Or Did He? A Look at Spider-Man's "First" Adventure with the Avengers
With the recent news that Sony and Marvel (AKA a Disney affiliate), have finally hammered out an agreement to let Spider-Man exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (i.e. the Avengers movies), we now should look at Marvel's Silver Age History to see when Spider-Man first met the Avengers team in the comics. The answer is not as clear as one would think...
Avengers #11 Cover with Spider-Man
Avengers #11 (1964) made itself out to be a significant issue in Marvel Silver Age History. After all, the cover showed the Amazing Spider-Man meeting the Mighty Avengers, right? On the cover the reader sees Spidey, along with Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and Giant-Man all trapped in a spider's web. The Wasp is seen flying around, clearly not trapped like the male Avengers. Now, what is wrong with this cover? Aren't Spidey and the Avengers all on the same side? Why does it look like Spider-Man is the bad guy? Writer Stan Lee and artist Don Heck (and perhaps a Spidey assist from Steve Ditko) crafted a neat package to entice fans of Spider-Man to pick up this eleventh book in the fairly new Avengers series.
Avengers #11 Splash and Credits Page
NOTE: If you are not familiar with the events of Avengers #11, be warned that we have SPOILERS below...
Avengers #11 With Spider-Man
To make a long story short, with the Avengers believing that Tony Stark was dead, and assuming Iron Man was out looking for the killer, the team decides to carry on, placing Iron Man on temporary leave of absence. (NOTE: Despite appearing on the cover, Iron Man is not seen in this comic at all). Meanwhile, we see the Avengers' time-travelling foe, Kang, cooking up a plot to destroy the Avengers. He creates a "Spider-Man robot" to impersonate old Spidey and trick the Avengers into a trap.
Avengers #11 Kang Creates Spider-Man Robot
Robot Spidey convinces the Avengers that he wants to join them, and, he has information on the whereabouts of Iron Man. Claiming that he overheard the Masters of Evil discussing their destination, a temple in Mexico, Robot Spidey tricks the Avengers into going to Mexico. Falling for the trick, the Avengers all head off to Mexico to look for Iron Man.
Kang transports his Spider-Man robot to Mexico, where he battles the Avengers separately, defeating and trapping them all. Then, suddenly, the real Spider-Man shows up, saving Captain America from certain death. Wait...how did the real Spider-Man even know about this plot? Real Spidey explains that by saying, "Did you think you could prowl the streets of New York impersonating me without my own Spider-Sense warning me of your presence??" Ok, that part more or less makes sense from a plot standpoint. But just HOW did Spider-Man (who cannot fly, and does not have anything like a Spidey-Plane at his beck and call), even manage to get to this temple in Mexico? That is never explained in-story, (nor is it explained how he got back to New York afterwards), and is a continuing mystery. We have a few theories on that below. But in the meantime, all we need to know now is that the real Spider-Man defeated the impersonating robot (by finding the "main control stud," and deactivating the robot. Of course, that was a snap for a teen-aged chemistry nerd who has never met a robot from the 30th Century before).
Avengers #11 Fight Spider-Man
The last we see in-story of the real Spidey, he is seen by Captain America as he floats to earth in a web-parachute after dispatching the robot. Based on what we see in the artwork of Avengers #11, it is clear that from what is visible, the real Spider-Man never actually met or fought alongside, the Avengers.
This comic book was not Stan Lee's greatest storyline, that is for sure. While the basic idea is sound (Kang sending robots to fight the Avengers), too many details are left up in the air. How does the real Spidey get down to Mexico? In-story, we see three of the Avengers hop airline flights to Mexico. Could Spidey have done that as well, perhaps sneaking on board and then web-parachuting down to the temple? It is unlikely he could have purchased an actual airline ticket, as Peter Parker was constantly short of money back then. But as the two Spideys start to fight, the real one states that "I followed you silently, waiting to learn what your scheme was!" This statement implies that Spider-Man actually followed the robot. That sounds like it takes out the hop-an-airplane theory. Another possibility is that real Spidey was close enough to the robot in New York when Kang teleported the mechanical Spidey to Mexico that he was also transported via Kang's science. But wouldn't Kang have noticed an extra Spider-Man being sent by his teleporter? You would think so.
That leaves us with one crazy( or maybe more than one) theory. First, a little more information on our robot friend. Since the Avengers seemingly never found him in the jungle where he fell, he was able to make another appearance in a later comic book. The Spider-Man Robot (know called Timespinner) enjoyed a second appearance in Spider-Man Team-Up #4 (Sept. 1996). In this issue, the robot has new powers (his webs emit a temporal energy that can make people trapped inside the web age quickly), and is operating on Kang's back-up or secondary programming. Needless to say, the robot is still a villain. But, as with Kang himself and his many incarnations (he is also Immortus, Scarlet Centurion, Pharaoh Rama-Tut, Iron Lad, Tom Brady (just kidding on that last one..I think), why can't the robot also have different time-travelling versions? It is just possible (this is my personal theory, mind you) that the "real" Spider-Man in Avengers #11 was just another version of the original robot, now a good guy, who was able to travel back in time to save the Avengers from himself? Kind of "good Terminator/bad Terminator" scenario.
Spider-Man Robot from Spider-Man Team-Up #4
Helping this crazy theory is the fact that when the real Spider-Man (Peter Parker) is first offered membership in the Avengers (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #3 (1966), no reference is made by Spidey to having saved the Avengers only a short time earlier. Especially since, in this Spidey Annual, the Avengers want to put Spidey to a test to see if he is truly worthy of joining the Avengers. Why didn't Spidey say something like, "Hey, I saved you guys down in Mexico from that crazy robot a few months ago. What do you mean I need to take a test?" If real Spidey had been down in Mexico, you would think he would reference that little bit of Avengers-saving heroics. But, oddly, the Avengers who were in Mexico (Cap, Thor, Giant-Man/Goliath, and Wasp), never make reference to that incident either. What gives? A possible explanation for that, is that the whole Kang-teleports-his-robot process created some sort of temporal anomaly (yes, I borrowed that phrase from Star Trek!) that wiped out everyone's memories of that day in Mexico.
Or, Stan Lee, the writer of both Spidey/Avengers stories mentioned here, just has a bad memory, and/or was a sloppy writer at times. I like the time-space distortion theory and the "Spidey-Robot comes back to save the day" theories myself.
Either way, it is clear that while Avengers #11 is often referred to as the first Spider-Man crossover, in reality, that designation should really go to Amazing Spider-Man Annual #3.
What thinkst thou, oh, Spidey/Avengers Fans? Please feel free to comment below.
Like Silver Age Marvel History? How About the early adventures of the Avengers? If so, check out this EBook on the Avengers (below)