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Amazing Spider-Man #38: Review

Jul 1966
Stan Lee, Steve Ditko

Story Name:

Just a Guy Named Joe!

Review & Comments

3.5 stars

Amazing Spider-Man #38 Review by (March 6, 2024)

Review: Here we have a nice little tale of a simple, down on his luck guy getting into some trouble. The bigger deal of course being that this is Steve Ditko’s last issue as artist for Spider-Man! Steve had rather famously had a lot of issues with how Stan and Marvel were doing things and ended up leaving because of it. He hadn’t even finished a cover for this issue, with interior shots being used instead! This is a nice little story but hardly something huge or landmark for him to go out on. Joe Smith, the eponymous Just a Guy, consistently fails at everything he tries, until an accident on a movie set causes him to go berserk. He’s not really a bad guy and most of the damage he does is superficial, the actual problem coming from Norman Osborn. Osborn pays a bunch of guys to take out Spider-Man, further cementing him as a mysterious, ruthless guy, which will lead in to a much more famous and monumental reveal next issue!

There’s an odd scene with Peter trying to get roped in by some protestors. Ditko was very against protesting and so drew Peter to be very obviously against the idea. However, Stan wrote the dialogue to be a bit more neutral, with Peter refusing but being fairly civil about it. I believe this was something of the last straw for Ditko, as he didn’t like the original intent of his scenes changed. What’s also weird is that Flash and Harry seem displeased when they think Peter’s with the protestors, implying they disagree with them, and yet when Peter proves he isn’t, they still make fun of him. It’s a bizarre scene all around, likely because of the disconnect between Stan and Steve. We also have Ned Leeds returning and being much more notably hostile towards Peter, even though they were always very cordial before. There’s also one last obscured appearance of Mary Jane before she makes her big debut only a handful of issues from now! Overall, a fairly lowkey, nice little story about a simple guy named Joe who struggles to make something of himself before earning his happy ending, while being much more known as Ditko’s final issue.

Comments: Steve Ditko’s last issue as artist. Ditko never finished a cover for this issue so the cover reuses interior panels from the issue.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Amazing Spider-Man #38 Synopsis by Anthony Silvestro

Our story opens upon an ambitious fellow by the name of Joe Smith, determined to be the new boxing champ. He gets a manager named Tommy Tomkins to arrange a match for him. However, Joe soon proves to be quite the hapless loser, failing handily at both boxing and wrestling. Tommy then tells Joe that maybe he’s not cut out for these kinds of sports and gets him a role as an extra in a movie. Joe shows up on set in a monster costume and is instructed to smash apart the set, as Joe feels rather humiliated. While Joe is smashing apart the cheap set, one of the arc lights get damaged, falling into some spilled chemicals, and giving Joe the full brunt of an enormous electrical shock! Joe quickly comes to, much to everyone’s relief, but feeling like something is off.

We then cut to Peter Parker as he arrives at the Daily Bugle, to find yet another new secretary on the way out the door. J. Jonah Jameson spots Peter, blaming Peter for Betty’s departure, as Peter rushes off. Just then, Peter bumps into Ned Leeds and they both inquire about Betty, realizing neither one knows where she is. Ned gets rather aggressive, thinking Peter knows more than he’s letting on, while Peter invites him to find Betty if he’s so interested, while wondering about her location himself. Back with Joe, they gear up to shoot another scene as the director tells Joe to attack the trained stuntmen. Joe is suddenly overcome with an unstoppable rage, barreling through the stuntmen for real, with his strength greatly increased! In his blind rage, Joe continues his rampage into the street, flipping over cars and causing the passersby to run in panic.

Peter is walking by at that moment, still lost in his thoughts, until he notices the flying debris. He descends upon Joe as Spider-Man, webbing him up. However, Joe tears right through the webbing, and the two trade punches, with Spidey noting how non-talkative Joe is being. Joe ends up throwing Spidey into a garbage truck, with Spidey feeling that Joe doesn’t really want to harm him, and that something more must be going on. Just then, Joe’s manager Tommy finds him as Joe’s heads starts to clear, as they escape together to figure everything out. In another part of town, Harry Osborn and Flash Thompson drop off Harry’s father Norman Osborn, telling them he has some business to attend to. After Harry and Flash leave, Norman puts on a fake goatee and meets with a mob big shot, offering to pay him and his guys handsomely to take out Spider-Man, and to spread the word to everyone he can!

Later, Peter arrives at Empire State University while a protest is going on. The protestors try to pull Pete in causing Harry and Flash to think he’s with them. However, Gwen Stacy then points out that Peter is leaving, as he claims that he has nothing to protest about, which earns him flak from both the protestors and Flash and Harry, while Gwen thinks there’s more to him than he lets on. Meanwhile, Tommy takes Joe home, where he promptly falls asleep, and the mob boss puts the word out about the bounty on Spider-Man. After class, Pete goes out swinging as Spider-Man and quickly runs into some of the goons hoping to collect the reward, easily taking them out. Back with Joe, he awakens and his berserker rage overtakes him once more, as he storms out to get even with everyone that laughed at him before. Joe arrives at the gym he used to frequent and begins steamrolling through all the guys in there.

Spidey, nearby, hears the commotion and stops in and the goons think it’s the perfect opportunity to collect the reward on Spidey. This causes a big free-for-all, as Spidey, the goons, and Joe are all attacking each other, with some furious and frantic action! Spidey continues to wallop on Joe, when suddenly he is broken out his spell, as everything goes back to normal. The police show up and Tommy intervenes, saying that the movie studio is dropping all of the charges against Joe and that they want to sign him to a contract, being so impressed with his work before! Spidey heads out, only to run into more goons as he easily and angrily plows through them. A nearby bust reminds him of Ned and how his life as Spider-Man will always keep him from Betty, and he gloomily makes his way home. There, Aunt May is saying goodbye to Mary Jane Watson, her face still obscured, after she had stopped by. Peter comes in the back door, and Aunt May tries to rush him to the front to meet Mary Jane, but she’s already driven away. The issue ends with Peter gloomily making his way upstairs, frustrated with how everything seems to be going poorly for him.

Steve Ditko
Steve Ditko
Stan Goldberg
Steve Ditko (Cover Penciler)
Steve Ditko (Cover Inker)
Stan Goldberg (Cover Colorist)
Plot: . Letterer: Art Simek.


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

J. Jonah Jameson
J. Jonah Jameson

(JJ Jameson)
Mary Jane Watson
Mary Jane Watson

(Mary Jane)
May Parker
May Parker

(Aunt May)

(Peter Parker)

Plus: Just a Guy Named Joe (Joe Smith), Ned Leeds, Tommy Tomkins.

> Amazing Spider-Man: Book info and issue index

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