has tremendous potential in the hands of a skillful writer along the lines that mikrolik indicated. Really, all we need is some background on Mac Gargan BEFORE his transformation, and some kind of consistent portrayal where Scorpion's psychosis can be well handled. A good role model might be Anton Chirguh from No Country For Old Men. Chirguh has the menace, craziness, and cool factor that the Scorpion could easily have. The Scorpion as some kind of psychopathic, but utterly competent (he was a good enough private detective to be hired by JJJ), hitman/agent for organized crime and subversive organizations. But he retains an obsession on revenge against Jameson.
That would keep the core of the character, but elevate him beyond a thug.
Posted by: Chris | June 10, 2017 12:51 AM
There are so soooo many panels like the one above with Peter's bruises, and it's the same "if you knew" type thing. Feels like the "everyone's issue is their first" throughline was established early.
Posted by: (p)(e)(e)(p)(s)(i)( | January 29, 2018 12:06 AM
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