> Amazing Spider-Man Masterworks Volume 3

From the Mouths of the Marvels:

"It should be a name with drama to it! One which will strike fear into the hearts of those who hear it! One which no one can ever forget!"

- - The Clown, trying to come up with a new team name to replace the Circus of Crime

Sweet, pretty and hopelessy love-lost Betty Brant.


Amazing Spider-Man #22
March 1965 • 20 pages

Publication Date: December 10, 1964

Letters Page: Page OnePage Two

I: Feature Story: "Preeeeeesenting....The Clown, and his Masters of Menace!"

Pages: 20

Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: Steve Ditko
Inks: Steve Ditko
Letters: Artie Simek

First Appearance: Masters of Menace, Mrs. Van der Twilliger

Villain: Ringmaster; Masters of Menace: The Clown, Princess Python, the Great Gambonnos, Cannonball

Guest Appearance: Liz Allan, Flash Thompson, Betty Brant, J. Jonah Jameson

Cameo Appearance: Mrs. Van der Twilliger

Synopsis: Spider-Man leaps into a "sleazy hotel room" where the Ringmaster has gathered his compadres in crime: the Clown, the Great Gambonnos, Cannonball and Princess Python. Spidey warns them to stay on the straight and narrow. The Ringmaster claims they are, but Spidey plants a tracer inside his hat just to keep close tabs on their movements. Sure enough, after Spidey leaves the scene, the Ringmaster starts up discussion again on their next big crime. However, the group is in dissent: his former followers don't believe the Ringmaster makes a capable leader, so they decide to boot him from the team. Princess Python recommends the Clown to lead them in their next crime wave, and they inaugurate him as leader as the Ringmaster pledges to make them sorry they kicked him out.

At Midtown High, Peter has to rebuff the amorous advances of Liz Allan, as well as patch things up with Betty Brant, who still is worried that he made a play for Johnny Storm's girlfriend, Doris Evans. The pair decide to attend a modern art exhibit sponsored by J. Jonah Jameson, and unbenknownst to them, the Circus of Crime has targeted the exhibit for their return to thievery. While the Clown distracts the exhibit attendees with circus tricks, the rest of the group is stealing expensive art pieces from the back room. Jameson overhears them and goes to investigate and Cannonball knocks him out cold with a tap of his metal-domed head to JJJ's skull. The Circus of Crime makes a clean getaway, and Betty goes to the hospital to look over her boss.

Spider-Man takes off to begin his investigation, and assuming the Ringmaster must have something to do with it, sets out to find the Spidey tracer he placed on his hat. He traces it back to a police station, where the Ringmaster has already proven to the police that he has an alibi. Spidey follows him back to his apartment, and overhears the Ringmaster talking to himself, muttering that he's no longer with the Circus of Crime but plans to steal their loot from the art house. Thus informed, Spider-Man cleverly uses the Ringmaster's hat to hypnotize him to get even more information, like the location of the clown's hideout.

While Spidey swings his way to face the Circus of Crime, the big-top criminals are gathered to discuss renaming their team in light of the Clown's desire to "strike fear into the hearts of those who hear it". They run through their options. "The Carnival Champs" and "The Big Toppers" are offered before Princess Python's suggestion is adopted: "The Masters of Menace" it is! Just then, Spider-Man spoils their naming party, and the fight is on! The Clown wheels around on his unicycle poking at Spidey with a stick, Cannonball lunges at Spidey to lay into him with his metal crown, and the Gambonnos try to tangle him up with their skillful acrobatics. Spidey is able to fend each of them off, but it's Princess Python who gains the advantage. She wraps herself around him and Spidey is too sensitive about striking women to fight back!

Back at the hospital, JJJ pulls through, much to Betty's relief. Spider-Man gets away from Princess Python, but is gang-tackled by the rest of the Masters of Menace. One by one, though, Spidey is able to knock each of them back with a spider-powered punch. Princess Python realizes he's too much for them, and tries to use her feminine wiles to seduce Spider-Man into teaming up with her and sharing the loot. The Clown overhears her betrayal and takes off to do a little betraying of his own! As well, the Ringmaster has come out of his trance and races off to stop his former teammates and take their ill-gotten goods from them.

Spider-Man refuses Princess Python's solicitations, and in return she pokes at him with an electric prod she uses to control her giant python. It jams his web-shooters and she pushes him into the room where her giant snake lives. Spidey is able to twist the giant snake into knots and chase after the Princess. The Ringmaster catches the Clown carting off the priceless pieces of artwork and takes him by surprise, knocking him out and stealing the art for himself. All the bad guys, however, are rounded up by arriving policemen, Spider-Man snapping pictures all the way.

Peter shares the pictures with the newly-alert JJJ, who uses them as front page material. He also restarts the art exhibit to take advantage of all the publicity. When Peter returns home late from his long day, Aunt May gives him grief for not letting her know where he was!

--synopsis by Gormuu

Issues Reprinted
Spider-Man from
Amazing Spider-Man #20-30 and Annual #2

Click on cover image to learn more about each issue.


ASM #20

ASM #21

ASM #22

ASM #23

ASM #24

ASM #25

ASM #26

ASM #27

ASM #28

Ann #2

ASM #29

ASM #30


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